When ZGG began publishing Blackmoor in 2003, they announced that Blackmoor's Halflings would be a return to the Tolkienesque halflings, in the spirit of Dave Arneson's original fantasy campaign. However, what does that really mean? Is it true that Tolkien himself described Hobbits as weak, fat and useless? Not at all, of course!
|Sam carries Frodo. Scene: Return of the King, |
Peter Jackson, Dir. 2003
When looking at Tolkien's Hobbits, I think it is useful to distinguish between Hobbit adventurers and regular folks. Much of the early day inspiration for D&D halflings seems to have been drawn from the first part of the novel The Hobbit. But the descriptions there refers to the non-adventurer Hobbits of the Shire. Bilbo is said to have been the first adventurer from the shire (though there are some references to previous heroes of the race elsewhere in Tolkien's writing). Still, Bilbo wasn't much of an adventurer when he was first dragged out of his hobbit hole by Gandalf and the dwarves.
Similarly Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry were completely unexperienced at the onset of the Lord of the Rings. Compare this to the same characters towards the end of the trilogy. The Hobbits have all become heroes in their own right. They have no problem disposing the stooges of Saruman who have been destroying the Shire in their absence. Similarly, Bilbo makes the trek from the Shire to Rivendell completely on his own, even though the distance he covered was known to be populated by Wights, Trolls and other evils.
One of the abilities most often overlooked in Hobbits is their resiliance. Gollum was able to keep the Ring for centuries. Still, he had retained enough of his "humanity" to give Frodo hope that he could be redeemed in Return of the King. Frodo was the only one who would be able to carry the Ring to Mordor, a task none of the heroes of the other races would have been able to accomplish. Sam was even able to give back the Ring to Frodo after "carrying it for a while" for his master.
Take a look at Sam carrying Frodo up the slope towards Mount Doom. Is that the work of a weakling? I think not! Hobbits can be tough heroes without the need of being turned into anorectic ninja elflings. Dave Arneson and his players were aware of this, as shown in the adventures of Mello and his companions.