When you read The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien, it is easy to find yourself wanting to visit The Shire, the homeland in Middle Earth of the hobbits.
Or maybe you’ve seen The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey within the last few months and enjoyed the bucolic charm of Bilbo Baggins’s neighborhood (shot in New Zealand).
So persuasive is Tolkien’s description of this peaceful, verdant region, with its hobbit-houses embedded in hillsides, its winding roads and paths, its farms, forests, and rivers, that anyone who has ever yearned to return to a simpler way of life in harmony with nature finds himself or herself wishing that The Shire actually existed somewhere on earth. You’d like to move there. And once established in The Shire, who would pass up the opportunity to enjoy two breakfasts every day, just like the hobbits? Not to mention living within a community of fun-loving, like-minded folk…
Alas, if a place like The Shire does exist in our world, it has yet to be found. (Maybe Bhutan comes close.)
The long-term popularity of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit — both books and movies — points to the deep-seated tendency on the part of humans to enjoy fantasy. There is something magical about using one’s imagination to conjure a world that is just the way you’d like it, inhabited by interesting creatures, filled with the opportunity for adventure, offering the companionship of good friends.
It seems that people require fantasy. It’s an instinct that keeps us exploring beyond the edges of maps.
If you find yourself inspired by fantasy (especially if you’re a fan of Tolkien) and you like maps, then a good way to fuel your ongoing imaginative adventures and remind yourself not to live too exclusively in the mundane world is to have a map of The Shire up on your wall.
Every time you look at it, you will be reminded, if only for awhile, of a more charming and exotic world.
And who wouldn’t want that?
Here’s a map of The Shire:
You can get this map of The Shire from Zazzle. It is a large, poster-sized map, printed on glossy paper (you can also opt for matte or archival heavyweight paper, or premium canvas). It was issued to coincide with the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
You can also find a movie prop replica map of The Shire available at Newegg. This map is made by Weta, the official fabrication and design company that did all the work on creatures, special make-up effects and prosthetics, miniatures, armor, and weaponry for the LOTR movies and The Hobbit. The Weta map from Newegg measures 21″ by 29″ and is printed in New Zealand on high-quality Italian Marina Conchiglia parchment paper. It will make a fine addition to your collection of Lord of the Rings memorabilia.
From seeing the movies, or reading The Hobbit and Tolkien’s other books, you might figure that The Shire is not that big a region — maybe about the size of New York City in extent. But The Shire is actually much larger. In an essay about The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien described The Shire as having an area of 18,000 square miles. By comparison, New York City covers about 300 square miles.
That’s an area big enough to allow for an interesting map, and an area you can savor imaginatively over time. Another attractive feature of these maps is that they are annotated by Bilbo himself — and he would certainly know interesting areas to point out. This is a fun way to explore The Shire beyond the book or movie.
By the way, if you’re wondering when you can get the Blu-ray version of the movie The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, you can pre-order it now from CD Universe. It is scheduled for release on March 19, 2013.
Keep your imagination lively!