December 28, 2001
Some Hobbits Were Here All Along
The identification of three species of "hobbit-like" crustacean more than 20 years ago is being held up as proof that, contrary to the claims of Birmingham and Lancashire, New Zealand really is Middle Earth.
Riding on the coat-tails of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings success, Birmingham has loudly claimed itself to have been the true home of the Rings.
The claim is based on a rare interview by writer J R R Tolkien in which he said that the hamlet of Sarehole, now part of Birmingham, had been his inspiration.
At the same time, Lancashire historians have staked their claim, arguing that Tolkien wrote most of the Rings cycle at Stonyhurst College, and that Hobbiton was based on the village of Hurst Green. Now Wellington-based National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research has put its oar in, claiming to have identified three hobbit-like species more than 20 years ago.
And it has the scientific records to prove it.
Published in The Journal of Natural History in 1981 is an account of the identifications of the types of "amphipods" - small crustaceans, relatives of sandhoppers.
All of them, apparently, have hobbit features.
Cerapus harfootus was named for the small brown-skinned hobbits who lived in tunnels in hillsides (the Harfoots); Cerapus stoorus was named for the heavier-built hobbits with big hands who lived on the flatlands (the Stoors); and Cerapus fallohideus was named for the tall, slim breed of fair-skinned hobbits who lived in the forest and were the most distinctive of the three.