Talk:Hobbit (word)

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See Talk:Hobbit for previous discussion relating to the "Denham Hobbit". Anárion 19:51, 12 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Title change[edit]

When I created this page I chose the title Hobbit (folklore) because even though there isn't any absolute proof that Hobbits existed in English folklore, the page is concerned with that subject.

Hobbit (Denham) I don't really think is a great title, because although the page currently and necessarily places a heavy emphasis on Denham, his Hobbit in particular isn't really the subject matter of the page. The subject matter is the known existence of Hobbits prior to Tolkien and the alleged existence of Hobbits in English folklore.

Is there some sort of compromise we could come to? --Corvun 02:30, 13 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Fact is there is no trace of pre-Tolkien "Hobbits" anywhere to be found (Tolkien himself searched from 1932 to his death for an alternate source that may have been his inspiration, but nothing was ever found). Therefore the only 'hobbit' outside Tolkien is Denham: it is thus the Denham Hobbit. If Hobbits were part of English folklore, at least one other source should be possible to be found. Anárion 14:29, 13 Nov 2004 (UTC)

The fact is, ever since the publication of The Hobbit there has been speculation as to whether or not Tolkien was the originator of the term. The Denham hobbit is proof that Tolkien was not (although Tolkien almost definitely came up with the term independantly).

I created the Hobbit (folklore) page to deal with the subject of Hobbits as a potential part of English folklore, for which the Hobbit (Denham) is evidence, albeit admittedly poor evidence. That is why there was a heavy (though not exclusive) focus on the Denham example.

If you want to make a separate page to discuss the Denham Hobbit in particular, go ahead. But changing the title of a page with a broader subject matter is, as I see it, just a thinly veiled attempt to draw as much attention as possible from the real issue.

This is not a Tolkien Fansite. This is an encyclopedia. The sort of pro-Tolkien bias that is being painted all over Wikipedia has no place here. Look at the page on Trolls -- it claims that it was Tolkien who introduced them to the Americas! Am I the only Tolkien fan who sees just how far out of hand this whole "Tolkien-mania" is getting? Fact is, he didn't invent hobbits or dwarves or elves or orcs or trolls. He re-invented them, and did so with amazing skill and imagination. --Corvun 16:27, 13 Nov 2004 (UTC)

I moved the page to Hobbit (word). This seems more appropriate considering the article concerns the word itself. —jiy (talk) 22:08, 21 September 2005 (UTC)

Content compromise[edit]

This page looks very much like two POVs bidding for dominance. This is going to be a huge headache for everyone unless we come to some sort of understanding. Here are the facts as I see them:

  • 1. Tolkien was not the first to coin or use the term. Maybe he believed he was, but he wasn't. As far as how the term was used or to what extent is another issue.
  • 2. Tolkien was not the first to use the term in context of a fantastical creature. It's pretty obvious that its inclusion in the Denham Tracts means that it wasn't being used to describe a bicycle horn or some other unrelated item. So it was obviously an elf, faery, gnome, dwarf, goblin, or some other related creature.
  • 3. It was probably small. We can't say for certain, as the "wibbledores" and "boggleboos" and all those other creatures with strange-sounding names from folklore don't seem to have been given their names according to any particular "logic". But, we can infer by "hobbidies" and "hobs" and "hobgoblins" and other such creatures that hobbits were probably also small, even if we can't be 100% positive of this.
  • 4. Hobbits very well may have existed in English folklore. They do appear in a list of such creatures, after all; and a list that predates Tolkien at that (negating any possibility that Tolkien influenced the list). Doesn't mean it's good evidence, only that it's something.
  • 5. There isn't any evidence that Denham made them up. Although that is a possibility, all we can really say for certain is that the list was poorly organized. The list has repititions and that doesn't reflect well on Denham's competence or carefulness, but it doesn't necessarily mean that he made anything up, either.
  • 6. Other early occurences have yet to be proven. This is somewhat related to the issue of Denham's spirits not appearing anywhere else. All we really know is that this is the only occurence surviving until the present-day. There may well have been others that were damaged or destroyed and are lost forever, and there could be some that simply have yet to resurface. The Denham Tracts managed to hide for a very long time.
  • 7. Just as the legitimacy of the Denham list is questionable, we don't know for certain about Tolkien's honesty. I know, I know. It's pretty silly to question Tolkien's honesty or integrity considering what we know about the guy, but this is a legitimate concern (however unlikely it seems). Consider that "Trolls were made in mockery of Ents", an obvious in-joke and probably intended as what we call an "easter egg". If you know your mythology, you'll "get it". It's a remote possibility, but a possibility nonetheless, that Tolkien chose not to be forthcoming about the origins of his hobbits for a similar reason -- not out of malice or "dishonesty", but merely to give his readers something to entertain themselves with when the book was put down.
1: Tolkien believed he was, and no "inspiration" was found in the 40+ years he looked for it.
2: No, it was not an elf, faery etc.: it was a "a class of spirit" (as most of the list, which includes almost a third in repetitions).
3: No evidence from the Denham list. "A class of spirit" is all he had to say about it. "Hobbit" is as likely to be coined from "rabbit" as "hob-" — in "The Hobbit" one of the Trolls refers to Bilbo as a rabbit, in an obvious joke on the word.
4: They appear in one list, one which is not exactly well-researched. If they ARE creatures from English folklore, why does nobody outside Denham remember the name?
5: There is no evidence he did NOT simply set out a list of nonsense names either. With less than a dozen excemptions, the Denham Tracts is a long list of nonsense names, with multiple repetitions (some are doubly repeated), and almost all entries are just "a class of spirit": not even a description is given.
6: Correct.
7: This has to be considered, although there is a lot of evidence Tolkien truely set out to find his "true inspiration" (see his Letters). Anárion 14:29, 13 Nov 2004 (UTC)
1. It doesn't matter if no "inspiration" was found. All that matters to the question of whether or not Tolkien invented hobbits is whether or not hobbits pre-existed Tolkien, not whether or not he was influenced by them. And for this, there is now proof.
2. "No, it was not an elf, faery, etc.: it was a 'class of spirit'..." What do you think elves, faeries, gnomes, etc. were? Toaster ovens??
3. Etymologies rarely have "evidence" outside of simple examination of word construction. Based on the word construction, it can be said (as I pointed out) that the word hobbit probably referred to something small. That doesn't mean definitely or assuredly. It means probably. The "rabbit" joke may have something to do with Tolkien's own perception of the word, but I doubt Tolkien would agree that "hobbit" could've come from "rabbit". It was Tolkien, after all, who, when the "hob" connection appeared too "young" for his stories, created the holblytia etymology.
4. Other people of the time recalled hearing the term elsewhere, but no one could find any solid proof. We now have proof that the word was used at least as far back as the 1890's. But this is not the point. To the question of whether or not Hobbits existed in English folklore, we have them on a pre-Tolkien list of "spirits" from folklore. That's evidence -- not good evidence, but it is evidence.
5. My point still stands: There isn't any evidence that Denham made them up. Although that is a possibility, all we can really say for certain is that the list was poorly organized. Sure he MIGHT have been setting out to create a list of nonsense names. Just like Tolkien MIGHT have lied in his Letters. MIGHT does not mean DID.
7. Which is exactly why this issue should be of importance to Tolkien fans especially, and why I'm so appauled to see so many Tolkien fans trying to down-play the issue, as if wanting to pretend that Tolkien really was the first to invent hobbits. I'm beginning to wonder now if there wasn't other evidence, perhaps even a lot of it, that the Tolkien fans destroyed in order to "defend the faith". Deplorable cultus, indeed. Speaking as a casual Tolkien fan, this "Tolkien-mania" isn't just getting out of hand -- it's getting scary. I've met Trekkies who weren't nearly as bad as some of these Tolkien fans are getting to be.

--Corvun 16:27, 13 Nov 2004 (UTC)

article or essay?[edit]

Am I the only one who feels that this article skirts the line between encyclopedia and OR essay? Its well cited, but seems to be more about compiling sources to prove a conclusion than simply recording a consensus. Wickedjacob (talk) 15:56, 21 June 2012 (UTC)

I don't find it essayish at all, however I've now combined the two Tolkien sections under one headline to present that part as one opposed to the earlier sources. De728631 (talk) 18:10, 21 June 2012 (UTC)

As a diminutive of "hob"[edit]

I might point out that there is an obsolete word hob for "fairy, sprite, elf", apparently (via Middle English hobbe?) from an hypocoristic form of the personal name "Robert" (BTW, the substitution of r with h is curious – the uvular r in French doesn't seem to be old enough to explain that), and moreover there is the suffix -it (as in, well, rabbit), a variant of the diminutive suffix -et, which is again borrowed from French. The conclusion that by the time the word hob was still current (19th century?), at least in dialects, the word hobbit would obviously have been taken to refer to a small spirit-being from folklore in the vein of the "little people", and thus something essentially identical to both Tolkien's hobbits and (likely) the Denham hobbit, presents itself. This could explain why so many people in Tolkien's day thought they had heard this term somewhere before (perhaps even in essentially the same sense): regardless of actual use and attestion, the word was so "up in the air" and obvious (obviously interpretable) as a derivation (diminutive formation) of an old-fashioned word for a mythological spirit-being that those familiar with the word just had to have a déjà vu feeling. (Even for those not familiar with the simple word hob, it could easily be extracted from hobgoblin, as both that word and goblin were still well-known, as they remain to the present day.) It must have sounded familiar and sensible in context. Considering how obvious the formation is, the possibility that it was even actually used somewhere – anywhere – in some dialect at least, or attested (even outside the Denham Tracts), and that (as proposed by the OED) perhaps Tolkien actually did read it somewhere (in the Denham Tracts?) and later thought of it again without remembering that he had seen it mentioned somewhere else before (the phenomenon of unconscious plagiarism or cryptomnesia being well-known and absolutely commonplace), suggests itself as utterly plausible. I have to wonder if Tolkien was himself aware of hob and the suffix -it, and, as a Cambrophile, of the synonymous Welsh unit of measure – it's hard to believe he was not. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 13:33, 10 April 2013 (UTC)

Curiously, the etymology of rabbit from Middle Dutch/Middle Low German robbe recalls Robert again, and the "Welsh hobbit" is paralleled by the famous "Welsh rabbit", though this is mere word-play – which Tolkien might have appreciated nevertheless. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 14:09, 10 April 2013 (UTC)

Homo floresiensis[edit]

Since this article's about the word 'hobbit', perhaps a section should be added about the extension of its meaning to Homo floresiensis (with attendant controversy about copyrights and trademarks)? Q·L·1968 16:48, 18 December 2014 (UTC)

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