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.
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.