Halfling

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Greyhawk creature
Halfling
Halfling00.jpg
A male and female halfling, as depicted in the 3.5 Player's Handbook (2003).
Alignment Neutral
Type Humanoid
Subtype Halfling
First appearance Dungeons & Dragons Original Set (1974)

Halflings (called hobniz by the Flan) are a diminutive humanoid race friendly to humans, elves, dwarves, and gnomes.

Ecology

Halflings hunt when they need to, but prefer breads, vegetables, and fruits, with the occasional pheasant or suchlike on the side.

Environment

Halflings have no lands of their own, living instead in the lands claimed by other races. They can be encountered most frequently in the central and western Flanaess; they're a common sight throughout the Sheldomar Valley, in the Urnst States, and in the Ulek States. They favor stable nations with long histories of peace with their neighbors. They normally shun water and extremes in temperature, preferring the pastoral countryside. Halflings form tight-knit communities within dwarven and human cities, or they form self-reliant villages in secluded places.

There are perhaps 3,000 halflings within the Vesve Forest, and a few within the Silverwood and the Flinty Hills. They dwell within the Good Hills and the Hollow Highlands. The vast majority of the halflings in the Cairn Hills region hug the Nyr Dyv; the land there is poor, which is a major reason why other races were willing to let them have it. Their community of Elmshire (population 3,800) is there, with perhaps another thousand halflings scattered in smaller villages in the area.

Typical physical characteristics

A halfling, as depicted in the 3.5 Monster Manual (2003).

Halflings look much like human children with slightly pointed ears. They stand about 3 feet tall and usually weigh between 30 and 35 pounds. They have ruddy complexions, and their hair tends toward brown and sandy brown. Halfling men often wear long sideburns, but beards and mustaches are almost unheard of. Their eyes are brown or hazel. They enjoy colorful dress, but their coats and trousers are likely to be a serviceable gray, tan, or brown. Males wear knee-britches, tunics, and shirts, often with vests, and wear coats and high-collared shirts on formal occasions. Females dress in bodice-covered shifts and long skirts when not adventuring. Both dress themselves in gnome style when at war.

Halflings live 150 years or more.

Alignment

Halflings are usually neutral in the 3rd edition of the Dungeons & Dragons game, though in earlier editions they were listed as lawful and/or good. Much of the halfling pantheon remains lawful and good-aligned, indicating that those ideals are strong within their culture, even if they have trouble living up to them.

Society

Two halflings speak with a human. Art by Jeff Dee.

While halflings met outside their own lands may often be thieves, there is little thievery, crime, or drunkenness in the halflings’ own realms. Within their own communities, halflings tend to be peaceful, hard-working, and orderly. Their villages usually contain as many burrow homes as surface cottages. Halflings are, however, clever and capable opportunists, finding room for themselves wherever they can, whether they live as innocuous farmers or as tricksy rogues.

Halflings have ample appetites for such things as well-cooked meals, fine drinks, good tobacco, and comfortable clothes. While they can be lured by the promise of wealth, they tend to spend what they gain rather than horde it as a dwarf will. Halflings are, however, famous collectors. Many collect teapots, books, or pressed flowers, while others prefer more exotic goods such as the skins of wild beasts, or even the beasts themselves.

Halflings are known for enchanting their foods and their use of herbal magic. Their spells tend to be protective or defensive in nature. Halflings take pleasure in simple crafts and nature. Their short fingers are very dextrous, allowing them to make objects of great beauty.

Cheerful and outgoing, halflings try to get along most other races, though they distrust goblins and suchlike and regard the Rhennee as evil unless proven otherwise, never trading with them. They are adept at fitting into the cities of elves, dwarves, humans, and gnomes.

Halfling communities always have an elected ruler, typically a mayor or sheriff. Family ties are strong, and communities are often insular.

Religion

The chief deity of halflings is Yondalla, who leads a pantheon including Arvoreen, Brandobaris, Cyrrollalee, Sheela Peryroyl, and Urogalan. Besides these major gods, halflings recognize a vast pantheon of small gods representing villages, forests, rivers, lakes, beloved ancestors, and so on, as well as the hero-goddess Charmalaine. Halflings also frequently worship Ehlonna and Ulaa. Obad-hai also frequently takes halfling form.

Language

Halflings have their own language, written using the same alphabet as the human Common tongue. The Halfling tongue is more aimed at practicality than beauty; it has a certain lyrical flow to it, but it is not as melodic as that of the elves. Most halfling words are short, only one or two syllables, and seemingly long words usually turn out to be compounds. Halfling has a lot of borrow-words in it, drawing from many other languages, and, as linguistic pack-rats, they add new words all the time. As a result, there are some almost absurdly specific words in the Halfling tongue - for example, there is a word for "little green leaf," and a completely separate one for "big red leaf." The halfling oral tradition is much stronger than their written one, so most halfling stories and histories are oral ones. Almost all halflings speak Common as well. Many also understand the languages of gnomes, goblins, and orcs.

Halflings use first names and surnames like the gnomes do, but they often use nicknames, pet names, abbreviated names, and other devices that other races often found irksome or pretentious.

Subraces

Halflings in Dungeons & Dragons have been further divided into various subraces:

  • Hairfoot halflings were the standard, "common" subrace of halflings in the game's earlier editions. Clearly derived from Tolkien's Harfoots, they most clearly resembled Middle-earth's hobbits, being a good-natured race of homebodies with fur-covered feet. With the advent of the game's Third Edition, they were replaced by lightfoot halflings.
  • Stout halflings were based on Tolkien's Stoors. Shorter but broader than hairfoot halflings, stouts make good craftsmen. They have broad features and course hair. They live 200 years or more. In Third Edition they were renamed deep halflings, though they are still called stouts in the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer.
  • Tallfellow halflings were based on Tolkien's Fallohides. They are taller than hairfoot or lightfoot halflings, with lighter hair and skin tone, and prefer to build their homes in woodlands. Tallfellows live 180 years on average.
  • Furchin, or polar halflings, are the rarest of the subraces. They live in arctic regions and can grow facial hair (see The Complete Book of Gnomes and Halflings).
  • Lightfoot halflings are the standard halfling subrace of Third Edition. They are more removed from Tolkien's halflings, being athletic and ambitious opportunists, although they retain their love of comfort and family. They differ visually from the stereotypical depiction of halfings; rather than having the thicker proportions normally associated with halfings or hobbits, they are slender and graceful in appearance, resembling a human gymnast in miniature. A race called Jerren is found the third edition supplement "Book of Vile Darkness", described as brutal and chaotic halflings who acquired those traits by Vile magic during a war.

Related Species

  • Brownies are distant relatives of halflings, perhaps half halfling and half pixie (1977 Monster Manual, page 11).
  • Leprechauns are rumored to be a species of halfling with a strong strain of pixie blood (1977 Monster Manual, page 60).

History

The halfling race seems to have originated in the river valleys of the west-central Flanaess, spreading only slowly from their homeland. At the time of the Great Migrations, few were north of the Gamboge Forest or east of the Harp River. They developed friendly relationships with the Oerdians, however, and today they can be found throughout much of the Flanaess.

Between CY 583-584, the halflings of the Domain of Greyhawk region suffered a terrible blight. Nearly a quarter of the population of Elmshire died.

Creative origins

Originally, "Halflin" was the Scots word hauflin, pre-dating The Hobbit and Dungeons & Dragons. It meant an awkward rustic teenager who is neither man nor boy, and so half of both. Another word for halflin is hobbledehoy or hobby. The word halfling was used by Shakespeare to mean a boy-sized man.

In the original Dungeons & Dragons "White Box," there was a race of demi-humans known variously as hobbits or halflings that were very much like those found in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. In Volume 1: Men & Magic, they are called halflings on pages 8 and 9, and hobbits on pages 6 and 9. In Volume 3: The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures, they are called hobbits on page 9. Supposedly the Tolkien estate did not appreciate the resemblance and threatened legal action against TSR, the makers of Dungeons & Dragons. As a result of the alleged suit, TSR no longer called the creatures hobbits, generally using "halflings" instead. However, they are also called "hobniz" in the World of Greyhawk setting, and "hin" or "hinfolk" in the Mystara and Forgotten Realms settings.

Folklore

Hanner Dyn, the Half-Man, is a character from British folklore. He was called half-man because he was a boy who could beat men at wrestling. As an adult, he could beat King Arthur at wrestling. Hanner Dyn means habit and the force of habit. [1]

Publishing history

In Dungeons & Dragons Supplement I: Greyhawk, halflings are consistently called "hobbits," while in Supplement II: Blackmoor they are almost always called "halflings," except in one reference to hobbits as "bite-sized." They are called hobbits again in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry, and always called halflings in the Swords & Spells mass-combat rules. The words were still used interchangeably in the Dungeons & Dragons Game edited by Eric Holmes in 1977. They are exclusively called halflings in the 1st edition Monster Manual (1977) and in the Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Adventure Game Basic Rulebook edited by Tom Moldvay (1981).

Bibliography

  • Arneson, Dave. Blackmoor. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR Games, 1975.
  • Gygax, Gary, and Dave Arneson. Dungeons & Dragons. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1974.
  • -----. Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1977.
  • -----. Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1981.
  • -----. Dungeons & Dragons Set 1: Basic Rules. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1983.
  • Niles, Douglas. The Complete Book of Gnomes and Halflings. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1993.
  • Tweet, Jonathan, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams. Player's Handbook. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2000.
  • -----. Player's Handbook Core Rulebook I v.3.5. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2003.
  • Williams, Skip. Monster Manual. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2000.
  • -----. Races of the Wild. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2005.

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