“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” So begins J. R. R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel The Hobbit. A hobbit, as anyone who doesn’t live in a hole in the ground knows, is a small humanoid creature with hairy feet and a fondness for pipe-weed. The two most famous hobbits, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, are the protagonists of that novel and of Tolkien’s later The Lord of the Rings. But contrary to what most people believe, Tolkien did not coin the term hobbit.

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