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Cover: Reading Tolkien's Shire as a Planned Community

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Reading Tolkien’s Shire as a Planned Community

prepared by: Aharon Varady prepared for: Dr. Michael Romanos, School of Planning, University of Cincinnati (DAAP) WWW publication date: December 14, 2002, version 1.02

Cover: Reading Tolkien's Shire as a Planned Community http://phobos.serve.com/planning/2002d-Fall/the_shire/ Reading Tolkien’s Shire as a Planned Community

Version 1.03: February 7, 2002 Added Title Frame with explanation of how to use footnotes Added images to paper body Justified text

Version 1.02: December 14, 2002 Added Image References Added imageviewinhtml.cgi for dynamically viewing and resizing images Small changes in introduction, added some footnotes concerning the romanticization of indigenous peoples, mythologizing/storytelling as religious activity of Tolkien ...

Version 1.01: December 10, 2002 HTMLified paper Published paper online Added more images

Version 1.0: December 2, 2002 Paper completed, written in Open Office 1.0.1 Paper printed on paper Paper reviewed by Dr. Romanos

Reading Tolkien's Shire as a Planned Community

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...

it is not for us to choose the times into which we are born, but to do what we [can] to repair them

...

1

“I am not a ‘socialist’ in any sense – being averse to 'planning' (as must be plain) most of all because the ‘planners’,

when they acquire power, become so bad

2

...

– J.R.R. Tolkien

Introduction: the Shire, a ‘Planned Community’?

J.R.R. Tolkien's design of the Shire for his epic Lord of the Rings (LotR) may seem an odd if exotic choice for an investigation of a planned community. First of all, the Shire is a fictional setting designed for the purpose of telling a grand story. Unlike planned communities such as Hygeia, Kentucky, which also only existed on paper, the Shire was not conceived with the intention that it might be physically realized for human habitation. Rather, it was conceived as a settled region of some 21,400 square miles 3 with a long fictional history of habitation; a community homeland which has been made comfortable and self-sufficient after many generations of habitation. The Shire is also described in maps and illustrations which lend a credibility and consistency to Tolkien’s fiction.

Unlike other planned communities, the author has had the liberty of a fantasist to not only create the place and to populate it, but to invent all the environmental, social, political, and historical contexts which characterize its habitation. (If Robert Owen had had such power, his philanstery at New Harmony would certainly have been built).

The extent of Tolkien's invention is massive: the Shire is but a small fragment of a greater plan, one that encompasses a whole world called Arda, with regions inhabited and in wasteland, comprehensive histories and languages for its peoples, and geological and topological histories for its land masses. Karen Wynn Fonstad, author of Atlas of Middle-Earth, explains Tolkien's methodology in world building as a summary to his essay “On Fairy-Stories”:

...

in

order to make an imaginary land (and the story that

takes place within it) believable, the Secondary World must have the ‘inner consistency of reality’. 4 The more a Secondary World differs from our Primary one, the more difficult it becomes to keep it credible.

Tolkien did not wish to create a totally new Secondary World. In an interview he once responded, “If you really want to know what Middle-Earth is based on, it's my

wonder and delight in the Earth as it is, particularly the

natural earth.” 5 ...

so

he took our world, with its

processes, and infused it with just enough changes to

make it ‘faerie’. 6

This paper concerns itself with the land and peoples of a small part of this ‘secondary world,’ a part of the ‘natural earth’ a youthful Tolkien took wonder and delight in. In our ‘primary world,’ this was the rural village life and lands of Warwickshire, in the hamlet of Sarehole in central middle England, at the end of the nineteenth

David Day's composite map of Arda Karen Wynn Fonstad's Arda
David Day's composite map of Arda
Karen Wynn Fonstad's Arda

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century. In Arda, on the continent of Middle-Earth, Tolkien called this land, the Shire.

The Shire is significant for planners and planning history because its idyllic description and its particular inhabitants represent not only Tolkien's vision of an ideal place and people, it reflects a longing for the beauty and coherence of a fading agrarian world sought by Romantic contemporaries of Tolkien. The challenge to the Shire at the end of LotR should resonate with planners. In the final chapter “The Scouring of the Shire,” the Shire village, Hobbiton, is successfully defended against the sprawl of unplanned development and pollution brought on by unsustainable industrial growth. Finally, through the popularity of his writings and their film adaptations, Tolkien has arguably and successfully communicated his vision to new generations anxious about the abuse of new technologies and the individual pursuit of capital and convenience at the expense of rural and natural landscapes.

 
David Day's chronology of the history of Arda from creation to the "Fourth Age of the
 

David Day's chronology of the history of Arda from creation to the "Fourth Age of the Sun."

The Shire, Hobbiton, and Bag-End

"Fairy-stories were plainly not primarily concerned with possibility, but with desirability. If they awakened desire, satisfying it while often whetting it unbearably, they succeeded.'' (Tolkien, On Fairy-Stories, p.40)

While reading LotR many years ago, Tolkien’s description of the many gardens, peculiar earth-sheltered dwellings, and easy access to old growth forest, made the hamlet of Hobbiton in the Shire simply the place I wanted to live when I grew up. What are the characteristics of the Shire which could awaken such desire?

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The Shire is, first and foremost, the homeland of Hobbits, and hence, its characteristics are designed with its inhabitants in mind. On the surface, Tolkien describes the Hobbits as a kind of pygmy race of humans, who average between two and four feet tall, and who have fur growing down their ankles onto large unclad thick soled feet. However, essentially the Hobbits are rescaled humans, idealized midland English farmers who are politically neutral, provincial and uncomplicated people with simple wants, and “in touch with nature.” 7

Hobbits have a history which predates the Shire. Thry originally consisted of three population groups. Each group had their own dwelling preference associated with the particular topography of their ancestral land. Fonstad writes:

The Fallohides, the most northerly, were woodland

people.

The

Harfoots,

chose

the

uplands,

delving

homes in the hillsides. The Stoors apparently lived farthest south and preferred the lowlands and riverbanks. 8

It is interesting to note that the reason the Hobbits left their ancestral lands was because the nearby forest of Greenwood (soon to be renamed the Mirkwood) was becoming tainted by the evil influence of neighboring Mordor. In Tolkien’s world, evil reshapes the ecology of its surroundings much like waste products in our world pollute the land surrounding industrial areas. The Hobbits, sensitive to natural cycles and systems, wisely emigrate to the land of Eriador, west of a great natural border, the Misty Mountain chain.

Once past the mountains and over a period lasting nearly 450 years, the Hobbits settle several important villages (Bree and Staddle) and many more lost and forgotten ones. Later, a large group of Hobbits consisting of the three main clans travel further west across the Baraduin River to the Suza (the Elvish name for the Shire). 9 Tolkien described its provenance in a letter to a favored reader:

The Shire is placed in a water and mountain situation and a distance from the sea and a latitude that would give it a natural fertility, quite apart from the stated fact that it was a well-tended region when they took it over (no doubt with a good deal of older arts and crafts). 10

The Hobbits initially obtain permission from the high king at Fornost, the Dúnedain of Arnor, to settle the land between the Brandywine and the Far Downs. 11 As Tolkien writes to his editor,

Ancestral homelands of the Hobbits east of the Misty Mountains (Fonstad) Migration of the Hobbits to
Ancestral homelands of the Hobbits
east of the Misty Mountains (Fonstad)
Migration of the Hobbits to Eriador
and the Shire (Fonstad)
The Land of Eriador (Fonstad)

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Milton Waldman, in summary of the Shire’s history:

Their chief settlement, where all the inhabitants are hobbits, and where an ordered civilised, if simple and rural life is maintained, is the Shire, originally the farmlands and forests of the royal demesne of Arnor, granted as a fief: but the 'King', author of laws, has long vanished save in memory before we hear much of the Shire. 12

Reading Tolkien's Shire as a Planned Community http://phobos.serve.com/planning/2002d-Fall/the_shire/tolkiens_shire.htm Milton Waldman, in summary of the Shire’s history:

The Prologue to LotR further states that “the land

...

had long been deserted when they [the hobbits]

entered it” (Fellowship, 22). In this sense, the land of the Shire is not unlike the land the Rappites cleared for New Harmony or John Nolen for Mariemont: both were formerly cultivated and inhabited by an earlier people now lost to history. 13 The human occupation around the Shire was further reduced

a little over thirty years after settlement when “the Great Plague Eriador.” 14 ... devastated all
a little over thirty years after settlement when “the Great Plague
Eriador.” 14
...
devastated all the peoples of

The Shire (Fonstad)

Comprising 21,400 square miles, the region of the Shire is divided into four "farthings" and two adjacent areas, the Eastmarch and Westmarch. The farthings simply divide the Shire’s particular topographies and have no political function, as Fonstad describes: cooler, drier fields to the north farthing; downlands to the west; sheltered fertile croplands to the south; and mixed lands to the east farthing consisting of woods, marshes, croplands and quarries. Westmarch, adjacent to the west farthing was added to the Shire through a grant by the king of Aragorn. 15 The Eastmarch, across the river Brandywine and adjacent to the east farthing, is bounded by a greenbelt of the Old Forest. In fact, the Buckland of Eastmarch was conquered from the Old Forest due to hobbit population pressures; "conquered" because unlike when forests are cut down in this world, trees fight back in Middle-Earth. 16

Reading Tolkien's Shire as a Planned Community

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Approximately 35 known settlements dot the Shire on Fonstad’s map. The majority of villages extend due west from the Buckland along major waterways and hill country, filling the East Farthing, and the Tookland in the east of the West Farthing. Important towns of the Shire include Tuckburrow, the seat of the Thain in the Tookland; Undertower, the seat of the Warden, at the westernmost extreme of the Westmarch; Brandy Hall, the seat of the Master in Buckland; and Michel Delving, the seat of the Mayor in the White Downs of West Farthing, noted for the impressive size and architecture of its smials (hobbit holes). A network of roads connects outlying hamlets to the Shire interior allowing for the easy transportation of information (via a messenger service) and commerce. The Great East Road bisects the Shire, and although Dwarves and Elves are allowed to pass on it, Men are forbidden by decree of the King of Aragorn. The Shire’s perimeter is protected from worgs and men by the King’s Rangers. 17

William Stoddard estimates that the Shire might support a population of some four million hobbits based on the relative body size of hobbits and the efficiency of their preindustrial agriculture. But following Fonstad’s description of the Shire as “well settled, yet uncrowded, with lots of Hobbits but plenty of elbow room,” Stoddard sees the real population being somewhere between one-third and one-fifth its potential, between 850,000 and 1,400,000. I believe these numbers are still wildly exaggerated and do not account for the traditional size of the medieval landscape Tolkien is emulating. If we assume that each village represents a population of less than 5000 individuals, and the towns with “official bodies” somewhat less than 10,000, then the population is probably closer to 200,000 for the 35 known settlements, perhaps as many as 300,000 counting the population of hobbits in hamlets, villages and towns left unmentioned by Tolkien.

Like the Shaker communities, the economy of the Shire is agriculture, with pipe-weed (tobacco) a significant cash crop and source of surplus wealth. Pipe-weed plantations are common in the South Farthing; it is there that the Sackville-Baggins family of Bilbo and Frodo have their tobacco farm. Stoddard infers that a redistribution of wealth in this clan-centered society occurs when wealthy families give large birthday parties consisting not only of great feasts but also extensive gift-giving. This economic feature is similar to the potlatches of the Pacific Northwest Coast tribes although the custom is widespread in chiefdom based societies. 18

The last king of Arnor vanishes four hundred

years after first

 
Hobbiton Aerial Survey (David Day) Barbara Stratchey's Map of Hobbiton Tolkien’s illustration "The Hill, Hobbiton-across-the-water" (92)

Hobbiton Aerial Survey (David Day)

Hobbiton Aerial Survey (David Day) Barbara Stratchey's Map of Hobbiton Tolkien’s illustration "The Hill, Hobbiton-across-the-water" (92)

Barbara Stratchey's Map of Hobbiton

Hobbiton Aerial Survey (David Day) Barbara Stratchey's Map of Hobbiton Tolkien’s illustration "The Hill, Hobbiton-across-the-water" (92)

Tolkien’s

illustration

"The

Hill,

Hobbiton-across-the-water" (92)

Hobbiton Aerial Survey (David Day) Barbara Stratchey's Map of Hobbiton Tolkien’s illustration "The Hill, Hobbiton-across-the-water" (92)

Tolkien’s

illustration

"The

Hill,

Hobbiton-across-the-water" (98)

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settlement in the Shire. Soon afterward, the office of the Thain is created to organize protection against Orc raids and belligerent intrusions from the Old Forest. After the decree of King Ellesar of Aragorn protecting the Shire, the Thain, passed down by inheritance, becomes like most other public positions, largely ceremonial. Tolkien calls this system of government “half aristocracy half republic” 19 and it reflects his own political leaning, self-described as “unconstitutional monarchy,” an “anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control, not whiskered men with bombs).” 20 Douglas Burger explains this system:

...

since

the hobbits are contented and prize peace and

plenty, they lack the ambition to start wars. As Tolkien says, "For a thousand years they were little troubled by wars" (Tolkien, Fellowship, p. 24), and as Frodo says later, "No hobbit has ever killed another on purpose in the Shire" (Tolkien, Return, p. 352). Thus they need no army. They also have no real police — only the Shirriffs, who are more concerned with the strayings of beasts than the misdoings of the hobbits — not that the hobbits are by any means uniformly wise and good, but their infractions are all minor, like the spoon-snitching of Lobelia Sackville-Baggins and the trespassing of young Sancho Proudfoot in Bilbo's pantry. In fact, there are only two governmental services in the Shire: the Messenger Service and the Watch. With so little government, there is no need for governors, and the closest approximations to hobbit rulers are the elected Mayor of Michel Delving, whose duties are only ceremonial, and the Thain, now only a "nominal dignity" (Tolkien, Fellowship, p. 30). 21

Besides having a “non-restrictive and minimal government,” the Shire shares other agrarian characteristics. The clan or family in the Shire is “the basic and dominant social unit.” 22 The simplicity of hobbit life can be measured by their joys and desires: living in comfort and plenty from the beneficence of nature and the earth’s cultivated gardens and fields, smoking the prized Old Toby strain of pipe-weed, and giving gifts at parties. Hobbit life also exhibits a certain uniformity beyond the quaint dramas of rural life. Hobbits are, as David Day writes:

an unassuming, conservative people, [judging] their peers by their conformity to quiet Hobbit village life. Excessive behaviour or adventurous endevour were discouraged and considered indiscreet. 23

Although there is tolerance for and alliances among the various races of Middle-Earth (such as the Fellowship), there are no places where Elves, Dwarves, Men or Hobbits dwell together as one community. Tolkien’s sense of place appears predicated on communal homogeneity, a uniformity in culture, values, and ambitions.

Other

characteristics

of

agrarianism

appear

to

be

absent:

a

 
Hobbiton Hill (David Day) Bag-End Underhill (Tolkien, 90) Tolkien’s illustration "The Hall at Bag End" John
 

Hobbiton Hill (David Day)

Hobbiton Hill (David Day) Bag-End Underhill (Tolkien, 90) Tolkien’s illustration "The Hall at Bag End" John
 

Bag-End Underhill (Tolkien, 90)

Hobbiton Hill (David Day) Bag-End Underhill (Tolkien, 90) Tolkien’s illustration "The Hall at Bag End" John
 

Tolkien’s illustration "The Hall at Bag End"

Hobbiton Hill (David Day) Bag-End Underhill (Tolkien, 90) Tolkien’s illustration "The Hall at Bag End" John
 

John Howe's Hall at Bag End

Hobbiton Hill (David Day) Bag-End Underhill (Tolkien, 90) Tolkien’s illustration "The Hall at Bag End" John

Floor plan of Bag End (Fonstad)

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fundamentalist religion, and a society lacking class distinctions. For all the detail Tolkien imbues his world with, religious traditions among his various peoples are noticeably missing, Hobbits included. 24 Present in the Shire, however, is a class structure – hobbits are certainly not uniformly poor. Tolkien names twelve wealthy hobbit families and contrasts the condition of their smials (earth sheltered houses) with the simple holes in the ground of poorer hobbits. 25 Only Sam Gamgee, one out of the four hobbits in the fellowship is ‘working class.’ Sam’s social mobility is only advanced when he learns how to read from Bilbo Baggins. The Shire lacks a public educational system. Education exists and is taken for granted by wealthier families, and it is exercised in their writing of Wills, deeds of property and the management of plantations in neighboring farthings, but literacy is not available to all hobbits.

The agrarian characteristic most obviously apparent to readers and viewers of the film adaptations of the Shire is the pastoral landscape and gardens of Hobbiton. Douglas Burger sums expertly how the natural world is interwoven with the social one:

The Shire is a peaceful, cultivated land. Here the simple hobbits "play their well-ordered business of living," and most of that business is associated with the "rich and kindly" soil (Tolkien, Fellowship, p. 24). To the extent that Shire occupations are ever mentioned, almost all are agricultural: hobbits are farmers like Sam Cotton and Farmer Maggot or gardeners like the Gaffer and Sam Gamgee. Even the officials, the Shirriffs, are more "haywards than policemen" (p. 31). As Tolkien says, "Growing food and eating it occupied most of their time" (p. 30). The towns themselves are interlaced with gardens. At Bag-End, Bilbo's garden comes right up to the window, 26 where he and Gandalf watch the "snap-dragons and sunflowers" glowing "red and golden" in the westering sun; and the nasturtiums virtually take over the dwelling, trailing all over the turf walls and peeping in through the round windows of the house (p. 49). Also, it is in the very midst of Hobbiton where the Gaffer grows his crop of "taters." In fact, the distinction between village and country is scarcely relevant here, for hobbit homes blend harmoniously and unobtrusively into the bucolic setting. Made of natural materials — thatched with dry grass and surrounded by walls of turf — they are only a slight development of the ancestral hobbit holes, comfortable tunnels reaching down into the earth itself. Like the hobbit holes, several other images reflect the hobbits' closeness to the earth, both literally and figuratively. Hobbits are, says Gandalf, "tough as old tree roots" (p. 78), and surely it is no accident that Tolkien has the old Gaffer specialize in root vegetables. The hobbits' feet, being unshod, touch the ground; they prefer to wear green and yellow, the colors of growth; and hobbit women are often named for flowers: Rose, Primula, Pansy, Lobelia, Camelia. In sum, nothing could be more quintessentially hobbit-like than Sam's vision when he puts the great Ring of power in the heart of Mordor: "At his command the vale of Gorgoroth became a garden of flowers and trees and brought forth fruit" (Tolkien, Return , p. 216). 27

 
The Party Tree and Commons (Fellowship of the Ring film [New Line Cinema, 2000]) Hobbiton, Before
 

The Party

Tree

and Commons

(Fellowship of the Ring film [New

Line Cinema, 2000])

 
The Party Tree and Commons (Fellowship of the Ring film [New Line Cinema, 2000]) Hobbiton, Before
 

Hobbiton,

Before

and

After

the

Invasion (Fonstad)

 

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Like the Garden Cities of Green Hills and Mariemont, Ohio, Hobbiton’s housing units are often clustered. At the top of The Hill is the smial of Bag-End, the luxurious hobbit hole of the Baggins family. 28 Below Bag-End, are other neighboring earth sheltered dwellings One of these, Number Three Bagshot Row, is occupied by the Gaffer and his son, Sam Gamgee. A large open field and tree between the Row and Bag End is set aside and prepared for community parties.

The importance and beauty of this vision is reinforced in the final chapter of LotR, “The Scouring of the Shire.” In it, the heroes return to their homeland only to find the ecology and order of Hobbiton become the object of destruction of the invading forces of Sauron. A quarry replaces both the clustered housing of Bagshot Row, the community party area and gardens are destroyed, and all the trees of Hobbiton have been cut down. Sandyman’s Mill, expanded to cover The Water to exploit more of its energy, now also pollutes it. The hedgerows delineating property lines have been broken, the green fields are brown, and the air chokes with the soot of a gigantic chimney. As Douglas Glover writes:

It is not merely the occasion for an attack on the horrors of industrial desecration – the fouling of streams, the removal of trees, the monstrosities of modern architecture; it is also an account of the violation of the spontaneous order of the hobbits, the brutalisation of its populace, and their subordination to an external principle of organisation in which new laws are promulgated and enforced and power centralised in the person of ‘the Chief’ and his machinery of repression, under whose orders even beer-drinking and smoking are outlawed. 29

Reading Tolkien's Shire as a Planned Community http://phobos.serve.com/planning/2002d-Fall/the_shire/tolkiens_shire.htm Like the Garden Cities of Green Hills and

This apocalyptic vision of the former paradise, is Tolkien's way of describing the Industrial Revolution. Hobbiton was born from the same “anti-urban agrarian/romantic approach” as that of the Garden City Movement. Both Tolkien and Ebeneezer Howard sought a return to the pre-industrial village and the harmony and beauty of nature for its inhabitants. But Tolkien was not aware of Howard’s activities, in fact, Tolkien took a rather dim view of planning, associating it with socialist tyranny. 30 He was, however, a great reader of G.K. Chesterton and reportedly had memorized certain works of his. 31 Chesterton had outlined an alternative program to capitalism and socialism called Distributivism which looked to the society and economy of the middle ages as a model for England. Distributivism advocates distributing greater power to ordinary Englishman by encouraging a wider distribution of property and supporting small shop owners. The Distributionist League envisioned a return from large industrial cities back to small English villages comprised of independent craftsmen and farmer landowners. Glover suggests that scenes such as that presented in “The Scouring of the Shire,”

...

owe

something to the ‘backward-looking nostalgia’ typified in the Distribution of Chesterton

and Belloc with its anti-industrial utopia of yeoman farmers and small craftsmen, thus supplying content to Tolkien’s justification of ‘Recovery’ as a recuperative escapism, what he called the ‘Escape of the Prisoner’. Once again it is the function of the writer to safeguard and disseminate this aesthetic vision, the redeemability of the world from its present condition. ‘Recovery’ was

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Tolkien’s term for ‘regaining

...

a

clear view’ of ‘things as we are (or were) meant to see them’,

that is as radically different from the distortions introduced by ‘scientific theory’. This function of fairy-stories allows us to retrieve ‘the wonder of the things, such as stone, and wood, and iron; tree and grass; house and fire; bread and wine’, and the ideal environment for this appreciation is a restored communal pastoralism. 32

But any ‘backward-looking-nostalgia’ in the depiction of the Shire was not only the influence of Tolkien’s social outlook – both were the manifestation of profound experiences he had as a youth in Warwickshire. Tolkien came to England on holiday vacation from arid Bloemfontein, South Africa when he was three years old. After the sudden death of his father, his mother struggled to find affordable housing for herself and her two young sons in Sarehole a few miles south of Birmingham. Tolkien instantly found himself introduced to the homeland he had never known:

I was brought back to my native heath with a memory of something different - hot, dry and

barren - and it intensified my love of my own countryside. I could draw you a map of every inch of it. I loved it with an intensity of love that was a kind of nostalgia reversed. It was a kind of

double coming home, the effect on me of all these meadows

...

I was brought up in considerable

poverty but I was happy running about in that country. I took the idea of the hobbits from the village people and children. They rather despised me because my mother liked me to be pretty. I

went about with long hair and a Little Lord Fauntleroy

costume. ...

The hobbits are just what I

should like to have been but never was - an entirely unmilitary people who always came up to

scratch in a clinch. 33

Tolkien’s lovely pastoral Shire is, thus, a landscape of memory, a parallel to Sarehole and Warwickshire. The toponymy of the Shire, not surprisingly, is not very different from the place-names of rural England. 34 Of the hamlet of Sarehole, Tolkien further commented:

It was a kind of lost paradise. There was an old mill that really did grind corn with two millers, a great big pond with swans on it, a sandpit, a wonderful dell with flowers, a few old-fashioned village houses and, further away, a stream with another mill. I always knew it would go - and it did. 35

Sarehole would always represent Tolkien’s childhood and his sense of security. He had to leave it behind when his family moved away to Birmingham. Soon after that his mother passed away and his brother and he were orphaned. In later life, he expressed a bitterness in how Sarehole, in the fifty years since he had left, had largely been replaced by Birmingham’s sprawl. He describes the Sarehole of the 1950s in a letter to his publisher, that the hamlet of his memory was “as far away as the Third Age [of Middle-Earth] from that depressing and perfectly characterless straggle of houses north of old Oxford, which has not even a postal existence.” 36

The irony is that while Tolkien wrote fairy-stories inspired by the demise of wonderful Sarehole, the residents of the hamlet, anticipating the danger of sprawl, set to work to save it. A number of owners added provisions in their wills to grant their land to Birmingham’s city council in perpetuity under the condition that the land could not be sold to developers. By the time Tolkien made his sad comments to Unwin, a good portion of Sarehole had actually been preserved. Birmingham has since capitalized on the hamlet’s preservation and Tolkien’s fame as a way to attract tourists (see brochure (PDF), The Tolkien Tour). Happily, Tolkien learned of the success of Sarehole in the years before his death in 1973, although he was too infirm to visit. 37

bird’s eye view of contemporary Sarehole
bird’s eye view of contemporary
Sarehole

Reading Tolkien's Shire as a Planned Community

Conclusion

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"Lord of the Rings is a mythology, it is a fairytale, it's an adventure story, it never happened--except somewhere in our hearts. And yet there was Hobbiton in three dimensions, and smoke coming out of the holes where they live

underground ...

and I believed." (Sir Ian McKellen, quote from official movie site: lordoftherings.net)

English-language sales for the Hobbit were higher than any other single work of fiction in the twentieth century, and sales of LotR is not far behind. 38 An investigation of the influence of his writings is beyond the scope of this paper, but it would certainly be interesting to learn whether the earth sheltered housing movement of the 1970s (often credited to the 1973 energy crisis) had as its inspiration the hobbit holes Tolkien popularized. It would also be exciting to discover how many founders of eco-villages and sustainable communities had read Tolkien in the 1950s and 60s.

In fact, while researching this paper, I found one intentional community in Scotland which had named their first housing cluster Bag End even though the site had no physical similarities to Hobbiton. What simply mattered to the Findhorn Foundation was that the magic and spirit of Tolkien resonated with their interest in “living in harmony with intelligent sentient nature.” 39

Inspired by the boyhood wonder experienced in the hamlet of Sarehole in the midlands of England, and dismayed with the philosophies of progress which sought growth through technology and industry, Tolkien created a parallel world in which his readers might “regain a clear view of things” perhaps discovering that the “ideal environment for this appreciation is a restored communal pastoralism.”

The Shire is a planned region in a landscape of memory. Its appeal can be found in the green of a meadow, the curve of a hill, and the smell of fresh pipe-weed. The Shire is simply a cozy place which Glover writes is “well-adapted to social needs without having to be mastered by a developed technology.” It is an idealized vision of an agrarian distributivist world.

Text References

Image References

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Reading Tolkien's Shire as a Planned Community Footnotes

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  • 1 J. R. R. Tolkien, “From a letter to Amy Ronald” in The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien ed. Humphrey Carpenter, Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1981. p.402. Tolkien is paraphrasing Gandalf's response to Frodo's remark on the reappearance of the power of the Dark Lord, "'I wish it need not have happened in my time,' said Frodo. 'So do I,' said Gandalf, 'and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the '"

time that is given us

...

(Fellowship, p.82).

  • 2 Ibid, “To Michael Straight [drafts]”, p.235

  • 3 Karen Wynn Fonstad ,in The Atlas of Middle Earth. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1981. p. 69. The size of the Shire is a little less than half the size of the state of Ohio. Throughout this paper, I rely on the cartographic exegesis of Fonstad. Fonstad measures Arda's scale as three miles for every one of Tolkien's "leagues". See her Introduction in The Atlas for more methodology.

  • 4 Tolkien, “Tree and Leaf”, p.19, cited by Karen Wynn Fonstad in The Atlas of Middle Earth, p.

xi

  • 5 Resnick, 41, cited by Fonstad, p.xi

  • 6 Fonstad, p.xi. Tolkien's motivation in creating this parallel world grew out of his early love and penchant for creating languages. Each word has a historical conext. Hence, Tolkien developed a history for his language of the Elves.

  • 7 Tolkien elaborates on hobbits in a footnote to a letter to his publisher, Milton Waldman of Collins: “The Hobbits are, of course, really meant to be a branch of the specifically human race (not Elves or Dwarves) – hence the two kinds [humans and hobbits] can dwell together (as at Bree), and are called just the Big Folk and the Little Folk. They are entirely without non-human powers, but are represented as being more in touch with 'nature' (the soil and other living things, plants and animals), and abnormally, for humans, free from ambition or greed of wealth. They are made small (little more than half human stature, but dwindling as the years pass) partly to exhibit the pettiness of man, plain unimaginative parochial man – though not with either the smallness or savageness of Swift, and mostly to show up, in creatures of very small physical power, the amazing and unexpected heroism of ordinary men 'at a pinch'.” (Tolkien, Letters, “To Milton Waldman”, late 1951, p.158)

  • 8 Fonstad, p.64 citing Fellowship of the Rings, p.12.

  • 9 Ibid, citing Fellowship, p.13.

    • 10 Letters, “To Naomi Mitchison,” 25 September 1954. p.196.

    • 11 Fonstad, p.69. Tolkien’s world parallels our own medieval one. Ceding land to settle via sovereign grant was a typical medieval European convention, and was required for English colonists of North America. Great plagues also affected the indigenous peoples of both Tolkien’s land and North America after settlement, but although the parallel exists, this was probably not intended by Tolkien.

    • 12 Letters, “To Milton Waldman”, late 1951, p.158

    • 13 The civilization previously occupying the lands on the banks of the Little Miami and the Wabash is known by archaeologists as the Mound Builder civilization after their signature burial mounds. In fact, the indiginous people of Arda, the Elves, same as the indiginous peoples of North America, are imagined as living in perfect and complete harmony with nature. The Elves are the original hominoid species of Arda and hence have an ancient and powerful connection to the earth. They live in a state of enchantment with nature, over and above the hobbit's pastoral life in the Shire. It would be interesting to study how indiginous

Reading Tolkien's Shire as a Planned Community Footnotes

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peoples are idealized in the different Romantic imaginations in other developing nations today.

  • 14 David Day, A Tolkien Bestiary, NY: Ballantine, 1979. p.135.

  • 15 Fellowship, p.18. Return, p.368, 378. cited by Fonstad.

  • 16 “[T]he hobbits came and cut down hundreds of trees, and burned all the ground in a long strip

east of the

Hedge.

...

After

that the trees gave up the attack but they became very unfriendly.”

Fellowship, p.154. These events occurred some 400 years before the age of Frodo in the LotR.

In contrast, Green Hills remains unharmed and unthreatened after the parking lot expansion into the greenbelt of Winton Woods surrounding it.

  • 17 Although the Hobbits have their own self-defence institution in The Thain (which was successfully mobilized when the Orcs attacked the East Farthing when the Brandwine River iced over), the Shire is practically protected year round by the Rangers. Tolkien does not explore whether this feudal-like patronage comes at any cost, say some agricultural tax leveed.

  • 18 William H. Stoddard, "Law and Institutions in the Shire." Mythlore 18 (1992): p.5.

  • 19 Letters, “Notes on W.H. Auden’s review of The Return of the King”, p.241.

  • 20 Patrick Curry, "'Less Noise and More Green': Tolkien's Ideology for England," in Proceedings of the J. R. R. Tolkien Centenary Conference, ed. Reynolds and GoodKnight, p.129.

  • 21 Douglas Burger.”The Shire: A Tolkien Version of Pastoral," in Aspects of Fantasy: Selected Essays from the Second International Conference on the Fantastic in Literature and Film ed. William Coyle, p. 149-151.

  • 22 John M. Janson, “F. Planning History Summary” in the Study Manual for the Comprehensive AICP Exam of the American Institute of Certified Planners

  • 23 David Day, A Tolkien Bestiary, p.133

  • 24 Tolkien appreciated the activity of his storytelling as an essentially religious one, and subsumed his particular Catholic worldview into his mythology.

  • 25 Baggins, Boffin, Bolger, Bracegirdle, Brandybuck, Burrowes, Chubb, Grubb, Hornblower, Proudfoot, Sackville, and Took.

  • 26 Similar to the gardens of Hobbiton which come right up to the window, the carefully manicured golf course of Wetherington, Ohio extends to the mansions of its residents.

  • 27 Burger, p.151.

  • 28 The author would like to investigate further whether the earth-sheltered housing movement often credited to the energy crisis of 1973, was actually inpired by the, by-then-popular, works of Tolkien. Patrick Snadon comments on my suggestion: “Tolkien may have predicted the sustainable/earth sheltered housing movement!? Wouldn't that be interesting? The versions of the Hobbit's houses in the first ‘Ring’ movie seemed to me to be a mixture of European Art Nouveau (Charles Rennie Mackintosh, C.R. Ashby and ‘English cottage vernacular,’ maybe some Victor Horta, etc., with a touch of American Arts and Crafts--Greene and Greene, Gustav Stickley, etc.”, from an email to the author, November 12, 2002. Compare Snadon's review to images of Bag (1, 2, 3) End from the New Line Cinema film Fellowship of the Ring

(2000).

  • 29 David Glover, "Utopia and Fantasy in the Late 1960's: Burroughs, Moorcock, Tolkien," in Popular Fiction and Social Change , ed. Christopher Pawling, New York: St Martin's,

Reading Tolkien's Shire as a Planned Community Footnotes

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1984.p.206.

  • 30 Tolkien in a letter “To Michael Straight, editor of New Republic”, January or February 1956 (Letters, 235), saying: “There is no special reference to England in the “Shire” -- except of course that as an Englishman brought up in an 'almost rural' village of Warwickshire on the edge of the prosperous bourgeoisie of Birmingham (about the same time of the Diamond Jubilee!) I take my models like anyone else – from such 'life' as I know. But there is no post-war reference. I am not a 'socialist' in any sense – being averse to 'planning' (as must be plain) most of all because the 'planners, when they acquire power, become so bad – but I would not say that we had to suffer the malice of Sharkey and his Ruffians here. Though the spirit of 'Isengard', if not of Mordor, is of course always cropping up. The present design of destroying Oxford in order to accommodate motor-cars is a case. (footnote: a reference to a proposal for a 'relief' road through Christ Church meadow). But our chief adversary is a member of the 'Tory' Government. But you could apply it anywhere in these days.”

  • 31 Michael Foster, "The Shire and Notting Hill." Mallorn 35 (1997): p.46.

  • 32 Glover, p.206-7, citing C. Wilson, Tree by Tolkien (London: Village Press, 1974) and C. P. Manlove, Modern Fantasy: Five Studies (Cambridge University Press, 1975)

  • 33 From an interview with John Ezard circa 1966 printed in, “Tolkien’s Shire”, The Guardian Unlimited, Saturday ,December 28, 1991. Online at:

http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/classics/story/0,6000,596112,00.html Tolkien eventually discovered in himself the Hobbit he had always yearned to be, writing in a letter:

“ ... I was born in 1892 and lived for my early years in 'the Shire' in a pre-mechanical age am in fact a Hobbit (in all but size). I like gardens, trees, and unmechanized farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food (unrefrigerated), but detest French cooking; I like, and even dare to wear in dull days, ornamental wastecoats. I am fond of mushrooms (out of a field); have a very simple sense of humour (which even my appreciative critics find tiresome);

...

I

I go to bed late and get up late (when possible). I do not travel much Deborah Webster”, 25 October 1958, p.288)

...

(Tolkien, Letters, “To

  • 34 Tolkien, Letters, “To Rayner Unwin”, 3 July 1956 p.250. Tolkien writes in regards to the publisher’s request for approval on the replacing of English place-names with Dutch ones:

“The toponymy of the Shire

is a 'parody' of that of rural England, in much the same sense as

... are its inhabitants: they go together and are meant to. After all the book is English, and by an Englishman, and presumably even those who wish its narrative and dialogue turned into an idiom that they understand, will not ask of a translator that he should deliberately attempt to destroy the local colour.” Also note, Bag End is the name of the lane where Tolkien’s Aunt Jane lived.

  • 35 Ezard interview with Tolkien, 1991.

  • 36 Letters, “To Allen and Unwin”, 12 December 1955, p.230.

  • 37 Ezard, 1991.

  • 38 Patrick Curry, Patrick. "'Less Noise and More Green': Tolkien's Ideology for England," in Proceedings of the J. R. R. Tolkien Centenary Conference, ed. Reynolds and GoodKnight,

p.127.

  • 39 John Talbott, Findhorn Foundation engineer, “Re: Research for Paper” in email correspondence with author, November 14, 2002. John also sent wonderful pictures of the Bag End neighborhhod in the Findhorn eco-village ( 1, 2, 3) and the Findhorn master plan. The village was built on land previously used as a British Royal Air Force base.

References: Tolkien's Shire as a Planned Community

REFERENCES: Tolkien's Shire as a Planned Community

http://phobos.serve.com/planning/2002d-Fall/the_shire/tolkiens_shire_re ...

Burger, Douglas A. "The Shire: A Tolkien Version of Pastoral," in Aspects of Fantasy: Selected Essays from the Second International Conference on the Fantastic in Literature and Film. ed. William Coyle, 149-154. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1986.

Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1981.

Curry, Patrick. "'Less Noise and More Green': Tolkien's Ideology for England," in Proceedings of the J. R. R. Tolkien Centenary Conference, ed. Reynolds and GoodKnight, 126-38.

Day, David. A Tolkien Beastiary, NY: Ballantine, 1979.

Ezard, John. “Tolkien’s Shire”, in The Guardian Unlimited, Saturday, December 28, 1991. Available online at:

http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/classics/story/0,6000,596112,00.html

Flieger, Verlyn. “Taking the Part of Trees: Eco-Conflict in Middle-Earth,” in J. R. R. Tolkien and His Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-Earth, ed. Clark and Timmons, 147-158. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 2000.

Fonstad, Karen Wynn, The Atlas of Middle Earth. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1981.

Foster, Michael. "The Shire and Notting Hill." Mallorn 35 (1997): 45-53.

Glover, David. "Utopia and Fantasy in the Late 1960's: Burroughs, Moorcock, Tolkien," in Popular Fiction and Social Change, ed. Christopher Pawling, 185-211. New York: St Martin's, 1984.

Hammond, Wayne G., and Scull, Christina. J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1995.

Howe, John (illustrator) and Sibley, Brian. There and Back Again: The Map of the Hobbit, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995.

Juhren, Marcella. "The Ecology of Middle-earth." Mythlore 76 (1994): 5-8.

LordoftheRings.net, official film site, the Saul Zaentz Company and Tolkien Enterprise under license to New Line Productions (2001).

Reynolds, Pat. "'The Hill at Hobbiton': Vernacular Architecture in the Shire." Mallorn 35 (1997): 20-24.

Stoddard, William H. "Law and Institutions in the Shire." Mythlore 18 (1992): 4-8.

Strachey, Barbara. The Journeys of Frodo. Acacia Press, Inc. 1992.

Veldman, Meredith. Fantasy, the Bomb, and the Greening of Britain: Romantic protest, 1945-1980. New York: Cambridge, 1994.

http://phobos.serve.com/planning/2002d-Fall/the_shire/illustrations.htm

IMAGE REFERENCES: Tolkien's Shire as a Planned Community

Day, David. A Tolkien Beastiary, NY: Ballantine, 1979.

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Fonstad, Karen Wynn, The Atlas of Middle Earth. Boston, MA:

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Houghton Mifflin, 1981.

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Hammond, Wayne G., and Scull, Christina. J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist

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and Illustrator, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1995.

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The_Hill_Hobbiton_92.jpg

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Howe, John (illustrator) and Sibley, Brian. There and Back Again:

 

The Map of the Hobbit, New York: HarperCollins Publishers,

1995.

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LordoftheRings.net, official film site, the Saul Zaentz Company and Tolkien Enterprise under license to New Line Productions

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(2001)

bag_end_hall_movie_1.jpg

bag_end_underhill_movie_1.jpg

bagend_hall_from_movie_2.jpg

hobbiton_PartyField.jpg

Strachey, Barbara. The Journeys of Frodo. Acacia Press, Inc. 1992.

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John Talbott, Findhorn Foundation Engineer, attachments sent in

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an email sent to author

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John Webb's JRR Tolkien Biography

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