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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).

"The Landlord of the Ivy Bush" by Kay Woollard
General Information
Other namesCūbugin (W), Periannath (S), Periandi (Q)
Halflings, Holbytlan, Little People,
LocationsThe Shire, Buckland, Bree-land
AffiliationHost of the West
LanguagesHobbitish (a regional dialect of Westron)
MembersMarcho and Blanco, Sméagol, Bandobras Took, Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins
Physical Description
Lifespanc. 96[1]
DistinctionsMortality, diminutive stature, furry feet
Average height2-4 ft or 0.6-1.2 m (often less than three feet in later days)
Hair colorTypically curly brown, rarely blond (until the Fourth Age), and white and grey in later years
Skin colorNut-brown to White
GalleryImages of Hobbits

In a hole in the ground there lived a 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.

Description and culture

There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.

Hobbits were between two and four feet tall,[2] with differences between male and female: about 3 feet 6 inches for males[3] and seldom exceeded 3 feet for female.[4] They had short legs, slightly pointed ears[5] and furry feet with leathery soles, resulting in most never wearing shoes. Compared to the Dwarves they are a bit shorter and less stout or stocky. Early in their recorded history, Hobbits were divided in three kinds with different customs and temperament. The Stoors grew facial hair and had an affinity for water, boats and swimming and wore boots; the Fallohides were fair, tall and slim, an adventurous people, friendlier and more open to outsiders. Finally, the Harfoots were the most numerous and instituted the living in burrows. In later days the Harfoot traits became the "norm".

Dinner Time - A farmhouse kitchen in the Shire by Kay Woollard

Hobbits had a life span somewhat longer than Men of non-Númenórean descent, averaging between 90 and 100 years. The time at which a young hobbit "came of age" was 33.[6] The oldest-living recorded hobbit (except Gollum and Bilbo Baggins, whose lives were extended by the power of The One Ring) was The Old Took, who reached the age of 130.

By nature they were of gentle disposition, neither cruel nor vindictive.[7] Slow to quarrel, they never had been warlike, and never fought among themselves, nor hunted for sport; by the late Third Age the Shire-hobbits knew of weapons only as trophies or useless trinkets. However they were skilled with all kind of tools, as well as arms when there was a need; they were keen-eyed and used the bow well, and also the stones, successfully thrown against trespassing beasts.

Throughout their history Hobbits had showed unparalleled skill, courage and also endurance and resistance in times of danger and terror. During their Wandering Days Hobbits demonstrated an easiness to adapt to the environments they visited and adopted the customs and languages of the peoples they were in contact with. In the Shire, they had settled with a closed and comfort-loving lifestyle; they were fond of an unadventurous bucolic life of farming, eating, smoking pipe-weed, socializing and talking about genealogies. Hobbits also liked to drink ale in inns, and ate at least six meals a day when they could get them. Every Highday and after noon, Hobbits celebrated a small holiday with evening feasts. [8]

However, their hidden potentials resurfaced in difficult times; in the Long Winter, Gandalf admired their uncomplaining courage and pity for one another, thanks to which they survived.[9] Another example of Hobbitish hardiness and resistant nature, was Gollum, who despite using the One Ring for years, did not transform into a Wraith under the Ring's evil power (unlike the nine Mannish Kings).[10] These surprising Hobbit traits also were tested and proven during the Quest of Erebor and, most notably, the War of the Ring.

Clans and families

Hobbits were universally monogamous and "patrilinear" (family names descended in the male-line) and normally the titular family head was the eldest male, but his wife had an equal, but separate status. In the large powerful families (such as the Tooks) the head of what we would call a clan was the eldest male of the most direct line of descent. If the master died first his titular headship of the clan was taken by his wife and, only after her death, by their son.

Chieftains and leaders of their clans and tribes were typically of Fallohide kind, as they were by nature more adventurous.

The custom in the "younger" families was that when the head had no male heir, the headship passed to the daughter's eldest son. In such cases the heir took the name of his mother’s family while retaining the father’s family name in second place; this was the case with Otho Sackville-Baggins, who obtained headship of the Sackvilles through his mother Camellia.[11]


The Hobbits generally exchanged gifts as a form of "payment" for services but also of thanksgiving in favors and friendships. According to an ancient custom, a hobbit baby, shortly after birth and its name-announcement, was given a gift by the head of the family, as a token of accepting it into the family (on the rare cases of adoptions, parents gave gifts to their new child). Gifts then became a means of recognizing family membership, and the head of the family ritually gave something, even if only a token (mathom), to a birthday celebrant.

On its third birthday, a hobbit child gave presents to their parents, that typically was something that was personally found, or produced (made or grown). This may have been extended to other ages and relatives resulting to the celebrant both receiving and giving a gift. Birthdays had considerable social importance, and customs were regulated by fairly strict etiquette, usually reduced to formalities.[11]


The three kinds of Hobbits. Arty by Lidia Postma

Hobbits did not have legends concerning their origin. Lacking better evidence, it is suggested that they are a miniature variant of Men, or of a related branch.[12] 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.

It is supposed that Hobbits branched out from Men as a race in the Elder Days, but they don't appear at all in the chronicles of the Elves.[2] Their exact origin is unknown but in their early days they could have been primitive and "savage".[4] Apparently they survived in Middle-earth for millennia far from importance and the knowledge of stronger races; they 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 they remained an object of lore until they contacted them during the War of the Ring. Many old words and names in "Hobbitish" are cognates of words in Rohanese, so much so that even someone without linguistic training could make out the relation (Meriadoc Brandybuck would later write an entire book devoted to the relationship, Old Words and Names in the Shire).


Mathom lore by Robin Wood

While situated in the Valley of the Anduin River the Hobbits lived close by the Northmen. Some time near the beginning of the Third Age, they were uneasy because of the growing numbers of alien men from the East who passed the Greenwood and harassed the Northmen and no doubt they also sensed the rising Shadow of Dol Guldur.[4] They took the arduous task of crossing the Misty Mountains, beginning thus their Wandering Days. Some of the Stoors, however, returned to that place, and it is from these people that Gollum would come many years later.

The Hobbits took different routes in their journey westward, and eventually they came to a land between the River Baranduin (which they renamed Brandywine) and the Weather Hills. Along the way they founded many settlements (most of them disappeared and were forgotten), and the divisions between the Hobbit-kinds began to blur. Only Bree and a few surrounding villages lasted to the end of the Third Age.

In the year T.A. 1601, two Fallohide brothers, Marcho and Blanco, decided 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. The new land that they found on the west bank of the Brandywine is called The Shire.

Hobbits became first famous and a renowned part of the wider history during the Quest of Erebor (Bilbo Baggins was the first ever famous Hobbit) and later during the War of the Ring. In the later Ages they have dwindled and their numbers have diminished and although they still linger in the North-west of the Old World, they are rarely seen; they avoid the Big Folk with dismay, using their art of disappearing.[2]

Some well-known Hobbits

Frodo and Bilbo by Anke Eißmann

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, Sam's wife Rose Cotton, and Belladonna Took, one of the Old Took's remarkable daughters, who is said to have given up adventuring upon marrying the respectable Bungo Baggins.


This section explains the fictional etymology of the word in the linguistic context of Middle-earth; for the actual origin of the word see the section #Inspiration below.

Hobbit was derived from Old English holbytla, "hole-dweller" which represents the Rohanese language.[13] In a letter, Tolkien commented on the pronunciation of the word hobbit: "I am sure many hobbits drop their hs like most rural folk in England".[14]

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.[15][16]

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.[17] Hobbits used the term when talking to those that knew them as Halflings but preferred to be called Hobbits.[18].

Halfling represents a translation of Westron banakil. In Quenya the word is Perian(d-) pl. Periandi[19] and in Sindarin Perian pl. Periannath.[20]


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.

The name 'Hobbit' was probably constructed meaningless as a spontaneous inspiration, without prior intent, but it would have been natural for him to see in it the prefix hob as in Hobgoblin. 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. Tolkien also claimed "that the only E. word that influenced the invention was ‘hole’; that granted the description of hobbits."[21]

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.[22] 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).[23] 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"[23] 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.

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"): 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.

In popular usage

"Hobbit" is a trademark owned by the Middle-earth Enterprises, as some of names, places and artifacts included in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings 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).

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.

Fans have noted that in depictions and adaptations such as The Lord of the Rings (film series), Hobbits are shown with unusually large feet, a conception probably influenced by the widespread art of the Brothers Hildebrandt. However, Tolkien himself never mentioned that large feet was a general feature of Hobbits.[24]


  1. Emil Johansson, "Lord of the Rings in Statistics", Lord of the Rings Project (accessed 9 September 2012)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, "Prologue", "Concerning Hobbits"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Carl F. Hostetter (ed.), The Nature of Middle-earth, "Part Two. Body, Mind and Spirit: VI. Descriptions of Characters", "Heights", p. 195
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "X. Of Dwarves and Men", "The Atani and their Languages"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 27, (dated March or April 1938)
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Long-expected Party"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "X. Of Dwarves and Men", "Notes", #55
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix D, "The Calendars"
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Quest of Erebor"
  10. Stan Brown, "Why hadn’t Gollum turned into a wraith long ago?", FAQ of the Rings (accessed 19 June 2024)
  11. 11.0 11.1 J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 214, (undated, written late 1958 or early 1959)
  12. Letter to Arthur Ransome
  13. Peter Gilliver, Edmund Weiner and Jeremy Marshall, The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary, p. 144
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Letter to Alina Dadlez (19 September 1962)" (letter); quoted in Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond (2006), The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: II. Reader's Guide, p. 1036
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Road to Isengard"
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F, "On Translation"
  17. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields", "Appendix: Númenórean Linear Measures"
  18. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Road to Isengard", p. 557
  19. "Most expensive Tolkien bok in the world", TolkienLibrary.com (accessed 19 June 2024), dedication to Elaine Griffiths
  20. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Field of Cormallen"
  21. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 319, (dated 8 January 1971)
  22. Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, p.172
  23. 23.0 23.1 J.R.R. Tolkien; Douglas A. Anderson, (ed.), (2002) The Annotated Hobbit: Revised and Expanded Edition
  24. "Big Feet", The One Ring Forums (accessed 2 September 2012)