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Faults of Tolkien's Hobbits

Author: ladysherlockian
Title: The Faults of Tolkien's Hobbits
Rating: general
Theme: Non-fiction
Subject: Hobbits are sociable, love parties and good food, and, furthermore, are peaceful creatures who do not know either war or violence. At the first sight, they seem ideal. But is the Shire and its inhabitants really ideal, or are there some serious problems?
Type: Research articles
Author's Notes: I do not have any grudge against Hobbits; on the contrary, they are my favourite race in Middle-Earth, so please do not take the text as an attack on Hobbits. I have no idea why the font changes in my article; I pasted it from a Word document where it was written, and it seems that the font changes randomly and either it omits my footnotes, and the font stays the same, or the footnotes are included but there are these two different fonts. I would be glad if the admins could fix these fonts. Since footnotes are definitely more important than a proper font, I decided to post it as it is.
Word Count: 5 175



The faults of Tolkien’s Hobbits

Both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings start and end in the Shire. It is from the Shire that Bilbo and later Frodo with his friends Sam, Merry and Pippin set out on their respective quests. And it is to the Shire that they finally return, even if only for a little while, as it is the case with Frodo. The Shire forms a kind of a bracket, uniting the beginning and the end of both tales featuring Hobbits. Taking into account that it is the home country of the protagonists, it is hardly surprising. During the quest, the memory of the Shire motivates Frodo to go on in spite of difficulties, because for him, the Shire symbolises everything which is worth preserving. Also, for most readers of The Lord of the Rings, the home of Hobbits embodies positive values. The Shire was important for Tolkien himself, too, as he devoted the Prologue to The Lord of the Rings to description of the life of the little people. Hobbits are sociable, love parties and good food, and, furthermore, are peaceful creatures who do not know either war or violence. At the first sight, they seem ideal. But is the Shire and its inhabitants really ideal, or are there some serious problems? Some of these positive qualities displayed by the Hobbits can also be interpreted as vices, especially if they are taken to extremes. For instance, their fondness of food can lead to gluttony.
The Shire is not mentioned by name in The Hobbit, yet this book also provides some information about the customs of Hobbits and Bilbo’s social environment. Detailed description of the Hobbit country can be found in the Prologue to The Lord of the Rings; this chapter is wholly devoted to presenting the Hobbit culture, history and traditions typical for this group of fantastical creatures. Hobbits are special, since unlike other positive non-human beings present in Middle-Earth, such as Elves and Dwarves, protagonists of many a myth, they are the sole invention of J.R.R. Tolkien. Their country, also, stands apart from among other lands in Middle-Earth.
Perhaps the most outstanding feature of Hobbits is that they are peace-loving: they do not know wars, do not need army or police. They obey rules without any law-enforcement, believing in their justice as they come from the legendary king of the past. Offices such as Mayor and Thain are mostly ceremonial, thanks to ages of peace since the last battle of Greenfields. Shiriffs and Bounders, the equivalents of the police, are needed rather to keep outsiders from the Shire than to maintain order in the country itself. In contrast to scanty police force, the Post Office is the most vibrant office in the Shire, a testament to the Hobbits’ love of writing letters to their relatives and friends.
For Hobbits, community and family are among the most important values. They love listening to family stories and the only kind of history they enjoy and care about is genealogy. This communal nature of Hobbits also shows itself in their predilection for frequent parties. Hobbits are not interested in developing technology, but they are fond of simplicity and life close to nature; their society is largely agrarian, though there are also craftsmen among them. Hobbits can find joy in simple pleasures of life, such as good food (they eat up to six meals a day), parties, spending time with family and friends. They do not need something exceptional to feel happy, rather, they are humble and have a sense of humour. The Shire seems an enclave of peace in the warlike world of Middle-Earth, threatened by many terrible dangers. Its inhabitants resemble the English from the turn of centuries, according to Tolkien, from about the times of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee (Tolkien, Letters 230). The Shire resembles a bucolic, pastoral arcadia, frozen in the most opportune time. It seems that nothing can ever hurt it, but after leaving the idyllic Shire for his quest, Frodo comes back to a country of nightmares, ruled by a totalitarian leader Sharkey and his small army of ruffians. Evil found its way to the Shire after all. But was the Shire totally ideal to begin with? According to Plank, what happened to the Shire under Saruman’s dictatorship was caused by the faults of the Hobbits themselves (Plank, 110-11). Which faults are these and can the seeds of disaster be found in the Shire, as shown at the beginning of The Lord of the Rings?
         The most prominent fault of the Hobbits seems to be Hobbit intolerance towards any differences. Hobbits value conformity and prefer everyone to behave in a similar way. Hobbits who differ are regarded as “queer” and suspicious. This attitude is already present in The Hobbit, and after Bilbo returns from his quest as a changed person, he loses the respect of his fellow countrymen. What is appreciated is predictability: the Bagginses are respected because “they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected: you could tell what a Baggins would say on any question without the bother of asking him” (Tolkien, Lord 21). The more unconventional Tooks are tolerated only because of their wealth and social standing. In general, any difference is looked upon with distrust. This is the fate of Bilbo, and later his heir Frodo. In the case of Bilbo, his being different from other Hobbits is also emphasised by his wealth, as thanks to his participation in the Quest of Erebor, he is much richer than an average Hobbit, and by his appearance, as he does not age due to the influence of the One Ring. This, in addition to his travels and adventures, sets him apart from his society. He is no longer a typical Hobbit, as it was the case at the beginning of The Hobbit. By the time The Lord of the Rings starts, Bilbo has already been a local sensation for many years, and he is still frequently talked about and discussed by Hobbits. He is referred to as “very peculiar” (Tolkien, Lord 21). What is also noteworthy is the relative loneliness of Bilbo, who “had no close friends until some of his younger cousins began to grow up” (Tolkien, Lord 21). Though Bilbo “had many devoted admirers among the hobbits of poor and unimportant families,” (Tolkien, Lord 21) by being different he is practically socially isolated from other Hobbits.
         Typical Hobbit features are showcased in the conversation in the pub after Bilbo’s intention to give a huge party for his and Frodo’s birthday is announced. Obviously, both Frodo and Bilbo are the main topics of the chat, but it also touches upon other matters. Frodo’s surname is Baggins, but he is of mixed Baggins and Brandybuck ancestry, as his father Drogo Baggins married Primula Brandybuck. The Brandybucks are Hobbits who do not live in the Shire, but in Buckland, located on the borders of the Old Forest. These Hobbits are regarded by the inhabitants of the Shire as “queer” – in a short piece of dialogue, this word is used three times to describe them. Bucklanders are “queer” because they live elsewhere than the Shire Hobbits, and even more, “on the wrong side of the Brandywine River, and right agin the Old Forest” (Tolkien, Lord 22). It is believed that the proximity of this mysterious wood is responsible for the “queerness” of Buckland Hobbits. They are also fond of boating, unlike the Shire folk, who are of the opinion “that isn’t natural”(Tolkien, Lord 22). This shows Hobbit xenophobia, distrust of strangers, even if they are only other Hobbits, divided from them by a river. This is also tied up with the discussion of the Bucklanders themselves and the most prominent Hobbit family there, the Brandybucks. They live in a large hobbit hole called the Brandy Hall, which is a system of interconnected holes dug in the hill. The Brandybuck custom is that all relatives live together in this huge Hobbit hole. Gaffer Gamgee calls it “a regular warren” (Tolkien, Lord 23). In his lecture on chapters 1-3 of The Fellowship of the Ring, Olsen suggests that the use of the word “warren” might be a derogatory term, implying that the Shire Hobbits consider the Bucklanders less civilised and more wild than they believe themselves to be. As Jane Chance points out in her article “’Queer’ Hobbits: The Problem of Difference in the Shire,” “Its[the Shire’s] inhabitants distrust those who come from outside because they differ from them in ways they do not understand. A stranger such as a Brandybuck arouses mistrust . . .”(Chance, 19-20). This attitude is also shown in another comment about the Brandybucks by the Gaffer: “Mr. Bilbo never did a kinder deed than when he brought the lad back to live among decent folk” (Tolkien, Lord 23). So, according to the general opinion of the Shire Hobbits, represented by Gamgee, “decent” Hobbits live only in Hobbiton and its neighbourhood. This distrust of Bucklanders and Hobbits living away from Hobbiton is also present in his son, Sam Gamgee, who “had a natural mistrust of the inhabitants of other parts of the Shire; and also he was not disposed to be quick friends with anyone who had beaten his master, however long ago” (Tolkien, Lord 91). Though in this case, it seems that the fact that Frodo had some trouble with Maggot contributes to Sam’s dislike of the farmer more than his living in a different part of the Shire, the Marish. The Hobbits living on the other side of the Brandywine River are referred to as “those queer Bucklanders” (Tolkien, Lord 23), also by Gaffer Gamgee. The frequent use of this adjective, “queer[1],” is significant, since it is applied to the dangerous and mysterious Old Forest, and by Farmer Maggot to the Black Rider who visits him, too. It seems that this word, as used by the Hobbits, describes everything that is different in a way that they cannot understand, and because of it, threatening and undesirable. This attitude towards the outside world is also tied with the Hobbits’ belief about difference and diversity; since they are generally opposed to dissimilarity, they are all the more averse to the world outside the Shire, which they consider different from the Shire, and therefore hostile or at least suspicious and deserving distrust. Hobbit attitude towards people who have contact with the outside, such as Bilbo and Frodo, is the same; they are considered different also because of staying in touch with personages not of the Shire, such as the Dwarves Bilbo knows from his journey and the wizard Gandalf. As Ted Sandyman puts it: “And look at the outlandish folk that visit him: dwarves coming at night, and that old wandering conjuror, Gandalf, and all. … Bag End's a queer place, and its folk are queerer.” (Tolkien, Lord 24) Conformity, valued by the Hobbits, is personified in Frodo’s father, Drogo Baggins, who was respected because he never did anything of note or outstanding: “A decent respectable hobbit was Mr. Drogo Baggins; there was never much to tell of him, till he was drownded” (Tolkien, Lord 22). What the Hobbits truly appreciate, is according to Jane Chance, “[s]ameness . . .implies the familiar and secure, and sameness means Hobbitlike. The Hobbits relish what is natural for them, which involves physical activities, living close to nature—dwelling in holes, eating, smoking tobacco. To do otherwise is un-Hobbitlike”(Chance, 20).
What is noteworthy is that the Shire Hobbits’ distrust of strangers and outsiders is reflected in the attitude of the Bucklanders towards them; ironically, Bucklanders also believe the Shire Hobbits to be “queer,” as it surfaces in Farmer Maggot’s conversation with the three hobbits. Though Maggot does not live on the same side of the Brandywinde River as the Brandybucks, and his farm is located in the Marish, on the outskirts of the Shire proper, he is more closely linked to the Brandybucks than to far-away Hobbiton inhabitants. Maggot’s advice to Frodo that he should return to Buckland and his moving house to Hobbiton was a mistake since “folk are queer up there” (Tolkien, Lord 90)  is a reversal of the opinions of Hobbiton Hobbits, who think the same of the Bucklanders. So, it is symptomatic that both groups of Hobbits consider each other strange, though it is always the other way round: for Hobbiton people, it is Bucklanders who are different, and Bucklanders believe it is the Hobbits from the centre of the Shire who are potentially a negative influence: “You should never have gone mixing yourself up with Hobbiton folk, Mr. Frodo. . . .When I heard you had left the Brandybucks and gone off to that old Mr. Bilbo, I said that you were going to find trouble,” (Tolkien, Lord 90) in the words of perceptive farmer Maggot[2], who is close to discovering the truth why Frodo is pursued by the Black Rider. According to Maggot, the solution to Frodo’s troubles is to move here and live in Buckland again: “'I'm glad that you've had the sense to come back to Buckland. My advice is: stay there! And don't get mixed up with these outlandish folk. You'll have friends in these parts” (Tolkien, Lord 93). This may be considered a symptom of Maggot’s local patriotism, but also of insularity typical for Hobbits, as shown in this analysis, irrespective of the place where they live. The Shire Hobbits’ attitude towards other Hobbits who live outside the Shire is summed up neatly in the chapter “At the Sign of the Prancing Pony”: “The Shire-hobbits referred to those of Bree, and to any others that lived beyond the borders, as Outsiders, and took very little interest in them, considering them dull and uncouth” (Tolkien, Lord 147). This proves the Shire Hobbits’ insularity and their lack of concern about the events in other parts of Middle-Earth, in the world at large. This, however, was not a universal attitude of all Hobbits, since the Bree Hobbits show considerable curiosity about news that Frodo and his friends may bring, and question them about the happenings in the Shire, as well as desire to hear some new songs. Though these Hobbits do not travel often, they live in a multi-cultural society of Bree, which is inhabited also by Men, called the Big People by the Hobbits, and where they come in frequent contact with other races, such as travelling dwarves. Since Bree, and particularly the inn, the Prancing Pony, used to be a hub for all travellers passing this way, as it was built on the crossroads of the East Road and the Greenway, the Bree Hobbits are much more acquainted with the world outside than their Shire counterparts, more curious about it, and also more tolerant. Their daily dealings with peoples of other races and countries made them more open-minded. Though they are also “suspicious . . . of anything out of the way – uncanny” (Tolkien, Lord 158), this is an understandable reaction to their village being visited also by people of bad reputation, such as Southerners. It is not the exaggerated aversion to the outside world, displayed by the Shire Hobbits. However, these Hobbits are in fact quite similar to others in their general way of life: “the hobbits were decent and prosperous, and no more rustic than most of their distant relatives. . .” (Tolkien, Lord 147). The Bree Hobbits consider themselves one of the oldest settlement of Hobbits, earlier than the ones in the Shire and Buckland. In the past, there was a lot of travels between the two settlements, but during the time of The Lord of the Rings, the Shire Hobbits for the most part gave up their contact with their kinsmen in Bree. However, these Hobbits remain an important part of Hobbit history, since “[t]here was Bree-blood in the Brandybucks by all accounts” (Tolkien, Lord 147). Though the villages of Bree and Staddle are the last regular Hobbit settlements described in the book, there are Hobbits living in other places of Middle-Earth as well:
“There were probably many more Outsiders scattered about in the West of the World in those days than the people of the Shire imagined. Some, doubtless, were no better than tramps, ready to dig a hole in any bank and stay only as long as it suited them,” (Tolkien, Lord 147)
though no further information is provided about them. It is significant that Strider was initially a wandering Hobbit called Trotter, and these wild Hobbits might have resembled this character (Tolkien, Return 137-38).
         In general, the Hobbits’ attitude to the outside world is ambiguous, at best indifferent, or at worst deeply distrustful. This is further exemplified in the conversation between Sam Gamgee and Ted Sandyman, gathered in the pub together with other Hobbits. Sam represents the more trustful and believing approach, while Sandyman expresses scepticism and down-to-earth, practical Hobbit indifference to the events in the world at large. In fact, Sam’s sensitivity to Elves and his interest in their return journey to Valinor marks him as slightly different than an average Hobbit. Baggins influence is visible in Sam, and working for these “queer” Bilbo and Frodo transforms Sam himself, turning him into a more unconventional Hobbit.
         Hobbits have little, if any, intellectual or spiritual ambitions; rather, they are naturally unambitious, and they do not desire changes in their lives. There are social differences among Hobbits, though they are delicately marked; while Bilbo and Frodo can be considered Hobbit aristocracy (they are even referred to as a “gentlehobbit” (Tolkien, Lord 22)), there are also lower social classes, the representatives of which are, for instance, the Gamgees and the Cottons. Sam Gamgee’s father is to certain extent reluctant when his son is taught how to read by the Bagginses, he also does not encourage Sam’s interest in stories about Elves, which the young gardener hears from his employers: “'Elves and Dragons' I says to him. 'Cabbages and potatoes are better for me and you. Don't go getting mixed up in the business of your betters, or you'll land in trouble too big for you,' I says to him” (Tolkien, Lord 24).This utterance shows that Gaffer Gamgee believes in a rigid division into social classes, lower and higher, but at the same time, he does not have any ambitions for his son to climb up on the social ladder; on the contrary, he advises him to keep to his place in the social order. It may even be said that ambition is presented as something negative, since it is the business-like Lotho Sackville-Baggins through whom the ruffians and finally Saruman find their way into the Shire.
         Hobbits are not very intellectual; in fact, there are no Hobbit discoverers or inventors, and even the study of history does not develop well in the Shire until after the War of the Ring. Hobbits are chiefly interested in genealogy, and all kinds of family stories and tales. Yet, in this they also show their lack of curiosity in general: they love hearing the same stories many times, also “they liked to have books filled with things that they already knew, set out fair and square with no contradictions” (Tolkien, Lord 7). At the same time, they rely mainly on gossip and rumour, and do not feel any need to check the information they share. For instance, the belief that Bilbo Baggins is so rich that he has “tunnels stuffed with treasure” (Tolkien, Lord 21) is an enduring one, and very much alive at the beginning of The Lord of the Rings, years after Bilbo’s return to the Shire. It is universally believed to be true, and nobody questions it or tries to find out what the reality is like; when Gaffer Gamgee explains that Bilbo probably does not have tunnels full of gold in his Hobbit hole, he is not believed. Hobbits’ preference for gossip and unverified information is also depicted in their discussion about Frodo, and particularly, the deaths of his parents. Old Nokes and Ted Sandyman tell about their theories about the reason for this tragic event, and Sandyman even suggests that it was murder, with Primula pushing Drogo into the water. Gossip is a vital part of Hobbit social culture, particularly as Hobbits enjoy having a pint of beer with their friends and neighbours in a pub. Both Hobbit conversations described in The Lord of the Rings take place in the pub: the one between Gaffer Gamgee and Ted Sandyman and others in the Ivy Bush, a pub in Bywater, and Sam has his confrontation with Sandyman in the Green Dragon. This conversation contrasts the more sensitive and curious Sam with sceptical or even cynical Sandyman, but at the same time emphasises the Hobbits’ lack of interest in the events outside the Shire. Sam mentions his cousin Hal seeing a walking tree in the Northfarthing district, and Elves leaving Middle-Earth for the Grey Havens. Both these stories are laughed at by Sandyman, and Sam is ridiculed. For Sandyman, such news are of no importance: “I don't see what it matters to me or you” (Tolkien, Lord 44). Sandyman is indifferent or even contemptuous of what happens outside the Shire, and he considers Sam’s stories “moonshine” (Tolkien, Lord 44) and “old tales” (Tolkien, Lord 44). The reaction of other Hobbits listening to this conversation suggests that Sandyman’s opinions are universally held: “There was some laughing and clapping: the audience seemed to think that Ted had scored a point” (Tolkien, Lord 43-44). Sam is no longer a representative of the common, average Hobbit as his father was in an earlier scene set in a pub; by communing with the Bagginses and being befriended by them, Sam assumes some of their characteristics and to a certain extent also their reputation for oddity, since as shown in the pub scene, he does not have support from other Hobbits and is a bit estranged from them. By this time, after his disappearance at his birthday party, Bilbo is believed by the Hobbits to be totally mad, and the opinion about the Bagginses is summed up by Sandyman thus: “Leastways old Bilbo was cracked, and Frodo's cracking” (Tolkien, Lord 44). Nobody contradicts Sandyman, so it may also be considered a common belief of the majority of Hobbits. Sam is left alone, separated from other Hobbits. He is different, just like the Bagginses, not a typical Hobbit because of his natural curiosity. Also, Sam is more open-minded than the rest: he actually believes Hal that he saw walking trees; he is interested in affairs outside of the Shire, and yearns to meet Elves. It would not be possible, of course, had Bilbo and Frodo not befriended Sam, but he turned out to be receptive to their schooling.
         In the Shire, there are also no spiritual ambitions. As Jonathan Langford states in his article "Sitting Down to the Sacramental Feast: Food and Cultural Diversity in 'The Lord of the Rings'," food plays a central role in the Hobbit culture, yet customs related to it have neither spiritual nor religious meaning, unlike in other cultures of Middle-Earth, such as the Elvish or the Gondorian one:
“Within hobbit society, eating is apparently not allied to spiritual or moral values but functions as a purely social ritual, one that creates bond of fellowship and goodwill among those who participate – but nothing more. This lack of any “deeper” significance to the hobbit eating rituals thus becomes, in one sense, a testimony to their relative cultural shallowness and lack of spiritual knowledge.” (Langford, 128)
Though there is no explicit religion in the world of Middle-Earth, there are some subtle allusions to religious belief, such as the Elves’ song to Elbereth or Faramir’s company looking to the West before a meal. However, there is no trace of religious or quasi-religious customs of the Hobbits. Hobbits are also unaware of the existence of the Valar and not familiar with the story about the creation of Arda. This is related to the general ignorance of Hobbits towards anything that does not directly concern them. However, it is significant that Hobbits do not have records of their own history, either, and due to this the beginning and origin of this race is for the most part unknown: “Of their original home the Hobbits in Bilbo’s time preserved no knowledge” (Tolkien, Lord 2). Before the quest of Frodo and the War of the Ring, there are some Hobbits who are interested in history of their own people as well as that of other races inhabiting Middle-Earth, but they are rather exception than the rule among the Hobbits, and this is definitely not the attitude of the Hobbit majority:
“A love of learning (other than genealogical lore) was far from general among them, but there remained still a few in the older families who studied their own books, and even gathered reports of old times and distant lands from Elves, Dwarves, and Men” (Tolkien, Lord 2).
This is in stark contrast to the attitudes of other Free Peoples of Middle-Earth: for Men, Elves and Dwarves, it is important to know and remember their history. Such state of affairs is changed only after the Hobbit members of the Fellowship of the Ring return to the Shire, when libraries are established: ”By the end of the first century of the Fourth Age, there were already to be found in the Shire several libraries that contained many historical books and records” (Tolkien, Lord 13-14). As far as their approach to both their own history and religion is concerned, Hobbits stand out in a negative way. They seem to be concentrated only on the present and the pleasures it can provide, such as good food, parties and fun time with friends. Though finding happiness in small things of ordinary life can be considered a positive thing, taken into extremes it makes Hobbits rather superficial. They do not care either about the future, as shown by the total lack of any religious life, or about their past, as even the Hobbits themselves cannot explain the beginnings of their own race, they do not know where they came from, and are not concerned about it. This attitude can be considered a form of intellectual laziness, as Hobbits cannot be considered lazy in general, since they like hard work such as farming, and “they had long skilful fingers and could make many … useful and comely things” (Tolkien, Lord 2). According to the blog Tolkien: Medieval and Modern, this behaviour of the Hobbits, particularly their ignorance of the wider world outside the Shire, is a kind of sin for which they have to make penance in the form of Frodo’s quest to Mordor.
         The faults of the Hobbits are not many, and they can be boiled down into two categories: lack of interest in the outside world, from which stems their dislike for anything different from what they are used to, and their lack of ambition on many levels, including social, intellectual, and spiritual ambition. These faults are interconnected, since lack of knowledge about the outside world may strengthen the dislike or fear towards it, and the apprehension in turn prevents the Hobbits from learning about the outside. Hobbits are satisfied with the lives they lead and with their surroundings, they do not want to change anything, which may be a good thing when the situation in question is close to perfect, but also a bad one, when it means no ambitions of any kind. Hobbits definitely possess these faults, but they fall short of being called “vices”, they are rather imperfections, harmless on the whole. These features do not diminish the Hobbits’ capacity for goodness, neither do they transform them into villains; on the contrary, they make them much more realistic and relatable characters. The negative characteristics do not prevent the Hobbits from displaying their virtues, such as sacrifice and courage, as shown by the examples of Frodo and Sam, Merry and Pippin. Even more, The Lord of the Rings provides scanty evidence for the darker side of the Hobbits, so that it is not apparent at the first reading, and uncovering it demands a closer inspection of the text. Looking for negative features of the Hobbits seems nit-picking, like looking for problems where there are none. These flaws do exist, but they do not play any crucial role in the plot of The Lord of the Rings. Rather, the Hobbit protagonist transcend their limitations, which seem to be only a cover, a veneer hiding their true worth.   

Works Cited
Chance, Jane. ""Queer" Hobbits: The Problem of Difference in the Shire." J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Bloom's Literary Criticism, 2008. 19-26. Print.
"Has the Shire Been Saved?" Web log post. Tolkien: Medieval and Modern. N.p., 4 June 2014. Web. 30 Mar. 2016. <http://tolkienmedievalandmodern.blogspot.com/2014/06/has-shire-been-saved.html>.
Langford, Jonathan. "Sitting Down to the Sacramental Feast: Food and Cultural Diversity in 'The Lord of the Rings.'" Foods of the Gods: Eating and the Eaten in Fantasy and Science Fiction. Ed. Gary Westfahl, George Edgar. Slusser, and Eric S. Rabkin. Athens: U of Georgia, 1996. 117-41. Print.
Olsen, Corey. "Forward, Prologue, Book I, Chapters I-iii." The Lord of the Rings I: The Road Goes Ever On. Web. 3 Jan. 2015. <http://www.mythgard.org/academy/lord-of-the-rings-i/>.
Plank, Robert. "'The Scouring of the Shire': Tolkien's View of Fascism." A Tolkien Compass. Ed. Jared Lobdell. Chicago: Open Court, 2003. 105-13. Print.
The Lord of the Rings Project, Web log post. Keyword Frequency N.p., 30 Mar. 2016. < http://lotrproject.com/statistics/books/keywordsearch>
Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. The Lord of the Rings. London: HarperCollins, 2003. Print.
Tolkien, J. R. R., Christopher Tolkien, and Humphrey Carpenter. Letters. London: HarperCollins, 1995. Print.
Tolkien, J. R. R., and Christopher Tolkien. The Return of the Shadow. The History of Middle-Earth. Vol. 6. London: HarperCollins, 1994. Print.

         
        





[1] According to the statistics of  The Lord of the Rings Project, the word queer appears 42 times in The Fellowship of the Ring; it is particularly frequent in the earlier chapters, up to Chapter 10, “Strider.” The Fellowship of the Ring is also the book in which this word occurs most often, compared to 14 occurrences in The Two Towers and 1 in The Return of the King. In The Hobbit, queer appears 14 times. It is totally absent from The Silmarillion.
[2] Farmer Maggot is not exactly a typical Hobbit. He is in touch with Tom Bombadil, with whom he is befriended, and shares information with him. In the abandoned sketches in The History of Middle-Earth: The Return of the Shadow, Farmer Maggot was not a Hobbit at all, but a being of the same kind as Bombadil, though it was not specified what sort of creatures they are (Tolkien, Return 117). His ability to almost correctly guess the reason of Frodo’s being pursued may perhaps be what remains of the powerful being he was initially intended to be. Also, Bombadil speaks with great respect of Farmer Maggot, which suggests he is not the simple rural figure he may seem to be at the first sight. 

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
shirebound
Aug. 22nd, 2016 10:07 pm (UTC)
Nicely done! I enjoyed reading this. A wonderful summary of the nature of hobbits.
lindahoyland
Aug. 23rd, 2016 06:28 am (UTC)
A most interesting essay.
dreamflower02
Aug. 25th, 2016 03:20 pm (UTC)
What a fun essay! I think you have summed up the faults of the Shire hobbits very well: parochialism, and a lack of interest in the unknown is common among most hobbits (although it seems clear that those with a preponderance of Fallohide blood, such as the Tooks and Brandybucks have a slightly different outlook on life.

I'd love to see you do a companion piece to this, emphasizing the virtues of hobbits. Clearly their compassion is what drew Gandalf to them, and we see in the times of the Occupation of the Shire the courage of even common hobbits, such as the Cottons, and of hobbits that needed adversity to bring their courage out, such as Fatty Bolger and his rebels.

I've always found Tolkien's emphasis of their lack of religion to be quite fascinating to work with. Clearly hobbits need something to glue their society together other than religion. They seem to have no memories of Arda's pantheon of the Valar, no residual customs that would indicate even ancient forms of religiosity in their past.

Yet, I don't think this precludes them from a certain leaning towards spirituality; rather that each individual hobbit may find that leaning satisfied by a personal appreciation of beauty and nature. For some there is a yearning for more--we see this in Sam.

But personal spirituality is not what draws a society together. Their strong beliefs in family ties and their obsession with genealogy might have led to ancestor worship--but it appears that it did not. Yet there is a profound sense of gratitude for family: look at the rite of passage when a faunt begins giving gifts to his/her parents as thankfulness for their gift of life. (Also seems to be the reason for continuing giving gifts on one's birthday throughout life.)

Food is also a common thread, and I think the time and effort needed to prepare and eat up to seven meals a day may have fulfilled a need for ceremony in their lives. While it seems never to have included such things as prayers or blessings or even the "Standing Silence" found in Gondor, gathering a family together for a meal several times a day or gathering a community together for feasts and parties, would include many elements of ceremony, as we see at Bilbo's party.

And why did Lotho shut down the inns in the Shire? Possibly because they could have served as gathering places for news and information: a function often served by churches in some rural societies of our world.

Anyhow, see what all your essay sparked for me? Terrific food for thought!
blslarner
Aug. 31st, 2016 05:25 am (UTC)
Ah, how often I've noted similar failings among most Hobbits! Nicely done.
kgreen20
Sep. 2nd, 2016 08:31 pm (UTC)
The hobbits' suspicion of anyone who goes on an adventure or is different in any way is definitely a flaw, and one that the hobbits need to work to overcome. But with that said, I find it interesting that the other hobbits are not nearly so hostile toward Frodo and his companions when they return to the Shire following the Quest as they were when Biblo returned from his adventure decades earlier. Perhaps it's because they lead the effort to scour the Shire of the ruffians? Or could the reason be deeper than that? Now there's something to write an article about! (I wonder what Dora would have thought of Frodo, his cousins, and Sam if she had still been alive when they returned from the Quest!)

At any rate, I like this essay you have written. You might want to break it up into more paragraphs, though; some of them are awfully long. But I definitely like the info you have provided.


Edited at 2016-09-02 08:33 pm (UTC)
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