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Halfling is another name for J. R. R. Tolkien's Hobbit,[1] a fictional race found in some fantasy novels and games. They are often depicted as similar to humans except about half as tall. Dungeons & Dragons began using the name halfling as an alternative to hobbit[2] for legal reasons.[3]

Originally, "halfling" comes from the Scots word hauflin, meaning an awkward rustic teenager, who is neither man nor boy, and so half of both. Another word for halfling is "hobbledehoy" or "hobby". This usage of the word pre-dates both The Hobbit and Dungeons & Dragons.[4]

Some fantasy stories use the term halfling to describe a person born of a human parent and a parent of another race, often a human female and a male elf. Terry Brooks describes characters such as Shea Ohmsford from his Shannara series as a halfling of elf–human parentage. This kind of character is elsewhere called a half-elf and is distinct from the fantasy race known as halflings. In Jack Vance's Lyonesse series of novels, "halfling" is a generic term for beings such as fairies, trolls and ogres, who are composed of both magical and earthly substances.[5]

In popular culture[edit]

Halfling characters have appeared in various tabletop and video games. The halflings have long been one of the playable humanoid races in Dungeons & Dragons[4] where they are characterized as being very simple, peaceful, and empathetic creatures. They also appear in the Warhammer Fantasy, where they are distant relatives of the ogres, and live in a part of the Empire called the Moot, which is located next to the province of Stirland. Halflings are known for their thievery and love for food. The Elder of the Moot has a vote in determining the next emperor.

In Warhammer 40,000, halflings are called ratlings and are a type of abhuman. They serve as snipers in the Imperial Guard and share the Warhammer Fantasy halflings' hearty appetites and light fingers. Kithkin is the self-applied name of the halflings in the Magic: The Gathering collectible card game. They are found on both the primary world of Dominaria and the ever-shifting world of Lorwyn/Shadowmoor, where they share an empathic bond with each other.

Halflings in Video Games
Title Year Appearance
The Magic Candle 1989 Halflings are portrayed as friendly, peaceful people, who are skilled in crafts (particularly sewing in the second and third games), as well as negotiation due to their high charisma. They also possess lockpicking skills, and are agile and quick in battle, but tend to have low close combat skills, although they are second only to the elves in archery.
Legend of the Ghost Lion 1989 The "spirit of the halfling" can be summoned to protect the main character.
Heroes of Might and Magic II: The Succession Wars 1996 Halflings are the weakest creature in the wizard town. They can sling stones.
Age of Wonders 1999 Halflings are a playable race in this series. Halflings live in forests and have human-like physical features, but they are shorter in comparison. The race's alignment is good.
EverQuest 1999 Halflings are playable races in both Everquest releases. They are small, well rounded beings which generally resemble humans. They are a fun people and have many sneaky ways. They have high dexterity and agility and love to travel always on their hairy feet.
EverQuest II 2004
Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura 2001 Halflings are intermediate in height between humans and dwarves, and possess a bonus in all thievery skills, including backstabbing.
Vanguard: Saga of Heroes 2007 Halflings are a Thestran race based in Rindol Field, with the ability to become many classes, from warrior to druid. They are about 60% of a human's height (the second-shortest race in the game).
Overlord 2007 Halflings and their obese leader Melvin Underbelly live at the expense of the humans, and they use goblin-like creatures as slaves.


  1. ^ Tyler, J. E. A. (2014), The Complete Tolkien Companion (3rd ed.), Macmillan, p. 77, ISBN 1466866454. 
  2. ^ Weinstock, Jeffrey, ed. (2014), The Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., p. 193, ISBN 1409425622. 
  3. ^ Langford, David (2005), The Sex Column and Other Misprints, Wildside Press LLC, p. 188, ISBN 1930997787. 
  4. ^ a b Tresca, Michael J. (2010), The Evolution of Fantasy Role-playing Games, McFarland, p. 36, ISBN 0786460091. 
  5. ^ Vance, Jack (1983). Lyonesse: Book I: Suldrun's Garden. London UK: Grafton Books. p. Glossary II: The Fairies. ISBN 0-586-06027-8.