The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
Established IV 31 (1452 by the Shire-reckoning)
Location
Beneath the Tower Hills, westward of the Shire's Westfarthing
Origins
Lands granted to the Shire-hobbits by High King Elessar
Race
Culture
Family
The Fairbairns became hereditary Wardens of Westmarch
Settlements
Meaning
A march is a borderland, so 'Westmarch' refers to the western borderland of the Shire
Note
Not to be confused with the West-march of Rohan, far to the south, or the West March of Doriath in Beleriand

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  • Updated 19 October 2012
  • Updates planned: 1

Westmarch of the Shire

The lands beyond the Far Downs

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Farthings and marches of the Shire

From the time of its founding, the western border of the Shire had been marked by a line of low rolling hills known as the Far Downs. In the east, the border had traditionally been the River Brandywine, though Gorhendad Oldbuck eventually settled a new eastern 'march' (that is, a borderland) beyond the river in Buckland.

In the year IV 311 (or 1452 by the Shire-reckoning), some years after the War of the Ring, King Elessar granted the Shire a new 'march' in the west, including the lands beyond the Far Downs as far as the Tower Hills. This new land was named simply the 'Westmarch', and was quickly settled by Hobbits out of the Shire. Thain Peregrin appointed a Warden to oversee the Westmarch, a position somewhat equivalent to that of the Master of Buckland in the east. Fastred of Greenholm, husband to Sam Gamgee's daughter Elanor, was made the first2 of these Wardens.

Fastred and Elanor settled at Undertowers on the Tower Hills, where they founded the Fairbairn family. From this beginning, the Fairbairns, hereditary Wardens of Westmarch, would become one of the most influential families in the Shire. They were especially important from a historical point of view, because it was at Undertowers that they preserved the Red Book, the original historical texts holding the stories that would become The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings3.


Notes

1

In many earlier editions of the Prologue to The Lord of the Rings, Westmarch's dating is given incorrectly as SR 1462 (or IV 41). This dating is amended to '1452' in later editions of the book.

2

Strictly, while it's strongly implied that Fastred was the first of the Wardens, the limited evidence on this point means that some other Hobbit may possibly have held the post beforehand.

3

In the context of Tolkien's stories, their origins came from the preserved diaries of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, alongside additional material prepared by Bilbo in Rivendell. Much of this additional material was related to Elvish history and legend, and was presumably the root of The Silmarillion.

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