To Maggot's Farm and Buckland
The story picks up from the end of Chapter Two, "From Hobbiton to the Woody End", with Bingo[note 1] arising refreshed after Gildor and the Elves have departed. Odo[note 2] asks what Bingo learned from Gildor and (unlike the final version) Bingo lists what the Elf told him. The three hobbits then prepare for the day's journey with Frodo[note 3] suggesting that they travel cross-country south-east to Buckland (which at this point in the chapter refers to a village rather than a region).
The hobbits cut through the woods and encounter thick undergrowth and an inconvenient stream. When Odo looks back he spots a Black Rider at the top of the stream bank they had just descended (instead of high on a hill). Trudging on through light rain they stop for lunch. When the song Ho! Ho! Ho! To the Bottle I Go is sung it is cut short when the hobbits hear sniffing close at hand (rather than the long-drawn wails from farther away).
Exiting the woods the hobbits come to Farmer Maggot's fields. Bingo has no history of stealing mushrooms from the farmer; instead there is a discussion about living in a house or a hobbit-hole (part of this information would later be relocated to the Prologue of The Lord of the Rings). Arriving at Maggot's house they are confronted by one small dog (rather than three large ones). Bingo decides he would rather not be seen so he pops on his Ring. Odo and Frodo meet Maggot who tells them a "funny customer" has been around. Odo, Frodo, and invisible Bingo follow Maggot into his house.
Inside is Mrs. Maggot (the only other hobbit on the farm) who brings them mugs of beer. Maggot tells them the story of the visit by the Black Rider. At the end of the tale Bingo decides to play a trick on Maggot, causing his mug to rise in the air, tilt, and return to the table empty. This frightens the farmer who is only too glad to see his two (visible) guests leave (with no mushrooms or ride in a wagon to the Bucklebury Ferry).
Walking onwards the hobbits meet Marmaduke.[note 4] They reach the Ferry and cross the river. Behind them they see a black shape at the Ferry landing. They reach the (unnamed) house and the travelers have their baths, followed by supper. Since all the friends know about the Ring there is no conspiracy to unmask. Discussion turns to the next day's plans and Odo is outvoted on the decision to pass through the Old Forest.
This one chapter covers the events that would eventually make up the chapters "A Short Cut to Mushrooms" and "A Conspiracy Unmasked". The visit to Farmer Maggot would undergo a number of reworkings (see Farmer Maggot for the different versions) as the Ring became more and more of a secret.
Christopher Tolkien comments on maps of the Shire, explaining that there were six made, with some only showing selected features (the sixth is the one published). Some of the directions mentioned in the text will later be changed to fit the maps as time went on. Christopher mentions that his father had submitted the early chapters to Rayner Unwin who said that there was too much "hobbit talk" and it made the story lag. Tolkien would take this comment into consideration when he revised the story.
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: IV. To Maggot's Farm and Buckland"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: IV. To Maggot's Farm and Buckland, Note on the Shire Map"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: IV. To Maggot's Farm and Buckland, [Untitled final section on letters]"