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.


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.


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.


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


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.
Yep. The Lego Dragon kit got renamed to be a Turbo Death Dragon with a fire breath with the power of 2,000 suns... or something like that.
Right now most firepower is expressed in thousands and millions. They definitely go for bigger and better.

...I kind of want to stat out a Turbo Death Dragon, but beyond "necromantic" and "innate Haste" I'm not really sure what to do, or how to make it balanced when it can apparently outrun the party at will.

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My first Basic D&D character was a halfling. As a kid of 7 I loved the look of them. They were small and athletic looking, no sign of being fat. This is the picture I first saw which shaped my understanding and love of halflings from my red box Basic set...


I really not keen on the fat hobbit style Halfling... I'll stick to the style of my Basic D&D version, thanks.


No rule is inviolate
Total coincidence. Had a party death this last session, player didn't want his character brought back (it's a cultural preference), and he wants to play a halfling.

So this thread has become particularly meaningful. We're going old-school hairfoot style.

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