Places in Middle-earth
Type: Kingdoms, Realms, Lands
Region: Bree/The Shire
the old Shire
Hobbits] passed over the Bridge of Stonebows..., and they took all the land beyond to dwell in, between the river and the Far Downs....
Forty leagues it stretched from the Far Downs to the Brandywine Bridge, and fifty from the northern moors to the marshes in the south. The Hobbits named it the Shire, as the region of the authority of their Thain, and a district of well-ordered business....
The Lord of the Rings, Prologue, Concerning Hobbits
The Shire was divided into four quarters, the Farthings already referred to, North, South, East, and West; and these again each into a number of folklands, which still bore the names of some of the old leading families, although by the time of this history these names were no longer found only in their proper folklands.... Outside the Farthings were the East and West Marches: the Buckland...; and the Westmarch added to the Shire in S.R. 1462.
The Lord of the Rings, Prologue, Of the Ordering of the Shire
[Most] of the folk of the old Shire regarded the Bucklanders as peculiar, half foreigners as it were. Though, as a matter of fact, they were not very different from the other hobbits of the Four Farthings.
The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 5, A Conspiracy Unmasked
Every item of news from the Shire that Frodo could tell... was of the greatest interest to [Bilbo].... They were so deep in the doings of the Four Farthings that they did not notice the arrival of a man clad in dark green cloth.
The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 2, Ch 1, Many Meetings
Farthings.... This is the same word as English farthing (Old English feorðing, Middle English ferthing), quarter of a penny; but used in its original sense 'fourth part, quarter'. This is modelled on thriding 'third part', still used of the divisions of Yorkshire, with loss of initial th after the th or t in Northriding, Eastriding, Westriding. The application to divisions of other measures than money has long been obsolete in English, and farthing has been used since early Middle English for 'a negligible amount', so that to English ears the application to the divisions of the Shire (an area of about 18,000 square miles) is comical.
"Guide to the Names in The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien
From A Tolkien Compass, compiled by Jared Lobdell
Chicago: Open Court Pub Co, June 1975
Contributors: Elena Tiriel 14Mar10, 19Jul10