This week we’re taking a quick look into the village of Bree which is one of my favorite places in Middle-Earth. When I was a boy I used to day dream of living in Bree as I could just picture how fascinating of a place it was. Though we don’t get to see a lot about Bree we do have some historical facts that Tolkien wrote about this wonderful place.
The name Bree means “hill” according to Tolkien, referring to the fact that the village of Bree and the surrounding Bree-land were clustered around a large hill.
Bree sets East of The Shire and just South of Fornost if you’re looking at the map of Middle-Earth and was a settlement of men in Eriador which was established by the time of the third age. After the collapse of the Arthedain kingdom, Bree thrived but it did so without any government for some time. Bree lies at the center of two major roadways, one being the Great East Road and the other the Greenway. It was a place of trade for goods and a quick shelter to many travelers.
One interesting real life fact is JRR Tolkien base Bree off of the Buckinghamshire village of Brill which Tolkien visited quite often while teaching at Oxford. It is also said that Tolkien lived in Brill for a short period of time as well.
Tolkien wrote of two different origins for the people of Bree. One was that Bree had been founded and populated by men of the Edain who did not reach Beleriand in the first age. The other origin was that the men who founded Bree came from the same line as the Dunlendings did. Though these two histories of men are not completely contradictory as the Dunlendings were descended from Haladin who were counted the second house of the Edain.
Gandalf and Thorin Oakenshield met in Bree on pure happenstance which started the events we read about in The Hobbit and the quest of Erebor. This event started the finding of the One Ring by Bilbo Baggins and by the time of the War of the Ring Bree was the westernmost settlement of men in Middle-Earth, and there was no other settlement of men within a hundred leagues of the Shire.
- Bree which was the largest settlement. Mainly populated by men but you also had hobbits who worked at the Prancing Pony Inn which had special hobbit-sized rooms. A lot of commercial trade happened within Bree at its peak and on occasion you would have some adventurous hobbits make their way from The Shire and visit Bree.
- Staddle was mainly a hobbit population and made their living off of farming. This land produced such things as fruits, vegetables, and even pipe-weed. Staddle was on the south-eastern side of Bree-hill.
- Combe was populated primarily by men, with some hobbits, and again this was another farming community. Combe was right at the borders of Chetwood if you were looking at the map. .
- Archet was the furthest north. Located in the Chetwood, it was populated by men.