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Before the Wandering Days
The Wandering Days
Hobbits Reach Bree
Hobbits in the Shire
The Hobbits first appear in the historical records in Third Age 1050, when they lived with the Northmen in the Northern Vales of the Anduin. The Vales of the Anduin lie east of the Misty Mountains and west of the Greenwood. The name "Hobbit" is related to the Rohirrim word "holbytla" or "holbytlan", which is a translation of "kuduk" or "kud-dukan". The name means "hole-dwellers" or "hole-builders". The Rohirrim also lived in this area at one time.
There were three groups of Hobbits: the Fallohides, Harfoots, and Stoors. The Fallohides were a woodland people who dwelt north of the other Hobbits along the eastern base of the Misty Mountains. They may have lived south of the Rhimdath (Rushdown) River, which ran east into the Anduin. The Fallohides were the least numerous of the Hobbit groups and were considered to be the most adventurous. They were taller and thinner than other Hobbits and fairer of skin and hair. Of all the Hobbits, the Fallohides were most comfortable with the Elves and loved language and song and preferred hunting to farming.
The Harfoots also lived along the eastern base of the Misty Mountains but they lived south of the Fallohides. The southern end of their range may have been the mouth of the Gladden River. The Harfoots were the most common and shortest of the Hobbits and they preferred to live in the hillsides. They were the most inclined to stay in one place and held on the longest to the ancient habit of living in tunnels and holes. The name "hole-dweller" may originally have been given to the Harfoots by the Fallohides and the Stoors.
The Stoors lived along the Gladden and Anduin Rivers south of the other Hobbits. The Gladden River ran into the Anduin at a point called the Gladden Fields. They lingered for a long time along the Anduin. The Stoors were the most like Men and were friendly with them. Unlike other Hobbits, Stoors were not afraid to go swimming, fishing, or boating. They were stout and wore boots in bad weather. The men amongst them could grow beards. The word "stoor" survives in the language of the people of Dale, where it means "big".
Some time around Third Age 1050, Sauron moved into the southern part of the Greenwood and built Dol Guldur. Men continued to crowd into the area where the Hobbits lived. Soon the Hobbits began migrating east over the Misty Mountains and into Eriador. Any Hobbits who stayed in the old homeland would have had to deal with the continuing evil from Mirkwood. Sauron would rule from Dol Guldur with only a few interruptions until Third Age 2941, when he left for Mordor. Three of the Nazgul later inhabited Dol Guldur.
The Harfoots were the first Hobbits to cross the Misty Mountains and enter Eriador. In Third Age 1050, the Harfoots began heading west. Some got as far as Weathertop. Others settled in the Angle. The Angle lay between the River Mitheithel (Westron Hoarwell) and the River Bruinen (Loudwater).
In Third Age 1150, the next group of Hobbits, the Fallohides, entered Eriador through the passes north of Rivendell and down along the River Hoarwell (Mitheithel). They joined the Hobbits already living in the Angle. They were bolder and more adventurous than other Hobbits and often leaders among clans of Harfoots or Stoors. The Tooks and Brandybucks are descended from the Fallohides.
As the Hobbits entered Eriador, they began to speak the Common Tongue. Before that time, Hobbits spoke a language related to the languages of the people of the upper Anduin. It was similar to the language of the Rohirrim, the people of Dale, and the Beornings. The words "mathom" and "smial" and many Hobbitish names date to those early times. There is no evidence for a unique Hobbitish language.
The Stoors were the last Hobbits to cross into Eriador. The Stoors began crossing over about Third Age 1300. Some Stoors settled in the Angle but most followed the Loudwater (Bruinen) River south to Tharbad in Dunland. Or perhaps the Stoors headed south to the River Celebrant and crossed the Misty Mountains through the Redhorn Pass (near Moria and Lorien). From there they would have traveled along the Sirannon to where it ran into the Glanduin River and on to Tharbad. Tharbad was by a ford or bridge of the Mitheithel on the Great South Road. It was near where the Glanduin flowed into the Mitheithel. The river was known as the Gwathlo beyond this point. The Hobbits lived between Tharbad and Dunland and in the Loudwater valley. They learned to speak the Dunlandish speech around them.
Because of the threat of Angmar, many of the Hobbits left the Angle between 1300 and 1400. Some of the Stoors from the Angle fled to Dunland while others crossed back over the Misty Mountains to the River Gladden and the Gladden Fields in Rhovanion. In Hobbit legends, there are many stories of Hobbit clans and groups heading alone "into the wild" or returning "home". It has been suggested that Deagol and Smeagol's families returned to the Gladden Fields because of a quarrel or homesickness. The first Hobbit immigrants to Eastern Eriador had a difficult time and some longed to return to the Wilderland by the Gladden Fields. The Stoor settlement at Gladden Fields may date to 1410. Or perhaps some Hobbits never left. At any rate, some Stoors still lived at Gladden Fields over 1000 years later. However, most of the Stoors headed west. The most important of the western settlements, and perhaps the oldest, were in Breeland.
Hobbits arrived in Bree by Third Age 1300. Bree was already old, having been founded by Men from Dunland some time before Second Age 3320, when Elendil created Arnor. The village of Bree lay where the Great East Road crossed the North Road. The North Road led north to the then capital of Arnor, Fornost, and south to Tharbad. The Great East Road entered and exited from Bree via two gates in its wall. Bree was bounded by a hill, Bree Hill, to the north, and a hedge and a dike to the south. Bree's most famous inn, The Prancing Pony, continued to be an important meeting place and a place of news.
The other villages of Breeland were Staddle, Archet, and Combe. Staddle was in the southeastern side of Bree Hill. It was the most important Hobbit settlement in Breeland. Archet was on the northern edge of the Chetwood. Combe was in a valley in eastern Breeland. At one time there were other Hobbit settlements between Bree and the River Mitheithel (Hoarwell). These settlements were abandoned and forgotten by the time of Bilbo.
The Hobbits became literate around Third Age 1300. They learned to write from the Dunedain and used the Noldorin or Feanorian script. The Hobbits began to write down their tales and genealogies. The Fallohides were especially interested in lore and writing.
In Third Age 1349, Arthedain claimed lordship over Arnor. The royal lines of Cardolan and Rhudaur (established when Arnor collapsed in Third Age 861) had failed and only the line of Arthedain remained. Conflict between Arthedain and Rhudaur continued along their common border at the Weather Hills.
Angmar attacked the Northern Kingdom in 1409. The Dunedain recovered the palantir of the Tower of Amon Sul (Weathertop) but the Tower of Amon Sul was destroyed and Rhudaur was taken by Angmar. The people of Cardolan were forced back to their burial fields at Tyrn Gorthad (the Barrow-downs). Some found refuge in the barrows, although by 1636 the barrows were haunted by the barrow-wights of Angmar. The Arthedain, with the help of Cirdan and later, with the help of the people of Lorien and Rivendell, kept Angmar out of Fornost.
In Third Age 1601 (Shire Year 1), the High King at Fornost (Argeleb II of Arthedain) granted the Hobbits of Bree the land from the Brandywine River to the Far Downs. Two Fallohide brothers, Marcho and Blanco, led many of the Hobbits from Bree to the Shire. Hobbits do not appear to have had last names at this time. The leading families brought many of the earliest Hobbit documents from Bree into the Shire. Copies or excerpts from these documents survived into the Fourth Age, although the society was never 100% literate.
The important crossing of the Brandywine at the Bridge of Stone Bows was part of the land grant. Since the Bridge of Stone Bows lay on the Great East Road, the Hobbits were charged with maintaining the bridge. The Bridge of Stonebows or the Great Bridge was originally built by the people of Arnor. The Hobbits usually call it the Brandywine Bridge.
Around Third Age 1630, the Stoors left Tharbad and emigrated to the Shire. The Stoors of Tharbad spoke a language related to Dunlending and they brought many strange words with them. They settled in the Eastfathing, especially in the Marish, and the Southfarthing. The Marish was known for its unusual customs and words. The practice of building farmhouses and barns above ground is believed to have started in the Marish.
Minhiriath, the region of Arnor (and later Cardolan) between the Gwathlo and the Baranduin, was hard hit by the Great Plague of Third Age 1636. It was largely deserted after that time. In Third Age 2912, great floods drove out any who remained there.
After the destruction of Fornost and Arnor (Arthedain) in Third Age 1974, Bree fell into decline. The North Road became so little used that it was called The Greenway. Tharbad, the southern city on the road, survived until Third Age 2912. Great floods destroyed the area at that time.
The Hobbits of the Shire owed nominal allegiance to the king at Fornost until Third Age 1974, when Angmar and Rhudaur destroyed Arthedain's capital at Fornost. According to Hobbit records, there were a few archers from the Shire at Fornost when it came under attack. The records of the kings do not mention this. The last king, Arvedui, fled to the Ered Luin and later drowned at Forochel. The king's sons took refuge with Cirdan. The Elves of Lindon and Rivendell, Gondor, and the remnant of Arnor fought back against Angmar but Arnor was not reestablished.
With the disappearance of the king, the Hobbits established the office of the Thain. In 1979, the Hobbit chieftains chose Bucca of the Marish to be the first Thain. The Thainship remained in the Oldbuck family until Third Age 2340 (Shire Year 740), when the Oldbucks established Buckland. Many of the Stoors of the Marish moved to Buckland. Isumbras Took became Isumbras I, the thirteenth Thain of the Shire. The Thainship, a nominal position of authority, stayed with the Tooks into the Fourth Age.
At this time, there were still Hobbits outside of the Shire and Breeland. In Third Age 2463, the Stoor Hobbits Deagol and Smeagol found the One Ring at the Gladden Fields. The Gladden Fields (Sindarin Loeg Ningloron) was a marshy area where the River Gladden (or River Ninglor) joined the Anduin. Smeagol immediately killed his cousin Deagol for the Ring. Smeagol's family kicked him out of the Gladden Fields after first giving him his nickname, Gollum. Smeagol's original name was Trahald, which was a northern Mannish name for "burrowing, worming in." Gollum would later have an important part to play in the destruction of the Ring.
Isengrim Took (Isengrim II), the twenty-second Thain of the Shire from Third Age 2653 to 2722, built the Great Smials of Michel Delving. His grandson was the famous giant of a Hobbit, Bandobras Took, who stood a tall four feet five inches. In Third Age 2747, Bandobras Took led his people at the Battle of Greenfields (really an Orc raid) and killed the Orc Chieftain, Golfimbul. Bandobras Took was nicknamed Bullroarer Took for his actions. Soon after that, the Long Winter of 2758 was followed by two years of famine. But the most famous of all pre-War of the Ring Hobbits, at least in the eyes of the Hobbits themselves, was Tobold Hornblower (Old Toby). Tobold Hornblower of Longbottom was the first to cultivate Galenas or pipe-weed. The Hobbits of Bree claim that Old Toby learned of the practice from them. Pipe-weed grows naturally in Bree. The Dunedain and others learned to smoke pipe-weed from the inhabitants of Bree. The Hobbits were the first to use pipes to smoke the weed.
In the Fourth Age, King Elessar continued to protect the Shire. In Fourth Age 14, the Thain (then Peregrin I) was made a Counsellor of the North Kingdom. Aragorn granted the Hobbits the Westmarch from the Far Downs to the Tower Hills (Emyn Beraid) in Fourth Age 32.
See also Thains of the Shire
Lord of the Rings (the prologue and appendixes) by JRR Tolkien.
Atlas of Middle Earth, Karen Wynn Fonstad, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1991.
The Complete Guide to Middle Earth: From the Hobbit Through The Lord of the Rings and Beyond, Robert Foster, New York: Ballantine/Del Rey, 1971, 2001.
The Peoples of Middle Earth (The History of Middle-Earth, Volume 12), Christopher Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996.
Tolkien, The Illustrated Encyclopedia: A Reader's Guide to the World of the Lord of the Rings, David Day, New York: Fireside/Simon and Schuster, 1992.
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Updated January 3, 2102