HASA Resources

Things of Middle-earth

Thains of the Shire

Type: Offices & Ranks

Other Names:
Shire-thain

Description:

A traditional position of authority in the Shire.
[The] North Kingdom ended; and then the Hobbits took the land for their own, and they chose from their own chiefs a Thain to hold the authority of the king that was gone.

The Lord of the Rings, Prologue, Concerning Hobbits

Afterwards in the peace that followed the Shire-folk ruled themselves and prospered. They chose a Thain to take the place of the King, and were content; though for a long time many still looked for the return of the King. But at last that hope was forgotten, and remained only in the saying When the King comes back, used of some good that could not be achieved, or of some evil that could not be amended.

The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers: Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur: The North-kingdom and the Dúnedain

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 Thain was the master of the Shire-moot, and captain of the Shire-muster and the Hobbitry-in-arms, but as muster and moot were only held in times of emergency, which no longer occurred, the Thainship had ceased to be more than a nominal dignity.

The Lord of the Rings, Prologue, Of the Ordering of the Shire

In the Took-family, since the headship was also connected with the title and (originally military) office of Thain, descent was strictly through the male line.

The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Edited by Humphrey Carpenter, Letter 214 to A. C. Nunn (draft), probably late 1958-early 1959

Although the titular headship of the Took family might pass to the widow when a Thain died, the Thainship itself always passed immediately to the eldest son:

In the case of large powerful families (such as the Tooks)..., the head was properly the eldest male of what was considered the most direct line of descent..... If the master died first, his place was taken by his wife, and this included (if he had held that position) the titular headship of a large family or clan. This title thus did not descend to the son, or other heir, while she lived, unless she voluntarily resigned.

The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Edited by Humphrey Carpenter, Letter 214 to A. C. Nunn, 1958-59?

This title [Thain] and office descended immediately, and was not held by a widow.

The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Edited by Humphrey Carpenter, Letter 214 to A. C. Nunn, 1958-59?


History
1979
Bucca of the Marish becomes first Thain of the Shire.

The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, The Tale of Years: The Third Age

The first Shire-thain was one Bucca of the Marish, from whom the Oldbucks 1 claimed descent. He became Thain in 379 of our reckoning (1979).

The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers: Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur: The North-kingdom and the Dúnedain

2340
Isumbras I becomes thirteenth Thain, and first of the Took line.

The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, The Tale of Years: The Third Age

It is true that the Took family had long been pre-eminent; for the office of Thain had passed to them (from the Oldbucks) some centuries before, and the chief Took had borne that title ever since.

The Lord of the Rings, Prologue, Of the Ordering of the Shire

2683
Isengrim Took II becomes tenth Thain 2 and begins the excavation of Great Smials.

The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, The Tale of Years: The Third Age

1434 [IV 13]
Peregrin becomes the Took and Thain. King Elessar makes the Thain, the Master, and the Mayor Counsellors of the North-kingdom....

1455 [IV 34]
.... At [Master Samwise's] request the Thain makes Fastred Warden of Westmarch....

1484 [IV 63]
In the spring of the year a message came from Rohan to Buckland that King Éomer wished to see Master Holdwine once again. Meriadoc... took counsel with his friend the Thain, and soon after they handed over their goods and offices to their sons and rode away over the Sarn Ford, and they were not seen again in the Shire.

The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, The Tale of Years: Later Events Concerning the Members of the Fellowship of the Ring


Notes
1Gorhendad Oldbuck of the Marish, c. 740... changed the family name to Brandybuck.

The Lord of the Rings, Appendix C, Family Trees

2The notation on the family tree, "Took of Great Smials", makes explicit that Isengrim II was tenth Thain of the Took line; however, he was in fact the 22nd Thain since the office was established.

The Lord of the Rings, Appendix C, Family Trees

Contributors:
Elena Tiriel 22Aug06, 30Oct06, 5Jun08, 10May10

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