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How were hobbits created? I can't find any reference in The Silmarillion about this. Are they just men who have shrunken over generations or what?

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    I think I read somewhere that "one doesn't know how they originated" (I love it when Tolkien "doesn't know" things in his own stories!)
    – MadTux
    May 2, 2013 at 18:51
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    When a mommy hobbit and a daddy hobbit love each other very much...
    – Paul
    Mar 25, 2017 at 4:48
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    As CGP Grey explains, they are simply "related to Men". Aug 27, 2017 at 12:47
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    When I was a child, during the 1950s, the standard story that parents used to dissuade their children from smoking was that it stunted growth: my mother even told me that I should look at my uncle, who was very short, if I didn't believe her. Now we know that hobbits smoked a lot... Sep 10, 2022 at 3:21

5 Answers 5

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From FotR ("Prologue: Concerning Hobbits"):

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.

So there is no absolutely definitive answer (consider them one of those mysteries and enigmas, like Tom Bombadil) but they are related to Men in some way.

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    Eru's passive aggressive response to a complaint over the lack of diversity among Middle Earth Men.
    – Misha R
    Dec 20, 2018 at 4:57
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The Hobbits were certainly related to the Rohirrim, as their languages share a lot of similarities. The word "hobbit" seems to have originated thus:(Appendix F)

Hobbit was the Name usually applied by the Shire-folk to all their kind. Men called them Halflings and the Elves Periannath. The origin of the word hobbit was by most forgotten. It seems, however, to have been at first a name given to the Harfoots by the Fallowhides and Stoors, and to be a worn-down form of a word preserved more fully in Rohan: holbytla 'hole-builder'.

lotr.wikia.com has a very good description of their history, which I will shamelessly copy and paste here:

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 or tribes 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. About the year TA 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 was later named Mirkwood because of the shadow that fell on it as Sauron searched the area 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 (Hoarwell) and Bruinen (Loudwater), the divisions between the Hobbit-kinds began to blur.

They probably just changed from the rest, like the Druedain.

Also, here are some quotes from The Letters of JRR Tolkien:

Letter 131:

In the middle of this Age [the Third Age] the Hobbits appear. Their origin is unknown (even to themselves)† for they escaped the notice of the great, or the civilised people with records, and kept none themselves, save vague oral traditions, until they had migrated from the borders of Mirkwood, fleeing from the Shadow, and wandered westward, coming into contact with the last remnants of the Kingdom of Arnor.

† The Hobbits are, of course, really meant to be a branch of the specifically human race (not elves or dwarves) . . .

That confirms that the hobbits are essentially human, just a different (shrunken) variety.

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    This doesn't imply that they are related to the Rohirrim: as the same appendix notes, they adopted the language of the Men among whom they lived, so the similarities with that language merely means they lived among the Men of the upper Anduin for some time. Dec 6, 2013 at 10:25
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    @DanielRoseman I meant related in a cultural sense; they shared history, and knew of each other.
    – MadTux
    Dec 7, 2013 at 9:05
  • Your quote of Letter 131 is very useful to Tolkien's thinking. Thanks.
    – ScottS
    Sep 26, 2016 at 15:23
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I'd like to add some support to the general thrust of John Kevin Young's answer--i.e. that there was divine and/or magical intervention that either created the hobbits or melded them from other Middle Earth races-- by pointing to another frequently discussed mystery: Gandalf's seemingly offhand comment to Frodo in Fellowship that there exists "power of another kind" in the Shire.

My speculation is that hobbits appeared in Middle Earth around the time recounted in the Appendices but were simply too uninteresting for either Sauron or the Wise to take notice. I believe this was an intentional cloak of their creator (or creators--any of John's proposals other than Gandalf are possible in my view). Just as the Istari were sent by the Valar in overt opposition to Sauron, hobbits were a sleeper cell, unknown even to themselves.

They came to Gandalf's attention during the Fell Winter, and he studied them long, suspecting there was more to them than meets the eye.

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Tolkien left it a mystery, like the origin of Tom Bombadil, when he could easily have provided an answer. This leaves the reader a lot more latitude to surmise the answer than Letter 131 might suggest.

As alsoskjjd points out, the physical differences between Men and Hobbits are far too great to indicate a common origin. Consider Australian Aborigines, genetically isolated for FIFTY THOUSAND YEARS, yet they are not a hundredth as different from other men as Hobbits are from Man.

Tolkien's suggestion should be taken to mean a cultural relationship to Men, because realistically, it's a big slice of Canadian bacon to say that they are just the result of genetic drift! Tolkien was an expert philologist, but he was not an expert at other things, including biological facts unknown when we wrote.

True, by the way, of all humanity's so-called geniuses; one may be a genius at one or a couple things, but never at all things. Mozart's opinions on economics are as worthless as Einstein's on the biology of yellow fever.

Besides, alsoskjjd's extremely telling point that if Hobbits were humans, they would not display such extraordinary resistance to the Rings of Power, is paramount. To take this point further, the existence of this singular trait in this singular population is, in my opinion, a clear indication of a divine hand in the Hobbits' creation. That is, the hand of a Valar, or Maiar or possibly the hand of a powerful being such as an elf or strange anomaly such as Tom Bombadil.

Where, then, did the race of Hobbits come from? I see them as combining traits of both Dwarves and in less measure, Elves. (In no way do I see them as little Men.)

Hobbits are the height of Dwarves, have feet that are far more likely from the Dwarf genome than anywhere else, and they dwell underground in holes. But modest holes in small hills, not grand caverns in mountains and massifs. Even their dwellings reveal no ambition or will to dominate others, which goes back to their near-immunity to the Ring.

As for Elven influence, while they are clearly not Elves (being mortal), they do have the ears, as well as an essential goodness as though they are of the Earth, but unlike Dwarves who are also of the Earth, untainted with that flaw of the bearded race, greed.

This point - that Dwarves have a fundamental flaw - is key to motivating the creation of Hobbits. Let me explain briefly that even before God ("Eru Iluvatar") created the first two races, Elves and Men, one of his Valar (like archangels), a smith named Aule, secretly created a race that he called Dwarves, fashioned from stone.

Aule being less than God, however, his creation was less than perfect. The Dwarves would lust for gold, and their physical appearance - stocky, low to the ground, lumpen-nosed - reflected this earthy fixation.

Now! - to use all these facts, I've come up with the bones of an origin story for the Hobbits along these lines:

A group of Dwarf families, perhaps refugees or exiles, came down the River Anduin from the north end of the Misty Mountains on rafts and were assaulted by Orcs. Knowing they were lost, they put their babies and toddlers in a small boat to escape, while remaining behind themselves to buy time for their wee ones.

The foundlings were spotted and rescued by someone who became more than fond of them. Through means we would call magic, this one, who was powerful, decided to heal the brokenness in them from Aule's flawed creation. (Oh, the things we do for love.)

The magic passed into the babes from above, changing their ears; and the Dwarvishness in them passed back into the Earth, changing their feet. Their bodies straightened and their faces grew fair and they stood now like Children of Eru, the first Dwarves ever to do so. So different they were that they were no longer Dwarves.

The Hobbits' ears, then, spoke to the magical grace that changed them, while their feet spoke to the former Dwarvish natures that left them with the gift of boots. And perhaps their greatest gift: they were now free from greed and the will to dominate others - the basis of their resistance to the siren call of the Ring of Power.

That's the basic outline. Now, as to the details:

Many elves dwelt along Anduin from the middle of the Second Age, Galadriel among them. Perhaps she is the one who found and healed them, both from love and from seeing in her Mirror that doing so might one day offer the only hope of saving the world that Eru had created. Such an action would then have to be concealed from the Enemy lest he hunt down and destroy them; concealed also from the Dwarves lest they be enraged.

Perhaps Gandalf (though not an Elf) visited and performed the feat of wizardry, or assisted, which would explain his continual infatuation with the Shirefolk and his dogged faith in them.

Their origin, by the way, had to have been farther back in time than their Third-Age emergence into history. The population size, and the existence of three distinct kinds of hobbit, points to an Age of multiplying and thriving quietly in three safe and isolated backwaters. Three is a sacred number to the Elves, supporting the role of Elves in the Hobbits' origin.

There are many ways this story can differ in detail. For instance, rather than protecting the Hobbits, the origin story may have been kept secret to protect the person who created them. In other words, the action that changed their nature and made them a new race was in some way questionable.

Perhaps the magical working involved the politics of the Valar themselves. Such an extraordinary change to Aule's creation might have required Aule's permission, or even Eru Iluvatar's.

Eru, after all, had forgiven Aule's transgression in creating a race of living beings, and he allowed them to awaken, albeit after Eru's own races.

Perhaps most intriguingly, maybe the origin of the Hobbits was the work of the two Blue Wizards, fresh from their supernatural life as Maiar (demigods) reborn in Middle-Earth in the bodies of old men. They arrived not long after Galadriel herself, and may well have traveled in the vast Vale of Anduin in time to rescue our boatload of babes.

The Blue Istari may have performed their actions as haplessly as Aule performed his, a god-like act and a breach of the protocol under which they were sent to Middle-Earth.

As a result, they may have suffered rebuke, recall, or exile, and were sent on their way Eastward, leaving the babe and toddler Hobbits with the Elves with no explanation - for shame - for what they had done. This is a particularly satisfying origin because it makes use of the Blue Wizards, whom Tolkien created but never did anything with other than dither over whether or not they ever did anything. :)

Being neither Elves nor Dwarves, the Hobbits were eventually provided the means to live on their own and the rest, as they say, is history.

It would clearly take a novel to tell this story properly. :)

I do hope this at least provides some food for thought in answer to your question, and an alternative to the (to me) boring and unsatisfying idea that Hobbits are no more than an offshoot of Men, developed in some swamp through deviancy and inbreeding (cue the banjos). And yet with a core of Good at their heart, like an Arkenstone, for no reason at all. (Maybe incest really IS wincest?)

There's no magic in that notion. Hobbits are not, and cannot be, Mini-Men!

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    Interesting theory, but where do you get this information about ears? Does Tolkien ever describe the ears of the various races?
    – Molag Bal
    Apr 6, 2017 at 7:20
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    Also, Hobbits can be and most definitely are Men, as said by Tolkien himself.
    – Edlothiad
    Apr 6, 2017 at 7:26
  • @MolagBal Tolkien described Hobbit ears in a letter as being a little pointed, like "elvish" ears. Aug 27, 2017 at 12:46
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    Glad to see there is nothing speculative about this theory.
    – PJTraill
    Sep 14, 2022 at 17:06
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Here is a link to a question on another site:

https://www.reddit.com/r/tolkienfans/comments/1bfxxvf/what_was_the_origin_of_the_hobbits/

And my answer to it with various speculations.

In Tolkien's earlier Book of Lost Tales, there were fays, who were minor spirits, as much below the Maiar as the Maiar are below the Valar. Those fays were more or less like Victorian fairies, not like medieval Fairies and Elves. And when the narrator of The Hobbit mentioned the rumor that one of the Tooks married a fairy wife, Tolkien might have been thinking of an Elf, or thinking of one of those earlier fays. And perhaps some fans consider that rumor to be proof that some sort of "fairies" exist in Middle-earth, even though they are unmentioned in the Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings.

Going by the species known to exist in Middle-earth, one can speculate that maybe a Took married a Deuedain wild woman, and that wild woman had an ordinary Human amoung her recent ancestors, and that ordinary Human had a Dunedain of Numenorean ancestry amoung their ancestors, and that Numenorean had at least one line of descent from the royal family, and that ment that they were descended from Elves and even from Melian the Maia. And maybe there was still some genetic influence from such remote ancestors in the Tooks.

Or maybe a Took ventured into the Old Forest and met a hypothetical sister of Goldberry, a sister who would also be "the River Woman's daughter", whatever the "River Woman" was, and whatever Goldberry's father was.

In the family tree of the Took family, the first named wife is Adamanta Chubb, wife of the Old Took. She seems to have a normal Hobbit name. So possibly the Old Took's mother was the allegedly non Hobbit wife. But the Old Took's granduncle Bandobras "Bullroarer" Took was a very large and fierce Hobbit. So maybe it was the Old Took's great grandfather Thain Isumbras III, father of "Bullroarer" and of the Old Took's grandfather Thain Ferembras II, who married a non Hobbit wife.

Or maybe it was Isumbras I Took, who became the 13th Thain of the Shire, and the first of the Took family, in Third Age 2340, who had an allegedly non Hobbit mother or remoter ancestor. Having a recent non Hobbit ancestor might make Isumbras outstanding, and explain how he was able to acquire the thainship from the Oldbuck family who had it for over 300 years.

[Added 03-17-2024 Or maybe there were two or more Took ancestors who married non Hobbit women of various speciess, which later rumors and legends combined into one.]

As to the origins of Hobbits as a group, we can speculate that perhaps there was once a marriage between a Dwarf and a Human, which produced mixed blood children. And maybe one or more of the children married full blood Humans and had 3/4 Human children, the ancestors of the Druedain. And maybe one or more of the other mixed blood children married somone else and was ancestor of the Hobbits.

But in that case, what would the "someone" else be? If it was a Dwarf, that would produce 3/4 Dwarf children, and the Hobbits don't seem like 3/4 Dwarf people. Maybe one or more of the hypothetical Dwarf ancestors might have been a Petty Dwarf. The Petty Dwarves were extra small Dwarves who were expelled for unspecified reasons, perhaps their size, from the Dwarf cities of Belegost and Nogrod in the Blue Mountains during the first age, and moved to Beleriand.

And perhaps some of the Petty Dwarves expelled from the cities in the Blue Mountains went east into Eriador, and met with the ancestors of the Edain moving westward thorugh Eriador, and intermarried with them, producing the ancestors of the Druedain and the Hobbits. If regular Dwarves are only four feet. or a little more, tall, the Petty Dwarves could easily be within the Hobbit height range of two to four feet.

(Of course, if Hobbits were created early enough, the petty Dwarves might have been mixed offspring of regular Dwarves and Hobbits!)

Considering the difference between Dwarves and Hobbits, and between most Men and Hobbits, we would want some other species besides Dwarves and Men in the Hobbit ancestry. Elves seem to be unlikely because of the differences between Elves and Hobbits. Trolls seem unlikely because of the differences betwen them and Hobbits. And what does that leave?

Orcs. I note that the Tower of Cirith Ungol, with a garrison of only a few hundred orcs, had some Orc clothing and equipment that fit Sam and Frodo fairly well, and that when they later encountered Orcs while wearing Orc clothing, those Orcs assumed they were other Orcs. Thus some breeds or races of Orcs seem to have been as short as Hobbits.

Did a Human woman escape from Orc capitivity with a half Orc child who became an ancestor of the Hobbits? Or did Humans, or Dwarves, or Elves, wipe out a band of Orcs and find a baby Orc among them, and someone raised the baby Orc, and it became a relatively good person and an ancestor of Hobbits?

Or may be all Hobbits were partially descended from marriages between Humans and members of some species unknown to fans and not on Treebeard's list Like the three species mentioned in The Hobbit, but not in The Silmarillion or in The Lord of the Rings: Fairies, Ogres, and Giants.

Or maybe Morgoth or Sauron experimented with creating a race they considered inferior during the First Age. Maybe they planned to breed vast numbers of them and then set them free to mingle with and intermarry with Elves and Men. If they made certain that the genes of that species were all dominent, any mixed blood offspring would resemble that species and not any Elves or Men they intermarried with.

So they would design that species to be small and physicially weak, unable to fight effectively against armies of Orcs, and evil Men, and Trolls, and Balrogs, and Dragons. And they hoped that if they intermarried a lot with Elves and Men they would produce weak offspring to weaken those species.

[Added 03-17-2024. Or mabye Morgoth and Sauron added a genetic time bomb to those beings. Perhaps the first few generations would be strong and bold, as would their children by intermarrige with other species. But after a few generations their descendants would become small and timid, even those of mixed ancestry.]

And maybe Sauron suggested to Morgoth that maybe they should make that species kind and gentle. And maybe the shocked Morgoth asked why he would think such a disgusting thought. And Sauron explained that way they would get along better with Elves and Men and be more likely to intermarry with them and produce small, weak offspring. And maybe Morgoth agreed.

And maybe something prevented the breeding of great numbers of that sabotage species, but some were bred and got free someone from Utumno or Angband, and became the ancestors of Hobbits, or intermarried with other species to be part ancestors of Hobbits.

If mortal Men first awoke with the first rising of the Sun, about 590 years before the end of the First Age, and the Second Age lasted 3,441 years, and Hobbits were first recorded in year 1050 of the Third Age, that gives only about 5,081 years for Hobbits to become separate from typical Humans.

That seems far too short a time for natural evolution to produce such a vast change in a group with such long generations.

So either:

One) Eru Created the first Hobbits (and Druedain) the way they always were, and they awoke among the other Men with the first rising of the Sun.

Or

Two) Someone found the bodies of the first Humans before they awoke, and took some, and experimented on them, and Hobbits were one result.

Or

Three) Someone found some early humans after they had awakened with the rising of the Sun, and took them, and experimented on them, and produced Hobbits.

Or

Four) Sometime after the first rising of the Sun, some early Humans intermarried with members of one or more other species and produced the first Hobbits.

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