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Hobbits Described as Man


Ranger & Student of Lore
Nov 17, 2004
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Hobbits are at times described as a "man" in LOTR and even by Tolkien himself outside the context of the books.

In FOTR I read this quote (emphasis added):

"He turned to go back, and then stopped, for he heard voices, just round the corner by the end of Bagshot Row. One voice was certainly the old Gaffer's; the other was strange; and somehow unpleasant. He could not make out what it said, but he heard the Gaffer's answers, which were rather shrill. The old man seemed put out."

Given that Gaffer means Old Man perhaps this was a nod by Tolkien to the meaning of Hamfast "Gaffer" Gamgee's nickname? That is speculation and I'm not convinced myself Tolkien would do that.


Here is a quote from Tolkien I'm copying from here: https://www.thetolkienforum.com/threads/merry-and-pippins-height.19783/#post-509062

'... to this: Dwarves about 4 foot high at least. Hobbits were lighter in build, but not much shorter; their tallest men were 4 ft. but seldom taller. Though nowadays their survivors are seldom 3 feet high, in the days of the story they were taller which means that they usually exceeded 3 ft. and qualified for the name halfling. But the name halfling must have originated circa TA 1150, getting on for some 2,000 years (1868) before the War of the Ring, during which the dwindling of the Numenoreans had shown itself in stature as well as life-span. So that it referred to a height of full grown males of an average of, say, 3 ft. 5.'

However, Pippin takes exception to being called a man by Gandalf outside the Pelennor.

"'I will vouch for him before the seat of Denethor,' said Gandalf. 'And as for valour, that cannot be computed by stature. He has passed through more battles and perils than you have, Ingold, though you be twice his height; and he comes now from the storming of Isengard, of which we bear tidings, and great weariness is on him, or I would wake him. His name is Peregrin, a very valiant man.'

'Man?' said Ingold dubiously, and the others laughed.

'Man!' cried Pippin, now thoroughly roused. 'Man! Indeed not! I am a hobbit and no more valiant than I am a man, save perhaps now and again by necessity. Do not let Gandalf deceive you!'"

Perhaps the term man is contextual, and that while speaking with other Hobbits, using the term man would simply mean a male hobbit, whereas when speaking with people not familiar with Hobbits (the men of Gondor), Pippin was concerned they would think he was something other than a Hobbit?

A modern corollary would perhaps be the term "guy" where it is sometimes used even when referring to women "hey guys". Even though in a strict sense the female term would be "gal".

Or perhaps this was simply a goof or inconsistency on the part of Tolkien.

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