Myths & Tales: J.R.R Tolkien wrote about Shire in his fantasy novel ‘The Hobbit’

Nice to see Mulanje Mountain and the Shire River in the news with various websites including myths, tales and legends.

One legend surrounds one of my favourites and great author J. R. R. Tolkien who had a good imagination and was a very creative and talented writer.

According to the unofficial Wikipedia, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on 3 January 1892 in Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State (now Free State Province in South Africa) to Arthur Reuel Tolkien (1857–1896), an English bank manager, and his wife Mabel, née Suffield (1870–1904).

“The couple had left England when Arthur was promoted to head the Bloemfontein office of the British bank for which he worked. Tolkien had one sibling, his younger brother, Hilary Arthur Reuel, who was born on 17 February 1894…”

According to some South Africans on Twitter, there is a place in South Africa called Hobbitin “that inspired the landscape of his books.”

But it’s not confirmed if this really did influence Tolkien in his great books.  While there is a Hobbitin in South Africa, there is also a word Malawi shares with England and that is Shire.

The Shire is a region of J. R. R. Tolkien‘s fictional Middle-earth, described in The Lord of the Rings and other works writes the unofficial Wikipedia.

“The Shire refers to an area settled exclusively by Hobbits and largely removed from the goings-on in the rest of Middle-earth. It is located in the northwest of the continent, in the large region of Eriador and the Kingdom of Arnor.

“Its name in Westron was Sûza “Shire” or Sûzat “The Shire”. Its name in Sindarin was i Drann,” partly reads the unofficial Wikipedia on

The original parts of the Shire were subdivided into four Farthings (“fourth-ings” or “quarterings”) The Three-Farthing Stone marked the tripoint where the borders of the Eastfarthing, Westfarthing and Southfarthing of the Shire came together, by the East Road. (Iceland was traditionally also divided in Farthings, or “fourth parts”, as the Shire is.) It is claimed that the Three-Farthing Stone was inspired by the Four shire stone.”

The same website also explains that the name “Shire” harks back to T. H. White‘s book England Have My Bones, where White says that he lives in “the Shire” (with a capital “s”).

“The industrialisation of the Shire was based on Tolkien’s childhood experience of the blighting of the Worcestershire countryside by the spread of heavy industry. The rebellion of the Hobbits and the restoration of the pre-industrial Shire may be interpreted as a prescription of voluntary simplicity as a remedy to the problems of modern society.”
While in Malawi, the Shire River flows from the south end of the lake and joins the Zambezi River 400 kilometers (249 mi) farther south in Mozambique.

“West of the Great Rift Valley, the land forms high plateaus, generally between 900 and 1,200 meters (2,953 and 3,937 ft) above sea level. In the north, the Nyika Uplands rise as high as 2,600 meters (8,530 ft). The area to the west of the lake in northern and central Malawi has been categorised by the World Wildlife Fund as part of the Central Zambezian Miombo woodlands ecoregion.

“South of the lake lie the Shire Highlands, with an elevation of 600–1,600 meters (1,969–5,249 ft), rising to elevations of 2,130 and 3,002 meters (6,988 and 9,849 ft) at the Zomba Plateau and Mulanje Massif respectively. In the extreme south, the elevation is only 60–90 meters (197–295 ft) above sea level,” partly reads the unofficial Wikipedia.

In Malawi some websites also explain how some “recent legend suggests, that Tolkien climbed Mulanje Mountain before he wrote the Hobbit and based several aspects of the book on the trip, going so far as to name the homeland of its protagonists after nearby Shire River.

“Other authors inspired by the mountain were Rider Haggard who took inspiration from Mulanje Mountain for his book  ‘People of the Mists’ and Laurens Van der Post with ‘Venture to the Interior’,” partly reads the below link also quoting my blog about Sapitwa and the 4 winds as “helpful internet sources,” reads

However, in a blog on the Washington Post, Henry Wismayer asked if “The Hobbit” was influenced by Mulanje Mountain and weeks later, an “email from Adam Tolkien, the author’s grandson, blows the myth away. “JRR Tolkien travelled very little outside of the British Isles,” I read in dismay. “He most definitely never travelled outside of Europe.”

And so, it seems, the rumor was a fallacy after all — a harmless lie invented by who-knows-who and who-knows-when. A fiction: No doubt Tolkien would have approved of that.

Does it matter? Not really. Mulanje has a magic all its own.” And all this blog can say is yes Mulanje Mountain has a magic all its own with its majestic Sapitwa Peak and no harm in the myths, tales and legends and fiction stories of great writers like Tolkien!

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