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Essentially, short people, usually Muggles, native to a fantastic world. It is easy to assume hobbits are stand-ins for humans, since they lack magic or other flashy gimmicks. Paradoxically, this can make them seem more like "modern" humans than the humans in their settings.
They are usually a small, "innocent" version of people who only want to enjoy life without big plans or complications. They just get thrown into the world rather suddenly and have to survive on their wits and luck. They occasionally are the ones to get the Golden Snitch.
Hobbits also tend to be small, possibly to make younger audiences easily identify with them. It is an easy way to make them seem less threatening to other characters. Jerks will get frustrated with them. If your cast is otherwise filled with fantastic and lordly people, you know people who treat them nicely are actually good at heart.
If the heroes encounter an entire town of Hobbits, it is to protect such a place from encroaching forces of evil.
While The Lord of the Rings has defined the modern interpretation of most of the races in fantasy fiction, hobbits are unique in the sense that they were nearly completely Tolkien's own creation, and were adopted to other fantasy worlds from there (notably Dungeons & Dragons, where they were called halflings to avoid lawsuit.)
Anime & Manga
- The Grassrunners from Record of Lodoss War fill the halfling niche, but have a bit of The Fair Folk about them as well: Maar, the heroes' token smallfellow, has a playful exterior but is capable of treachery and subterfuge and sometimes wields magic underhandedly. The Grassrunners are separate from Halflings in the published RPG, though.
- Magic the Gathering
- When designing the Lorwyn block, a fairytale setting that focuses heavily on the races and jobs of creatures, the design team didn't feel quite ready to make a card that cared about the "Human" type. Their solution? The kithkin, who are -- take a guess -- short, quick villager-types. They are a bit more fighty than the standard model, but this is Magic: The Gathering we are talking about, non-fighty groups don't get cards printed. (For the sake of originality they threw in a dash of dwarf as well. The actual dwarves of Lorwyn are called Duergars.) Kithkin actually originated a decade earlier in Legends with the card Amrou Kithkin... which in design was named "Hobbit".
- Magic also has two kithkin cultures that diverge from the standard Hobbit theme: The kithkin of Amrou on the world of Dominaria are close-knit nomads in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, while those of Shadowmoor (a sort of Bizarro-Lorwyn) are violently xenophobic castle-dwellers with unnaturally large, blank eyes and a Hive Mind.
- They're only in a post-apocalyptic wasteland after the apocalypse. They debuted on a card in Legends (which in design was called "Hobbit"), although they weren't seen again until Time Spiral.
Films -- Animation
- The Hobbit (animated) is the source of the trope image, of course.
Films -- Live-Action
- The Nelwyns from the 1988 fantasy film Willow, made by Ron Howard and George Lucas. Although an otherwise straight example, Willow himself takes on the Big Bad on in the end and wins. Although this is through a bluff about his level of power (and some practiced sleight-of-hand), by the end of the sequel novels (a.k.a. the Shadow trilogy) he is probably the most powerful mortal magic user in the setting. He retires; having decided it's Lonely At the Top and goes back to his community.
- The Gelflings from the movie The Dark Crystal are equal parts elf and hobbit. Gelfling women actually have fairy-like wings. The Podlings in the same movie are a more traditional example.
- Although considerably furrier than usual, the Ewoks of Star Wars certainly count.
- The trope name comes from the race of small people who act as surrogates for middle-class Englishmen in the works of JRR Tolkien. (Just in case you've been living under a rock for the past eighty years.) Part of the reason is Hobbits were originally created for The Hobbit only; in the early drafts they were even more like modern humans (Bilbo owns a clock, all the hobbits have "normal" surnames and given names even in LOTR). Frodo's friends occasionally grumble how Hobbits are left out of most legendary stories they've heard, which some fans have taken as a reference to how difficult it might have been for Tolkien to bring them in line with a larger epic fantasy.
However, this trope is also subverted somewhat by Tolkien's description of Hobbits seeming soft because they lead comfortable lives, not that they're inherently weak. Much like Englishmen, they are just about as likely to be adventurous (Frodo's crew) as they are to be assholes (Lotho Sackville-Baggins). Early role-playing games featuring halflings banked on Tolkien's description that used to wander from place to place and that their skill in games and sports has a lot to do with being pretty tough.
Hobbits within the Tolkien mythology are also curiously resistant to the effects of The Corruption caused by Sauron's powers, particularly the One Ring. Hobbits were the only ones capable of handling the One Ring without being completely ensnared by its power, though they aren't immune to its effects; for example, Smeagol/Gollum was consumed by the One Ring's power when he found it, and at the climax of The Return Of The King the One Ring is able to prevent Frodo from throwing it into Mount Doom. Not to underrate their resistance, however. Only two beings to possess the One Ring have EVER voluntarily given it up, and both were Hobbits.
** Not quite. Tom Bombadil also gave it up voluntarily (it actually had no effect on him whatsoever) and Eru only knows what he is!
The immunity of the Hobbits was due to their upbringing causing most of them to think small and only reach for what was close at hand. This relative lack of ambition (compared to the other sentient races) meant that the One Ring didn't have a lot to tempt them with -- Sam saw himself making the entire realm into his garden, which even he thought was too far out. Of course, there were exceptions and in the end Frodo may have been vulnerable due to a less sheltered upbringing from his uncle Bilbo's influence. Bilbo himself had rather benign inclinations even after feeling the Ring's influence.
- Hilariously parodied by the Boggies of Bored of the Rings where they are gluttonous, cowardly, slovenly, and slothful. And mentally handicapped even by the standards of the setting.
- The Warrows from Dennis L. McKiernan's Mithgar books fit Tolkien's Hobbit mold (one of them is even named Pippin!), although they tend to be more adventurous than Tolkien's Hobbits and were more quick to defend themselves, having a well-organized militia.
- The Witcher plays them entirely straight... with a small helping of Beware the Nice Ones.
- The Crimson Shadow series has halflings. Especially the awesome character of Oliver deBurrows.
- David Weber's WarGod series plays up the thieving, cowardly image for its version of Halflings. Except the Marfang Islander halflings who are brilliant sailors and brave to what the other races consider reckless insanity. They've all got small horns on their foreheads as well to set them apart physically.
- The Fiia of Ursula K. LeGuin's Rocannon's World fit this trope to a T, being a small child-like race that just wants to enjoy a simple communal life free of care and fear.
- The Athsheans of The Word for World is Forest are also something like this (they are assumed to look rather like Ewoks, only green). They're a peaceful bunch until humans turn up.
- Jody Lynn Nye's An Unexpected Apprentice features the race of "smallfolk", who are Tolkien's hobbits in all but name. The sole difference that This Troper can see is that instead of having large, hairy feet, the smallfolk have no toes.
- Subverted by Michael de Larrabeti in his Borribles novels, in which the eponymous human-offshoots are urbanized, adventurous, scruffy, and tough; they live in a world much like ours, but with fantastical elements. They share stereotypical hobbits' small size, stealthiness, distaste for authorities, compassion for animals, and tendency to steal whatever's not nailed down.
- The Minnipins in Carol Kendall's The Gammage Cup. Their short stature is not really made clear until they encounter (presumably) regular-sized humans in the sequel.
- In "The Halfling House", Dennis L. McKiernan's contribution to the Tolkien tribute-anthology After the King, various examples of this trope meet up at a wayhouse reserved for little folk, along with some smaller members of The Fair Folk. Some are named, while others are Brand X-style imports from the sources listed above.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- "Halflings" started life as Tolkien's Hobbits with the serial numbers filed off; indeed, the game originally used "hobbit" back in the 1970s, but Tolkien Enterprises (the independent company in charge of licensed materials, no association with Christoper Tolkien) waved its lawyers at TSR and the term was changed. Traditionally, halflings are separated into three subraces, all transparent Captains Ersatz of Tolkien's three strains of hobbits: the standard hairfoots, the forest-dwelling tallfellows, and the crafty stouts or deep halflings.
- Starting with Third Edition, halflings got a major overhaul and became much less Tolkienesque; in the process becoming more adventurous and less innocent; the default subrace became the lightfoots, who were portrayed not as jovial homebodies but tricksy nomads some have alleged to being unfortunately similar to gypsies. Over time they have physically become "sexier" and less hobbitlike, to the point that some now see them as short elves. The "cuter", more provincial traits of the "old" halflings were mostly given to the gnomes, who were described as living in cozy burrow-towns.
- Eberron took it even further; some halflings are dinosaur-riding barbarians, even though they still get the inoffensive dragonmarks.
- Nowhere went further than Dark Sun, which featured savage, jungle-dwelling cannibal halflings -- about as far from Tolkien's hobbits as you can get. Not to mention genetically engineering near universal mutation of every creature. Creating magic based on either killing the world, or killing people en-masse. Actively orchestrating the extinction of any other sentient race. And doing all this to fix the problem of having brutally screwed the world up in the first place. Except not really. The spoilered bit above was mostly the work of the setting's Bigger Bad, Rajaat, who was himself the sole evil member of a race of mystical caretakers of the world (not halflings). He did intend for halflings (Athas's first sentients) to be the sole surviving humanoid species, but they themselves had no idea, and his main pawns were humans. The only thing halflings had to do with is about a third of the mutation bit, which gave rise to other intelligent beings after a major SNAFU that destroyed their first civilization.
- Even in Second Edition, the Dragonlance setting's version of hobbits were the Kender, a race of adventurous kleptomaniacs.
- Mystara's halflings have some well-hidden magical aptitudes that work only in their homeland, which explains why such little guys haven't been conquered recently. They kick out their misfits and thugs (yes, there are such things), who head off to become swashbuckling pirates. These things happen when you let Ed Greenwood write your country's game supplement.
- Halflings in Ravenloft tend to follow the Tolkien model of settled stay-at-homes, as they're the most tolerated demihumans in the Land of Mists and prefer not to rock the boat. Plus, y'know, it's Ravenloft, so unless you're a Vistani, living like a gypsy is bound to get you eaten by something out there on the roads at night.
- Birthright had its own twist on Halflings, they were refugees from the World of Shadow, a Mirror World inhabited by the dead and The Fair Folk (of which they were a subrace).
- Fourth Edition splits the difference, with Halflings being half thieving nomads and and half simple Louisiana-style bayou and swamp-dwelling rednecks. Really.
- The Pathfinder campaign world "Obsidian Twilight" has halflings who are essentially garbage-dwelling CHUDs. For some reason.
- The strain of Abhuman in Warhammer 40000 called Ratlings fit the bill as Space Hobbits, but they don't get much play in the lore or game. Mostly, they serve in the Imperial Guard as cooks, quartermasters, and snipers.
- The version in Warhammer Fantasy are much closer to Tolkien's Hobbits, although they are technically part of the Empire and their land is not so well-protected. They're stereotyped as being either thieves or excellent cooks.
- Old World of Darkness
- Changeling: The Dreaming features boggans, a kith of short, sociable folk who are very good at craftwork and reading any social gathering and understanding all the connections therein.
- Changeling: The Lost has some Wizened kiths with similar abilities, though overall the seeming has more in common with gnomes.
- The Matoran of Bionicle. They have no powers to speak of in a world where superpowers are the norm and Applied Phlebotinum is used on a daily basis. They are, however, extremely hardy and can take pretty much whatever the world throws at them. Their personalities, though, can range from the hot-headed Fire tribe to the cool, collected Ice tribe, and from the wise, sensible Earth tribe to the fun-loving Air tribe. They do most of the manual labor in their world and are often overlooked by more Genre Blind villains. They can also be transformed into Toa, Bionicle's default hero, by Power Crystals, space lightning, or the Powers That Be, usually Because Destiny Says So.
- Final Fantasy
- Two subversions in the metaseries. In XI, the tiny Tarutaru are actually the game's best spellcasters, while in Crystal Chronicles, Lilties are hardcore fighters who nearly took over the land in ages past.
- Moogles from the Ivalice Alliance count, too.
- Final Fantasy XIV has the Lalafell, who are an Expy of the Tarutaru. Though, race has no mechanical effect in XIV.
- Grunts of Halo can generally be thought of this way. They're shorter than all the others, standing at a mere five feet, and are mostly for comic relief and they suck at fighting.
- Hurthlings in Ancient Domains of Mystery are mostly this. Short, stealthy, good archers, and have Cooking skill for free. Also they, like Tolkienesque ones, dislike footwear -- i.e., move faster without boots of any kind.
- Hobbits are less than gracefully shoehorned into Lufia: The Ruins of Lore.
- The Kokiri of The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time live hundreds of years but never mature past childhood. They are able to live comfortably and innocently in their Lost Woods because of their steward, the Deku Tree.
- Ultima had the Bobbit race as more or less a direct Expy of Tolkien's creation, with an aptitude for classes which required Wisdom. Subverted in that they were wiped out during the cataclysm that followed Exodus' defeat.
- The Halflings of Arcanum of Steamworks and Magick Obscura are basically Hobbits. You meet a Halfling adventurer who states that there are very few like him.
- The Halflings in Age of Wonders are a variety of Hobbits. They value happiness above all, but as its definition varies by individual, they include selfless priests and eccentric pranksters and roguish adventurers. And then they mark the Hidden Depths box when they join Keepers en masse, not for gain, revenge or even necessity, but simply a place in songs and a chance to do a good deed.
- Wombats in Digger are sensible, practical, and Nay Theist, very much different from every other race introduced. The protagonist gets lost and finds herself in a world full of magic and gods: Culture Clash ensues.
- There's a side in Erfworld called "Hobbit™". It's unknown what type of units it has, or if Tolkien Enterprises will be undeterred by the Tradesnark and press charges.
- The Order of the Stick subverts nearly all Hobbit tropes with Belkar, the textbook Heroic Comedic Sociopath and only evil protagonist. He still uses Halfling racial abilities to his advantage, though. Except for the weapons shrinkage *snicker*. Played relatively more straight with Hank or Serini, though.
Belkar's (former) Shoulder Angel: He's a halfling. He's supposed to be jolly...
- In an episode of Dexters Laboratory, Dexter, DeeDee and three other guys are playing a Captain Ersatz of Dungeons & Dragons, and DeeDee gives Dexter a character named "Hodo the Furry-Footed Burrower", who actualy digs tunnels à la Bugs Bunny. And his only "weapon" is his deadly... mandolin?
- The Kiwi in Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers are a cheerful, easy-going bunch who stand roughly a meter high, and specialize in agricultural technology. They also seem unusually hard to rattle or scare. Of course, if you get them to the fighting point, they turn out to be a case of Beware the Nice Ones.
- The Trobbits in Blackstar clearly get their name as a combination of "troll" and "hobbit." Their depiction, though, probably owes more to Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs.
- The Prairie People on Bravestarr.