Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Book 6, Chapter 8

The Sundering of the Shire stood out more than anything else in this trilogy when I read it as a kid.  Something about the hobbits rising up and taking back the Shire made it one of my favorite parts.

There should be little surprise at the actors in the play here.  Lotho Sackville-Baggins, Bill Ferny, Saruman, and Wormtongue.  These players clearly know their roles and trade, managing to effect change without provoking revolt.  At least until the war-weary hobbits return and encounter the absurd totalitarian state fallen over the Shire.  Not that absurdity indicates a lack of danger or threat, merely that the transformation of the sheltered Shire and the rule it suffers under truly stand as examples of shocking absurdity.  Our company brazenly stomps through the road blocks by dint of their expectations of their home, their unfamiliarity with the changes, and their transformative experiences.  The ruling powers fail to effect authority over them as they rely on fear and respect, neither of which seems warranted by our four.

It's not hard to imagine how these changes were affected.  Whispers of dark things circulated regularly at the onset, and the undeniable presence of the Riders would have only reinforced these fears.  Even so far removed from the warfront, we know that Saruman's attention (if not Sauron's) was drawn to the Shire for various reasons, including just curiosity about the source of a such obdurate Ring-bearer.

A certain quote by Benjamin Franklin about sacrificing liberty for security comes to mind, to be honest.  Fortunately they fight to get those liberties back.  What's interesting to me that this single chapter always seems to have more compressed action contained within than any of the other chapters.  This is a bit subjective, since certainly the scale is nothing compared to the destruction of the Ring or the armies of several countries facing off against each other, but that's how it always feels.  There's so much action in a very short time period and within so few pages.  I suppose it also resonates strongly with the lore revolving around the American Revolution I grew up with as a native to New England.  Add on top of this all that I'm currently listening to the audio book of Chernow's Hamilton... wow this really reminds me of the American Revolution.  Interestingly, I'm also reading Walden... which ties in/contracts well with the ruin of the Shire.

I cannot compare this chapter to the movie adaptation for a very simple reason - Jackson decided to excise it out.  So many years after watching Return of the King on opening night, I still can't decide how I feel about this decision.  In light of the sheer bulk of the story told on film, and in particular with Jackson's seeming difficulty in actually ending a movie, it probably is for the best.  Especially since by reports he rather dislikes this chapter.  Yet I still cannot shake wondering how it could have been, albeit with some healthy trimming of other sections.  In some ways it would have helped with the feeling of nearly an hour of finale after finale, an actual break with action that is not, in itself, a conclusion.  On the other hand, I can easily see this chapter being a solid hour, or more... and the chapter does not lend itself well to Western-style endings.  The Shire is forever changed, and Saruman is not truly defeated.  The specter, the spirit of him lives on, as an individual or as the force of greed, avarice, and industrial destruction.


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