The Shire refers to an area settled exclusively by Hobbits and largely removed from the goings-on in the rest of Middle-earth. It is located in the northwest of the continent, in the large region of Eriador and the Kingdom of Arnor. Its name in Westron was Sûza "Shire" or Sûzat "The Shire". Its name in Sindarin was i Drann.
According to Tolkien, the Shire measured 40 leagues (193 km, 120 miles) from the Far Downs in the west to the Brandywine Bridge in the east, and 50 leagues (241 km, 150 miles) from the northern moors to the marshes in the south. This is confirmed in an essay by Tolkien on translating the Lord of the Rings, where he describes the Shire as having an area of 18,000 square miles (47,000 km²).[ The original territory of the Shire was bounded on the east by the Baranduin River, on the north by uplands rising to old centre of Arnor, on the west by the White Downs, and on the south by marshland south of the River Shirebourne. After the original settlement, hobbits also expanded to the east into Buckland between the Baranduin and the Old Forest, and (much later) to the west into the Westmarch between the White Downs and the Tower Hills. The Shire was originally divided into four Farthings. The outlying lands of Buckland and the Westmarch were formally added after the War of the Ring. Within the Farthings there are some smaller unofficial clan homelands: the Tooks nearly all live in or near Tuckborough in Tookland, for instance. A Hobbit surname often indicates where the family came from: Samwise Gamgee's last name derives from Gamwich, where the family originated. Buckland was named for the Oldbucks (later called the Brandybucks). The Shire is described as a small but beautiful and fruitful land, beloved by its inhabitants. The Hobbits had an extensive agricultural system in the Shire but were not industrialised. The landscape included small pockets of forest (again similar to the English countryside). Various supplies were produced in the Shire, including cereals, fruit, wood and pipe-weed.
On Tolkien's maps, the Shire is located at about the same position as England is on modern European maps and has been cited as an example of Merry England ideology. Throughout the narrative, Tolkien also implies numerous points of similarity between the two, such as weather, agriculture and dialect. In particular, the Shire corresponds to the West Midlands region of England, extending to Worcestershire (where Tolkien located his "home" in particular, his mother's family being from Evesham), Shropshire, Warwickshire, Herefordshire and Staffordshire, as argued by Tom Shippey forming a "cultural unit with deep roots in history" The name "Shire" harks back to T.H. White's book England Have My Bones, where White says that he lives in "the Shire" (with a capital "s"). The industrialisation of the Shire was based on Tolkien's witnessing of the extension of the Industrial Revolution to rural Worcestershire during his youth, and especially the deleterious consequences thereof. The rebellion of the Hobbits and the restoration of the pre-industrial Shire may be interpreted as a prescription of voluntary simplicity as a remedy to the problems of modern society. Saruman, the responsible party for the pollution of the Shire, derives the Saru element of his name partly from Sarehole Mill, in the vicinity of which Tolkien spent "the most idyllic period" of his childhood. The Shire is, of course, in no straightforward way "identical" to the West Midlands. The region in a more remote past, as Mercia, serves at the same time as a model for the Mark of the Rohirrim.
Iceland divided in farthings, in Hans Henrik Knoff's map, 1761
Regions of the ShireEdit
The original parts of the Shire were subdivided into four Farthings ("fourth-ings" or "quarterings"): the Three-Farthing Stone marked the point where the borders of the Eastfarthing, Westfarthing and Southfarthing of the Shire came together, by the East Road (Iceland was traditionally also divided in Farthings, or "fourth parts", as the Shire is).
The Northfarthing is the least populous part of the Shire. It is where most of the Shire's barley crop is grown, and the only farthing where heavy snow is common. The historic Battle of Greenfields was fought here. Long Cleeve was the home of a splinter of the Took clan known as the North-Tooks, descendants of Bandobras "Bullroarer" Took, who settled here after the Battle of Greenfields.
The village of Hardbottle was the home of the Bracegirdle family, to whom Lobelia Sackville-Baggins belonged. Some maps, especially Karen Wynn Fonstad's Atlas of Middle-Earth, erroneously place Hardbottle in the Southfarthing.
The western and most populous part of the Shire.
Michel Delving on the White Downs is the chief town of the Shire. Its name means simply "large excavation". The Mayor of Michel Delving, with a seven-year term, is the only elected official of the Shire.
Little Delving is a village to the north of Michel Delving.
Waymeet (spelled "Waymoot" on the Shire map in the Prologue of The Lord of the Rings) grew up at the junction of the Great East Road with the older South Road that crossed the Baranduin at Sarn Ford before the Brandywine Bridge was built.
Tuckborough is the centre of the Took homeland where most Tooks dwell. The Thain's extended family lives here in the Great Smials.
Bywater is a village situated a short walk east of Hobbiton. It is best known for two inns, "the Green Dragon" and "the Ivy Bush". It was also the site of the Battle of Bywater on November 3, 3019 T.A., the last battle in the War of the Ring.
Hobbiton is the village where Bag End is located, above the lane of Bagshot Row. This is the home of Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, where both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings begin and end. Tolkien borrowed "Bag End" from the name of his aunt's farmhouse in the tiny Worcestershire village of Dormston. In the books, it is supposedly a translation of the word Labin-nec in the fictional Westron language. This had much the same meaning, and a similar relationship to Labingi (the Westron form of Baggins) as Bag End to Baggins. On the north bank of the Water in Hobbiton was "The Mill", with a large water-wheel and a yard behind it. Sandyman the Miller owned the Mill and operated it with the help of his son Ted Sandyman. Lotho Sackville-
Baggins had the Old Mill knocked down and the New Mill built in its place. The New Mill was an ugly red-brick building with a tall chimney. It was bigger than the Old Mill and full of wheels and strange contraptions to increase production. The New Mill straddled the Water and poured pollutants into the stream. It was operated by Men, and Ted Sandyman stayed on to help them. When Saruman came to the Shire in September of 3019, the Mill was no longer used for grinding grain but for some industrial purpose; and loud noises, smoke, and filth issued from it. After Saruman was killed and the Chief's Men defeated at the Battle of Bywater, the New Mill was removed.
The Southfarthing is the site of Longbottom, where the best pipe-weed was grown, owing to the area's warmer climate.
At Longbottom (meaning "long valley") Tobold Hornblower introduced the cultivation of pipe-weed to the Shire with plantations in his garden in T.A. 2670.
The Green Hill Country, a region of rolling countryside in the central part of the Shire, extends into both the Southfarthing and the Eastfarthing.
The Overbourne Marshes, a swampy area along the western bank of the Baranduin, lies across the river from the inflow of the Withywindle. The River Shirebourne flows through the marshes into the Baranduin just south of Haysend.
Sarn Ford is the stony ford across the Baranduin on the southern borders of the Shire. A road leaving the Great East Road at Waymeet crosses the ford and meets the Greenway farther east. By this road Khamûl the Ringwraith entered the Shire during the Hunt for the Ring.
Eastfarthing borders Buckland and contains the towns Frogmorton and Whitfurrows and the farms of the Marish. The farmers near the Brandywine largely acknowledged the authority of the Oldbucks, even after the latter moved across the river and became the Brandybucks.
The Marish is the name of fertile but marshy farmlands along the Brandywine River. Farmer Maggot lived at Bamfurlong in the Marish.
Stock is the major town of the Marish and the location of "the Golden Perch", an inn with a reputation for excellent beer.
The Yale is a low-lying farming area shown on the Shire Map between the Stock Road and the East Road. This was the homeland of the Boffin family, and several Boffins in a genealogical table (deleted from Appendix C before publication) came from the Yale. The meaning of "the Yale" is obscure. The well-known English personal and place name "Yale" has its origins in a Welsh expression meaning "fertile upland."
Scary is a village in the northern part of the Eastfarthing at the southern feet of the Hills of Scary. A road ran south from Scary to cross the Water at Budge Ford and join the Great East Road at Whitfurrows. During the War of the Ring, provisions were stored in the quarry east of Scary by the Chief's Men, and after the Scouring of the Shire the Hobbits took advantage of these stores for the Yule holiday.
Other parts of the ShireEdit
Buckland and the Westmarch are sometimes reckoned part of the Shire, though they are not part of any Farthing. Buckland was described in Chapter V A Conspiracy Unmasked in The Fellowship of the Ring as being "virtually a small independent country... a sort of colony of the Shire." Westmarch became part of the Shire only after the end of the events portrayed in Lord of the Rings, in the Fourth Age.
Location, villages and bordersEdit
Buckland is located east of the Baranduin (Brandywine) river. The hobbits living in Buckland grew the 'High Hay', a hedge, to protect themselves against evil from the nearby Old Forest, which borders Buckland to the east. Buckland is bordered in the north by the Buckland Gate, the only entrance to Buckland near the Brandywine Bridge. In the south the borders of Buckland follow the High Hay until the Withywindle joins the Baranduin near the village of Haysend. The most important town of Buckland is Bucklebury where the Brandy Hall is located, home of the Master of Buckland, the hereditary chieftain of the Brandybuck family.
The Buckland Gate is, for all intents and purposes, the eastern gate of the Shire. Located at the eastern end of the Brandywine Bridge, the gate stood on the Great East Road as it approached from the town of Bree some thirty miles east of the Shire. Beyond the gate lay the Brandywine Bridge, which crossed the Brandywine River or Baranduin, and also the road which led south into Buckland. The road to Buckland split off from the Great East Road just beyond the western side of the Buckland Gate but before the Brandywine Bridge. The gate itself was made into the northernmost end of the High Hay, the great hedge that separated the Old Forest from the hobbit-populated region of Buckland.
The High Hay is the name given by Hobbits to the great hedge-wall that separated the Old Forest from the Hobbit-populated region of Buckland along the Brandywine River. It ran from the Buckland Gate in the north ending at Haysend in the south, at the point where the Withywindle flowed into the Brandywine.
An important landmark is the Bucklebury Ferry, a raft-ferry used as the second main crossing point of the Brandywine River from the Shire to Buckland, after the Brandywine Bridge (which is said to be twenty miles further north; the number is believed to have been a mistake by Tolkien, and newer editions of The Lord of the Rings correct it to ten miles). It is apparently left unmanned to be used by hobbit travellers as needed. En route to the new house at Crickhollow, Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin, crossed using the Ferry just before the arrival of a Black Rider, who was forced to go around to the Brandywine Bridge since there were no boats kept on the western bank of the river. (In the film version by Peter Jackson, the encounter is more immediate.)
Crickhollow was a village in Buckland. After selling Bag End, Frodo Baggins moved to a house in Crickhollow. Meriadoc Brandybuck and Fredegar Bolger prepared the house ostensibly for Frodo to live in retirement, but instead the purchase of the house was intended as a ruse to allow Frodo and Samwise Gamgee to leave the Shire unobtrusively. Merry and Pippin lived together for some time after their return to the Shire in the house at Crickhollow.
History and cultureEdit
Buckland was settled around T.A. 2340 by Gorhenhad Oldbuck, the ancestor of Meriadoc Brandybuck. Gorhenhad Oldbuck thus became the first Master of Buckland. He renamed himself Brandybuck, which remained his family's name.
Because Buckland is east of the Baranduin, it is not part of the land given to the hobbits by King Argeleb II of Arthedain. It was thus not part of the Shire proper until the beginning of the Fourth Age when King Elessar made Buckland and the Westmarch officially a part of the Shire.
The Bucklanders are unlike other hobbits: they are prepared for danger and are thus less naive than the Shire-hobbits. They close the Hay Gate and their own front doors at night and are prepared to rush to arms when the Horn of Buckland is blown. Most Bucklanders were originally of Stoor stock, and they were the only hobbits known to use boats. Westmarch After the events of the War of the Ring at the start of the Fourth Age, King Elessar granted the hobbits of the Shire effective self-rule inside his reunited kingdom, banning any Men from entering the land. He also granted the Shire a stretch of new land: this reached from the ancient western borders of the Shire, the Far Downs, to the Tower Hills. The area between the downs and the hills became known as the Westmarch. Like Buckland across the river Brandywine, it was not part of any of the four Farthings of the Shire.
The eldest daughter of mayor Samwise Gamgee, Elanor the Fair, married Fastred of Greenholm, and they moved to the Westmarch. After the passing of master Samwise into the Grey Havens, they and their children became known as the Fairbairns of the Towers or Wardens of Westmarch. The Red Book of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins passed into their keeping, becoming known as the Red Book of Westmarch.
The principal towns of the Shire were: Michel Delving Stock Frogmorton Bucklebury (technically in Buckland, not originally part of the Shire) Bywater Tuckborough (seat of the Took clan) Undertowers (developed in Westmarch during the Fourth Age)
The Shire was settled by Hobbits in the year 1601 of the Third Age (Year 1 in Shire Reckoning). The Hobbits (who originally lived in the vale of Anduin) had migrated west over the perilous Misty Mountains in the decades before that, and before entering the Shire they had lived in Dunland and parts of the depopulated Arnorian splinter-realms Cardolan and Rhudaur. It has been speculated that the Hobbits had originally moved west to escape the troubles of Mirkwood, and the evil caused by the Easterlings. The Shire was a part of Arthedain, and as such a part of Arnor. The Hobbits obtained official permission from King Argeleb II at Norbury (Fornost) to settle the lands, which were not populated and seen as the king's hunting grounds. The King stipulated three conditions to this grant; that the hobbits should acknowledge his Lordship, that they should maintain the roads within the Shire and finally that they should aid his messengers. The Hobbits therefore considered themselves subjects of the king and sent some archers to the great battles Arnor fought against Angmar. After the fall of Arnor, the Shire remained a minor but independent, self-governing realm. The chiefs of the Clans elected an official named the Thain to hold the king's powers after the North-Kingdom fell. The first Thains were the heads of the Oldbuck clan. It later came to be held by the Tooks. Its small size, relative lack of importance, and brave and resilient Hobbit population made it too modest an objective for conquest. More importantly, the Shire was guarded and protected by the Dúnedain Rangers, who watched the borders and kept out intruders. The only strangers to enter the Shire were the Dwarves travelling on the Great Road that ran through the Shire to and from their mines in the Blue Mountains, and the occasional Elves on their way to the Grey Havens. This peaceful situation changed after Bilbo Baggins' acquisition of the One Ring in the year 1341 of the Shire Reckoning. Shortly after the beginning of the events described in The Lord of the Rings (autumn of the year 1418 in Shire Reckoning), the Shire was first visited by the Nine Ringwraiths and then captured by Saruman through his underling Lotho Sackville-Baggins, who turned the Shire into a police state and began a massive campaign to industrialize the Shire which brought widespread misery and severely damaged its ecology. It was liberated with the help of Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin after the end of the Quest of the Ring through their victory at the Battle of Bywater. After Aragorn's return as the King of Arnor and Gondor, the Shire became a protected enclave inside the Reunited Kingdom. He is known to have issued an edict that forbade the entrance of full-sized Men into the Shire. The Shire was soon restored with magic soil from Galadriel's Lórien garden (presented as a gift to Sam). The year 1420 (SR) was considered by the inhabitants of the Shire to be the most productive and prosperous year in their history.
The Shire was a voluntarily orderly society. The only government services were the Message Service (the post) and the Watch, the police, whose officers were called Shiriffs, and whose chief duties involved rounding up stray livestock. The total number of regular Shirriffs was 12, three for each Farthing. There was also a somewhat larger and fluctuating number of Bounders, a kind of unofficial border control. At the beginning of The Lord of the Rings, there were many more Bounders than had been required for centuries, and they were unusually busy: one of the few signs obvious to the Hobbits of the Shire of the troubled times. To a large extent, individual families and clans handled their own internal affairs. Where a prominent family was associated with a certain district, the head of that family would also exercise a kind of authority over his area. Thus, the Master of the Hall or Master of Buckland (the two titles are used interchangeably), hereditary head of the Brandybuck family, was the effective ruler of Buckland. The title Master of the Hall comes from his more immediate authority over Brandy Hall, the greatest of the dwelling places of the Brandybuck family, filling Buck Hill in Bucklebury. The Master also exercises a good deal of authority in the Marish, a region of the Eastfarthing just across the Brandywine from Buckland. Similarly, the head of the Took family, often just called the Took, ruled the ancestral Took dwelling of Great Smials, the village of Tuckborough, and the wider area known as the Tookland. There were only two Shire-wide officials, the Thain and the Mayor. The Thainship was a hereditary office, set up after the collapse of the Kingdom of Arthedain, to hold the King's authority over the Shire. In practice, the Thain's duties were limited, mostly related to defence: "The Thain was the master of the Shire-moot, and captain of the Shire-muster and the Hobbitry-in-arms; but as muster and moot were only held in times of emergency, which no longer occurred, the Thainship had ceased to be more than a nominal dignity." Nevertheless, the feeling remained widespread that, in the absence of a King, the Thain was the source for all proper authority in the Shire, and during Saruman's intervention in the Shire in S.R. 1419, Thain Paladin II, aided by many Hobbits and particularly his Took clan, led armed opposition to Saruman's forces from his capital at Tuckborough. When Frodo left the Shire at the outset of The Lord of the Rings S.R. 1418, the office of Thain had existed for 1,039 years. The first Thain, Bucca of the Marish, took office in S.R. 379; he and his 11 successors of the Oldbuck family held the Thainship for 361 years. When Gorhendad Oldbuck led his family to settle Buckland (S.R. 740), the office of Thain passed to Isumbras I, head of the Took family, which held the Thainship ever since. In S.R. 1418, the Thain was Paladin II, the 31st Thain and the 19th of the Took line.
Thains of the Shire include:
Bucca of the Marish (379-?)
11 Thains of the Oldbuck line, possibly including Gorhendad Oldbuck, who removed to Buckland
Isumbras I Took (740-?)
[8 Thains of the Took line]
Isengrim II (?-1122)
Isumbras III (1122-1159)
Ferumbras II (1159-1201)
Fortinbras I (1201-1248)
Gerontius, the Old Took (1248-1320)
Isengrim III (1320-1330)
Isumbras IV (1330-1339)
Fortinbras II (1339-1380)
Ferumbras III (1380-1415)
Paladin II (1415-1434)
Peregrin (1434-1484, abdicated)
The chief official of the Shire was the Mayor of Michel Delving. Elected every seven years at the "Free Fair" held on the White Downs in the Westfarthing, the Mayor was the Postmaster and First Shirriff of the Shire. The Hobbits of the Shire generally obeyed the Rules, that is, the ancient laws of the North Kingdom, and there was no real need to enforce them; all Hobbits voluntarily obeyed them as they were both ancient and just. Hobbits had lawyers, but these dealt mostly with wills and such matters; there is no record of a formal court system, still less of criminal prosecutions or punishments. Frodo stated that in the Shire no Hobbit had ever been known intentionally to kill another Hobbit. Sméagol's wicked behaviour, including his murder of Déagol (which occurred outside the Shire), led Frodo to doubt that Sméagol was a hobbit at all. At the resumption of the throne by King Elessar, the Shire again became part of the restored Kingdom of Arnor. Elessar permitted the Hobbits to keep their own laws and customs. (The office of Thain was also left undisturbed.) In 1427, Elessar issued an edict forbidding Men from entering the Shire, and declaring it a Free Land under the protection of Arnor.