The Legendarium of J.R.R. Tolkien is one of the largest and best fictional universes ever and probably the best fantasy universe in history. Tolkien put a lot of effort in creating his fictional universe and the meticulous nature of his work is one of the chief reasons why he is so popular even today. Tolkien’s world is a true system that could easily have existed in some parallel reality, thanks to the fact that Tolkien created it in a way that it had all the necessary elements of a real universe, despite being fictional. In today’s article, we are going to talk about one of those elements – two races from the Legendarium, races that are similar, but still very different, although both of them play a large role in the larger lore of the Legendarium. They are the Dwarves and the Hobbits and we are going to tell you the similarities and the differences between these two races.
Although relatively similar in appearance, Dwarves and Hobbits are two distinct races with a different history. They do share some traits (especially in the cultural sense), but they are mostly very different despite not being enemies like the Dwarves and the Elves.
We’ll start off our article with a brief introduction to both the Dwarves and the Hobbits. Then, we are going to give you a comparison of the two races so you can observe all the differences and the similarities between them. It promises to be a fun journey so stick with us until the end.
About the Dwarves
Dwarves are one of the fictional races inhabiting Middle-earth, within the Legendarium of author J. R. R. Tolkien. They are sturdy creatures of small stature, distinguished by their talents as blacksmiths, miners and builders. They are less prominent in the accounts than Men and Elves, and often oppose the latter, sometimes with violence.
Dwarves are small humanoid creatures, presumably between four and five feet tall (between 120 and 150 centimetres). They are tough, make excellent fighters, and are endowed with great resistance to hunger and pain. Their average life expectancy is 250 years. An important aspect of their physique is their beard, which they never shave and which is worn by both men and women. The Dwarves are a proud, withdrawn and secretive people, but they sometimes teach their knowledge to other peoples with whom they have good relations, most often commercial. This is the case of the Gray Elves of Beleriand in the First Age or the Men of the Rhovanion in the Second Age.
Since they live mainly underground, the Dwarves are not very keen on agriculture and herding, preferring to trade with other races to obtain these goods. They are said to be loyal friends, but resentful and stubborn adversaries, who never forget an insult or a good deed. Their avarice is also famous and forms one of their weak points, by which they are corruptible, as the example of the Rings of Power shows. The Dwarves mine and work the precious metals and stone found in the mountains of Middle-earth with consummate talent, from their designer, Aulë. At the start of the Fourth Age, it is they who reforge the gates of Minas Tirith. Gandalf describes gold and precious stones as the toys of the Dwarves and iron as their servant – no one, not even the Ñoldor, surpasses them in the tempering of steel. The metal they most cherish is the extremely rare mithril, which is only exploited in Khazad-Deum.
Dwarves are also great blacksmiths, forgers of many renowned weapons, such as Narsil, the sword of Elendil, which is forged by Telchar of Nogrod, or Angrist, the dagger that Beren takes from Curufin and uses to extract a Silmaril from the Iron Crown of Morgoth. Dwarves are renowned for their predilection for the ax, but they also employ swords and bows.
Dwarf women have rarely been seen by other races, as they rarely leave Dwarf towns and look so much like their husbands, beards included, that it is impossible to tell them apart. The only known female Dwarf is Dís, the sister of Thorin II Oakenshield, renowned for the bravery of her sons Fíli and Kíli, who died during the Battle of the Five Armies while defending their uncle. Some Men, therefore, believe that Dwarves are born of stone, and that when they die, they return to stone, but that is false. Dwarves make up only one third of the total population, and barely one third of male dwarves enter into a marriage, which is indissoluble. The others, whether they want a Dwarf already married or they love their job too much to consider getting married, remain single. The growth of the Dwarf population is therefore very slow, and if a catastrophe befalls it, its survival is in danger – it is a safe bet that the battle of Azanulbizar, although it was a Dwarf victory, caused a demographic catastrophe.
About the Hobbits
The Hobbits, also called Halflings or Periannath, are one of fictional races inhabiting Middle-earth in the Legendarium of British writer J. R. R. Tolkien. They first appear in The Hobbit and are mentioned in The Silmarillion, but their story is told primarily in The Lord of the Rings novels or, more specifically, in the prologue dedicated to the Hobbits and their country, The Shire.
The main physical characteristic that distinguishes Hobbits is their small size, which, as Tolkien writes, is between two and four feet (0.61–1.22 m) tall, the average height being three feet six inches (107 cm). Because of their size, they are called Halflings by the Men of Gondor and Periannath in Sindarin. The other particular physical characteristics of the Hobbits are their abundant hairiness on the top of their feet, their complete absence of beard, their curly and often brown hair, and their slightly pointed ears, like those of the Elves. Hobbits come of age at 33 and live an average of 80 years, but it is not uncommon for a Hobbit to exceed 100 years. Old Took lived to be 130 years old and Bilbo Baggins lived was at least 131 years old at the time of his death. They also usually have a ruddy, round and open face, due to their penchant for food, drink and a sedentary life.
Their diet is based on six meals a day in abundant quantities. They especially enjoy beer and pipe smoking, an art that, according to the legendary Tolkien, they themselves invented before teaching it to the Men of Middle-earth. Hobbits do not need to use shoes, since their feet are covered with natural layer of leather-like skin that protects them. They are skilled with their hands and they devote themselves mainly to agriculture, because of the fertility and abundance of the Shire. Before inhabiting these lands, the Hobbits used to speak the languages used by the Men with whom they were in contact. However, after their journey through Eriador, they adopted the Common Language, Westernian, learned from the Dúnedain, although they retain words from an earlier language very similar to Rohirric.
They are used to living in holes which they dig in the ground and which they equip like a normal house. Depending on the wealth of the family, the house may have none, one or more windows, round, as well as the door. The wealthier Hobbits build more luxurious versions of these holes, called smials, like branching tunnels. Among the biggest smials are Bag End in Hobbiton and Brandyhall in Fertébouc. Hobbits also build houses above the ground, but they are little used.
Hobbits are also characterized by their kind and peaceful nature, they hate wars. They are not used to wielding weapons for fighting, but rather use them as decorations for their houses. They are good people, lovers of pipe weed, beer and good food. They are welcoming but often hide from strangers. They are very hospitable and organize parties for any occasion. They are generous and, for them, receiving a gift is a real pleasure. They love to feast so much that they often sit down to dinner six times a day. They are very skilled with their hands and make all forms of tools, furniture or ornaments for their comfort. They are always happy and also like to adorn themselves in very bright colors such as yellow or green. The Hobbit population is largely made up of manual labourers, and remains very poor in scholars, if not for genealogy experts, of whom they are very fond.
The differences and similarities between the Dwarves and the Hobbits
In this section, we are going to present you the differences and similarities between these two races based on several categories, so keep reading.
Dwarves and Hobbits are smaller than Men and Elves, while Dwarves are slightly taller than Hobbits. They are very strong and have excellent durability. They have heavy legs and can make a loud noise while walking. Their natural lifespan is around 250 years, but some Dwarves can live even longer. Dwarves are quite hairy, with both men and women having beards from early childhood.
As for Hobbits, most of them are 3 to 4 feet tall. They are particularly light and quiet while walking, which they often use to their advantage. This is in part why Gandalf selected Bilbo as the “thief” in The Hobbit. Most Hobbits are completely hairless, with only a small number of Hobbits having small fluffs on their beards. They usually don’t wear shoes or boots because the soles of their feet are thick and covered with curly hair, both of which act as protection. Hobbits usually around 90 years but some have lived for more than a 100 years.
Both Hobbits and Dwarves are mortal, but for different reasons. Hobbits are descendants of Men, who are the younger children of Ilúvatar (God). Like Men and unlike Elves, they die from ageing, and when they die they cross the Circles of the World. The Dwarves were not created by Ilúvatar, but by the great Vala blacksmith and craftsman named Aulë. Aulë couldn’t wait for the Children of Ilúvatar to arrive, so he made his own version, the Dwarves. Ilúvatar wasn’t happy with it, but Aulë repented. Ilúvatar forgave Aulë and gave the Dwarves free will and independence. It’s unclear what happens when Dwarves die, but it is believed that Aulë, their maker, cares for them in halls set aside for them.
Family is an important part of the lives of both Dwarves and Hobbits. Both races show an interest in genealogy and the familiar relations between the members of a group. However, Dwarves tend to have very small families. In theory, only half of the Dwarf men marry because there are two Dwarf men for every Dwarf woman. The actual number is even smaller, as not all Dwarf women marry during their lives.
(As it seems, both races are exclusively monogamous and heterosexual, as there is no indication to the contrary.)
Hobbits, on the other hand, have a normal gender ratio of roughly 1:1. They mature by the age of 33 and usually marry around that time. Apparently, Hobbits tend to get frisky, which is why they often have large families. Large families can live together in a huge network of ancestral holes. Examples include the Tooks, who occupy the Great Smials, and Brandybucks, who live in the Brandyhall. Genealogy is a passion for Hobbits. Only Hobbits and the Men of Bree use last names. Everyone else, including the Dwarves, is referred to by a patronymic (i.e., son/daughter of so-and-so)
Most of the differences between the two cultures have been explained in the sections about the races (see above), where we have written about their living customs, habitats, occupations and leisure activities. This is why we do not think that we have to stress out all the differences, but we would like to emphasize that both races enjoy a good meal and that they both enjoy smoking pipes, which are the two main similarities between the races in the cultural sense.
And that’s it for today. We hope you had fun reading this and that we helped solve this dilemma for you. See you next time and don’t forget to follow us!