Last night was the eight historical field trip! We went into Bindbole Woods fer tales, songs and poems about the woods of the Shire. Here yer can read me lecture notes from the trip and see some pictures!
About the woods of the Shire
Let me tell yer a little about the woods of the Shire.
As yer travel through our lovely lands, yer will find small pockets of trees and forested areas among the well-tended fields and gently sloped hills. Most notably we have the Bindbole Woods here in the north, between Rushock Bog and Greenfields. In the eastern part of Green Hill Country is the Woody End, near Woodhall.
There are also several smaller wooded areas and copses strewn across the landscape, many of them too small ter warrant a name. After all, the woods of the Shire are generally on the small side. Some areas, like Woody Hall, may be densely forested, but the woods rarely cover a large piece of land.
It wasn’t always so, though. I have heard tell that long, long ago, thousands of years before hobbits even came here, all them western lands were covered by a large, wondrous forest. Spreading from the sea in the west to far-off mountains in the east, the forest was dense, magnificent and full of mysterious life.
What happened to this forest? Them say it withered and shrank over the years, not least when longshanks started cutting down the trees ter raise their armies. During one of them major wars way back in the day, when a darkness rose in the East, much of the forest was burned ter the ground.
So today, we are left with our smaller woods, like Bindbole and the Woody End. Whose size, quite frankly, seem rather more suited fer us hobbits anyway.
About forest life and crafting
If yer travel through the Shire woods, yer will find them teeming with life. Squirrels hop around gathering nuts. Birds chirp all day, especially during the spring: Warblers, flycatchers, robins, swallows, and many more. During the night, yer can hear owls hooting and nightingales singing their sweet melodies.
Yer will find conies, foxes and deer. Them are usually not hooting or singing. Although, some claim that during the spring, badgers come out and sing to the moon ter greet the warmer weather welcome.
Them larger animals are very useful fer us hobbits, though. Although hobbits never hunt animals fer sport, they are both a good source fer food and hides, and as such quite necessary fer both cooking and leatherworking. Especially cony pies, one of me personal favourites.
The forest is also a source of nuts and wild berries, and many hobbits can be found scouring the woods fer strawberries during the summer. Wild bees provide honey fer our biscuits. Wild mushrooms, like Shaggy Inkcaps, Penny Buns, Puffballs and Chanterelle, are always a treat on any decked table. Just make sure yer stay away from those mushrooms that may upset yer stomach.
But still, the most obvious use us hobbits have from the woods are the trees.They provide timber fer our mills, burrows and fences, and wood fer our tools and weapons.
About the ruins in the woods
Across the Shire, yer will find old, crumbling ruins like the one in Bindbole Woods. The tower outside of Stock and the Bridgefields wall are other examples.
These are the remnants of the old longshank kingdom Arnor, that once claimed these lands as its own. Them Arnorians built the roads and bridges through the Shire, and also the towers and structures littered across our lands.
Why did them build such structures here? Sadly, our lands haven’t always been safe. And I believe the ruins here were old watch towers. From here, sentries from the old kingdom could keep a look out fer someone trying ter enter the lands with unfriendly purposes.
Even to this day, there can be a sense of danger walking among the Shire trees. There may be the odd sound in the distance… a twig snapping, or the occasional heavy silence when it gets dark.
And, of course, there are wild animals, like wolves, spiders and bears. Wolves in particular have been more active in the later years, coming ever closer to our villages. It is almost as if something stirs them up and makes them agitated.
Some even claim ter have seen goblins wander between the trees. Perhaps them have returned ter have vengeance for their king who fell during the Battle of Greenfields, near three hundred years back?
Still, for the most part, our woods are safe still. And that is, not least, because there is a group of hobbits who work ter keep our woods and boundaries safe.
About the Bounders of the Shire
Let me tell yer a little more about how the Bounders came ter be in the Shire. After all, I know many of yer work as bounders from time to time. To get into that, though, I’ll have to tell yer a little about the government of the Shire.
Now, fer the most part, hobbit families manage their own affairs, be it to deal with apple-thieves or wolves in the forest. We do, however, have a few positions of leadership in the Shire. Most notably are the Thain in Tuckborough and the Mayor in Michel Delving.
Now, what are their roles? As some will know, us hobbits follow what is called “The Rules”. These rules, ancient and just, are based on the laws of the old northern kingdom of Arnor I told yer of earlier. Around 1400 years ago, the king allowed two hobbits by the name of Marcho and Blanco to settle in these very lands. The king granted their request on the condition that hobbits acknowledge his rules. And so we do to this day, although no king has been seen after the old kingdom crumbled over a thousand years ago.
However, in the absence of the king, we do have an authority representing him in The Shire. And this is the Thain. Now, while the Thain is formally the king’s representative, we hardly feel that in our daily lives. Us hobbits voluntarily follow The Rules of old, so there is no need fer the Thain ter act as a leader, unless there is a time of crisis when he can muster the hobbit militia. Thefts are rare, and over the centuries, no hobbit has ever taken the life of another.
So in our everyday lives, we’re more affected by whatever the mayor in Michel Delving does. As yer will know, the Mayor is elected every seven years at the Free Fair in Midsummer. Our current Mayor, Will Whitfoot, is well underway in his seven-year term. The responsibilities of the mayor are basically these:
First, he’s the postmaster of the messenger service. Second, he’s the First Shirriff of the Watch. And third, he has to attend the official banquets on our holidays.
He is especially fond of this third duty, he is, Old Flourdumpling.
But aye, being the First Shirriff of the Watch, the Mayor is in charge of the Shirriffs and Bounders. There are also three more Shirriffs in each of the four farthings, who are responsible for keeping peace among us hobbits. More often than not, this means gathering up a few stray animals or chasing the odd young apple-thief.
The Shirriffs are helped by a group of hobbits patrolling our boundaries. They are the Bounders, who ensure that no outsiders cause trouble in the Shire. Them have no uniform, but put a feather in their cap ter mark their duty.
The number of Bounders varies, based on the current need fer them. And I’m sad to say that in recent years, their numbers have been increasing. While most visitors to the Shire are friendly, I’m afraid not all come with good intentions. So the Bounders stay near our boundaries and wander the forests, ready ter turn hostile visitors away.
Always being on the lookout fer trouble. Or the road to the nearest inn. Or a rock ter snooze behind.
Thankfully, while them bounders may be tired at times, not all visitors to the Shire are hostile. Ellufs sometimes pass through our woods on their way west to the sea. Few hobbits have seen this, because them ellufs are said ter be careful not ter trip over sleeping Bounders who snore gently in the forest.
But if yer enter the woods late at night, yer may hear soft songs and the distant jangling of bells. There may be a soft shimmering light up ahead. And just maybe yer may catch a glipse of them ellufs passing through our lands, and get a special tale ter tell during yer next inn visit.
And with that note, I think it is about time ter finish the lectures of the night.
Simbo wrote a grand triology (or tree-ology) of poems fer the field trip. Be sure ter read them here!
Akelay wrote a lovely Woodworm Song fer the trip, here yer can read them lyrics!
Rubellita told a woodcutter fairy tale, which yer can read here!
And finally, here is miss Freoda’s grand lecture on trees and wood types.
Duissane added some lovely pictures over on the official Turbine forums, have a look here!
Here are some of me pictures from the field trip. Enjoy!
Thank yer everyone who helped with the event, either with songs, poems and tales, keeping smaller hobbits safe in the woods, taking pictures, sharing food or just participating and enjoying yerself during the trip. It wouldn’t be any fun without yer all! Cheers!
The information about is based heavily on J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, especially the Lord of the Rings books. Also, I have looked at relevant entries on the Encyclopedia of Arda, Lord of the Rings Wiki, Wikipedia and The Tolkien Gateway. I have taken some creative liberties with the source material, but I hope it still stay somewhat within the spirit of Tolkien’s works.