One of my many favorite parts of The Shire is crossing the ford of The Water at Budgeford. You are certain to be greeted by an elated Hobbit who, despite standing in a sinking canoe, is very happy to announce his activity. "I'm having an adventure. I've paddled all the way from Frogmorton!" he proudly announces to the Hobbit Watcher standing on the bank nearby.
Just another cute, random little NPC exchange, especially given that you can practically throw a rock and still hit Frogmorton just up the The Water? Not at all, it's another of the many tiny little nods to Middle Earth lore that Turbine snuck in to the game.
If you stick around and listen to the full dialogue, you hear the following:
Townsperson says, ''I'm having an adventure. I've paddled all the way from Frogmorton!''
Watcher says, ''Are you trying to kill yourself? Get out of the water before you drown!''
Townsperson says, ''But I'm paddling to the Brandywine! My cousin in Buckland sent me this boat, and I'm going for a visit.''
Watcher says, ''You crazy Took, you're as mad as a Baggins!''
Townsperson says, ''I'm just trying to float my boat down the river. Come down and help me.''
Watcher says, ''I'm not getting in there. Besides, you have a hole in the bottom. You're not going anywhere. I know that much!''
In just these few lines of dialogue between a couple unnamed NPC's, we have a whoooole lot of lore.
In the prologue of The Fellowship of the Ring, in the section Concerning Hobbits, we learn about the three primary "breeds" of Hobbits: Fallohides, Harfoots, and Stoors. Harfoots are the most numerous type of Hobbit, as Tolkien stated, "the most normal and representative" of all Hobbits. As you can imagine, The Shire is full of Hobbits of the Harfoot strain.
The Fallohides, on the other hand, seemed to gravitate toward adventure. You may have a bunch of Harfoots living in one place, but more likely than not their leaders were Fallohides. Remember that the first settlers of The Shire were led by the Fallohide brothers, Marcho and Blanco, as previously mentioned in my article about the Hobbit Archers at Fornost. Both the Took and the Brandybuck families still demonstrate strong Fallohide tendencies.
The Stoor Hobbits were known for being a bit unusual, and many of the families who later settled in Buckland, on the edge of The Shire, had Stoor ancestors. One of the many odd things about Stoors is they seemed to actually enjoy the water, and were the only Hobbits to "mess around" with boats. Some could even swim! No surprise given that they lived for many years along the banks of the Anduin. The Brandybucks most definitely also had Stoor ancestors.
If you have read any of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, you also are aware that Hobbits can be a bit...prejudiced...at times against Hobbits who hail from different strains, treating them with a healthy dose of suspicion and skepticism, if not outright scorn. We see this when old Gaffer Gamgee and friends are discussing Frodo Baggins and his origins. Frodo did, after all, come from Buckland and though Baggins may be his last name, "he's more than half a Brandybuck," according to the locals in Hobbiton.
The Gaffer further informs us about the Brandybucks that "...they're a queer breed, seemingly. They fool about with boats on that big river - and that isn't natural." The fact that Frodo's father Drogo, a solid Baggins, went and married Primula Brandybuck (who also had Took blood in her, for goodness' sake!) should have tipped everyone off to what was destined to happen - both Drogo and Primula drowned while boating on the Brandywine. Gasp!
So now you can deconstruct that bit of dialogue above and get the full richness of the context. Here we have a crazy Took (all that Fallohide blood, remember), whose nutty cousin from Buckland (let's not go into how queer those Stoorish types are) sent him a boat and he's off on some tomfool adventure trying to drown himself in The Water. The Watcher standing safely on the bank is clearly a solid Harfoot - she thinks he's stark raving mad to be messing around in the water, with a boat no less, and knows he'll probably kill himself. But what more can you expect from Tooks and Bucklanders? She also manages to get in a dig at the mad Baggins family as well, but that's nothing new in The Shire.
With that I'll wish everyone a Happy New Year. Don't just stand on the bank - may you each have your own little joyous adventure in 2012!
Sources: The Fellowship of the Ring