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 TA 1601. 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 little excitement here and the inhabitants prefer it that way.
The Shire is divided into four Farthings: East, West, North and South. Within each of the Farthings are various folklands and villages. The Great East Road cuts through the East and West Farthings while a south road in Tookland stretches from it, 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.
Illustration by J.R.R. Tolkien
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. 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: 2943, 2950, 2957, 2964, 2971, 2978, 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. Elves sometimes wander through the woods of the Shire. 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):
~ quoits (a formalized version of horseshoes)
~ wreath shoot*
~ shooting at the wand*
* See the Dragontide entry in the Lake-town Sourcebook.
NOTABLE CHARACTERSNew Fellowship Phase Undertaking: Opening a Sanctuary in the Shire
Some possible sanctuaries include:
• Bag End. Bilbo Baggins considers the heroes to be friends and invites them to visit whenever they are passing by.
• Brandy Hall (Buckland). Heroes receive a +1 bonus to their Tolerance rating with Bucklanders.
• Great Smials (Tookland). Heroes receive a +1 bonus to their Tolerance rating with Tooklanders.
• Michel Delving. The Mayor of Michel Delving recognizes that the company has performed a great service to the Shire. Heroes receive a +1 bonus to their Tolerance rating with Shire-hobbits.
Bilbo Baggins of Bag End is the former companion of Thorin Oakenshield who, in the year 2941, 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 2980 when he adopts his young cousin Frodo Baggins (born 2968) following the death of Frodo’s parents Drogo and Primula.
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 TA 2951, 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 2910 until his death in 2963. He is succeeded by his son Rorimac ‘Goldfather’ (later ‘Old Rory’) Brandybuck from 2963 to 3008. After Rorimac’s death, his son Saradoc ‘Scattergold’ Brandybuck remains the head of the Brandybuck clan for the remainder of the Third Age until his passing in FO 12. Saradoc is the father of Meriadoc (Merry ‘the Magnificent’) Brandybuck.
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 3013 or earlier.
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 2980. He is succeeded by his son Ferumbras Took (III) until his death in 3015. Ferumbras III is in turn succeeded by Paladin Took (II) father of Peregrin (Pippin).
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 **, Stealth ***, Short Sword **
Attribute Level: 4
Distinctive Features: Hardy, Suspicious
Relevant Skills: Athletics **, Awareness **, Stealth ***, 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 (Shirriff)
The First Shirriff, the Mayor of Michel Delving, as made a 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 is 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.
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).
Bree-landInns 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.
“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. Then they came to lands where people spoke strangely, and sang songs Bilbo had never heard before.”
Bree-land is the region of Eriador that lies between The Shire and the Weather Hills. It is a land of simple farmers and townsfolk, both Men and Hobbits, that was first settled in the Second Age by Men of Dunland. Bree-land’s principal town of Bree sits at the intersection of the Great East Road and the Greenway (the Old South Road between Tharbad and Fornost Erain (now known as Deadmen’s Dike), the second capital of the North-kingdom of Arnor. Behind the town, northeast of the crossroads, rises Bree Hill (also Bree-hill) dotted with hobbit-holes.
There are three other villages in Bree-land: Staddle, on the southeast side of Bree Hill; Combe, on the north side of the hill; and Archet farthest to the north, within the Chetwood. The adjacent regions of the Weather Hills, South Downs and the Barrow-downs, and the nearby North Downs are detailed in the Rivendell sourcebook.
Bree-land is farming country and what wildlife can be found consists of such small animals as mice, hares, foxes, wild cats, birds, lizards and snakes. The easternmost end of Bree-land is occasionally nuisanced by swarms of midges and mosquitoes from the nearby Midgewater Marshes.
It is thought that Bree was founded by Men of Dunland and the vales of the White Mountains fleeing from the oppression of Sauron in the Second Age (though Bree-landers insist that their origins are far more ancient, dating to the First Age when Men first entered Eriador and crossed the Blue Mountains to enter the westlands of Beleriand. See Men of Bree in The Adventurer’s Companion.
The Harfoots first entered Eriador and settled in Bree-land after being driven from the upper vales of the Anduin by the multiplying of Men in Rhovanion and a shadow that had descended on Greenwood the Great that Men had started calling Mirkwood. Other Hobbits soon followed: the Stoors followed the Loudwater River southward and dwelt for a time between Tharbad and Dunland before migrating northwards again. The Fallohides were last, crossing the Misty Mountains north of Rivendell and following the course of the Hoarwell to eventually join the others. In the year 1601 of the Third Age, the Fallohide brothers Marcho and Blanco, having received permission from the High King at Fornost, brought a great number of Hobbits out of Bree to found a new settlement, The Shire, west of the Brandywine River. The Shire Reckoning dates from that time.
The Hobbits of Bree maintain a number of customs and names that have been forgotten by most of their kin in The Shire. At the same time they are more comfortable around the Big Folk, even complete strangers. The relationship between the Bree-hobbits and the Men of Bree is unique in Middle-earth, living and working peacefully together. Most of the Little Folk (as the Bree-men call them) dwell in Staddle, but plenty live in Bree on the higher slopes of the Hill. Bree-folk (both Big and Little) tend not to meddle in the business of others and seldom travel far from home.
Bromdun is the proprietor of The Prancing Pony, an inn of Bree that has been owned by the same family for generations. The inn is managed by Bromdun and his wife Linsey; their large family of children help out as they are able. (Depending on the year of your game, Bromdun might be either the father or the grandfather of Barliman Butterbur.)
The Prancing Pony
A comfortable inn of Bree, The Prancing Pony has been owned by the Butterbur family for many generations. Locals and travelers gather in the common room nightly to exchange news and gossip and share drink and pipe-weed together. Most of the inn’s guests are Men and Dwarves passing through Bree; however, there are several rooms on the first floor designed and furnished for the comfort of Hobbits.
The Forsaken Inn
An old inn located at the eastern border of Bree-land, about one day’s travel from Bree. The Forsaken Inn is presently abandoned and in a state of dilapidation, but the fortunes of the place have changed almost as many times as it has changed owners. It is rumoured that Rangers sometimes use the inn as a rendezvous and they might keep secret caches of supplies and equipment in the area.