Hobbit

Hundreds of papers have been written on “hobbit”, a measurement of about two and a half bushels, and I can add little more.  As Tolkien used it, the word has its own glorious OED entry:

  In the tales of J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973): one of an imaginary people, a small variety of the human race, that gave themselves this name (meaning ‘hole-dweller’) but were called by others halflings, since they were half the height of normal men.

Tolkien gives the etymology thus:

1955   J. R. R. Tolkien Return of King 416   Hobbit is an invention. In the Westron the word used, when this people was referred to at all, was banakil ‘halfling’. But..the folk of the Shire and of Bree used the word kuduk… It seems likely that kaduk was a worn-down form of kûd-dûkan [= ‘hole-dweller’]. The latter I have translated..by holbytla [‘hole-builder’]; and hobbit provides a word that might well be a worn-down form of holbytla, if the name had occurred in our own ancient language.

Just a few demographics.  The word “hobbit” appears 173 times in the text.  Forty two of those times is in Chapter One – 24% of the instances.  Chapter 14 does not include the word “hobbit”.  Twenty one of these mentions are Tolkien’s famous hyphenated words:

  • 01.001 there lived a hobbit.
  • 01.001 it was a hobbit-hole,
  • 01.002 the hobbit was fond of visitors.
  • 01.002 No going upstairs for the hobbit:
  • 01.003 This hobbit was a very well-to-do hobbit,
  • 01.003 This hobbit was a very well-to-do hobbit,
  • 01.004 The mother of our particular hobbit –
  • 01.004 what is a hobbit?
  • 01.004 I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays,
  • 01.004 Hobbits have no beards.
  • 01.004 the mother of this hobbit –
  • 01.004 head of the hobbits who lived across The Water,
  • 01.004 not entirely hobbitlike about them,
  • 01.005 built the most luxurious hobbit-hole for her
  • 01.005 in the beautiful hobbit-hole built by his father,
  • 01.006 since they were all small hobbit-boys
  • 01.006 and hobbit-girls.
  • 01.006 and the hobbits were still numerous
  • 01.006 and the hobbits had almost forgotten what he looked like.
  • 01.012 and gazing at the hobbit without saying anything,
  • 01.021 With that the hobbit turned
  • 01.023 on the hobbit’s beautiful green front-door.
  • 01.028 said the hobbit,
  • 01.030 Excuse me!’ said the hobbit,
  • 01.043 as if some naughty little hobbit-boy was trying to pull the handle off.
  • 01.046 The poor little hobbit sat down
  • 01.046 so the hobbit was kept very busy for a while.
  • 01.047 but a hard rat-tat on the hobbit’s beautiful green door.
  • 01.057 as the hobbit stumped off to the pantries.
  • 01.063 while the hobbit ran after them almost squeaking with fright:
  • 01.068 while the hobbit was turning round
  • 01.070 and very far from his hobbit-hole under The Hill.
  • 01.083 the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things
  • 01.085 that he guessed both halves of the hobbit’s mind.
  • 01.090 and audacious hobbit –
  • 01.090 and for a polite remark from the hobbit,
  • 01.092 the poor little hobbit could be seen kneeling on the hearth-rug,
  • 01.094 poetical exaggeration applied to any hobbit,
  • 01.094 (for a hobbit)
  • 01.095 It is all very well for Gandalf to talk about this hobbit being fierce,
  • 01.110 He was only a little hobbit you must remember.
  • 01.110 and only of hobbit-holes).
  • 01.142 The hobbit had to find room for them all,
  • 02.028 At first they had passed through hobbit-lands,
  • 02.030 never turning round or taking any notice of the hobbit.
  • 02.033 (who shared the hobbit’s views about regular meals,
  • 02.041 said Thorin to the hobbit.
  • 02.042 But at any rate hobbits can move quietly
  • 02.054 a hobbit,” said poor Bilbo,
  • 02.060 yer nassty little rabbit,” said he looking at the hobbit’s furry feet;
  • 02.114 but it was as good as a short sword for the hobbit.
  • 03.004 in his hobbit-hole,
  • 03.019 “Just look! Bilbo the hobbit on a pony,
  • 03.031 right back to his hobbit-hole without trouble.
  • 03.041 asked the hobbit full of excitement.
  • 04.001 and the hobbit,
  • 04.002 and his little hobbit-hole.
  • 04.015 as loud a yell as a hobbit can give,
  • 04.017 and again for his nice bright hobbit-hole.
  • 04.040 He made the hobbit scramble on his shoulders
  • 04.045 “Why, O why did I ever leave my hobbit-hole!”
  • 04.046 bring a wretched little hobbit
  • 04.051 and the hobbit rolled off his shoulders into the blackness,
  • 05.008 Hobbits are not quite like ordinary people;
  • 05.016 The hobbit jumped nearly out of his skin
  • 05.022 and the hobbit,
  • 05.049 said the hobbit shivering.
  • 05.058 That made the hobbit most dreadfully uncomfortable
  • 05.120 Bilbo behind going as softly as a hobbit can.
  • 05.127 He could not see the hobbit,
  • 05.130 and grabbed as the hobbit flew over him,
  • 05.133 It was not too difficult for the hobbit,
  • 05.145 and the poor little hobbit dodged this way
  • 06.024 and the hobbit wondered if he guessed
  • 06.030 (even the hobbit had never forgotten the magic fireworks
  • 06.034 in answer to more questions from the hobbit.
  • 06.035 Just think of that for a hobbit!
  • 06.041 (like the little hobbit)
  • 06.045 with tall fronds rising right above the hobbit’s head;
  • 06.060 and their dreadful clamour almost made the hobbit fall
  • 06.090 when you are only the size of a hobbit,
  • 07.005 and at last the hobbit opened his eyes again.
  • 07.014 (carrying the hobbit)
  • 07.030 taking the frightened hobbit with him.
  • 07.032 and the hobbit pushed open the heavy creaking gate
  • 07.038 at the hobbit
  • 07.039 a hobbit of good family
  • 07.052 But these aren’t hobbits,
  • 07.057 the hobbit
  • 07.067 and grabbed the hobbit
  • 07.079 and found that there was no hobbit.
  • 07.082 and the hobbit that was lost.
  • 07.082 when he heard of the hobbit’s reappearance
  • 07.113 where the hobbit
  • 07.120 The hobbit felt quite crushed,
  • 07.121 He picked up the hobbit
  • 07.134 and it seemed to the hobbit that a silence began to draw
  • 07.148 groaned the hobbit.
  • 08.004 but the hobbit,
  • 08.007 for what seemed to the hobbit ages upon ages;
  • 08.027 back to the far bank?’ asked the hobbit.
  • 08.045 and what is the use of sending a hobbit!’
  • 08.047 The last thing that he remembered was the party at the hobbit’s house,
  • 08.064 and they simply could not find the hobbit.
  • 08.064 Hobbit!
  • 08.064 You dratted hobbit!
  • 08.064 Hi! hobbit, confusticate you,
  • 08.065 and he found it was the hobbit curled up fast asleep.
  • 08.074 of his far-distant hobbit-hole
  • 08.080 Hobbits are clever at quietness,
  • 08.093 and swinging towards the hobbit,
  • 08.099 Very soon the hobbit would be caught
  • 08.103 after the hobbit
  • 08.107 and then he did his best to help the hobbit,
  • 08.125 if it had not been for the hobbit;
  • 08.129 and the hobbit.
  • 08.145 in which the hobbit again showed his usefulness.
  • 09.002 they never found or counted the hobbit.
  • 09.003 and the hobbit had just time
  • 09.012 in my hobbit-hole
  • 09.014 with the hobbit on the other side.
  • 09.015 hearing how the hobbit had rescued his companions
  • 09.026 in crept the hobbit.
  • 09.028 said the hobbit.
  • 09.035 So following the hobbit,
  • 09.056 not even for a hobbit,
  • 10.010 It was some time before he would be even polite to the hobbit.
  • 10.012 and helped the hobbit as well as he could.
  • 10.018 and the hobbit
  • 10.039 the dwarves’ good feeling towards the little hobbit
  • 11.010 said the hobbit.
  • 11.014 and the hobbit went back one day
  • 11.020 in his hobbit-hole,
  • 11.021 The hobbit was no longer much brighter than the dwarves.
  • 11.022 and his hobbit-hole under it.
  • 11.032 the hobbit standing by the grey stone,
  • 12.002 and a hobbit full of courage
  • 12.005 who was rather fond of the hobbit.
  • 12.007 when the hobbit crept through the enchanted door
  • 12.008 Then the hobbit slipped on his ring,
  • 12.008 and warned by the echoes to take more than hobbit’s care
  • 12.008 Already he was a very different hobbit
  • 12.012 Through it peeps the hobbit’s little head.
  • 12.014 so that the hobbit could see his underparts
  • 12.017 while the little hobbit toiled back up the long tunnel.
  • 12.018 Balin was overjoyed to see the hobbit again,
  • 12.034 they began to grumble at the hobbit,
  • 12.062 hobbit-smell;
  • 12.071 and imagined that the hobbit had come to a sudden
  • 12.076 that the hobbit had already caught a glimpse
  • 12.082 But the hobbit was worried
  • 13.007 whispered the hobbit,
  • 13.008 compare with the hobbit
  • 13.008 that the hobbit came to the opening unexpectedly,
  • 13.016 and though that helped the hobbit
  • 13.018 They saw the little dark shape of the hobbit
  • 13.037 was set upon the hobbit’s head.
  • 13.044 for hobbit-legs,
  • 13.054 asked the hobbit.
  • 13.056 grumbled the hobbit.
  • 15.035 in Bilbo’s little hobbit-hole.
  • 16.017 in the dark was not easy for the little hobbit.
  • 16.021 Are you the dwarves’ hobbit?
  • 16.025 A hobbit
  • 16.039 said the hobbit uncomfortably.
  • 17.014 You miserable hobbit!
  • 18.014 and leading the hobbit he took him within the tent.
  • 18.047 O hobbit?’
  • 19.027 through which the hobbit strolled along contentedly.
  • 19.033 You are not the hobbit that you were.’
  • 19.036 of Bag-End, Underhill, Hobbiton.
  • 19.037 in his nice hobbit-hole so very much.
  • 19.038 by all the hobbits of the neighbourhood
  • 19.041 a Hobbit’s Holiday’ –

“hobbet | hobbit, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 3 June 2015.

“hobbit, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 3 June 2015.

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