Skip to main content

Creating Middle Earth: The Hobbits

J.R.R Tolkien's Middle Earth is a place of magic and wonder, a place of immortal creatures, warlike heroes and fair and virtuous maids. It's a land of legend, locked in an eternal strife between Good and Evil where kings clash with dark and malicious powers. And because of all this is, by nature, so far removed from us, the reader and the audience, it can be easy to look at it with cold detachment and not truly get invested in it. Or it would be if Tolkien hadn't placed a relatable heart at the center of the story.

That beating heart that drives the Trilogy is found in the humble and kind hobbits, whom in their non-magical essence and their gentle hearts and simple minds create a familiar link with the reader that guides him through Tolkien's mystical world.

It's the quiet and tranquil hobbits that lie at the emotional core of the story. But it's that same every-man quality of theirs that lies at the very center of this epic and its theme. Because of these, we decided it was high time we talked about them in this series.


Hobbits, the little people that tend The Shire, were so important to Tolkien that he dedicated an entire 21-pages long prologue to them. In it, Tolkien explained their culture and traditions in extensive detail. So, how do you translate that onto the screen? Doing a documentary/slash 20 minute prologue is completely out of the question, as a movie, you need to jump right into the story. So how do you solve this conundrum?

Well, through every cinematographic tool there is: production design, acting, script... and, of course, costume design.

And make no mistake, there is a lot of information being transmitted solely through their clothes. But before we get to how these are transmitted, we need to briefly look at exactly what needs to be transmitted.

So, what is a Hobbit? Hobbits are, according to Tolkien, small creature between two and four feet tall with big feet covered in curly hair with leathery soles. They tend to be stout with slightly pointed ears. They are a distant branch of the race of men.
I picture a fairly human figure, not a kind of 'fairy' rabbit as some of my British reviewers seem to fancy: fattish in the stomach, shortish in the leg. A round, jovial face; only slightly pointed and 'elvish'; hair short and curling (brown). The feet from the ankles down, covered with brown hairy fur.                      --- J.R.R Tolkien in a letter to his American Publisher--- 
But even more than their looks, it's particularly important to understand what defines Hobbits as a group. Hobbits are fond of an unadventurous, bucolic and simple life of farming, eating and socializing. And although their mildness would seem contrary to it, they will defend fervently and courageous their way of life when threatened. They eat around six meals a day and prefer simple and homemade food. They also love smoking pipe-weed.

With that in mind, we will look at how they managed to translate that into the costume through the quartet of hobbits in the saga.


In order to visually translate the habits and traditions of the Hobbits onto their costumes, Ngila Dickson had three main tools: style, color and fabric. And she makes the most out of it.

The first and most obvious tool she has is style itself. Probably, the most telling aspect of their designs is that they have nothing in common with the elegant and luxurious look of the elves (read more about it here) or the rough yet proud look of the men of Rohan (read more about it here). The style of the hobbits is simple and utilitarian. They are farmers, their costumes are made to work with them.

This means that all their outfits consists of work-pants, shirt and suspenders and a vest or jacket. This is clearly inspired by the traditional work clothes for the field. They are made to be comfortable, not pretty, which helps transmit both the idea that farming is an essential part of their lifestyle and that they are content in it.

This style is found in every single hobbit shown on screen, which helps highlight the idea that they are a tight community. The difference in personalities is mainly highlighted through fabric and color, but never through style.

And so, if the style and layering is the same for all, we'll need to focus more on how the differences are used to highlight not only the different personalities, but also to cover all the aspects and characteristics of their race, thus creating a true cultural spectrum.


If hobbits are simple people, Sam is the simplest of them all. He is kind, shy and dedicated. He cares not for riches but for love and everything green in this world. He might not seem much, but his heart alone would will the ring to destroy itself. And so his clothing reflects all that.

When you look at his clothes, you see wool, cotton and "poor" fabrics. Look at the jacket he is wearing in the frame above; it looks rough and not gentle to the touch. It's a work jacket. He is a hard working hobbit, and so his are the clothes of someone that breaks his back working day in day out.

Another important element is that you can clearly see that he gives no importance to his clothes. Unlike the leather canteen he carries around or the gigantic backpack that includes a set of pans and pots and other such essential tools when you set out to save the world... which he clearly cherishes and never once even separates from them until they are deep into Mordor.

This, if anything, highlights both the hobbits' dislike of adventure (he seems more worried about basic daily routines such as eating than the actual danger, at least when they depart towards Rivendell) and also underlines how essential is food and eating to their culture (beautifully rendered both in the second breakfast scene with Aragon and the "rabbit and potatoes" scene with Gollum).

Another key element of the hobbits that is mainly represented in Sam is their shyness. Sam doesn't enjoy attention, and has a strong aura of shyness about him. Which is marvelously integrated in his costume through color.

He mainly dresses in very muted and unobtrusive colors; brown for the trousers and desaturated beiges and greens and greys for the rest. Which certainly underlines the fact that he doesn't dress to call attention to himself. His palette perfectly blends in with the landscape he loves so much.

Aside from the color, you'll also notice that he is the only of the four main hobbits that actually wears plaid. Plaid shirts are usually worker's clothing. And it's the same for Sam. He is not rich, he is a worker.

Himself and his designs represents hobbits at its most humble and kind. Which is radically opposed in the aforementioned cultural spectrum to someone as, say, Frodo Baggins.


Frodo shares a lot of characteristics with Sam: a deep love for his home, love for his peers and a kind humility. But Frodo is not a worker. For starters, Frodo is quite rich for a hobbit (take into account that Bilbo took back a literal treasure back with him from his adventure with Smaug).

And how is that shown? Well, through fabric. He is usually dressed in much finer clothes than Sam. For instance, in the picture above, he is wearing green velvet trousers and a fine linen shirt, and both are much nicer than any of Sam's wool and cotton outfits. After all, Sam is his gardener and not the other way around.

He also has some richly patterned vests that are meant to visually indicate his higher economic status within the community.

But character wise, Frodo is also radically different than Sam. Frodo is much more insightful and thoughtful. He dedicates his time to reading on the outside world, and has a certain curiosity for knowing that Sam certainly doesn't share.

But he also is much more social than Sam (at least before the quest), and so his costumes are not made to blend in so much as Sam's. He doesn't mind being noticed.

Which brings us to his color palette: most of Frodo's outfits are in a rich and broad palette of browns, which heavily contrast with Sam's more muted and unobtrusive colors. Also, in that brown outfit, Frodo looks like one of his leather books, which beautifully ties into his more bookish personality.

And so, you can see how the designer found a clever way to visually differentiate the both of them whilst still having them wear a very similar style.


Merry and Pippin are a representation of hobbits at their most fun-loving and social. They enjoy life at its fullest and all its simple pleasures: they like eating, pranking, dancing and drinking. They are loud and vociferous. And so is their clothing.

Both Merry and Pippin regularly dress in rather bright and cheerful colors. Merry in rich yellows and ocres, and Pippin in blues, calling attention onto themselves rather gleefully.

Also, notice the difference between their clothing and Sam's. These two do not dress for work, but for the Pub.


And so, the four of them together, manage to represent the whole of Hobbit community both in look and personality. From the hardworking Sam to the funny and noisy Merry and Pippin. Because of this, we think that this was the perfect way to introduce both the hobbits as a race and the four main characters, which is really clever because it saves runtime, but still manages to transmit all the information that Tolkien wrote in that detailed prologue without ever bringing the story to a halt.


We hope you enjoyed this new entry and we'll see you next time. As always, tell you that we don't know what other designs from Lord of the Rings we will be covering yet. This functions more or less the same way that the Padme series works (improvising basically) but if you want to request any specific design from the Trilogy don't hesitate to contact us and tell us!


All the images of the dress used in this article (and many more) 
can be found in the amazing collection of movie costumes 


Popular posts from this blog

A look into Star Wars: Padme's Dresses. Annex A

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, the size of Padme's wardrobe is leaning towards big. One might even say gigantic. Because of this, we are forced to choose which ones we review and which ones we don't. Otherwise, we would still be reviewing the costumes from Episode I. Thanks to this selection process, right now, in our Padme series' we are reviewing costumes already from Revenge of the Sith. But lately, we've been thinking a lot about those designs that got "lost in the selection", as we call them.
WHY WEREN'T THESE SELECTED? Generally, those that we did not select for our series were considered "not interesting enough". But what does that mean? Well, it means two things; either they pulled from the exact same influences as any of the dresses we had already addressed (which would make for a very repetitive article) or were considered too simple and basic to talk about them at length.
And then, of course, were those that we simply did …

A look into Star Wars: Padme's Dresses. Part II

Let’s continue with our thorough examination of the designs of Padme Amidala’s dresses. This second post in the series will be dedicated to the also terribly famous “senate” gown from “The Phantom Menace”. She wears this dress during her plea at the senate in Coruscant, and it has grown to become a terribly well known gown.

This gown has several layers to it. The base layer is a bright orange silk dress, with a high collar decorated with ornate gold stitchwork and beads. Over this, she wears a dark red overdress with orange hems decorated with gold brocade. This overdress has big sleeves and its embroider with rosettes. Above this, she wears a dark and thick faux fur cloak with shoulder pads that make her look twice her size.

Although what really made this dress iconic, is the headdress that accompanied it. Amidala's hair was dressed in a wide arc centered by a golden headpiece with golden hairbands to keep her hair's shape. This arc was decorated with dangling orichalc suspens…

Creating the Seven Kingdoms. Part I: The North

As we promised a few weeks backs, we are going to cover more tv shows from now on, mainly because there is just too much awesomeness in our TV's these days to ignore it. And for the last 5 years, the crowning jewel of TV costume design has been, without a doubt, HBO's Game of Thrones. So it was only logical to start there.
The downside is that there is so much to talk about that it becomes really difficult to decide where to start exactly. G.R.R. Martin's sprawling epic covers many characters and many places, and therefore there's really a lot to pick up from. In the end, we decided that we would take a page out of the author's tactics and split it in several different series of articles to be published gradually. And so, this is going to be the first of many. And we probably should warn you, there will be spoilers ahead. CREATING THE SEVEN KINGDOMSGame of Thrones, from an adaptation standpoint, faced many of the same problems that Peter Jackson had to face when b…

A look into Star Wars: Padme's Dresses. Part I

I’ve decided to start this blog by dedicating the first posts to the designs of Padme Amidala’s dresses in the first three episodes of Star Wars. Although  I’m not particularly fond of these movies, I have to give some credit to their wardrobe design and the thought and creativity that went into it. 
We will look into the most iconic dresses of Padme Amidala and do a breakdown of the influences behind them. Each post will be dedicated to one of these dresses.
The first one of these series is the one I like to call the “Red Invasion” gown. It’s featured the first time we see Natalie Portman’s character in The Phantom Menace, and it’s probably one of the most iconic gowns she has.

This gown is made of embroidered silk and faux fur that lines the double collar, tabards, double sleeves and hem. The alien-like touch is given to the dress by the electric lights placed on the skirt, that are made to resemble ladybugs.
The head piece that accompanies this dress is also pretty iconic in and on it…

A look into Star Wars: Padme's dresses. Part X

The last design from Episode II which we are going to be covering is the wedding gown, which happens to be the literal last outfit worn by the character in the movie.

She wears this dress in the final scene of Episode II, during her wedding with Anakin. It's a brief scene, but somehow people really remember this gown.
The design consists of an intricate gown made of lace and beads that goes with a lace veil. The gown is long and flowing, and has a small tail. The white fabric is decorated with an off-white delicate embroidery. The sleeves reach her elbows and are hemmed with scalloped lace. The entire gown is studded with pearls.

This gown takes from various historical sources, most of them pertaining to the early 20th century. The basic one with which it work are Edwardian fashion (1901-1911) and the 1920's.
The basic structure, with the gown and the laced overdress, is clearly taken from late Edwardian fashion.

These dresses (dated 1912) are quite similar to Padme's gow…