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.)