HASA Resources

Things of Middle-earth

Red Book, The

Type: Books & Scrolls

Other Names:
Red Book of Westmarch
Red Book of the Periannath

Description:

Table of Contents:

Description and History of the Original Red Book
History of the Copies of the Red Book and Associated Volumes
Excerpts and Commentary from the Red Book

Description and History of the Original Red Book

A history book written by Bilbo Baggins and Frodo Baggins, with contributions from Samwise Gamgee:

It was in origin Bilbo's private diary, which he took with him to Rivendell. Frodo brought it back to the Shire, together with many loose leaves of notes, and during S.R. 1420-1 he nearly filled its pages with his account of the War.

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Prologue, Note on the Shire Records

In the next day or two [before their departure for the Grey Havens] Frodo went through his papers and his writings with Sam, and he handed over his keys. There was a big book with plain red leather covers; its tall pages were now almost filled. At the beginning there were many leaves covered with Bilbo's thin wandering hand; but most of it was written in Frodo's firm flowing script. It was divided into chapters but Chapter 80 was unfinished, and after that were some blank leaves. The title page had many titles on it, crossed out one after another, so:

My Diary.
My Unexpected Journey.
There and Back Again.
And What Happened After.
Adventures of Five Hobbits.
The Tale of the Great Ring, compiled by Bilbo Baggins from his own observations and the accounts of his friends.
What we did in the War of the Ring.

Here Bilbo's hand ended and Frodo had written:
THE DOWNFALL

OF THE

LORD OF THE RINGS

AND THE

RETURN OF THE KING


(as seen by the Little People; being the memoirs of Bilbo and Frodo of the Shire, supplemented by the accounts of their friends and the learning of the Wise.)

Together with extracts from Books of Lore translated by Bilbo in Rivendell.

"Why, you have nearly finished it, Mr. Frodo!" Sam exclaimed. "Well, you have kept at it, I must say."

"I have quite finished, Sam," said Frodo. "The last pages are for you."

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 9, The Grey Havens

'Where are you going, Master?' cried Sam....

'To the Havens, Sam,' said Frodo.

'And I can't come.'

'No, Sam. Not yet anyway ... Your hands and your wits will be needed everywhere. You will be the Mayor, of course, as long as you want to be, and the most famous gardener in history; and you will read things out of the Red Book, and keep alive the memory of the age that is gone. so that people will remember the Great Danger and so love their beloved land all the more.'

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 9, The Grey Havens


1482

On September 22 Master Samwise rides out from Bag End. He comes to the Tower Hills, and is last seen by Elanor, to whom he gives the Red Book afterwards kept by the Fairbairns.

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix B, The Tale of Years


This account of the end of the Third Age [The Lord of the Rings] is drawn mainly from the Red Book of Westmarch. That most important source for the history of the War of the Ring was so called because it was long preserved at Undertowers, the home of the Fairbairns, Wardens of the Westmarch. ... But annexed to it and preserved with it, probably in a single red case, were the three large volumes, bound in red leather, that Bilbo gave to him [Frodo] as a parting gift. To these four volumes there was added in Westmarch a fifth containing commentaries, genealogies, and various other matter concerning the hobbit members of the Fellowship.

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Prologue, Note on the Shire Records


History of the Copies of the Red Book and Associated Volumes

The original Red Book has not been preserved, but many copies were made, especially of the first volume, for the use of the descendants of the children of Master Samwise. The most important copy, however, has a different history. It was kept at Great Smials, but it was written in Gondor, probably at the request of the great-grandson of Peregrin, and completed in S.R. 1592 (F.A. 172). Its southern scribe appended this note: Findegil, King's Writer, finished this work in IV 172. It is an exact copy in all details of the Thain's Book in Minas Tirith. That book was a copy, made at the request of King Elessar, of the Red Book of the Periannath, and was brought to him by the Thain Peregrin when he retired to Gondor in IV 64.

The Thain's Book was thus the first copy made of the Red Book and contained much that was later omitted or lost. In Minas Tirith it received much annotation, and many corrections, especially of names, words, and quotations in the Elvish languages; and there was added to it an abbreviated version of those parts of The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen which lie outside the account of the War. The full tale is stated to have been written by Barahir, grandson of the Steward Faramir, some time after the passing of the King. But the chief importance of Findegil's copy is that it alone contains the whole of Bilbo's 'Translations from the Elvish'. These three volumes were found to be a work of great skill and learning in which, between 1403 and 1418, he had used all the sources available to him in Rivendell, both living and written. But since they were little used by Frodo, being almost entirely concerned with the Elder Days, no more is said of them here.

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Prologue, Note on the Shire Records

Now it is a curious fact that this is not the story as Bilbo first told it to his companions. To them his account was that Gollum had promised to give him a present, if he won the game; but when Gollum went to fetch it from his island he found the treasure was gone: a magic ring, which had been given to him long ago on his birthday. Bilbo guessed that this was the very ring that he had found, and as he had won the game, it was already his by right. But being in a tight place, he said nothing about it, and made Gollum show him the way out, as a reward instead of a present. This account Bilbo set down in his memoirs, and he seems never to have altered it himself, not even after the Council of Elrond. Evidently it still appeared in the original Red Book, as it did in several of the copies and abstracts. But many copies contain the true account (as an alternative), derived no doubt from notes by Frodo or Samwise, both of whom learned the truth, though they seem to have been unwilling to delete anything actually written by the old hobbit himself.

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Prologue, Of the Finding of the Ring


Excerpts and Commentary from the Red Book

In presenting the matter of the Red Book, as a history for people of today to read, the whole of the linguistic setting has been translated as far as possible into terms of our own times. Only the languages alien to the Common Speech have been left in their original form; but these appear mainly in the names of persons and places.

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix F, The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age: On Translation

The Shire Reckoning and dates are the only ones of importance for the narrative of the War of the Ring. All the days, months, and dates are in the Red Book translated into Shire terms, or equated with them in notes. The months and days, therefore, throughout the Lord of the Rings refer to the Shire Calendar.

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix D, The Calendars

But owing to their general interest in genealogy, and to the interest in ancient history which the learned amongst them developed after the War of the Ring, the Shire-hobbits seem to have concerned themselves a good deal with dates.... the chronology of the crucial years S.R. 1418, 1419 is so carefully set out in the Red Book that there cannot be much doubt about days and times at that point.

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix D, The Calendars

The genealogical trees at the end of the Red Book of Westmarch are a small book in themselves, and all but Hobbits would find them exceedingly dull. Hobbits delighted in such things, if they were accurate: they liked to have books filled with things that they already knew, set out fair and square with no contradictions.

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Prologue, Concerning Hobbits

Not many ancient documents were preserved in the Shire. At the end of the Third Age far the most notable survival was Yellowskin, or the Yearbook of Tuckborough*. Its earliest entries seem to have begun at least nine hundred years before Frodo's time; and many are cited in the Red Book annals and genealogies.

* Recording births, marriages, and deaths in the Took families, as well as matters, such as land-sales, and various Shire events.

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix D, The Calendars

This book is largely concerned with Hobbits, and from its pages a reader may discover much of their character and a little of their history. Further information will also be found in the selection from the Red Book of Westmarch that has already been published, under the title of The Hobbit. That story was derived from the earlier chapters of the Red Book, composed by Bilbo himself, the first Hobbit to become famous in the world at large, and called by him There and Back Again, since they told of his journey into the East and his return: an adventure which later involved all the Hobbits in the great events of that Age that are here related.

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Prologue, Concerning Hobbits

In the Red Book it is noted in several places that when Hobbits heard the speech of Rohan they recognized many words and felt the language to be akin to their own....

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix F, The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age: On Translation

According to the Red Book, Bandobras Took (Bullroarer), son of Isengrim the Second, was four foot five and able to ride a horse. He was surpassed in all Hobbit records only by two famous characters of old; but that curious matter is dealt with in this book. ...

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Prologue, Concerning Hobbits

So ended the Battle of Bywater, 1419 [SR/3019 III], the last battle fought in the Shire, and the only battle since the Greenfields, 1147 [SR/2747 III], away up in the Northfarthing. In consequence, though it happily cost very few lives, it has a chapter to itself in the Red Book, and the names of all those who took part were made into a Roll, and learned by heart by Shire-historians. The very considerable rise in the fame and fortune of the Cottons dates from this time; but at the top of the Roll in all accounts stand the names of Captains Meriadoc and Peregrin.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 8, The Scouring of the Shire

Here follows one of the last notes in the Red Book

We have heard tell that Legolas took Gimli Glóin's son with him because of their great friendship, greater than any that has been between Elf and Dwarf. If this is true, then it is strange indeed: that a Dwarf should be willing to leave Middle-earth for any love, or that the Eldar should receive him, or that the Lords of the West should permit it. But it is said that Gimli went also out of desire to see again the beauty of Galadriel; and it may be that she, being mighty among the Eldar, obtained this grace for him. More cannot be said of this matter.

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers: Durin's Folk

Contributors: Elena Tiriel 5.26.04; added Prologue quotes: ET 6.16.04; Added tidbit: ET 6.19.04; added battles: ET 6.24.04

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