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Hobbits have a curious habit of finding their way into the most important moments of history during the Third Age. Whether it's Gollum carrying the Ring for longer than anyone but Sauron and then ultimately destroying it, or Frodo and Sam carrying it to Mordor, Merry and Pippin being the catalyst for the fall of Isengard, Bilbo being instrumental in the retaking of Erebor, Saruman the White meeting his end in the Shire, etc.

Obviously, Tolkien used Hobbits to stand for "the little guy" in history, so it makes sense that they wouldn't be tied up in the grand prophecies and such that so often occur around Men and Elves. But was there any hint that Hobbits would be so vital to history, before it happened? Any prophecies or signs, any secret knowledge that these little folk would be so pivotal in so many ways, all during the same 100-year stretch that would decide the fate of the world? Or was that a complete surprise, even to the wisest in Middle Earth?

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    I remember a note, but do not have a reference to a passage that I read about Gandalf studying the ways of hobbits, but Saruman and Sauron overlooking them, which is why Gandalf understands their significance. Also, creatures such as Treebeard and Smaug do not even know of hobbits. – Anduril_1251 Jan 9 '14 at 20:53
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    Yeah, I remember something along those lines too, but I never knew if that was just curiosity. I got the sense that Gandalf was sort of the protector of the outcasts and smaller peoples of Middle Earth, just as Radagast focused on wildlife and Saruman (and Gandalf the White) focused on the great empires. If that's so, his interest in Hobbits would likely just have been out of curiosity or personal delight, rather than any belief in their ultimate importance. – Nerrolken Jan 9 '14 at 20:58
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    Yes, I agree with everything you said. By 'Gandalf understands their significance', I just meant that Gandalf, having studied these creatures (because of his own desires) understands how they could be a factor of surprise against those who don't know they are coming, such as Smaug and Sauron. Sorry for not being clear on that. – Anduril_1251 Jan 9 '14 at 21:07
  • Keep in mind that the importance of hobbits was a surprise to J.R.R. Tolkien as well, in the sense that the author himself didn't know Bilbo Baggins had found the One Ring until he wrote The Lord of the Rings. :) – RobertF Dec 1 '14 at 20:56
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Tolkien hints that at least Illuvatar had planned it: In 'The Shadow of the Past', Gandalf says this:

'It is no laughing matter,' said Gandalf. 'Not for you. It was the strangest event in the whole history of the Ring so far: Bilbo's arrival at that time, and putting his hand on it, blindly, in the dark.
There was more than one power at work, Frodo. The Ring was trying to get back to its master. [...] it abandoned Gollum. Only to be picked up by the most unlikely person imaginable: Bilbo from the Shire!
Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer then by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by it's maker. In which case you also were meant to have it.

Also here is Boromir's dream that leads him to Rivindell:

Seek for the Sword that was broken:
In Imladris it dwells;
There shall be counsels taken
Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
That Doom is near at hand,
For Isildur's Bane shall waken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand.

So there is force stronger than Sauron at work at work here, who made Bilbo find the Ring. But the question still remains in a way; we don't know how far forward the hobbit thing was planned, and even the wise in Middle-earth (Gandalf, Sauron, Elrond (see Jimmy Shelter's answer), etc) didn't really know about it, Gandalf was trying to explain it, and it was totaly unexpected for Sauron.

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It was a complete surprise. As Master Elrond himself says (in the Council of Elrond):

This is the hour of the Shire-folk, when they arise from their quiet fields to shake the towers and counsels of the Great. Who of all the Wise could have foreseen it? Or, if they are wise, why should they expect to know it, until the hour has struck?

The Prologue (Concerning Hobbits) also contains much information about Hobbit character and history, and goes to some degree of effort to emphasise exactly how unobtrusive Hobbits were.

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As to prophecies about hobbits, I don't know or recall any.
However...
In the movie, Gandalf seemed to know or suspect the value of hobbits.
The scene is when Galadriel challenges him by asking, "Why Bilbo Baggins?"
And Gandalf replies, "I don't know. Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage."

Earlier than that the dwarves also question Gandalf's choice of a hobbit.
Gandalf's reply:

Let's have no more argument. I have chosen Mr. Baggins and that ought to be enough for all of you. If I say he is a Burglar, a Burglar he is, or will be when the time comes. There is a lot more in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself. You may (possibly) all live to thank me yet.

As to how he knew this, is it enough to say that Gandalf is very wise?

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    The question is about hobbits' importance in the Third Age, not just the special case of Bilbo and Smaug. – Anduril_1251 Jan 9 '14 at 21:14
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When it comes to the rise, contributions, and final acknowledgment of the Hobbits, serious interpreters and critical readers simply MUST take into account the seriousness of Tolkien's Roman Catholic, Christian faith. The idea of the least becoming the greatest is something of a leit-motif in the New Testament canon. It's on display when Christ places his hands on children and blesses them and tells others they must be like children to inherit the kingdom of God. It's also on display in 1 Corinthians 1, where Paul says that God has used the foolish things of the world (in context, crucifixion of a humble and lowly Jewish carpenter) to confound the wise.

Biblical theologians refer to this as the Great Reversal. It is considered the epitome of the New Testament's teaching that Christ shattered paradigms and was not at all the type of Messiah that folks were expecting.

There's no getting around the influence of Tolkien's faith on the rise and prominence of hobbits in LOTR. He was a theologian par excellence, and the Hobbits embody his undertanding of the great reversal brought about by and in Christ.

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    It's fine that I got some downvotes, but can I get an explanation? I feel I answered the question with an answer that has been well established in secondary literature. – FoxMan2099 Jan 10 '14 at 20:16
  • The issue I had was that it does not have any relation to the actual questions being asked and you are just talking, generally, about hobbits in LOTR. Also, you asserting various 'facts' without giving any sources. Overall this is not a good answer to the given question as it does not answer it nor does it contain verifiable facts. – Stefan Jan 13 '14 at 17:30
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    Ok, then on Tolkien's Roman Catholic faith and it's impact on his writing, see especially Tom Shippey, "The Road to Middle Earth"; Kreeft, "The Philosophy of Tolkien"; Rutledge, "The Road to Middle Earth"; and Dickerson, "A Hobbit Journey." To see Tolkien's own explanation of how his fictional writings have a very Roman Catholic character to them, see Tolkien, "The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien," as the topic is covered immensely. – FoxMan2099 Jan 14 '14 at 21:21
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    If you make a claim in an answer which relates to facts then you should provide citations for those facts. For example "the Hobbits embody his undertanding of the great reversal brought about by and in Christ" - please provide a link to where this is specified. Also, you are not actually answering the question, merely talking about hobbits in general without providing citations for claimed facts. If you have them then please add them into your answer and people might well undo their down votes. – Stefan Jan 15 '14 at 11:03
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    Nope, you just don't have the info. Anyway, I think I have been patient enough and tried to help you improve a vague and irrelevant answer but if you do not want to or cannot do it then I am done here. – Stefan Jan 23 '14 at 11:32

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