Hobbits are incredibly interesting folk who, keeping in mind their absence from the public eye in the Elder Days, First and Second Ages, come to play a huge role in the events of the Third. After The Hobbit came out in 1937, readers were eager to learn more about Hobbits and this public interest called for the sequel. The Hobbits’ adventures in The Lord of the Rings are very different from those of Bilbo Baggins, but they still show them as remarkable folk who deserve our greatest attention. Let’s have a look at the collection of facts, some of which I shared as part of my 1 like = 1 Hobbit fact interactive on Twitter on October 25. It is by no means a full list, so I encourage you, my dear readers, to share your favourite Hobbit facts in the comments below. 1. J. R. R. Tolkien was himself greatly amused by Hobbits. He could write endless dialogues between them on the most trivial matters, including food, drink or some funny events. Tolkien enjoyed it a lot, but too much Hobbit-talk was not to the taste of some readers, namely C. S. Lewis. It was Lewis who advised Tolkien to cut down on the amount of Hobbits’ conversation in the opening chapters of The Lord of the Rings — the suggestion which Tolkien complied with. Also with Lewis’s help the Professor was able to overcome the deadlock he had reached at some point in writing. His comment that he found Hobbits amusing in unhobbitlike situations inspired Tolkien to change the White Rider, they initially encounter on their journey from Bag End, to the Black Rider, and after that the story began to develop further.

2. Hobbits are a branch of the human race and are often called the Little Folk because of their being rather small — between 2 and 4 feet tall. They could easily and peacefully co-exist with Men, as we see in Bree. Hobbits have absolutely no magic about them but possess a unique ability to move very quietly without others’ noticing them. They have feet covered with hair and tough, leathery soles, so the Little Folk usually walk barefoot. Thus the fact that Aragorn’s predecessor in the early versions — the Hobbit named Trotter — wore shoes makes him very peculiar.

3. Hobbits are much closer to nature than Men are. They have no interest in machines of any kind, but mostly in tools to till their gardens and farmlands with. This closeness to nature also shows in the colours they choose to wear: Hobbits especially favour yellow and green. Delight in cultivated lands, comfort and simple things is a characteristic trait of Hobbits: they value good food, good laugh and good company. Being very down-to-earth, they are also free from ambition or greed of wealth. This ability to enjoy simple things in life is praised by Thorin Oakenshield in his parting conversation with Bilbo: “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world” (The Hobbit, p. 333).

4. In their marriages Hobbits are monogamous. It is very rarely that if a Hobbit’s spouse dies young, that they marry for the second time. Knowing by heart their family histories and genealogical trees is something Hobbits take great pride in. As Gandalf says to Théoden on meeting Merry and Pippin on the ruins of Isengard and listening to their chatter: “These hobbits will sit on the edge of ruin and discuss the pleasures of the table, or the small doings of their fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers, and remoter cousins to the ninth degree, if you encourage them with undue patience” (Two Towers, p. 196). Well, Hobbits are Hobbits. However, this interest in their own family histories renders them absolutely uninterested in the events of the world. They do not know much of what is happening elsewhere and thus do not meddle in the affairs of other lands or kingdoms. This way of life put Hobbits out of Sauron’s attention as for a long time he did not even consider them in his schemes and plans.

5. Hobbits usually dwell in comfortable holes, which is the custom among either very rich, or very poor Hobbits. Many others took to building houses of wood, brick or stone. However, there is a common trait among all Hobbit dwellings: they are never high. Hobbits cannot stand heights and do not sleep upstairs (if there is any upstairs at all), so when forced to climb to a flet in Lothlórien to spend the night there, only Sam finds it easy to sleep comfortably without the fear of rolling off. There are no towers in Hobbit lands and the houses they build are usually low and long. Hobbit holes equal comfort but the main feature of their buildings still remains round windows and round doors.

6. Adventures are mostly frowned on by Hobbits. They are totally unadventurous folk who, as the time passed, grew afraid of the Elves, who they used to keep in touch with, and stopped any communication with them. As Bilbo Baggins complains, adventures are “nasty, disturbing uncomfortable things!” which “make you late for dinner!”  (Hobbit, p. 7). It is a well-known fact that Mr Baggins began his adventure very soon after uttering these words and became one of the most important Hobbits of the Third Age. He lost the respect of his neighbours but, apart from vast treasure and the nickname ‘Mad Baggins’, gained more than he could possibly have gained had he stayed at home. It was, in fact, Bilbo’s Tookish side responsible for his going away. The Tooks have always been considered less respectable than other Hobbits as they are more adventurous than most. Another Hobbit clan with the the reputation of being odd are the Brandybucks.

7. Hobbits are a very peaceful people. There were very few battles in their lands and they were reluctant to fight. Nevertheless they can handle weapons and fight when needed. Though very fond of comfort, Hobbits can live without it if they have to and prove tough and sturdy people in possession of great endurance under pressure. As Bilbo’s and Frodo’s adventures show, Hobbits have much more to them than seems at first sight and are able to reveal their heroic side if circumstances demand it. Gandalf learnt from his own experience that the Little Folk can still surprise even after many years of acquaintance.

Works consulted:

  1. J. R. R. Tolkien – The Hobbit; HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 2012.
  2. J. R. R. Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring; HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 2001.
  3. J. R. R. Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 2001.
  4. H. Carpenter – The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien; with the assistance of Christopher Tolkien; HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 2012 (Kindle edition).

Featured and article images – Creative Common Licence found at Pixabay.

18 thoughts on “On Hobbits.

  1. I like it that some hobbits are inquisitive, like Pippin. His curiosity saved Gandalf from making a mistake by using the Palantir, thus revealing himself to Sauron prematurely. But it can certainly cause trouble.

  2. My mother introduced my brothers and me to ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ in 1973 with a set of paperback books she had recently purchased. I believe her interest had been spurred by conversations with her co-workers, and it’s quite possible that their interest had been piqued by the recent passing of J.R.R. Tolkien. At any rate, I recall her reading about Hobbits in the Prologue of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, and strongly identifying with their love of creature comforts. The line about Hobbits nibbling on their favorite dainties to “fill up the corners” conjures images of my mother and her love for little treats. Tolkien famously wrote, “I am in fact a Hobbit in all but size.” With my mother size was no impediment, as she stood an inch or two below five feet tall. After I’d grown and moved out I would marvel during my return visits just how short my mother was. “My mother really is a hobbit,” I’d say to myself. She passed four years ago, ironically, on September 22nd, the birthday of both Bilbo and his nephew and heir, Frodo. For her sake, I hope the Halls of Waiting have some of her favorite dainties to nibble on until the world is made new.

    1. I’m really sorry about your mother’s passing 😦
      Interesting how we can identify with Tolkien’s characters or see how our friends or family resemble some of them. His characters are really relatable.

  3. I live in the county of Worcestershire in England which, along with Warwickshire, is Tolkien’s Shire. I know that he said the people of this county were hobbit-like. I wonder if he would still say that if he were to visit today? There are still some of the old country folk here and I love to hear them speak. Their voices are gentle and slow. The words are formed before they are spoken and carefully chosen. I think that the world of the Shire was starting to pass away even before Tolkien began to write about hobbits. If you go to any village church in the county you will see a list of names of the young men who went away from the village to the Great War of 1914-18 and did not come back. Now the change has come because people who have made money in the city buy the old farmhouses or cottages and often make little contribution to village life. They stay in their cars when they go out and build fences and gates around their houses to keep people out.

    1. Thank you for this comment, Stephen! It’s really interesting to learn how things are now. It’s a pity that village life has changed so much. Sarumans of the world seem to be taking over.

  4. When I gave a talk on the geographic distribution of hobbit family names in modern-day England, a member of the audience predicted that those areas would have voted for Brexit in higher numbers than the rest of the country. She was correct – Tolkien’s hobbits are still a precisely-accurate portrait of West Midlanders.

  5. “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world” – one of the better quotes of LotR (though there are many equally great). The world needs far more hobbits than there’re now.

  6. I haven’t really studied hobbits too much. The interest in genealogical trees are Hobbits love of growing things of course, hence why they are named after flowers. That links in with their love of going through their family trees.

    You mentioned they will sit on the edge of ruin.

    “These hobbits will sit on the edge of ruin and discuss the pleasures of the table, or the small doings of their fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers, and remoter cousins to the ninth degree, if you encourage them with undue patience”

    It recollects Sam and Frodo on the stairs, his laughter in the face of extreme peril.

    `It’s saying a lot too much,’ said Frodo, and he laughed, a long clear laugh from his heart. Such a sound had not been heard in those places since Sauron came to Middle-earth. To Sam suddenly it seemed as if all the stones were listening and the tall rocks leaning over them. But Frodo did not heed them; he laughed again.

    He laughs at Sam’s simple-heartedness. That’s the moment which really illustrates what you you said…

    “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world”

    Tolkien uses the word ruin. The link to Orod-ruin is unmistakable. Tolkien was influenced by Owen Barfield. I believe Tolkien used Barfield’s study of the word ‘ruin’ from Poetic Diction both in his works. And why he used the element in ‘Orod-ruin’. We’re told that ruin in Orodruin means “fiery red”, which clearly it does, but Tolkien had an amazing skill in layering multiple meanings from more than one source (the many sources for his composition of the character of Bombadil for eg). I’m writing about it at the moment so it’s a bit of a coincidence that you used that quote! 🙂 Barfield actually talks about this splitting up of the meaning of words which brings about a situation where you need more than one word to render it. That’s like the tree splitting and Tolkien, as a comparative philologist studying the branches of the trees of language, why he was so able to conjure meaning from multiple layers and sources. It’s been referred to as a nimbus. A cloud of meaning if you like.

    I have an idea on a different interpretation on the word ‘hobbit’. I know this has been gone over and over forever with all kinds of ideas. Tolkien himself said some things about it. It’s my view that Tolkien knew exactly what he intended the word to mean and its derivation from the outset. Tolkien riddled people all of the time- it was his private amusement. Tolkien pretty much stated that people should not over analyze things and yet he also set his readers riddles as well. Bombadil and the Rivers of Gondor being two well know ones right?..Christopher Tolkien regarded it as a a’puzzle’ There is a fundamental contradiction there, and Tom Shippey pretty much states what I had come to conclude over the last several years of studying Tolkien myself: ‘Tolkien couldn’t be entirely trusted in his responses to questions about his influences or methods of creating his art’. ! How can we solve riddles without analyzing things? Should we ‘use the force’? 😀 Apparently he also used riddles in his teaching I read somewhere on the net. So…I’m saying that the word ‘hobbit’ is another of his riddles.

    1. Hobbits are real darlings! I love them because there’s much more to them that meets the eye. Seemingly soft on the outside, they are really strong on the inside.
      Tolkien’s philological riddles are a marvel! Once you find the, unravelling them is so much fun!

  7. Honest, light-hearted, soft appearing, and yet capable of deep thought and strength of mind and body out of keeping with appearances….Hobbits are an enigma. They are, in a sense, Everyman… but also in a sense, the Form of the rural man (or woman, of course). I, too, am a hobbit, though an uncommonly tall one at 5’4″.

    1. True! You never know what to expect of them. Small, but enduring people with a lot of strength. Even Gandalf could be surprised by them after a long acquaintance!
      I love how we can identify with Tolkien’s characters. It’s possible to see traits of different peoples in ourselves. In my opinion, it’s one of the things about these characters that makes them so plausible.

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