I really believe that there is a genetic pre-disposition to “halfling-ism.” Outside of Middle-Earth’s atmosphere–or possibly due to centuries of interminging with other folk– that syndrome isn’t manifested in the typical physical ways: short stature, large, hairy feet, pudginess, pointy ears and ravenous appetites (to name a few).
A hobbit isn’t known by such characteristics these days. The chief characteristic of halflings we encounter today is a heart conditon: there’s a Shire inside. Just like Narnia is a world within a wardrobe, so too is the Shire a world within a hobbit. The Shire is green, predictable, orderly, well-watered. It is characterized by coziness and quaintness.
It is a place where rest and comfort are valued, and where the sacraments of good food and communal drinks are celebrated. And lively hobbit-nobbing with other good folk is a treasured ritual–not free from controversy necessarily, but welcomed as stimulating and liberating from their sometimes introverted pacifism. History has even shown it to have precipitated epic adventures far beyond the imaginings of ones so inwardly-inclined.
It’s also notable that the migration and evolution of hobbitdom has left literal hobbit holes largely as mere exhibits of hobbit history. The nature and tastes of the inward-Shire, however, are deeply ingrained, and contempo-hobbits will still have their equivalent spaces–both inwardly (aided by imagination) and as outwardly-constructed projections of that green and hearth-some place. From the tree-birthed texture of books and maps, to the waxes of fragrant candles; from teas and coffees steaming in significant mugs, to something baked and toothsome (especially with cinnamon!) set out with thankfulness!
It’s the feel and smell of loamy earth with fat worms a-working. Green leaves shimmering with dew-diamonds, vegeta-babies swelling from umbili-branches, tended rows and cascading bean and cucumber vines all call to–and are answered by–the inward Shire. And the sound of a fish-jump in the pond or in the gurgling stream is enough to spawn campfire tales about how a submerged ring once found its way into the pocketses of an illustrious progenitor whose yarn told the tale of Middle Earth, and Earth beyond even that.
A halfling is a creature of desire, and that desire never quite grasped–but ecstasy to consider and to seek after in homely and lively ways. His sanity consists in joyful simplicity, now in resting, now in pursuing, and not panicking when it becomes clear that the will 0′-the-wisp Adventure he’s been drawn into is not leading to Smaug or to Mordor, but to very Shire-like, eternal lands. –MOW