by Greg Johnson
After the destruction of the Ring and the downfall of the Dark Lord, Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin return to the Shire only to find that it has been seized by aliens who have enslaved and robbed the hobbits and ravaged the land.
The returning veterans rouse their people to rebellion, killing many of the usurpers and driving the rest away. Then they discover who was behind it: the fallen wizard Saruman, who is banished from the Shire. Before he can leave, however, he is killed by his servant in crime, the treacherous Wormtongue, who is then felled by three hobbit arrows.
This chapter was omitted from Peter Jackson’s film trilogy (as well as Ralph Bakshi’s animated version), although Jackson does allude to it in two places. In The Fellowship of the Ring, when Frodo peers into Galadriel’s mirror, he has a vision of the hobbits enslaved and the shire blighted by dark satanic mills. In the extended version of The Return of the King, after the fall of Isengard, Merry and Pippin discover that Saruman’s storehouses contain products from the Shire, indicating some sort of contact.
But Jackson moved the deaths of Saruman and Wormtongue to the fall of Isengard. Wormtongue still kills Saruman, but he is dispatched by an arrow from Legolas. [see YouTube clip here] Thus when Frodo and company return to the Shire, they find it unchanged. Thus in Jackson’s telling, Frodo’s vision was just one possible future foreclosed by the death of Saruman at Isengard.
Still, I think it a shame that “The Scouring of the Shire” was not filmed, for it is a potent political allegory that remains relevant today. Most commentators simply note that the Scouring is based on Tolkien’s personal experience of returning from the trenches of World War I to find England a changed place. But the Scouring goes far beyond anything in Tolkien’s experiences. It is a work of imagination, a political allegory that far more closely resembles the experiences of German soldiers returning from the Great War to find a radically new, alien-dominated regime.
The Shire was subjugated as follows. After the fall of Isengard, Saruman was reduced to a wandering “beggar in the wilderness,” a refugee. But when he enjoyed power, the wandering wizard developed a far-flung network reaching all the way to the Shire, where he cultivated the friendship of Lotho Pimple.
The Shire was an agrarian, autarkic society of independent small farmers and merchants. Pimple, however, was sufficiently alienated and ambitious that he wished to change this social order. He wanted more land than he could work himself, and he wanted hirelings to work it, so he could grow rich by growing cash crops for export. In short, he wanted to be a big shot with a plantation.
By means of mysterious infusions of capital from outside the Shire (obviously from Saruman) Pimple managed to target economically troubled small holders for takeover (perhaps by loaning them money at usurious rates and then foreclosing when they could not pay), reducing them to employees on what was once their own land. Thus Pimple became a big man, styling himself Chief Shirrif and then just Chief. When Saruman and Wormtongue arrived as refugees, naturally Pimple took them in.
Having elevated the rootless and greedy Pimple to power, Saruman cozied up with the Chief and began to institute a new order. He brought in racially indeterminate aliens to intimidate and terrorize the hobbits. He also recruited hobbits of defective character — people who wanted to act big and meddle in other people’s business (in the internet age, we call them trolls) — to vastly expand the police force. This was necessary, because Saruman also vastly expanded rules and regulations in order to yoke and mulct the hobbits. Naturally there was discontent, so a vast network of spies and informants was created, as well as a courier service to swiftly convey reports and orders. Dissidents were thus easily ferreted out and imprisoned.
Society was collectivized. Private homes were replaced by ugly, cramped, ramshackle housing developments. Rationing was introduced to crush the hobbits’ spirits and lower their standard of living, freeing resources to be consumed by their new overlords or to be exported for cash. Leisure was restricted and work expanded. Handcrafts, which were fine for an aesthetically refined and ecologically sustainable subsistence economy, were replaced by heavy industry to produce exports for cash.
This industry was fueled by wholesale deforestation and fouled the water and the air. But the desecration of nature went far beyond the bounds of even economic necessity, betraying a hatred of nature and beauty as such. Saruman’s real goal was less to create a new world than to destroy the old.
Finally, to cement his rule, Saruman had his collaborator Pimple secretly killed once he had outlived his usefulness.
It is simply an error to reduce this all to an allegory of the endogenous rise of capitalism in England. For the role of Saruman indicates that this process was far from endogenous in the Shire. Nor was it in England, for that matter. Saruman represents an alien influence, specifically the Jewish spirit — rootless, alienated, materialistic, and ultimately nihilistic — which is incarnated both in Jewry and its extended phenotype, Calvinism and low-church Protestantism. (It was the Puritan Revolution that brought the Jews back to England.)
Yet Saruman’s takeover and elimination of Pimple does not resemble anything that happened in England. But it does resemble the revolution that deposed the Kaiser, followed by various Judeo-Bolshevik Putsches and ultimately the Jewish-dominated Weimar Republic. Furthermore, Saruman’s totalitarian system of spies and informants and his expropriation of small farms and seizure of their produce did not take place in England or Germany, but it did happen in Soviet Russia, leading to some of history’s greatest crimes against European man.
But it is also an allegory of how a people might regain control of its destiny. The hobbits have lost their freedom through salami tactics. Each day a little more of their freedom was sliced off, but not enough to cause a general rebellion, just a lot of passive grumbling, until finally, when the meaning of what was happening dawned on them, it was too late. Frodo and company, however, returned home after a long absence, and the change hit them all at once. It did not slowly demoralize and enervate them. It made them fighting mad.
And as war veterans, they knew something about fighting. The Shire was also lost because the hobbits were disunited and fearful, ultimately because they had enjoyed a soft and easy-going lifestyle. Frodo and his comrades, however, had been tested and hardened in the crucible of war. They were not cowed by alien bullies, no matter what their stature. They immediately resolved to rally their people and scour the Shire of the usurpers. The hobbits had been long groaning under the new regime. The veterans were the spark to the tinder.
A few opening skirmishes led to a climactic battle at Bywater, which left nearly 70 of the alien interlopers dead and the rest in chains or flight. Nineteen hobbits also lay dead. The hobbits then marched to Bag End to depose Saruman and send him packing without penalty. The prisoners were also sent on their way unharmed. These foolishly gentle policies toward murderers were justified by Frodo with effusions of moral and metaphysical clap-trap that remind us that, after all, this is children’s literature. Best we ignore him when our own enemies are at our mercy.
The closest historical analogy to “The Scouring of the Shire” comes from Germany, where various Freikorps groups — militias of demobilized veterans — put down Judeo-Bolshevik Putsches in Prussia and Bavaria. Furthermore, the successor of the Freikorps was the NSDAP, also led and staffed by veterans, which finally put an end to the Weimar Republic. It is a model worth contemplating today as thousands of white veterans return from a Jewish-instigated war in Iraq to face 30 percent unemployment in a homeland overrun and despoiled by non-white immigrants. They are a constituency just waiting for a leader.