Login | Register
 
Message Board | Latest Posts | Your Recent Posts | Rules

Thread: the nature of hobbits

Is this discussion interesting? Share it on Twitter!

Bottom of Page    Message Board > Characters > the nature of hobbits   
Musicimprovedme began this thread with the following post

Quote:
I am reading LOTR for the first time through and I have also done some background reading about Tolkien...I am aware that the author often denied that the story was "really" about something else, be it the World Wars or anything else, so I'm not trying to draw any undue comparisons that I suspect Tolkien might have made, but merely to share how I am coming to understand the characters in the story. The more I discover about hobbits the more I equate them to children. There are differences of course but in many ways, hobbits seem very childlike to me...they are small, they enjoy their creature comforts, they are limited in their ability to defend themselves, they are vulnerable and easily frightened, they are ignorant and oblivious of the goings-on around them, and most importantly they are amazingly innocent and pure of spirit. Furthermore, the nature of the free peoples of middle earth seems to support this, in that there is mention several times in the Fellowship of the Ring alone that the free peoples in power on middle earth make very deliberate efforts to protect the shire from outside influence and evil, at great expense to themselves and with little appreciation from the hobbits. So why does it matter so much what happens to the hobbits from the perspective of the rest of middle earth...why for instance, are they not expected to take up their swords and defend their own shire like the rest of the free peoples defend their land? When I try to wrap my brain around this idea, the only way I can understand it is to remember that in our society adults have always valued the innocence of childhood, going to great lengths to protect it on their behalf. Consider also that one of the burdens that parents must bear in fact is that raising children is often a thankless job. We don't expect children to understand how expensive they are, or how hard it is to keep them from growing up too fast, or what we do to teach them and keep them out of trouble, nor do we truly expect children to appreciate our protection but we do it willingly and deliberately knowing that it is good that our children are safe and happy. It seems that not only do the hobbits fall under the secret guardianship of the Rangers, and Gandalf, with the support of others such as Elrond, because they need protection, but because their way of life in and of itself is worth protecting. I guess it goes without saying that as often as we say "the children are the future" we should be able to also understand that it took a hobbit to save middle earth from Sauron's ring. And when I think about it this way, the principle undeniably familiar to me.

I don't know if this is a common discussion among Tolkien readers but I wanted to throw it out there to see what other people have to say about it.


Valedhelgwath replied

Nice post, musicimprovedme. Welcome to Planet Tolkien. I'll look forward to reading more of your posts.

Just as a suggestion, when you make long posts try double spacing between paragraphs as it makes them far easier to read.

Welcome to PT musicimprovedme.
Nice post! Although I never doubted the motives of Gandalf and the Rangers for protecting the shire, I never considered using the innocence of childhood as an analogy.
I, too, look forward to hearing more of your insight into Tolkien's works. Big Smile Smilie
A very good point musicimprovedme, and welcome to planet-tolkien!

To further what you have already said: I think that the Hobbit race are like children... innocent, defenceless and down right ungrateful at times, but like children grow up so does the Hobbit race. Towards the end of LotR - The Scouring of the Shire is like their coming of age: The big people have looked after them up til now and have taken care of the greater problems, but now it's up to them to start fending for themselves. This maturing process is followed more intimately and reflected in the growth/development of the key Hobbit characters.
I look at the hobbits as representative of the "P'u", the Taoist "uncarved block". Simplicity, left alone, retains it strength, carved, or chipped into, it becomes a wholly other thing. When Gandalf confronts Frodo with the facts that the ring is THE RING, gandalf is amazed at Frodo's simple and powerful response. It's that "unknowing" aspect of the hobbit that provides their strength. But I wouldn't bet that deliberate isolationism on the hobbit's part meansthey are weak. Those who choose to live different from the others in the world around them are often the strongest. It is true however that this forces responsibilities onto others, and could be seen as greedy or self-centered on the part of the hobbits, but they do pay with their ignorance of the outside world. So their strength is their weakness, and how does their enemy know where to attack. JRR takes pains to emphasise the hobbits diminutive physical stature, but shows us all the while that the size of the container is no measure of the spirit. Smoke Smilie
Wow, what a huge amount of insight to be shown, I appreciate all this discussion and expansion on my ideas. If I may respond to the commentary since I posted: (keep in mind please that I am reading for the first time and only starting TTT)

I definitely agree that the hobbits are growing and developing both as individuals and as a race, and that this follows my original thinking that the hobbits are very childlike. I can see this even as I read TTT for the first time, and absorb the idea that Frodo is prepared to abandon the Fellowship and continue on to Mordor alone, and also as I read about Merry and Pippin's courage after the Orcs kidnap them, and Sam's level of perception at finding Frodo. It seems that the hobbits in this story all go through a growing up period, do we think this is an actual changing of the hobbits or merely an unfolding of what we learn about them?

What an interesting comparison to the Taoist "uncarved block". I don't know if I agree completely that something untouched and simple retains its dignity and strength...although I think we have already discussed that keeping the hobbits and the Shire safe and comfortable is a noble pursuit, that there is a quiet dignity and beauty in the hobbits way of life that IS worth protecting. But does naivete really bring out our strength as much as harship, both for us and the hobbits alike? Indeed, I think we find our strength in facing challenges and overcoming them, we only know what we are really made of when we are forced, by life events, to use it. Perhaps there are two faces to beauty and one of them is the eventual coming of age of the hobbits as a race, even if this is a bittersweet reality.

So what is to be said about Frodo's acceptance of the Ring? Do you think that Frodo really knows what he is getting into or does he decide out of ignorance? Do you think that Frodo would have chosen differently with more information in the beginning? (I would hope for the sake of his character, that he would have done the same knowing what he was in for or not.) Does he make selfish choices or not? It seems that each answer to each question would say different things about Frodo.

I personally think that both things happen in different times, and what may seem like a small chore at first, albeit a daunting task for a home-loving hobbit, grows in magnitude from what Frodo originally thought as the story unfolds. At first, Frodo is only concerned with getting the Ring out of the Shire, which would seem both selfish and selfless...seeing as how the choice is not only about Frodo himself but is really only for the hobbits and the shire. It may be that Frodo is thinking (somewhat realistically) "how hard can it be? I will take the Ring to Rivendell and come back home", even if he does respect the grave manner in which Gandalf speaks about the Ring, not discounting it. Still, it may seem to him that the scariest thing he will face is leaving home even if he is on a very important errand. And then the Riders do find Frodo's trail...and he begins to feel the evil surrounding the Ring...and he starts to realize the magnitude of what he is doing. And certainly after the Counsel of Elrond in Rivendell, Frodo knows that he is much more wrapped up in this than he originally was, because it seems that Frodo realizes at that point that even if he doesn't know everything about the Ring, he knows that it is powerful enough to start corrupting even the Counsel as they discuss what to do with it (thinking of Boromir here). Frodo's motive then expands to not only include himself and his people's way of life in the Shire, but all of middle earth...making him wayyyyyyyyy more than just a selfish little hobbit...when he takes it upon himself to carry the Ring into Mordor.

Another thought I want to pose about Frodo's character...what do you think of this? How important is the Took Blood in this particular family of hobbits to the unfolding of events in the story?? We learn from "The Hobbit" that Bilbo blames his Took blood for the somewhat spontaneous way that he flies out of his home (without a HANDKERCHIEF no less ) to catch up with the dwarves, when he just as easily could have stayed home after the dwarves left his home on the morning of the beginning of his own adventure. But go he does, despite his upbringing as an honorable hobbit with no need for adventure. I guess for Frodo, my question is: How much do we think Bilbo's experience (and maybe the Took blood both directly and indirectly) has shaped Frodo into the kind of hobbit who would decide to carry the Ring. It is pretty much agreed I think that the Ringbearer would need to be someone who is resilient to its power, and his innocence as a hobbit does give Frodo that strength...but could or would any ordinary hobbit have done this? Or is there something special about Frodo, even if he and Bilbo are considered an oddity to other hobbits, that makes him the only hobbit that will do?

SIGH...such a beautiful story, and so rich a discussion, but enough for now. I look forward to replies and more commentary from you all. By the way, how many times do you think it is necessary to really get a good handle on LOTR? Read Smilie
oops, My question there at the end was supposed to read: how many times do you think a person should need to read LOTR to get an adequate story? I personally think I'm doing ok with my first reading but I have the movies and internet and other background reading to help me through it...and I hope to crack this book many more times in the future, it has taken its place as one of my favorite works ever.
Welcome to our forum Musicimprovedme. Happy Elf Smilie

When I read the LotR for the first time it was merely for the story and what would happen next: pure escapism. The next few times it was to refresh my memory and each time I picked up a few more things I had missed before. I have never read it as a study, as that would be work and besides would reduce its magic. Now, I just read the various parts looking for answers to the members' questions and gather my insights from their discussion. And of course drawing on the 8000 year history of Middle-earth from The Silmarillion makes the LotR even more meaningful as I see how events dovetail into the whole.
Thanks for the welcome Grondmaster, I personally am kind of a sadist when it comes to understanding anything that entertains me and I enjoy a good thorough dig. When I like a song for example, I not only listen to the rest of the CD but I find other CD's and then read up on the artist and then read up on the people that inspired them. I'm a total NERD that way. I love Tolkien because it is so meaty that there is a lot to talk about. I do confess that unlike the Tolkienheads that have been around forever, I have only jumped on the bandwagon due to the movies...but it would have happened eventually movie or no movie because I love to read and I have recently started to enjoy the fantasy genre. I'm absorbing it like rice takes WATER! The movie has helped me to see the big picture of the story and made the book less intimidating. I confess that even as an intelligent avid reader, I am easily distracted so I always thought that LOTR would be a very difficult read. It is a challenge for me but the sheer depth of the material has made it SOOOO worth it.

I am really enjoying all this conversation by the way, keeps me from boring the people I know outside "the little gray box" who are not NEARLY as wrapped up in this LOTR thing as me. Boring Smilie
______________________________________________________
(Grondy moved your geographical paragraph to Hard time with all the geographic detail in Tolkien's work? under Places.) Happy Elf Smilie

(Grondy moved your "So what else do you guys enjoy reading?" paragraph to The Return of just what exactly are you reading under The Green Dragon Tavern.) Happy Elf Smilie

(Grondy moved your "LOTR to Christianity?" paragraph to God in Lord of the Rings under The Golden Perch Tavern.) Happy Elf Smilie


[Edited on 3/2/2003 by Grondmaster]
Well we seem to have strayed quite aways from hobbits here and have opened about three different topics in this thread. Happy Elf Smilie

Toward rectifying this I moved the three paragraphs as denoted above. Look for them under my name and a posting date of 04 February 2003. Moderator Smilie

[Edited on 3/2/2003 by Grondmaster]
I don't think I made my "argument" clear about the hobbits and the P'u. I'm not saying that the hobbits required or needed the protection of of other peoples in midle earth. I don't think I really agree that the hobbits are like children, or require the supervision that children require. Rather my point is that hobbits represent simplicity. Their lives, wheter from the sacrifice of others or not, are based on basic needs. Remember,
sam is always after frodo the sleep and eat. He doesn't forget the quest, rather he looks to ways to bring about it's completion. P'u literally translated means "the uncut thicket", it means self reliance. This is a quality cultivated in hobbit culture, not something preserved or or enforced from the "outside world". Many martial arts training programs pruport the idea that fighting is a last resort. Rather, defusing a situation is always the first option. How does this occur?...By not presupposing or REacting, but by knowing and Acting. Sam beats himself up for forgetting to bring the littlest things, because he shuld have planned for them. The P'u is prepared but does not appear to be, it is strong because it seems weak, it is agressive although still, and reliable because it is not permanent. So what am I raving about, the Hobbits display ambiguous personalities and make conflicting choices. Why, because they are ruled not by the exterior world and its presupositions, but by their own hearts and focused, but narrow view of the world. And it is this reclusive nature of hobbits that makes them so strong. they may not understand the greater world, but they know right from wrong. In their simple world is held all the answers everyone else is searching for. I see that as power. Smoke Smilie
Quote:
In their simple world is held all the answers everyone else is searching for. I see that as power.


elemuel, that is one deep thought and I think you are RIGHT. Thanks for sharing it with us!

I do wonder however, if the hobbits, despite this luxury of having all the answers, are truly self-reliant...Tolkien makes it clear that the outside peoples make great sacrifices to protect the Shire and this doesn't sound like self-reliance to me. At the same time, the hobbits enjoy governing their own affairs and are quite self-reliant within their own borders. Perhaps there are degrees of self-reliance. After all, there is quite a difference between an older child being able to spend the evening at home alone, do his own homework, and get his own dinner, take his own bath, if parents have to work late...but we would not expect the same child to go out and get their own apartment, and otherwise fend for himself.

I do still think there is a childlike quality to the hobbits, and maybe it is their simplicity and basic needs that makes it seem so. I am willing to concede that in many ways, hobbits are not like children at all! And like you said, the need for supervision is one of the big differences. Maybe we agree more than it looks?
I suppose you are right Val, thank you for that.

I did unfairly describe the hobbits. I'm sure that they would have to be a hardworking industrious bunch BECAUSE of their inclination to enjoy the simple things, not IN SPITE of it. And I knew this. If you look at all the things necessary even now to grow your own food, keep your own home, etc and then factor in the difficulty of the old-fashioned way the hobbits probably did things it would just stand to reason. That's why I knew SLOB wasn't a very good word to use...and I knew better than to try the word lazy.

People in modern voluntary simplicity cirlces will tell you that the simple things are not always easy...it is a matter of getting back to the basics of what life is about and focussing on that rather than cluttering up with all kinds of superfluous gadgets and priorities. I kind of picture hobbits being simple that way, not in a haphazard way but deliberate way even if they are naive.
I have been thinking about what has been expressed here and I have to admit that I don't make much sense. I think it is correct to see the hobbit society as childlike. On the whole they are childlike and require a kind of constant supervision. What I have been doing is applying the characteristics of the P'u to all hobbits. I think that I am not clear that when I write about "self reliance" I mean to apply it to the individual hobbit. And I think Imean to apply it to Sam in particular. He, like Frodo, Pippin and Merry had no idea exactly what they were getting into, but more than any it seems Sam exemplifies the P'u. As the "uncut thicket" he remains relatively unchanged by the experiences of journeying to Morodor. He seems the leastaffected. Less whittled on, more naturally himself. I think much like humans, the hobbits, although we are introduced to few, run the gamut of needs and expectations. Frodo, for instance, has the power to carry the ring to Morodor, but not the insight to keep himself healty or rested, and not the will because the ring has possession of him. But Sam, a ring bearer himself, not only keeps in mind his charge, but the mission of the fellowship. Sam's simplemindedness is his power. His ability to shed the exterior cares as well as his own desires and to act, not react, to situations. Santanyana once said that the genius seeks not a straight line from here to there, but rather the sperical whole of radiating from a point. That's likethe P'u. Think of all the character's and deeds in this story, and search for their motivation.
Most positive characters act from without themselves, "selflessly", and most bad act selfishly. The nature of hobbits is the nature of us all. We determine how the fates deal with us. ....So whaat was that? Sorry. I'll try not to do thaqt again. Smoke Smilie
Doesn't seem to me that you have anything to apologize for...

Drawing from your experiences with other literature or your life to understand something else is perfectly natural. We have all done it to a certain extent and it's how most people learn, by comparing or differentiating one thing that they know to something new.

And great literature is SUPPOSED to stir up discussion so please keep sharing your thoughts with us.




[Edited on 11/2/2003 by musicimprovedme]
OK....I want to wake up this thread and change the conversation just a little but still about the nature of hobbits.

I wonder about the hobbits as a race and why they are not a bit more lusty to a fault...I mean, these are people whose whole identity is wrapped up in creature comforts. They live for their weed and their food and their beer, their burrows and their gardens and their friends. They indulge freely in life's pleasures but somehow as a rule, they are not taken by them and are not considered by outsiders to be...lacking a better word...slobs.

To be fair, if we are going to try to identify things about hobbit neighborhoods that are something like our own, or at least a medieval village full of simple country folk with their inns and their homes and their gossip and social order etc., then we can assume that the Shire has a few among the hobbits who are a little less in control, just like we do. But I would wonder why there are not a few more, to the extent that it is part of their description as a race. We do know that the hobbits tend to be fat, I think that's in the Prologue of LOTR and probably in the Hobbit, too. But this is really the only thing that I have ever heard to indicate that the hobbits are affected by their indulgences.

I started to think about this when I wondered about the Ring's effect on the hobbits. I see the Ring as an addictive thing...and since (simplified) you could say that Bilbo started with a fun shiny toy and ended up handing Frodo a big mess...I wondered why the hobbits don't seem to be overtaken by the other things that they love. Until I dismissed it as a Power issue, I wondered why the hobbits weren't more affected by the Ring. Not so much anymore, but it still kind of nags in my mind why there aren't more pothead/wino kinds of hobbits...ya know?

[Edited on 24/2/2003 by musicimprovedme]
I think the simple answer to this question may be seen when you compare the Hobbit's rustic lifestyle with that of your medieval country folk. Life was much harder back then than it is for us in our modernised world. The medieval countryfolk would have worked hard from dawn to dusk, leaving little time to become wino's etc.

The Hobbit lifestyle at a glance appears rather charming, but in reality should have been much harder for them than Tolkien describes. I think the reason for this is because the Hobbit characters which Tolkien concentrates on are the "well-to-do" Hobbits who are that bit better well off. Neither Bilbo or Frodo appear to have occupations, while Pippin and Merry are the sons of Thains.

I think the nature of Hobbits, however, is what shines through here. They enjoy life; their meals, their drink, their parties and their weed (please don't mistake this for pot though. Tolkien was never happy when people interpreted pipeweed as being pot. It was nothing more than tobacco). He went to lengths to show Hobbits as being fun-loving, because that is the innocent view he wanted to portray, and though their daily workload would have been high, this is not the image wanted to give us.
I don't have a comment to add, I just want to revive this conversation by seeing it come up on the "Today Messages" board. Please humor me, starting this thread was my very first post and I can't bear to see it dieeeeeeeeeee, I'm getting a lil nostalgic coming up on my 200th post and all, I've been a lot of places since I came here but I don't want to forget my roots.

Please someone keep talking about the nature of hobbits...at least long enough to bring us to page 2? Or let it go, as you will, I will learn to live again.

[Edited on 20/3/2003 by musicimprovedme]
The art of getting a topic to go on over several pages, mim, is to not give all the information and answers in the very first post. I often find it difficult adding to any post you have sent in because you are so thorough in the first place that there is simply nothing more to add. I don't like reading a long post and then simply adding, "I agree Smile Smilie "

There, I've done my bit in stretching this thread out a bit.

Hobbits have hairy feet - there, and I've even kept it on topic Big Smile Smilie
And hobbits like the comforts of life, like six meals a day when they can get them with the occasional snack between. Also they aren't very ambitious and your average hobbit shies away from adventure.

Anybody else want to add their two cents worth towards fulfilling MIM's wish of making this more than a one page thread.
There are a couple of books about Hobbits on the market, both, coincidentally, by the same postAuthorID. Wink Smilie
Hobbits are rustic agrarians who also enjoy a pint and a good smoke of pipeweed in the later parts of the day, when they aren't eating. At times like these they tend to gather and discuss the goings on in The Shire and the genealogy of their fathers, grandfathers, and cousins to the nth degree. (Gandalf said something similar to this to King Theoden upon their meeting the hobbits at Isengard.)
They're quite short, interestingly enough.
Thanks for your support of this thread guys. We may just make it to page two yet.

And hobbits live in holes. Not dank musty holes, mind you, nor dry sandy holes. But hobbit holes and that means comfort.
When they don't have to work for a living, hobbits on a warm spring morning, like nothing better than to sit on their doorstep smoking their pipeweed and blowing smoke-rings. Cool Elf Smilie
Hobbits like to eat a lot of meals several times a day.
I would like to agree that the hobbits are like children, in more ways than one I think.
Hobbits in my opinion are very self-indulgent, as they relish the though of food and other merry-making activities, just like a child would.
Hobbits are also very resistant to outside culture and influence as they want to continue the life they loved right now without it changing. They have a form of hatred towards change and they do not believe in dragons and some of the lesser seen elements in the world. They prefer to create an illusion of peace and luxury and ignore outside affairs thus protecting themselves in a way.
Hobbits are also capable to be prompted to action. This is very similar to that of a child, who sometimes needs prompting to do things that they do not like. But when they do it, they stick to it to the end and sometimes do more than is required of them.
However, I think J.R.R. Tolkien's purpose of them in the story is to show that you will not be an underdog forever and never underestimate anyone. Hobbits are considered the underdogs in middle-earth as they will short and a little out of shape as can be seen from the contempt Boromir showed. And understimating the Hobbits are the fatal flaw in the enemy's plan both in The Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings.
Out of all the characters in LoTR I have to say that Hobbits our my favourite. I think it is the lifestyle that they lead...a simple life full of no real worries at all. Very back to basics really. Maybe Tolkien wanted to show how we could all lead a more simipler life, if we were just to throw away the shackles of society. If he did maybe we should follow this example...I know I will someday.
And that was my two cents.
I live in a rural community and the Hobbits remind me very much of the people who live here. Everybody is related to somebody (except me because I am a "townie" or "from away") and they are very interested in family and genealogy. If you were not born here, you will always be "from away". They love the simple way of life. They love their gardens. Believe me, if they were lazy, they would not have these beautiful flower gardens and bountiful vegetable gardens. Up until recently, a formal education was not considered important, just get the basics then work on the farm or in the woods to help support the family. They love getting together at the local to chat and play darts. They seem to have very little interest or concern for what is happening beyond their community. They do not like change at all and will really dig in their heels. Sound familiar?
I think Tolkien modelled his Hobbits after the residents in rural England. I believe there is the perception of naivete when we compare the lifestyle of those who live in rural and urban areas. But I am sure my neighbours would not appreciate being referred to as "childlike".
Frodo pretty much sums it up nice here:
Quote:
I should like to save the Shire, if I could - though there have been times when I thought the inhabitants too stupid and dull for words, and have felt that an earthquake or an invasion of dragons might be good for them. But I don't feel like that now. I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.

WOOOOO hooooooooooooooooooo page TWOOOOOOO...!

I love these last few posts, they are full of some new ideas that I had not thought about before.
The best compliment i've ever gotten: "Dave, you're a hobbit. If anything else, you eat like one."