What are Hobbits?

wiseGEEK Writer

Hobbits or Halflings are the creation of author J.R.R. Tolkien for his books The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings trilogy. Tolkien goes into depth describing this hardy breed of creatures, and they play integral roles in both books. In fact, in The Hobbit Tolkien begins with a brief description of hobbits, which is later expanded upon in The Lord of the Rings.

Hobbits live in dens or hideaways that are built into the side of grassy knolls.
Hobbits live in dens or hideaways that are built into the side of grassy knolls.

Hobbits, of course, are markedly different from “man” in that they are rather short. They tend to be shorter than dwarves, a separate race, and tend to be not taller than about four feet (about 1 meter) at the most. To men, they often have a childlike appearance, and they tend to remain youthful looking until well into their 50s. Hobbits generally live past 100 years and do not officially come of age until their 33rd birthday.

Hobbits are known for loving mushrooms.
Hobbits are known for loving mushrooms.

These creatures tend to go barefooted since the soles of their feet are quite leathery and the tops of their feet are covered with thick curly hair. They do not wear beards as the dwarves do, and are most likely to have dark brown hair and dark brown eyes. Their skin is also rather dark, and they usually have slightly plush bellies. They also have extremely good health and can recover from illnesses and injuries, which happen rarely, more quickly than most would expect.

They also love to wear bright colors like green, yellow, red and blue. However, with all their brightness, they are so quiet in step they’re likely to be missed by big people and can quickly get away. Tolkien clearly implies that hobbits are rare but still exist in present day, though big people are unlikely to ever see one.

Hobbits also remain youthful in spirits. They love jokes, play, parties, and especially eating. A normal day might include breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, lunch, tea, dinner and supper. They eat a diet quite British in composition, but are especially addicted to mushrooms, and can be very greedy about sharing them. In other ways, hobbits tend to be quite generous, offering food or welcome to others.

Hobbit birthdays are wonderful, echoing real birthday traditions in Eastern Europe. Instead of receiving presents, they give presents at their parties. In the Middle Earth that Tolkien describes, this resulted in most hobbits getting at least one present a week. Most presents are quite simple. Bilbo’s elaborate birthday party in The Lord of the Rings with “presents for all” is the exception rather than the rule.

Most hobbits held typical agrarian based jobs prior to the War of the Rings, where the enemy Sauron was defeated. Many were farmers, and others could be millers, gardeners, blacksmiths, and tavern owners. They also made a large business of farming pipe weed, which they smoke with alacrity. Most hobbits tend to have simple tastes, enjoy ordinary occurrences like the blossoming of flowers, and as is made clear in The Hobbit, they look with disapproval on adventures.

A few families were known for their distasteful “adventures.” In particular the Took family, which produced Bilbo’s mother, were often accused of having adventures and being thus not quite respectful. The Bagginses, both Frodo and Bilbo, continue this tradition, along with Peregrin Took, Meriadoc Brandybuck and Samwise Gamgee.

In the beginning of The Lord of the Rings readers learn that hobbits are descended from a matriarchal society that long ago lived on the riverbanks. They then settled primarily in the Shire, and in the village of Bree. Breelanders, unlike Shirefolk, live side by side with big people. Shirefolk, conversely, tend to find commerce with humans quite strange and to be avoided when possible, until after the King of Gondor, Aragorn, regains his throne by defeating Sauron, with the help of Frodo Baggins.

From these rather simple folk, Tolkien chooses heroes who will “shake the foundations” of all of Middle Earth. To Frodo is given the exceptionally difficult task of walking into the enemy land of Mordor and destroying Sauron’s ring. All the good folk of Middle Earth, elves, dwarves and men, depend upon this foolhardy chance as the key to defeating Sauron.

Hobbits prove so charming a concept, that many fantasy novels afterwards included them. Normally they were called Halflings, but everyone knew this implied the same creatures. As well, Dungeons & Dragons characters could easily be hobbits, and made quite sturdy fighters. However, today, they are still most associated with Tolkien’s work, and with Peter Jackson’s three films based on The Lord of the Rings. In their simple ways and in their occasional grand gestures, they are viewed with great affection by fans of fantasy worlds.

The hobbit Bilbo Baggins finds a mysterious ring of power.
The hobbit Bilbo Baggins finds a mysterious ring of power.

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Discussion Comments


In the movies, I seem to remember all the hobbits having blue eyes? At least the two primary Hobbits, Frodo and Bilbo have blue eyes.

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