“Hobbits are an unobtrusive but very ancient people, more numerous formerly than they are today; for they love peace and quiet and good tilled earth: a well-ordered and well-farmed countryside was their favourite haunt….As for the Hobbits of the Shire, with whom these tales are concerned, in the days of their peace and prosperity they were a merry folk.”
From the first time I read The Lord of the Rings, there has been a part of me that would love to run off to the Shire for an extended stay. If Frodo wanted to follow after Bilbo, and Sam wanted to go see the Elves, I have wanted to see those people Gandalf called “amazing creatures” and the land they were so happy to call home.
The place in the Shire I would visit is the Green Hill Country, just south of the Three-Farthing Stone. It was an area of rolling hills, at its western end fairly open and populated by the Tooks, while in the east it became a land of streams and woodlands. In the brief glimpse of it we see in the chapter “Three Is Company,” the Green Hill Country includes good paths for hiking and sheltered fir-woods for resting, with enough streams to refresh one’s bottle. There is even a chance of encountering Elves, who sometimes wander through the Woody End. It is close enough to Hobbiton and Bywater to offer a pleasant excursion, yet still return home to feather beds at the end of a tiring hike. The Green Hill Country is the perfect landscape to explore and enjoy in the Shire.
Yet it is not a place I would want to explore alone. I like to share hikes and walks, and I can think of no hobbit I’d rather experience that with than Samwise Gamgee. For one thing, Sam knew the geography near Hobbiton quite well, including portions of the Green Hill Country. Even more than that, Sam is the hobbit in all of Tolkien’s works that I would most enjoy being around. He is a down-to-earth hobbit, aware of and curious about the wider world but content with the simple pleasures of life: a garden of his own, a drink with friends at the Green Dragon, and a wonderful family to return to each night. Sam’s loyalty and bravery combine with his humility and joviality to make him an excellent companion. His journey with Frodo deepened his plain hobbit sense into wisdom. Traversing the Green Hills with him could include conversation on the great events of the age, but he would be just as happy discussing the prospects of the harvest or the doings of his relations across the Shire. Either way, it would be a gratifying experience in beautiful surroundings. I would have a good companion for hiking through the soul-stirring heart of the Shire. What more could I want?
Adam is a pastor in Appomattox, VA, where he lives with his wife and two small children. In addition to his deep and abiding affection for the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, he is a WWII living historian and a voracious reader. Adam can be found on Twitter as @hokiepastor.