Shirrifs were the sole law enforcement officials in the Shire and the main branch of the Watch. Since in the Shire law ("The Rules") was based solely on common sense and ancient tradition, it was not broken. It was the Shirriffs' job to protect the Shire from various beasts more than anything. There were a total of twelve in all of the Shire, three in each Farthing, and they were distinguished from "civilians" by a feather worn in their caps.
The number of Shirriffs was increased when Saruman had infiltrated the Shire, and had taken control, with the help of ruffians like Bill Ferny. Saruman had increased the number to suppress any revolts, and arrest anybody who broke the rules. They were assigned in companies such as the First Eastfarthing Troop, though that was not enough to prevent Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, and others from liberating the Shire-folk.
Portrayal in adaptations
- The voice of an unnamed First Eastfarthing Troop shirriff is provided by Viliam Polónyi. The shirriff appears in the final episode of the series, in the part of the storyline that adapts the Scouring of the Shire.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, "Prologue", "Of the Ordering of the Shire"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Scouring of the Shire"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 763