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As the books call it, Elrond's house is the Last Homely House east of the Sea. But if Rivendell is the last homely house, what are the other homely houses east of the sea? Or does Rivendell count as the last and the first because it is the only one? This question has bugged me for a while, and I would be very happy if there is a reliably-based answer to it (i.e. not something that the movies say).

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    I thought it meant "the last (in this case, the furthest east) place where people live in a civilized manner without needing armies because of constant attacks from barbarians". Whether or not that was literally true, that's what I thought it meant.
    – nebogipfel
    Oct 28, 2021 at 21:37
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    I also think of this as "Winnie-the-Pooh" capitalization, rather than a proper name that anyone other than Gandalf (or was it the narrator?) has ever applied to Rivendell. It's just a statement that once they go further east, there won't be civilized places to stop anymore. (Conversely, on the return trip, Rivendell is referred to as the First Homely House, because it's the first civilized place to stop after traveling through Wilderland from the Lonely Mountain.)
    – chepner
    Oct 28, 2021 at 21:45
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    @CaptainKirk - You're looking at it the wrong way. It's the last house before the mountains, as in the last one you see when traveling East. The short distance between it and the mountains is precisely why it's the last house.
    – ibid
    Oct 29, 2021 at 0:14
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    I always understood it as the last in time. There are no other homely houses, east of the sea. A little slice of heaven, still on earth. Before, when middle earth was younger, there were several, lost to the sea or to enemies "now". Nargothrond, Gondolin, etc. Oct 29, 2021 at 11:43
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    @StianYttervik Or more recent examples - Hollin, or the cities of Arnor. Or perhaps it's only 6 months since Lindon gave up offering homely houses to concentrate exclusively on offering swift exits from the continent. Oct 29, 2021 at 12:01

1 Answer 1

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Homely here just means civilized and decent, and is more of a description than an official category

In the original manuscript of The Hobbit, this was named the "Last Decent House".

They asked him where he was making for. ‘You are now at the very Edge of the Wild’ he answered. ‘Somewhere ahead is the Last Decent House – I have been there already and they are expecting us.’
Marquette Tolkien Mss 1/1/3, published in The History of The Hobbit

Likewise, in The Annotated Hobbit, Douglas Anderson points out that "homely" means a place where you're treated kindly.

In describing Elrond’s house as homely, Tolkien refers to what the Oxford English Dictionary describes as “characteristic of home as the place where one receives kind treatment; kind, kindly.”
The Annotated Hobbit - Chapter 3 - "A Short Rest"

The implication that Tolkien is saying is that up to this point you're still part of the more civilized home turf, past here you enter "The Wild" and start your real adventure. Corey Olson explains this in Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit.

Rivendell is called "The Last Homely House," and it stands on an important boundary. It is at the border, with all of the "respectable country," where one might possibly find good inns, to the west (30). When you get to Rivendell, as Gan­dalf explains to Bilbo, you have "come to the very edge of the Wild" (44). As I mentioned in Chapter Three, Rivendell doesn't just sit on this boundary; it embodies it. The house of Elrond is the place where the world of quiet comforts and the world of legends come together and coexist. The path be­yond it, into the Wild, is "a hard path and a dangerous path, a crooked way and a lonely and a long" (52).
Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit - Chapter 4 - "Over the Edge of the Wild"

As John Rateliff points out in The History of the Hobbit, this was probably inspired by the Cottage of Lost Play from Tolkien's earlier writings.

This brief chapter contains the most explicit references yet linking The Hobbit to the mythology out of which it grew. Elrond and Gondolin come directly from the Silmarillion tradition, while the ‘Last Decent House’ (renamed the Last Homely House before the end of the chapter) is clearly inspired by the Cottage of Lost Play that had appeared in the frame story of The Book of Lost Tales, where ‘old tales, old songs, and elfin music are treasured and rehearsed’ (BLT I.20) – a description strikingly like that of Elrond’s house, which ‘was perfect, whether you liked food or sleep or work or storytelling or singing or just sitting and thinking best’ (p. 115), and of which the narrator says ‘I wish I had time [to] tell you even a few of the tales or one or two of the songs that they heard in his house’ (ibid.). It is in the House of Lost Play (as it is also called; cf. BLT I.189) that Eriol the wanderer hears all the stories that together make up the ‘Lost Tales’, just as much later it is in Elrond’s House (not yet named ‘Rivendell’)1 that Bilbo in his retirement collected the stories that made up The Silmarillion (cf. LotR.26–7 & 1023).
The History of The Hobbit - "The Last Decent House"

To more specifically answer your question, some other examples of "Homely Houses" would be various inns like The Prancing Pony, or perhaps even private residences like Bag End.

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