V. B. Hobbits
- Were Hobbits a sub-group of Humans?
Yes, beyond question. There were three statements to this effect. The first, from the Prologue, is probably less definite because it was intended to be the editor speaking.
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.
FR, 11 (Prologue)
The Hobbits are, of course, really meant to be a branch of the specifically human race (not Elves or Dwarves) -- hence the two kinds can dwell together (as at Bree), and are called just the Big Folk and Little Folk. They are entirely without non-human powers, but are represented as being more in touch with 'nature' (the soil and other living things, plants and animals), and abnormally, for humans, free from ambition or greed of wealth.
Letters, 158 (footnote) (#131)
Firstborn, The. Title of the Elves. Translate. ('Firstborn', since the Elves appeared in the world before all other 'speaking peoples', not only Men, but also Dwarves, of independent origin. Hobbits are of course meant to be a special variety of the human race).
Guide, entry for "The Firstborn"
References: FR, 11 (Prologue, "On Hobbits"); Letters, 158 (footnote) (#131); Guide, entry for "The Firstborn".
Contributors: WDBL, Paul Adams
- Did Hobbits have pointed ears?
Only slightly. Tolkien described Bilbo thusly for purposes of illustration in a letter to Houghton Mifflin (c. 1938):
I picture a fairly human figure, not a kind of 'fairy' rabbit as some of my British reviewers seem to fancy: fattish in the stomach, shortish in the leg. A round, jovial face; ears only slightly pointed and 'elvish'; hair short and curling (brown). The feet from the ankles down, covered with brown hairy fur. Clothing: green velvet breeches; red or yellow waistcoat; brown or green jacket; gold (or brass) buttons; a dark green hood and cloak (belonging to a dwarf).
Letters, 35 (#27)
The Annotated Hobbit cites this letter and includes a reasonable illustration based upon it. [Note that Tolkien's use of the word "elvish" here refers to the elfs of popular folklore, who were often pictured with pointed ears. The Elves of Middle-earth (except for the Silvan Elves in The Hobbit) were at the time of this letter known to only a few people.]
References: Letters, 35 (#27); Annotated Hobbit, 10 (Ch I, note 2).
- When was Bilbo and Frodo's Birthday? To what date on our own calendar does it correspond?
The date on the Shire calendar was September 22 (FR, 29). Both the different definitions of the months and the different correlation of their calendar with the seasons (the summer solstice fell on Midyear's Day, the day between June and July, not on June 21 as on our calendar (RK, 388 -- Appendix D)) must be Taken into account. The discrepancy in September is found to be 10 days, giving September 12 on our calendar as the equivalent date. (This result has some significance for the story. Events occur ten days earlier in terms of the seasons than the dates would suggest to us: when sleeping outdoors in autumn, ten days can make a large difference.)
[In Appendix D Tolkien gives detailed information about long-term inaccuracies in the Shire Reckoning, which they dealt with differently than we do. Based on this, it is possible to conclude that the SR at the time of the story had accumulated either two days or four days of error, depending on how careful the Hobbits were about making long-term corrections, which we aren't told. This result would make the equivalent date either September 14 or September 16, but other considerations raise questions about the accuracy of such calculations, so September 12 is probably the most straightforward choice.]
References: FR, 29 (I,1); RK, Appendix D.
Contributors: WDBL, Paul Adams
- Was Gollum a hobbit?
Yes, beyond all doubt. Gandalf's opinion alone: "I guess they were of hobbit-kind; akin to the fathers of the fathers of the Stoors" (FR, 62) should be sufficient to settle this, but it is confirmed in several other places. The Tale of Years (RK, Appendix B) has the following entry for the year TA 2463: "About this time Deagol the Stoor finds the One Ring, and is murdered by Smeagol." (RK, p. 368). Since it was explained in the Prologue that Stoors were one of the three branches of hobbits (FR, 12), it is clear that the compiler of this entry, evidently either Merry and/or Pippin's heirs (FR, 24-25), accepted this conclusion.
In "The Hunt for the Ring" (UT, Three, IV) it is told that Sauron concluded from his interrogation of Gollum that Bilbo must have been the same sort of creature (UT, 342) (indeed, Gandalf concluded the same thing from his talks with Bilbo (FR, 63)). The following passing reference shows that the author of "The Hunt for the Ring" accepts Gollum's hobbit origin: "Ultimately indomitable [Gollum] was, except by death, as Sauron guessed, both from his halfling nature, and from a cause which Sauron did not fully comprehend ..." (UT, 337).
Perhaps Gandalf's archaic diction contributed to the uncertainty. When a reader suggested that perhaps '(1) Smeagol's people were not "of hobbit-kind" as suggested by Gandalf', Tolkien dismissed the suggestion. He added:
With regard to (1) Gandalf certainly says at first 'I guess' (FR, 62); but that is in accordance with his character and wisdom. In more modern language he would have said 'I deduce', referring to matters that had not come under his direct observation, but on which he had formed a conclusion based on study. ...But he did not in fact doubt his conclusion: 'It is true all the same, etc.' (FR, 63).
Letters, 289-290 (#214)
References: FR, 12, (Prologue), 24-25 (Prologue, "Note on the Shire Records"), 62-63 (I,2); RK, Appendix B; UT, 337 (Three, IV, i), 342 (Three, IV, ii); Letters, 289-290 (#214).
Contributors: WDBL, Craig Presson