Hobbits have Bluegrass roots

Lexington Herald-Leader

"Imagine that," Barnett told Davenport. "You know, he used to have the most extraordinary interest in the people here in Kentucky. He could never get enough of my tales of Kentucky folk. He used to make me repeat family names like Barefoot and Boffin and Baggins, and good country names like that."

Out the window, Davenport said, he could see tobacco barns. And suddenly, the ways of the hobbits -- their country turns of phrase, their peculiar manners and their penchant for smoking -- came into focus. Davenport then conducted a little experiment and discovered something interesting: "Practically all the names of Tolkien's hobbits are listed in my Lexington phone book, and those that aren't can be found over in Shelbyville. Like as not, they cure pipe-weed for a living."
The Shire is a place in the imagination, of course, but it's nice to know some of the influences on its construction in Tolkien's mind.