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The Men of Bree were brown-haired, broad, and rather short, cheerful and independent: they belonged to nobody but themselves; but they were more friendly and familiar with Hobbits, Dwarves, Elves, and other inhabitants of the world about them than was (or is) usual with Big People.

The Lord of the Rings | At The Sign of the Prancing Pony

The above passage states that the men of Bree are friendly with Elves. Is this a throwaway statement saying that the men of Bree do not hate outsiders and are generally friendly with strangers, or is there any evidence of Elves actually visiting Bree?

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The Elves who travel the East Road - particularly those from Rivendell.

The traditional business of Bree was catering to travellers. Bree is at the crossroads of two ancient highways; the East Road from the Grey Havens to Rivendell, and the North Road from the Gap of Rohan to Fornost (the one-time capital of the North Kingdom).

For Bree stood at an old meeting of ways; another ancient road crossed the East Road just outside the dike at the western end of the village, and in former days Men and other folk of various sorts had travelled much on it. Strange as News from Bree was still a saying in the Eastfarthing, descending from those days, when news from North, South, and East could be heard in the inn, and when the Shire-hobbits used to go more often to hear it. But the Northern Lands had long been desolate, and the North Road was now seldom used: it was grass-grown, and the Bree-folk called it the Greenway.

The Inn of Bree was still there, however, and the innkeeper was an important person. His house was a meeting place for the idle, talkative, and inquisitive among the inhabitants, large and small, of the four villages; and a resort of Rangers and other wanderers, and for such travellers (mostly dwarves) as still journeyed on the East Road, to and from the Mountains.

The Lord of the Rings Book 1, Chapter 9: At the Sign of the Prancing Pony

As the quote explains, this business had declined considerably by the time of books, but the Prancing Pony still seems to welcome the few who still travel the highways. Elves who are travelling between Rivendell and the Grey Havens would travel through Bree and it seems quite reasonable that they would interact with the men of Bree who invite the business of travellers. That seems reason enough for the men of Bree to be said to be familiar with Elves.

The same may not apply to other settlements (such as the Shire) along the East Road where the inhabitants are not interested in catering to travellers. It is likely that the Elves would avoid interacting with the inhabitants of those areas.

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    I'd just add that the Shire was specifically isolationist - it employed the Bounders, whose job was precisely to go around the borders of the Shire and make sure nobody got in. – Matt Gutting Jan 27 '17 at 19:27
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    @MattGutting I would go along with that to some extent. I don't think the job of the Bounders was to make sure that nobody got in (remember how shocked Merry was when the bridge was closed when he returned to the Shire). I think their job was to keep potential enemies out (remember that the Shire had been attacked before). – Blackwood Jan 27 '17 at 19:33
  • "A rather larger body, varying at need, was employed to 'beat the bounds', and to see that Outsiders of any kind, great or small, did not make themselves a nuisance." Not sure exactly how that needs to be interpreted. – Matt Gutting Jan 27 '17 at 21:07
  • @MattGutting Agree. They were there to make sure that Outsiders didn't make a nuisance of themselves. – Blackwood Jan 27 '17 at 21:20
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    @MattGutting Perhaps I misunderstood your comment. The Bounders may or may not have considered Elves to be a nuisance. Either way, they failed to keep Elves from entering the Shire. The Elves would have been aware of the Shire resident's desire to avoid contact with the outside world and would have avoided contact in any case. – Blackwood Jan 27 '17 at 21:26
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Elves were frequently travelling from Rivendell to the Gray Havens - a journey that has Bree pretty much as the halfway point in a straight line.

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In Chapter 3 of Lord of the Rings, Frodo and company encounter Gildor Inglorion and his band of elves, returning back to Rivendell after a pilgrimage. It is very likely that these elves would pass through Bree on both directions of their journey.

In "Three is Company" (chapter three of The Fellowship of the Ring), Gildor's company of elves had come from Rivendell and were returning home after a pilgrimage to the Emyn Beraid when they met Frodo. Wikipedia

  • Your straight line from Rivendell to the Grey Havens also passes through Hobbiton, and yet the hobbits of the Shire were certainly not familiar with elves (Frodo's meeting with elves on the road being exceptional rather than routine). So the geography alone can't explain it. – Mike Scott Jan 27 '17 at 12:50
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    If they didn't pass through Hobbiton, they were going pretty close. Frodo's encounter with Gildor was barely outside, being before they crossed the Brandywine Bridge. – razethestray Jan 27 '17 at 12:55
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    @razethestray they generally hide from Hobbits though on that journey – user46509 Jan 27 '17 at 12:57
  • @OrangeDog - thanks for the edit :) – razethestray Jan 27 '17 at 13:46
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    @MikeScott or they take the road south from Bree and go around the Shire. – OrangeDog Jan 27 '17 at 14:04

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