Origins of Hobbits?

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Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:31 am

Gandalf's Beard

Alrighty Then. Eldorion made a categoric statement on the Dwarf thread regarding the origins of Hobbits that there is very little canon reference for.

So the question needs to be asked: From whence came The Hobbits?

Eldorion made this claim:
Tolkien made it clear in the Prologue to LotR that hobbits were a variant branch of the race of men. Therefore I think it can be assumed that they were created at the same time as men.

It's not clear from his statement "Prologue to LotR" whether Eldo means The Hobbit or the actual published prologue of Fellowship of the Ring. Perhaps Hobbits and Man are in a sense related. But no more-so than the Elves whom Tolkien considered a "sibling" race to Man.

"Elves and Men are evidently in biological terms one race, or they could not breed and produce fertile offspring..."
JRRT - Letters #153, September 1954

"The existence of Elves: that is of a race of beings closely akin to Men, so closely indeed that they must be regarded as physically (or biologically) simply branches of the same race."
JRRT - Morgoth's Ring, Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth Commentary circa 1959

So one could see Hobbits as yet another "branch" of the race of Elves and Man. In any case, I think if there are to be "variants", a case can also be made for the Hobbits being a variant of Elves.

Tolkien himself says this:
"I am afraid, if you will need drawings of hobbits in various attitudes, I must leave it in the hands of someone who can draw. ... I picture a fairly human figure ... fattish in the stomach, shortish in the leg. A round, jovial face; ears only slightly pointed and 'elvish'; hair short and curling (brown)."
JRRT - Letters #27, writing to Houghton Mifflin circa March-April 1938

And in the texts Tolkien says this:
"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. [...] But what exactly our relationship is can no longer be discovered." The Fellowship of the Ring--prologue

“If you can’t distinguish between a Man and a Hobbit, your judgement is poorer than I imagined. They’re as different as peas and apples.” The Fellowship of the Ring--Many Meetings

Or perhaps, they are a separate creation altogether, much like the Dwarves. Maybe, Yavanna (as the "Giver of Fruits" not only requested the creation of the Ents, but the creation of a race of beings who shared her love of "all things green and growing". Somehow I doubt this, but it's worth considering

In the end though, my considered opinion is that Hobbits are indeed one of three branches linking Man, Elf, and Hobbit. Despite the prologue's proclamation that Hobbits are "nearer to us than Elves", some of the other statements seem to counter that a bit. Tolkien was clearly not settled on the subject, but of a relationship between all three "races" we can be assured.

The main question remaining then: When were Hobbits Awakened?

GB

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:32 am

Eldorion

I think the situation fairly clear. Men and Elves were clearly of the same species (being able to produce fertile offspring together), and Hobbits are stated to be even closer to Men than Elves were. (Incidentally, this raises the interesting question of whether Hobbits and Humans could reproduce together.) While there is not a lot of canon evidence for this, in the sources that deal with the matter it seems fairly clear. I don't really see any contradictions, either.

Your first two quotes support the "three races, one species" theory. Maybe we have homo sapiens faerie, homo sapiens sapiens, and homo sapiens holbytlan (or something like that ). As to Hobbits being a variant of Elves, this could indeed be argued as well if one accepts that they are all part of the same species, though since the sub-species of Men and Hobbits are, as Tolkien stated, closer than either of the two are to Elves, I would say "variant of humans" more readily.

I don't see any contradiction in the last quote. It's not terribly uncommon for people in the real world to say "all [insert race you're not a member of] people look the same to me", and indeed I believe there is psychological evidence that this is true. To Elves, biologically and culturally more distinct from both mortal sub-species, I think it understandable that they might not see differences that Men and Hobbits themselves do.

As for when Hobbits were awakened, we obviously don't know for sure, but my best guess would be alongside humans, their closest relations.

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:33 am

Gandalf's Beard

For the most part, I agree Eldorion. Likely Hobbits were awakened alongside humans.

But I don't think it really is all that clear that Hobbits are any more closely related to Men than Elves. I think on some level Tolkien saw them as "in-between". And if Elves and Men could interbreed, then there can be no doubt that Hobbits and Men could (or that Hobbits and Elves could also). Indeed I made this very case regarding the continuation of the Hobbit gene-pool into our Modern Age some time ago.

GB

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:34 am

Eldorion

I just had a thought as to some quotes. A few observations on the various sub-species (that sounds a bit too scientific for talking about myths...):

The Silmarillion, Of the Coming of Men into the West wrote:In this way it came to pass that the Edain dwelt in the lands of the Eldar, some here, some there, some wandering, some settled in kindreds or small peoples... But after a time the Elf-kings, seeing that it was not good for Elves and Men to dwell mingled together without order, and that Men needed lords of their own kind, set regions apart where Men could live their own lives, and appointed chieftains to hold these lands freely.

The Lord of the Rings, I, At the Sign of the Prancing Pony wrote:The Big Folk and the Little Folk (as they called one another) were on friendly terms, minding their own affairs in their own ways, but both rightly regarding themselves as necessary parts of the Bree-folk. Nowhere else in the world was this peculiar (but excellent) arrangement to be found.

The first quote establishes that Elves and Men, while they can be friends, function best when living in separate lands (with perhaps a few exceptions such as Beren). Men and Hobbits, on the other hand, while "minding their own affairs in their own ways", were able to mix, mingle, and dwell together in the same land; not only getting by, but getting along "excellently"! While the rarity of this is noted, it is probably more due to the scarcity of hobbits (and the relative dearth of humans in Eriador) than anything else.

This clearly isn't definitive, but it is an indication that Men and Hobbits at least are more compatible than Men and Elves. I'm not sure what sort of evidence would convince you though. Tolkien stated in TLotR that they were more closely related, something I read as a biological statement with potential cultural implications, and I don't believe there is anything that suggests otherwise.

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:34 am

Gandalf's Beard

You make some valid points Eldorion. But it is worth emphasizing that Bree was considered exceptional. And also that the Mirkwood Elves apparently got on famously with the Men of Laketown. And in The Hobbit itself, Tolkien makes the Hobbits much more distinct from Man. He later retconned this to fit his larger world.

So even though Tolkien himself says "nearer" in the prologue, I don't think he was entirely certain.

In any case, it's a bit like arguing whether Obama is more white or more black. If we are going to take a modern scientific approach to this, then we have to concede that individual genetic variations are greater then ethnic genetic differences. In other words, Race does not exist as a meaningful term. Environment seems to shape regional adaptations of humankind.

GB

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:35 am

Pettytyrant101

Perhaps there was no Hobbit Awakening. Maybe they evolved from existing humans, a sort of human version of Darwin's finches. Small isolated group of humans who over successive generations favoured small height and -for reasons open to speculation- hairy feet, with the eventual result being a sub-species, Hobbits.

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:35 am

Eldorion

GB: As I said above, I think Bree was exceptional because of the geography and population. Hobbits weren't terribly numerous, and they were concentrated in Eriador (in fact we know of none outside of Eriador at the time of LotR). Humans in Eriador are limited to Bree-men, Rangers, and some ruffians. Were hobbits more widespread we might have seen a lot more co-habiting.

The Elves and the Men of Lake-town certainly got along, but they didn't live together. I think that is the crucial difference.

I'm not really clear on why you think that Tolkien was uncertain if Hobbits were closer "relatives" of humans than Elves were. He said in the Prologue that it was plain.

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:35 am

Eldorion

petty: I don't think that enough time passed between the Awakening of Men and the Third Age when we start to hear of hobbits for that much evolution to occur. At most it might have been 5000-6000 years (though Tolkien toyed with the idea of making it longer, he never followed through on that).

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:36 am

Gandalf's Beard

Agreed, Eldo. There's the rub. Tolkien tried being semi-consistent with genetic science of his day, but was more concerned with providing a Mythic past for Britain. It's more likely that Hobbits had their own awakening rather than evolving, given Tolkien's set-up.

So It's not that I see the Hobbits as more Elf or more Man. Genetically speaking Tolkien clearly intended some sort of equivalence. In many Cultural habits though, I do concede that they were more Man than Elf.

GB

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:36 am

Eldorion

I think we more or less agree then, GB. Thanks for an interesting thread (may it continue). Very Happy

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:37 am

Odo Banks

In our own world there is a debate between Creationism (sorry, Intelligent Designism) and Evolution.

One makes our universe God-made and the other makes it the result of trial and error (or something similar, let's not split hairs here), but in Middle-earth there IS a God who created everything.

So does evolution actually exist in Middle-earth?

Or is Myth , even within the confines of Tolkien's great conceit, still Myth and not Divine History i.e. 'True' History?

If we can answer these questions, perhaps we can at least decide between God and Darwin on the Origin of Hobbits?

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:38 am

Eldorion

Given Tolkien's penchant for realism and the ostensible setting of the legendarium in a version of the real world, I would imagine that the process of evolution still occurs and effects the creatures that have been created, but that it only kicks in after their creation. Humans, hobbits, dwarfs, and perhaps even Elves were all evolving from their original forms, but they simply haven't existed long enough for there to be any appreciable change. Evolution is after all a very slow and gradual process.

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:38 am

Odo Banks

Ah! So we're back to square one. Were Hobbits part of that earlier creation of Elves and Men and Dwarves, or did they just evolve over a very short period of time? If Tolkien didn't know, we may have to speculate a bit. (Descendants of rabbits - that was one troll's theory, I think).

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:38 am

Gandalf's Beard

Yes, well Tolkien certainly considered reviewers who erroneously thought Hobbits were mutant Rabbits to be Trolls .

Tolkien consistently expressed that he was writing Myth. But he also tried to be Realistic, and make it plausibly fit into our own History. His world starts out Flat and becomes a Globe. I do think that he saw Middle Earth's beings strictly as Created. Though, perhaps he saw them as eventually evolving.

I'm really not absolutely certain what his views regarding evolution are. But my guess is that he, like Lewis, believed in Theistic Evolution. Which essentially sees no incompatibility between Creation and Evolution. I myself, have no problem with the concept of some sort of Guided Evolution.

If anyone has some evidence one way or the other, please post it and the source.

GB

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:39 am

Odo Banks

I lean toward Unguided Evolution myself.

The Hobbits were thought to have originally come under notice when they lived somewhere on the banks of the Anduin, didn't they? But in what way were they linked with men? It's a puzzle.

(I'd ask Wise Odo - but I'm a bit reluctant to do so - he can be rather forthright by all accounts, and he's surely no respecter of persons. Before taking that perilous route, perhaps I should give you guys another go to come up with a definitive answer. So, GB, dig deep into your texts. Or you, Mr Loremaster - show us your stuff! Or perhaps I should get really serious and ask the Scot? (Please don't make me face Wiso Odo - his Wisdom is just too Wise for most of us!)

Come on guys, have a fair dinkum go!

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:40 am

Gandalf's Beard

The thing is Odo, Eldorion and I have already covered pretty much all the Canon and Textual info regarding the origins of Hobbits. There is info about where they existed and when, but nothing more specific about how they came into existence or their relationship to Men and Elves beyond that which we've already posted. And you are (I'm fairly certain) correct regarding Hobbits and the banks of Anduin.

It really is only educated guesses and speculation beyond that (sounds perfect for the Odo thread ).

Of course, if anyone finds anything further that Eldo and I might have missed, please post it so we can put more of the puzzle together.

And by the way, in regards to the "Real" world, I'm firmly in the Evolution Camp. But as an Agnostic, I'm willing to consider the possibility that some sort of Conscious or Sentient force(s) might be either driving this train or adapting to dynamic change (or both to some degree).

GB

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:41 am

Odo Banks

Looks like I'll have to give other folk a chance but if that fails I'll see if I can do some channeling (scientific channeling, that is) on a certain other thread.

"...firmly in the Evolution Camp." I thought being an Agnostic would put your firmly in No Camp!

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:41 am

Pettytyrant101

Time to complicate this thread further! In appendix A it is mentioned that when the Witch-King of Angmar was defeated by Elves coming from Lindon and Rivendell the Stoors (NOTE NOT HOBBITS) lived in the angle between the Hoarwell and Loudwater, slap bang in the middle of the Trollshaws- it was war which then drove them west and south. It goes on to say "some returned to Wilderland, and dwelt beside the Gladden, becoming a riverside people of fishers." One can assume the Stoors who went west ended up settling at Bree and eventually went on to colonise the Shire- but where are the other Hobbit branches, the Fallohides etc? Did they not emerge as distinct branches until later, were there only Stoors at the start? And if, as some have suggested Tolkien does not allow enough time for evolution, how does that distinction within Hobbits (Stoors) happen? If memory serves me right there are physical differences as well as cultural ones between the different types- bringing me back rather neatly to my original point about Darwin's Finches!
On another point about Hobbits I'm sure somewhere it is mentioned that there are more hobbits wandering about the place than even Hobbits generally know- although it is implied most of these hobbits are little more than tramps and seem to be a sort of more primitive hobbit (ready to dig a hole in any bank they find and stay for short period of time- sort of gypsy hobbit!).

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:41 am

Pettytyrant101

Damn meant to mention this in above post- on the point of myth v real world. Should we take the myths of the FA especially as literal? Did for example Earendil really sail into the sky and was his Silmaril really made a star or is this a myth of the TA? Should the Creation story of Middle-earth be treated on the same factual basis as say the description of Bilbo's birthday party? After all there are those alive now who still believe the Earth is only 6000 years old and we have science to offer a counter arguement, Middle-earth does not so there the Creation myths are excepted as fact, but that doesn't necessarily make them literally true. Seems to me what Tolkien created was not a singular myth but a myth containing, within it its own subset, lots myths- but that doesn't mean evolution, Darwin etc wasn't the truth just that in the TA nobody- not even smart Numeroreons- had thought of it. After all if Tolkien was clear on one thing it was that the world of ME is our own world at an earlier epoch.

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:42 am

Odo Banks

A created world, originally Created by God. So does Eru equate fully with Jehovah?

I always thought of the Creation of Middle-earth as something that happened in actual (invented) history. The sailings to and fro from Valinor I thought real (within the quality of realness of Tolkien's conceit, I mean).

If Middle-earth (as invented world) is real, we might still find the real Origin of the Hobbits. I don't see Evolution as that useful here though, unless it's Quick-form Evolution.

NB I'm thinking above of 'invented' history as Tolkien's 'invented' version of our world history.

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:43 am

Halfwise

Discovered this thread late. I think everything that can be definitely said on Tolkien's views on the origin of hobbits has already been covered, but as threads often do it's wandered into the parallel topic of Creationism versus evolution in Tolkien's universe.

It's abundantly clear that Tolkien was a creationist. But he was also finely attuned to the natural world and from many examples of breeding, etc he had to accept the base tenets of evolution. As others have suggested he likely saw guided evolution as the predominant force for biological change.

Anyone who truly observes nature and thinks enough about it must accept unguided evolution - I think the trick is to allow oneself to slip into murkiness before following the argument to its natural conclusion, and in the midst of the murkiness the religious framework can take up the slack. This allows you to have practical evolution for day by day observations and breeding, yet keep the religious viewpoint for moral and cosmological reasoning.

My guess is that Tolkien would see hobbits as a 'created' race, while the Stoors, Fallohides, and dang it, what was the last one...would be evolutionary branches of the created race. Being mortal they would have the same cosmological significance as man.

Too much thinking disallows me from thinking of our own world as created, but I do enjoy having a fictional world upon which a meaningful creation story can be pursued without intellectual guilt.

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:43 am

Odo Banks

The mystery (in Tolkien terms) is then: who created the Hobbits? Was it Eru directly or some Angelic figure like Aule? And are they just little humans with cute furry feet?

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:44 am

Halfwise

Uh....Tolkien created them!

In terms of his cosmology though, that's a humdinger of a question, Odo. Judging from LoTR they clearly had an important role to play in the way history unfolds. I guess they wouldn't be mentioned in Elven histories because they didn't do much of significance during the first age. The Druidain weren't mentioned either, but they seem to be almost as different from other men as hobbits are. I'd go along with the other feelings on this thread that they are sort of a division of men, despite the semi elven ears. (parallel evolution? What function do pointed ears serve anyway?)

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:44 am

Eldorion

halfwise wrote:It's abundantly clear that Tolkien was a creationist. But he was also finely attuned to the natural world and from many examples of breeding, etc he had to accept the base tenets of evolution. As others have suggested he likely saw guided evolution as the predominant force for biological change.

Are you referring specifically to Tolkien's fiction or to his attitudes about the real world? If the former, I agree with you; though there's nothing to stop creatures from evolving after being created. If the latter, would you mind sharing what makes it so abundantly clear?

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Re: Origins of Hobbits?

Post by Old Forum on Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:45 am

Eldorion

pettytyrant:

Stoors were Hobbits. There were three varieties of Hobbits: Stoors, Harfoots, and Fallohides. All found their way into Eriador, and some of each eventually made their way to the Shire. Fallohides were less numerous than Stoors and Harfoots though, and somewhat merged with them. By the late Third Age though, the differences between each variety were less important, probably as a result of interbreeding.

And if, as some have suggested Tolkien does not allow enough time for evolution, how does that distinction within Hobbits (Stoors) happen? If memory serves me right there are physical differences as well as cultural ones between the different types

It's fully possible that all three varieties of Hobbits were present from the creation of the race. I can't say for sure though.

On another point about Hobbits I'm sure somewhere it is mentioned that there are more hobbits wandering about the place than even Hobbits generally know- although it is implied most of these hobbits are little more than tramps and seem to be a sort of more primitive hobbit (ready to dig a hole in any bank they find and stay for short period of time- sort of gypsy hobbit!).

I actually re-read that part of the book recently; it was something I had forgotten. I'm unsure if these Hobbits, part of neither the Shire nor Bree, had any settlements of their own or if they were all tramps of a sort. A fascinating question and look at the depth of Eriador, and Middle-earth in general.

on the point of myth v real world. Should we take the myths of the FA especially as literal? Did for example Earendil really sail into the sky and was his Silmaril really made a star or is this a myth of the TA? Should the Creation story of Middle-earth be treated on the same factual basis as say the description of Bilbo's birthday party?

Tolkien struggled with this question himself. He wrote a series of notes and short essays (published as Myths Transformed in the tenth volume of The History of Middle-earth: Morgoth's Ring. He considered treating the Silmarillion myths as mannish legends, passed down to the Third Age by Numenor, but based on hearsay and traditional legends more than historical "fact". In this conception the Sun and the Moon were more in line with our modern understanding of them, the timeline was extended to allow more time for human civilizations to develop, and a number of other changes were considered. In the end, Tolkien realized that this would require a full re-writing of his First Age tales, and he never followed through on it.

I tend to accept the more mythological Silmarillion (particularly as represented in the published version) as "canonical", though this does raise important questions as to realism in Middle-earth. Questions like this aren't particularly relevant to, say, LOTR; but they are definitely important for the Silmarillion. I don't have any definite answers, I'm afraid. One possible solution would be to suspend the imposition of realism (especially scientific ideas) when dealing with the Creation myths, but I'm not sure I'm satisfied with that.

I hadn't really thought about this before. I should sometime....

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