The hobbits prepare to leave Rivendell on the first anniversary of Frodos wounding at Weathertop. The wound aches, and Gandalf does not answer Frodos plaintive question, “Where shall I find rest?”
Gandalf and the hobbits arrive in Bree and visit Barliman Butterbur at The Prancing Pony. The hobbits learn that, as Saruman hinted in the previous chapter, there has indeed been trouble brewing in hobbit lands. Travelers through Bree, Butterbur tells them, have been accosted; “rabble and ruffians” roam the roads; there is even no more pipe-weed from the Southfarthing to be had. More bad news comes to the hobbits in the form of Gandalfs announcement that he will be leaving them, although not for the last time; they will see him again.
As the hobbits return to the setting of the first chapters of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien re-introduces the theme of proper perspective-or the lack thereof. Note, for instance, the casual and almost utterly disinterested way in which Butterbur “listens” to the hobbits relate their adventures, and the way in which the people in the inns Common Room insist that Frodo, when writing his book, “deal with the amazing events at Bree, and so give a bit of interest to a book that appeared likely to treat mostly of the remote and less important affairs away south.” The Breelanders and hobbits have not yet learned that their fate is inextricably bound up with the fates of all others in Middle-earth-the very lesson that “outsiders” such as the Riders of Rohan and the Ents have been learning throughout the rest of the novel. Now, ironically, “outsiders” know hobbits place in the order of things better than do hobbits themselves! The fault of perspective is not so much that the events at Bree are not in fact strange or are not in fact important; rather, the fault is that the Breelanders and hobbits cannot see how those events connect to the events in which Frodo and the others have been swept up. They lack a sense of what we would call “the big picture.” They lack imagination and vision-and, as the events of Tolkiens story have demonstrated, it is these qualities, along with an awareness of how ones immediate world relates to and intersects with the larger world, that are necessary for living.