Where were the Hobbits before they settled in the land of Eriador (where the Shire is located in The Lord of the Rings proper)?
The new Amazon prequel series, The Rings of Power, sheds light on the history of another early society of Hobbits known as the Harfoots, who like the aforementioned Stoors of Smeagol fame, don’t yet live in the Shire. During the Second Age, the time period in which the show takes place, the Harfoots live in the land of Rhovanion, east of the Misty Mountains, while the Shire and Eriador are located west of those mountains.
The Harfoots we meet on the show, such as the wise elder Sadoc Burrows (Lenny Henry), haven’t yet adopted the comforts and luxuries that their descendants would later enjoy in the Third Age. These Hobbits are more plainly dressed and live not in lavish homes but in more simple abodes made from trees and plant life. Since they’re much more nomadic at this time, it seems like their more pared down digs are built as such so that they can pick up and leave when they need to. Or disappear when trouble comes too close.
Unlike the sleepy and fat Hobbits of Bilbo and Frodo’s time, the Harfoots are bit more light-footed, hiding from men who roam their lands. For example, we watch in the first episode as two dim-witted hunters trek over a hill, completely ignorant to the fact that they’re walking on the outskirts of an entire Harfoot village. And when one of the hunters thinks he’s heard something rustling in the field below, the other teases him by telling him it might be a Harfoot, which he describes as dangerous magical creatures who are very rarely spotted by their victims…until they attack!
Of course, as the hunters move on, and the cute little Harfoots start popping out from behind bushes and from inside trees and other hidey holes, we know these fairy-like little wanderers couldn’t hurt a fly. But it’s a really interesting bit of worldbuilding in The Rings of Power nonetheless. In the Second Age, Harfoots interact so little with the other races of Middle-earth that they’ve become the subject of a tall-tale that scares full grown men!
From Harfoots to Hobbits of the Shire
But since the Harfoots are predecessors of the Hobbits of the Shire, there are also plenty of similarities between them, like the fact that they live off the land and have a clear respect for it. They also love food, such as the berries the little Harfoot children stuff into their mouths by the fistful, and for the most part like to stay out of conflict or the larger concerns of the kingdoms of Middle-earth.