The (fictional, we think) source from which Tolkien drew the story begun in The Hobbit and continued in his trilogy, The Lord of the Ring. Much of the Red Book was alleged composed by one of the main protagonists in the story, Bilbo Baggins.

THE DOWNFALL

OF

THE LORD OF THE RINGS

AND

THE RETURN OF THE KING

(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.

The work J. R. R. Tolkien claimed as his main "source" for his writings about Middle-Earth, the names the Red Book of Westmarch and the Red Book of the Pheriannath are given both to a five-volume collection of histories kept by the Fairbairns, descendants of Samwise Gamgee, at Undertowers in the Westmarch of the Shire; and specifically to the first volume of the collection, a narrative written by Frodo and Bilbo Baggins of events during the War of the Ring.

The book was in origin Bilbo's private diary, in which he wrote an account of the Quest of Erebor, the Battle of Five Armies and the finding of the One Ring1. Bilbo took the diary with him to Rivendell when he left the Shire in S. R. 1401, and over the next 15 years worked on translating certain books of Elvish Lore concerning the Elder Days into the Common Tongue.

When Frodo returned to Rivendell following the destruction of the Ring, Bilbo gave him both the diary and the three volumes of his Translations from the Elvish. During 1420 and 1421 Frodo filled the remaining pages with his account of the War, and following his departure over the Sea, Sam completed the narrative with an account of the Scouring of the Shire and the departure of the Ring-Bearers from the Grey Havens. Sam and his descendants later added a fifth volume, of historical and geneological annotations concerning the various members of the Fellowship of the Ring.

Samwise departed from the Havens in S.R. 1482, bequeathing the collection to his daughter Elanor and her husband, Fastred of Greenholm, Warden of the Westmarch. At some point over the intervening years the entire collection was rebound in red leather, giving the book its name.

According to Tolkien, the original Red Book did not survive. His main source was apparently a copy made by a Gondorian scibe named Findegil in the year 172 of the Fourth Age, at the request of the great-grandson of Peregrin Took. This copy is significant because it is the only "extant" copy to contain the whole of Bilbo's Translations.


1: It should be noted that Bilbo was somewhat economical with the truth in his original account of the finding of the Ring, and the actual truth of what happened was recorded by Frodo and Sam sometime later. Most copies of the Book, however, still contain the original, as neither Frodo nor Sam were willing to delete anything written by Bilbo himself.

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