In this article I intend to take a detailed, in-depth look, as you might guess from the title, at the most unwarlike race imaginable: hobbits. Although those of you who are gamers might be shaking your heads and asking â€œwhy on earth has this madman bothered to write an article, for LOTR SBG fans, about a race that doesn't fight? - please bear with me whilst I explain the reasons. I wrote this article to be of help to anyone wishing to write house rules, profiles for some of the famous characters in hobbit history, or constructing hobbit-themed boards/battle games; although admittedly they don't fight many battles, the history of the hobbit race is indeed rich and varied, and above all, is of great interest. Then, you must remember that hobbits are integral to both 'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings' - without hobbits, there wouldn't be the books. Plus, I have to admit, this article was to be the first of a series of articles examining the histories of all the races of Middle-earth - a scheme that was, with the demise of TWC, if not abandoned put indefinitely on hold. Anyway, even without, at this point, a follow-up, I hope you'll all find something of interest, and perhaps learn something you didn't know.
â€˜What is a hobbit? I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us.â€™1
Hobbits, or Periannath, to give them their proper name, strongly resemble humans in appearance, with only a few physical differences. They are, as everyone knows much shorter, almost always between 3 and 4 feet tall - similar in height to dwarves. They usually have brown curly hair, which also grows upon their feet - feet that naturally have hard leathery soles, removing the necessity for shoes. They tend to live longer than mere men, with ages over a hundred usual; indeed, it is termed disappointing not to reach this age. Not accounted amongst the wisest of Good peoples, hobbits tend to concern themselves with more homely things than great deeds and works of literature: for example gardening, brewing ale, distilling wine, and in particular growing and smoking pipe-weed, an art which they have perfected, producing such vintages as 'Old Toby', named after Tobold Hornblower, the first hobbit to grow the true pipe-weed; 'Longbottom Leaf' and 'Southern Star' - all brands that both Gandalf and Saruman smoke, and indication of how superior the hobbits' weed is, even to the eyes of the Wise! Hobbits however have one overwhelming vice - that of always being hungry. They have a great fondness for plain food (such as mushrooms, which they are extremely fond of) but their habit of always trying to eat 6 square meals a day, whilst producing many fine cooks, tends to result in many hobbits being *How shall I put this?* rather *ahem* portly in build. This capacity to eat large amounts, at any time of the day, surprisingly does not affect their most notable skill - an ability to move practically soundlessly.
You might think that this last skill is useful in guerrilla warfare *A fact that I don't think GW have taken into account - hey, that's given me an idea for a house rule!* but the simple fact is that hobbits, in recent history at least, have had no need to develop such tactics or practice any skills with arms. The only weapon with which they are in any way proficient is the short bow, but since they have been able to indulge their love for peace and plenty for many years, this is the only weapon they have ever needed: it is used when hunting to great effect. The hobbits lead tranquil, innocent and peaceful lives due to the location of the Shire - a matter I shall go into later - and the actions of the Dunedain, the purest descendants of the race of Numenor left in Middle-Earth. The Dunedain (or Rangers, as they are better known by hobbits and men alike) ceaselessly patrol the borders of the Shire and the surrounding mannish settlements to prevent Trouble (spelt with a capital 'T'), in the form of orcs and wargs, entering from the wild Northlands, a job that is done so effectively that the Dunedain are only made conspicuous by the trouble arising from their absence during the War of the Ring. Anyway, enough of them, let's get back to the matter on hand...
Hobbits, once settled in the Shire, became as a general rule a stay-at-home race, growing uninterested in matters outside their neighbourhood, and extremely hesitant to travel more than a couple of miles from their homes, let alone leave the Shire. At the time of the War of the Ring, it is only the occasional member of the Took family, a kin rumoured to have elf blood in their line, who will venture beyond the borders of the Shire, and it is partly because these adventurers seldom return (and the fact that it may be impossible to have regular meals) that the ordinary hobbit is convinced he is safer staying where he is. It is a rare event for a Shire hobbit to even visit Bree, a small settlement where men and hobbits live together, barely 50 miles from the Brandywine River and Buckland. Thus, they are extremely innocent and completely unaware of the danger that threatens not only them, but also the entire Free World. Due to several factors, not least their lack of intrepidity, hobbits have almost no concept of magic, apart from Gandalfâ€™s fireworks, and maybe this is why they prove to be more resilient than most other races to such influences. It is also surprising that despite many long years of peace and plenty, hobbits are curiously tough, difficult to daunt or kill. They can endure many more hardships than most people would have thought possible, and amazingly can live on very little food, despite their love for eating large amounts.
â€œGandalf!â€ he cried. â€œI was seeking you. But I am a stranger in these parts. All I knew was that you might be found in a wild region with the uncouth name of Shire.â€2
Situated in the peaceful north-west region of Eriador, The Shire stretches from the Far Downs in the west to the Brandywine River in the east. This fertile land is divided into four farthings, to the north, south, east and west, and has two 'marches'- Buckland to the east, and the Westmarch, added in T.A. 3062 (therefore some time after The War of the Ring). The centre of The Shire is marked by the Three Farthings Stone, near Bywater, one of many villages such as Tuckborough, Stook, Michel Delving, Longbottom, etc. that cover the thickly inhabited Shire. 'We always seem to have got left out of the old lists, and the old stories... yet we've been about for quite a long time. We're hobbits.'
The origins of hobbits are totally unknown, partly because they have always been considered of little consequence to those few races that knew they existed, and so, in the main, do not feature in their histories, but also owing to the fact that the hobbit records, which are by no means extensive anyway, only cover periods after the Shire was colonised. It is almost certain, however, that the hobbits originally dwelt on the banks of the River Anduin, in the region of the Gladden Fields between the Misty Mountains and Greenwood the Great. At this time, there were three separate breeds of hobbit: the Harfoots, a small and especially nimble race who lived in the highlands and hills; the Stoors, who lived on the flatlands and plains, and who were more cunning but heavier in build and less nimble than the Harfoots; and the Fallohides: taller, fairer and slimmer than the others, and lovers of trees and woods.
All three breeds of hobbit migrated, it would appear from their legends, because of the growing shadow being cast over Greenwood, or Mirkwood, as it was thereafter named, and the large numbers of men settling nearby. The Harfoots, who were friendly with dwarves, and the most numerous breed, were the first to move westwards in circa 1050 of the Third Age (hereafter referred to as T.A.), roaming as far as Weathertop before settling down. Both of the other breeds followed in about T.A. 1150, but followed different routes over the Mountains. The Stoors, who were the least afraid of men, and dwelt with them longest, followed the same route as the Harfoots, but striking the River Bruinen, followed it southwards, and so lived in Dunland for a while before splitting into two groups, the majority again moving east, but the others travelling north to what later became known as the Shire. The Fallohides, who were a northerly clan, and the least numerous but most adventurous people, crossed the Mountains north of Rivendell, and so joined the Harfoots in Eriador.
The Harfoots and Fallohides mingled together, establishing settled communities amongst the few mannish and elvish settlements already there. In c. T.A. 1300 the hobbits were again forced to migrate westwards by an alarming growth in the number of orcs in the Misty Mountains, and the arrival of the Witch King in Angmar. Many settled in the small mannish settlement of Bree, and indeed this was the only used by the early hobbits to survive into the War of the Ring era. Here the Periannath stayed for 300 years, until in T.A. 1601 (and here rumour becomes fact) the Fallohide brothers Marcho and Blanco crossed the River Baranduin with a large following and, having ensured the consent of King Argeleb II of Fornost settled in the land beyond. The hobbit calendar, known as Shire Reckoning (S.R.), was calculated from this crossing; thus the year T.A. 1601 became the year 1 by Shire Reckoning. Under the agreement with King Argeleb, the hobbits had only to fulfil 3 conditions: the hobbits had to keep all bridges and roads, especially the Great Bridge over the Baranduin, clear and in good repair; they had to do everything in their power to aid the king's messengers; and they had to acknowledge his lordship. These conditions were obviously at first fulfilled, and the Stoors, who finally rejoined the other hobbits in circa T.A.1630 after wandering long, also became the king's subjects and settled down amongst the others.
The hobbits fell in love with this land, which had once been tamed and farmed for the king, but had long been abandoned to grow wild, and remained there, tilling the fertile soil and establishing homes. Although they were in name the king of the North Kingdomâ€™s subjects, in truth they were ruled by their own chieftains, and since they did not meddle in the affairs of the outside world, soon passed once again out of the histories of other peoples. Before the War of the Ring, the hobbits only interfered in the events of the outside world twice: in T.A. 1974 when they sent a company of archers (who never returned) to the ill-fated defence of Fornost, at which the North Kingdom of Arnor was overthrown; and in the following year, 1975, when again hobbit archers were present, at the battle of Fornost when the Witch King was driven out of Angmar. The king's rule had however ended, and the hobbits, no longer his subjects, took the land for their own, and in T.A. 1979 chose Bucca of the Marish as their first Thain - the official who from thenceforth was responsible for the overall rule of the chieftains. The hobbits named the land under his authority 'the Shire' and in time adapted the old names to their own tongue (Common Speech with a few remnants of the old hobbit tongue) for example the River Baranduin became the Brandywine River. The hobbits heeded less and less the events of the outside world, and began to believe that the peace and plenty they enjoyed was common throughout all Middle-Earth. They forgot that they were protected by the Dunedain, and began to disbelieve the old tales concerning evil creatures and deeds.
Although the hobbits were shielded from evil and war, there were other things that they could not be protected from. They had suffered great losses during the Dark Plague that had ravaged all of Middle-Earth in T.A. 1636-37 (S.R. 36-37) but had managed to survive these dark days, and afterwards prosper and multiply. The three strains of hobbit, after intermarriage and centuries spent together, began to look like the hobbit we all know. However, certain individual families retained some of their descendant's characteristics; for example both the Tooks and the Brandybucks always exhibited the strong Fallohidish characteristics of being bolder, more adventurous and better leaders than most other hobbits.
In T.A. 2540 (S.R.) Isumbras I, the 13th Thain, established the Took line of Thains, which was still unbroken in the War of the Ring era, although the title had become very much a ceremonial role. In the same year the Oldbucks (at this time remaining themselves the Brandybucks) occupied the Buckland - a thin stretch of land between the Brandywine River and the Old forest to the east, and so not officially part of the Shire. This was another event that was to have long reaching consequences to the formation and history of the Shire.
The next major event in the Shire would not have been for several years: the growing of true pipe-weed, as previously mentioned, by Tobold Hornblower in c. T.A. 2670 (S.R.1070). Although this was claimed by the hobbits of the Shire to be the first growth of such weed, it is probable that the Bree hobbits, those that had stayed behind at the crossing of the Brandywine, smoked it before that date, and that it was not a plant native to Middle-Earth, but originally brought over the Sea by the Men of Westernesse. It is an unassailable fact, though, that the Shire hobbits first had the idea of smoking it in a pipe, and it equally widely recognized that the Dwarves, Rangers, Wizards and other folk that later adopted this picked it up at 'The Prancing Pony' inn in Bree, which was, and still is, considered to be the home of this particular art.
Another significant event took place only a few years later, in T.A. 2683 (S.R.1083). The Harfoot breed had preserved their ancestral habit of living in holes when they moved west. These tunnels, later known as hobbit holes or smials, had become much more numerous and luxurious over the years, and by the time of the War of the Ring, due to a shortage of suitable hills, only the very rich and very poor habited such holes; many hobbits actually lived in low slung stone or wood buildings, which very rarely had a second floor (hobbits, as befits a short people always being rather afraid of heights). Well off hobbits, such as Bilbo, would occupy large and ramifying tunnels, built out of the finest materials, and luxuriously equipped with many well-appointed windows and rooms such as pantries and wardrobes; the less well-to-do hobbits would live in tunnels deserving (by hobbit standards) the description 'hole', with few rooms and even fewer windows. It was in this year that another tradition was begun by Isengrim II, the 10th Tookish Thain; he began to excavate what grew to be acknowledged as the Took family's ancestral home, which became known as the Great Smials, a huge wandering hobbit hole with many entrances, in which the entire took clan lived together - an idea that was shortly after copied by the Brandybucks, who tunnelled a similar mansion, Brandy Hall, in Buckland. The fundamental peculiarity of hobbit architecture may as well be noted here: round doors and windows. This skill (not to mention peculiarity) evolved after the hobbits' arrival in the Shire, and together with many like talents was probably originally learnt from the elves, with influence from the Dunedain.
The winter of T.A.2758-59 (S.R.1158-59) was an extremely harsh one, which resulted in large numbers of deaths in both Eriador and Rohan. Interestingly, it is during the Long Winter, as it became known, that the first instance of Gandalf coming into contact with the Shire-Folk can be noted (in this instance, according to Meriadoc's "Tale of Years", to aid them), although it is perfectly possible that he may have had unrecorded dealings with them at any point in their previous history.
We are now approaching more modern history, marked by the birth of Gerontius Took, in T.A.2790 (S.R. 1190) and his grandson Bilbo Baggins, many years later, in T.A.2890 (S.R1290). In T.A.2911 (S.R1311) there occurred a major event in the history of the Shire, which, by the time of the War of the Ring, only Bilbo was old enough to recall. Another unusually cold winter, later known as the Fell Winter, had caused the Brandywine to freeze, an event allowing a band of White Wargs and orcs from the North to cross over it and invade the Shire. At the Battle of Greenfields, notorious for a long time as the only battle to take place within the Shire, Brandobras Took, the 'Bullroarer', and the Thain at the time, led the hobbit forces in a counter attack that routed the evil invaders. It is rumoured that Brandobras, who was one of only 3 hobbits ever large enough to ride a horse, invented the game of golf by knocking the head of Golfimbul, the orc chieftain, clean off its body down a rabbit hole. This extremely interesting rumour, however, sadly cannot be confirmed at this stage to be the true origins of the game - I donâ't think the R&A would accept it, somehow...
In T.A.2920 (S.R.1320) Gerontius Took died, at the record age of 130, and became known as the Old Took. His age was only to be surpassed eventually by one other hobbit: the eccentric Bilbo
Baggins. This famous personality, hitherto regarded as a very respectable but ordinary hobbit, disappeared in the company of Gandalf, known for several centuries only as the maker of the best fireworks ever seen, in the years T.A.2941-42 (S.R1341-42), and only reappeared after being assumed dead with (rumoured) inexhaustible wealth and (unknown to the hobbits) a magic ring that was to have far reaching consequences on the whole history of Middle-Earth. From that time onwards Mr Baggins acted in a way that was deemed peculiar by his neighbours: he would often disappear for long periods, and be seen talking to dwarves and other 'outlandish' folk, and most peculiarly of all he did not appear to age at all; at 100 he looked exactly the same as he had done at 50. All this culminated in his second and final disappearance at his eleventy-first birthday party (in T.A.3001, or S.R.1401) where after insulting all his relations he suddenly vanished in a 'blinding flash of light',
leaving his luxurious hole and all his possessions to his adopted nephew Frodo. He was never seen again in the Shire, and was deemed, after an appropriate time, to have fallen in a river somewhere and drowned. His escapades, however, earned him the name 'Mad Baggins' and a place in legend, and ensured that Gandalf was henceforward regarded with great suspicion.
Frodo Baggins inherited Bilbo's reputation for oddity. He refused to believe that Bilbo was dead, shocking those about him by holding birthday parties each year in his honour. He was seen wandering far from home and talking to the strange peoples who were wandering through the Shire, talking of a Shadow in the east. In September of T.A.3018 (S.R.1418), to the great surprise of everyone, Frodo sold his comfortable smial cheaply to his hated relations, Lobelia Sackville-Baggins and her son, Lotho, and moved to a house in Crickhollow, on Buckland. He had been there only one night, however, before he disappeared with his gardener, Samwise Gamgee and his close friends Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took â€“ an event which brainier hobbits (of which there were a few) connected with the appearance of riders dressed all in black which appeared in the Shire at this time asking for Mr Baggins. These raided his house at Crickhollow, escaping as the Brandybucks winded their horns, sounding the ancient alarm signal.
However, these events were soon forgotten, as the mainly peaceful history of the Shire took an alarming turn. Lotho Sackville-Baggins, as soon as he had secured Bag End began to buy property with funds, it later transpired, from Saruman. The produce from these properties was not released to the hobbits but shipped away east, and all materials began to be in short supply. To bully the hobbits into submission, Lotho brought in bands of men, known as Ruffians, from the east. When Will Whitfoot, the mayor, went to Bag End to complain, he was set upon by a band of Ruffians and dragged off to the Lockholes, the little used prison; so too was Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, for attempting to defy the Ruffians. The Ruffians established bases, and then did as they pleased, damaging property and terrorising the populace; it must be assumed that Lotho, having brought so many into the Shire, had no control over them or what they did by this stage. They erected large warehouses in which to store the all the produce that was to be shipped away east, and built ugly crude new buildings to replace the homes they had destroyed to make way for mills and factories that not only destroyed the scenery, but also polluted the air and rivers. Large numbers of rules were introduced, with everything was strictly rationed, and harsh punishments for those who broke the law; substantial numbers of unwilling hobbits were forced to become Shirrifs, who had to help the Ruffians enforce the letter of the law. The only hobbits to successfully oppose the Ruffians were the Tooks, who shot 3 Ruffians for trespassing in Tookland.
This was the situation when Frodo and his 3 companions returned, 14 months after they had so mysteriously disappeared. To the amazement of the ordinary hobbits, all were dressed in coats of mail and carried swords, and even more surprisingly both Merry and Pippin had grown considerably in stature. These 4 hobbits immediately set about righting the wrongs the Shire-folk had suffered, immediately making their intent clear by outpacing the band of Shirrifs who had been sent to 'arrest' them and conduct them to Bag End, then driving off a small band of ruffians who attempted to stop them. It was on the 2nd of November 3019 (S.R. 1419) that they aroused the hobbits to fight. That night, after Pippin had left to summon the Tooks, the first skirmish took place: a band of Ruffians attempted to prevent the Shire-folk gathering, and arrest Merry and Farmer Cotton, the Ringleaders; the Ruffian leader was shot, and the others captured. The following day the Battle of Bywater, the second and last battle inside the Shire, took place. A hundred Ruffians, coming along the East Road marched into a trap set by Merry, and were told to surrender. A few did so, but 20 others tried to break through the barricades, an attempt in which they were successful, killing 2 hobbits, but were later hunted down. The remaining 4 score tried to climb the banks at the side of the road, and the hobbits, augmented by a band of Tooks, were obliged to fight them. The Ruffians were very close to breaking free when Merry and Pippin rallied their forces, Merry himself killing the Ruffian leader. The remaining Ruffians, of whom there were only about a dozen, were forced to surrender when surrounded by archers, and so the battle ended. 17 hobbits had been killed, as had 70 ruffians; a role of honour naming all those who had taken part in this famous battle, always beginning with captains Meriadoc and Peregrin, would later be compiled and learnt by hobbit historians.
On going to Bag End, the four hobbits there found Saruman, or Sharkey, who had tried to engineer the destruction of the Shire out of hatred for them. Frodo, not wishing to see any more bloodshed, allowed Saruman to go free. However, the wretched Grima, who was himself shot before Frodo could react, stabbed Saruman on the steps of Bag End. Thus ended the War of the Ring, as does this history.
In passing, it may be noted that the Shire was, over many years, restored to its former glory ...
and more. Frodo of course was not present to see this, as after finishing the Red Book, he had passed over the Sea with Bilbo who, living in Rivendell, had beaten the Old Took's record by living to be 131. Sam, Merry and Pippin all found glory, Sam becoming Mayor of the Shire a record 13 times before he followed Frodo over the sea, Merry becoming Master of Buckland, and Pippin becoming Thain, before they too died and were laid at the side of King Elessar in the Tombs of the Kings in Minas Tirith.
And so, we finally reach the end of the journey. I hope that you enjoyed reading this article, and that you found it informative and useful. Credit where credit's due: many, many thanks to my good friend themightybalroggothmog, who proofread this, and helped me out when I hit some sticky points; to my younger bro, Faramir_of_Ithilien, who helped me by typing out some of this when I was unavailable; and to DurinsBane, who extremely kindly corrected my poor efforts image-wise, and proofread this lengthy script at least once! Finally, as always, please don't forget to let me know what you think, and whether you'd like to see another similar article on the history of another race. Cheers! *Raises his half-pint mug of beer and takes a puff at his pipe of Old Toby*.
1. Tolkien, J.R.R.; The Hobbit; Collins Modern Classics 1998; pg. 12.
2. Tolkien, J.R.R.; LOTR FOTR; Collins Modern Classics 2001; pg. 250.
3. Tolkien, J.R.R.; LOTR TTT; Collins Modern Classics 2001; pg. 454.
4. Tolkien, J.R.R.; LOTR FOTR; Collins Modern Classics 2001; pg. 30.