Walking through The Shire

Armenelos, Calas Galadhon; Inara Pey, March 2015, on Flickr The Shire (Flickr)

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

I first heard those words when lying in bed one evening whilst very little. They were read to me by the comforting voice of my father, and they opened the door to a world I’ve loved ever since, a place as rich and diverse as our own, filled with adventure, exotic peoples, terrible creatures, tales of heroics, love, devotion and darkness. A world called Middle Earth.

It’s a place familiar to many of us, not only thanks to the printed page, but also because it has been vividly brought to the silver screen by Peter Jackson’s six films. It’s a place often recreated in one form or another in Second Life, allowing us to share in Tolkien’s mythos and tales; And now we can even visit The Shire itself.

Armenelos, Calas Galadhon; Inara Pey, March 2015, on Flickr The Shire (Flickr)

A full region landscaped and designed by Circinae (Chocolate Aftermath), The Shire is not intended to be a replica of Hobbiton or any other locale within the Shire’s borders featured in the books. Rather it takes its inspiration from a range of elements from Tolkien’s world: hobbit holes, houses for Big Folk and builds decorated with a slant towards the elvish.

The result is a beautifully landscaped realm, offering plenty of photo opportunities as one explores. Note that role-play appears to be encouraged, focusing on Tolkien, while encompassing medieval and rural Celtic fantasy as well. However, do please also keep in mind that many of the houses, hobbit holes and elven towers are available for rent, and so may well be private residences;  signs are generally posted outside those that are rented, requesting people respect the tenants’ privacy. Those who might be interesting in renting any of the available parcels can do so via the little rental centre towards the middle of the region, nestled between the Crumbling Crow tavern and the windmill.

Armenelos, Calas Galadhon; Inara Pey, March 2015, on Flickr The Shire (Flickr)

Paths from the central village will help lead you around the region and down to the coastal areas and to the elven towers to the south-west. Facing this, in the south eat is a further wooded island in which sits The Gathering Stones, a place to meet and dance. Currently, these doesn’t appear to be a means by which this can be reached sans flying or teleporting, but as The Shire still appeared to be under construction when I visited, it might be that a boat rezzer has yet to be added – or I simply missed a more obvious route!

This is place where Big Folk and hobbits can mix easily, making it a sort of Bree-on-a-hill. The elven towers are slightly separate from the main village, but one would expect that anyway in Middle Earth; but that said the towers can be reached easily enough, and hobbit holes lay close by. I didn’t see any active role-play taking place while there,  but rather suspect that any which might occur is likely to be casual, and more about keeping in character with any tenants who may be about, rather than adhering to any set storyline.

Armenelos, Calas Galadhon; Inara Pey, March 2015, on Flickr The Shire (Flickr)

All told, The Shire is more than a pleasant visit – it is a joy to explore. I’m not sure what else is to be done prior to it being classified as “finished” (is any region ever truly “finished”, given how we can so easily tweak and change things to suit needs and wants?); but that shouldn’t stop you from hopping over there and seeing it today.

After all, if you have, like me, found J.R.R. Tolkien to be hobbit forming, you’ll probably feel quite at home in The Shire!

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