Halfling is another name for J. R. R. Tolkien's Hobbit, 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 for legal reasons.
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.
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.
In popular culture
Comic horror rock band Rosemary's Billygoat recorded a song and video called "Hobbit Feet", about a man who takes a girl home from a bar only to discover she has horrifying "hobbit feet". According to lead singer Mike Odd, the band received over 100 pieces of hate mail from angry Tolkien fans.
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The skeletal remains of several diminutive paleolithic hominids were discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2004. These tiny people, named Homo floresiensis after the island on which the remains were found, were informally dubbed "hobbits" by their discoverers in a series of articles published in the scientific journal Nature. The excavated skeletons reveal a hominid that (like a hobbit) grew no larger than a three-year-old modern child and had proportionately larger feet than modern humans. The original skeleton, a female, stood at just 1 meter (3.3 feet) tall, weighed about 25 kilograms (55 pounds), and was around 30 years old at the time of her death. Further analysis of the remains using a regression equation indicated that Homo floresiensis was approximately 106 cm (3 ft 6 in) tall — far smaller than the modern pygmies, whose adults grow to no more than 150 cm (4 ft 11 in). Thus far, nine skeletons of Homo floresiensis dating from approximately 38,000 to 13,000 years ago have been excavated, suggesting that these "hobbits" would have shared the island with dwarf elephants, giant rats, and Komodo dragons.
Whether the "hobbit" skeletons represent a species distinct from modern humans has been a subject of scientific debate. In addition to their small size and big feet, the skull and arm bones of Homo floresiensis differ from those of modern humans. Critics of the claim for species status argue that these differences were caused by pathologies of anatomy and physiology. In contrast, a 2009 article in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society noted that “attempts to dismiss the hobbits as pathological people have failed repeatedly because the medical diagnoses of dwarfing syndromes and microcephaly bear no resemblance to the unique anatomy of Homo floresiensis.”
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