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Hobbits

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The name Hobbits refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see The Hobbit (disambiguation).
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Hobbits
Race
DominionsThe Shire, Bree-land
LanguagesHobbitish (a regional dialect of Westron)
Average height2-4 ft or 0.6-1.2 m (often less than three feet in later days)
Skin colorNut-brown to White
Hair colorTypically curly brown, rarely blond (until the Fourth Age), and white and grey in later years
DistinctionsMortality, diminuitive stature, furry feet
Lifespanc. 100 years
MembersMarcho and Blanco, Sméagol, Bandobras Took, Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins
"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."
An Unexpected Party, The Hobbit

Hobbits were a small race that typically dwelt underground, believed to be related to Men. They played little role in history, save during the War of the Ring.

Contents

Description

Hobbits were between two to four feet tall, the average height being 3 feet 6 inches, with slightly pointed ears[1] and furry feet with leathery soles, resulting in most never wearing shoes. They were fond of an unadventurous bucolic life of farming, eating, and socializing. Hobbits had a life span somewhat longer than Men of non-Númenórean descent, having an average lifespan of between 90 and 100 years (the two oldest-living recorded hobbits were The Old Took and Bilbo Baggins, who reached the ages of 130 and 131, respectively). The time at which a young hobbit "came of age" was 33;[2] thus a 70 year old hobbit would only be middle-aged.

Origin

Hobbits were considered Men. Nearly all scholars agree that Men were closely related to Hobbits, far more closely than Men were to either Elves or Dwarves. It was thus commonly assumed that Hobbits were among the Younger Children of Ilúvatar and were the result of the same act of creation as Men. This would imply that Hobbits had the Gift of Men to pass entirely beyond Arda.

Their exact origin is unknown and come into the records not earlier than the early Third Age where they were living in the Vales of Anduin in Wilderland, between Mirkwood and the Misty Mountains. They have lost the genealogical details of how they are related to the rest of mankind. While they stayed there, the Northmen knew them. Their descendants, the Rohirrim had that memory of the holbytlan and remained an object of lore until they contacted them during the War of the Ring.

History

At this time, there were three Hobbit-kinds, with different temperaments. The Harfoots, the most numerous, were almost identical to the Hobbits as they are described in The Lord of the Rings. The Stoors had an affinity for water, boats and swimming; the Fallohides were an adventurous people. (Both of these traits were much rarer in later days.) While situated in the Valley of the Anduin River the Hobbits lived close by the Eotheod, 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, so much so that even someone without linguistic training could make out the relation (Merry would later write an entire book devoted to the relationship, Old Place Names in the Shire).

Some time near the beginning of the Third Age, they undertook, for reasons unknown, but possibly having to do with the rising evil power in Mirkwood, the arduous task of crossing the Misty Mountains. Some of the Stoors, however, stayed behind, and it is from these people that Gollum would come many years later. The Hobbits took different routes in their journey westward, but eventually came to a land between the River Baranduin (which they renamed Brandywine) and the Weather Hills. There they founded many settlements, and the divisions between the Hobbit-kinds began to blur.

Around the year 1600 of the Third Age, two Fallohide brothers decided, again for reasons unknown, to cross the River Brandywine and settle on the other side. Large numbers of Hobbits followed them, and most of their former territory was depopulated. Only Bree and a few surrounding villages lasted to the end of the Third Age. The new land that they found on the west bank of the Brandywine is called The Shire.

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 nowhere else recorded. 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 chieftans.

The first Thain of the Shire was Bucca of the Marrish, who founded the Oldbuck family. However, later on the Oldbuck family crossed the Brandywine River to create the separate land of Buckland and the family name changed to the familiar "Brandybuck". Their patriach then became Master of Buckland. With the departure of the Oldbucks/Brandybucks, a new family was selected to have its chieftans 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.

Some well-known Hobbits


Though in The Hobbit it is mentioned that Gandalf "was responsible for so many quiet lads and lasses going off into the Blue for mad adventures," no female Hobbits are depicted in Tolkien's stories doing so; however Hobbit women do appear in his works, such as the formidable Lobelia Sackville-Baggins and Sam's wife Rose Cotton.

Etymology

Hobbit was derived from Old English holbytla, "hole-dweller" which represents the Rohirric language.[3]

The relationship hobbit/holbytla parallels the original Westron Kuduk (Hobbit), derived from the actual Rohirric kûd-dûkan (holbytla, hole dweller). This name obviously derives from the times when the hobbits lived at the Vales of Anduin with the Northmen.

Hobbits were also called Halflings by the Dúnedain, first when they still measured 2 rangar tall; twice as high as a hobbit who would reach only 1 ranga. The word retained even when the later generations of Dúnedain became shorter. However, the term is slightly offensive to Hobbits, as to themselves they are not 'half' of anything, and certainly do not use the term to refer to themselves.

Halfling represents a translation of Westron banakil. In Quenya the word is periando and in Sindarin perian pl. periannath.

Inspiration

Tolkien's etymology for 'Hobbit' is interesting as well: the word obviously constructed meaningless as a spontaneous inspiration, without prior intent, but it would have been natural for him to see in it the German prefix hob meaning small (e.g. hobgoblin). However this prefix dates back "only" to the 13th century, too late by Tolkien's standards; thence when later he began to work out the language relations further (see: Mannish) he decided that it could be a derived form of an Old English word such as holbytla.

According to Tolkien, the word hobbit came first, and then he decided to write The Hobbit around it. As a university lecturer, he was in the process of correcting reports when he started scribbling on a blank piece of paper and wrote, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit", and the rest of the story sprang from that. The idea of a little hole dwelling creature was introduced to Tolkien by one of his students in a story he had written.

It was revealed recently that the word pre-dated Tolkien's usage, though with a different meaning).[4] Tolkien's concept of hobbits, in turn, seems to have been inspired by Edward Wyke Smith's 1927 children's book The Marvellous Land of Snergs, and by Sinclair Lewis's 1922 novel Babbitt. Tolkien wrote to W.H. Auden that The Marvellous Land of Snergs "was probably an unconscious source-book for the Hobbits"[4] and he told an interviewer that the word hobbit "might have been associated with Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt" who enjoys the comforts of his home.

Concerning the general characteristics, mentality and temperament of Hobbits, they derive mostly from Tolkien himself:

"I am in fact a Hobbit (in all but size). I like gardens, trees and unmechanized farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food [...]; I like, and even dare to wear in these dull days, ornamental waistcoats. I am fond of mushrooms (out of a field); have a very simple sense of humour [...]; I go to bed late and get up late [...]. I do not travel much."
J.R.R. Tolkien

In popular usage

"Hobbit" is a trademark owned by the Tolkien estate, as are most of the names, places and artifacts included in books by J.R.R. Tolkien. For this reason Dungeons and Dragons and other fantasy tend to refer to Hobbits and Hobbit-like races rather as Halflings (hin in the Mystara universe, hurthlings in Ancient Domains of Mystery).

The name hobbit had previously appeared in an obscure "list of spirits" by Michael Denham, which includes several repetitions. There is no evidence to suggest Tolkien used this as a source — indeed he spent many years trying to find out whether he really did coin the word. Denham's "hobbit spirits" (which are never referenced anywhere except in the long list) have no obvious relation to Tolkien's Hobbits, other than the name (which may possibly imply hob- "small", see below): Tolkien's Hobbits are small humans, not spirits. Nonetheless, some few people have suggested that the reference in the Denham list should invalidate the trademark.

The lexeme hob, meaning small, is a root word for hobbledehoy, hobgoblin, and hobyah. This may have influenced Tolkien's name; see Inspiration above.

Homo floresiensis, a possible species in the genus Homo (thus, related to humans) discovered in 2004, has been informally dubbed a "hobbit" by its discoverers due to its small size.

In recent depictions and adaptations such as The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy, Hobbits are shown with proportionately large feet; however Tolkien mentioned nothing about their size, other than they are hairy and that they wear no shoes.

References


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Long-expected Party"
  2. Peter Gilliver, Edmund Weiner and Jeremy Marshall, The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary, p. 144
  3. 4.0 4.1 J.R.R. Tolkien; Douglas A. Anderson, (ed.), (2002) The Annotated Hobbit: Revised and Expanded Edition