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Barliman appeared to have had a rather bad memory, "One thing drives out another" he says. He forgot to send Gandalf's letter to Frodo, leaving Frodo uncertain as to Gandalf's fate and causing him to start his journey much later than the letter indicated. He did not remember it until Frodo and his companions arrived to stay at the inn, and even then it was long before the connection was made. He did, however, remember to produce Strider's credentials.
When Gandalf finally arrived at The Prancing Pony, he was furious with Barliman's forgetfulness, but quickly forgave him when he found out the Hobbits were alive. He even went so far as to put a blessing on his beer.
Barliman means "barley-man", a suitable name for an ale-brewer.
Portrayal in adaptations
- Barliman was voiced by Alan Tilvern.
- He is played by David Weatherley, although the character is not named and most of his scenes from the book (including the reference to Gandalf's letter) are not in the film.
2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:
- Barliman is a non-playable character that can be found at the Prancing Pony. The player meets with him during Volume I Shadows of Angmar, Book I: Stirrings in the Darkness, Foreword: "An Unwanted Guest".
- Barliman Butterbur is the inn-keeper, and can be found behind the bar in the Prancing Pony. He tells the player news about troubles in the south, and Southernors who have come lately to Bree, and information about the Prancing Pony, that it almost exists as long as Bree.