“At first they had passed through hobbit-lands, a wild respectable country inhabited by decent folk, with good roads, an inn or two, and now and then a dwarf or a farmer ambling by on business.”
Just south of the Hills of Evendim is the Shire, a region of Eriador that was ceded to the small folk known as hobbits by King Argeleb II of Arthedain in the year 1601 of the Third Age (Year 1 of the Shire calendar or Shire Reckoning). Covering an area of approximately 18,000 square miles, the borders of the Shire stretch one hundred twenty miles from the Brandywine Bridge to the Far Downs and one hundred fifty miles from the Hills of Evendim to the Overbourne Marshes south of Buckland. The Shire is a pastoral land of tilled fields, gentle hills, small rivers and streams, peaceful villages, and woodlands. There is (normally) little excitement here and the inhabitants prefer it that way.
Map by Daniel Reeve for Weta Workshop
The Shire is divided into four Farthings: East, West, North and South. Within each of the Farthings are various folklands and villages. Many lanes and paths connect various places in the Shire to one another, but there are two roads of note: The Great East Road cuts through the East and West Farthings while the appropriately (if unimaginatively) named Sarn Ford Road branches away south and east from it at Michel Delving stretching through the South Farthing, across the Sarn Ford, to intersect and merge with the Greenway many miles south of Bree and the Barrow-downs. Buckland is outside of the borders of the Shire proper, between the Brandywine River and the Old Forest.
The Shire has few neighbors. Bree-land lies to the east with the town of Bree and its sibling hamlets of Staddle, Combe and Archet, at the place where the East Road intersects with the Greenway, a four day's walk from the Brandywine Bridge. Beyond the Far Downs to the west are the Grey Havens ruled by the Elf-lord Círdan, and the mines and mansions of the Dwarves of the Blue Mountains. A few hardy families of Men have built homesteads and farmholds in the Outlands, and wanderers travel further into the Lone-lands as trappers, fishers and hunters, but such is a precarious life away from the comforts of civilization.
The Shire is home to many birds: finches, robins, sparrows, swallows and the like. Owls and hawks and nest in the woods and hills. Other wild creatures commonly found within its borders include rabbits, deer, foxes, squirrels, garden snakes, frogs and toads. Trout and bass swim in the rivers and streams of the Shire.
Only hobbits dwell in the Shire, descending from three distinct lineages: the Harfoots, Fallohides and Stoors. The most common (and typical) of these groups are the Harfoots who tend to be browner of skin and shorter than the others. Fallohides are the least numerous and tend to be taller and slimmer than other hobbits and to have fairer skin and hair. They also show a preference toward forests and crafts. The brothers Marcho and Blanco, who founded the Shire, were Fallohides out of Bree. Prominent Fallohide families include the Tooks, the Brandybucks and the Bolgers. Stoors are often broad and heavy compared to other hobbits and some Stoor-males actually grow beards. Stoor families often live on flat lands and riversides; and Stoors sometimes use boats, fish and even swim.
Hobbits are by nature hole-dwellers and most live in hobbit-holes dug into hills, downs, riverbanks, etc. Large hobbit-holes, such as Bag End, are called smials. Some very large smials such as the Great Smials of the Tooks or Brandy Hall can house a hundred or more hobbits. Some Hobbits do dwell in houses of wood, stone or brick, especially in places that are poorly suited to hobbit-holes. The craft of such construction was learned from the Dúnedain of old, or perhaps from the Elves. Such hobbit-buildings tend to be low structures of one or two stories.
The major holidays in the Shire are the Lithe-days of Midsummer, between the end of June and the beginning of July, and Yuletide, the six-day period from 29 December to 2 January, including the two days of Yule. The Lithe-days are always observed with local festivals, feasts, and other celebrations. However, once every seven years a celebration of special magnificence is held on the White Downs and attended by Hobbits from all parts of the Shire. This is the Free Fair, when Hobbits gather to feast, compete in crafts and games of skill, and to buy, sell and trade goods. This is also when the election is held for the Mayor of Michel Delving.
Note to Loremasters: Since the Battle of Five Armies, Free Fairs have been held in the following years (from here on we shall use the Shire Reckoning unless otherwise indicated): 1343; 1350; 1357; 1364; 1371; 1378; 1385; 1392; 1399; 1406; 1413; 1420; and so on.
Most travelers passing through the Shire are either Bree-hobbits or Dwarves journeying between the Blue Mountains and eastern lands. Occasionally Men of Bree-land might visit the Shire as merchants or traders. Wandering Companies of Elves sometimes visit the woods of the Shire, mostly unseen by the inhabitants. The wizard Gandalf the Grey is sometimes seen in the Shire, usually to visit with his friend, Bilbo Baggins of Bag End, Hobbiton.
THINGS TO DO WHILE IN THE SHIRE
Compete in a Shire-fair
All fairs regularly held in The Shire, but especially the Free Fair, feature games of skill. Visiting Hobbits should be able to enter such contests with no problem. Other visitors might need to pass a Persuade test at TN 16 to enter the lists. Events might include any or all of the following (as well as other games of skill):
* See the Dragontide entry in the Lake-town Sourcebook.
- quoits (a formalized version of horseshoes)
- wreath shoot*
- shooting at the wand*
NOTABLE CHARACTERSNew Fellowship Phase Undertaking: Opening a Sanctuary in the Shire
A key element ensuring the safety of the Shire (although most Hobbits have no knowledge of this) is the vigilance of the Rangers. In order to open the Shire as a sanctuary a company of heroes must have become aware of the watch of the Rangers, and earned their trust. The company must also have gained the trust of at least one important Shire personality (Mayor of Michel Delving, Thain, Master of Buckland). The heroes must also have distinguished themselves by having performed a great service to the Shire-folk; a deed that marks them as decent enough people in the eyes of the Shire-hobbits. Heroes receive a +1 bonus to their Tolerance rating with Shire-hobbits.
Individual locations within the Shire that might be opened as sanctuaries include:
- Brandy Hall, with permission from the current Master of Buckland. Heroes receive a +1 bonus to their Tolerance rating with Bucklanders.
- The Great Smials in Tookland, with the support of the Thain. Heroes receive a +1 bonus to their Tolerance rating with Tooklanders.
Bilbo Baggins of Bag End is the former companion of Thorin Oakenshield who, in the year 1341, was employed as a Burglar by Thorin and Company in the Quest of Erebor. Bilbo endured many adventures with Thorin, his dwarven companions and the wizard Gandalf the Grey. Bilbo enjoys having visitors, especially if they can bring him news of his friends in Wilderland and Rhovanion.
Note to Loremasters: Bilbo lives by himself in Bag End until 1389 when he adopts his young cousin Frodo Baggins (born 1368) following the death of Frodo’s parents Drogo and Primula nine years earlier.
The Master of Buckland
The Master of Buckland is the head of the Brandybuck family and holds nominal authority over Buckland and the Marish, the home of the Oldbucks in the Eastfarthing before the founding of Buckland. In the year 1351, Gorbadoc ‘Broadbelt’ Brandybuck is the current Master of Buckland. Also called the Master of the Hall, referring to Brandy Hall.
Note to Loremasters: Gorbadoc Brandybuck is the Master of Buckland from 1310 until his death in 1363. He is succeeded by his son Rorimac ‘Goldfather’ (later ‘Old Rory’) Brandybuck from 1363 to 1408. After Rorimac’s death, his son Saradoc ‘Scattergold’ Brandybuck remains the head of the Brandybuck clan for the remainder of the Third Age until 1432 (year 11 in King Elessar's New Reckoning). Saradoc is the father of Meriadoc (Merry ‘the Magnificent’) Brandybuck who succeeds him as the Master of Buckland.
The Mayor of Michel Delving
The Mayor of Michel Delving is the only elected official in the Shire. Elected for a term of seven years during the Free Fair, he is effectively the mayor of the entire Shire. He also holds the positions of First Shirriff and Postmaster, in charge of the Watch and the Messenger Service, respectively. However, the primary duty of the Mayor seems to be to preside at banquets.
Note to Loremasters: Will Whitfoot is the Mayor during the War of the Ring, elected in 1413 or earlier. Will is imprisoned in the Lockholes by the Chief's Men during the War of the Ring. Frodo Baggins serves as Acting Mayor until the Free Fair of 1420 when he retires and Will is restored to the office. Will retires in 1427 (N.R. 6) and Samwise Gamgee is elected Mayor--a position that he holds for seven terms, finally retiring in 1476 (N.R. 55).
The Thain is nominally the ruler of the Shire, a position that goes back to the fall of Arnor. In the case of an emergency the Thain can call a Shire-moot that he then presides over. He can also call for a Shire-muster and acts as the captain of the Hobbitry-in-arms. However, such emergencies are rare.
The Thainship was originally given to Bucca of the Marish by the chieftains of the Shire and the position remained with the Oldbucks until the family resettled in Buckland. From that time, the Thain has been the patriarch of the Tooks of Tookland. In recent years, the Thainship has fallen to Fortinbrass Took (II) who serves as the twenty ninth Thain of the Shire.
Note to Loremasters: Fortinbrass II remains Thain until his death in 1380. He is succeeded by his son Ferumbras Took (III) until his death in 1415. Ferumbras III is in turn succeeded by Paladin Took (II) father of Peregrin (Pippin). Peregrin becomes the Took and Thain in 1434 (N.R. 13) upon his father's death.
The Watch is the official name of the Shire’s police-force, the Shirriffs. The Mayor of Michel Delving, as First Shirriff, is in charge of the Watch. Each Farthing is assigned three Shirriffs for Inside Work: keeping the peace between neighbors, catching stray animals, and so on. A variable number of Shirriffs, called Bounders are assigned the duty of patrolling the borders of the Shire to keep out undesirable elements and dangerous animals.
Attribute Level: 3
Distinctive Features: Keen-eyed, Suspicious
Relevant Skills: Awareness ♦♦, Insight ♦♦, Riddle ♦♦♦, Short Sword ♦♦
Attribute Level: 4
Distinctive Features: Hardy, Keen-eyed
Relevant Skills: Stealth ♦♦♦, Insight ♦♦, Riddle ♦♦♦, Short stave ♦♦
New Weapon: Bounders' Stave
The Bounders' stave is the preferred weapon of the Bounders, allowing them to subdue or drive off troublemakers with less chance of injury to themselves. This short stave is a stout, seasoned wooden staff approximately four to five feet long (carrying an Encumbrance rating of 2) and capped in copper or bronze at both ends.
Called Shot: Disarm
Notes: Two-handed weapon.
NOTABLE LOCATIONSNew Fellowship Phase Undertaking: Receive Title (Bounder)
The First Shirriff, the Mayor of Michel Delving, as made a Hobbit-hero an honourary Bounder of the Watch and charged him with the protection of the borders of the Shire when within those borders. The Hero spends the current Fellowship Phase as a Bounder patrolling the border of one of the Farthings of the Shire or in Buckland. The hero is afterwards expected to report to the Mayor at Michel Delving upon returning to the Shire and before departing again. A member of the Watch is identified by wearing a feather in his cap. The hero gains the standard benefits of receiving a title.
* The following notation is taken from page 8 of The One Ring Revised Edition Clarifications and Amendments document: "Hobbits do not like nor welcome adventurers. Should they ever be forced by circumstances to actually recognize the valour of a non-Hobbit companion they might bestow upon him the honourary title of 'Bounder', and tolerate him to dwell in a house in Bree, or at least east of the river, in a house of wood, brick, or stone."
Bag End is a luxurious hobbit-hole and the home of Bilbo Baggins, located at the end of Bagshot Row, Hobbiton. Constructed by Bilbo’s father Bungo for his new bride Belladonna Took, Bag End is large and comfortable with several spare-rooms and an extensive larder.
Illustration by Karen Wynn Fonstad
Located in the Westfarthing where the East Road meets the White Downs, Michel Delving is the chief township of the Shire, home to the Mayor and the Mathom-house.
Note to Loremasters: The Lockholes, old storage-tunnels converted into a prison during the War of the Ring when Saruman controls the Shire, are also located in Michel Delving.
The Old Forest
Marking the eastern border of Buckland, the Old Forest is a remnant of the vast forest that once covered nearly all of Eriador. A river, the Withywindle, divides the Old Forest in two, originating in the Barrow-downs to the east and emptying into the Brandywine River at the southern end of Buckland. A twenty-mile long hedge called the High Hay, running from the Brandywine Bridge to the Withywindle, separates the Old Forest from Buckland, for the Forest has an evil reputation. The trees have been known to move and even to attack outsiders. Few know that within the Old Forest dwells the being known to some as Tom Bombadil and his lady Goldberry (for more on Tom, see the adventure “Shadows over Tyrn Gorthad” in Ruins of the North).
Inns of the Shire
The Shire might have more eating and drinking establishments per capita than any other region of Middle-earth. Most have few, if any, rooms to accommodate Big Folk, the best bet being the Bridge Inn on the Great East Road at the Brandywine Bridge. The Shire’s best-known Inns include:
• The Green Dragon, an inn on the Hobbiton side of Bywater.
• The Ivy Bush, a modest inn located on the Bywater road in Hobbiton.
• The Golden Perch, an inn in Stock, said to have the best beer in Eastfarthing.
• The Bridge Inn at the west end of the Brandywine Bridge.
• The Floating Log, a popular inn in Frogmorton.
• The All-welcome Inn on the Hobbiton side of Frogmorton.