HASA Resources

Timeline Event

Saruman opens trade with the Shire (estimated date)

Event Type: General

Age: 3rd Age - The Stewards

Year: 3017

Description:
Now because of his dislike and fear, in the later days Saruman avoided Gandalf ... except at the assemblies of the White Council. It was at the great Council held in 2851 that the "Halflings' leaf" was first spoken of ... Gandalf sat apart, silent, but smoking prodigiously ... while Saruman spoke against him.... Both the silence and the smoke seemed greatly to annoy Saruman....

But Gandalf laughed, and replied: "... [This] herb ... gives patience, to listen to error without anger. But it is not one of my toys. It is an art of the Little People away in the West: merry and worthy folk, though not of much account, perhaps, in your high policies."

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring: Concerning Gandalf, Saruman, and the Shire

2953
Last meeting of the White Council. ... Saruman withdraws to Isengard, which he takes as his own, and fortifies it. Being jealous and afraid of Gandalf he sets spies to watch all his movements; and notes his interest in the Shire. He soon begins to keep agents in Bree and the Southfarthing.

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix B, The Tale of Years: The Third Age

Seeing then that Gandalf thought the Shire worth visiting, Saruman himself visited it, but disguised and in the utmost secrecy, until he had explored and noted all its ways and lands ...

Yet in truth Saruman's spying and great secrecy had not in the beginning any evil purpose, but was no more than a folly born of pride. ... [Observing] Gandalf's love of ... "pipe-weed" ... Saruman had affected to scoff at it, but in private he made trial of it, and soon began to use it; and for this reason the Shire remained important to him. Yet he dreaded lest this should be discovered, and his own mockery turned against him, so that he would be laughed at for imitating Gandalf, and scorned for doing so by stealth.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring: Concerning Gandalf, Saruman, and the Shire

Saruman had long taken an interest in the Shire -- because Gandalf did, and he was suspicious of him; and because ... he had taken to the "Halflings' leaf," and needed supplies, but in pride ... kept this as secret as he could. Latterly other motives were added. He liked to extend his power, especially into Gandalf's province, and he found that the money he could provide for the purchase of "leaf" was giving him power, and was corrupting some of the Hobbits,1 especially the Bracegirdles, who owned many plantations, and so also the Sackville-Bagginses.2 But also he had begun to feel certain that in some way the Shire was connected with the Ring in Gandalf's mind. Why this strong guard upon it? He therefore began to collect detailed information about the Shire, its chief persons and families, its roads, and other matters. For this he used Hobbits within the Shire, in the pay of the Bracegirdles and the Sackville-Bagginses, but his agents were Men, of Dunlendish origin. ... The Rangers were suspicious, but did not actually refuse entry to the servants of Saruman -- for Gandalf was not at liberty to warn them, and when he had gone off to Isengard Saruman was still recognised as an ally.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring: Other Versions of the Story

... one of Saruman's most trusted servants (yet a ruffianly fellow, an outlaw driven from Dunland, where many said that he had Orc-blood3) had returned from the borders of the Shire, where he had been negotiating for the purpose of "leaf" and other supplies. ... This man was now on his way back to continue the business, and to arrange for the transport4 of many goods.... He had orders also to get into the Shire if possible and learn if there had been any departures of persons well-known recently. He was well supplied with maps, lists of names, and notes concerning the Shire.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring: Other Versions of the Story

[Said Merry,] 'It was through our search for man-food that Pippin discovered the prize of all the flotsam, those Hornblower barrels. "Pipe-weed is better after food," said Pippin....'

'We understand it all perfectly now,' said Gimli.

'All except one thing,' said Aragorn: 'leaf from the Southfarthing in Isengard. The more I consider it, the more curious I find it. I have never been in Isengard, but I have journeyed in this land, and I know well the empty countries that lie between Rohan and the Shire. Neither goods nor folk have passed that way for many a long year, not openly. Saruman had secret dealings with someone in the Shire, I guess. Wormtongues may be found in other houses than King Théoden's. Was there a date on the barrels?'

'Yes,' said Pippin. 'It was the 1417 crop, that is last year's; no, the year before, of course, now: a good year.'

'Ah well, whatever evil was afoot is over now, I hope; or else it is beyond our reach at present,' said Aragorn. 'Yet I think I shall mention it to Gandalf, small matter though it may seem among his great affairs.'

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 9, Flotsam and Jetsam


Notes

1 'It all began with [Lotho Sackville-Baggins] ...' said Farmer Cotton ... Seems he wanted to own everything himself, and then order other folk about. It soon came out that he already did own a sight more than was good for him; and he was always grabbing more, though where he got the money was a mystery ...

'Of course he started with a lot of property in the Southfarthing which he had from his dad; and it seems he'd been selling a lot o' the best leaf, and sending it away quietly for a year or two. But at the end o' last year he began sending away loads of stuff, not only leaf. Things began to get short, and winter coming on, too. Folk got angry, but he had his answer. A lot of Men, ruffians mostly, came with great waggons, some to carry off the goods south-away, and others to stay. ... [Soon] they began lording it around and taking what they wanted.'

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

2 Lobelia Bracegirdle married Otho Sackville-Baggins; their son was Lotho, who seized control of the Shire at the time of the War of the Ring, and was then known as "the Chief."

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring: Notes, Note 17

3 See The Fellowship of the Ring I, 9. When Strider and the Hobbits left Bree (ibid. I, 11) Frodo caught a glimpse of the Dunlending ("a sallow face with sly, slanting eyes") in Bill Ferny's house on the outskirts of Bree, and thought: "He looks more than half like a goblin."

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring: Notes, Note 21

4 The usual way was by the crossing of Tharbad to Dunland (rather than direct to Isengard), whence goods were sent more secretly on to Saruman. [Author's note.]

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring: Notes, Note 18

[Note: the date is an estimate, based upon Farmer Cotton's words.]

Contributors:
Elena Tiriel 11May05

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