In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
— J. R. R. Tolkien, “The Hobbit”
I was in high school the first time I read The Hobbit. I had failed freshman AP English and was forced to attend summer school. I don’t really remember the specifics, but I had to read and write reports about a few books and it was one of the books I chose. I had already been reading fantasy for a few years, so I can’t say that the book was my inauguration into the larger worlds of fantasy, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. I remember having to walk to summer school and correlating parts of my walk with the events of the book. A house with a particularly lovely yard and garden was Rivendell, and a nasty looking tree with small spiderwebs was part of the Mirkwood. Tolkien can be a tough read sometimes, but the Hobbit is, to me, a fun read and it really prepared me for how to play one of my two favorite fantasy role-playing game races– the halflings (the other being elves).
I love playing halflings. Of course, I’m not a power-gamer, either, so to me it’s all about the story and their characters. Most of the halflings I’ve played are all part of a larger family, a trick I adapted from my sister. Her main character was a barbarian, an Amazon, to be specific, and any other characters she played were usually sisters of that character. I’m sure my halflings had brothers and sisters, but I had never defined them — until now.
In my convalescence, I’ve re-watched all of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies. I’ll refrain from criticizing them here, but suffice to say that I enjoy the stories, just not always the delivery (but Smaug was really, really, well executed). They mostly suffer from the “over-the-top-ness” of Peter Jackson, but I needed movies to occupy large amounts of my time, and those trilogies are very long, indeed. As I’m sure holds true with most Dorks, my interests wax and wane. I can work on Legos, vampires, demons, mythic India, and dwarven histories all within the same week. Usually after watching Lord of the Rings my interest always goes back to the homebrew D&D world of Swat B that we played (now over 15 years ago!) when I joined the group. This time, after finishing with the Hobbit films, my thoughts drifted to halflings, and how I could make sense out of all of the times I’ve played a halfling thief named Leumas Hardbuckle.
When Gary Gygax started putting together what would become his World of Greyhawk, he did something that I thought was particular ingenious and contributed greatly to what I perceive as making things “work:” he added some homes of demi-humans in the local area of Greyhawk. Greysmere and the Abbor-Alz hills to the east were homelands for dwarves, the Faerie Kingdom of Celene to the southwest for elves, and the small settlements of Grossetgrottel and Elmshire for gnomes and halflings, respectively. With a name evocative of the Shire, I couldn’t help but want my halflings to be from that area. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of background material about Elmshire for me to go on, so I’ve left it mostly untouched. Recently, though, I’ve read an article in Dragon Magazine #262 by Roger E. Moore, of, well, Dragon Magazine and Greyhawk fame. I enjoy the work he did for Greyhawk, though I know that it’s not a popular opinion amongst the Old Guard of Greyhawk fans (and by no means do I consider myself a member of the Old Guard of Greyhawk fans). Mr. Moore wrote an excellent article that brought the sleepy settlement of Elmshire alive for me, and inspired me to populate it with my Hardbuckles.
So, here they are. The Hardbuckles of Elmshire.
The Hardbuckles of Elmshire
The picturesque land of the South Shore of the Midbay has enticed halflings to its green pastures and rolling hills for centuries. Two such halflings so enticed were the brother and sister pair of Yost and May, who took the name Hardbuckle after settling in the village. What their family name was originally is unknown, as is why they chose to abandon it for something new. What is known is that they came from Urnst and that they never spoke of their life before moving to Elmshire.
Yost (born ca. 353) and his younger sister May (born ca. 362) came to Elmshire in 379 CY, when the settlement was almost 45 years old. The two were welcomed and Yost built them a home in the Westfeld, in a small hill that May named Sugar Hill, after the sweet life that they had found for themselves. The two had a love for life that made them popular in the growing village, and they each found love of their own after being in town a few years. Yost married a young maiden named Eva Springwind in 382 CY. Yost and Eva had five children; Poppy (b. 383), Belladonna (b. 385), Mikko (b. 388), Pervinca (b. 389), and Sigismund “Siggy” (b. 391). May eventually fell for a fisherman named Cosmo Gentledew and they were married in 388. Her nieces Poppy and Belladonna served as flower girls. The Gentledews lived closer to the South Shore than the Hardbuckles, and May moved there after her marriage. May and Cosmo had 4 children. Yost lived 88 years, and died in 441 CY, and his wife Eva died in 453 CY.
Poppy Hardbuckle married Odo Cloverfield but her sister Belladonna was left at the altar by her fiancé Marco Button, and the Hardbuckles have held a grudge against the Buttons ever since. Mikko Hardbuckle married Amaranth Bannburrow and they had 6 children; Posco (b. 413), Wilibald (b. 414), Hilda (b. 416), Yon (b. 417), Elvira (b. 425), and Azalea (b. 430). Mikko died in 433 at the age of 45. He was killed accidentally when his plow pony kicked him in the head. Mikko’s sister Pervinca married Ludo Underfoot, and Siggy was married to Carina Oakhill. Siggy and Carina had 4 children; Sterling (b. 417), Lily (b. 420), Eva (b. 422), and Togo (b. 423).
As Mikko’s children got older, more room was needed around Sugar Hill. New homes were added, connected to the original, but with ways of sealing them for privacy. Posco and his family stayed in the main home with his mother. Posco married Berry Banks and had 6 children; Amaranth (after his mother, b. 437), Sullivan (b. 440), Fosco (b. 441), Holman (b. 444), Dahlia (b. 446), and Gym (b. 449). Wilibald married Posey Gardner and together they had 3 daughters; Ivy (b. 445), Daisy (b. 448), and May (b. 453). Hilda married Hamrick Freestream. Yon married Marigold Brownbarrel and they had 4 children; Hamrick (b. 440), Pickney (b. 443), “Little” Yon (b. 445), and Vera (b. 448). Elvira never married, as she was raven-haired and labeled a sorceress, and Azalea married Holman Greenstream, a wealthy young halfling with a home in the City of Greyhawk.
The next generation was so numerous, that the lands around Sugar Hill and Hardbuckle Home, as some called it, couldn’t contain all of the Hardbuckle families. Siggy and Posco and their descendants stayed in and around Sugar Hill, but “Big” Yon’s son Hamrick built a home in the south fields (called Suffield) of Elmshire, along the slopes of the Cairn Hills. His brothers Pickney and “Little” Yon soon moved their homes around his, and their line started to become known as the Hillside Hardbuckles, while the main branch of the family, descended from Posco, came to be called the Westfeld Hardbuckles, or sometimes the Sugar Hill Hardbuckles.
The Westfeld Hardbuckles
Mikko’s son Posco and his wife Berry raised their children in Sugar Hill. Posco was not a kind-hearted man, it was said, but rather a callous one whose only soft spot was for his youngest daughter Dahlia. His father’s early demise left him a bitter man, and Sugar Hill was left a colder place because of it. Berry, however, warmed every home in which she was welcome. Her skills as a baker and maker of confectionaries were legend around Elmshire, and she was often told she should open up a bakery. She never did, though, as her husband wouldn’t allow it, but her treats at birthday parties and other celebrations were happily received anyway. Berry taught much of what she knew of baking to her eldest daughter Amaranth, who married Cosmo Hilltop. Posco’s oldest son Sullivan maintained the family farm, and also tried his hand as a sheepherder once he married Willow Hedgehill, whose family owned a large herd in the south fields. Sullivan and Willow had 5 children; Sweeney (b. 472), Polo (b. 477), Milo (b. 480), Robin (b. 483), and Tolman (b. 486). Fosco Hardbuckle married Pervinca Brownbarrel, a distant cousin, and they had 3 children; Ivy (b. 467), Pansy (b. 470), and Rosa (b. 475). Holman married Willow Hedgehill’s sister Pearl, and they had 6 children; Rolo (b. 470), Rorimac (b. 473), Chica (b. 475), Hugo (b. 478), Marigold (b. 480), and Bell (b. 482). Dahlia, the only sparkle in her father’s eye, became a priestess of Yondalla, and never married. Gymcrack (pronounced with a hard ‘g’) Hardbuckle moved to the City of Greyhawk to train to become a wizard. It is unknown if he married or had any children, or really what ever became of him. Posco died at 95 in 508 CY. Gammer Berry, as she was lovingly called, lived to 107 and died in 522. Many young Westfeld Hardbuckle girls have been given the middle name Berry in her honor.
Sullivan’s son Sweeney married Marigold Longbottom and had 4 children; Malva (b. 508), Mikko (b. 511), Mirabella (b. 516), and Milo (b. 520) (Marigold was fond of ‘M’ names). Sweeney is the current patriarch of Sugar Hill and is known as Gaffer Sweeney (he’s still alive at 125!). There is a sadness in his eyes that comes with losing 3 generations of descendants to a plague. Polo married Hilda Heartstream and had 6 children; Ruby (b. 508), Gilly (b. 511), Bill (b. 514), Yondie (b. 517), Osborn (b. 519), and Bodo (b. 524). Milo was content to live a life of his own, and never married. Robin married Rorimac Miller, and Tolman drowned as a child during a family outing to the Midbay. Marigold died in 583 CY of the Yellow Eye plague.
Malva Hardbuckle found within herself a wanderlust that most Westfeld Hardbuckles hadn’t experienced before, and she journeyed west. She sent letters from her travels, and she eventually settled in Highfolk. Mikko married Joy Goldbarrel, and together they had 4 children; Wilibald (b. 541), Hugo (b. 546), Leumas (b. 548), and Marigold (b. 555). Mirabella married Nico Dayblossom, of the Eastfeld Dayblossoms, and Milo married Saffron Overhill. They had two children, Nixie (b. 548) and Tolman (b. 552). Mikko was a hard working man who lived much longer than his namesake. He enjoyed his pipeweed, especially the Longfoot Leaf grown in the east fields. Mikko, Joy, and Milo all died of the plague in 383.
Wilibald, Mikko’s oldest son, married Bell Coldfall and had two sons, Kern (b. 569) and Sweeney (b. 571), before he died of the plague. Unfortunately, young Sweeney wasn’t to live as long as his namesake, and died of the plague with his father. As it stands, Kern is in line to take over Sugar Hill if Old Man Sweeney should pass away. He isn’t the quickest of cats at the best of times, but he is rather affable. Questions of his competence might cause Hugo to seek arbitration to settle his dispute that his nephew is unfit to run the family businesses. Hugo married Daisy Highhill and had 4 children; Amethyst (b. 574), Zeek (b. 576), Pip (b. 580), and Robin (b. 582). Leumas, named after a great-uncle in the Hillside Hardbuckle line, left Elmshire for adventure, just like most Leumas’ do. He made his way to Verbobonc, and his companions say he met his end near the moathouse in Hommlet in 581 CY. He was swallowed whole by a giant frog. Marigold married Jo Shortwick, but both of them died of the plague before they had any children.
The Westfeld Hardbuckles were hit particularly hard by the Yellow Eye plague. About a quarter of the population of Elmshire died, but about half of the Hardbuckles of Sugar Hill passed away. Currently, Sugar Hill has only the following Westfeld Hardbuckles left:
Gaffer Sweeney, patriarch of Sugar Hill, aged 125 (as of 597 CY).
His brother Milo, a bachelor.
His nephew Halfred, child of his brother Polo.
His daughter Ivy.
His daughter Ruby.
His daughter Vera.
His son Wilibald.
His son Sigismund.
His granddaughter-in-law Bell, widow of Wilibald.
Her son Kern, heir of Sugar Hill.
His grandson Hugo, son of Mikko.
His daughter Amethyst.
His son Zeek.
His granddaughter Nixie, child of his son Milo.
His grandson Tolman, child of his son Milo.
The Hillside Hardbuckles
“Big” Yon’s son Hamrick is seen as the progenitor of the Hillside Hardbuckles. He moved his family south, to the slopes of the Cairn Hills. Hamrick married Sara Riverflower and had 7 children; Wilibald (b. 470, called Wili, to not mistake him with Hamrick’s Uncle Wilibald), Pearl (b. 472), Ivy (b. 475), Leumas (b. 476, eventually called Leumas the Eldest after all the halflings named after him), Adelard (b. 478), Dawn (b. 480), and “Ollie” Ollivander (b. 483). Pickney married Bell Darkfield and had 4 children; Kitty (b. 466), Enya (b. 469), Paldo (b. 473), and Halo (b. 475). Little Yon married Chica Underbough and had 7 children; Blossom (b. 476), Canary (b. 479), Giles (b. 481), Dale (b. 483), Dora (b. 486), Daisy (b. 490), and Aldo (b. 492). Vera married Marco Gapjumper. Hamrick and his brothers dug a well in between their homes, and the families would often picnic and socialize near the well. Hamrick passed away in 518 CY, and his wife Sara died in 530.
Hamrick’s oldest son Wilibald died as an infant of unknown causes. Pearl married Hugo Springbeam, and Ivy married Rolo Truthmore. Leumas the Elder married Lily Bell Oakshire, and they had 6 children; Leumas the Younger (b. 501), Celandine (b. 502), Hamrick (b. 504), Thalia (b. 512), Rorimac (b. 514), and Bonnet (b. 518). Adelard married Bella Riverflower and had 3 children; Rosa (b. 506), Polo (b. 508), and Holman (b. 514). Dawn married Hugo Merrifoot. Ollie moved to Greyhawk City at age 20 to make his fortune there. After retiring, he married Cora Hornblower and they had 4 sons; Hamrick (b. 524), Yon (b. 527), Mikko (b. 531), and Yost (b. 533). Leumas the Eldest left for adventure, as Leumas’ are wont, and found it fighting in the Hateful Wars. After retiring from adventuring, he was a tireless worker on his family farm. He died at 82 in 558, and Lily Bell died in 566.
Leumas the Younger married Salvia Talley in 523, and they had 4 children; Joramy (b. 525), Marigold (b. 527), and the twins Fay and Ray (b. 530). Salvia grew roses around the well Hamrick and his brothers dug, and it came to be known as the Rose Well. She was known throughout Elmshire for her lard-fried chicken and sweet tea. Celandine married Salvia’s uncle Lute Talley. Celandine was an accomplished ceramic sculptor, and her artwork still graces the homes of the Hillside Hardbuckles. Hamrick died as an infant, and Thalia married Yon Longleg. Rorimac married Lily Silentfoot and had 4 children; Chica (b. 540), Bell (b. 543), Berry (b. 545), and Pearl (b. 550). Bonnet married Cosmo Fuller, whose family treated local wool in a process called fulling. Leumas the Younger’s adventure came to him when a wizard came to Elmshire looking for assistance exploring some newly discovered tombs in the Cairn Hills. He didn’t travel far or for very long, and after “retirement” Leumas became a carpenter, who loved fishing and hunting, particularly bird hunting. Unfortunately for him, though, one day in 561 CY while duck hunting alone, his heart gave out due to the strain of trying to get himself out of some mud in which he was stuck. Salvia died 16 years later, in 577.
Leumas the Younger’s oldest daughter Joramy married Holman Swiftfoot and they had 2 children together. Marigold married Yon Hogpen, a militia scout who roamed the Cairn Hills looking for bandits. They moved their family (of 3 children) out of Elmshire and into the hills. Fay married Dale Ovgood, a metal worker, and they had one daughter, though they adopted a gnome child, Jerily Fizzlebang, and raised him as their own. Ray married Cat Elisedd, from the only known family of Tallfellow halflings in Elmshire. They were young when their first child was born, and not yet married, which created a bit of a scandal. Cat’s father Carl and mother Merry (Burrows) disowned the two for a time, until an arrangement was brokered by the Talleys. Ray and Cat had 4 children; Fanny (b. 549), Primula (b. 553), Leumas (b. 561), and Tam (b. 565). Ray is a carpenter, and learned much from his father. Joramy and Holman both died of the plague, as did Yon Hogpen.
Fanny Hardbuckle eloped in Greyhawk, but returned with her family to Elmshire years later. She married Aerk Marketman and the two had 4 children; Dufus (b. 571), Rowan (b. 575), and the twins Callalily and Brandobaris (b. 576). Primula married a man named Nat Hayward, but he died of the plague. They had one son together, Leumas (b. 579). Primula then married a militiaman named Jerem Rumble. He has raised young Leumas as his own. Ray’s son Leumas has been in and out of Elmshire for a number of years. He left to find adventure, as Leumas’ are wont, and found it in the Pomarj and Principality of Ulek. He fought in the Battle for Prinzfeld, and fell in with an elven ranger named Redhawk. As a loyal member of Redhawk’s Rangers, he has been adventuring for quite a while. Tam, on the other hand, has taken up in his father’s footsteps to become a carpenter. Tam married Topsy Oldfur, and they have a daughter named Adalily (b. 586).
The Greyhawk Hardbuckles
Sometimes called the Greybuckles, or, just as often (though with a certain amount of disdain) they are called the Goldbuckles. They are so called because they’ve made a lot of money (illegally) but don’t ever share any with the rest of the family. The Greyhawk Hardbuckles really got their start when Azalea, granddaughter of Yost Hardbuckle, moved to the city with her husband Holman Greenstream in 465 CY. Though she started a family of her own, Azalea’s nephew’s son Ollie moved to the city in 503 CY and stayed with her for a time. After a bit of adventuring, he fell in with a gang of burglars. After twenty years of burgling he retired and married his longtime paramour Cora Hornblower. They had 4 sons; Hamrick (b. 524), Yon (b. 527), Mikko (b. 531), and Yost (b. 533). Ollie’s family lived above the smallfolk-friendly tavern he opened after retirement that he named Ollie’s, located in the Artisan’s Quarter. Ollie was said to be a legendary pickpocket. He died in 568 CY at the age of 85. His wife Cora died in 580 CY.
Ollie’s sons all followed in his footsteps and either worked for criminals or worked at the tavern. Hamrick chose the former, and became an accomplished smuggler. Later in his life, he married Poppy Grassfield and they had 6 children; Carl (b. 556), Bell (b. 560), Marigold (b. 563), Leumas (b. 566), Bundo (b. 570), and Ruby (b. 575). Yon chose to run the tavern with his father, and he married Rose Palestream and had two children; Hava (b. 559) and Dora (b. 564). Yon took over ownership of the tavern when his father died. Mikko married Coraline Overhill. The pair had a daughter named Jasmine (b. 559). Mikko also joined a gang of thieves, but his luck wasn’t as good as his father’s. He was caught burgling and his hand was cut off, forcing his retirement. Yost was in the same gang that Mikko was, and retired when his brother lost his hand. He moved to the northern Cairn Hills years ago to lay low, and married May Bandywax and had 3 children; Prisca (b. 568), Tug (b. 576), and Adalgrim (b. 580).
Thus end the rolls of the families Hardbuckle, once kept by Joramy Swiftfoot née Hardbuckle, now kept by her sister Fay Ovgood, and soon to be passed on to Leumas, son of Ray, of the Hillside Hardbuckles.