The History of the Shire | Tolkien Explained (2023)


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It is widely known as an idyllic, beautiful rural land in the north of Middle-earth.

While, its times of peace are most remembered.

Its creation would come after centuries of war.

Over the years to come.

The hobbit inhabitants would face terrible threats: - harsh winters, famine, orcs, wolves, and near-destruction at the hands of the white wizard.

Today, on Nerd of the Rings.

We cover the History of The Shire.

The lands.

We come to know as The Shire were originally part of the mannish realm of Arnor.

Founded by Elendil in the Second Age, Arnor would be home to the high king as his sons ruled.

The southern kingdom of Gondor.

Arnor, which covers most of Eriador, would remain intact until 861 TA, when its tenth king Earendur dies.

Due to dissent among his three sons.

The kingdom is split.

Amlaith, the eldest rules over the realm of Arthedain, while his brothers rule the breakaway kingdoms of Cardolan and Rhudaur.

Beginning in 1356 TA, the kingdom of Angmar, founded by the lord of the Nazgul, would wage a war against the remnants of Arnor that would last over 600 years.

This is covered in greater detail.

In my Wars of the Witch-King video, but by the 1400s, he had invaded Arthedain and killed King Arveleg I, destroyed the watchtower of Amon Sul, ravaged Cardolan and killed its last prince, and occupied the entire realm of Rhudaur.

It is in the midst of this back and forth war with the Witch-king that hobbits would come into the picture.

By 1601 TA, hobbits have come to live in Eriador in places such as Dunland, the depopulated Cardolan and Rhudaur, and the town of Bree.

It is from Bree that the Fallohide brothers, Marcho and Blanco come to travel across the Brandywine.

With the permission of King Argeleb II of Arthedain.

They settle this land now called The Shire.

The land itself is relatively small, - measuring 120 miles east to west and 150 miles north to south - but it is described as both beautiful and fertile.

In days past.

It had been a hunting grounds of the Kings of Arnor.


The next 30 years, the hobbits of Dunland, Cardolan, and Rhudaur, would migrate to the Shire.

With, the exception of hobbits, who would dwell in Bree and the Stoor-hobbits who were the ancestors of Smeagol.

The hobbits of Middle-earth would dwell exclusively in The Shire.

Along, with the lands of Eriador.

The Shire would be affected by the great plague in 1636 TA.


Neither would be as hard hit as Gondor in the south.

The Shire-hobbits consider themselves to be subjects of the King of Arthedain, though their realm would, for some time be isolated from outside influence - either good or ill.


We are told that some hobbits did indeed fight in the war against Angmar.


We are told hobbits fight in the climactic Battle of Fornost, in which the Witch-king is finally defeated.

Thanks to the aid of Gondor and the elves of Rivendell and Lorien.

While, the kingdom of Angmar is destroyed, Arthedain - the last remnant of Arnor, is left in tatters, with its king dead.


This moment, all that remains of the once great northern kingdom is the Dunedain Rangers.

With, the Fall of Arnor complete, the Shire hobbits establish the role of Thain in the absence of a king.

This role was a hereditary one that would pass through the male line of the Took family.

The first is Bucca of the Marish, who takes the roll in 1979 TA.

Much later, after the War of the Ring, Pippin would become the 32nd Thain of the Shire.

Before passing the title to his son, Faramir Took.

As, the hobbits thrive in The Shire, the three kinds of hobbits - the Stoors, Harfoots, and Fallohides - largely merge together., In, 2340 TA, due to the swelling of the Shire’s population.

The Oldbuck family of the Marish crosses the Brandywine river, and founds the land of Buckland.

Their family is renamed the Brandybucks and like the Tooks, they establish a governing position.

- the Master of Buckland.

This title would pass from their leader Gorhendad, who led them to found Buckland all the way down to Meriadoc Brandybuck, who would become the 8th Master of Buckland.

Before passing the title to his son.

Despite being a fairly insignificant realm to the great dark, powers, and secretly being protected by the Dunedain Rangers, the Shire would come under outside threats.

In 2740, Goblins from Mount Gram began raiding several parts of Eriador.

In 2747.

They invade the lands of the Shire, entering the Northfarthing.

Bandobras “Bullroarer” Took leads the hobbits in The Battle of Green Fields, killing the goblin king Golfimbul.

Dismayed at the death of their king, the orcs flee and their raids in Eriador cease altogether.

Eleven years later.

The Shire would be hit with harsh cold and snow in the Long.


It lasts from November 2758 to March 2759 and would result in the deaths of many thousands of hobbits.


This very winter.

In the south, the Rohirrim would come under attack by the Dunlendings, and their king, Helm Hammerhand would hold out in the Suthburg - a fortress that would later bear his name - Helm’s Deep.

Back in the Shire.

It is during the Long Winter that Gandalf meets and befriends the hobbits.

The wizard would later recount this to Pippin.

In the Unfinished Tales chapter “The Quest of Erebor”: pinches.

They have been in, dying of cold, and starving in the dreadful dearth that followed.

Immediately after the Long Winter come the Days of Dearth - a terrible famine that continues well into the year 2760.

Gandalf, who had come to the hobbits aid during the Long Winter, witnesses.

The hobbits’ courage and pity for one another.

This would lead to not only his affection for hobbits, but his eventual choice of Bilbo Baggins for the Quest of Erebor.


Second extremely cold and long-lasting winter would strike in the Fell Winter of 2911-2912 TA.


This winter was less harsh than the Long Winter.

There would be food shortages once more across Eriador.

This, combined with the freezing of the Brandywine River, would lead to the hobbits being attacked by White Wolves, which had descended from the frozen north of Middle-earth.


The wolves cross, the river, the Horn-call of Buckland, is sounded - warning the Shire of the imminent danger.

Were it not for the help of Gandalf and the Rangers of the North.

The hobbits would have likely died of hunger during this terrible winter.


The centuries, Gandalf’s interest in the hobbits would be noticed by Saruman.

The white wizard, who had long been searching for the One Ring for himself, places, spies in Bree, and the Southfarthing.

They discover that the Shire is closely guarded by the Dunedain.

This guard is doubled when Gandalf comes to suspect that Bilbo’s ring is the One.

Aside from the occasional visits of the Grey Wizard and the undetected.

Protection of the Dunedain, few travelers would make their way through the Shire.

Notable exceptions are elves, making their way to either Emyn Beraid or the Grey Havens, and Dwarves, taking the East road to or from their mines.

In the Blue Mountains.

As, the War of the Ring nears, the Nine Ringwraiths would come to the Shire in search of the ring, which had now passed to Frodo.


The ring journeys with Frodo, the rangers would come to fight alongside their chieftain Aragorn in the battles in the South.

They, along with Elrond’s sons, make up the Grey Company, and follow Aragorn on the paths of the dead.


With the rangers gone, the Shire is, for the first time in centuries, left unprotected.


The first time in it’s history, the Shire, is occupied by an invading force.

- a group of Ruffians under the service of a mysterious, Sharkey., Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin would return to the Shire after the destruction of the One Ring to find their home desolated by the forced industrialization of Sharkey.

The horn-call of Buckland would sound once again as the four hobbits lead their fellows in the Battle of Bywater.

The battle features well over 300 hobbits against 100 ruffians.

Led by our four hobbit heroes.

The shire-folk are victorious.

While 19 hobbits would be killed and 30 wounded, the ruffians fare much worse.

- 70 are killed and 12 are captured.


They come to Bag End.

They find Sharkey to be the fallen.

Wizard Saruman.

After being shown more cruelty by his master, Grima Wormtongue cuts Saruman’s throat before he is also struck down by hobbit archers.

The Shire is reclaimed through bloody battle.

The very last of the War of the Ring.

In, the aftermath, the hobbits would set to work.

Restoring the shire, undoing the terrible work of Saruman.


Great help in this effort is the soil which Galadriel had given to Sam in Lorien.

The silver nut.

He plants in the spot of the fallen Party Tree, and he places a grain of Lorien soil at the root of each sapling.

He plants throughout the Shire.

In all the history of the Shire, the year 3021 would be remembered as both the most productive and most prosperous.

The Shire joins the Reunited Kingdom of Gondor and Arnor under Aragorn.

Six years after Frodo and Bilbo’s departure to the Grey Havens, King Elessar would visit his friends in the north.

He would stop short of entering the Shire, meeting, Merry, Pippin, and Sam, at the Brandywine Bridge - for he had decreed in that year that the Shire was a free land, - a protected realm within his Kingdom - and that no one other than Hobbits were permitted to enter without the halflings’ leave.


This time, Sam is the newly elected Mayor of Michel Delving, sometimes known as Mayor of the Shire - a role he would serve for an unprecedented 7 terms.

Later, in 31 FoA, Aragorn gives the hobbits additional land, extending the Shire to the west.

As far as Emyn Beraid.

This new land was named, the Westmarch, and many hobbits would come to dwell.


Sam would leave the Shire for the Grey Havens sailing west in 61, FoA., And, Merry and Pippin would leave the Shire in the year 63, spending their last days in Gondor with Aragorn.

Before departing the land they had fought so hard to protect.

These heroes of Middle-earth would pass on their roles to the next generation, untrusting, their children with the land they loved - the land of the Shire., as always I want to say a huge.

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The History of the Shire | Tolkien Explained? ›

History. 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. The hobbits from the vale of Anduin had migrated west over the perilous Misty Mountains, living in the wilds of Eriador before moving to the Shire.

What is the story of the Shire? ›

History. 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. The hobbits from the vale of Anduin had migrated west over the perilous Misty Mountains, living in the wilds of Eriador before moving to the Shire.

How did Tolkien come up with the Shire? ›

In a newspaper interview Tolkien fondly recalled the area, saying the Shire was "inspired by a few cherished square miles of actual countryside at Sarehole".

What did the Shire represent? ›

Many readers have suggested that J.R.R. Tolkien was using “Shire” to denote some sort of special relationship to England — i.e., they believe that Tolkien was hinting that the Shire was supposed to be identified with modern England.

How was the Shire created? ›

During the firs 1000 years or so of the Third Age, though, hobbits began migrating over the mountains. Eventually in 1601 a group of hobbits established The Shire.

Why is it called Shire? ›

The word shire derives from the Old English sćir, from the Proto-Germanic *skizo (Old High German: sćira), denoting an 'official charge' a 'district under a governor', and a 'care'.

Where would the Shire be in real life? ›

Located in the Waikato region of New Zealand, near the little town of Matamata, the Hobbiton Movie Set was as close to Middle-earth as one can be. This was the only location from the successful movie adaptations of LOTR and The Hobbit to be retained.


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