Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Concerning Hobbits and Their Origins

Little is known about the actual origins of the stunted beings.

The thing is, Professor Tolkien had been working on his stories (what is now in The Silmarillion) long before the idea of hobbits had even entered his head.  In fact, it wasn't until he was requested to write a sequel to The Hobbit (which became The Lord of the Rings) that he decided to connect it with his earlier works (which had, of course, not been published yet).  So in The Silmarillion (which Tolkien never finished) hobbits are not even mentioned except in Of The Rings of Power and the Third Age which was added later on as a way to ease into The Lord of the Rings.

The first thing I think we can probably say with reasonable certainty is that hobbits are most closely related to Men.  They are certainly not elves--what with their height and demeanor--and contrary to what their height might suggest, they are not dwarves.  The clearly have similar fates to Men, that is, leaving the world and going "we know not whither".

Not much is actually known about early Men, either, except that they came from the East fleeing from some evil, speculated by the elves to be the servants of Morgoth.  Upon re-reading The Silmarillion, one quote struck me in regards to this question of hobbit origins.

"And he [Amlach] went away north and entered the service of Maedhros.  But those of his people who of like mind with Bereg chose a new leader, and they went back over the mountains into Eriador and are forgotten." (pg. 145)

Basically, the Men who had come into the West got into a kind of fight and some of them crossed back into Eriador, where the Shire.  Are these the Men of Bree, or are these perhaps what would later become the hobbits?  The fact that they are "forgotten" makes it sound like they did not have interest in keeping their own history (for surely if they had they would have reported it to the elves who would have recorded it in The Silmarillion) and this is very similar to the attitudes of the hobbits.

Furthermore, this faction followed Bereg.  Bereg had argued that the whole battle against Morgoth in Beleriand was not Men's problem and that the elves should handle it.  He is one of the least motivated of the race of Men.  Again, this attitude is very similar to the hobbits.

It is possible that the hobbits, however, were descended from the people of the Rohirrim since many of their words (including "hobbit" which is likely a corruption of the Rohirric word "hobbytla") are Rohirric in origin.  Both the hobbits and the Rohirrim were said to be from the valley of the River Anduin which further connects them.

So the hobbits could have been any group of Men--descended from the Rohirrim, one of the followers of Amlach's defected people, or another group that never made it into Beleriand in the First Age--that ended up living in Eriador.  But why did they become stunted in growth?

Likely the answer has to do with their environment.  In that area there was probably not much violence--Morgoth was in the far north, away from Eriador and Sauron was dormant for a time--and so they had less need for battle.  Because of their habits of sitting idle or with relatively little motion, their bodies could have adapted to be smaller and more compact since not as much physical labor was required from them.

Whatever the answer is, hobbits are undoubtedly one of the most interesting and of course significant characters in Middle-earth.

Before I go, I want to let you know I am going on vacation for the next five days and I may or may not have access to Wi-Fi or a computer.  If I don't there will be a slight break in my posting schedule but I will try to make it up when I return.  Navaear!