The Fellowship of the Ring
by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Fellowship of the Ring Race Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph) / (Prologue.Section.Paragraph)
The Harfoots had much to do with Dwarves in ancient times and long lived in the foothills of the mountains. [...] They were the most normal and representative variety of Hobbit, and far the most numerous. They were the most inclined to settle in one place and longest preserved their ancestral habit of living in tunnels and holes.
The Stoors lingered long by the banks of the Great River Anduin, and were less shy of Men. They came west after the Harfoots and followed the course of the Loudwater southwards, and there many of them long dwelt between Tharbad and the borders of Dunland before they moved north again.
The Fallohides, the least numerous, were a northerly branch. They were more friendly with Elves than the other Hobbits were and had more skill in language and song than in handicrafts; and of old they preferred hunting to tilling. (Prologue.1.9-11)
This type of fake scholarly introduction, with lots of rich details about the origins of the people under discussion (the Hobbits) is absolutely typical of Tolkien's style. His trademark is his skill with world creation: he is incredibly obsessive about background detail, and he loves providing histories and genealogies for all of the fictional peoples he creates for Lord of the Rings. It must be the Oxford professor in him coming out.
The genealogical trees at the end of the Red Book of Westmarch are a small book in themselves, and all but Hobbits would find them exceedingly dull. Hobbits delighted in such things, if they were accurate: they liked to have books filled with things that they already knew, set out fair and square with no contradictions. (Prologue.1.23)
We get plenty of suggestions that Hobbits as a people are (to put it kindly) unimaginative, and (to put it cruelly) stupid. This is the flip side of their extremely peaceful natures: they are also self-satisfied, self-centered, and generally suspicious of anything new or inventive. Hobbits love studying "things that they already [know], set out fair and square with no contradictions." But avoiding contradictions sometimes also means avoiding broader truths. Much of the Lord of the Rings is dedicated to the difficult choices that arise in the fight between good and evil. Frodo, Merry, Pippin, and Sam have to leave the Shire to learn these lessons; that's because the Shire, for all of its positive qualities, also resists both change and ambiguity.
The singing drew nearer. One clear voice rose now above the others. It was singing in the fair elven-tongue, of which Frodo knew only a little, and the others knew nothing. Yet the sound blending with the melody seemed to shape itself in their thought into words which they only partly understood. This was the song as Frodo heard it:
Snow-white! Snow-white! O Lady clear!
O Queen beyond the Western Seas!
O Light to us that wander here
Amid the world of woven trees! (1.3.117)
When Bilbo first encounters the Elves in Rivendell, he knows them not by sight (since they're hidden by trees), but by sound: the whole valley is full of Elves singing. And Frodo and Bilbo, the two Hobbits most associated with Elves, are also the Hobbits most likely to burst into song at any moment. The Elves' love of singing associates them with poetry and stories: the verbal arts. And since J.R.R. Tolkien was a scholar of Old English, Old Norse, and Middle English sagas and ballads, we know he loves words. No wonder he seems to admire the Elves so particularly: they are the poets of Middle-earth.