Tolkien Gateway


Revision as of 07:54, 15 April 2018 by Mith (Talk | contribs)
"Who told you, and who sent you?" — Gandalf
This article or section needs more/new/more-detailed sources to conform to a higher standard and to provide proof for claims made.
"...It is a long tale..." — Aragorn
This article or section needs expansion and/or modification. Please help the wiki by expanding it.
The name Hobbits refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see The Hobbit (disambiguation).

Inger Edelfeldt - A Long Expected Party.jpg
"A Long Expected Party" by Inger Edelfeldt
General Information
Other namesHalflings
LocationsThe Shire, Bree-land
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."
The Hobbit, An Unexpected Party

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."
Thorin Oakenshield[2]

Hobbits were between three to four feet tall, the average height being 3 feet 6 inches, with short legs, slightly pointed ears[3] and furry feet with leathery soles, resulting in most never wearing shoes. 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".

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.[4] The two oldest-living recorded hobbits (except Gollum) were The Old Took (who reached the age of 130) and Bilbo Baggins (who surpassed him at 131).

Throughout their history Hobbits had showed unparelleled skill, courage and also endurance and resistance in times of danger and terror. During their Wandering Days Hobbits demostrated 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,[5] 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. [6]

However, their hidden potentials resurfaced in difficult times; in the Long Winter, Gandalf admired their uncomplaining courage and pity one for another, thanks to which they survived.[7] 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).[8] These surprising Hobbit traits also were tested and proven during the Quest of Erebor and, most notably, the War of the Ring.


The three kinds of Hobbits

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.

It is supposed that Hobbits branched out from Men as a race in the Elder Days.[9] Their exact origin is unknown and 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 Rohirric, 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 Place Names in the Shire).


Robin Wood - Mathom lore

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 undertook, for reasons unknown, but possibly having to do with the rising evil power in Mirkwood, the arduous task of crossing the Misty Mountains, beginning thus their Wandering Days. 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.

In the year T.A. 1601, two Fallohide brothers 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. 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 Shire-hobbits 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 chieftains.

The first Thain of the Shire was Bucca of the Marish, 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 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.

Some well-known Hobbits

Frodo and Sam

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.


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 Rohirric language.[10] In a letter, Tolkien commented on the pronounciation of the word hobbit: "I am sure many hobbits drop their hs like most rural folk in England".[11]

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.[12][13]

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.[source?]

Halfling represents a translation of Westron banakil. In Quenya the word is Perian(d-) pl. Periandi[14] and in Sindarin Perian pl. Periannath.[15]


"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

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, hobbledehoy and hobyah). 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.[16] 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).[17] 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"[17] 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.[18]


  1. Emil Johansson, "Lord of the Rings in Statistics", Lord of the Rings Project (accessed 9 September 2012)
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "The Return Journey"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 27, (dated March or April 1938)
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Long-expected Party"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, "Prologue", "Concerning Hobbits"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix D, "The Calendars"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Quest of Erebor"
  8. Stan Brown, "Why hadn’t Gollum turned into a wraith long ago?", FAQ of the Rings (accessed 25 January 2022)
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, "Prologue"
  10. Peter Gilliver, Edmund Weiner and Jeremy Marshall, The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary, p. 144
  11. 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
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Road to Isengard"
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F, "On Translation"
  14. "Most expensive Tolkien bok in the world", (accessed 25 January 2022), dedication to Elaine Griffiths
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Field of Cormallen"
  16. Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, p.172
  17. 17.0 17.1 J.R.R. Tolkien; Douglas A. Anderson, (ed.), (2002) The Annotated Hobbit: Revised and Expanded Edition
  18. "Big Feet", The One Ring Forums (accessed 2 September 2012)