In Appendix F of The Lord of the Rings we are told that there “is no record of any language peculiar to hobbits. In ancient days they seem always to have used the languages of Men near whom, or among whom, they lived.”

This is a singularly striking statement from an author who otherwise insists that his pattern of literary creation is to begin with an invented language and then proceed to create creatures who speak that language and a world in which it is spoken. So where the nature of most of the peoples and races of Middle-earth bears a direct relationship to their language, hobbits appear linguistically as a cipher. For so far back as any records or memories reach, hobbits have been chameleon-like creatures who have adopted the language of their immediate human neighbours.

(italics are mine) Source: http://www.tolkienlibrary.com/press/1130-on-the-origin-of-hobbits.php

As a student of Cultural Anthropology and Linguistics who studied during the 80’s I must believe that a culture cannot be separated from its language as defined by the second paradigm. Language defines a culture and its origins, and I believe that Tolkien would agree with that.

So what is the origin of the Hobbits?

Who created them?

The Prologue to The Lord of the Rings says this:

It is plain indeed that in spite of later estrangement Hobbits are relatives of ours: far nearer to us than Elves, or even than Dwarves. Of old they spoke the languages of Men, after their own fashion, and liked and disliked much the same things as Men did. But what exactly our relationship is can no longer be discovered. The beginning of Hobbits lies far back in the Elder Days that are now lost and forgotten. Only the Elves still preserve any records of that vanished time, and their traditions are concerned almost entirely with their own history, in which Men appear seldom and Hobbits are not mentioned at all. Yet it is clear that Hobbits had, in fact, lived quietly in Middle-earth for many long years before other folk became even aware of them. And the world being after all full of strange creatures beyond count, these little people seemed of very little importance.

(once again, italics are mine)

1) ….to begin with an invented language and then proceed to create creatures who speak that language…

2) ...The beginning of Hobbits lies far back in the Elder Days that are now lost and forgotten.

So if the origin of the Hobbits predates that of Men, and Tolkien’s method was to create a language and then a people to speak it, what language did the Hobbits speak as a common tongue before the advent of Men? And why is there not any remnant of this older tongue existing in the Hobbit's everyday speech?

  • 1
    Sorry if this should be obvious, but what do you mean by idiomatic remnant?
    – CHEESE
    Mar 13, 2016 at 1:22
  • 8
    In brief, without any supporting evidence offhand, hobbits are (a subspecies of) humans, so that it's not quite correct to say that they predate humans; they, with other humans, were created by Iluvatar; no one knows what their original language was. Mar 13, 2016 at 1:27
  • 1
    @CHEESE Any remaining linguistic derivations from a preexisting language. Mar 13, 2016 at 1:31
  • 3
    I don't think anything quoted in the question says that Hobbits predate Men. They say that The beginning of Hobbits lies far back in the Elder Days that are now lost and forgotten. The same applied to the beginning of Men, who awoke with the first rising of the Sun which was also "far back in the Elder Days".
    – Blackwood
    Feb 22, 2017 at 20:27
  • 1
    In a sense hobbits (halflings) were "men" - sharing the same Doom etc. There was no separate creation for them as I understand it. Mar 29, 2017 at 8:33

1 Answer 1


We don't know.

Quoting from Tolkien Gateway (emphasis mine):

The original language of the Hobbits is lost to history, as their specific origins. The earliest known historical location of the Hobbits is in the upper vales of Anduin and while there, they must have had some contact with the Éothéod, who lived in the same area. Thus the earliest known Hobbit-language must have been a northern Mannish tongue learned from the Éothéod.

For all of recorded history, Hobbits have been living more or less in contact with or close to Men, and have adopted their languages. One of the quotes you mention in your question tells us that there is no record of how Hobbits lived originally, as that time is so long ago that history has forgotten it:

The beginning of Hobbits lies far back in the Elder Days that are now lost and forgotten.

-- The Lord of the Rings, Prologue

And if you read it carefully, the quote you mention at the start of your question only says that there is no record of a special Hobbit language, not that no such tongue ever existed:

There is no record of any language peculiar to Hobbits. In ancient days they seem always to have used the languages of Men near whom, or among whom, they lived. Thus they quickly adopted the Common Speech after they entered Eriador, and by the time of their settlement at Bree they had already begun to forget their former tongue. This was evidently a Mannish language of the upper Anduin, akin to that of the Rohirrim; though the southern Stoors appear to have adopted a language related to Dunlendish before they came north to the Shire.

-- The Lord of The Rings, Appendix F, I: The Languages and People of the Third Age, section "On Hobbits"

In summary: the Hobbits presumably had their own language at some point, but it was long forgotten by the time of the Third Age, when they were using the same language as the Men near whom they lived or had once lived.

  • 2
    It could be that the original Hobbit language IS the language of man. If Hobbits did in fact predate man, it's not out of line to postulate that it was in fact THEIR language that was taught to man.
    – Morgan
    Mar 13, 2016 at 1:41
  • 3
    @Morgan But there were several languages spoken by Men, each of which the Hobbits picked up for a while as they moved around. The Hobbits of the Shire spoke mainly Westron (the language spoken by the Men of that part of the world), with some words retained from a language like that of the Rohirrim, which was spoken in the places where they used to dwell. An example of this is in the word "hobbit" (actually "kuduk"), the word used by the Hobbits themselves - this was a rustic version of "holbytla" ("kudukkan"), the Rohirrim's word, and quite unlike "halfling" ("banakil"), the Westron word.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Mar 13, 2016 at 1:45
  • 2
    Interesting... My education continues. Thanks for that.
    – Morgan
    Mar 13, 2016 at 1:48
  • 3
    @Gandalf Tolkien Gateway is not your average wiki site; it's widely recognised as being very reliable and well-sourced, and usually considered acceptable here as a citation. Admittedly my answer isn't totally waterproof, but I've put together a reasonable argument based on canon quotes; the only way this could be debunked would be by someone actually finding some information on the original Hobbit language, and I'm pretty sure none exists.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Mar 13, 2016 at 2:21
  • 6
    Hobbits most definitely did not predate the Men; the "evolved" from early Men. Thus, they would have spoken the same early language and its variations as early Men did. Rohhiric is such an example, and the early Hobbits' language was closely related to it.
    – Maksim
    Mar 14, 2016 at 15:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.