The Red Book and its Authors

This part does not refer to any specific chronicler, but concerns the tradition of the Red Book which is the most important source for the history of the Third Age. The Red Book consists of several parts, for which the most important contributors were Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, and Sam Gamgee.

After Bilbo Baggins returned from the quest of Erebor, he started writing a diary about his adventures. When, at the eminent age of 111, he went to Rivendell, he took this diary with him, and continued writing. He now probably wrote a lot of poems, some which were written in the margins of the diary or on loose pages. In Rivendell he also became occupied with translating a lot of Elvish Books of Lore (1403-1418 TA). For this he used all resources available there, and they were many. Except for the many texts he also had direct access to people who spoke the old languages. The result was three thick volumes in red leather called Translations from the Elvish. This work was considered well done even by the Elves.

After the War of the Ring, Frodo Baggins brought the three volumes and the diary back to the Shire and started (1420-1 TA) adding his own account of the war, which was seen as a continuation of Bilbo's adventure. When Frodo went to the Grey Havens he had almost finished the account, and gave the book to Sam Gamgee for him to finish it. It then had 80 chapters, and the title-page was full of suggestions for a name. First, Bilbo had written:

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 account of his friends.
What we did in the War of the Ring.

But these had all been crossed out. Below, Frodo had written:

(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.

Sam Gamgee had probably finished the account when he, in the year 60 of the Fourth Age, went to the havens. He then gave the books to his daughter Elanor.

From then on the books were kept by the descendants of Elanor, the Fairbairns of the Undertowers who lived in the Westmarch, an area recently added to the Shire. The assembled books were therefore called the Red Book of Westmarch, and a fifth volume was added. It contained commentaries, genealogies, and various other things concerning the Hobbits of the Nine Walkers.

The first copy that was made of the Red Book was the so-called Thain's Book. It was a copy made at the request of King Elessar, and its importance lay in the respect that it contained much that was later later lost or omitted. Later in Gondor, this copy was much annotated and many names and quotes were corrected. Added was also (much later) The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, i.e. those parts not present in the Red Book narrative.

The second copy was made by Findegil, the King's Writer of Gondor, and was the most important one for the scribes. It was an exact copy of the Thain's Book that was kept in Gondor. These two volumes were the only ones to contain everything from the original, plus the Gondorian annotations. In addition, in the Thain's Book the Translations from the Elvish had not been included, and these were added to the second copy. The copy was ordered by Peregrin Took's greatgrandson and when finished in 172 FA in Gondor it was kept at the Great Smials.

Apart from these, many other copies were made for Sam Gamgee's descendants. To these copies was also later added many notes, commentaries and poems. The original Red Book was lost, but the copies remained. These were Professor Tolkien's main source to his accounts of the War of the Ring. However, when he published the first editions, he hadn't found all the correct accounts, or hadn't used them. For instance, in his earliest texts about Bilbo's adventure in the Misty Mountains, the story originated from a version of the Red Book where Bilbo's "lie" was printed: that he was promised a present by Gollum, but since Gollum couldn't give the Ring to Bilbo, he was shown the way out instead. In reality, Bilbo was never offered the Ring. Another example is Frodo's salute to Gildor Inglorion. Some versions of the Red Book claim that it was "Elen sila lumenn' omentielmo", and so it was printed at first. But the correct salute should end "-elvo", and this was later changed. However, it is possible Frodo actually used the erroneous phrase.

•The Adventures of Tom Bombadil: Prologue
•The Lord of the Rings vol. 1 Prologue
•The Lord of the Rings vol. 3 The Grey Havens
•The Lord of the Rings vol. 3 Appendix B

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