Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Shire. Homeland of the hobbits, J. R. R. Tolkien’s “little people,” whose environment and culture are provincial and innocent. The journey motif anchors the story in the Shire, which is an idealized adaptation of Tolkien’s boyhood haunts in an English Midlands village. Free of industrial pollution, the well farmed countryside is pocked with underground housing, from the luxurious homes of the gentry to mere burrows, a correlative to the hobbits’ preference for a snug way of life that demands little awareness of a larger world outside.


Rivendell. Northern haven where the representatives of the “free peoples” (elves, dwarves, men, and hobbits) meet to discuss the fate of the Ring. When Frodo accepts the burden of the Ring. He, his servant, and two kinsmen set out on the Great East Road to this distant stronghold. A detour leads them through the Old Forest, where hostile trees menace them, but Tom Bombadil, a benign nature spirit, befriends them. Quickly they discover that the natural world beyond the Shire can be either dangerous or welcoming.

The travelers ford a wild river to reach Rivendell, the palace of Elrond Half-elven, who maintains this enchanted retreat by the power of one of three Elvish rings. Concealed in a deep and narrow valley, Rivendell is called the Last Homely House East of the Sea, “a perfect house,” as Bilbo once reports, “whether you like food or sleep or storytelling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all.” At present it is also a key political site at which men, Elf lords, dwarves (Tolkien’s spelling), a wizard, and now hobbits confer about the rising dark power in Moria and his One Ring.

Reaching Bree

Reaching Bree. Village held jointly by hobbits and men. Frodo’s servant Sam is daunted by the inn, his first sight of the tall houses of men. There the hobbits are joined by Aragorn, a ranger of the North, who leads them on secret paths...

(The entire section is 832 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Tolkien includes throughout The Fellowship of the Ring numerous references to the near and distant history of Middle Earth, adding a...

(The entire section is 243 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Tolkien's richly detailed history of Middle-Earth, much of the detail of which never made it into his Lord of the Rings, nonetheless...

(The entire section is 420 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

At its heart, J. R. R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring, and The Lord of the Rings in general, revolves around questions of...

(The entire section is 645 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

A portion of the continuing appeal of The Lord of the Rings trilogy undoubtedly lies in its originality. Nonetheless, Tolkien studied...

(The entire section is 263 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Tolkien's first published work of fiction was The Hobbit; or There and Back Again (1937), the very title of which indicates...

(The entire section is 449 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Recorded Books Unabridged has released both cassette and compact disc versions of The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) read by Rob...

(The entire section is 107 words.)


(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Giddings, Robert, ed. J. R. R. Tolkien: This Far Land. London: Vision Press Limited, 1983. A collection of ten essays that discuss Tolkien’s world and examine subjects ranging from narrative form and the use of humor to the construction of female sexuality.

Kocher, Paul H. Master of Middle-Earth. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972. A critical examination of Tolkien’s major fictional works. Focuses on the creation and development of Middle Earth and provides perspective on the different qualities of the races inhabiting the realm. Offers critical insight on Tolkien’s notions of choice within a Christian framework.

Lee, Stuart D, and Elizabeth Solopova. The Keys of Middle-Earth. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. A handy portal into Tolkien’s medieval sources, featuring modern translations of the original texts.

Penn, Anne C. One Ring to Bind Them All: Tolkien’s Mythology. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1979. A critical examination of Tolkien’s process of mythmaking, moving beyond traditional literary analysis to employ perspectives derived from linguistics, folklore, psychology, and folklore studies.

Tolkien, J. R. R. The History of Middle-Earth. Edited by Christopher Tolkien. 12 vols. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988. Edited and fully annotated by J. R. R. Tolkien’s son, this series documents the creation of Middle Earth and its mythology in chronological fashion. Volume six, The Return of the Shadow, contains the initial drafts of The Fellowship of the Ring and demonstrates the painstaking creation of the story in fascinating detail.

Tyler, J. E. A. The New Tolkien Companion. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979. A one-volume encyclopedia of Middle Earth, alphabetically identifying and explaining the characters, peoples, places, languages, religion, and histories that make up Tolkien’s world.