I decided to stay in Bree for a couple of days before setting off again. Bree is such an important town that I’m sure I will return here many times so it seemed like a good idea to explore.
My first impression of Bree had been of utter amazement, never did I see so many people and so many buildings. To be honest, it was a bit overwhelming and I was completely lost. Luckily, a kind man at the western gate directed me to The Prancing Pony, and what a splendin Inn it was too. I was reminded of the verse I had heard in The Shire, I believe written by Bilbo Baggins:
There is an inn, a merry old inn
beneath an old grey hill,
And there they brew a beer so brown
That the Man in the Moon himself came down
one night to drink his fill…
Bree is an ancient settlement. The Men of Bree claimed to be the descendants of the first Men to inhabit western Middle-earth. It is not known exactly when Bree was founded, but their legends said that “when the Kings returned again over the Great Sea they had found the Bree-men still there.” This may refer to the first voyages of the Numenoreans to Middle-earth and their meeting with the Men of Eriador around the year 600 of the Second Age.
Numenor was destroyed in 3319 of the Second Age and the survivors led by Elendil came to Middle-earth and founded the kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor in 3320. At that time, Bree became part of the North-kingdom of Arnor.
The village of Bree became a thriving community as travelers passed through on the main roads. The first Hobbits came to Bree around 1300 of the Third Age. It was from Bree in the year 1601 that Marcho and Blanco led a group of Hobbits west to found the Shire.
The area also encompasses the villages of Archet, Combe, and Staddle. Bree was on the western side of Bree-hill near the southwestern corner of the Chetwood. There were about 100 stone houses by the hillside where Men lived; Hobbits tended to live farther up the slopes.
A deep dike and a hedge formed a semi-circular fence enclosing the village against the hill. There were gates on the western and southern sides of the hedge. The gates were closed and guarded at night, though the traffic on the roads had lessened over the years.
The Prancing Pony, run by Barliman Butterbur was known as a place where one could hear news from the outside world. “Strange as News from Bree” was an old saying in the Shire.
By the autumn of 3018, Men from the South had started arriving in Bree looking for a new place to live. They were mainly ruffians and thieves, and soon the regular Bree-folk were afraid to leave their homes. Early in the New Year of 3019 there was a fight in which five Bree-folk were killed – three Men and two Hobbits. After that the ruffians were expelled from Bree, but they still roamed the woods and the roads. There were also wolves and other nameless things abroad.
I can attest to the unsavory nature of parts of Bree. I was taken on a tour of the town by the Mayor and as we passed through the Mud Gate that leads to Beggar’s Alley we were attacked by a robber. The Mayor was outraged and asked me to alert his Chief Constable and to lend what aid I could.
That night as I relaxed in the Pony, some of the regulars were telling me that the ruffians often used the rooftops of Bree to get about unnoticed. As a result, the Mayor had blocked access to the rooftops. This intrigued me and I resolved to see if access could still be gained. To be honest with you, Bree smells a great deal especially to a hobbit from a tiny village beside the water. The thought of catching some clean air above the town was tempting.
Well, to cut the story short, I did find a way up…and what a view greeted me. I made some sketches and you can see these below.
So now, there is work to do. I have a choice between helping the citizens of Bree deal with the ruffians of the area or of going to see Lennglin as I’d promised Strider. I think I will sleep on it and decide in the morning after a hearty breakfast!