The Halfling is a fictional race found in some fantasy novels and games. They are often depicted as similar to humans except about half as tall, and are not quite as stocky as the similarly-sized dwarves. Similar to the depiction of hobbits in the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, which are sometimes called halflings, they have slightly pointed ears, their feet are covered with curly hair with leathery soles, and they tend to be portrayed as stealthy and lucky.


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.[1] The German surname Helbling has a similar origin. The term is commonly used in other fiction works as an alternate name for J. R. R. Tolkien's hobbit race.[2]

Other usesEdit

The original Dungeons & Dragons box set included hobbits as a race, but later editions began using the name halfling as an alternative to hobbit[3] for legal reasons.[4] Halflings have long been one of the playable humanoid races in Dungeons & Dragons,[1] starting with the 1978 Player's Handbook.[5] Halfling characters have appeared in various tabletop and video games.

Some fantasy stories use the term halfling to describe a person born of a human parent and a parent of another race, often a female human and a male elf.[6] Terry Brooks describes characters such as Shea Ohmsford from his Shannara series as a halfling of elf–human parentage. Other fantasy works, such as J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, sometimes use "halfling" to describe hobbits, beings that are half the height of men, as for instance when the hobbit Pippin appears in a royal guard's uniform in Minas Tirith, the people of that city call him the "Prince of Halflings".[7] 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.[8] In Clifford D. Simak's 1959 short story "No Life of Their Own," halflings are invisible beings in a parallel dimension who, like brownies or gremlins, bring good or bad luck to people.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b Tresca, Michael J. (2010), The Evolution of Fantasy Role-playing Games, McFarland, p. 36, ISBN 0786460091
  2. ^ Tyler, J. E. A. (2014), The Complete Tolkien Companion (3rd ed.), Macmillan, p. 77, ISBN 1466866454
  3. ^ Weinstock, Jeffrey, ed. (2014). The Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters. Ashgate Publishing. p. 193. ISBN 1409425622.
  4. ^ Langford, David (2005). The Sex Column and Other Misprints. Wildside Press. p. 188. ISBN 1930997787.
  5. ^ Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. Prometheus Books. pp. 84–85. ISBN 0-87975-653-5.
  6. ^ Clute, John; Grant, John (1999). The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. St. Martin's Press. p. 447. ISBN 9780312198695.
  7. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955) The Return of the King, book 5, ch. 1 "Minas Tirith"
  8. ^ Vance, Jack (1983). Lyonesse: Book I: Suldrun's Garden. Grafton Books. p. Glossary II: The Fairies. ISBN 0-586-06027-8.