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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Where do hobbits come from?

Kalimac
Bree


Oct 21 2013, 12:22pm

Post #1 of 17 (374 views)
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Where do hobbits come from? Can't Post

and please nobody say “when a mummy hobbit and a daddy hobbit love eachother a lot...” What I’d like to know is who made the hobbits? Was it Eru, or some presumptious Vala? (It would have to be Tulkas then- I can see him creating a race of little, good natured people) Or are they the result of interbreeding between some other races? The thing is when treebeard includes them in his song about the races, it seems to imply that they have their own separate genesis. Thoughts, anyone?


Elthir
Gondor

Oct 21 2013, 1:28pm

Post #2 of 17 (253 views)
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Eru [In reply to] Can't Post

My take is [simply] that they came into the world as 'hobbits' along with Men.

They are a diminutive branch of the human race [Tolkien, in letters]; and for myself I see no real evidence that they necessarily 'evolved' into Hobbits, or are the result of interbreeding. I think they were small and hairy-footed [not big footed, I see no evidence that they were ever notably big-footed for their size] from the start.

We do see variation in height -- noting that Hobbits generally got smaller after the events of the War of the Ring, for example -- and variations between Harfoots and Stoors and Fallohides, but to my mind that doesn't necessarily mean they started off as 'man sized' in origin.

In any case they seem not to have entered written 'history' until after other Men, and went relatively unnoticed in the Elder Days.


Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Oct 21 2013, 1:37pm

Post #3 of 17 (245 views)
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Relationship to humans [In reply to] Can't Post

It's possible they were awoken in Hildrien at the same time as the rest of Men, as an already complete race of humans. And if we look at all the other cases, all races were made by someone, instead of evolving. All in all in Middle-Earth things are generally made whole, and adding time only results with decay and waning, not evolving into something new and better. (Though admittedly humans may be an exception to this rule.)

But every word you say today
Gets twisted 'round some other way
And they'll hurt you if they think you've lied


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Oct 21 2013, 8:24pm

Post #4 of 17 (210 views)
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It does seem a bit uncharacteristic that Tolkien has no backstory for them (as far as I know).// [In reply to] Can't Post

 

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowim I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


CuriousG
Valinor


Oct 21 2013, 9:33pm

Post #5 of 17 (201 views)
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Yes, odd [In reply to] Can't Post

We get the Quenta Silmarillion about Elf history, that story plus the Akallabeth about Men history, along with the origins of Dwarves, Orcs, and Ents, yet the main feature characters of LOTR have almost no detailed story of origin?! Or is Christopher holding out on us?

Sucking eggs by the Anduin just doesn't count as hobbit backstory for me.


Kalimac
Bree


Oct 21 2013, 9:55pm

Post #6 of 17 (201 views)
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I’ve got a theory [In reply to] Can't Post

most of JRRT’s middle earth writing was “translated”. Maybe because hobbits were seamingly inconsequential there was no writing about them (besides their own) for him to translate? Hence the lack of info


CuriousG
Valinor


Oct 21 2013, 10:36pm

Post #7 of 17 (187 views)
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Lost in translation [In reply to] Can't Post

I overlooked a "welcome" shout to you Kalimac, so, welcome!

Since Tolkien loved detailing the origins of practically everything, living or not, it seems out of place to not have a rich history for the hobbits. But it also seems appropriate that, as modest and unassuming people, they wouldn't write a lot about themselves, so your translation idea would fit them pretty well.

It's significant that much of Bilbo's "writing" was translating from Elvish. Beyond his own story, he didn't chronicle the history of the Shire. Equally, Frodo titled their combined book "The Downfall of The Lord of The Rings and The Return of The King," with just a little note about little people as witnesses. It's charming but a bit absurd that Frodo downplayed his and Sam's story, at least as far as the title goes, and made it appear to be all about Sauron and Aragorn, but that's hobbit modesty. It seems equally self-effacing of them that they forgot their own language and adopted the common tongue as their own.

Though when I think about it a little more, Gandalf jokes to Theoden that Shire hobbits will prattle on endlessly about their family history if you let them get started, and he does that to shut up Merry's expose on Toby and Pipeweed, but maybe the point is that they enjoy the oral tradition about their families but don't see the need to write it down, so nothing from them has survived.


squire
Valinor


Oct 21 2013, 11:23pm

Post #8 of 17 (191 views)
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It's not as uncharacteristic as all that [In reply to] Can't Post

I think Tolkien very often liked to write into his stories circumstances that reflected the real-world processes of his creativity.

For instance, following his own fascination with sound-based alphabets, his later runes affect a phonological system, similar to the Tengwar, a far more sophisticated system than his earlier runes which were based on Germanic models; he then wrote in his histories that these later runes were an improvement by the Noldor on the basic, primitive, Sindarin characters.

Likewise, Quenya was his first major invented language, but then being a philologist he began playing with how Quenya might develop over time. He arrived at Noldorin (eventually Sindarin), and then wrote an elaborate scenario in his Elvish mythology explaining how the later language descended from the earlier one. His explanations of the various changes are a thinly veiled recapitulation of his own creative process.

Similarly, in the case of hobbits, he invented Bilbo and his kind out of thin air, or rather out of the same fanciful air that produced Roverandom and Father Christmas - an air that was as suitable for children as the overwrought and lofty atmosphere of the Silmarillion was not. Then he smashed them together - experimentally in The Hobbit, and deliberately in The Lord of the Rings. The Valaquenta does not explain Hobbits and why should it? It was written over ten years before Bilbo first opened a letter in the morning sunshine. Thus the hobbits' origins are an actual mystery in Tolkien's own larger creation - and he liked it that way. The only hints he gives in any of his writings (primarily the Prologue to LotR) are along the lines of 'hobbits are more closely related to Men than to anyone else'. That's all we have, and all we're ever likely to have.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


cats16
Valinor


Oct 21 2013, 11:55pm

Post #9 of 17 (184 views)
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Another thought... [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree with you, CG.

Something else that popped into my head when reading this thread: perhaps Hobbit history, before the formation of The Shire, was similar to that of early Men, before they crossed the Blue Mountains. Beor and Sador come to mind, when describing the dark days of Men--presumably under attack from Easterlings (maybe Orcs, too?) swayed by Morgoth's influence.

Maybe there is a passage that contradicts this idea.

In my head, it's more of a "our people endured much suffering in the past, and we will 'start over' with the founding of The Shire" kind of situation. That could explain why they formed their own calendar, resetting the clock, so to speak. It was a new beginning, away from the troubles of their forefathers. This, in turn, could also give some insight into their disdain for Others. They want to remain secluded, away from the troubles of the world. Being removed from the greater Middle-earth gave them a paradise.

None of that is explicitly mentioned, to my knowledge. But I feel that it's an interpretation that could have some merit. I do like having little knowledge on Hobbits, for the reasons mentioned by others in this thread.


(This post was edited by cats16 on Oct 21 2013, 11:59pm)


Otaku-sempai
Half-elven


Oct 22 2013, 12:05am

Post #10 of 17 (171 views)
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From the East [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, we know that Hobbits inhabited the Anduin Vales--possibly before the first Big Folk arrived there--before crossing the Misty Mountains to reach Bree-land and the Shire. They probably awakened in the East along side Men, but quickly crept away from the larger folk and tended to stay apart.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring


CuriousG
Valinor


Oct 22 2013, 12:17am

Post #11 of 17 (180 views)
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Really enjoyed this fresh perspective, especially resetting the clock. [In reply to] Can't Post

"In my head, it's more of a "our people endured much suffering in the past, and we will 'start over' with the founding of The Shire" kind of situation. That could explain why they formed their own calendar, resetting the clock, so to speak. It was a new beginning, away from the troubles of their forefathers. This, in turn, could also give some insight into their disdain for Others. They want to remain secluded, away from the troubles of the world. Being removed from the greater Middle-earth gave them a paradise. "


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Oct 22 2013, 2:59am

Post #12 of 17 (162 views)
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i believe [In reply to] Can't Post

 
tolkien describes them as having slightly leaf-shaped ears. which is an elven trait. which i find interesting.

it may be that hobbits are an offshoot of the anardar. it is also possible that they "appeared" in the same way that eldar and the anardar did --- by the direct hand of eru.

.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


cats16
Valinor


Oct 22 2013, 3:28am

Post #13 of 17 (153 views)
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Thank you. Glad it threw a different perspective out there :) // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Oct 22 2013, 7:35am

Post #14 of 17 (152 views)
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Because they're the humans of the story [In reply to] Can't Post

and the curious eyes that observe the rest of the world, passing their accounts and collections about Elves, Dwarves and the rest to us.

Even more so, they are the reader in the story, and the reader is a free agent, without exact origin and place within the wider world.

But every word you say today
Gets twisted 'round some other way
And they'll hurt you if they think you've lied


Elthir
Gondor

Oct 22 2013, 12:55pm

Post #15 of 17 (158 views)
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my ears are burning [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
tolkien describes them as having slightly leaf-shaped ears. which is an elven trait. which i find interesting.




But I wonder if Tolkien necessarily stuck to this idea, concerning Hobbits, or Elves.

warning: do not operate heavy machinery while/if reading the following


One reference comes from a letter, the other from a linguistic document called Etymologies [entry LAS1 and LAS2] written about the same time as the letter [the linguistic document is generally dated from the later 1930s to early 1940s] -- and I note that this entry was 'essentially' written again after The Lord of the Rings was published [see Words, Phrases And Passages, LAS- and SLAS-]...

... in which the formerly direct statement on Elven ears [being more pointed and leaf-shaped than human ears] no longer appears. In this later text a possible relationship between leaf and ear/listen words still exists, but no longer the direct statement as to why this is stated, which, in my opinion, then leaves it open as to who [within the story, or Tolkien as translator] thinks there is a possible relationship, and why.

Of course, not being a trained linguist myself, I could be wrong about something here, but moving possibly blindly onward...

... in other words, the revision [a later look at the same words, but in a different text, as Etymologies had been abandoned by this time] leaves things more open in my opinion.

If so, I note for example that it is said that Galadriel's name later became altered to Galadhriel -- not in Lorien or by those who knew her, however. In other words, this is a later 'internal' confusion from those not well enough acquainted with Galadriel or Lorien to know the truth [that her name did not actually contain the 'tree word' galadh]

So who is it that thinks there might be a relationship between Elvish leaf and ear/listen words? A fictive scribe in Gondor who had never met an actual Elf? Possibly Tolkien as the fictive translator, who would be well aware of the modern idea of Elves with pointed ears?


JRRT made a point to note that the Eldar, which word he translated as 'Elves' in the book, never had wings [The Return of the King Appendices], and I would say he did so as 'Elves' might bring with it certain misleading modern images, especially in the 1950s perhaps. Granted, he doesn't remark either way about ears here.

I have little doubt that when Tolkien wrote this letter and Etymologies he imagined his Elves with leaf-shaped [and more pointed] ears [than Men], and Hobbits with leaf-shaped ears as well -- again at this time however -- but for instance I also have little doubt that in The Book of Lost Tales [even earlier] his Elves were much shorter than they were later to become, and were reincarnated by being reborn as children.

I don't think JRRT wanted the ear detail, with respect to his Quendi, to be as certain as he once expressed it however.

As for Hobbits, if they certainly have leaf-shaped ears in Tolkien's own illustrations, which were published by him, then I think this notion must be accepted. However the way hair falls over the ear might make it look more pointed than it really is, and I'm not sure [when we consider this factor] that this trait is certain. I'm just wondering if JRRT was necessarily locked in to this idea by his own drawings.


Tolkien did publish a relatively detailed description of Hobbits in my opinion [as subjective as that is, I admit], but he never put the leaf-shaped Hobbit ears in print however.


(This post was edited by Elthir on Oct 22 2013, 1:00pm)


squire
Valinor


Oct 22 2013, 6:14pm

Post #16 of 17 (126 views)
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Oddly, I have it the other way around. [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien never drew a hobbit with a clear view of the tops of the ears, as far as I can remember, but he did describe their ears in a letter to his publishers about how illustrators should draw hobbits:
A round, jovial face; ears only slightly pointed and 'elvish'; hair short and curling (brown). - JRRT Letter 27, c. March 1938.

"Only slightly" is pretty noncommittal. I agree with you that Tolkien never made a big point (ha ha) about this 'elvish' feature, whether in hobbits or elves, and he backed away from it in later life. I think it's because throughout his stories Elves and Men are similar enough to be mistaken for each other, and to marry and have children. 'Are you elvish folk?' Eomer asks Aragorn and Gimli, for example.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


Elthir
Gondor

Oct 22 2013, 8:45pm

Post #17 of 17 (125 views)
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Yes that's... [In reply to] Can't Post

... the letter I was referring to, thanks. The date is pretty close to the 'window' for Etymologies -- later 1930s, early 1940s.

Another instance I [think I] recall is Tuor being known as a Man by his eyes... but then again long hair can cover ears, so that might not be an easy way to mark out a Man versus an Elf -- if Tolkien's Elves had notably different looking ears, that is.

 
 

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