Bree was an ancient settlement of men in Eriador by the time of the Third Age of Middle-earth, but after the collapse of the Kingdom of Cardolan, which had claimed it, Bree continued to thrive without any central authority or government for many centuries. Bree had become the most westerly settlement of men in all Middle-earth by the time of the War of the Ring, and became one of only three or four inhabited settlements in all of Eriador. At the time of The Lord of the Rings, Bree-land was the only part of Middle-earth where Men and Hobbits dwelt side by side in peace. Being located on the most important crossroads in the north, on the crossing of the Great East Road and the Greenway, travellers would pass through Bree. The Prancing Pony is equipped with rooms, but the local people do not seem accustomed to many travellers. Hobbits from the Shire would also occasionally visit Bree. The Rangers are also familiar to Bree-folk, though they are suspicious of them. The dwarves dwelling in Blue Mountains (Ered Luin), such as Thorin Oakenshield, would be likely to pass through. Gandalf is a frequent passer-by as well. Thus Bree is the place where, seemingly by accident, Gandalf and Thorin once met. They were both thinking about the same problem: the dragon Smaug at the Lonely Mountain (Erebor). The meeting led to the undertaking of the Quest of Erebor, which resulted in the death of Smaug and the finding of the One Ring by Bilbo Baggins.
During the War of the Ring, a day's ride east from the village along the road lay The Forsaken Inn, according to Aragorn, although nothing else is known of that place. Directly west of Bree were the Barrow-downs and the Old Forest. Bree was the chief village of Bree-land, a small wooded region near the intersection of the main north-south and east-west routes through Eriador.
The name Bree means hill, according to Tolkien, referring to the fact that the village of Bree and the surrounding Breelands were centered around a large hill. There were three villages in Bree-land in addition to Bree proper.
It was not unheard of for Hobbits of the Shire to visit to Bree. This was especially true of the more adventurous Brandybucks, who lived just over a day's journey from the place. People there could recognize Shire-folk from their accent.
Despite raising some of their own "leaf," the Bree-folk very much enjoyed Shire Pipe-weed from the Southfarthing.
In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo Baggins met Strider (Aragorn) at the largest inn in Bree, The Prancing Pony, owned by Barliman Butterbur. Several of the Ringwraiths attempted to kill the hobbits, but Strider anticipated this, and the hobbits were in a front parlor with him when the Black Riders struck. Frodo and his companions later traveled through Bree on their way home and found things rather worse off there.
Portrayals in AdaptationsEdit
In Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Bree is seen during a flashback, when Thorin Oakenshield and Gandalf discuss the dragon Smaug and Thorin's missing father, Thrain. In the Prancing Pony, Gandalf urges Thorin to take back Erebor, and tells Thorin they're going to need a burgular.
In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo and his companions arrive at Bree almost immediately after the scene in which they leave the Shire, giving the impression (perhaps unintentionally) that the two are much closer together than described by Tolkien. From the Brandywine Bridge, it is roughly a three-day walk to Bree.
Bree is also depicted in video games such as The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game), The Lord of the Rings: War in the North and The Lord of the Rings Online, where it serves as one of the main hub for new players.
EtymologyEditThe name Bree means "hill" in Brythonic, a Celtic language, referring to the fact that the village of Bree and the surrounding Bree-lands were centered around a large hill. According to Tom Shippey, Tolkien was inspired by the actual town of Brill