The Hymn Setting

of Music for the Shire and the Hobbits


THE HYMN SETTING of the Shire theme pairs the familiar melody of "In Dreams" with slow, chord-like notes. It "grieves the hobbits' loss of innocence as it celebrates their resolve in the face of adversity." To me, the scenes with this music are ones in which a Hobbit's love for the Shire--or for the things or people of the Shire--is particularly strong. It is, however, only used for Frodo and Sam, not Merry and Pippin. When the feelings are more simple affection, the Pensive Setting seems to be used.

This setting, as well as the Pensive Setting, are what most people think of when they think, "Shire Theme". Both employ the melody utilized in "In Dreams." The difference between the two can be discerned by listening to what lies underneath the melody. Doug Adams wrote, In the Pensive and Rural Settings harmonic regions exist for extended periods of time, almost an old world modal style. But the Hymn Setting regularly shifts them on every other beat for a rolling chorale effect evocative of tradition Western religious music." (Doug Adams, CR-FOTR liner notes, page 11) 

Doug clarified one distinction between the Hymn and Pensive settings in a comment (June 3, 2008) on his blog. "These types of chords underpin both the Pensive and Hymn settings—each is generally driven by the same harmonies… however, the Hymn setting is dependent upon the completion of a very specific chordal line. Because the Pensive and Hymn settings are so closely related, generally only 1) complete statements of the Hymn material or 2) the (fully present) Hymn chords sans melodic writing are designated as Hymn quotes."

When the Shire melody is heard over a sustained note, it's easy to distinguish the Pensive Setting from the Hymn Setting. But the Pensive Setting is often combined with the Outline Figure. Since the Outline Figure features a note for every beat, it could be easy to confuse that with the the Hymn Setting's chords which change every two notes. The best way to tell the difference it to listen. Pay attention to how often the notes/chords under the main melody change. Are you hearing:

The Pensive Setting over a sustained chord?
The Pensive Setting over the Outline Figure (Outline Figure = 1 note per beat)?
The Hymn Setting over Hymn Chords (Hymn Chords = 1 note every other beat)?

I also find that some iterations start with a Pensive Setting but move into the rolling chords. Although, perhaps with Doug's clarification that the chord progression must be completed for it be be a Hymn Setting, it may be that, rolling or not, the music does not move into a Hymn Setting.

THE HYMN CHORDS There are a few groups of chords with similar structures that came to my attention. To a musicologist, there might be discernable differences between them, but to my ear, they just sounded 'similar' and I grouped them together. Some of these chords are the ones DA refers to when he writes, "the Hymn Chords". Some are not discussed by him at all so I can only assume they are not 'the Hymn Chords". It seems to me that the Hymn Chords used alone often lead into A Hobbit's Understanding. But that's just my impression. I'll leave it for you to decide if it's accurate.

My original analysis of the soundtrack did not address "Settings". I organized by melody and, in fact, I organized the main Shire melody into Shire A (the verse music of "In Dreams") and Shire B. (And I still think it's interesting to see how each phrase was used.) On my Shire A and Shire B pages, one can read some of my early thinking and find instances where either the 'verse' or 'chorus' of the main Shire melody is heard.

For some comments on how the Hymn Setting of the Shire theme interacts with A Hobbit's Understanding, go HERE.


Places this setting is heard in FOTR:

Places this setting is heard in TTT:

Places this setting is heard in ROTK:

  • A grand version as all the people bow down before the four Hobbits at the coronation of the King.

  • The Hymn chords hum as Frodo, back in Bag End, asks, "How do you pick up the threads of an old life?" Frodo understands there is no going back for him.

  • The Hymn chords play through once as Frodo hands Sam the book and tells him, "The last pages are for you."

  • As Frodo explains to his three companions why he is leaving with the Last Ship, a soft variant of the Shire B melody plays. I could not decide if this was a Pensive or Hymn Setting or neither but moments later, the music is identified as using the Hymn Setting so I'll place the two together.  HS COMMENT

  • The music attempts the Shire B melody in a Hymn Setting as Frodo and Sam embrace at the Grey Havens but it can't fully articulate it. Doug Adams writes, "The Third Age of the Shire is gone, its theme will sound no more."