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Hobbits are a type of minifigure in the LEGO Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit line that are based on fictional diminutive humanoid race who inhabit the lands of Middle-earth in J. R. R. Tolkien's fiction.
Hobbits first appeared in the novel The Hobbit, in which the main protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, is the titular hobbit. The novel The Lord of the Rings includes more Hobbits as major characters, Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee, Peregrin Took, and Meriadoc Brandybuck, as well as several other minor hobbit characters. Hobbits are also briefly mentioned in The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales.
According to the author in the prologue to The Lord of the Rings, Hobbits are "relatives" of the race of Men. Elsewhere Tolkien describes Hobbits as a "variety" or separate "branch" of humans. Within the story, Hobbits and other races seem aware of the similarities (hence the colloquial terms "Big People" and "Little People" used in Bree). However, within the story, Hobbits considered themselves a separate people. At the time of the events in The Lord of the Rings, Hobbits lived in the Shire and in Bree in the north west of Middle-earth, though by the end, some had moved out to the Tower Hills and to Gondor and Rohan.
Tolkien believed he had invented the word "hobbit" when he began writing The Hobbit (it was revealed years after his death that the word predated Tolkien's usage, though with a different meaning). 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. The Snergs were, in Tolkien's words, "a race of people only slightly taller than the average table but broad in the shoulders and have the strength of ten men." Tolkien wrote to W. H. Auden that The Marvellous Land of Snergs "was probably an unconscious source-book for the Hobbits" and he told an interviewer that the word hobbit "might have been associated with Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt" (like hobbits, George Babbitt enjoys the comforts of his home). However, Tolkien claims that he started The Hobbit suddenly, without premeditation, in the midst of rating a set of student essay exams, writing on a blank piece of paper: "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit". While The Hobbit introduced this comfortable race to the world, it is only in writing The Lord of the Rings that Tolkien developed details of their history and wider society.
He set out a fictional etymology for the name in an appendix to The Lord of the Rings, to the effect that it was derived from holbytla (plural holbytlan), a speculative reconstruction of Old English, meaning “hole-builder” (in the books, Old English stands in for words in the language of the fictional Rohirrim).
In the prologue to The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien writes that Hobbits are between two and four feet (0.61–1.22 m) tall, the average height being three feet six inches (1.07 m). They dress in bright colors, favouring yellow and green. Nowadays (according to Tolkien's fiction), they are usually very shy creatures, but are nevertheless capable of great courage and amazing feats under the proper circumstances. They are adept with slings and throwing stones. For the most part, they cannot grow beards, but a few of the race of Stoor can. Their feet are covered with curly hair (usually brown, as was the hair on their heads) with leathery soles, so most Hobbits hardly ever wear shoes. Two Hobbits, Bilbo Baggins and the Old Took, are known to have lived to the age of 130 or beyond, although the race's average life expectancy is 100 years. Hobbits are considered to "come of age" on their 33rd birthday, so a 50-year-old Hobbit would be regarded as entering middle-age.
Hobbits are not quite as stocky as the similarly-sized dwarves, but still tend to be stout, with slightly pointed ears. Tolkien does not describe Hobbits' ears in The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, but in a 1938 letter to his American publisher, he described Hobbits as having "ears only slightly pointed and 'elvish'". Tolkien describes Hobbits thus:
- I picture a fairly human figure, not a kind of 'fairy' rabbit as some of my British reviewers seem to fancy: fattish in the stomach, shortish in the leg. A round, jovial face; ears only slightly pointed and 'elvish'; hair short and curling (brown). The feet from the ankles down, covered with brown hairy fur. Clothing: green velvet breeches; red or yellow waistcoat; brown or green jacket; gold (or brass) buttons; a dark green hood and cloak (belonging to a dwarf).
Hobbits and derivative Halflings are often depicted with unusually large feet for their size, perhaps to visually emphasize their unusualness. This is especially prominent in the influential illustrations by the Brothers Hildebrandt and the large prosthetic feet used in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Tolkien does not specifically mention foot size as a generic hobbit trait, but does make it the distinctive trait of the Proudfoot hobbit family.
In his writings, Tolkien depicted Hobbits as fond of an unadventurous, bucolic and simple life of farming, eating, and socializing, although capable of defending their homes courageously if the need arises. They would enjoy six meals a day, if they could get them. They were often described as enjoying simple food, though this seems to be of an Oxfordshire style, such as cake, bread, meat, potatoes, ale and tea. They claim to have invented the art of smoking pipe-weed, and according to The Hobbit and The Return of The King it can be found all over Middle-earth.
The Hobbits of the Shire developed the custom of giving away gifts on their birthdays, instead of receiving them, although this custom was not universally followed among other Hobbit cultures or communities. They use the term mathom for old and useless objects, which are invariably given as presents many times over, or are stored in a museum (mathom-house).
Some Hobbits live in "hobbit-holes" or Smials, traditional underground homes found in hillsides, downs, and banks. Like all Hobbit architecture, they are notable for their round doors and windows.
- "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
- It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats – the hobbit was fond of visitors. The tunnel wound on and on, going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill – The Hill, as all the people for many miles round called it – and many little round doors opened out of it, first on one side and then on another. No going upstairs for the hobbit: bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries (lots of these), wardrobes (he had whole rooms devoted to clothes), kitchens, dining-rooms, all were on the same floor, and indeed on the same passage. The best rooms were all on the left-hand side (going in), for these were the only ones to have windows, deep-set round windows looking over his garden, and meadows beyond, sloping down to the river.
- J. R. R. Tolken, The Hobbit
The Hobbits had a distinct calendar: every year started on a Saturday and ended on a Friday, with each of the twelve months consisting of thirty days. Some special days did not belong to any month — Yule 1 and 2 (New Year's Eve & New Years Day) and three Lithedays in mid-summer. Every fourth year there was an extra Litheday, most likely as an adaptation, similar to a leap year, to ensure that the calendar stayed synchronized with the seasons.
Historically, the Hobbits are known to have originated in the Valley of Anduin, between Mirkwood and the Misty Mountains. According to The Lord of the Rings, they have lost the genealogical details of how they are related to the Big People. At this time, there were three "breeds" of Hobbits, with different physical characteristics and temperaments: Harfoots, Stoors and Fallohides. While situated in the valley of the Anduin River, the Hobbits lived close by the Éothéod, the ancestors of the Rohirrim, and this led to some contact between the two. As a result many old words and names in "Hobbitish" are derivatives of words in Rohirric.
The Harfoots, the most numerous, were almost identical to the Hobbits as they are described in The Hobbit. They lived on the lowest slopes of the Misty Mountains and lived in holes, or Smials, dug into the hillsides.
The Stoors, the second most numerous, were shorter and stockier and had an affinity for water, boats and swimming. They lived on the marshy Gladden Fields where the Gladden River met the Anduin (there is a similarity here to the hobbits of Buckland and the Marish in the Shire. It is possible that those hobbits were the descendants of Stoors). It was from these Hobbits that Déagol and Sméagol/Gollum were descended.
The Fallohides, the least numerous, were an adventurous people that preferred to live in the woods under the Misty Mountains and were said to be taller and fairer (all of these traits were much rarer in later days, and it has been implied that wealthy, eccentric families that tended to lead other hobbits politically, like the Tooks and Brandybucks, were of Fallohide descent). Bilbo and three of the four principal hobbit characters in The Lord of the Rings (Frodo, Pippin and Merry) had Fallohide blood through their common ancestor, the Old Took.
About the year T.A. 1050, they undertook the arduous task of crossing the Misty Mountains. Reasons for this trek are unknown, but they possibly had to do with Sauron's growing power in nearby Greenwood, which later became known as Mirkwood as a result of the shadow that fell upon it during Sauron's search of the forest for the One Ring. The Hobbits took different routes in their journey westward, but as they began to settle together in Bree-land, Dunland, and the Angle formed by the rivers Mitheithel and Bruinen, the divisions between the Hobbit-kinds began to blur.
In the year 1601 of the Third Age (year 1 in the Shire Reckoning), two Fallohide brothers named Marcho and Blanco gained permission from the King of Arnor at Fornost to cross the River Brandywine and settle on the other side. Many Hobbits followed them, and most of the territory they had settled in the Third Age was abandoned. Only Bree and a few surrounding villages lasted to the end of the Third Age. The new land that they founded on the west bank of the Brandywine was called the Shire.
Originally the Hobbits of the Shire 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, the Oldbuck family later 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 (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.
The Hobbits' numbers dwindled, and their stature became progressively smaller after the Fourth Age. However, they are sometimes spoken of in the present tense, and the prologue "Concerning Hobbits" in The Lord of the Rings states that they have survived into Tolkien's day.
- Harfoots: The Harfoots were the most numerous group of Hobbits and also the first to enter Eriador. They were the smallest in stature of all hobbits. They had closer relations with Dwarves than did other Hobbits. Tolkien coined the term as analogous to "hairfoot".
- Fallohides: The Fallohides were the least numerous group and the second group to enter Eriador. They were generally fair-haired and tall (for Hobbits). They were often found leading other clans of Hobbits as they were more adventurous than the other races. They preferred the forests and had links with the Elves. Tolkien created the name from the archaic meanings of English words "fallow" and "hide", meaning "pale skin".
- Stoors: The Stoors were the second most numerous group of Hobbits and the last to enter Eriador. They were broader than other Hobbits. They mostly dwelt beside rivers and were the only Hobbits to use boats and swim. Males were able to grow beards. Tolkien says they were "less shy of Men". Sméagol and Déagol were Stoors. Tolkien used an archaic English word stor or stoor "strong".
Kocher notes that Tolkien's literary techniques require us to increasingly view Hobbits as like us, especially when placed under moral pressure to survive a war that threatens to devastate their land. Frodo becomes in some ways the symbolic representation of the conscience of Hobbits, a point made explicitly in the story "Leaf by Niggle" which Tolkien wrote at the same time as the first nine chapters of The Lord of the Rings. Niggle is a painter struggling against the summons of death to complete his one great canvas, a picture of a tree with a background of forest and distant mountains. He dies with the work incomplete, undone by his imperfectly generous heart: "it made him uncomfortable more often than it made him do anything". After discipline in Purgatory, however, Niggle finds himself in the very landscape depicted by his painting which he is now able to finish with the assistance of a neighbour who obstructed him during life. The picture complete, Niggle is free to journey to the distant mountains which represent the highest stage of his spiritual development. Thus, upon recovery from the wound inflicted by Angmar on Weathertop, Gandalf speculates that the Hobbit Frodo "may become like a glass filled with a clear light for eyes to see that can". Similarly, as Frodo nears Mount Doom he casts aside weapons and refuses to fight others with physical force: "For him struggles for the right must hereafter be waged only on the moral plane."