The Shire is home to the Hobbits, and involved the commonly known large houses and holes that were also inhabited by large families – where all Hobbits lived.
However, in Bilbo’s days, only the richest and poorest of the Hobbits lived in hobbit holes, while the others had to adopt other forms of abode.
The Shire was first divided into 4 quarters, called the Farthings – North, South, East, and West – within which there are a different number of folklands. While Tooks lived in the Tooklands, this was not entirely true with other families.
The Shire didn’t have any government, and families arranged their own affairs which included:
- Growing and eating food
- Being generous and not greedy
- Contented and moderate so that buildings remained unchanged
Those along with some others – were The Rules – both ancient and just, since there was no king and the Hobbits typically kept the laws of free will. This tradition occurred in the North of the Shire.
The Took family was passed on by the office of Thain. The Thain was the master of the Shire-moot, captain of the Shire-muster, and Hobbitry-in-arms.
The Mayor of Michel Delving was the first real official who was elected every 7 years at the Free Fair on the White Downs at the Lithe in Midsummer.
There were 12 Shirriffs, the name that Hobbits gave to their police – and thus, 3 in each farthing. They had no uniforms except a feather in their caps. A larger body, The Bounders, was employed to ‘beat the bound’ and were known to involve many strange creatures.
However, few hobbits knew – even Bilbo didn’t know when he found the One Ring.
“How much or how little he revealed to no one, not even to Frodo his favorite ‘nephew.’” (FOTR, “Prologue”)
Hobbit Persona (1:58)
Hobbits are unobtrusive and very ancient.
“…for they love peace and quiet and good tilled earth: a well-ordered and well-farmed countryside was their favorite haunt. They do not [understand nor like] machines more complicated than a forge-bellows, a water-mill, or a hand-loom, though they were skillful with tools.”
They were also:
- Shy of the Big Folk
- Quick of hearing and sharp-eyed
- Nimble and deft
- Not inclined to hurry unnecessarily
They would eat 6 meals a day if they could get them, and are hospitable and delighted in parties and presents which they gave away freely and eagerly accepted.
They dressed in bright colors, and had good-natured faces and laughed often and heartily.
Hobbit Appearance (2:48)
They were smaller than Dwarves, ranging from 2-4 feet in stature. Later hobbits would seldom reach 3 feet, though in ancient days they were taller. Bandobras Took was the tallest hobbit before Merry and Pippin surpassed him after drinking the Ent water.
They were broad, bright-eyed, red-cheeked, with mouths apt to laughter and to eating and drinking. They were suspected to have been around long before the events in LOTR and Shire-reckoning.
Pipeweed in The Shire (3:18)
The hobbits had a habit of smoking pipe weed. They had an astonishing habit:
“[inhaling] through pipes of clay or wood, the smoke of the burning leaves of a herb, which they called pipe-weed or leaf, a variety probably of Nicotiana.” (LOTR, “Prologue”)
It is unknown when exactly the hobbits first learned to smoke. However, the first discoveries of the custom were made by Merry Brandybuck. He and the tobacco of the Southfarthing would play a part in the history.
However, the first true pipe-weed was made by Tobold Hornblower during the days of Isengrim the Second, or 1070 SR. The best homegrown varieties of pipe-weed still come from there, especially…
Tobold, or “Old Toby,” was not a traveller though he knew about herbs. In fact, he has never gone beyond the Bree, where it is suspected that he had learned about the plants he used from.
Old Toby was also convinced that the weed came from northern Anduin, which was brought over sea by the Men of Westernesse. Men of Gondor call it sweet galenas, though even the Dúnedain of Gondor gave credit to the Hobbits who had first put it into pipes.
Hobbits and The Shire after LOTR (4:40)
After the end of the Third Age, the Hobbits remained similar, living in the North-West of the Old World, East of the Sea.
While they didn’t continue having a love of learning as seen in LOTR, there were a few in the older families that continued to study their own books and reports of old times and distant lands from Elves, Dwarves, and Men.
The most important source of history was the events occurring in Lord of the Rings written in Red Book of Westmarch and the first copy which would be made afterwards, the Thain’s Book. It received much annotation and many corrections in Minas Tirith.
The Red Book contained Bilbo’s “Translations from the Elvish,” but it was little used by Frodo as he was mainly concerned with the Elder Days.
Merry and Pippin were also able to keep up their connections in Rohan and Gondor, and there were many works dealing with Eriador in Brandy Hall.
Some of those works were actually written by Merry, along with his:
Herblore of the Shire,
Reckoning of Years, in which the discussions were based on relating time in the Shire to that of Rivendell, Gondor and Rohan.
Old Words and Names in the Shire, which was based on the language of the Rohirrim.
While Pippin didn’t write, he had collected many manuscripts written by scribes of Gondor, especially histories and legends relating to Elendil and his sons.