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Testaments of the Past  by Dreamflower

This particular Author's Note has to do with the remarkable research that Gryffinjack did on inheritance law in the Shire. Comments in bold are Dreamflower's speculations on how the information might be worked into the story.

 Relating to entailments of real estate and other family property I have looked at this issue from several different perspectives and the following are my thoughts:

Letter #214

1. Once again this letter proves that it is such a fountain of information! Is the letter available in its entirety on the net for those who don’t have the book with all of Tolkien’s letters? Okay, this has nothing to do with entailments, but this letter never fails to astound me when I read it.

I don't know of an e-text version, unfortunately.

2. “We are here dealing only with the titular ‘headship’ not with ownership of property, and its management. These were distinct matters; though in the case of the surviving ‘great households’, such as Great Smials or Brandy Hall, they might overlap.”

- Especially considering that in your Shire Frodo is the last of the Bagginses, this tends to indicate that the Baggins family is not one of the “great households” and therefore that the ownership interests of the property and its management might not automatically follow to the head of the family.

Yes, that sounds that way to me, too!

3. “When Master Samwise became Mayor in 1427, a rule was made that: ‘if any inhabitant of the Shire shall pass over Sea in the presence of a reliable witness, with the expressed intention not to return, or in circumstances plainly implying such an intention, he or she shall be deemed to have relinquished all titles rights or properties previously held or occupied, and the heir or heirs thereof shall forthwith enter into possession of these titles, rights, or properties, as is directed by established custom, or by the will and of the departed, as the case may require.”

A) This tends to indicate that Sam could not get Frodo declared dead and actually become the rightful owner of Bag End until 1427, six years after Frodo left for the Grey Havens. Before then, there was no rule or way to have an individual “presumed dead.” However, Frodo can still put the provision in his Will to try and get it effectuated.

I think he actually did become rightful owner of Bag End, but only because Frodo had put it in his will. However, it seems to me, Sam is now insuring the future of his own children, since he himself will pass over the Sea.

B) It also seems then that the property rights of even a head of a family could be devised by a Will to an heir or heirs so long as it is not directed by established custom. Since Sam was not a member of the Baggins family and Frodo still named him as his heir and Sam did in fact become Master of Bag End, then it seems that established custom, at least in the Baggins family, did not dictate that all real estate and other property had to be turned over to the head of the family, but rather could be devised to an heir by a Will. Therefore, it seems that Frodo (and Bilbo) could devise family holdings in their Wills.

So what you are basically saying here is that it is only Bag End that mustn't pass from the family! That's *perfect*!

The Hobbit

1. “The Bagginses had lived in the neighbourhood of The Hill for time out of mind, and people considered them very respectable, not only because most of them were rich, but also because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected…Not that Belladonna Took ever had any adventures after she became Mrs. Bungo Baggins. Bungo, that was Bilbo’s father, built the most luxurious hobbit-hole for her (and partly with her money) that was to be found either under The Hill or over The Hill or across The Water, and there they remained to the end of their days.”

- Thus it seems that when it came to the Baggins family, each part of the Baggins family had his own wealth and property, since “most of them were rich.” Also, as a side note that could be a bit humourous, since Bungo built Bag End for his wife, the former Belladonna Took, using part of her own money, Pippin could tease Sam that he, or rather his father the Thain, had a claim on Bag End as well since it was really built for a Took and in part using that Took’s own money! lol!

It sounds that way to me too! I do think there must have been some things that were to be kept in the family, but unlike the Tooks or Brandybucks who tended to all live together, and so would need communal wealth, the Bagginses mostly lived independently; so family heirlooms would consist of things such as the Family Book, and perhaps a few other particular items, but not necessarily income producing properties or even money!

2. “There was a large notice … stating that ... Messrs Grubb, Grubb, and Burrowes would sell by auction the effects of the late Bilbo Baggins Esquire, of Bag-End…In short Bilbo was ‘Presumed Dead’”

A) This is directly contrary to what is indicated in Letter #214, which states that there were no rules for declaring an individual “Presumed Dead” until Sam made the rule in 1427.

Since we know that Bilbo was not the first to disappear into the Wild, it makes me think that perhaps these things were handled on a case by case basis--perhaps when the nearest family member got tired of waiting, they could instigate action to have the person "presumed dead", but in keeping with the lack of a real legal structure there weren't any Shire-wide firm rules about it prior to 1427.

This would make sense of what happened--Longo would be the next head of family and the next of kin. If he decided to push the issue after only a year, other relatives who were not so close (in bloodline) would not really be able to gainsay him.

B) Note also that although the SB’s were going to get Bag End, the rest of Bilbo’s stuff was being auctioned off to the highest bidder. It does not say if the proceeds from the sale would then be going to the SB’s or not. If not, then this would indicate that the SB’s were only getting Bag End, which they might also have had to bid on, I’m not sure from my reading.

So this means they were only to get Bag End, and not necessarily any of the other property. That lends even more credence to what you said before!


1. “But I reckon it was a nasty knock for those Sackville-Bagginses. They thought they were going to get Bag End, that time when he (Bilbo) went off and was thought to be dead. And then he comes back and orders them off… And suddenly he produces an heir, and has all the papers made out proper. The Sackville-Bagginses won’t never see the inside of Bag End now, or it is to be hoped not.”

A) This is said by the Gaffer to Ted Sandyman with Daddy Twofoot, Old Noakes, and a stranger from Michel Delving present during the conversation. Apparently, the residents of Bagshot Row, or at least the Gaffer and Daddy Twofoot, had not been worried about the SB’s getting possession of their homes on Bagshot Row. They only mention that the SB’s thought they were going to get Bag End. So perhaps Bilbo did not really have any other real estate other than Bag End, although I don’t know if that is in line with the facts you have published for your Shire. could be right. I'm thinking, however, of the general treatment of Bilbo--he seems to be the "Squire" of the area, which would mean he probably *did* own those properties. It is a popular fanon, for a number of reasons. I have never said one way or the other, but have generally held with that.

B) What the SB’s really were after is the double headship of two families. They were after the title as well as the jewel in the crown of the home of the head of the family, Bag End. I don’t think they really cared about the other properties much.

The double headship was Otho's chief ambition; Lobelia coveted Bag End; Lotho, however, I am sure wanted everything he could get his greedy hands on.

C) I think that when Bilbo left on his adventure with the Dwarfs, he did not have a Will in place. Therefore, the laws of intestacy (probably as well as custom) would dictate that his properties were to be distributed to the next closest relative, or in Shire language, the head of the family.

No, I think he was intestate at that time. In fact, I do indicate as much in his first conversation with Grubb, in "A Place for Gandalf".

2. Without quoting it, Bilbo left many, many items for various members of the Baggins, Brandybuck, Took, Boffin, Bolger, Burrows, and other families when he left for Rivendell. On each of these, he had a little tag or card saying whom it was for and perhaps a reason for the gift. These items were then given to the individual named by Bilbo on the tag and the rest of the stuff was left at Bag End for Frodo.

- This could be construed to be part of his Will. I can easily incorporate this into Bilbo’s Will if we want. Now, if the rules were such that a Baggins had to leave all of his family belongings to the head of the Baggins family, then Bilbo would not have been able to give some of these things away, such as silver spoons that might have belonged to the Baggins family. He would have been forced to leave them for the new head of the Baggins family, i.e. Frodo. Not that Frodo would have minded Bilbo’s giving away some of the property, but Bilbo did so nonetheless.

Yes, I like the idea that the gifts were part of the Will! And this does give credence to the idea that Frodo could leave property away from the S.B.s except for Bag End, which he ended up selling to them after all.


I think that Bilbo (and Frodo) could devise and distribute their property to whomever they wanted. The SB’s knew that Bilbo was unmarried and did not have any male children and later that Frodo was unmarried and did not have any male children. Therefore, if either of them had died without a Will, the entire estate would have gone to the SB’s as the next head of the family.

I agree. This looks really promising!

But when Bilbo adopted Frodo and made him his heir, that then meant that everything would be going to Frodo and not the SB’s as it would have under the laws of intestacy before Bilbo adopted Frodo. And when Frodo owned Bag End, it is likely that the SB’s thought that he did not have a Will, just like Bilbo did not have one since he was an unmarried hobbit with no immediate kin of his own.

Again, I agree with that as well. It would not occur to them; and they may have been counting on the Shire mentality when it came to keeping things in the family.

However, this does not explain why nobody set the SB’s straight that Frodo had indeed made out a Will when as soon as he became Master of Bag End and that the SB’s would not be receiving anything. Clearly, the SB’s had an expectation that they would be receiving Bag End. Perhaps there is a rule either in the Shire or at least in the Baggins family that the home of the Head of the Family shall descend to the next head of the family, but that everything else could be freely devised in a Will. This then would explain the reason for the SB’s expectation that they would receive Bag End, but for everything else to have been sold off to various hobbits outside of the Baggins family.

It's possible that they simply were turning a deaf ear to any hints that they would not be Frodo's heirs. Also, they may have hoped to contest the will. Otho's insistence on seeing Bilbo's will after he left indicates such a hope to me. If they could have found some flaw, then they might have been able to do so.

If this is the case, then perhaps when Frodo made his last Will up naming Sam as his heir and leaving almost everything to him, including Bag End, perhaps Ponto Baggins signed a document agreeing, as the new head of the Baggins family, to Frodo leaving Bag End to Sam. This would be like Bilbo signing the document allowing Frodo to have his own inheritances from his parents or Paladin signing a document allowing Pippin to inherit his own property from Frodo even if he were not yet an adult.

Excellent! I like that!

Therefore, I think the only thing that should be left to the head of the Baggins family in the various wills is Bag End (except for Frodo’s right before the Quest, when he had already sold Bag End to the hateful SB’s).

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