Tolkien Gateway

Bree

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The White Council - Bree Street View.jpg
Bree
Physical Description
TypeTown
LocationEriador, on Bree-hill
RealmsArnor, Cardolan, Independant
InhabitantsMen, Hobbits
General Information
EtymologyCeltic, "hill"

Bree was a village in Middle-earth, east of The Shire and south of Fornost Erain.

Contents

History

Bree was settled in the early Third Age, in the realm Cardolan. Though the Princes of Cardolan claimed it, Bree continued to thrive without any central authority or government for many centuries. Bree was the most westerly settlement of men in all Middle-earth by the time of the War of the Ring.

Bree is the place where seemingly by accident, Gandalf and Thorin Oakenshield met on March 15, T.A. 2941. They were both thinking about the same problem: the Dragon Smaug at the Lonely Mountain. The meeting led to the undertaking of the Quest of Erebor, which resulted in the death of Smaug and the finding of the One Ring by Bilbo Baggins.

In the night between the 29th and the 30th of September, T.A. 3018, Frodo Baggins met Strider at the largest inn in Bree, The Prancing Pony, owned by Barliman Butterbur. The inn was raided by servants of the Ringwraiths, forcing the retreat of Frodo and his companions.

Bree was raided by ruffians during the War of the Ring, leaving several Men and Hobbits dead. When Frodo and his companions returned in October 28, T.A. 3019, returned to Bree, it seemed like most of the mess was cleared up.

Surroundings

Directly west of Bree were the Barrow-downs and the Old Forest. Bree was the chief village of Bree-land, a small wooded region near the intersection of the main north-south and east-west routes through Eriador. Bree-land was the only part of Middle-earth where Men and hobbits dwelt side by side.

Bree was on the south-western side of Bree-hill, and there were three villages in Bree-land in addition to Bree proper.

  • Staddle was populated primarily by hobbits who made a living from light agriculture, of pipeweed, primarily. Staddle was on the south-eastern side of Breehill, sitting south of Combe and Archet. It was the only of the villages (other than Bree itself) visible from the Great East Road.
  • Combe was populated primarily by Men, with some hobbits, all of whom made a living from agriculture. Combe was situated on the borders of the Chetwood and on the edge of Breehill, between the villages of Archet and Staddle.
  • Archet was the furthest north. Located in the Chetwood, it was populated primarily by Men.

Etymology

The name Bree means "hill" in Brythonic, referring to the fact that the village of Bree and the surrounding Bree-lands were centered around a large hill. According to Tom Shippey, Tolkien was inspired by the actual town of Brill.

Portrayal in adaptations

With the absense of Tom Bombadil and the Barrow-downs in most adaptations, the distance between Bree and the Shire seems shorter than it really was.

1978: Ralph Bakshi's The Lord of the Rings:

After leaving the Old Forest, the Hobbits appear in the Prancing Pony without delay or introduction. Merry does not go out for a stroll, and the rooms were raided by Ringwraiths rather than servants of them.

1981: BBC Radio's The Lord of the Rings:

Here too, Bombadil and the Barrow-downs were omitted. After taking a short walk through Bree, the hobbits enter the Pony. Merry goes out for a walk, and is found by Bob the ostler. Once again, it is the Ringwraiths rather than servants of them who raid the Pony.

2001: Vivendi's The Fellowship of the Ring:

The role of Bree is greatly expanded, due to the interactiveness of the medium. It is the place where the Hobbits meet Strider, and the player shifts perspective. Strider searches the streets of Bree for Merry and materials to make decoys for (once again) the Ringwraiths to slash, while the streets are crowded with robbers and wolves.

2001: Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring

Frodo and his companions arrive at Bree almost immediately after the scene in which they leave the Shire. All are present in Strider's room when the Ringwraiths crash the gate, trample the gatekeeper, and raid the Prancing Pony.

See also