Halflings aren’t exactly seen as the heroic type. I mean, sure, Bilbo burgled and Frodo saved Middle Earth, but media hasn’t given these furry-footed half-people an image as real paladins by any stretch. But is their portrayal in movies, books, and games fair?
Let’s face it. Warriors are a dime a dozen in fantasy. You walk into a tavern, and everywhere you look there are blokes with swords and blackguards hiding under the hoods of their cloaks ready to stab someone in the back. There is never a lack for folk who crave violence, never a shortage of folks who need to avenge their father’s deaths. Dwarves offer their axes, elves their bows, men their legendary swords. But what about halflings? What could these small, gentle, kind people possibly offer a questing party who will inevitably be faced with danger?
Well, here are a few possibilities.
1. Commitment. Halflings are not the adventurous type. It takes a lot for them to leave their own neighborhoods, never mind travel across mountains and through forests. They distrust strangers and hate being late for supper. On the surface, it seems like that would make them horrible questing companions. But never underestimate the commitment power of a stubborn halfling. If you can manage to convince a halfling to leave his village, it means you must have offered the halfling something valuable indeed. It means you overcame his instinctual desire to stay home among his own people—no small feat! If the halfling is willing to accept your quest, it means the quest must be extremely important to him on a deep, personal level. He’s not going to give up on this quest easily. You have yourself a lifelong partner in this endeavor, and he’ll stay until it’s accomplished.
2. No one cooks up a brace of conies better. After weeks of grueling travel over rugged paths, eating stale bread, leathery meat, and hard cheese can get a little tiresome. They say hunger is the best spice, but seriously, trying to chew those foods uses as many calories as you take in from eating them! With a halfling in the band, you have no worries! With just these three ingredients, a halfling can cook up a week’s worth of different meals. Laugh as you will at the box of spices he just had to bring with him. Your halfling companion’s cooking will be a game-changer. While your enemy is wonder what taters are, your team will be well-nourished on acorn shieldcakes and stale bread/moldy cheese fondue.
3. Weapons multi-tasking. A cast iron skillet can cook up a mean mouse fricassee. It can also serve as a warhammer to one who knows how to wield it. It can block the harshest sword blow. It can also be used to sterilize water from foul bogs for emergency drinking water. Has a member of the band lost a leg? The warriors won’t be teasing their halfling friend for taking along the very thing that makes one step cauterization a possibility.
4. Why so serious? Just because you’re heading off to save the world doesn’t mean you have to be glum about it. Halflings are natural story tellers, and some have reputations as pranksters. They are outgoing and good-natured even in the darkest of circumstances. Can’t see the bright side of things? A halfling will remind you that there are good things in the world, like fine pipe-weed, cakes, comfortable chairs, and fine wine. The world is worth fighting for, even at its darkest hour.
5. Companionship. Halflings are good companions by nature. Friends and family are the most important things to them, and they will work hard to be sure your band of adventurers is comfortable and happy. They have generous spirits. Though they have a tendency to complain if they lack a hearty dinner or miss their afternoon tea, this doesn’t mean they are greedy. Halflings share what they have with others. There is no one more willing to be helpful or kind than a halfling.
It’s seldom that you hear someone who wants to go out of their way to be a halfling in a role playing game. In gym class, a halfling would probably be picked last for kickball teams. But ask anyone who has ventured off on a grand quest with a member of this race, and they will tell you these short, stubborn people are second to none when it comes to being a valuable part of the group.
Melanie R. Meadors is the author of fantasy stories where heroes don't always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She’s been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion. Her fiction has appeared in Circle Magazine, Prick of the Spindle, and in the anthology Champions of Aetaltis. She's the co-editor of the anthology MECH: Age of Steel and editor of Hath No Fury, and she is a blogger and general b*tch monkey at The Once and Future Podcast.