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  • Updated 27 August 2019
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Shire-muster

A gathering of the Shire-hobbits’ militia

The Thainship of the Shire was established in a time of trouble and war, shortly after the fall of the kingdom of Arthedain with which the Shire was at least nominally associated. Indeed, according the Hobbits' own records, their military had played a part in the last days of Arthedain, with a contingent of archers being sent to aid the Dúnedain at the Battle of Fornost in III 1975 (or 375 by the Hobbits' own Shire-reckoning).

Apart from the Battle of Fornost, we have only one other account of the Shire-hobbits taking any kind of military action. This was at the Battle of Greenfields in III 2747, nearly eight hundred years after the Battle of Fornost. The Thain at that time, Ferumbras II, evidently called the Shire-muster before the battle, though the Hobbits were led in the field by the Thain's brother Bandobras the Bullroarer. This was apparently the last time a Shire-muster was called, but the tradition was maintained and the Thain had the power to call together the Hobbitry-in-arms when needed.1 By the time of the War of the Ring, more than a thousand years after the Battle of Fornost, the Shire-muster was an archaic notion, a power formally still held by the Thain but not invoked in living memory.

Nonetheless, it might be said that a Shire-muster of a sort took place in the closing stages of the War of the Ring. During the brief time when Sharkey - that is, Saruman - ruled the Shire, the returning Travellers raised the anger of the Shire-folk against the ruffians who controlled their land. This culminated in the Battle of Bywater of 3 November III 3019, in which Sharkey's Men were defeated and the Hobbits won back the Shire. It is doubtful whether this could be counted as any kind of official Shire-muster, or whether the Shire-hobbits truly constituted a militia, but it is the last record we have of the Hobbits taking up arms of any kind.


Notes

1

We're given almost no detail about the organisation of the Hobbitry-in-arms, but given the nature of Hobbit society and the rare need for a force of this kind, it seems more likely to have been a militia than any kind of standing army. That is, the Shire-muster would presumably have been a temporary calling of ordinary Hobbits to arm themselves and work together and meet a threat. In that sense it would have been different in kind from other musters, such as the Muster of Rohan, that brought professional soldiers together into a large single army.

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  • Updated 27 August 2019
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