Painting of a Man and a Hobbit by Greg and Tim HildebrandtLeaving Bree by Greg and Tim Hildebrandt

Hobbits are not mentioned in Tolkien’s creation myth, the Ainulindalë published as part of The Silmarillion. So what are they and where did they come from?

Leaving Bree” by Greg and Tim Hildebrandt

Luckily Tolkien didn’t leave us hanging. In Letter #131, Tolkien explains: 

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 Big Folk and Little Folk. 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’.

Hobbits were first seen in the Vales of Anduin, although their origin and their genealogical ties to Men were forgotten long before they were discovered by other races. They lived near the Éothéod, ancestors of the Rohirrim, and so many of their words are similar to the language of Rohan.

Harfoots

The Harfoots (Harfeet!) were the most numerous tribe of Hobbits and are what we think of when we picture a hobbit. These are the Hobbits who lived in holes in the sides of hills, and as such they were not as likely to be nomadic as some of their cousins. Harfoots tended to be shorter and smaller than the other breeds of Hobbits and lived as farmers. 

The Harfoots lived in the foothills of the Misty Mountains. They interacted most with Dwarves and as such became friends with them.

They were the first Hobbits to migrate westward into Arnor as early as TA 1050, and were called “Periannath” (“halflings”) by the Dúnedain. They settled as far west as the South Downs in Arnor (south of Bree) before merging with the Fallohides and resettling first in Bree, and then further west in The Shire.

Fallohides

The Fallohides, taller and slimmer than the Harfoots, were the smallest in number of the Hobbit tribes. They tended to love trees and forests and were more likely to be hunters than farmers. They were also more adventurous and courageous, and as such they tended to be leaders among Hobbits. The Fallohides befriended the Elves, and as such were learned in language; in fact, they were the first Hobbits to adopt the Westron tongue and writing. 

They lived in the forests where the Great Shelf of the Eagles would later be located, near the High Pass in the north of the Misty Mountains. 

The Fallohides followed their Harfoot cousins west in TA 1150, using the High Pass to travel and ended up settling north of Rivendell in the Angle of Eriador, the wedge of land between the Hoarwell and Loudwater rivers for several centuries. When Angmar’s power began to grow, they moved further west and met up with and merged with the Harfoots in the South Downs, becoming chieftains of their villages. Both groups migrated north to Bree. Two Fallohide brothers, Marcho and Blanco, later received permission from King Argeleb II, the king in Fornost, to settle in the Shire. The group crossed the Brandywine River in TA 1601 (also known as year 1 of the Shire Reckoning). 

The Took clan, including Brandobas “Bullroarer” Took and Peregrin Took, were Fallohides and the Brandybuck clan also had some Fallohide roots. Additionally, both Bilbo and Frodo were part Fallohide, Bilbo from his Took mother and Frodo thanks to his Brandybuck mother. 

Stoors

The Stoors were stockier than the other Hobbit tribes, and were the only group that normally grew facial hair. They lived further south than the other two tribes and, unlike their cousins who had a fear of rivers, the Stoors preferred flat land and riversides and tended to be fishermen.

The Stoors were the last group to migrate west, but did so by TA 1300. The Stoors followed a southern route through the Redhorn Pass and into an area called Swanfleet, near Dunland. This area was similar to the area of the Vales of Anduin they had left, and they felt at home settling here. They picked up a little of the Dunlending language and brought these words them with them when they traveled west. 

As Angmar began to threaten Eriador, some Stoors fled north back into Rhovannion and settled on the Gladden Fields. They dwelt in Hobbit-holes along the riversides and lived a more primitive life than the Hobbits of the Shire. This is the branch of the Stoors to which Sméagol belonged. These settlements were long-abandoned by the end of the Third Age, and it is unknown whether they ever rejoined the rest of the Hobbits in Eriador.

The Stoors who remained in Swanfleet eventually moved westward and rejoined the other Hobbits in the Shire around TA 1630. They settled primarily in the Eastfarthing in The Marish and in Buckland, on the east bank of the Brandywine. The Stoors’ time near Dunland led to the Bucklandish dialect, and the Brandybucks had some Stoorish ancestry.

“Hobbits”

Later in the Third Age, Hobbit settlements such as Combe and Staddle were still present as far east as Bree, but the majority of Hobbits had moved to and remained in the Shire for generations. The distinctions between the three tribes blurred, and eventually they were simply “Hobbits”.

 

So there you have it – more about Hobbits than you ever needed to know. In short, they’re simply humans of small stature who are more in touch with nature and the good things in life, and less swayed by greed than us “big folk”. 

 

 

One thought on “What even are Hobbits?”
  1. […] He also created the Children of Illúvatar, Elves and Men. Dwarves were not created by Illúvatar, but by Aulë the Smith, one of the Ainur, but since the Ainur did not possess the Flame Imperishable, the dwarves only came to life after Illúvatar gave them consciousness. (Where are Hobbits from? If you rely only on The Silmarillion, your guess would be as good as mine since they’re not mentioned, but Tolkien clarifies the origin of the Hobbits in a letter). […]

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