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Until Bilbo turned 131, Gerontius Took (AKA "The Old Took") was the longest-living hobbit ever, reaching 130 years-old.

Bilbo had The Ring to help extend his life, and even then, his age took a huge toll on him later in his life.

Gerontius, however, didn't have The Ring to help him. Is it ever explained how he was able to live that long with out it?

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    By not dying for a really long time? – Wad Cheber Sep 26 '15 at 1:09
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    The ring didn't necessarily extend his life all that much, in the end. But while he owned it he hardly aged, which was the remarkable thing. – user31178 Sep 27 '15 at 1:38
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There is no in-universe explanation given for the extreme age of the Old Took. Absent any other information, we have to assume that he was just lucky, which has been known to happen, even in our world1.

Interestingly, Gerontius' age isn't totally unique; after him, the oldest (non-Ringbearing) hobbit is Lalia Clayhanger, also called Lalia the Fat, his granddaughter-in-law. Although she died at the age of 119, her death was accidental; Tolkien reports in Letter 214 that she was in remarkably good health, and had a number of good years left in her (bold is my emphasis, italic is Tolkien's):

A well-known case, also, was that of Lalia the Great (or less courteously the Fat). Fortinbras II, one time head of the Tooks and Thain, married Lalia of the Clayhangers in 1314, when he was 36 and she was 31. He died in 1380 at the age of 102, but she long outlived him, coming to an unfortunate end in 1402 at the age of 119. So she ruled the Tooks and the Great Smials for 22 years, a great and memorable, if not universally beloved, 'matriarch'. She was not at the famous Party (SY 1401), but was prevented from attending rather by her great size and immobility than by her age. [...] Lalia, in her last and fattest years, had the custom of being wheeled to the Great Door, to take the air on a fine morning. In the spring of SY 1402 her clumsy attendant let the heavy chair run over the threshold and tipped Lalia down the flight of steps into the garden. So ended a reign and life that might well have rivalled that of the Great Took.

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 214: To A.C. Nunn (draft). 1958/59

Out of universe, Gerontius' age was inspired by Tolkien's own grandfathers, who each lived to be nearly a hundred. Tolkien revealed as much in an unsent letter to a Mr. & Mrs. Kloos, excerpts of which were printed in A Reader's Companion:

[The Old Took] has part of his origin in the fact that both my grandfathers were longeval. My father's father was in his eleventh year when Waterloo was fought2; my mother's father, a much younger man, was born before Queen Victoria came to the throne, and survived till his ninety-ninth year, missing his 'hundred' (with which he was as much concerned as Bilbo was to surpass the Old Took) only because he mowed a large lawn that spring and then sat in the wind without a jacket.


1 Although 130 years is a bit beyond even the longest-lived of modern humans

2 According to a copy of the Tolkien family tree (PDF link) posted on Hammond&Scull.com, John Benjamin Tolkien lived from 1807 to 1896, dying at the age of 88 or 89 (depending on what month he was born). I'm not sure how he was in his eleventh year during the Battle of Waterloo, but Tolkien's dodgy maths is a topic for another time.

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    Funny coincidence that a baby hobbit named Gerontius lived to be 130 years old. Could it have been a nickname acquired late in life? – user14111 Sep 27 '15 at 1:40
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    @user14111 It is remarkable how foresighted these hobbits can be sometimes, isn't it?. On a serious note, there's no evidence for it but it seems like a plausible retcon; "Gerontius" is a very out-of-place name in the hobbit families, sandwiched between "Fortinbras" and various "Isen"s and "Hilde"s. Seems plausible that he was named something more suitable, and then "Gerontius" was an affectionate nickname – Jason Baker Sep 27 '15 at 1:48
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    Tolkien said in the Appendices that the characters' actual names are different from their names in the books. He Anglicized them for the books from the original Westron names he created. Samwise Gamgee is really Banazîr Galbasi. Peregrin "Pippin" Took was really Razanur Tûk. – pleurocoelus Apr 17 '17 at 14:51
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    @pleurocoelus Not untrue, but Tolkien also notes that he goes to great length to preserve meaning and linguistic relationships. The fact that "Gerontius" is so out-of-place should indicate to us that his actual Hobbitish name was similarly out-of-place among other first names – Jason Baker Apr 17 '17 at 14:55
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    @JasonBaker True. Of course, if he had died young, we would be commenting on the irony of his name. – pleurocoelus Apr 18 '17 at 3:50
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What does LOTR say about hobbit longevity?

The prologue to The Fellowship of the Ring section 3, "Of the Ordering of the Shire" says:

Sixty years had passed since he set out on his memorable journey, and he was old even for Hobbits, who reached a hundred as often as not; but much evidently still remained of the considerable wealth he had brought back.

So apparently half the Hobbits who died of old age died before age one hundred and half after age one hundred. The Old Took lived to be one hundred and thirty, which is one point three times the median age of one hundred. Assuming that a Hobbit aged one hundred would be roughly equivalent to a Human aged sixty, or seventy, or eighty; a Human who was one point three times as old would be seventy eight, or ninety one, or one hundred and four.

In Humans a supercentenarian is defined as someone living to be at least one hundred and ten years old, which is relatively much older - compared to ages of sixty, seventy, or eighty - than the Old Took's one hundred and thirty years is compared to the Hobbit median lifespan of of one hundred.

Jeanne Calment (1875-1997), who lived to be one hundred twenty two, lived two point zero three three times as long as sixty years, one point seven four times as long as seventy years, and one point five two five times as long as eighty years.

It is quite possible that Tolkien knew true or false stories about people living to be supercentenarians so possibly he made the Old Took exceed the median Hobbit lifespan by such a comparatively small proportion to allow for the relatively small size of the Hobbit population which would make exceptional Hobbits much fewer than equally exceptional humans.

I suppose that there is no need to state the obvious and say that Gerontology is the study of old age and aging, comings from Greek geron (old man) and logia (study of), and that Gerontius is a Latin name, a Latinized Greek word meaning "old man" and that there are several persons named Gerontius in history, and so Tolkien was making a joke by naming The Old Took Gerontius.

Added 08-30-2020.

For more information about Hobbit ages and lifespans, see:

https://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/121634/do-hobbits-age-at-the-same-speed-as-humans-or-slower[2]

And here:

https://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/103719/how-did-gerontius-took-get-to-be-so-old/103728#103728[3]

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  • Note that all of the Hobbit lifespan is about a third again as long as ours: for example, their "coming of age" is at 33, instead of 21 as it would have been in Tolkien's time. – Daniel Roseman Sep 26 '15 at 7:59
  • Great reasoning. One minor nitpick: "medium age" should read "median age" throughout. – IMSoP Sep 26 '15 at 14:20
  • IMSoP - I changed medium to median. Thank you. – M. A. Golding Sep 27 '15 at 4:54

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