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The Scouring of the Shire

Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Oct 7 2013, 11:42pm

Post #1 of 16 (381 views)
The Scouring of the Shire Can't Post

One thing I have thought, at the end of the Rotk is something in the Scouring of the Shire. Why is the main enemies Ruffians? Men? When throughout all of the rest of the book the enemy tends to be Orcs, monsters or various unkempt beings. Having just a few bands of Men does seem a bit anti-climatic. And having the main battle taking place in broad daylight when most of the time they take place at night.


Oct 7 2013, 11:59pm

Post #2 of 16 (274 views)
Oh, a ruffian-luvr among us, I see? [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, they were just displaced veterans seeking gainful employment, but those hard-hearted hobbits refused them all charity and drove them back into poverty. Phooey.

Just kidding. My own emotional response to The Scouring is that the Shire is a gentle land, and its perils should be gentler. No big spiders or carnivorous orcs, no more Nazgul and please, no Variags of Khand. I'm a bit worn out by this time of the book and I suppose I welcome the lessening level of danger. There was very little killing. Primarily it was stealing and bullying.

But not only am I ready for less-epic evil, but I think Tolkien wanted this sense of proportion. A strong theme of LOTR is that people need to rise up against their oppressors and realize they can beat them. It would be too much, I think, to expect hobbits to rout armies of orcs, but get them fired up, and they can cast out a fairly small number of bullies. There's also something child-like about hobbits and the Shire, so the bullies seem like school bullies: bigger than the kids they pick on, but cowards when put to the fight. Whereas orcs are mature, hardened bullies and not cowards: they would have killed a lot more hobbits and not run away as easily as the Men did. (Hmm. Ruffian-Men. Where are there Ruffian-Women? Are they lost along with the Entwives? Or do they look like Ruffian-Men?)

There was some mixing with battle times. The first ruffian battle is at night, the next in the day. For other battles, Helm's Deep was at night, but Pelennor Fields was in the rising sun. The battle at the Black Gate was during the day but under the gloom/smog of Mordor. The Moria fighting was in the dark, of course, and the fight against the Wargs before Moria was at night. I'm not sure it was one or the other consistently.


Oct 8 2013, 3:43am

Post #3 of 16 (270 views)
I've sometimes wondered [In reply to] Can't Post

if the Scouring was influenced by JRRT's experience of coming home from war.

I spent a fair amount of time in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, with side trips and detours to Kuwait, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, Somalia, and more, so I understand the sensations of returning to a "normal" life after months in a war zone. It definitely gives one a different perspective on life, people, and problems. Things that seemed scary and intimidating in the past can now be seen for the petty annoyances that they are. Ruffian big folk that would have once sent Frodo & Co. flying in fear become easy targets of derision and jokes. I think JRRT captured that perspective of the soldiers' homecoming perfectly.

Orcs and monsters wouldn't have worked because they were never seen in the Shire. The perspective is all about seeing old things with new clarity, so the enemies had to be beings who were familiar and recognizable, as men are to hobbits.

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.


Oct 8 2013, 6:44am

Post #4 of 16 (262 views)
Captured brilliantly in the movie. [In reply to] Can't Post

The brief, wordless scene in the Green Dragon near the end of RotK captured the essence of this experience, even though all the events of the Scouring were omitted. These Hobbits will never be the same.


Oct 8 2013, 6:48am

Post #5 of 16 (245 views)
Ruffian enemies [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it is important to see that Men can be as evil as orcs. In his letters to Christopher during WWII Tolkien referred to "orcs" on both sides. The evil of the ruffians was a petty, venial evil, inspired and controlled primarily by Sharky, but comprehending that this is just as evil as supernatural, Sauron/Ring-inspired evil (though less spectacular) is an important moral point in the story.


Oct 8 2013, 2:16pm

Post #6 of 16 (233 views)
There are hints that the ruffians are not all Men [In reply to] Can't Post

Sharkey's bully-boys seem to be a mixture of Men and his Half-orcs (keeping in mind that Half-orcs could often pass as Easterlings or Haradrim). It may well be that Tolkien deliberately left the matter ambiguous.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring


Oct 8 2013, 5:41pm

Post #7 of 16 (224 views)
How long did he have? [In reply to] Can't Post

Breeding an army of Men takes time; for how long has he been crossing Men and Orcs? The scenario you describe takes a couple of generations, and he didn't even have the allegiance of the Dunlendings for so long. And was he fooling Gandalf and Elrond, and dabbling in this kind of genetic manipulation, at the time of the assault on Dol Guldur?

Actually, this might hint at an answer. I have always imagined the aftermath of that attack with Gandalf searching the dungeons for prisoners to set free, and Saruman ransacking the vaults for any document, drawing or list of ingredients he might learn from. Could he have delved too deep into Sauron's secrets in this as well?


Oct 8 2013, 7:32pm

Post #8 of 16 (215 views)
Appendix B [In reply to] Can't Post

In "The Tale of Years" Tolkien tells us that in 2953 (T.A.) Saruman withdraws to Isengard following the last meeting of the White Council and takes the tower as his own. He fortifies Isengard and soon begins to keep agents in Bree and the Southfarthing. It was also about then that Saruman started sending Orcs and Dunlendings against the folk of Rohan (ignore the films).

It was probably around that time that Saruman began his breeding experiments that led to the creation of Half-orcs. That gave him as much as 65 years until Isengard fell to the Ents. Also, Saruman used his Half-orcs primarily as spies and servants. His troops were mostly Men and Uruk-hai who originally came from Mordor. I imagine that only his more Orkish-looking Half-orcs served as soldiers. The ones with a more Mannish appearance might be mistaken for Southrons or Easterlings.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Oct 8 2013, 7:34pm)


Oct 8 2013, 10:16pm

Post #9 of 16 (206 views)
Well.... [In reply to] Can't Post

The hobbits wouldn't have been able to deal with Orcs as well as they could with the Ruffians. It fit better somehow, and it gave a sense of how changed all the hobbits were after coming home, not just Frodo, and how after facing fear and overcoming it, things that would have been terrifying become less scary.

My progress so far on my walk to Rivendell
I have traveled 71 miles
I have passed Buckleberry Ferry.
It is 2 miles to the next landmark.
I have 387 miles until I reach Rivendell.


Oct 9 2013, 7:04am

Post #10 of 16 (198 views)
Isn't the last sentence your conjecture? [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To

in 2953 (T.A.) Saruman withdraws to Isengard following the last meeting of the White Council and takes the tower as his own.
He fortifies Isengard and soon begins to keep agents in Bree and the Southfarthing. It was also about then that Saruman started sending Orcs and Dunlendings against the folk of Rohan (ignore the films).

I've re-checked appendix B, concerned by your post that I might misremembered the 2953 entry - and there is nothing in it regarding Orcs or Dunlendings. More than that, in the entry for circa 3000, Saruman is said to have become a traitor to the Council.

There are also the statements of Gandalf to Theoden in The King of the Golden Hall, in which he states that at the beginning of Theoden's reign Saruman was yet a true friend to Rohan, and I think the same is supported by Gamling's words (the book-Gamling!) in Helm's Deep that Saruman has inflamed the old, but still smouldering, hatred of the Dunlendings to Rohan.

This is also supported by the character of Grima the Wormtongue - of whom I have in the past suggested that he was originally a Westfold lord, similar to Freca, which was more inclined to a peaceful policy towards his Dunland neighbours (and part-relatives?), and likely to be friendly towards Saruman, but on the other hand hated by the military clique - a true and faithful lord of Rohan at first (even if he would promote a policy different from Gandalf's) but ultimately falling under Saruman's sway, to the extent of betraying his King. If we discard the reported rumors in Unfinished Tales (which are never presented as facts!) that he also manipulated Theoden's health - there is no proof that until the choice Gandalf gave him at Edoras, he was not working towards what he sincerely preceived as Roahn's good!
But more than the last speculation, Grima sheds another light on the question: he was clearly a Man by birth (forget his ghoulish image in the films), but at the time of the Scouring he was as orc-like as any could be. There is no reason to suppose the other ruffians were different from him in being true-born Men - not even Bill Ferny's charming friend in Bree, who was clearly speaking of an influx of fugitives from the South, coming from Dunland.

But on the other hand, in appendix AII, the entry about Thengel states: "It was soon after Thengel's return (from Gondor, upon assuming the throne in 2953) that Saruman declared himself Lord of Isengard and began to give trouble to Rohan, encroaching on its borders and supporting its enemies" - which implies that not just Gandalf and Elrond were utter fools for sixty-five years, but also Thengel and Theoden (and Treebeard!). Wierd.
And later in the same appendix, at the beginning of the description of the Third Line, the statement that Saruman began to send Uruks against Rohan is made before Eomund's death in 3002, and it is implied that he was the one who headed the anti-orcs faction for a considerable time.
But could Saruman keep the facade for two decades? Remember that up to 3001 (Bilbo's departure) Gandalf considered asking him for counsel, and as late as 3018 he still wondered whether this was not the right course to take! Also, in the Council of Elrond Gandalf reported Saruman was gathering orcs and wolves to his service - which apparently was new information.

So while the evidence is not clear-cut, I think most sources indicate that it was later than you suggested. And I hate making gandalf a greater fool than is absolutely dictated by the book.
But my UUT regarding the aftermath of the taking of Dol Guldur is intriguing (at least to me...). I wonder if the filmmakers would pursue a similar idea.


Oct 9 2013, 4:09pm

Post #11 of 16 (214 views)
Not my conjecture, but indirectly taken from Tolkien [In reply to] Can't Post

That last sentence was paraphrased from a secondary source, Robert Foster's The Complete Guide to Middle-earth. However, the information is derived from the text of The Lord of the Rings and especially from Appendix A, Part II "The House of Eorl".

Certainly after the last White Council (2953) [Saruman's] designs towards Rohan, though he hid them, were evil. He then took Isengard for his own and began to make it a place of guarded strength and fear, as though to rival the Barad-dur. His friends and servants he drew then from all who hated Gondor and Rohan, whether Men or other creatures more evil.

And, under "The Kings of the Mark" in the entry for Thengel:


It was soon after Thengel's return that Saruman declared himself Lord of Isengard and began to give trouble to Rohan, encroaching on its borders and supporting its enemies.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Oct 9 2013, 4:15pm)

The Shire

Nov 6 2013, 6:40pm

Post #12 of 16 (131 views)
Could any of it have to do with... [In reply to] Can't Post

Do you think any of it had to do with the lack of an "evil" and very powerful Ainu left in Middle-Earth? I know Saruman was the one in charge of the whole operation in the Shire, such as it were, but he was an Istari, bound to his physical/corporeal form and had more "restrictions" on his power than Sauron or Melkor had.

I realize that Saruman was able to create some orcish creatures, but wasn't the power of those "evil" Ainur (Melkor and Sauron) kind of a force that was "holding on" to the orcs. After the destruction of the Ring, Middle-Earth turned to the age of Men--could the scouring maybe be showing the sort of change that had already begun to happen? That even the antagonists were now only Men?

I don't know if this really makes a lot of sense. I would love to know what other people think of this idea?


Nov 6 2013, 6:56pm

Post #13 of 16 (131 views)
Maybe... [In reply to] Can't Post

I tend to assume that Sharkey's bully-boys were a mixture of Half-orcs and Men, but I'm not sure that there is a lot of textual evidence for that conclusion. I am almost certain that the agent of Saruman who was staying with Bill Ferny in Bree was an Half-orc spy, but the thugs in the Shire could, I suppose, have all been Men. I think that it is hard to be certain either way.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring

The Shire

Nov 6 2013, 7:38pm

Post #14 of 16 (122 views)
but maybe the fact that they had man blood... [In reply to] Can't Post

Was what made them able to exist? It's a weird way of putting it, but could the man blood have "grounded" them to ME in a way that more "mystical" creatures could no longer be due to the dawning of the age of Men?

These are just musings, I don't know how accurate they may or may not be.


Nov 6 2013, 7:46pm

Post #15 of 16 (138 views)
I see what you're saying [In reply to] Can't Post

Could the Half-orcs, being nearer to Men than even the Uruk-hai, have had a larger measure of free will? Perhaps, but even the lesser Orcs and Goblins where shown by Tolkien to have individual personalities and minds. Those with the weakest wills might have fallen so far into Sauron's control that, when he was destroyed, the shock robbed them of what minds they had and turned them into unthinking animals.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring

The Shire

Nov 12 2013, 12:25am

Post #16 of 16 (121 views)
Orcs scarier than Men?? [In reply to] Can't Post

Oh, my goodness. You gentlemen all seem to believe that Orcs are scarier than Men as soldiers. This is just wrong.

Most very large Orcs are described in the books as "Man-sized". Even with Saruman's larger White-Hand Orcs, Gimli preferred to fight them and avoid the larger Dunlendings. (No giants among Men themselves.)

Likewise, in terms of military efficiency, without Sauron's will backing them Orcs were lacking in the two most important military characteristics of the mass unit era - morale and discipline. It was Sauron's will that made them dangerous - or in exceptional circumstances, the Ring itself. (This was illustrated in the account of the Battle of Gladden Fields when an Orc band attacked Isildur returning north.)

In Middle-Earth, a Man is a bad ass piece of gear. The problem with the movies is that movie makers know no military science. They don't understand how Sauron's power makes Orcs dangerous. <sigh> it's the same with historical documentaries - they read that Roman Legions butchered Germanic warriors, so they portray the shorter, slighter Romans as formidable individual fighters, rather than more organized as a group. Sauron's power forges the disorganized Orcs into formidable units of a well-oiled war machine.

We can thank Peter Jackson for the inversion from canonical. argh.

Edit: My brother and I often discuss how Tolkien got so much in this area "right", and why. Tolkien had a military background, but I think more importantly he grew up in a time where English landed gentry were expected to serve, in a culture steeped in military tradition. Most Brits are sort of funny that way, they get the whole Wellingtonian ethos drummed into them. They understand discipline as a military virtue from a very young age.

"The moral is to the physical as three to one" - Napoleon

(This post was edited by FaramirFan on Nov 12 2013, 12:29am)


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