“Halfling” is merely another name for a character that is also popularly known as a hobbit.
In 1937, a hobbit lived in a hole and went on an incredible adventure. The idea of a small person that lived an idyllic life in the country inspired generations of children and adults. They preferred leisure to excitement and enjoyed eating and smoking and were good natured people. After being unwilling participants inThe Lord of the Rings saga, they showed that even the smallest person can change the course of the future. Bilbo, Frodo, Samwise, Merry and Pippin captured the imaginations of millions of readers and movie-goers with their bravery and courage.
Using a word that was used to describe an awkward teenager, neither a man or a child, halflings fit that description well. Halflings look like small, full-grown humans, and resemble human children in their stature. They are the smallest of the humanoid races, generally, even smaller than gnomes in the games that feature them. Besides their small stature, halflings’ other defining feature is that of their bare feet. Having tough soles and thick hair on the tops of their feet allowed the halflings to go around without shoes, even in snow. They can be quiet and stealthy enough to sneak by humans unseen. They are also very good at slinging stones and can throw rocks with surprising accuracy.
In Dungeons & Dragons, the halflings were originally called “hobbits”, but had to be changed for legal reasons to avoid infringement. Making the change to the newer name was obvious as Tolkien himself used the term “halfling” in The Lord of the Rings. A halfling was originally very similar to the hobbits in Tolkien’s books but over time and through different editions changed into a more adventuresome race, opportunistic and nomadic, rather than the kind of lazy, stay-at-home characters of Middle-earth tales. In the Dragonlance campaign setting, a newer race, very similar to halflings was introduced called the kender. These kender however were different enough in character and look, despite their small stature that they became an entirely different race in that world.
It is also only in the MMORPG Dungeons & Dragons Online that halflings are available as playable characters. Their characteristics match those of the table-top version: small, opportunistic, nomadic.
Pathfinder, another traditional pen-and-paper role-playing game, also has halflings as a race. In that game, they are also opportunists, using their small stature as an advantage as they can be easily underestimated. Living closely with humans, their history is not as tumultuous as that of the dwarves or elves and they find themselves in menial positions in human society, even as slaves in certain parts of the world of Golarion. Due to their unending optimism, however, they get along with everyone and so tend to be desired in the slave market. Their curiosity has the tendency to send them off on adventures and often can land them in trouble, especially when they are younger and looking for such things. This desire for adventure can also lead these young halflings to join in with less than appealing characters. The only race they shun are half-orcs, due to their violent natures.
Besides the most famous of halflings in Tolkien’s hobbits, there are few examples in literature or gaming of what a they are and what they are capable of. But what better examples than the young hobbits that saved Middle-earth from the terror of the One Ring? It seems to reinforce the idea that these tiny people often are taken for granted, to the loss of us bigger folk.