Hobbits & Halflings
Hairy Feet and All
I would say that I have no problem using the terms Hobbit and Halfling interchangeably and through this little bit of writing I intend to determine if that is a correct assumption.
The term hobbit was first coined by JRR Tolkien in his book by the same name. This is the first appearance of a character that has long been in the minds of geeks and fantasy nerds the world over but with the Lord of the rings trilogy of movies, the term hobbit is almost as household as Frodo and Bilbo. This is how Tolkien himself describes his first Hobbit, Bilbo:
I picture a fairly human figure, not a kind of ‘fairy’ rabbit as some of my British reviewers seem to fancy: fattish in the stomach, shortish in the leg. A round, jovial face; ears only slightly pointed and ‘elvish’; hair short and curling (brown). The feet from the ankles down, covered with brown hairy fur. Clothing: green velvet breeches; red or yellow waistcoat; brown or green jacket; gold (or brass) buttons; a dark green hood and cloak (belonging to a dwarf). – JRR Tolkien
Tolkien made the hobbit a peaceful, non-adventurous race. They sat in the Shire and though they might have dreamed of adventure, they were perfectly content to busy themselves with farming and food. And of food, the Hobbit is particularly fond. It can be seen though, through the stories of Tolkien that the hobbit is a fierce companion, devoted and true. They will fight with the best of them and their idyllic nature sloughs off when they are pushed by foes on every side.
The halfling term can be traced back to another hero in the world of fantasy stories and storytelling: Gary Gygax. Gygax began using the term halfling for legal reasons – in other words he did not want tot he Tolkien foundations to decide to sue the crap out of him for having hobbits in his game, Dungeons and Dragons. It is striking though how similar these two races are. The description that Tolkien give sis almost exact, I would say the difference happens in attitude.
The halfling, while the majority may be farmers and brewers, there is a huge history of halflings as adventurers in the realms of D&D. Especially as rogues,this small race is now for deft fingers, fast feet and the ability to move quietly. The hobbit finds himself protected by the humans and other races while the halfling adventurer might grab his haversack and join up with your team to fight a dragon.
I think the similarities of the hobbit and halfling are striking but I think it is in their differences that you find the truth of the matter. The hobbit might be an offshoot of the halfling bloodline. The halfling is the adventurous side to the small race, while the hobbit exists in Middle-Earth. The Hobbit will adventure when they need to but they prefer the cozy hobbit hole to living out of doors. The halfling seems to have a bit more fire in their souls. I will probably continue to use the terms hobbit and halfling interchangeably but I might also find that I change my verbiage based on what the soul I am talking about is doing.