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The Thain (not to be confused with the term Thane) was the title give to the traditional military leader of the Hobbits of the Shire after the fall of Fornost and the Dúnedain kingdom of Arthedain in the mid-Third Age. The Thain was Master of the Shire-moot and Captain of the Shire-muster.
The Hobbits first chose a Thain to rule them in TA 1979 (Shire Reckoning 379), four years after Arvedui, the last King of Arthedain perished. Over time, the Thain became a hereditary position, originally held by the Oldbuck Clan. Since TA 2340 (SR 740), the Thainship has remained within the powerful Took clan.
Other rulers of the Shire include the Master of Buckland and the Mayor of Michel Delving in the White Downs, as well as in the Fourth Age the Warden of Westmarch, a position created by King Aragorn II Elessar. The Thain's traditional duties involved the defence of the Shire from external attacks and presiding over meetings of the Shire-moot and Shire-muster. By the time of the War of the Ring most of the Thain's duties were ceremonial and the practical duties such as maintaining the Shire post were handled by the Mayor of Michel Delving.
"Thain" is a variant spelling of the Old English "thegn", an Anglo-Saxon designation for a minor noble, probably best known for its use in Shakespeare's Macbeth. While more commonly spelled "thane" in modern English), Tolkien used the older variant to represent the ancestral speech of the Hobbits.
Thains of the Shire
- Bucca of the Marish, an Oldbuck (first Thain, elected in TA 1979 after the death of Arvedui.)
- Ten Thains of the Oldbuck line (called themselves Oldbuck after Bucca)
- Gorhendad Oldbuck (12th Thain, crossed over to Buckland and surrendered the Thainship)
- Isumbras Took I (became 13th Thain and first of the Took line in TA 2340)
- Eight Took Thains (including an Isengrim I, Isumbras II, Ferumbras Took I, and Paladin I)
- Isengrim Took II (became 22nd Thain during the rule of Arahad II, Chieftain of the Dúnedain. 10th Thain of the Took line. Died TA 2722)
- Isumbras Took III (became 23rd Thain in TA 2672)
- Ferumbras Took II (24th Thain); older brother of Bandobras Took.
- Fortinbras Took I (25th Thain)
- Gerontius Took, the Old Took (26th Thain in TA 2848)
- Isengrim Took III (27th Thain)
- Isumbras Took IV (28th Thain)
- Fortinbras Took II (29th Thain)
- Ferumbras III Took (became 30th Thain, died childless in TA 3015)
- Paladin Took II (became 31st Thain in TA 3015, cousin of Ferumbras III)
- Peregrin "Pippin" Took I (became 32nd Thain in 13 Fourth Age, abdicated FO 63)
- Faramir Took I (became 33rd Thain after his father left for Gondor in FO 63)
- The line of Thains continued in the Fourth Age of Arda.
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