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  • Updated 8 January 2021
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The Rules

The legal code of the Shire

'The Rules' began as a common term among the Hobbits for the old laws of the Kings of Arthedain, who still ruled at the time that the Shire was created. The Shire-hobbits considered this legal code to be fair and just, and continued its use even after Arthedain itself had ceased to exist. During most of the Shire's history, there was little need to enforce these Rules, though a small body, the Shirriffs, existed to fulfil this role if needed.

A change came during the War of the Ring, when Lotho Sackville-Baggins took control of the Shire. He established a new set of draconian Rules of his own and posted copies of them across the Shire. These new Rules were enforced rigorously by the Shirriffs, whose numbers were greatly expanded for the purpose.

Lotho's new Rules are not explained in detail, but they seem to have been largely concerned with rationing food and other supplies (which were gathered by the Chief's Men and then redistributed). Rule 4 is the only one described specifically, and that Rule was concerned with how much firewood could be used at one time. The Shirriff who arrested Frodo and his companions provided a useful list of other activities that lay outside the Rules: 'Gate-breaking, and Tearing up of Rules, and Assaulting Gate-keepers, and Trespassing, and Sleeping in Shire-buildings without Leave, and Bribing Guards with Food.’1

Through the actions of the returning Travellers, Lotho's regime was overthrown, and Saruman (who was revealed as its actual instigator) was slain. After this the Hobbits of the Shire gradually returned to their old lives, and the Rules are never mentioned again. After this time the Shire-hobbits presumably reverted to the original just Rules they had inherited from the ancient Dúnedain of Arnor.


Notes

1

The Return of the King VI 8, The Scouring of the Shire

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About this entry:

  • Updated 8 January 2021
  • Updates planned: 1

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