The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power will be including Hobbits despite J.R.R. Tolkien making it very clear that they did not appear until the Third Age following the events that The Rings of Power is expected to cover.
Showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay attempted to explain this problem away during an appearance in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con.
During the question and answer portion of his appearance, he was asked, “Why is there a Hobbit story in the Second Age?”
Payne replied, “Well, it’s actually technically not a Hobbit story, it’s a Harfoot story. And so Tolkien doesn’t say anything about Harfoots not having done anything amazing in the Second Age. He sees it as Hobbits before the Third Age didn’t do anything impressive. So we felt we had license there to tell a good Harfoot story.”
His fellow showrunner Patrick McKay then added, “It was really important to us from minute one that what makes Tolkien’s tone unique and special is the blend of all of these cultures and what each of them bring to Middle-earth. And what each of them represent. The underdogs and the smallest people being able to do great deeds. We could not imagine a version of this show that didn’t have a version of that in some form. And went deep into the text to find it and we think there’s a beautiful, wonderful story there that you guys are really going to love.”
Earlier in the panel, Payne also detailed that the Harfoots were ancestors of Hobbits rather than a breed of Hobbit.
He said, “But Tolkien gave us all these amazing clues about cultures in the Second Age. Concerning Hobbits, he talks about the ancestors of Hobbits, where there’s Stoors, Fallohides, and Harfoots. And he gives us just a couple tantalizing paragraphs about Harfoots. But then you take those clues in there and you say cool, what kind of society would — he talks about their wandering days.”
However, Harfoots are indeed Hobbits. Tolkien makes this abundantly clear in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring where he writes on page 3, “Before the crossing of the mountains the Hobbits had already become divided into three somewhat different breeds: Harfoots, Stoors, and Fallohides. The Harfoots were browner of skin, smaller, and shorter, and they were beardless and bootless; their hands and feet were neat and nimble; and they preferred highlands and hillsides.”
He later notes, “The Harfoots had much to do with Dwarves in ancient times, and long lived in the foothills of the mountains. They moved westward early, and roamed over Eriador as far as Weathertop while the others were still in Wilderland. They were the most normal and representative variety of Hobbit, and far the most numerous. They were the most inclined to settle in one place, and longest preserved their ancestral habit of living in tunnels and holes.”
Clearly, Harfoots are indeed Hobbits despite Payne’s claim to the contrary. One need only to have read to the third page of The Fellowship of the Ring to have figured it out.
As for McKay’s claim that he couldn’t imagine a version of the Second Age without Hobbits, well maybe he can’t, but J.R.R. Tolkien certainly could and he made it clear on a number of occasions.
First, Appendix B reveals that Hobbits do not arrive in the histories until the Third Age when a tribe of Harfoots enter Eriador in 1050. The entry states, “The Periannath are first mentioned in the records, with the coming of the Harfoots to Eriador.” This is also another example that Harfoots are indeed Hobbits.
That’s not to say the beginnings of the Hobbits weren’t before the Third Age, Tolkien wrote in the prologue to The Fellowship of the Ring, “The beginning of Hobbits lies far back in the Elder Days that are now lost and forgotten.”
“Only the Elves still preserve any records of that vanished time, and their traditions are concerned almost entirely with their own history, in which Men seldom appear and Hobbits are not mentioned at all,” he added.
As for Payne’s mention of the Wandering Days, Tolkien did detail, “Their own records began only after the settlement of the Shire, and their most ancient legends hardly looked further back than their Wandering Days. It is clear, nonetheless, from these legends, and from the evidence of their peculiar words and customs, that like many other folk Hobbits had in the distant past moved westward.”
“Their earliest tales seem to glimpse a time when they dwelt in the upper vales of Anduin, between the eaves of Greenwood the Great and the Misty Mountains. Why they later undertook the hard and perilous crossing of the mountains into Eriador is no longer certain. Their own accounts speak of the multiplying of Men in the land, and of a shadow that fell on the forest, so that it became darkened and its new name was Mirkwood,” Tolkien detailed.
While it’s clear Tolkien does note that the beginning of Hobbits goes back to the Elder Days or the First Age, he also makes it clear that they did not play a significant role in the histories until the Third Age.
In fact, in a number of his letters he made this even clearer. In Letter 131 to Milton Waldman he wrote, “In the middle of this Age the Hobbits appear. Their origin is unknown (even to themselves) for they escaped the notice of the great, or the civilised peoples with records, and kept none themselves, save vague oral traditions, until they had migrated from the borders of Mirkwood, fleeing from the Shadow, and wandered westward, coming into contact with the last remnants of the Kingdom of Arnor.” The Age Tolkien is referring to is the Third Age, which is noted earlier in the letter.
In Letter 19 to Stanley Unwin, Tolkien also wrote that his history of Middle-earth did not include Hobbits, “I shall certainly now, if I am allowed, publish the parts of the great history that was written first—and rejected. But the (to me v. surprising) success of The Lord of the Rings will probably cause that rejection to be reconsidered. Though I do not think it would have the appeal of the L. R. – no hobbits ! Full of mythology, and elvishness, and all that ‘heigh stile’ (as Chaucer might say), which has been so little to the taste of many reviewers.”
In Letter 223 to Rayner Unwin. Tolkien also detailed, “I am now under contract engaged (among alas! other less congenial tasks) in putting into order for publication the mythology and stories of the First and Second Ages – written long ago, but judged hardly publishable, until (so it seems) the surprising success of The Lord of the Rings, which comes at the end, has provided a probable demand for the beginnings.”
“But there are, I fear, no hobbits in The Silmarillion (or history of the Three Jewels), little fun or earthiness but mostly grief and disaster,” he asserted. “Those critics who scoffed at The Lord because ‘all the good boys came home safe and everyone was happy ever after’ (quite untrue) ought to be satisfied. They will not be, of course – even if they deign to notice the book!”
What makes all of this more interesting is that McKay told Vanity Fair that the show was not allowed to egregiously contradict Tolkien’s works.
“There’s a version of everything we need for the Second Age in the books we have the rights to,” McKay explained. “As long as we’re painting within those lines and not egregiously contradicting something we don’t have the rights to, there’s a lot of leeway and room to dramatize and tell some of the best stories that [Tolkien] ever came up with.”
As for what they have the rights to, Payne relayed, “We have the rights solely to The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, the appendices, and The Hobbit. And that is it.”
“We do not have the rights to The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, The History of Middle-earth, or any of those other books,” he added.
Clearly, separating Harfoots from Hobbits is an egregious contradiction, but including Hobbits in the Second Age might be an even bigger one. And that contradiction is apparent in the books they have the rights to.
What does this all mean? Showrunners Patrick McKay and JD Payne cannot be trusted. And The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has absolutely no respect for J.R.R. Tolkien and his works.