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Stout and Hairy?

The appearance of halflings in Dungeons & Dragons have come a long way since their hobbit roots from Lord of the Rings. If the latest stew from Heroes' Feast is any indication, they didn't stray too far.

hobbits3.jpg

Chicken-Something Dumplings​

Wouldn't you like to know the secret halfling ingredient that makes these magically delicious dough dollops melt into your mouth? Well, now you will! From the famed Hungry Halfling in Faerun's Corm Orp to nearly every halfling suppertime table across the land, this hearty, velvety concoction laden with homemade drop dumplings is the coziest of comfort foods. These are countless variants of this dish, with each halfling household claiming to serve the finest, but nothing beats the thick-and-stewy classic -- a robust poultry stock base emboldened with the tastes of freshly picked veggies, parsley, and garlic all commingled with creamy dough.

So first, let's be clear: this is a stew. A chicken stew. The dumplings go with it.

There's reference to a secret ingredient to the stew, but it's the same secret ingredient to many of the Heroes' Feast recipes that makes it taste delicious if not particularly healthy. The secret is generous pats of butter.

I've always been a fan of stew and my wife is fond of dumplings with any stew she makes, so this meal wasn't far off from what you might make at home (sans the generous butter perhaps). It's tasty enough that my whole family enjoyed it, even my son who isn't fond of stew.

The theme of halfling dishes seems to be "comfort food" which might explain their original portly appearance, but you wouldn't know that from the most recent incarnations of the halfling in D&D.

hobbits2.jpg

The Halfling Diet​

There's a few lines from Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring movie that sums up hobbits quite well:

Aragorn : Gentlemen, we do not stop 'til nightfall.
Pippin : What about breakfast?
Aragorn : You've already had it.
Pippin : We've had one, yes. What about second breakfast?
[Aragorn turns and walks away]
Merry : I don't think he knows about second breakfast, Pip.
Pippin : What about elevenses? Luncheon? Afternoon tea? Dinner? Supper? He knows about them, doesn't he?
Merry : I wouldn't count on it.

Of course, you wouldn't know that hobbits eat that much to look at the movie versions of Merry and Pippin, and that's something of a concession to modern tastes of what heroes should look like. But for the inspiration of hobbits, we have to go back further to a tale Lord of the Rings author and scholar J.R.R. Tolkien read to his children, The Marvellous Land of Snergs:

Before there were Hobbits in Tolkien's universe, there was a book entitled The Marvellous Land of Snergs, written in 1927 by E.A. Wyke Smith and Babbit, written in 1922 by Sinclair Lewis. Tolkien once wrote to a colleague that Snergs were probably an unconscious source for Hobbits. He later told an interviewer that the word "Hobbit" may have had an association with "Babbit", although he claims that his creation of The Hobbit started suddenly, "without premeditation" when he wrote down the words: "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."

These two sources, Babbit and Snergs, are significant in how they helped form hobbits. Babbit created the complacency and bourgeois life of folk who longed to belong to respectable society, as well as the threats of youthful impulse and adventure that can uproot such a life. And in Snergs, Tolkien had his physical prototype, a race of short, thick-set, helpful people. These two elements together make for a jolly group who are fond of friends and food, and it shows in their "fattish stomachs." If hobbits seem unlikely heroes, that was the point. They would become even more unlikely in D&D.

hobbits1.jpg

The D&D Halfling​

In the original edition of D&D hobbits were included along with ents and balrogs. As co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons Gary Gygax himself explained on EN World:

TSR was served with papers threatening damages to the tune of half a mil by the Saul Zantes (sp?) division of Elan Merchandising on behalf of the tolkien Estate. The main objection was to the boardgame we were publishing, The Battle of Five Armies. The author of that game had given us a letter from his attorney claiming the work was grandfathered because it was published after the copyrights for JRRT's works had lapsed and before any renewals were made. The action also demanded we remove balrog, dragon, dwarf, elf, ent, goblin, hobbit, orc, and warg from the D&D game. Although only balrog and warg were unique names we agreed to hobbit as well, kept the rest, of course. The boardgame was dumped, and thus the suit was settled out of court at that.

And just like that, hobbits became halflings. By Third Ediiton, halflings didn't look much like hobbits at all, but rather small humans. Most emblematic of this change was the iconic rogue Lidda, who didn't look anything like the hairy-footed hobbits. The trend continued into Fourth Edition until Fifth, whereupon halflings took a turn from hairy-footed and barrel-bodied to narrow-feet and large heads.

They're still not fat, though. Given their very strong association with Tolkien's works, tabletop gamers seem to have a love/hate relationship with the race. None of my players ever played a halfling in four decades of gaming, although I did have plenty of NPCs.

Judging by the meals in Heroes' Feast, halflings may not have the best diet, but they're hardly the roly-poly rural folk of Tolkien's hobbits either.

Your Turn: Are your halflings fat and hairy?
 
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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

Paragon Lost

Terminally Lost
Saul Zaentz was a real piece of work. Screwed a lot of folks out of money and did a bunch of rather crappy business related deals.


Making me hungry with that chicken stew as an aside. It looks delious! Also I always considered though Hobbits/halflings were stout, that they still had a higher metabolism which kept them down to mostly a stout build versus how large they might have been due to the sheer amount of earing that they love to do. :)
 

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
These are countless variants of this dish, with each halfling household claiming to serve the finest, but nothing beats the thick-and-stewy classic -- a robust poultry sock base emboldened with the tastes of freshly picked veggies, parsley, and garlic all commingled with creamy dough.
I'm sure this is a typo, but I'm entertaining myself by imagining poultry socks....
 




Who wouldn't want to play this guy...

1623161712630.png


I've spent little time describing them in our campaigns. No one plays them except the Dark Sun cannibal ones, and although they get some mention in my current campaign as popular slaver targets, I haven't been pressed for interaction.

I like, however, for every race to have a unique twist and not simply be a tiny human or a human with pointy ears, so definitely thick hairy feet. And they don't call themselves halflings. That's a derogatory term, insinuating they're "half" of something.

So, maybe this guy...yeah, he looks kickass and those hairy feet send a message...

1623161947444.png


But not this guy:

1623162007339.png


I mean, what's wrong with your head? Seriously? It's like a bobble-head doll. And boots, on a halfling? Shame!
 


I loved “Babbit”. Of course, it the book was an inspiration for halflings, that doesn’t say much about halflings....

* Spoilers for a 100-year book. Imagine typical middle management from the ‘50s. Conformist, classist, small-minded. That is a pretty good description of Babbitt.
 




J-H

Adventurer
I don't care for the 5e halfling art, but I get that it's hard to do.

My boys are 4 & 7, and we have a number of melee weapons and shields made from Warfare by Duct Tape plans. It's usually the two of them versus me, and I can attest that it actually can be difficult for a human to fight a pair of aggressive halfling-sized foes. Blocking down low is hard, and so is hitting at their legs without bending over (we try to avoid head hits).

It's pretty easy for a short fast-moving barbarian to charge in with his shield up, grab on to my legs, and just start stabbing, while I still have to defend against the slightly taller one who's trying to take my arm off with a 42" long greatsword.

So yeah, halflings are combat viable despite their shorter reach...
 



Make it two! I dig Kenders, though I'll admit that in the hands of bad players, they can really grate.

The last time I re-read the Dragonlance Trilogy, I found myself liking Tasslehoff and Flint the most. Their reactions and character arcs felt more relatable than the more immediately Heroic with a capital H characters.

There's one in every crowd... :p

I generally let the players decide what their Halflings look like. If they want to wear shoes, have at it. if they want big old Proudfoot (Proudfeet!) hairy feet, go for it. As for myself, I suspect Tolkien and the Rankin-Bass depictions are just too deeply ingrained for me to abandon that conception of Halflings.

While that depiction of a halfling bard is a bit of nails on chalkboard for me, in general I prefer the 5e depictions to 3e and 4e, where without context they often just looked like regular-sized humans.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
I played a multiclass Halfling Bard once. I put all the performance stuff into elocution, speaking and acting (no mechanical benefit really) instead of instruments and played him as a con man who did fake seances and the occasional bit of light existential detective work. Good times.
 

talien

Community Supporter
I don't care for the 5e halfling art, but I get that it's hard to do.

My boys are 4 & 7, and we have a number of melee weapons and shields made from Warfare by Duct Tape plans. It's usually the two of them versus me, and I can attest that it actually can be difficult for a human to fight a pair of aggressive halfling-sized foes. Blocking down low is hard, and so is hitting at their legs without bending over (we try to avoid head hits).

It's pretty easy for a short fast-moving barbarian to charge in with his shield up, grab on to my legs, and just start stabbing, while I still have to defend against the slightly taller one who's trying to take my arm off with a 42" long greatsword.

So yeah, halflings are combat viable despite their shorter reach...
It's funny you bring this up, because in theory the original hobbits were to help provide a kid's perspective to The Hobbit. In which case the shift towards kid-friendly D&D content should make halflings more common than less...

Except in my experience, no kid ever wants to play someone smaller. That's an adult's perspective about what kids want, not the other way around. My kids want to play bigger, more mature, more powerful versions of themselves.
 

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
I do notice that as halflings have moved further away from the Tolkien-style original, they've become easier to confuse with gnomes. The two types were more distinct when halflings were just hobbits with the serial numbers filed off.

Also, a member of my gaming group thinks that a relative of hers (who is known to have met J.R.R. Tolkien and even received some thank-you notes from him) may have helped to inspire the original hobbits' furry feet. Apparently, that branch of the family has quite a lot of hair on the tops of their feet, and Tolkien could have seen it. Just speculation, though.

I have a halfling rogue character that I've been playing for over two years now. I used a female dwarf mini for her because I liked it better than the halfling minis, so that gives her a sturdy if not actually stout appearance.

... Oh, and the stew really looks mouth-watering. Poultry sock base or not. :p
 


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