|Languages||Westron (Shire dialect)|
|Average height||2-4 feet (often less than three feet in later days)|
|Skin color||Nut-brown to White|
|Hair color||Typically curly brown, rarely blond (until the Fourth Age), and white and grey in later years|
|Distinctions||Mortality, diminuitive stature|
|Lifespan||c. 100 years|
|Members||Marcho and Blanco, Sméagol, Bandobras Took, Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins|
Hobbits are, or were, between two to four feet tall, the average height being 3 feet 6 inches, with slightly pointed ears and oversized furry feet with leathery soles, resulting in most never wearing shoes. They are fond of an unadventurous bucolic life of farming, eating, and socializing. Living rather longer than humans, Hobbits live an average of about 100 years; their oldest living up 130. The time at which a young Hobbit "comes of age" is 33, as compared to the human 21 years. Thus a 70 year old Hobbit would only be middle-aged. Hobbits also like to drink ale in inns, not unlike the English countryfolk, who were Tolkien's inspiration. We can also see that in the name Tolkien chose for the part of Middle-earth where the Hobbits live: "The Shire" is clearly reminiscent of the English county names (e.g., Lancashire, Shropshire).
(Mealtimes, at least according to the Peter Jackson script adaptation of the novel, consist at least of the seven meals known as breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner and supper. Tolkien did say that Hobbits eat "at least six meals a day when they can get it", but he didn't give their names.)
Hobbits are evidently related to Men, and are represented as a pygmy offshoot of that race. Their exact origin is unknown, but by the early Third Age they were living in the Vales of Anduin in Wilderland.
Hobbits are also called Halflings (in Sindarin, perian singular and periannath collective) due to their small stature. 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. Tolkien's etymology for 'Hobbit' is interesting as well: obviously constructed without prior intent, it would have been natural for him to connect it to 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, and so he constructed an alternative etymology, from Old English hol-bytla, "hole-dweller". When later he began to work out the language relations further, Hobbit was to be derived from the Rohirric (actually Anglo-Saxon - which Rohirric parallels in Tolkien's universe) Holbytlan (hole builders). In the original Westron, the name was Kuduk (Hobbit), derived from the actual Rohirric kûd-dûkan (hole dweller).
According to Tolkien, the word hobbit was the first element of The Hobbit that he created. As a university lecturer, he was in the process of correcting reports when he started scribbling on a piece of paper and wrote, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit", and the multitude of stories 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.
Some well-known Hobbits
- Bilbo Baggins
- Frodo Baggins
- Samwise "Sam" Gamgee
- Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck
- Peregrin "Pippin" Took
- Fredegar "Fatty" Bolger
- Otho and Lotho Sackville-Baggins
- Old Took
- Bullroarer Took
- Sméagol (who became the creature Gollum)
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 Rosie Cotton.
Historically, the Hobbits are known to have originated 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 rest of humankind. 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 Mordor's power, 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.
A map of the Shire and surrounding regions may be found at Eriador.
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.
The ontological nature of hobbits
Hobbits are considered Men in Tolkien's works. Nearly all Tolkien scholars agree that Men are closely related to Hobbits, far more closely than Men are to either Elves or Dwarves. It is thus commonly assumed that Hobbits are among the Younger Children of Iluvatar and are the result of the same act of creation as Men. This would imply that Hobbits have the Gift of Men to pass entirely beyond Arda, which also means that the avoidance of the Gift of Men in Hobbits, like in Men, can be physically and morally destructive. Sméagol, who had originally been a Hobbit, was transformed into the monster Gollum by a combination of the evil of the One Ring and the resulting avoidance of the Gift of Men. Bilbo Baggins became "thin and stretched" from the immortality that the One Ring granted to him, since neither Men nor Hobbits are intended for immortality in this world. Men and Hobbits appear to have the same ontological nature, which is that they are the result of the act of creation that resulted in the Younger Children of Iluvatar.
Usage outside Tolkien
"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 & 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 Origin above.
Homo floresiensis, an extinct species of humans discovered in 2004, has been informally dubbed a "hobbit" by its discoverers.