“Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate
And though I oft have passed them by
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.”
Of all the places in LOTRO nowhere speaks about Middle-earth to us more than the beautiful Shire. When you arrive here for the first time, you know exactly where you are even if you have only a vague knowledge of the geography of Eriador. In designing this beautiful land the game developers, in the true spirit of Tolkien have have maintained the rustic feel with the farmlands, orchards and perfect details as farm buildings, waterwheels and windmills. However the Shire we know and love so much in game is not the complete land as it was created by J.R.R. Tolkien . If you compare the complete map of the Shire with the one we are using in game you will discover a whole region is missing - I am talking of course about the South Farthing. Currently in LOTRO, the Shire has a gate not far from the homestead entrance, that separates the “South Farthing”. Beyond this should lie more villages like Hardbottle, Sackville and Longbottom...now my question is this : will we ever see this part of our beloved Shire that is missing?
There are some some little clues here and there that tell us that this area maybe was (is?) still a possible new addition to the game. I know for a fact that many LOTRO players ( especially hobbits, of course ) would absolutely love to see more of their land. There is a 'secret gate' in Michel Delving, just by the stables, that has been locked since the launch of the game seven years ago. There are 'legends' among us hobbits , tales of 'secret ares and buildings seen to the south of our homesteads, in the distance. I did find an old discussion on the official forums with some great suggestions on the implementation of the South Farthing. I also went to read all about this region and even made a little 'customized' map to show where the locations of the new villages are...more or less, of course.
On the map ( marked in red ) are the new villages, and I even included two new locations in the West Farthing, Greenholm and Gamwich. The Shire in LOTRO remains the most popular area in game, so true to Tolkien's work and ideals, it captures the essence of his writings, so the addition of the 'missing' South Farthing could be like a nice cherry on the cake to all those, like me, that adores this fertile and rural land, hobbits, and of course, the game. What follows now is a brief description of the geography of the South Farthing and its villages , just to give you an idea what we could expect to see if this dream was to become reality.
The Shire (as envisaged by Tolkien ) measures 120 miles across from the Far Downs on its western edge to the Brandywine River on the east. From north to south it stretches about 150 miles, from the northern moors to the southern marshes. The Shire is a rich, pastoral land. Much of it is devoted to growing excellent crops. The marshlands along the Brandywine, known as the Marish, are ideal for the cultivation of mushrooms, a Hobbit delicacy, as farmer Maggot will surely tell you. The warm, sheltered climate of the South Farthing particularly around Longbottom, is perfect to growing pipe-weed. And while barley, used for brewing beer , is grown in the North Farthing , the vineyards in the South Farthing where grapes grows in abundance are ideal for making wine such as the popular Old Winyards.
LONGBOTTOM : Longbottom is the home of the Hornblowers family. The village and its surroundings are known to be sheltered from the elements, probably by the valley's sides. The village sheltered aspect, and the relatively warm temperate climate of the South Farthing, makes the region around Longbottom ideal for growing of pipe-weed. Longbottom is therefore an important center of a thriving industry. Longbottom Leaf , introduced by Tobold Hornblower (also known as 'Old Toby' ) remains one of the most famous varieties of the weed in Middle-earth.
PINCUP : Pincup is a tiny village of the Shire. It lay in the northern corner of the South Farthing, some miles south of the Three-Farthing Stone, in that hilly part of the Shire known as the Green Hill Country. It seems to have been built in the southern slopes of the Green Hills, and was reached by only a single road, apparently leading from the larger settlement of Longbottom to the south.
WILLOWBOTTOM : Willowbottom is an other small village near Woody End in the East Farthing , near the borders of the South Farthing of the Shire. It stands on the banks of the stream called Thistle Brook, just above the place where that stream flowed into the River Shirebourn. It is not a famous place, but it surely has a lovely name.
HARDBOTTLE : Very little is known about Harbottle other than it been a very small hamlet in the South Farthing, west of Longbottom and north of Sackville. In game it would be roughly placed near the hemesteads.
SACKVILLE : Home village of the famous Sackville family, and for little else really. It consist in very few very lovely homes surrounded by farm fields and vineyards. Little is known about the Sackville family other than that they were originally a wealthy family of hobbits.
WITHWELL: Whitwell is located on the Green Hills, at a walking distance from Tuckborough. Thain Paladin Took II, owns a farm there. The folk here believe themselves to be the 'Royal Welcomers', boasting that their village date back all the way to when the Kings came to take their routine checks on roads, bridges and on the doings of the Shire, before Arnor's fall
GAMWICH : A small village in the West Farthing, home of the Gamwich/Gamgee family. This small settlement is famous for rope-making. In game it would be roughly located to the north-west of Little Delving.
GREENHOLM : This is the last hobbit village to the west, on the Far Downs, which lay on the western borders of the Shire. It was the home of the Fairbairn Family whom will eventually marry into the Gamgee family.
If we have a look at the LOTRO map of Eriador we will discover that a big chunk of the map , just below the Shire is left blank, that is where the South Farthing is supposed to be. Also missing from the game are The Blue Moutains to the south-west, and of course Mithlond and The Grey Havens. LOTRO's Middle-earth is not exactly like the Middle-earth Tolkien described because for gaming purposes the game developers had to -re-scale it, making it smaller and more easy to travel across by players, but it would be lovely if it was complete. It is my personal opinion as a hobbit ( yes I am bias ) that the South Farthing would be a fantastic addition to the game that would 'refresh' the experience for many LOTRO players that may have drifted away a bit. I would be happily give my time for free to help out Turbine with the design of this area. LOTRO player base is still formed at its core by loyal and devoted Tolkien fans that would happily spend all their spare time in beautiful Middle-earth, eating pies, growing crops, and generally be the happiest bunch of hobbits you can ever imagine.
Muffin and tea, anyone...?