[An extract from a letter apparently addressed to Tolkien’s American publishers, and probably written in March or April 1938. Houghton Mifflin seem to have asked him to supply drawings of hobbits for use in some future edition of The Hobbit.]
I am afraid, if you will need drawings of hobbits in various attitudes, I must leave it in the hands of someone who can draw. My own pictures are an unsafe guide – e.g. the picture of Mr. Baggins in Chapter VI and XII. The very ill-drawn one in Chapter XIX is a better guide than these in general impressions.
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; ears only slightly pointed and ‘elvish’; hair short and curling (brown). The feet from the ankles down, covered with brown hairy fur. Clothing: green velvet breeches; red or yellow waistcoat; brown or green jacket; gold (or brass) buttons; a dark green hood and cloak (belonging to a dwarf).
Actual size – only important if other objects are in picture – say about three feet or three feet six inches. The hobbit in the picture of the gold-hoard, Chapter XII, is of course (apart from being fat in the wrong places) enormously too large. But (as my children, at any rate, understand) he is really in a separate picture or ‘plane’ – being invisible to the dragon.
There is in the text no mention of his acquiring of boots. There should be! It has dropped out somehow or other in the various revisions – the bootings occurred at Rivendell; and he was again bootless after leaving Rivendell on the way home. But since leathery soles, and well-brushed furry feet are a feature of essential hobbitness, he ought really to appear unbooted, except in special illustrations of episodes.