- "Hobbits really are amazing creatures, as I have said before. You can learn all that there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you at a pinch."
- —The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I, Chapter 2: "The Shadow of the Past"
Hobbits, also known as Halflings, were an ancient mortal race. Although their exact origins are unknown, they were initially found in the northern parts of Middle-earth and below the Vales of Anduin. At the beginning of the Third Age, Hobbits moved north and west. Most of their race eventually founded the land of the Shire in about the year TA 1601.
Just as Hobbits often call Men the "Big Folk", Men familiar with Hobbits (especially those living in Bree) often call them the "Little Folk". Another word for Hobbits in the Common Speech is "Halflings", a name translated from the Sindarin word, Periannath (Perian for singular) and used by the Dúnedain. However, at least one politely requests being called a hobbit instead, implying the word may be inadvertently offensive to them.
The exact origins of the Hobbits are unknown and it is also unknown what Age the Hobbits first appeared in. Hobbits are known to have originated somewhere in the Valley of the Anduin River. During their early history, there were three subspecies of Hobbit. By the time they were discovered by the other peoples of Middle-earth, they had already been around for many generations. The earliest known group of hobbits lived in the Valley of Anduin, between Mirkwood and the Misty Mountains . According to The Lord of the Rings, they have lost the genealogical details of how they are related to the Big People. At this time, there were three breeds, or tribes, of Hobbits, with different physical characteristics and temperaments: Harfoots, Stoors and Fallohides. While situated in the valley of the Anduin River, the Hobbits lived close by the Éothéod, the ancestors of the Rohirrim, and this led to some contact between the two. As a result, many old words and names in "Hobbitish" are derivatives of words in Rohirric.
About the year TA 1050, they undertook the arduous task of crossing the Misty Mountains. Reasons for this trek are unknown, but they possibly had to do with Sauron's growing power in nearby Greenwood, which was later named Mirkwood because of the shadow that fell on it as Sauron searched the area for the One Ring . The Hobbits took different routes in their journey westward, but as they began to settle together in Bree-land, Dunland, and the Angle formed by the rivers Mitheithel (Hoarwell) and Bruinen (Loudwater); the divisions between the Hobbit-kinds began to blur.
In the year 1601 of the Third Age, two Fallohide brothers named Marcho and Blanco gained permission from the King of Arnor at Fornost to cross the River Baranduin and settle on the other side. Many Hobbits followed them, and most of the territory they had settled in the Third Age was abandoned. Only Bree and a few surrounding villages lasted to the end of the Third Age. The new land that they founded on the west bank of the Brandywine was called the Shire. The crossing of the Brandywine, as the hobbits called it, was the event that led to the settlement of the Shire, thus the Shire Reckoning began. Originally, the Hobbits of the Shire swore nominal allegiance to the last Kings of Arnor, being required only to acknowledge their lordship, speed their messengers, and keep the bridges and roads in repair. During the final fight against Angmar at the Battle of Fornost, the Hobbits maintain that they sent a company of archers to help, but this is recorded nowhere else. After the battle, the kingdom of Arnor was destroyed, and in absence of the king, the Hobbits elected a Thain of the Shire from among their own chieftains. The first Thain of the Shire was Bucca of the Marish, who founded the Oldbuck family. However, the Oldbuck family later crossed the Brandywine River to create the separate land of Buckland and the family name changed to the familiar "Brandybuck". Their patriarch then became Master of Buckland. With the departure of the Oldbucks/Brandybucks, a new family was selected to have its chieftains be Thain: the Took family (Indeed, Pippin Took was son of the Thain and would later become Thain himself). The Thain was in charge of Shire Moot and Muster and the Hobbitry-in-arms, but as the Hobbits of the Shire led entirely peaceful, uneventful lives, the office of Thain was seen as something more of a formality. The major political power in the Shire was actually held by the Mayor of Michel Delving (the Shire's chief township). His duties included overseeing the post and the "police" force (Shirriffs); he was also obliged to preside at banquets. The Hobbits' numbers dwindled, and their stature became progressively smaller after the Fourth Age. However, they are sometimes spoken of in the present tense, and the prologue "Concerning Hobbits" in The Lord of the Rings states that they have survived into Tolkien's day.
Types of HobbitsEdit
- The Harfoots were the most common Hobbits. They were smaller and shorter than the other kinds and had browner skin. They did not grow beards and rarely wore shoes or boots. They were skilled with their hands and feet and preferred hillsides and highlands to live in. In ancient times, they had frequent contact with the Dwarves of Middle-earth and lived in the foothills of the mountains for a long time. While the other varieties of Hobbits were still in the Wilderland, the Harfoots moved west, travelling across Eriador as far as Weathertop.
- The Stoors often chose to live near water or on flat land. They were broader and heavier in build than the other Hobbits and their feet and hands were larger. They were the most reluctant variety of Hobbit to leave the River Anduin, where some Stoors continued to stay. Others travelled west after the Harfoots and followed the River Loudwater southward. Many of the Stoors settled between Tharbad and the borders of Dunland before they continued north.
- The Fallohides, who preferred trees and woodland, were the least common variety of Hobbits. They had fairer skin and hair and were taller and slimmer than the others. They also had better relations with the elves of Middle-earth, were more skilled with language and song, and preferred hunting to tilling. They crossed the mountains north of Rivendell and then followed the River Hoarwell.
Although the Hobbits took different routes west, they eventually arrived in a land between the River Baranduin (which they renamed the Brandywine) and the Weather Hills. There, they founded many settlements, and the divisions between the varieties of Hobbits began to blur. By TA 3001, the Hobbits of the Shire included families of Bagginses, Boffins, Tooks, Brandybucks, Grubbs, Chubbs, Hornblowers, Bolgers, Bracegirdles, and Proudfoots.
Originally, Fallohides were often found as leaders among clans of the other Hobbits. Around the year TA 1600, two Fallohide brothers, Marcho and Blanco, decided to journey across the River Brandywine and settle on the other side. Large groups of Hobbits followed them, and most of their former territory was depopulated. The Hobbits who had left called their new home the Shire.
The Hobbits of the Shire originally swore their allegiance to the last Kings of Arnor. However, after the Battle of Fornost, the kingdom of Arnor was destroyed. To replace the king's authority and leadership, the Hobbits elected their first Thain of the Shire, Bucca of the Marish, from among their own chieftains. The Thain was responsible for mustering the Shire-Moot and -Muster, and leading the Hobbitry-in-arms in emergency situations. However, conflict rarely threatened the Hobbits of the Shire, and the Thain usually had no need to exercise his authority.
Age and appearanceEdit
Most Hobbits lived longer than Men, a race of which they were an off-shoot. The average lifespan of a Hobbit was about 100 years, though it was not unusal for a Hobbit to live as many as three decades beyond that. The time at which a young Hobbit matured and was accepted as an adult was 33, compared to a Man's 18 years. Thus, a 50-year-old Hobbit would only be middle-aged. The most distinguishing feature of Hobbits was their short stature. They were smaller than Dwarves and were usually between two and four feet in height. With the gradual passing of time, Hobbits became even shorter. By the Third Age, they were usually less than three feet tall. Hobbits' ears were slightly pointed and their large furry feet had leathery soles, so they generally didn't need (and rarely wore) shoes or boots. Tolkien wrote that a typical Hobbit had a "round, jovial face; ears only slightly pointed and 'elvish'." Hobbits were skilled listeners and had good eyesight. Although they were inclined to be fat and did not hurry unnecessarily, they were also nimble and deft in their movements. In The Hobbit, Bilbo manages to sneak up on the Trolls without their hearing him because he, like all Hobbits, could walk around very quietly. The Hobbits who lived in the Shire dressed in bright colors and were fond of yellow and green. Their hair usually ranges from a light or dark brown to blonde to a golden red and is almost always curly.
Most Hobbits enjoyed farming, food, ales, parties and the giving and receiving of presents. They were usually friendly and happy-go-lucky, although they were often shy of Men. Hobbits prefer a quiet, normal, and peaceful life, which is why Gandalf was frowned upon sometimes, because he brought adventure to Bilbo. Many of them had seen him returning from his long journey to the Lonely Mountain (the journey told of in The Hobbit) with his steed laden with great chests of gold. They also have developed a keen taste in the smoking of Pipe-weed and blowing smoke rings. This was first started by Tobold Hornblower of Longbottom in the Southfarthing. They were very ignorant and knew little of the happenings of the world. They dwell in Hobbit-holes (known as Smials).
Hobbits, particularly those of the Shire are very insular and are suspicious of other people from other places and anything that disturbs the peace. Hobbits refer to people outside the Shire as Outsiders, being a very broad term, were simply those foreign to any region. Just as hobbits consider themselves to be right and proper when compared to the outsiders, others consider the hobbits to be the strange, little folk.
Hobbits are fond of an unadventurous bucolic life of farming, eating, and socializing. According to Jackson's trilogy, they enjoy seven meals a day, when they can get them: breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, and, later in the evening, supper. In the book, however, supper is simply an alternative name for dinner; Bilbo only served three official meals at his Birthday Party: lunch, tea, and dinner (or supper). They like simple food such as bread, meat, potatoes, and cheese, and also like to drink ale, often in inns — not unlike the English country folk, who were Tolkien's inspiration. They have also been known to have a particular fondness for cake. The name Tolkien chose for one part of Middle-earth where the Hobbits live, "The Shire", is clearly reminiscent of the English Shires. Hobbits also enjoy smoking herbs, which they refer to as "pipe-weed", out of long wooden pipes. This can be attributed to their love of gardening and herb-lore (as exemplified by Sam Gamgee). Another interesting fact is that hobbits have an inordinate liking of mushrooms, prizing them above many other foods. A common pursuit for younger hobbits is mushroom-hunting, and Frodo Baggins said he had stolen Farmer Maggot's mushrooms on at least one occasion. Some Hobbits live in hobbit-holes, known as "smials" which resembled the characteristics of the original places where they dwelt underground. They were found in hillsides, downs, and banks. By the late Third Age, only rich and poor hobbits continued to live in smials; the middle-class hobbits usually lived in large, low buildings, like Brandy Hall. Almost every building in the Shire has round doors and windows, a feature more practical to tunnel-dwelling that the Hobbits retained in their later structures
In the prologue to The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien said that Hobbits are between two and four feet (0.6m-1.2m) tall, the average height being three feet six inches. They are not quite as stocky as the similarly-sized dwarves, but still tend to be stout, with slightly pointed ears. Tolkien describes Hobbits as the following:
"I picture a fairly human figure, not a kind of fairy rabbit as some of my British reviewers seem to fancy: fattish in the stomach, shortish in the leg. A round, jovial face; ears only slightly pointed and 'elvish'; hair short and curling (brown). The feet from the ankles down, covered with brown hairy fur that are extremely small. Clothing: green velvet breeches; red or yellow waistcoat; brown or green jacket; gold (or brass) buttons; a dark green hood and cloak (belonging to a dwarf)."
In the Prologue to The Lord of the Rings, he wrote that they dress in bright colours, favouring yellow and green. Nowadays (according to Tolkien's fiction), they are very shy creatures, but they are and have been capable of amazing things. They are adept with slings and throwing stones. Their feet are covered with curly hair (usually brown, as is the hair on their heads) and have leathery soles, so most Hobbits hardly ever wear shoes. Hobbits (Halflings) are often depicted with large feet for their size, perhaps to visually emphasize their unusual nature. This is especially prominent in the influential illustrations by the Brothers Hildebrandt and the large prosthetic feet used in the films by Peter Jackson. Tolkien does not specifically give size as a generic hobbit trait, but does makes it the distinctive trait of Proudfoot hobbit clan. Hobbits can sometimes live for up to one hundred and thirty years, although their average life expectancy is one hundred years. The time at which a young Hobbit "comes of age" is thirty-three. Thus, a fifty-year-old Hobbit would only look 26–30 years by human standards.
The Hobbits had a distinct calendar, every year started on a Saturday and ended on a Friday, with each of the twelve months consisting of thirty days. Some special days did not belong to any month - Yule 1 and 2 (New Year's Eve and New Years Day) and three Lithedays in mid summer. Every fourth year there was an extra Litheday.
The Hobbits of the Shire developed the custom of giving away gifts on their birthdays instead of receiving them. They use the term Mathom for old and assorted objects, which are invariably given as presents many times over or are stored in a museum (Mathom-house).
Instead of saying "one hundred and twelve" they say "eleventy two" and that with every other three plus digit number (although in Jackson's Trilogy, Bilbo tells the party-goers that it was his One Hundred and Eleventh Birthday).
Etymology and NamesEdit
The name "Hobbit" is derived from the Rohirric word Holbytla, a word which means "Hole-builder". In the original Common Speech, the name was Kuduk (Hobbit), derived from the actual Rohirric Kûd-dûkan (hole dweller).
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- ↑ The Lord of the Rings: Prologue, "Concerning Hobbits"
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 The Complete Guide to Middle-earth
- ↑ The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Letters #27