The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Written in the early Fourth Age1
The library at Bucklebury in the Buckland2
Written at Brandy Hall at Bucklebury in the Buckland


About this entry:

  • Updated 30 August 2023
  • This entry is complete

‘Herblore of the Shire

Merry’s treatise on the Shire’s plant-life

" Wizard that I knew took up the art long ago, and became as skilful in it as in all other things that he put his mind to."
Words of Meriadoc Brandybuck
from the introduction to Herblore of the Shire
quoted in the Prologue to The Lord of the Rings

After his return from the War of the Ring, Merry Brandybuck became well known among the Shire-hobbits for his writing. Among his works were discussions of calendars and place-names, but perhaps most important was his Herblore of the Shire. In that book, he discussed the origins and history of the Hobbits' 'art' of smoking Pipe-weed, tracing it back through Tobold Hornblower (who introduced it to the Shire) to its ultimate origins in Middle-earth, in the lands along the southern banks of the Anduin. In the Shire, in fact, Merry's reputation rested more on books like Herblore of the Shire than on his adventures in the distant War.



We don't have a specific date for the composition of the Herblore of the Shire, but in its introduction (quoted in The Lord of the Rings Prologue, 2 Concerning Pipe-weed) Merry displays knowledge that he could not have had before the War of the Ring (for instance, a familiarity with the Prancing Pony). He also mentions that he has made 'many journeys south', which suggests that the book was written some years, and possibly decades, after the War. At the very latest the book was produced by about IV 70, when Merry and Pippin set out for their final journey from the Shire.

It is curious to note that, during the War of the Ring itself, Merry is recorded as describing the history of pipe-weed to King Théoden, and he uses almost exactly the same wording as would appear in the Herblore of the Shire years later. So, while the book itself must have been produced long after the War, it seems clear that its author was pondering some of its contents at least as early as the year III 3019.


We know that there was at least one copy held in the library at Brandy Hall (and since this was its author's home, that copy would presumably have been the original). We're told that the book was well known by the Shire-hobbits, implying that multiple copies were made. By the end of the first century of the Fourth Age there were several large collections of books in the Shire (as well as the library at Brandy Hall, those at Undertowers and Great Smials are also noted) and it seems fair to assume that these would also have held their own copies of the Herblore of the Shire.


About this entry:

  • Updated 30 August 2023
  • This entry is complete

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