Halflings, also known as Hobbits, are fantasy creatures that are originally ascribed to being created by J. R. R. Tolkien, the author of several fantasy books that center around his fictional world of Middle-earth. These creatures are similar to men, but are typically half the size of humans and do not consider themselves to be close to the race of men. They live in houses dug into the ground, and generally prefer to stay at home. They enjoy an easy life, but if they are called upon, they can step up to face great adversity, and there show the true, strong substance that lies deep within this small race.
Though there are reports that similar words to “Hobbit” appeared before Tolkien said he coined it, the general depiction of Hobbits and halflings comes from the original concept of these creatures that Tolkien came up with. Usually they are a short but lithe race, differentiating them from the dwarves, as the hobbits are considered to be more capable of being roguish, and if they want can be very adept thieves. However, the desire to be a thief varies in different universes, and even in different subraces inside these worlds. Furthermore, some halflings enjoy adventure, while others prefer to not venture far from home.
Typically, hobbits are not considered to be strong, and are more valued for their ability to sneak about and disappear. As seen with the popular halfling characters of Tolkien named Bilbo and Frodo, though they enjoy staying at home and socializing, they are capable of extreme bravery and courage. To the casual outsider, the halflings can seem like a subdued and shy race, when in fact they will fight with all their strength to defend their homes. All throughout Tolkien’s books, these qualities are shown, giving more credence to the underdog idea—the idea that even though one is small, they can become great.
The idea of hobbits originated with Tolkien, but continued on into other fantasy venues as time went on. Today they appear in fantasy medias of all kind, from books to games, though they are often called halflings instead of hobbits, because the term “hobbit” is so closely identified with only Tolkien’s race. Tolkien’s hobbits were described as going around barefoot, often with hair on the tops of their feet, and therefore many halfling names have to do with feet, such as “Proudfoot/Proudfeet” and “Lightfoot”. Other family hobbit names come from the terrain and areas where the halflings lived, such as “Underhill” or “Banks.” Other names still simply describe aspects of the family, being anything from the color of the hair, to preferred foods.
This term of “halfling” was adopted by the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons when there were a few legal issues with the Tolkien estate about the name “hobbit.” Therefore, the race was then called halflings and has been a playable race in the game since the beginning. At the start, they were considered to be just about the same as Tolkien’s halflings, whose description was that they were homebodies, content to have several meals a day and take it easy. But as the game went on, the halflings became more like their sister race, the kender. The kender were more in tune with their thieving and nomadic abilities than the halflings, and nowadays the halflings are considered to be more like the kender, ready to go on a hunt for riches.
Halflings appear in several online RPGs, such as EverQuest. Here, they are playable characters, good with a certain amount of magic and physical combat, but excelling the most in roguishness and sneaking about. In this game they enjoy socialization and a good story, and have high respect for the adventurers that go out and bring back a good tale. Halflings are welcoming to any visiting race, except perhaps for the trolls, who may try to eat them.
When halflings are included in a game, are often playable races and possess many of the same qualities already mentioned. They make appearances in several other games such as Vanguard and Neverwinter Nights. In the video game Dragon Quest VII, halflings make a bit of an appearance, but the only one to join you is a halfling named The Woodcutter (or Woodsman). However, halflings are not always as popular as some other fantasy races, such as dwarves and elves, so they are not always included in fantasy games or stories.
These small humanoid creatures seem to have greater roles to play in fantasy novels, such as in Tolkien’s books. Halflings also appear in The Wticher stories by Andrzej Sapkowski. In both worlds, halfling names can be simple or complex. In Tolkien’s stories, the male Hobbits often were named in certain patterns with their families, while the females were usually named after flowers, or flower names taken from different languages. Sapkowski on the other hand uses more formal first names for halflings, or perhaps descriptive first names, such as Dainty and Bernie, with family halfling names such as Biberveldt and Hofmeier. Female halfling names often follow the same pattern as Tolkine, however, being largely adapted from pretty flower names.
Halflings, though they are not quite as popular as other fantasy races, are still an important people in most fantasy stories, thanks to the big roles that Tolkien put them in. Tolkien’s hobbits are an inspiration for all upcoming halflings, because without his popular hobbits like Bilbo and Frodo, there likely would not be the well-known and respected race that they are today. Tolkien has pretty much set the standard on what halflings are, what they are named, and what their personalities are like, though in some games, such as Dungeons & Dragons, the race and their abilities have deviated from the Tolkienian standard to meet the needs of the game. The different ideas have not yet gone terribly far from the original, though, like some other races, and this perhaps simply goes to show what an influence Tolkien was in the realm of fantasy writing, and how loved his hobbits are.