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Concerning Hobbits

19 Dec

Today, just seven decades after the publication of J R R Tolkien’s The Hobbit, hobbits are as convincingly a part of the English heritage as leprechauns are to the Irish, gnomes are to the Germans and trolls to the Scandinavians. Indeed, many people are now unaware that hobbits were invented by Tolkien, and assume that they have, more or less, always been with us. Almost everyone, whether or not they have read Tolkien’s books or seen Peter Jackson’s films, can form a picture in their mind of a hobbit’s characteristics. In Tolkien’s world they were a burrowing, hole-dwelling people, measuring between two and four feet in height. They were long-fingered, possessed of a well-fed and cheerful countenance, and had curly brown hair and peculiar, shoeless, over-sized feet. An unassuming, conservative people as described by Tolkien, the excesses of hobbits were limited to dressing in bright colours and consuming six substantial meals a day. Their one eccentricity was the art of smoking pipeweed, which they claimed as their contribution to the culture of the world. But where did Tolkien’s hobbits come from and were they solely his creation?

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