Origins of hobbits -- bug or feature?

HareBrain

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Is it just me who thinks it's weird that Tolkien never much attempted to account for the origins of hobbits, even though he was working on what would become The Silmarillion for forty years after he'd invented the creatures?

If we take The Silmarillion as fact (within that universe), then hobbits have to be descended from men - each of the other intelligent species are accounted for either with the second or third themes in the Ainur's music (Elves and Men), as creations by a god (Dwarves and Ents), or corruptions by Melkor (Orcs and Trolls, and maybe dragons though it's never speculated AFAIK what they were corruptions of). But given that The Silmarillion etc are meant to be translations made by hobbits from the Elvish, it seems strange that the question is never raised within the text. (Is this also the case with The History of Middle Earth supplemental material?)

Tolkien was notoriously pedantic, and loved inventing explanations for apparent anomalies, as his letters showed. But apart from hobbits' origins probably lying in the Vale of Anduin, he said almost nothing about this point (or not that I know of).

This seems out of character. Could it be that he just couldn't account for them without mucking up his Music of the Ainur origin myth, and brushed the question under the carpet? Or was he tacitly acknowledging that they didn't really belong in his invented mythology at all, and were effectively stand-ins for modern (or modern-ish) readers?
 
As far as I can recall, hobbis are a type of man/human. Not a completely separate species. But Tolkien spent a lot of time fiddling with his mythology. Try the prologue to LotR for the origin of hobbits. I think it's in there.
 
He doesn't explain Tom Bombadil, either.
Hmm. I thought Tolkien himself (maybe in a letter) identified Bombadil as one of the Maiar, but that turns out to be just a theory.

Bombadil too is part of Tolkien's "rural England" fantasy, which he dumped it in his Norse-Atlantis myth without really bothering to smooth the joins. That's part of LOTR's charm and magic formula, but it still seems odd to me that he didn't try to retcon some explanation for the anomalous elements in the decades afterwards.
 
Hmm. I thought Tolkien himself (maybe in a letter) identified Bombadil as one of the Maiar, but that turns out to be just a theory.

Bombadil too is part of Tolkien's "rural England" fantasy, which he dumped it in his Norse-Atlantis myth without really bothering to smooth the joins. That's part of LOTR's charm and magic formula, but it still seems odd to me that he didn't try to retcon some explanation for the anomalous elements in the decades afterwards.
I really don't think Tolkien explained everything. Like why Middle Earth changes over time.

There is a metaphorical level of construction in Middle Earth. The books refer to a progression that starts with a flat planet lit by a magic jewel and populated by godlike beings, and ends with the prediction that people of the modern world may end up with some Hobbit in them and history forgotten. Tolkein's earth history is a progression that resembles the myth progression of our forebears: Beliefs about flawed gods who fight each other and live on a nearby mountaintop, blessed semi-mortals who's adventures are epic (Theosus and the Kraken). Later the great acts and magic powers are scaled down (King Arthur), and later still the heroics have no magical elements at all (Robin Hood).

Tolkien gives us the myths, but never shows us the Maiar. We come into the action post-gods, but when Medusas,, Sirens and a few Krakens are still kicking. The humans are of legendary proportions with Old Testament lifespans and Greek tragedy hubris. So even the humans of Middle Earth are mythical creatures - they bear little resemblance to us.

The nationalities of the modern age largely do not understand their origins. We have flawed myths, but we rarely get our own history correct until paleontologists get involved. We just are. On Middle Earth, the un-heroic, un-magic people of unromantic descent are the Hobbits. The English are nothing like Gondor-men. The Hobbits are us. Creating a mythos for the Hobbits would spoil that.
 
Is it just me who thinks it's weird that Tolkien never much attempted to account for the origins of hobbits, even though he was working on what would become The Silmarillion for forty years after he'd invented the creatures?
No, not just you. I have always wondered whether he rather regretted his hobbit invention, as being part of middle earth, compared with his more ‘serious’ mythology, as described in the Silmarillion. His hobbits were an invention for children, after all, and he was rather stuck with them thereafter for LoTR, but in other works he tends to have offered a more adult mythology with strong Norse roots. Given his later writing focussed on his grand mythology of elves and gods, he perhaps felt his more childish hobbits didn’t seem to fit in well. My use of the word ‘regret’ here isn’t quite right incidentally, I’m sure he didn’t regret his hobbits exactly but I can’t immediately think of a better expression.
 
“The Hobbits are, of course, really meant to be a branch of the specifically human race (not Elves or Dwarves) – hence the two kinds can dwell together (as at Bree), and are called just the Big Folk and Little Folk." Letter 131 in The Letters of Tolkien (1951 letter).
 
“The Hobbits are, of course, really meant to be a branch of the specifically human race (not Elves or Dwarves) – hence the two kinds can dwell together (as at Bree), and are called just the Big Folk and Little Folk." Letter 131 in The Letters of Tolkien (1951 letter).
One wonders if the heights given are Imperial or the feet of gigantic "men". And the hobbits are actually closer to our size.
 
Swank, this might be helpful.

 
@HareBrain I have not read Tolkien‘s letters, but I feel that @Extollager is correct.

I agree that Tolkien was very pedantic at times. (He is my inspiration… my personal saint of inordinate explanation.) And yet I feel that he was not afraid of enigmas either.

Again, if we take The Silmarillion as canon, and we use the examples of the origins of the other free peoples, then I feel that Hobbits are easily a branch of humanity.

The Quendi split into the Eldar and the Avari. The Eldar split into the Vanyar, the Noldor, and the Teleri. The Noldor split into the penitents and the exiles. The Teleri split numerous times.

The Naugrim (Dwarves) started as seven factions, but then where did the Petty Dwarves come from? They were either one of the seven or an offshoot. But I think this is the closest analogy. Petty Dwarves are to Dwarves as Hobbits are to Humans.

Tolkien could be excessive in his descriptions and details of the humans in his story. From the Hildor (all humans) come the Edain. The Edain were comprised of three groups. Their descendants were the main ethnic groups of Gondor (Boromir), Arnor (Aragorn), and Rohan (Theoden). But what about the men of Dale? What about Beorn? The men of Bree? The men of Dunland? Do any of these have connections to the sons of Bor? Not to mention Rhun, Harad, and Khand nor the Woses.

I find it easy to believe that Hobbits are merely one society of humanity.

But he never stated it as fact. I think he liked a bit of mystery. If someone wants to consider Hobbits a completely separate race, who were in Eru’s song like the Elves and Humans (or even grafted into the plan like the Dwarves and Ents), then I think that is fine. Even Manwe does not know the full plan of Eru.

Just my two cents.
 

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