Hobbit Ages by Dreamflower

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Story Notes:

This is a revised and expanded version of an essay I posted first in my LiveJournal in 2006, and later at Stories of Arda. 

(Author's Note: This is a slight revision of the original post.)

Some while back there was a discussion on one of the E-lists about the differences in maturity of Hobbits as compared to Men. JRRT seems to hint that the difference is approximately two-thirds.  When reading what he has to say about faunts in Letter #214, and comparing the Coming of Age of Hobbits at thirty-three with that of humans at twenty-one, it seems to bear this out.  During the discussion, Topaz Took came up with a formula that actually works the difference out at .64.

Using a calculator, I came up with the following chart.  I have rounded the ages up or down to the nearest half-year for simplicity's sake.  This is, of course, only for comparable physical ages, and does not take into account the possibilities of mental, social and cultural differences.

Hobbit Ages Conversion Chart

Hobbit Ages "Man-years"
(human equivalent in maturity)
  1 year   about 8 months
  2 years   about 13-14 months
  3 years   about 18-20 months
  4 years   2 to 2 ½ years
  5 years    3 years
  6 years     3 ½ - 4 years
  7 years    4 ½ - 5 years
  8 years     5 years
  9 years  5 ½ - 6 years
  10 years    6 ½ years
  11 years   7 years
  12 years    7 ½ - 8 years
  13 years    8 years
  14 years   8 ½ years
  15 years   9 years
  16 years  10 years
  17 tears   11 years
  18 years   12 years
  19 years   12 ½ years
  20 years   13 years
  21 years   13 ½ years
  22 years   14 years
  23 years   14 ½ years
  24 years   15 years
  25 years   16 years
  26 years   16 ½ years
  27 years   17 years
  28 years   18 years
  29 years   18 ½ years
  30 years   19 years
  31 years   20 years
  32 years   20 ½ years
  33 years   21 years
  40 years   25 ½ years
  50 years   32 years
  60 years   38 ½ years
  70 years   45 years
  80 years   51 years
  90 years   58 years
  100 years   64 years
  111 years   71 years
  130 years   83 years

I fully realize that not everyone agrees with this ratio.  A number of people believe that there is not a physical difference, and that Hobbits simply make their young people wait longer for the responsibilities of Coming of Age. Others believe that Hobbits grow the same as humans until they reach their tweens, when they then have an extended adolescence. Others believe that the ratio holds true up until Coming of Age, when it then begins to gradually fade. And there are those who use the human age of 18 rather than 21, at the upper end of the spectrum, while some create their own sliding scale. However, for those who do agree that maturing at two-thirds of the human rate is an actual hobbit physical characteristic, and that this holds throughout their lives, I hope this Chart will prove a useful tool.

Some may wonder how this translates in terms of writing a story.  Will a hobbit child of 5 actually look and behave like a human child of 3?  Will a hobbit child of 18 speak and act like a human at age 12?  This is where interpretation comes in.  For example, there are those who take Merry's mature behavior (at 19) at Bilbo's Farewell Party to be an indication that the ratio is incorrect.  However, it needs to be taken into account that while Merry might have been only as physically mature as a human 12 ½ year old, he still would have 19 years of memories and experiencing life.  For this reason, I interpret hobbit children as a little more mentally mature than the human equivalent, having more memory, experience and vocabulary  than a human child would at that stage of life, but as being physically younger, and emotionally somewhere in between.  Of course, there are also other factors which make other subtle differences.  The Shire was an idyllic and peaceful place, and hobbits seem to be naturally more peaceful and content race, so I believe that hobbit children would be more innocent in many ways and less aggressive than their human counterparts.  And yet the Shire was also an agrarian society, so that working class hobbit children would fill more adult roles sooner in life.

JRRT tells us that hobbit children were "delightful", that they were somewhat indulged by their parents, and that they were not easily spoiled. I do believe that he had every intention that his created race would have an extended childhood.

This does not mean, however, that it is canon.  This is an interpretation only, and as such falls squarely in the category of fanon. It does not preclude me from enjoying the many stories of those who fall on different sides of the debate.  While I see hobbits as a "young" race, both in terms of their existence as a race and a people, and as individuals, there is plenty of room for other views of the matter, and many delightful stories which do not take the same point of view.

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