Half-grown hobbits, the hole-dwellers
Hobbits are a fictional race invented by J.R.R. Tolkien. First appearing in his book “The Hobbit”, members of this race of little people went on to star in the classic “The Lord of the Rings”. Hobbits are halflings, and are generally considered to be the first of this people, though the halfling races are now ubiquitous throughout many fantasy and role playing works.
Appearance and behaviour:
Hobbits are small, appearing as children to the Men of Middle-earth. They are less stocky than Dwarves, though often much of a similar height, and inclined to put on weight. They now range between about two and three feet in height, though in ancient days they often reached four feet, and some notables almost five.
They are typically broad of face, with red cheeks and generally a good-humoured countenance. They seldom possess any facial hair, and in those who do it is merely a light down. Their hair is generally of a brown tint, and curly, and a peculiarity of the race is the thick thatch of curly hair on their feet. This, combined with the tough, leathery soles, means that hobbits usually go barefoot.
Hobbits are a cheerful race, fond of bright colours, parties, songs, and good food and drink. Their hospitality is legendary, and the giving of presents on birthdays is an important part of hobbit life. They have never been warlike, but will fight for their existence if they have to, and often surprise the unwary by giving an account of themselves that is belied by their comfortable appearance. They are a surprisingly tough race, and excellent marksmen. They have become conservative and home-loving, but have been famously demonstrated to have previously unsuspected depths of valour.
The hobbit life is a simple one – they are generally farmers or craftsmen, with little knowledge of technology beyond such things as the water mill or hand bellows. They are nimble and quick of eye and ear, able to slip away silently to avoid Men or other such threats. They are little concerned with books and learning, though their genealogical histories are complex and well recorded. Their language is the Common Speech or Westron, though they retain some words from their tongues of the Elder Days – languages akin to that of the Rohirrim.
While hobbits traditionally lived in holes or systems of tunnels in the earth, this practice is dying out somewhat. The very rich hobbits still maintain their luxurious tunnels (or smials), and very poor families are often found in primitive burrows, but the habit of building houses above ground is catching on. These are often long, low and rambling, reminiscent still of the old tunnel life.
The art of smoking pipe-weed – a variety of tobacco – almost certainly originated with the hobbits. Hobbits enjoy a good pipe almost as much as their food and drink, and they certainly consider a meal incomplete without a smoke at the end. The art is known among some of the wizards and the Dúnedain or rangers, but to much of the race of Man the herb is only known for its sweet scented flowers, and the history of its use was left to a hobbit – Meriadoc Brandybuck – to write.
History and legend:
Hobbits are an ancient race, and little is known of their origins. They first came to be in the First Age of Middle-earth, at least 6 millennia before the happenings in The Lord of the Rings. They are most closely related to Man, and Man to them, and in the Elder days were far more similar to mankind than they are now. In their earliest days they inhabited the valley of Anduin between what was then the Greenwood, and the Misty Mountains. When a shadow fell over the land, and the forest became known as Mirkwood, the hobbit races undertook the journey across the Misty Mountains into Eriador.
An unobtrusive people, Hobbits existed in Middle-earth long before other peoples took note of them. They had been left out of the great list of the Ents that listed all the creatures to be found in Middle-earth, and most if not all of the chronicles of their existence were created by hobbits themselves. By the men of Rohan and Gondor they were remembered only as legend, and of the wizards for a long time it was only Gandalf who interested himself in the doings of hobbits.
Hobbit history begins with the first year of the Shire-reckoning, when the Fallohide brothers Marcho and Blanco took a large group of hobbits and crossed the Baranduin river (known to hobbits as the Brandywine). They reached an agreement with the High King Argeleb II in which they received the lands between the river and the far downs for their use, ceding sovereignty to the king and keeping the Great Bridge and the roads in repair in return.
It is recorded in hobbit lore that archers from amongst them were sent to the last battle against the Witch-king of Angmar, but little else from outside the Shire (as they called their lands) troubled them. Before the events chronicled in Lord of the Rings, only one skirmish had ever troubled the hobbits in their Shire.
The Shire is divided up into four farthings, or quarters (an excellent writeup already exists on the subject of the Shire), and is generally self-governed. The hobbits are peaceful and generous, and the Shire is governed only by the Mayor at the main town – Michel Delving – and policed by the Shirriffs (a company of twelve hobbits whose concerns are more agricultural than legal)
The term “hobbit” is what they call themselves. To the elves they are Periannath, to Men they are halflings. The Men of Rohan use the word holbytla meaning hole builder, and it seems that the term hobbit is a worn down version of this word – and a name that originally applied only to the Harfoots.
Their calendar is different to that of Men or Elves – retaining the names of the months much as they were in the ancient days in Anduin, with the days of the week altered in some ways as well.
This has given the basic history of hobbits – ignoring the amazing events chronicled in J. R. R. Tolkien’s works “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”, concerning the adventures of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, and others of the most famous hobbits of yore.
The three breeds of hobbit:
Before hobbits left Anduin, it was already to be seen that they were divided into three families; Stoors, Harfoots, and Fallohides.
Stoors were of heavier build with larger hands and feet, and they inhabited flat lands and riverine environments. They were the only one of the three strains to grow facial hair. The Stoors remained near the river Anduin for some time after Harfoots had crossed the Misty Mountains, and were less shy of men than the other breeds of hobbit.
Harfoots were shorter and slighter than the other two races, with darker complexions and smallish hands and feet. They dwelt in the hills, and while they moved Westward earliest, they were the least wandersome, and maintained their ancestral habit of living in holes for many years. They were the most numerous of the breeds, and had much traffic with Dwarves.
Fallohides were the least numerous of the races of hobbits, taller and more slender than the others, with fair skin and hair. They lived in the forests, and were hunters rather than farmers or craftsmen. They often associated with Elves, and it is possible that from this friendship came their skill with language and song. They left Anduin last, but soon mingled again with the other breeds, and often became leaders amongst hobbits.
While the three breeds of hobbits have intermingled somewhat, it is still possible to pick out the different strains in various parts of the shire and differing hobbit families. The Tooks and the Masters of Buckland demonstrate a strong Fallohidish strain, and hobbits of the Eastfarthing are Stoorish
Tolkien and hobbits:
Much has been written about Tolkien’s intent and inspiration for the sagas of Middle-earth. It seems clear that they are partly allegorical – that Tolkien despised industrialisation and war, and mourned the ravages that these had taken on the countryside of his youth. The hobbits therefore seem to represent Tolkien’s ideal existence – a happy farming community with little technology, untouched by war or famine.
…and hungry as hunters, the Hobbit children,
the laughing folk, the little people.
J. R. R. Tolkien
’s “The Lord of the Rings
” – mainly the Prologue.