36

For example, elves surely know stories about their creation and some of them remember so much that their religiosity is pretty clear.

But I am not sure about hobbits.

Do they believe in some god/gods or nature powers? Or are they even aware of the whole Valar and Eru Ilúvatar business? I do not remember anything similar discussed in the books.

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    Is it really religion if you have proof, though? Aren't religious beliefs based on faith? Having literally met one's maker seems to render that point moot. – Adele C Jan 4 '17 at 13:56
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    @Adele C I suppose you are reffering to the elves part...? I don't think that it is not possible to believe with proofs (it seems even easier). But actually most of them didn't remember even Valar and no one I believe (correct me if I'm not) have met Ilúvatar himself. But they're much more closer to it than the hobbits. – TGar Jan 4 '17 at 14:03
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    @TGar Only the Ainur ever actually met Eru, but (some) Men in the First Age had an oral tradition that He spoke to them early in their history (see Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth, HoMe X) – Jason Baker Jan 4 '17 at 14:34
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    The Elves that have been to Aman remember the Valar; those that have not wouldn't remember them per se, although many (all?) of the Avari would have met Oromë at least, since he discovered them in Cuiviénen. – chepner Jan 4 '17 at 14:40
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    @AdeleC: Aren't religious beliefs based on faith? No. I think you're taking a specific interpretation of a specific religion and imputing it to all religions. – Ben Crowell Jan 4 '17 at 21:24
48

Doubtful

Tolkien wrote in a footnote to Letter 153 that Hobbits had no practice of worship or prayer:

There are thus no temples or 'churches' or fanes in this 'world' among 'good' peoples. They had little or no 'religion' in the sense of worship. [...] I do not think Hobbits practised any form of worship or prayer (unless through exceptional contact with Elves).

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 153: To Peter Hastings (draft). September 1954

So there's no institutional religion on the Shire. Of course, not worshiping a god isn't quite the same thing as not believing in that god, and spirituality can exist without religion.

That being said, there's no indication or reference to the rank-and-file hobbits having any knowledge or understanding of the creation myth; since Hobbits are an evolutionary off-shoot of Men, it seems likely that they had some kind of religious knowledge or worship at some point in their history1. However, by the time of the Third Age the Hobbits retained little (if any) of their early lore, so it seems unlikely that they would have retained religious traditions as well:

Of their original home the Hobbits in Bilbo's time preserved no knowledge. A love of learning (other than genealogical lore) was far from general among them, but there remained still a few in the older families who studied their own books, and even gathered reports of old times and distant lands from Elves, Dwarves, and Men. Their own records began only after the settlement of the Shire, and their most ancient legends hardly looked further back than their Wandering Days.

Fellowship of the Ring Prologue 1: "Concerning Hobbits"

It does seem likely that some Hobbits would have learned of the religious traditions of the Elves (we know at least that Bilbo did, since The Silmarillion is in-universe his translation of Elvish history), but it's not clear whether or not they would have perceived it as religious truth, or as mere historical curiosity.

If hobbit-culture has devised any other form of religious belief (animism, for instance), there is no record of it.


1 As the Gondorians do, for instance; consider Faramir's "grace at meat" in The Two Towers:

Before they ate, Faramir and all his men turned and faced west in a moment of silence. Faramir signed to Frodo and Sam that they should do likewise.

'So we always do.' he said, as they sat down: 'we look towards Númenor that was, and beyond to Elvenhome that is, and to that which is beyond Elvenhome and will ever be.

The Two Towers Book IV Chapter 5: "The Window on the West"

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    One could argue from an outsider's perspective that Old Man Willow was an example of animistic beliefs and that the narrative that we are given is colored by the perceptions of the in-universe writer, who was animistic. – called2voyage Jan 4 '17 at 17:29
  • @called2voyage For those of us who have only seen the movies, who or what is Old Man Willow and why might that be an example of animistic beliefs? – Thunderforge Jan 4 '17 at 19:43
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    @Thunderforge Old Man Willow is kind of an Ent-like thing that nearly succeeds in eating the hobbits as they pass through the Old Forest on the way to Bree. It's animistic in the very literal sense of being a spirit inhabiting a natural object (or somesuch; see link), but in my opinion rather blurs the line between "animist religious belief" and "creature in a fantasy realm" – Jason Baker Jan 4 '17 at 19:46
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    @Thunderforge It happens in that section with Tom Bombadil which fans of the book usually have a love/hate relationship with its omission from the movie. – called2voyage Jan 4 '17 at 19:49
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    @DanBarron Tolkien explicitly avoided references to religious practices, and there's very little detail on them for any race, let alone Hobbits. That said, the Hobbits of the Third Age are portrayed as a profoundly non-curious people, so it may simply be that they don't care, and have let any myths they did have fall by the wayside. A weak justification, I admit, but i.stack.imgur.com/vdtXN.gif – Jason Baker Jan 5 '17 at 16:28

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