Eventually, Frodo and his companions decide to return home. Arwen gives Frodo her place on the ships that carry the elves to the Undying Lands beyond Middle-earth, should he find the memory of his journey unbearable. Accompanied by all their friends and the elves of Lothlórien and Rivendell, the hobbits begin the leisurely journey home. First, they travel to Rohan, where Éomer and Éowyn give Merry an ancient horn, whose sounding is said to hearten friends and frighten enemies. At Isengard, they learn that Treebeard has let the greatly diminished Saruman go, along with Wormtongue. As the group travels north, they come upon Saruman himself, traveling like a beggar with Wormtongue. Gandalf offers him a last chance, which he spurns. He exchanges a last spiteful word with the hobbits, warning them the Shire will be less welcoming than they expect. When they reach Rivendell, they tell Bilbo their story and relax for a while, bus soon their thoughts turn again to the Shire. Bilbo gives Frodo his book and notes, and, finally, the four hobbits begin the last stage of their journey, joined only by Gandalf.
On the anniversary of his stabbing at Weathertop, Frodo is troubled by the pain of his old wound, and passing the hill a few days later also bothers him. When they reach Bree, they find the once friendly town heavily armed. Although reassured at news of the king's return and nearly speechless at the idea that Strider is the king, Butterbur at the Prancing Pony has local troubles to worry about. Bandits have been attacking travelers, and trade from the Shire has come to a standstill. The hobbits are surprised to discover that in the innkeeper's eyes they look formidable in their armor and swords. The next day, they go on, wondering what has gone wrong in the Shire. When they reach the Barrowdowns, Gandalf leaves them to visit Tom Bombadil after he expresses confidence that they will be able to handle the Shire's problems. Only the four hobbit-friends remain when they reach the Brandywine Bridge.
They find the gate locked and a new ugly guardhouse built on the far side, and Merry and Pippin scale the gate to get in. A man comes out to quell the ruckus, but he runs away rather than deal with armed and determined resistance. The travelers soon learn that Lotho Sackville-Baggins has brought evil men into the Shire to intimidate the hobbits, ruling by a combination of force and fear. Many trees have been cut down and hobbits have been turned out of their homes, while factories have been built that pollute the environment. The four friends lead a rebellion, then find Saruman, still accompanied by Wormtongue, living in Bag End. The fallen wizard has masterminded this