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Know Your LotRO Lore: The origins of Hobbits

Shawn Schuster
Shawn Schuster|December 16, 2008 4:00 PM

Origins and Inspiration
Before there were Hobbits in Tolkien's universe, there was a book entitled The Marvellous Land of Snergs, written in 1927 by E.A. Wyke Smith and Babbit, written in 1922 by Sinclair Lewis. Tolkien once wrote to a colleague that Snergs were probably an unconscious source for Hobbits. He later told an interviewer that the word "Hobbit" may have had an association with "Babbit", although he claims that his creation of The Hobbit started suddenly, "without premeditation" when he wrote down the words: "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."

Despite his first novel being entitled The Hobbit, it wasn't until the prologue to The Lord of the Rings that Tolkien actually described them in detail. He mentioned the fact that they are between two and four feet tall, fattish in the stomach, covered with curly brown hair both on their heads and their large feet, and ears that pointed slightly.

Their lifestyle is described as that of an unadventurous farmer, enjoying herbs (including pipe-weed), food, ale and socializing in the local inns. They enjoy at least seven meals a day: breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner and supper. It is said that Tolkien's inspiration for their lifestyle derived from the English countryfolk, where the term "Shire" also originated.

History and Migration

Hobbits are said to have originated in the valley of Anduin, between Mirkwood and the Misty Mountains. They are related to the race of Man, although their genealogical records concerning this were lost. There were three types of Hobbit-kind: the Harfoots, Stoors and Fallohides.

The Harfoots made up the greatest population of Hobbits and most-closely resembled those described in The Hobbit. They were the hole-dwellers who originated the practice of living in the sides of hills. The Stoors were shorter and stockier and loved the water. They lived on the marshy Gladden Fields and are thought to be the ancestors of those Hobbits who settled in Buckland and the Marish. The Fallohides were the adventurers of the group, living in the woods of the Misty Mountains and sporting a taller and fairer appearance than their brethren. The Fallohides were usually the ones to lead other Hobbits politically, and it is believed that the Tooks and Brandybucks were of Fallohide descent.

In the year T.A. 1601 (also known as year 1 of the Shire Reckoning), two Fallohide brothers gained permission from the King of Arnor to settle in the land west of the Brandywine River. The great migration of Hobbits began as their original lands were all abandoned, presumably as Sauron's influence reached Mirkwood. You may still see some settlements of Hobbits as far east as Bree (think Combe and Staddle), but the majority stayed in the Shire for generations as the distinctions between the three original Hobbit-kind were quickly blurred into simply "Hobbits".

Was Gollum a Hobbit?
Yep! He was actually a Stoorish Hobbit, as was told many times throughout Tolkien's works. Both Gandalf and Sauron had guessed Gollum's true origin through different circumstances. While we won't go into the entire story here just yet, look for next week's Know Your LotRO Lore to explore this much deeper.

Are Hobbits real?

Straying from the Lore aspect of the Hobbit for a minute, it is interesting to note that recent scientific research has unearthed ancient skeletal remains of what scientists have nicknamed "Hobbits" on the Flores Islands of Indonesia in 2003. Although the debate still rages as to whether these remains are those of a new species or some localized human condition, the fact is that there are nine separate sets of remains found in caves on the island.