The Shire (Westron: Sûzat) is a land within the Reunited Kingdom of Arnor and Gondor. The Shire is the homeland of the Hobbits, located in the northwest of Middle-earth, in the region of Eriador and within the Kingdom of Arnor. By the IIIrd century of Fourth Age it is one of the most heavily-populated areas in Eriador, thanks to the almost uninterrupted period of abundance, lasting from 1 Fourth Age.
The Brandywine (Baranduin) river bounds the Shire from the east: Also Buckland is within the hobbit nation; it lays east of the river and west of the Hedge protecting the Shire from invasion from the Old Forest. From the north and the west The Shire has no topographical borders, but rather is bounded by the ancient south and east roads, and by vague geographical features such as the Tower Hills. From the west to the east, the Shire measures 40 leagues from the Tower Hills to the Brandywine Bridge. From the north to the south, it measures 50 leagues from the northern moors to the marshes in the south. The total area of the Shire is about 21,400 square miles.
The Shire is quite densely populated in parts with many villages and a few towns, but it still is open enough to allow for wide forested areas and marshes. The Shire is a fertile land. The Hobbits have an extensive agricultural system in the Shire. Various supplies can be found in the Shire, including cereals, fruit, wood and pipe-weed. The Shire is divided in four Farthings (Northfarthing, Southfarthing, Eastfarthing, and Westfarthing), with the Westmarch being later added to it. Within the Farthings there are some smaller, unofficial divisions such as family lands. Outside the Farthings, Buckland is named for the Oldbucks (later Brandybucks).
The Northfarthing is the least populated part of the Shire.
- Long Cleeve was the home of the small part 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 to the Bracegirdle family of Hobbits, to whom Lobelia Sackville-Baggins belonged.
The Westfarthing is the most populated part of the Shire: this is the site of the major towns, Michel Delving, Tuckborough (part of Took-land), and Hobbiton.
- Michel Delving is the capital town of the Shire, located in the White Downs. The Mayor of Michel Delving is the only elected official of The Shire, elected on a seven year term.
- Hobbiton is the site of the conclusion of the Sharkey's dictatorship.
- Bywater is a village a short walk east of Hobbiton. It is best known as the home of two inns, The Green Dragon Inn and The Ivy Bush.
Tookland is a region within the Westfarthing. It is the home province of the Took clan, and therefore of the Thains of the Shire. The Tookland lays to the south of the East Road, with its chief town at Tuckborough in the Green Hills. There, burrowed into the hillsides, is the home of the Tooks, Great Smials. Somewhat to the west of Tuckborough lays the smaller of the Tookland's main settlements, Tookbank.
A rural and fertile area, the Southfarthing is the site of the towns Gamwich, Cotton, Longbottom and most of pipe-weed production.
- Longbottom, a name meaning "long valley", was founded by Tobold Hornblower with the introduction of pipe-weed, in TA 2670, allowing the region to become well established due to the success of the pipe-weed industry.
Bordering on Buckland, the Eastfarthing contains the towns Frogmorton and Whitfurrows. Originally, the Eastfarthing was under the control of the Oldbuck family. Even after these became the Brandybucks, the farmers of the Eastfarthing follow more the Brandybucks rather than the Thain and Mayor.
- The Yale is the name of the low-lying lands of the Shire's Eastfarthing that lay along the northern side of the long road from Stock westwards to Tuckborough. This is a sparsely populated area.
- The Marish is the name of fertile, yet boggy farmlands located in the Shire's Eastfarthing. It is where the Oldbuck family has lived before Gorhendad Oldbuck removed the family across the Brandywine to Buckland and changed their name. Due to the proximity of the border, although more western than Buckland, Marish hobbits are more cautios; sometimes patrols are established, especially during bad winters or hard times.
The Buckland is reckoned part of the Shire, though it is not part of any Farthing. Buckland is virtually a small independent country, and is perceived as a sort of colony of the Shire.
Buckland is located east of the Baranduin (Brandywine) river. The hobbits living in Buckland grew in ancient times 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 Hay 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, one of the most prominent figures of the Shire.
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 twenty miles further south). It is left unmanned to be used by hobbit travellers as needed.
Buckland was settled around T.A. 2340 by Gorhenhad Oldbuck. Gorhenhad Oldbuck thus became the first Master of Buckland. He renamed himself Brandybuck, which remained his family's name. The Bucklanders are unlike other hobbits as they are prepared for danger and fights. 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 are originally of Stoor stock, and they are the only Hobbits known to use boats.
After the events of the War of the Ring, at the start of the Fourth Age of Middle-earth, King Aragorn Elessar granted the Shire a stretch of new land: this reached from the ancient western borders of the Shire, the White Downs, to the Tower Hills. The area between the downs and the hills became known as the Westmarch. The eldest daughter of Mayor Gamgee, Elanor the Fair, married Fastred of Greenholm, and they moved to the Westmarch, leading a colonization effort. The family became known as the Fairbairns of the Towers or Wardens of Westmarch. Governmentally, the Westmarch is a region of itself, like Buckland. The capital town of the Westmarchs is Undertowers.
The Hobbits consider themselves as subjects of the King of Arnor: after the fall of Arnor, the Shire became an independent political unit led by the Thain, who was the head of the important Took clan. While nominally the Thain rules over the four Farthings, in practice authority is so decentralized that the title is a formality and ceremonial; however, Thains are highly respected. With the return of King Aragorn as the King of Arnor and Gondor, the Shire became in Fo.A. 17 a Free Land, with the status of protected enclave inside the Reunited Kingdom. King Aragorn Elessar issued an order that forbids the entrance of Men into the Shire. and, fifteen years later, extended the status of Free Land also to the Buckland, with the name of Eastmarch, and also extended the land westwards to Emyn Beraid; this land was named Westmarch.
The only Official of the Shire is the Mayor of Michel Delving in the White Downs, who is by extension seen as the Mayor of the Shire. The Mayor's chief duties were serving as postmaster of the Shire's Messenger Service, charging the Watch and presiding at fairs.
The Warden of Westmarch is an hereditary title granted to the keepers of the Westmarch who dwelt by the White Towers on the slopes of the Tower Hills at the Undertowers. The Wardens hold the famous Red Book. The Warden has the moral leadership of local Hobbits, and deals with sea-related issues.
Finally, the Master of Buckland at Bucklebury controls Buckland.
Although there is little need of a strong government, the holders of the positions of authority could meet in case of a severe crisis; for occasional petty governance tasks, usually the prominent families of a given area (e.g. Baggings family in Hobbiton in West-farthing, their ancestral seat) step in if the need arises.
The sole law enforcement officials in the Shire are the Shirriffs: their job is to protect the Shire from trespassers and strangers. There are three Shirriffs in each Farthing, and are distinguished from "civilians" by a red feather worn in their caps. The Bounders are the Shire's border-guard, charged with turning back unwanted people or beasts, and their number varies according to need. However, the Bounders are the sole significant armed force.
Mayor of Michel Delving Edit
The Mayor of Michel Delving or the Mayor of the Shire is the sole effective official among the Hobbits of the the Shire. The Mayor of Michel Delving is a general decision maker of Michel Delving in the Shire. He is elected every seven years and is in charge of large events where leadership is wanted or necessary.
In F.A. 13 (S.R. 1434), King Elessar made the Mayor, along with the offices of the Thain and Master of Buckland, counsellors of the North-kingdom.
Though the responsibilities of Mayoralty itself amounts to little more than presiding at banquets, the office is attached to that of Postmaster and First Shirriff and so it surpasses the Thainship as the most important official position in the Shire, so much so that its occupant is commonly known as the Mayor of the Shire. The Mayor is chosen by the hobbits every seven years at Lithe, during the Free Fair on the White Downs.
The Thain is the traditional military leader of the Hobbits of the Shire after the fall of Fornost and the Dúnedain Kingdom of Arthedain in the mid-Third Age. When Arvedui, last king of Arthedain, fell to the forces of Angmar, the Shire-hobbits were left without a ruler. They remedied this by choosing a new leader from among themselves, Bucca of the Marish, who was given the title of Thain.
Bucca and his descendants, a family known as the Oldbucks, served as Shire-thain for twelve generations. The twelfth Thain, one Gorhendad Oldbuck, left the Shire and crossed the River Brandywine to found Buckland. With his departure, the Thainship passed to a new line, the Tooks, and specifically to Isumbras Took I; thenceforth, the Thain is sometimes called simply "the Took".
From Isumbras I, the line of the Took Shire-thains continued unbroken. The Shire-moot, an assembly of Hobbits, is summoned by the Thain of the Shire, who was also the master of the Shire-moot, as well as the responsible of Shire-muster.
Being the Thain of the Shire did not, in the Took clan neccecerely also meant being the titular head of the family though it often would. This was the case of Lalia, widow of Fortinbras II. She held the title, The Took, as head of the Tooks for twenty-two years while her son Ferumbras held the title as Thain.
Master of Buckland Edit
The Master of Buckland is an hereditary title in the Shire, one of the officials of the Shire. Master of Buckland is the head of the Brandybuck family. This office was founded by Gordenhad Brandybuck. Like the Thain and Warden of Westmarch, the Master has only nominal and moral authority, which extends across the Brandywine into the Marish of the Eastfarthing, due to the close proximity and the amount of business between the two regions.
The Shirriffs, also known as the Watch, are the sole form of law enforcement in the Shire, and the closest thing to a form of standing defence force.
The position of Shirriff is a voluntary honour and engagement. There are a total of twelve Shirriffs, three for each Farthing, though more could be called up in time of need. The only thing that differentiates a Shirriffs from any other Hobbit is a red feather they were given to wear in their hats. In ordinary times, the Shirriffs carry no arms or armament of any sort and wear no uniform. The Shirriffs are headed by the Chief Shirriff which is answerable to the Mayor of Michel Delving in his capacity of First Shirriff. Only during emergencies, usually just before a muster, Shiriffs increase their numbers and form the Farthing Troops, small units which carry out preparations for musters themselves.
The Bounders are an organization within the Watch, charged with patrolling and defending the borders. Along with the Shirriffs-service, they are charged with responsibility of keeping strangers and strange creatures from entering the Shire and making trouble. They wander and patrol parts of the Shire and its borders as part of their duties. Their numbers can easily increase at any need.
The Hobbitry-in-arms is the militia of the Shire. The Captain of the Hobbitry-in-Arms is the Thain, who summons it at a Shire-muster in times of emergency. The Hobbitry-in-Arms is summoned in case of war, both for immediate Shire defence and for major wars of the Reunited Kingdom. In such cases, Bounders are often used as scouts or messengers. When summoned, the Hobbitry-in-Arms is organized into the Farthing Squadron, constituted in turn on the Shiriffs Farthing Troops: each Farthing Squadron consists of a Shirrifs Troop and some Numbered Troops.
When raised and mobilised, the Hobbitry-in-Arms counts as a Company , the Thain ranking as a Captain, and belongs to the Annùminas Army of the Arnorian hosts.
Messenger Service Edit
The Messenger Service is the official mail system of the Shire and also includes the Quick post. They are responsible for the delivery of the mail. The are headed by a First Posthobbit which is answerable to the Mayor of Michel Delving in his capacity of Postmaster. Quick Post is the fast-delivery mail and message system in The Shire, organized as a branch of the Messenger Service.
As far as known Hobbits are monogamous, and they are seldom married a second time even if the husband or wife died young. The family name descends in the male-line and women are adopted into their husbands name. The titular head of the family is usually the oldest male of what is considered the most direct line of descent but the master and mistress have equal status, either is held to be the proper representative of the other in case of absence including death of the other. If the master dies first the wife takes his place and position in the family and clan including his titular headship of the family. The title does not descent to the oldest son or heir, unless she voluntarily resign. It could therefore happen that a long-lived woman with a strong character remained head of the family until she died or gave it up.