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Hobbits are a fictional race of miniature humans from J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth universe which first appears in the book The Hobbit. They also play a major role in The Lord of the Rings. Hobbits are described as about a yard tall, with furry feet, and fond of an unadventurous bucolic life of farming, eating, and socializing. Hobbits also liked to drink ale in inns, not unlike the English countryfolk, who were Tolkien's inspiration. We can also see that in the name Tolkien chose for the part of Middle-earth where the hobbits live: "The Shire" is clearly reminiscent of the English county names (e.g., Lancashire, Shropshire - see English Shire).

Hobbits were also called "Halflings" (in Sindarin, perian for singular and periannath for collective) due to their small stature. Hobbits were not offended when they were called so, however they called themselves simply "hobbits". Tolkien's etymology for the latter name is interesting as well: obviously constructed without prior intent, it would have been natural for him to connect it to the German prefix "hob" meaning "small" (e.g. "hobgoblin"). However this prefix dates back "only" to the 13th century, too late by Tolkien's standards, and so he constructed an alternative etymology, from Old English hol-bytla, "hole-dweller". According to Tolkien, the word 'hobbit' was the first element of Middle-earth that he created. As a college student, so the story goes, he was scribbling on a piece of paper and wrote, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit," and the multitude of stories sprang from that.

Some well-known hobbits:

Historically, the Hobbits are known to have originated in the Valley of Anduin, between Mirkwood and the Misty Mountains. At this time, there were three Hobbit-kinds, with different temperaments. The Harfoots, the most numerous, were almost identical to the Hobbits as they are described in The Lord of the Rings. The Stoors had an affinity for water, boats and swimming; the Fallohides were an adventurous people. (Both of these traits were exceedingly rare in later days.)

Some time near the beginning of the Third Age, they undertook, for reasons unknown, but possibly having to do with Mordor's power, the arduous task of crossing the Misty Mountains. Some of the Stoors, however, stayed behind, and it is from these people that Gollum would come many years later. The Hobbits took different routes in their journey westward, but eventually came to a land between the River Baranduin (which they renamed Brandywine) and the Weather Hills. There they founded many settlements, and the divisions between the Hobbit-kinds began to blur.

Around the year 1600 of the Third Age, two Fallohide brothers decided, again for reasons unknown, to cross the River Brandywine and settle on the other side. Large numbers of Hobbits followed them, and most of their territory was depopulated. Only Bree and a few surrounding villages lasted to the end of the Third Age. The new land that they found on the west bank of the Brandywine is called the Shire.

A map of the Shire and surrounding regions may be found at Eriador.

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