Tales of the Shire is full of secret references to Lord of the Rings

Devs hired a professional Tolkien scholar
Tales of the Shire
Tales of the Shire / Private Division

Tales of the Shire may look like a cute life sim, but developer Weta Workshop took its Lord of the Rings license incredibly seriously.

You play a custom hobbit just living their best little hairy-toed life. You’ll decorate your home with grid-free furniture placement, stock up your pantry by fishing, gardening, and foraging, host dinner parties, and share meals to develop relationships, all while discovering lost treasures of The Shire. And none of it was allowed in unless it made sense lore-wise.

Take lemons. They’re one of your cooking ingredients, but they’re not native to The Shire - citrus fruit doesn’t do well in climates akin to southern England. That’s why the game’s designers constructed a believable narrative conceit to justify the fruit’s existence. 

Tales of the Shire
Tales of the Shire / Private Division

“Everything that we’ve done has been in consultation with Middle-earth Enterprises,” says Weta Workshop game designer Catherine Booth of the group that holds the marketing and licensing rights for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. “So they have the final sign-off on everything.”

Another example is with a particular species of bird. When you set a waypoint, they land in the world and elegantly point the way to your destination. For extra visibility against a rural backdrop of greens and yellows, the designers had to create their own bird and color its feathers an exotic blue, something Weta Workshop’s resident Tolkien scholar Darren Ormandy was not too keen on. 

“He’s sort of the lore-keeper,” says Booth, “and we were like, ‘Darren, we really need this bird to be visible against the greens and yellows of the landscape’…So he was like, ‘Oh, but there wouldn’t have been any blue birds in the Shire.’ And there was all this back and forth. But you have to make compromises between it being useful to the player and also it being faithful to the source material.”

Tales of the Shire cooking screenshot
Tales of the Shire / Private Division

At one point in the game, I’m told, a dwarf shows up in The Shire, which is not something that happens in the books. Neither is a later appearance by a certain wizard whose name begins with the letter ‘G’. Weta Workshop is not averse to throwing fans a bone.

The one race you’ll encounter more than any other, however, is of course hobbits. As you explore, you’ll see the sizably-footed scamps watering their plants, harvesting vegetables, and sharing laughs with each other. There’s a rich sense of community to the game which sets it apart from more solipsistic life sims. 

The environment changes as time progresses: weather conditions affect daily routines, while seasonal crops and flowers are only available at certain times of the year. There are also daily activities to complete in order to raise your village status, so you’ll want to check in often. 

Tales of the Shire autumn screenshot
Tales of the Shire / Private Division

So idyllic is the setting, you can even hold RT while running to skip instead, bounding past picturesque homesteads and through rolling hills with a true spring in your step. Why? That’s just what hobbits do.

You don’t have to be a Lord of the Rings fan to play Tales of the Shire, but if you are, you’ll love its 100% Tolkien-approved attention to detail. 

Griff Griffin


Griff Griffin is a writer and YouTube content creator based in London, UK.