Bree (Middle-earth)

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Bree is a fictional village in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth, east of the Shire and south of Fornost Erain. It is thought to have been inspired by the Buckinghamshire village of Brill, which Tolkien visited regularly in his early years at Oxford. (Supposedly Tolkien also lived in Brill for a short while.)[1]

Bree was a very ancient settlement of men in Eriador, long established by the time of the Third Age of Middle-earth. After the collapse of the kingdom of Arthedain, Bree continued to thrive without any central authority or government for many centuries. As Bree lies at the meeting of two large roadways, the Great East Road and the (now disused) Greenway, it had for centuries been a centre of trade and a stopping place for travellers, though as Arnor in the north waned Bree's prosperity and size declined.

Tolkien wrote of two different origins for the people of Bree. One was that Bree had been founded and populated by men of the Edain who did not reach Beleriand in the first age, remaining east of the mountains in Eriador. The other that they were stemming instead from the same stock as the Dunlendings.[2] These two origins are not completely contradictory as the Dunlendings were descended from the Haladin who were counted the second house of the Edain.

By the time of the War of the Ring Bree was the westernmost settlement of men in Middle-earth, and there was no other settlement of men within a hundred leagues of the Shire.[3] A day's ride east along the road lay The Forsaken Inn, according to Aragorn, although nothing more is known of it.

Gandalf and Thorin Oakenshield met by coincidence in Bree, setting in motion the events recounted in The Hobbit. Both were interested in the dragon Smaug at the Lonely Mountain. Together they planned the Quest of Erebor, which resulted in the death of Smaug and the finding of the One Ring by Bilbo Baggins.

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