In Chapter 7 of Book 6 of The Return Of The King, Homeward Bound, Barliman Butterbur compliments Gandalf's horse Shadowfax, saying:

"And you’ll be taking your horse to his stable yourself, Gandalf, I don’t doubt. A fine beast, as I said when I first set eyes on him."

When did Butterbur first see Shadowfax?

Did Gandalf find time to scout out ahead while the Hobbits tarried at Rivendell? He also seems to know a great deal about goings-on around the Shire.

  • In "He also seems to know a great deal about goings-on around the Shire" do you mean Butterbur? If so, I don't have quotes to hand but IIRC when the hobbits first arrive, there's a conversation to the effect that fewer hobbits get to Bree than used to, implying there was contact (albeit reduced), and therefore news.
    – TripeHound
    Aug 9, 2018 at 13:53
  • Actually, @TripeHound, I was referring to Gandalf, who hints there's a new gate at the Brandywine they'll have to contend with, as well as hinting broadly there will be trouble waiting for them in the Shire.
    – Lee
    Aug 9, 2018 at 22:33

3 Answers 3


No, Gandalf rode together with the company to Bree1.

When Barliman Butterbur says "...first set eyes on him", he is talking, as Daniel has pointed out below, about when Gandalf rides to Bree in search of Frodo, after escaping from Orthanc and passing through Rohan.


21 Gandalf meets Shadowfax, but the horse will not allow him to come near. He follows Shadowfax far over the fields.

22 Gandalf overtakes Shadowfax.

23 Gandalf having tamed Shadowfax rides from Rohan.

24 Gandalf crosses the Isen.

27 Gandalf crosses Greyflood.

28 Gandalf reaches Sarn Ford.

29 Gandalf visits the Gaffer.

30 Gandalf comes to Crickhollow, and reaches Bree at night.
The Return of the King - Appendix B: Tale of Years - 3018.

From the above, it would appear that Barliman first saw Shadowfax 9 days after Gandalf had acquired the horse, just after Frodo's departure. However they would've had more pressing issues to discuss than the beauty of the horse.

1 October

5 Gandalf and the Hobbits leave Rivendell.

6 They cross the Ford of Bruinen; Frodo feels the first return of pain.

28 They reach Bree at nightfall.

  • Can we rule out Barliman seeing Shadowfax at some earlier point, like Gandalf's first visit to the Shire in the Lord of the Rings when he discovers the One Ring, or his visit to the Shire during The Hobbit?
    – nick012000
    Aug 9, 2018 at 13:39
  • 6
    @nick012000 yes we can, because Gandalf rode Shadowfax from Rohan to Bree. 22. Gandalf overtakes Shadowfax. 23. Gandalf having tamed Shadowfax rides from Rohan. 24. Gandalf crosses the Isen. 27. Gandalf crosses Greyflood. 28. Gandalf reaches Sarn Ford. 29. Frodo reaches Bree at night. Gandalf visits the Gaffer. 30. Crickhollow and the Inn at Bree are raided in the early hours. Frodo leaves Bree. Gandalf comes to Crickhollow, and reaches Bree at night.
    – Edlothiad
    Aug 9, 2018 at 13:47

Gandalf rode Shadowfax to Bree - via Hobbiton - after escaping from Isengard. As he describes to the Council of Elrond:

"Then I rode on in fear [on Shadowfax]. I came to Buckland [....] but it seemed to me that one or two had ridden towards Bree; and that way I went, for I thought of words that might be said to the innkeeper."

Chronologically, this encounter happens just after the hobbits themselves leave Bree with Strider. Barliman would definitely have seen Shadowfax then, and that's what he's referring to when he says "when I first set eyes on him".


Actually, I believe Butterbur may not have seen Shadowfax until Gandalf and the Hobbits came back to Bree on their way home to the Shire. Butterbur would have said "What a fine horse" to himself only a short time before he spoke to Gandalf. When the Hobbits and the Wizard left Bree, Gandalf peeled off and went to see Tom Bombadil, while the Hobbits went on to the Shire...where they found things not to their liking, and became involved in their last adventure.

  • 2
    Do you have any reason to believe that Butterbur hadn't seen Shadowfax when Gandalf visited him in Bree, we certainly know they spoke.
    – Edlothiad
    Aug 9, 2018 at 7:29
  • @Edlothiad, I had forgotten about Gandalf getting to Bree after Strider and the Hobbits had left for Rivendell. So Butterbur could have seen Shadowfax months before the Hobbits came back to Bree on their way home. My apologies. Aug 10, 2018 at 5:03
  • If you've created two accounts and wish to merge them you can do so here. Finally as to your point, no worries. I had initially made the same mistake! You can edit your post to correct it if you please!
    – Edlothiad
    Aug 10, 2018 at 5:09

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