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The Shire.
The Shire. Photo: Bartlomiej Jarecki - Fotolia

The Shire

The Hobbits live in the Shire, which is confusingly similar to the area of England where Tolkien grew up. The shire is an ancient division of the country into judicial districts. This type of division is known from the Nordic countries and Britain. In Britain, each shire was controlled by a sheriff and could be divided into smaller units called “hundreds”. In Denmark, the corresponding “herred” or district was an administrative unit which, like the English shire, probably originates from the 11th century. They served as their own jurisdictions with the court at the District Assembly. 

During the Middle Ages, areas emerged which did not come under the district, i.e. boroughs and the judicial district, which formed their own jurisdictions. With the introduction of Christianity, the country was further divided into parishes. However, in Denmark, the “herred” served as a jurisdiction right up until the 1950s, and is thus also a description of the old and existing, against the new and impulses from the outside. The safety of home in a big bad world.