Shire (Middle-earth)

  (Redirected from Crickhollow)

The Shire is a region of J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional Middle-earth, described in The Lord of the Rings and other works. The Shire refers to an inland area settled exclusively by Hobbits (the Shire-folk) 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. In the languages invented by Tolkien, its name in Westron was Sûza "Shire"[T 1] or Sûzat "The Shire",[T 2] while its name in Sindarin was i Drann.[T 3]

The Shire
J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium location
First appearanceThe Hobbit
TypeSecluded inland area settled exclusively by Hobbits
RulerThain and Mayor of the Shire
Notable locationsBag End, Buckland, Hobbiton, the Woody End
Other name(s)Sûza, Sûzat (Westron)
i Drann (Sindarin)
Locationcentral west of Eriador / Arnor
LifespanT.A. 1601 – Fourth Age
FounderMarcho & Blanco
CapitalMichel Delving on the White Downs

The Shire is the scene of action in parts of Tolkien's The Hobbit, and more extensively so in the sequel, The Lord of the Rings. Five of the main protagonists in these stories have their homeland in the Shire: Bilbo Baggins (the titular character of The Hobbit), and four members of the Fellowship of the Ring: Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee, Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took. These characters often express their homesickness for the Shire during their long adventures away from it. Gandalf the Wizard, another key protagonist, initiates these adventures during his visits to the Shire.

Tolkien based the Shire's landscapes, climate, flora and fauna on rural England. He equated the latitude of Hobbiton, a focal town in the Shire, with that of Oxford[T 4] (51° 45' N).

Fictional contextEdit


Map of the Shire based on descriptions made by Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings. (Some places are somewhat conjectural.)

The Shire is described as a small but beautiful, idyllic and fruitful land, beloved by its inhabitants: Hobbits. The Hobbits had an extensive agricultural system in the Shire but were not industrialized. Various supplies were produced in the Shire, including cereals, fruit, wood and pipe-weed.

The natural landscape included downs, and pockets of woodlands, predominately of the type Celtic broadleaf forests (again similar to the English countryside).

The Shire was fully inland; most Hobbits feared the Sea and viewed it as a "token of death".[T 5]


According to Tolkien, the Shire measured 40 leagues (193 km, 120 miles[T 6]) from the Far Downs in the west to the Brandywine river in the east, and 50 leagues (241 km, 150 miles) from the northern moors to the marshes in the south.[T 7] This is confirmed in an essay by Tolkien on translating The Lord of the Rings,[T 8] where he describes the Shire as having an area of 18,000 square miles (47,000 km2):[T 9] roughly equivalent to the greatest extent of the English Midlands.


The original territory of the Shire was bounded on the east by the Brandywine River, on the north by uplands rising to the Hills of Evendim, on the west by the Far Downs, and on the south by marshland south of the River Shirebourn. After the original settlement, hobbits also expanded to the east into Buckland between the Brandywine and the Old Forest, and (much later) to the west into the Westmarch between the Far Downs and the Tower Hills.[T 10]

The perimeter of the Shire, in the order of 500 miles long, featured two layers of security. The outer ring was provided by the Rangers of the North, who covertly watched the borders from the outside. The inner layer was the Bounders: a system of border-security organized and manned by the Hobbits of the Shire themselves.

The Hobbits of the Shire had very little idea of the Outside: the world beyond the Shire's boundaries. "[M]aps made in the Shire showed mostly white spaces beyond its borders."


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, although Buckland had been settled by Hobbits long before the war.[T 7]

Iceland divided in farthings such as Nordlendinga Fiordung, in Hans Henrik Knoff's map, 1761

The original parts of the Shire were subdivided into four Farthings ("fourth-ings" or "quarterings").[T 11] The Three-Farthing Stone marked the approximate centre of the Shire, and the tripoint where the borders of the Eastfarthing, Westfarthing and Southfarthing came together, by the East Road.[T 12] Iceland, as Tolkien certainly knew,[citation needed] was traditionally also divided in Farthings, or "fourth parts", as the Shire is. In addition, the county of Yorkshire was historically divided into *þridings, meaning "thirds," from < Old Norse þriðjung-r third part; the word became "riding" in the Middle Ages.[citation needed] It is claimed that the Three-Farthing Stone was inspired by the Four shire stone.[1]


Buckland, across the Brandywine River to the east, and the Westmarch, between the Far Downs and the Tower Hills to the west, were not part of the original grant to the hobbits by King Argeleb II of Arthedain. These were formally given to the hobbits as the East and West Marches of the Shire by King Elessar after the War of the Ring, in S.R. 1462 (F.A. 41).[T 11][T 13] Buckland had been long settled by then: Gorhendad Oldbuck led hobbits from the East Farthing across the river in T.A. 2340,[T 13] and Buckland became "sort of a colony of the Shire".[T 14] There is no mention of settlement in the Westmarch until Elessar's gift; Sam Gamgee's daughter Elanor and her husband Fastred later settled there, and Fastred was named Warden of Westmarch.[T 13]


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).

Regions and localitiesEdit


The Northfarthing was the least populous part of the Shire. It was where most of the Shire's barley crop was grown,[T 15] and the only farthing where heavy snow was frequent.[T 16] The historic Battle of Greenfields was fought here.[T 17]

  • Bindbole Wood was one of the larger forests of the Shire. It was mis-spelled "Bindbale Wood" in the first Ballantine paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings, and the mis-spelling has been carried forward in many commentaries, including Foster's The Complete Guide to Middle-earth and Fonstad's The Atlas of Middle-earth.[2]
  • The village of Hardbottle was the home of the Bracegirdle family, to whom Lobelia Sackville-Baggins belonged.[T 15] Tolkien's unfinished index to The Lord of the Rings places Hardbottle in the Southfarthing[3] (and some maps, notably Karen Wynn Fonstad's Atlas of Middle-earth, have used this location). But in Tolkien's more extensive entry in his guide for translators, it is located explicitly in "the North Farthing" [sic].[T 18]
  • Long Cleeve was the home of a sept of the Took clan, descendants of Bandobras "Bullroarer" Took known as the North-Tooks, who settled here after the Battle of Greenfields.[T 19]

The western part of the Shire. It extended from the Three-Farthing Stone west to the Far Downs,[T 12][T 20] and included the White Downs.[4]

It was excavated circa S.R. 1285, by Bungo Baggins as a wedding gift for his bride Belladonna Took, one of numerous children of the Shire's Thain, the great Gerontius Took. Their son Bilbo inherited the smial in his adult bachelorhood on the death of his parents; thus he was comfortably ensconced by S.R. 1341, when he went on his great adventure, recounted in The Hobbit. When Bilbo left the Shire again in S.R. 1401, he deeded Bag End to his adopted cousin Frodo Baggins, who subsequently sold it to Lobelia Sackville-Baggins in S.R. 1418 prior to embarking on the Quest of the Ring. During the War of the Ring, Bag End was the headquarters of Lobelia's son Lotho Sackville-Baggins, the despotic ruler of the Shire. After the War it reverted back to Frodo; a few years later he departed for the Undying Lands, handing Bag End over to Sam Gamgee and his family.
Both The Hobbit and its sequel The Lord of the Rings open and close at Bag End. Bag End as a starting-point for adventure is referenced as 'the door where it began' in the song The Road Goes Ever On.
The windows and front door of Bag End were round, a typical feature of hobbit-architecture. Its tunnels and rooms, also typically, were all built on one level. However, only lavish smials like Bag End had many rooms and cellars, with high-quality fixtures, fittings, and furniture. Its front door (on the south) and the porthole-like windows (all on the west) opened onto Bag End's lawns and gardens, the Party Field, and the distant countryside beyond. The property's main entrance gate was at the end of a path leading from the Hill Road.
Just downhill on the south side of Bag End lay Bagshot Row, a lane running in front of a row of smaller holes dug into fill created from the excavation of Bag End. Bilbo later added a potato garden to the western slope when Hamfast "Gaffer" Gamgee, of Number 3, Bagshot Row became his full-time gardener in S.R. 1361. Gamgee himself often employed Holman Greenhand who lived in a hut south of The Water. Gamgee's neighbour, Daddy Twofoot, lived in Number 2.
Tolkien borrowed "Bag End" from the name of his aunt's farmhouse in the Worcestershire village of Dormston.[5] It was supposedly intended as a translation of the name 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.[T 21] The critic Tom Shippey notes that "Bag End" is a translation of "cul-de-sac", an English street that is a dead end, and a word that appears French but is not (the French term is, he notes, impasse); so the use of the defiantly English "Bag End" is, Shippey argues, a reaction to the absurd snobbery of cul-de-sac, just as Mr Baggins reacts to the snobbery of his Sackville-Baggins cousins, whose name is [cul-de-]Sac(k) with the French -ville (town) attached.[6]
The author's visualization of Bag End can be found in his illustrations for The Hobbit. His watercolour The Hill: Hobbiton-across-the Water shows the exterior and the surrounding countryside, whilst The Hall at Bag-End [sic] depicts the interior.
  • Bywater was a village situated along a natural pool in the stream called The Water, a river running through the centre of the Shire.[T 12] The village was close to Middle-earth's Great East Road. The Green Dragon[T 22] was a large inn located at the western end of the village, on the road to Hobbiton. The village was the site of the Battle of Bywater on 3 'November' S.R. 1419 (T.A. 3019), the last battle in the War of the Ring.[T 13][T 23]
  • Hobbiton was a village on a stream locally known as The Water, a short distance west of Bywater. It had a mill, and there was a small inn called the Ivy Bush at the eastern end of the village, on the road to Bywater. The part of the village on the north of the river was known as Hobbiton-across-the-Water. This included The Hill, with Bag End and the neighbourhood of Underhill on the south, and Overhill on the north of the Hill. The Hill Road led north from Hobbiton past Bagshot Row and The Hill and on to Overhill.
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' S.R. 1419 (T.A. 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.[T 15][T 23]
In the narrative of The Hobbit, the name "Hobbiton" only appears in the notice of the auction of Bilbo's property by "Grubb, Grubb and Burrowes."[T 24] However the name also features in two of Tolkien's illustrations for The Hobbit: The Hill: Hobbiton-across-the Water and the map of Wilderland.
Tolkien equated the latitude of Hobbiton with that of Oxford[T 4] (51° 45' N).
  • Little Delving was a village to the north of Michel Delving.[T 12] It is not mentioned in the text.
  • Michel Delving on the White Downs was the chief town of the Shire.[T 20] Its name means simply "large excavation".[7] Michel Delving was the location of: the Lockholes (the Shire's jail); a market with a number of stalls; the Mathom-house (the Shire's museum for old items,[T 20] including for a time Bilbo Baggins's mithril chain-mail coat[T 24][T 25][8]); and the Town Hole, where the Mayor of the Shire presided: the hobbits' version of a town hall.
The Mayor of Michel Delving, with a seven-year term, was the only elected official of the Shire.[T 11] At the time of the War of the Ring, the Mayor was Will Whitfoot,[T 23] the fattest hobbit in the Westfarthing.[T 26]
  • Rushock Bog was a swampy area along The Water, situated near the town of Needlehole.[T 12]
  • Tuckborough, located in the western Green Hills, was the centre of the Took homeland, where most Tooks dwelt.[T 11] The Thain's extended family lived here in the Great Smials.[T 20][T 23] The second element borough is derived from the Old English noun burh or burg, meaning a fortified place. It is a homonym for burrow, which is a common Hobbit surname (compare: Shirriff Robin Smallburrow, and Messrs. Grubb, Grubb, and Burrowes). If Tuckborough is read as [Tookburrow], it becomes one of a class of Hobbitish ‘digging’ names, that includes Michel Delving, The Lockholes, The Town Hole.[9]
  • Waymeet (spelt "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 branch of the South Road that came up from the Brandywine at Sarn Ford.[10]

The Southfarthing was the site of Longbottom, where the best pipe-weed was grown, owing to the area's warmer climate.[T 27] The area was also known for the production of wine, principally Old Winyards, a "strong red wine".[T 28]

  • The Green Hill Country, a region of rolling countryside in the central part of the Shire, extended into both the Southfarthing and the Eastfarthing.[T 12][T 29]
  • At Longbottom (meaning "long valley")[T 30] Tobold Hornblower introduced the cultivation of pipe-weed to the Shire with plantations in his garden, ca. T.A. 2670 (S.R. 1070).[T 13][T 27]
  • The Overbourne Marshes, a swampy area along the western bank of the Brandywine, across the river from the mouth of the Withywindle. The River Shirebourn flowed through the marshes into the Brandywine just south of Haysend.[T 12]
  • Sarn Ford was the stony ford across the Brandywine on the southern borders of the Shire.[11] An ancient road which left the Great East Road at Waymeet crossed the ford and joined the Greenway farther east.[T 12] The Rangers guarded this entrance to the Shire, but in October T.A. 3018 (S.R. 1418) they were driven off by the Nazgûl, who were hunting for the One Ring;[T 31] some of the Nazgûl crossed into the Shire, while others followed the Rangers toward the Greenway.[T 13]

The Eastfarthing bordered Buckland and contained the towns of Frogmorton and Whitfurrows on the ancient Great East Road, and the farms of the Marish.[T 12][T 14] The farmers near the Brandywine river largely acknowledged the authority of the Oldbucks, even after the latter moved across the river and became the Brandybucks.[T 14]

  • The Marish was the name of fertile but marshy farmlands along the Brandywine River. The Marish had been settled about thirty years after the Shire had been created, by Stoors who had arrived there from Dunland.[T 13][T 20] The Marish was important in Shire history as the home of Bucca, the first of the Shire-thains. Gorhendad Oldbuck, one of his descendants, crossed the Brandywine and founded Buckland.[T 14] Farmer Maggot, a grower of turnips and mushrooms, lived at Bamfurlong in the Marish.[T 32]
The Causeway road ran across the Marish and roughly parallel to the west bank of the Brandywine, between Stock and Rushey.
  • Stock was the major town of the Marish and the location of "the Golden Perch", an inn with a reputation for excellent beer.[T 32] The Stock Road was a road that ran eastwards from Tuckborough in the Westfarthing across the Green Hill Country and past the Yale to Stock.[T 12]
  • Scary was a village in the northern part of the Eastfarthing at the southern feet of the Hills of Scary.[T 12][T 15] A road ran south from Scary to cross the Water at Budgeford and join the Great East Road at Whitfurrows.[T 12] 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.[T 15]
  • The Woody End was the forested upland around the eastern end of the Green Hill Country. The Stockbrook arose in the Woody End, and the village of Woodhall lay in its north-east corner. Frodo and his friends, on their journey to Buckland, encountered Gildor's party there.[T 29] This was not entirely coincidental, as the Woody End was a traditional sojourn for the High-Elven Noldor on their occasional journeys across Eriador.[T 33] Gildor's party was on pilgrimage,[T 34] and their route was ancient, possibly dating back to the primeval Great Journey of the Elves in the First Age.[12]
The vegetation in the Woody End is that of Celtic broadleaf forests. It included stands of ancient oaks and brakes of hazel; there were also occasional elm and ash trees.[T 35]
  • The Yale was a low-lying farming area shown on the Shire Map between the Stock Road and the East Road.[T 12][13] 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.[T 36]

Not originally part of the Shire, Buckland (also sometimes called the East March) lay east of the Baranduin (Brandywine) river. The area was protected from the nearby Old Forest by the "High Hay", a tall hedge which formed the eastern border of Buckland, running from the Brandywine Bridge in the north to the confluence of the Withywindle with the Brandywine near the village of Haysend in the south. The main entrance to Buckland from the north was a gate in the Hay, called variously the Buckland Gate, the North Gate, or the Hay Gate, located "where the Hedge runs down to the river-bank, just this side of the Bridge,"[T 14] opening onto the East Road from the Shire to Bree. The Brandywine Bridge was originally called the Bridge of Stonebows during the time of the kingdom of Arthedain.

Unlike other hobbits, the Bucklanders were more prepared for danger and less naive than the Shire-hobbits. They closed the Hay Gate and locked their own front doors at night, and had a warning signal - the Horn of Buckland - to enable quick mobilization. Most Bucklanders were originally of Stoor stock, and they were the only hobbits known to use boats.[T 14] The Bucklanders knew Tom Bombadil, a nature spirit who dwelt on the far side of the Old Forest, and "probably" gave him this name.[T 37]

  • Bucklebury was the main town of Buckland. The Master of Buckland, hereditary chieftain of the Brandybuck Clan, maintained his home here at Brandy Hall.[T 14]
  • The Bucklebury Ferry, a self-service raft-ferry some ten miles south of the Bridge, provided another crossing of the Brandywine from the Shire to Buckland. (Tolkien originally put the distance at twenty miles, but this was corrected in later editions.) It was unmanned, to be used by hobbits as needed. En route to the new house at Crickhollow, Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin crossed the river using the Ferry just ahead of one of the Black Riders, who was forced to go around to the Brandywine Bridge since no boats were kept on the western bank of the river.[T 32]
  • Crickhollow was a hamlet in Buckland. After selling Bag End, Frodo Baggins (bearer of the One Ring) moved to an isolated house in Crickhollow. Meriadoc Brandybuck and Fredegar Bolger prepared the house ostensibly for Frodo to occupy in retirement, but the purchase of the house was a ruse to allow Frodo and Samwise Gamgee to leave the Shire inconspicuously.[T 29] Merry and Pippin lived for some time after their return to the Shire in the house at Crickhollow.[T 15]

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 northern kingdom, Arnor, banning any Men from entering the land.[T 13]

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, it was not part of any of the four Farthings.[T 13]

The eldest daughter of mayor Samwise Gamgee, Elanor the Fair, married Fastred of Greenholm, and they moved to the Westmarch, settling in Undertowers. 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.[T 13]


Early historyEdit

The Shire was first settled by Hobbits in the year 1601 of the Third Age (Year 1 in Shire Reckoning); they were led by the brothers Marcho and Blanco (modelled on Hengist and Horsa[14]). 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 no longer populated and were 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 main 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.

In S.R. 36-37 the Hobbits of the Shire "suffer great loss" in the Dark Plague: their name for the Great Plague of Middle-earth. However the population recovered quickly.


After the fall of Arnor (S.R. 374), the Shire remained a minor but independent, self-governing realm. The Shire-folk chose 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. When the Oldbucks added Buckland to the Shire and settled this new area (S.R. 740), the position of Thain was peacefully transferred to the Took clan.

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 covertly guarded and protected by Rangers of the North (remnants of the Arnorians), who watched the borders and kept out intruders. Generally the only strangers entering the Shire were 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.

The Shire mostly remained peaceful and prosperous. In S.R. 1147 the Hobbits defeated an invasion of Orcs at the Battle of Greenfields; in the Fell Winter of S.R. 1311-12, white wolves from Forodwaith invaded the Shire across the frozen Brandywine river, but they were either killed or repelled. In S.R. 1158-60, thousands of Hobbits perished in the Long Winter and the famine that followed – the Days of Dearth, but the great suffering and loss was mitigated by Gandalf the Wizard,[T 38] and the population soon recovered.

Subjugation and depredationEdit

In S.R. 1341 Bilbo Baggins, a resident of the Shire, left his homeland on the quest recounted in The Hobbit. He returned the following year, secretly bearing a magic ring. This turned out to be the One Ring, an evil Ring of Power, but the peace and prosperity of the Shire initially continued unabated.

However shortly after the beginning of the events described in The Lord of the Rings (autumn of S.R. 1418), the Shire was first invaded by four Ringwraiths[T 39] 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 it, bringing widespread misery and severely damaging its ecology.

Liberation and restorationEdit

The Shire 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 (the final battle of the War of the Ring).

The trees of the Shire were soon restored with magic soil from Galadriel's garden in Lothlórien (presented as a gift to Sam). The year S.R. 1420 was considered by the inhabitants of the Shire to be the most productive and prosperous year in their history.

After Aragorn's return as the King of Arnor (and Gondor), the Shire became a protected enclave inside the Reunited Kingdom. Aragorn is known to have issued an edict (S.R. 1427) that forbade the entrance of Men (including the King himself) into the Shire. The Westmarch was added to the Shire in S.R. 1452.


The Shire was a voluntarily orderly society.[15] The only government services were the Message Service (the post) and the Watch, the police, whose officers were called Shirriffs [sic], 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 clan, 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 River from Buckland. Similarly, the head of the Took clan, 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.

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. Of course, it is probable that Sméagol's treachery was the result of the Ring's influence; the books make it clear that the Ring could tempt individuals to perform terrible acts.

Rulers and their functionsEdit

The Shire had two officials with Shire-wide powers: 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 Baggins left the Shire at the outset of The Lord of the Rings in 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 was peacefully transferred 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 (years are in Shire Reckoning):-

  • Bucca of the Marish (379-?)
  • 11 Thains of the Oldbuck line (descendants of Bucca), possibly including Gorhendad Oldbuck, who removed to Buckland in 740
  • Isumbras I Took (740-?)
  • [8 Thains of the Took line]
  • Isengrim II (1083[T 40]-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); formerly Pippin of the Fellowship of the Ring
  • Faramir (1484-?)

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. Notable Mayors include: Will Whitfoot, Frodo Baggins (temporarily), Samwise Gamgee, and Old Pott.


During the time of the Lord of the Ring books the normal government of the Shire is usurped by Lotho Sackville-Baggins. He becomes the de facto ruler of the Shire, styling himself Chief Shirriff (or simply the Chief), and the Boss. He exercises control by importing gangs of henchmen: Men who are soon called the Ruffians; they increasingly tyrannize the population. The Ruffians imprison the Mayor of the Shire and besieged the Thain.

Normality is restored when Frodo Baggins and his companions return to the Shire.

Post-war administrationEdit

At the resumption of the throne by King Elessar following the War of the Ring, the Shire again became part of the restored Kingdom of Arnor. However Elessar formalized the Shire's status as an autonomy, permitting the Hobbits to keep their own laws and customs. (The office of Thain was also left undisturbed, though now, as intended, subject to and local steadholder of the King of Arnor.)

In S.R. 1427, Elessar issued an edict prohibiting Men from entering the Shire and declaring it a Free Land under the protection of Arnor.

Elessar added the Westmarch to the Shire in S.R. 1452. Three years later the Thain inaugurated the first Warden of Westmarch.


Various peoples had lived in the area which later became the Shire, however by the time Hobbits migrated into the area (T.A. 1601 / S.R. 1) it "had long been deserted". The Hobbits gave the name "the Shire" to the area, and from the time of their settlement they were the only inhabitants. These Hobbits are sometimes referred to as Shire-hobbits (to distinguish them from the relatively small number of Hobbits living outside the Shire), but generally they are simply referred to as the Shire-folk.


Visitors to the Shire were generally infrequent and in small numbers, and for many of them the Shire was a sojourn rather than a destination. Elves and Dwarves had been travelling through the area of the Shire for thousands of years, and they continued to do so after the Shire was settled by Hobbits.

The Dwarves used Middle-earth's Great East Road, which passed through the central Shire (and which their ancestors had constructed). They patronized the Shire's taverns, pipe-weed, food-suppliers and accommodation. Some Dwarves provided news from the rest of Middle-earth, but most Hobbits were more interested in Dwarves who could import luxury goods, especially the highest-quality metalwork.

Elves passing through the Shire tended to avoid the main roads and the Shire-folk.

After the War of the Ring, King Elessar banned Men from entering the Shire.


One relatively frequent visitor to the Shire was Gandalf, a Wizard and one of the key protagonists of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. For him the Shire was a destination, to keep a benevolent eye on the population in general, and to visit particular Hobbits of his acquaintance. On his first notable visit, during the Long Winter of S.R. 1158-59, he aided the Shire-folk in surviving great suffering and loss.[T 38] He was also famous for his fireworks that he set off during some visits, notably the "eleventy-first" birthday-parties of the Old Took (S.R. 1301) and Bilbo Baggins (S.R. 1401). But perhaps his most important visits to the Shire are those which initiated the great quests recounted in The Hobbit (S.R. 1341) and The Lord of the Rings (S.R. 1418).


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.[citation needed]

In particular, the central part of 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), Gloucestershire, Shropshire, Warwickshire, Herefordshire and Staffordshire, as argued by Tom Shippey forming a "cultural unit with deep roots in history".[16] The Northfarthing, with its heavy snowfalls, may correspond to Yorkshire or the Lake District, while the Southfarthing lay far enough south to support the cultivation of wine and tobacco ("pipe-weed"). Tolkien said that pipe-weed "flourishes only in warm sheltered places like Longbottom."[T 41] In the seventeenth century, Worcestershire, in particular the area of Evesham, was well known as an area where tobacco was cultivated.[17]

Hooker observes that the Sindarin i drann is a loanword from Welsh, where tran means district, or a region. The Welsh word tran will mutate to dran under certain grammatical conditions, for example: when it is preceded by the Welsh definite article y.[18]

The industrialization of the Shire was based on Tolkien's childhood experience of the blighting of the Worcestershire countryside by the spread of heavy industry. 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 character responsible for the pollution of the Shire, derives his name partly from Sarehole Mill, in the vicinity of which Tolkien spent "the most idyllic period" of his childhood.[19] The Shire is imagined as the West Midlands in a more remote past, akin to the Old English kingdom of Mercia, aspects of which serve also as a model for the Mark of the Rohirrim.



The Shire makes an appearance in both the 1977 The Hobbit and the 1978 The Lord of the Rings animated films.

Hobbit-holes as they were filmed on a farm near Matamata, New Zealand.
The house of Bilbo Baggins as filmed in New Zealand

In The Lord of the Rings motion picture trilogy, the Shire appeared in both The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King. The Shire scenes were shot at a location in Matamata, New Zealand. Following the shooting, the area was returned to its natural state, but even without the set from the movie the area became a prime tourist location.[20]

The Shire was revisited by Peter Jackson for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and briefly at the end of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. The Shire scenes were shot at the same location in Matamata, New Zealand. Unlike the previous set, the current Hobbiton Movie Set was constructed out of permanent materials so that it will last for several decades.[21]


In the 2006 real-time strategy game The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth II, the Shire appears as both a level in the evil campaign where the player invades in control of a goblin army, and as a map in the game's multiplayer skirmish mode.

In the 2007 MMORPG The Lord of the Rings Online, the Shire appears almost in its entirety as one of the major regions of the game. The shire is inhabited by hundreds of non-player characters, and the player can get involved in hundreds of quests. The only portions of the original map by Christopher Tolkien that are missing from the game are some parts of the West Farthing and the majority of the South Farthing. A portion of the North Farthing also falls within the in-game region of Evendim for game play purposes.[22]

In the 2009 action game The Lord of the Rings: Conquest, the Shire appears as one of the game's battlegrounds during the evil campaign, where it is razed by the forces of Mordor.

In the 2011 role-playing video game The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, the Shire appears briefly in a cut scene showing the Nazgûl breaking through the Rangers' defenses at Sarn Ford.

Games Workshop also produced a supplement in 2004 for The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game entitled The Scouring of the Shire. This supplement contained rules for a large number of miniatures that depicted the Shire after the War of the Ring had concluded.[23]

See alsoEdit



This list identifies each item's location in Tolkien's writings.
  1. ^ The Return of the King, Appendix F
  2. ^ Tolkien, The Peoples of Middle-earth, Vol. XII of The History of Middle-earth, p. 45.
  3. ^ Vinyar Tengwar #31, pp. 21-2
  4. ^ a b J. R. R. Tolkien (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, George Allen & Unwin, no. 292 (12 December 1966), p. 376; ISBN 0-04-826005-3
  5. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1966), Prologue p. 16; ISBN 0 04 823045 6.
  6. ^ Tolkien takes a league to be 3 miles, see Unfinished Tales, The Disaster of the Gladden Fields, Appendix on Númenórean Measure.
  7. ^ a b The Fellowship of the Ring, Prologue
  8. ^ Guide to the Names.
  9. ^ Guide to the Names, entry on "Farthing".
  10. ^ The Westmarch was granted by King Elessar to the Shire in S. R. 1452, thirty years after the end of the War of the Ring, and hobbits forthwith began to settle there. See The Lord of the Rings, Prologue, Appendix B, and Appendix C.
  11. ^ a b c d The Fellowship of the Ring, "Prologue" : "Of the Ordering of the Shire".
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m The Fellowship of the Ring, Map of a part of the Shire.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j The Return of the King, Appendix B.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Conspiracy Unmasked".
  15. ^ a b c d e f The Return of the King, "The Grey Havens".
  16. ^ The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Ring Goes South": "Except on the high moors of the Northfarthing a heavy fall was rare in the Shire".
  17. ^ The Return of the King, "The Scouring of the Shire": "the only battle since Greenfields, 1147, away up in the Northfarthing".
  18. ^ Guide to the Names, entry for "Hardbottle".
  19. ^ The Return of the King, Appendix C.
  20. ^ a b c d e The Fellowship of the Ring, "Prologue" : "Concerning Hobbits".
  21. ^ Christopher Tolkien, The History of Middle-earth, Volume XII, The Peoples of Middle-earth, "The Appendix on Languages", p. 48.
  22. ^ The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Shadow of the Past".
  23. ^ a b c d The Return of the King, "The Scouring of the Shire".
  24. ^ a b The Hobbit, "The Last Stage".
  25. ^ The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Ring Goes South".
  26. ^ The Fellowship of the Ring, "At the Sign of the Prancing Pony".
  27. ^ a b The Fellowship of the Ring, "Prologue" : "Concerning Pipeweed".
  28. ^ The Fellowship of the Ring, chapter 1.
  29. ^ a b c The Fellowship of the Ring, "Three is Company".
  30. ^ Guide to the Names, entry for "Longbottom".
  31. ^ Unfinished Tales, "The Hunt for the Ring", p. 341.
  32. ^ a b c The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Shortcut to Mushrooms".
  33. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1966), book 1 ch.3 p.88; ISBN 0 04 823045 6.
  34. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1968), The Road Goes Ever On, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1978), Notes and Translations, A Elbereth Gilthoniel, p.73; ISBN 0-04-784011-0.
  35. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1966), book 1 ch.3 pp.86 & 90, ch.4 p.99; ISBN 0 04 823045 6.
  36. ^ The Peoples of Middle-earth, "The Family Trees", pp. 88, 97–101.
  37. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1961), The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, Preface
  38. ^ a b J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, appendix B, Third Age, p. 369; ISBN 0 04 823047 2
  39. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1966), book 2 ch. 2 p. 277; ISBN 0 04 823045 6.
  40. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, Appendix B p. 369
  41. ^ Prelude to The Fellowship of the Ring


  1. ^ "Moreton-in-Marsh Tourist Information and Travel Guide". Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  2. ^ Hammond and Scull, p. lvii.
  3. ^ Hammond and Scull, p. 665.
  4. ^ The Lord of the Rings, General Map.
  5. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey (1977), Tolkien: A Biography, New York: Ballantine Books, ISBN 0-04-928037-6
  6. ^ Shippey, Tom (1982). The Road to Middle-Earth. Grafton (HarperCollins). p. 66. ISBN 0261102753.
  7. ^ Hammond and Scull, p. 26.
  8. ^ The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Journey in the Dark".
  9. ^ Hooker, Mark T. (2014). The Tolkienaeum. Llyfrawr. p. 101. ISBN 978-1499759105.
  10. ^ Foster, entry for "Waymeet".
  11. ^ Unfinished Tales, Index, entry for "Sarn Ford".
  12. ^ Karen Wynn Fonstadt (1981), The Atlas of Middle-earth, HarperCollins (1994 paperback edition), section 'The First Age' § 'The Great march' p.17; ISBN 9780261102774.
  13. ^ Hammond and Scull, p. lx.
  14. ^ Shippey, Tom (2003), The Road to Middle-earth, Houghton Mifflin, ch. 4, § 'Maps and Names', p.102; ISBN 0-618-25760-8.
  15. ^ Zaharick, John. "The Shire as a Model for Anarchy". UniversalJournal. The Association of Young Journalists and Writers. Archived from the original on July 8, 2012.
  16. ^ Shippey, Tom. Tolkien and the West Midlands: The Roots of Romance, Lembas Extra (1995), reprinted in Roots and Branches, Walking Tree Publishers (2007); map
  17. ^ Hooker, Mark T. (2009). The Hobbitonian Anthology. Llyfrawr. p. 92. ISBN 978-1448617012.
  18. ^ Hooker, Mark T. (2014). The Tolkienaeum. Llyfrawr. p. 230. ISBN 978-1499759105.
  19. ^ Shippey (2007), p. 56
  20. ^ "Hobbiton is Being Built". Retrieved 20 November 2013.
  21. ^ "Hanging out in Hobbiton". CNN. 21 May 2012. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
  22. ^ "The Lord of the Rings Online Vault: The Shire". IGN. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
  23. ^ "The Scouring of the Shire". Games Workshop. Retrieved 20 November 2013.

External linksEdit

Works citedEdit