Brief Description   
A Closer Look   
More details about Hobbits   
Origin & History of the Hobbits   
The Shire   
Other comments   
Origin of the Idea and the Name "Hobbit"   

Brief Description    
A little folk living in the Shire, one of the speaking races of Middle-earth, closely related to men.

Also called Halflings, Periannath (Sind.: Halflings), Kuduk (as they called themselves, deriving from Rohirrim kūd-dūkan...hole-dweller), Holbytlan, the LittleFolk and LittlePeople


  • Harfoots (Mounatins and Hills) smaller, browner skin, beardless
  • Stoors (Rivers) broad and stout
  • Fallohides (Woodlands) brighter skins and hair, taller
  • Bolgers
  • Hornblowers
  • Boffins
  • Bracegirdles
  • Bagginses
  • Tooks
  • Brandybucks
  • Grubbs
  • Chubbs
  • Burrowses
  • Brockhouses
  • Proudfoots

A Closer Look    

In the Prologue of The Lord of the Rings Tolkien provides the reader with a rather detailed introduction of the Hobbits, which seem to have been one of his "favourite races" on Middle-earth:

More details about Hobbits    

Hobbits are an unobtrusive but very ancient people, more numerous formerly than they are today; for they love peace and quiet and good tilled earth: a well-ordered and well-farmed countryside was their favourite haunt. They do not and did not understand or like machines more complicated than a forge-bellows, a water-mill, or a hand-loom, though they were skilful with tools.

They are quick of hearing and sharp-eyed.... They possessed from the first the art of disappearing swiftly and silently.......they are a little people, smaller than Dwarves: less tout and stocky, that is, even when they are not actually much shorter. Their height is variable, ranging between two and four feet of our measure. They seldom now reach three feet; but they hive dwindled, they say, and in ancient days they were taller.

As for the Hobbits of the Shire.......they dressed in bright colours, being notably fond of yellow and green; but they seldom wore shoes, since their feet had tough leathery soles and were clad in a thick curling hair, much like the hair of their heads, which was commonly brown. Thus, the only craft little practised among them was shoe-making; but they had long and skilful fingers and could make many other useful and comely things.

Their faces were as a rule good-natured rather than beautiful, broad, bright-eyed, red-cheeked, with mouths apt to laughter, and to eating and drinking. And laugh they did, and eat, and drink, often and heartily, being fond of simple jests at all times, and of six meals a day (when they could get them). They were hospitable and delighted in parties, and in presents, which they gave away freely and eagerly accepted.

Before the crossing of the mountains the Hobbits had already become divided into three somewhat different breeds: Harfoots, Stoors, and Fallohides. The Harfoots were browner of skin, smaller, and shorter, and they were beardless and bootless; their hands and feet were neat and nimble; and they preferred highlands and hillsides. The Stoors were broader, heavier in build; their feet and hands were larger, and they preferred flat lands and riversides. The Fallohides were fairer of skin and also of hair, and they were taller and slimmer than the others; they were lovers of trees and of woodlands.

LotR - Prologue

Origin & History of the Hobbits    

It is plain indeed that in spite of later estrangement Hobbits are relatives of ours: far nearer to us than Elves, or even than Dwarves. Of old they spoke the languages of Men, after their own fashion, and liked and disliked much the same things as Men did. But what exactly our relationship is can no longer be discovered. The beginning of Hobbits lies far back in the Elder Days that are now lost and forgotten... Yet it is clear that Hobbits had, in fact, lived quietly in Middle-earth for many long years before other folk became even aware of them. And the world being after all full of strange creatures beyond count, these little people seemed of very little importance"

A love of learning (other than genealogical lore) was far from general among them, but there remained still a few in the older families who studied their own books, and even gathered reports of old times and distant lands from Elves, Dwarves, and Men. Their own records began only after the settlement of the Shire, and their most ancient legends hardly looked further back than their Wandering Days. It is clear, nonetheless, from these legends, and from the evidence of their peculiar words and customs, that like many other folk Hobbits had in the distant past moved westward. Their earliest tales seem to glimpse a time when they dwelt in the upper vales of Anduin, between the eaves of Greenwood the Great and the MistyMountains. Why they later undertook the hard and perilous crossing of the mountains into Eriador is no longer certain. Their own accounts speak of the multiplying of Men in the land, and of a shadow that fell on the forest, so that it became darkened and its new name was Mirkwood.

In the westlands of Eriador, between the MistyMountains and the {Mountains of Lune}?, the Hobbits found both Men and Elves. Indeed, a remnant still dwelt there of the Dśnedain, the kings of Men that came over the Sea out of Westernesse; but they were dwindling fast and the lands of their North-kingdom were falling far and wide into waste. There was room and to spare for incomers, and ere long the Hobbits began to settle in ordered communities.

All Hobbits had originally lived in holes in the ground, or so they believed, and in such dwellings they still felt most at home; but in the course of time they had been obliged to adopt other forms of abode.

It was in these early days, doubtless, that the Hobbits learned their letters and began to write after the manner of the Dśnedain, who had in their turn long before learned the art from the Elves. And in those days also they forgot whatever languages they had used before, and spoke ever after the Common Speech, the Westron as it was named... Yet they kept a few words of their own, as well as their own names of months and days, and a great store of personal names out of the past. was in the one thousand six hundred and first year of the ThirdAge that the Fallohide brothers, Marcho and Blanco, set out from Bree; and having obtained permission from the high king at Fornost (As the records of Gondor relate this was Argeleb II, the twentieth of the Northern line, which came to an end with Arvedui three hundred years later.), they crossed the brown river Baranduin with a great following of Hobbits. They passed over the Bridge of Stonebows, that had been built in the days of the power of the North-kingdom, and they took all the land beyond to dwell in, between the river and the FarDowns?. All that was demanded of them was that they should keep the GreatBridge in repair, and all other bridges and roads, speed the king's messengers, and acknowledge his lordship... Thus began the Shire-reckoning, for the year of the crossing of the Brandywine (as the Hobbits turned the name) became Year One of the Shire, and all later dates were reckoned from it (Thus, the years of the ThirdAge in the reckoning of the Elves and the Dśnedain may be found by adding 1600 to the dates of Shire-reckoning.).At once the western Hobbits fell in love with their new land, and they remained there, and soon passed once more out of the history of Men and of Elves.

LotR - Prologue

The Shire    

At once the western Hobbits fell in love with their new land, and they remained there, and soon passed once more out of the history of Men and of Elves. While there was still a king they were in name his subjects, but they were, in fact, ruled by their own chieftains and meddled not at all with events in the world outside. To the last battle at Fornost with the Witch-lord of Angmar they sent some bowmen to the aid of the king, or so they maintained, though no tales of Men record it. But in that war the North Kingdom ended; and then the Hobbits took the land for their own, and they chose from their own chiefs a Thain to hold the authority of the king that was gone. There for a thousand years they were little troubled by wars, and they prospered and multiplied after the DarkPlague? (S.R. 37) until the disaster of the LongWinter and the famine that followed it. Many thousands then perished, but the {Days of Dearth}? (1158-60) were at the time of this tale long past and the Hobbits had again become accustomed to plenty. The land was rich and kindly, and though it had long been deserted when they entered it, it had before been well tilled, and there the king had once had many farms, cornlands, vineyards, and woods.

Forty leagues it stretched from the FarDowns? to the BrandywineBridge, and fifty from the northern moors to the marshes in the south. The Hobbits named it the Shire, as the region of the authority of their Thain, and a district of well-ordered business; and there in that pleasant comer of the world they plied their well-ordered business of living, and they heeded less and less the world outside where dark things moved, until they came to think that peace and plenty were the rule in Middle-earth and the right of all sensible folk. They forgot or ignored what little they had ever known of the Guardians, and of the labours of those that made possible the long peace of the Shire. They were, in fact, sheltered, but they had ceased to remember it.

LotR - Prologue

Other comments    

As Hobbits are undoubtedly central and important characters in Tolkien's literature, the interest expressed and shown towards them throughout many years by lots of readers, critics and publishers, is completely understandable. To this the Professor had provided a lot of comments, mainly presented in his Letters.

In the middle of this Age the Hobbits appear. Their origin is unknown (even to themselves) for they escaped the notice of the great, or the civilised peoples with records, and kept none themselves, save vague oral traditions, until they had migrated from the borders of Mirkwood, fleeing from the Shadow, and wandered westward, coming into contact with the last remnants of the Kingdom of Arnor.
Letters #131

Their chief settlement, where all the inhabitants are hobbits, and where an ordered, civilised, if simple and rural life is maintained, is the Shire, originally the farmlands and forests of the royal demesne of Arnor, granted as a fief: but the 'King', author of laws, has long vanished save in memory before we hear much of the Shire. It is in the year 1341 of the Shire (or 2941 of the Third Age: that is in its last century) that Bilbo - The Hobbit and hero of that tale - starts on his 'adventure'.

In that story (The Hobbit; ann. ChW), which need not be resumed, hobbitry and the hobbit-situation are not explained, but taken for granted, and what little is told of their history is in the form of casual allusion as to something known. The whole of the 'world-politics', outlined above, is of course there in mind, and also alluded to occasionally as to things elsewhere recorded in full.

The chief way in which Hobbits differ from experience is that they are not cruel, and have no blood-sports, and have by implication a feeling for 'wild creatures' that are not alas! very commonly found among the nearest contemporary parallels.

Origin of the Idea and the Name "Hobbit"    

J.R.R.Tolkien has been a few times "accused" to have "stolen" the idea about the creatures called "hobbits" and even the word "hobbit" itself, from ancient African and Nordic tales and legends. To this Tolkien answered the following:

I was born in Africa, and have read several books on African exploration. I have, since about 1896, read even more books of fairy-tales of the genuine kind. Both the facts produced by the Habit would appear, therefore, to be significant.

But are they? I have no waking recollection of furry pigmies (in book or moonlight); nor of any Hobbit bogey in print by 1904. I suspect that the two hobbits are accidental homophones, and am content that they are not (it would seem) synonyms. And I protest that my hobbit did not live in Africa, and was not furry, except about the feet. Nor indeed was he like a rabbit. He was a prosperous, well-fed young bachelor of independent means. ... His feet, if conveniently clad and shod by nature, were as elegant as his long, clever fingers.

As for the rest of the tale it is, derived from (previously digested) epic, mythology, and fairy-story not, however, Victorian in authorship.... Beowulf is among my most valued sources, though it was not consciously present to the mind in the process of writing... I fancy the author of Beowulf would say much the same. My tale is not consciously based on any other book — save one, and that is unpublished: the 'Silmarillion', a history of the Elves, to which frequent allusion is made. I had not thought of the future researchers; and as there is only one manuscript there seems at the moment small chance of this reference proving useful.

Letters #25

The Hobbits are, of course, really meant to be a branch of the specifically human race (not Elves or Dwarves) - hence the two kinds can dwell together (as at Bree), and are called just the BigFolk? and LittleFolk. They are entirely without non-human powers, but are represented as being more in touch with 'nature' (the soil and other living things, plants and animals), and abnormally, for humans, free from ambition or greed of wealth. They are made small (little more than half human stature, but dwindling as the years pass) partly to exhibit the pettiness of man, plain unimaginative parochial man though not with either the smallness or the savageness of Swift, and mostly to show up, in creatures of very small physical power, the amazing and unexpected heroism of ordinary men 'at a pinch'.

The Ox. E. D. has in preparation of its Second Supplement got to Hobbit, which it proposes to include together with its progeny: hobbitry, -ish, etc. I have had, therefore, to justify my claim to have invented the word. My claim rests really on my 'nude parole' or unsupported assertion that I remember the occasion of its invention (by me) and that I had not then any knowledge of Hobberdy, Hobbaty, Hobberdy Dick etc. (for 'house-sprites') and that my 'hobbits' were in any case of wholly dissimilar sort, a diminutive branch of the human race. Also that the only E. word that influenced the invention was 'hole', that granted the description of hobbits. A review appeared in The Observer 16 Jan 1938, signed 'Habit' ... 'Habit' asserted that a friend claimed to have read, about 20 years earlier (sc. c. 1918) an old 'fairy story' (in a collection of such tales) called 'The Hobbit', though the creature was very 'frightening'. I asked for more information, but have never received any and recent intensive research has not discovered the 'collection'. I think it is probable that the friend's memory was inaccurate (after 20 years), and the creature probably had a name of the Hobberdy, Hobbaty class.... However, one cannot exclude the possibility that buried childhood memories might suddenly rise to the surface long after (in my case after 40 years), though they might be quite differently applied.

...I do not suppose you have found a name precisely hobbit or you would have mentioned it. Oh, what a tangled web they weave who try a new word to conceive!

Letters #319


Aside from the above explanations in his letters, Tolkien gives a brief etymological interpretation of the name hobbit in Appendix F of the LotR:

The origin of the word hobbit was by most forgotten. It seems, however, to have been at first a name given to the Harfoots by the Fallohides and Stoors, and to be a worn-down form of a word preserved more fully in Rohan: holbytla 'hole-builder'.
LotR - App. F

And a few pages later with a somewhat different meaning:

Hobbit is an invention. In the Westron the word used, when this people was referred to at all, was banakil 'halfling'. But at this date the folk of the Shire and of Bree used the word kuduk, which was not found elsewhere. Meriadoc, however, actually records that the King of Rohan used the word kūd-dūkan 'hole-dweller'. Since, as has been noted, the Hobbits had once spoken a language closely related to that of the Rohirrim, it seems likely that kuduk was a worn-down form of kūd-dukan. The latter I have translated, for reasons explained, by holbytla; and hobbit provides a word that might well be a worn-down form of holbytla, if that name had occurred in our own ancient language.
ibid. - App. F

*hol-bytla is a word that could have actually existed in Old English (though it is not reported), what I find interesting is, that in the second passage he 'translates' it (in accordance with OED 'build' where a reference to "dwelling" is given) with hole-dweller rather than hole-builder (from Old English byldan to build).

In HoMeVIII in an explanatory note to the word holbytla(n) it reads thus:

Holbytla 'Hole-builder' has the consonants lt (Holbylta) reversed, as in the closely related Old English botl, bošl beside bold 'building' (see my note on Nobottle in the Shire, VII.424).
HoMeVIII p.44

This paragraph: -- ChW

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