Were Hobbits a sub-group of Humans?

Yes, beyond question. There were three statements to this effect. The first, from the Prologue, is probably less definite because it was intended to be the editor speaking.

It is plain indeed that in spite of later estrangement Hobbits are relatives of ours: far nearer to us than Elves, or even than Dwarves. Of old they spoke the languages of Men, after their own fashion, and liked and disliked much the same things as Men did. But what exactly our relationship is can no longer be discovered. The beginning of Hobbits lies far back in the Elder Days that are now lost and forgotten. [FR, 11 (Prologue)]
The Hobbits are, of course, really meant to be a branch of the specifically *human* race (not Elves or Dwarves) -- hence the two kinds can dwell together (as at Bree), and are called just the Big Folk and Little Folk. They are entirely without non-human powers, but are represented as being more in touch with 'nature' (the soil and other living things, plants and animals), and abnormally, for humans, free from ambition or greed of wealth. [Letters, 158 (footnote) (#131)]
Firstborn, The:
Title of the Elves. Translate. ('Firstborn', since the Elves appeared in the world before all other 'speaking peoples', not only Men, but also Dwarves, of independent origin. Hobbits are of course meant to be a special variety of the human race).
[Guide, entry for "The Firstborn"]
FR, 11 (Prologue, "On Hobbits");
Letters, 158 (footnote) (#131);
Guide, entry for "The Firstborn".

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Last modified: Tue Aug 22 12:32:46 1995