Amazon Studios The Rings of Power is six months away. We want all Spoilerites to have the best viewing experience possible and have the widest knowledge base about the Second Age of Middle-Earth. This is a weekly Let’s Get Nerdy article series highlighting a different piece of Tolkien I think you need to know about!
In past articles I have answered the question:
This week is all about Harfoots. If you watched my Super Bowl trailer reaction video you heard me use the phrase “Harfoots are proto-Hobbits” which is a phrase I stand by and I will now ake the opportunity to explain.
Ashley V. Robinson is the biggest Lord of the Rings fan in the entire Universe. What does she think of the Rings of Power trailer that debuted during the big…
To fully wrap your head around this, think of the word “Hobbit” as being equivalent to the word “Human”. There are subgroups of humans the same way there are subgroups of hobbits. So, Harfoots are Hobbits, but we think of hobbits as being specific to the culture of the Shire in the Bilbo-and-Frodo-Baggins lifestyle.
What are the other two breeds?
I’m so pleased you asked!
Stoors and Fallohides.
More on them later, probably.
As is the tradition among the hobbits we know, harfoots don’t wear shoes. The hairy feet are on proud display at all time. Fun fact: “hobbit” is based on an ancient English word for “rabbit”. Rabbits have large, hairy feet the same way the folks who live under The Hill do. There’s also an etymology that “hobbit” means “hole-dweller” – please visualize Bag End now.
The word “harfoot” specifically means “ones with hairy feet”.
What distinguishes harfoots from the rest of their fellow hobbits is their dark skin. They are known to be of darker complexion than other hobbits. They are also described as being much smaller of stature – perhaps explaining Pippin Took’s noted small frame before he encounters the Ents of Fangorn Forest – and without facial hair. Although modern Tolkien fans probably think of all hobbits as being without facial hair due to their on-screen portrayals, like the dwarves, hobbits are well-known for having beards they are very proud of and care for with aplomb.
Harfoots lived at the foot of the Misty Mountains. As a matter of geography they had healthy working
relationships with the dwarves who lived in the same mountain range. I’ve always liked to think of there as being a direct line between the relationships of the harfoots and the dwarves to Bilbo Baggins and his companions in The Unexpected Party. To put it in comic book terms, this is absolutely a retcon because The Silmarillion was written post The Hobbit, however I think it is so well and deftly done I’m not as bothered by it as I have been at other retcons.
Harfoots were the first hobbits to enter Arnor (the kingdom of humans), and also developed a friendly relationship with the Dúnedain. In macrocosm, the way Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin eventually develop a devoted friendship with Aragorn during the events of The Lord of the Rings. Further to the hobbits/Aragorn relationship – the harfoots settled all the way to Weathertop. You will have heard Weathertop being referred to as “Amon Sûl” by Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring when he leaves the hobbits to sleep for the night and they light a fire, drawing the Ringwraiths to them, leading to Frodo being stabbed by the Witch King.
The Dúnedain were the first to name the harfoots as “halflings” a word which, by the events of The Lord of the Rings, feels interchangeable with “hobbits”.
Over a couple hundred more years harfoots settled in and around the village of Bree where, I believe, most casual Lord of the Rings fan associate with being the closest human settlement to the idyllic bubble of the Shire. It was during this same time of migration and expansion the other two hobbit subgroups (the aforementioned Stoors and Fallohides), joined them living in Middle-Earth. Together they found The Shire in the image of J.R.R. Tolkien’s early childhood in the English countryside, largely populated by harfoots.
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