How much alcohol does it take to get a hobbit drunk?
Hobbits lead the good life: they eat all day, they usually work with their hands and enjoy nature (unless they are rich and don’t work at all), and they live in an idyllic agricultural landscape filled with lush trees, rivers and greenery. Hills. They also consume their fair share of beer in taverns, an ode to pub culture that JRR Tolkien himself has announced.
But how much can a hobbit Actually drink?
There’s a joke in the Lord of the Rings movies that isn’t present in the books – while hanging out at the Prancing Pony, Merry returns to the table with a large tankard. and Pippin asks what he’s drinking:
“This, my friend, is a pint,” he said viciously.
Pippin’s eyes widen. “Does it come in pints?” “
It makes sense that hobbits would turn to smaller casts because they are smaller people – you wouldn’t give a five year old a glass of juice because they have a smaller stomach and the glass would be bigger. difficult to manage in smaller hands. But even if the average Hobbit goes from half a pint to half a pint, that doesn’t mean their drinking rates are low in the booze department.
So how much can they save when they crawl around the tavern with friends? It depends on a multitude of interesting factors….
Hobbit measurements. Hobbits are typically two to four feet tall, Tolkien says, with the average height being three feet and six inches. This is during the LOTR events; Tolkien claims that living hobbits today rarely reach three feet. [The Fellowship of the Ring, “Concerning Hobbits”] Of course, an adult hobbit will on average have more body weight than your typical human child of the same height thanks to a slower metabolism and famous love of food (“Elevensies” is one thing!), So we can estimate. that if a 42 inch child weighs an average of 40.5 pounds, a hobbit will weigh around 70 pounds. Being generally smaller also means having a smaller stomach, but that shouldn’t be a problem; your average adult stomach can dilate considerably to contain several liters if needed, which means that a hobbit can probably swallow 1.5 liters (more than 3 pints) without much effort. So this means that the volume is not too much of a problem while drinking.
Type of beer. LOTR refers to hobbit beer as both “beer” and “ale”. As we observe various species getting drunk on the beer on display, we can assume that Tolkien is not referring to the small beers of yesteryear, but the average fare that could be found in a pub in the 20th century. The majority of Hobbit beers can be labeled as session beers, making them suitable for long evenings after a hard day’s work.
Alcohol content. Ale averages around 3-6% ABV. To simplify the math, let’s assume 5% ABV for your typical Hobbit beer. Something sessionable, but not so low that your average man wouldn’t notice the kick in, as Hobbits are clearly good drinkable drinks that are also brewed with Big Folk in mind.
Alcohol units. The specific unit for a measure of beer is also important here. It is likely that a pint in Middle-earth is an Imperial pint, which is different from the American unit. (The Imperial pint is larger.) A full Imperial pint is 568 milliliters, or half a pint is 284 milliliters.
Alcohol elimination rate. This is one of the key variant factors in determining how quickly Hobbits can process alcohol; contrary to what many people believe, your metabolism has very little to do with how quickly you process alcohol. The biological process that determines this is actually a construct called the alcohol elimination rate, which is basically a calculation that determines how quickly your liver can filter alcohol through your system.
One of the factors in this calculation is how often you drink; a person who drinks regularly will eliminate alcohol more quickly than a person who drinks only occasionally because they have developed a chemical “tolerance”. Another factor is the size of your liver in relation to your body mass. If the size of a hobbit’s liver relative to its body size is similar to that of an adult human, it will eliminate alcohol at roughly the same rate as an adult human. If a hobbit’s liver size is larger than that of an adult human (which is true for children) relative to their body size, they are more likely to have an elimination rate of alcohol closer to that of an alcoholic or a child. It’s entirely possible – perhaps even likely – that hobbits have proportionately larger livers, the same way a human child would. Since Hobbits have a relatively constant rate of consumption (six meals a day, when they can have any), their systems are not exactly the same as those of a human.
With that in mind, it’s time to do some math!
The alcohol content in the blood is usually determined by the Widmark formula. While this formula is not absolute, it does give us a useful baseline. Here is an updated version of the formula:
% BAC = (A x 5.14 / L xr) – 0.015 x H
Here are the variables you need to consider:
A = fluid ounces of alcohol consumed
W = weight of a person in pounds
r = a gender constant of the distribution of alcohol (0.73 for men and 0.66 for women – this is tricky for flexibility)
H = hours elapsed since the start of consumption
The 0.015 in the equation is the average alcohol elimination rate for a social drinker. If the hobbits do have a higher elimination rate, this number needs to be changed to around 0.028 for the formula to give an accurate BAC%. We determine A by calculating the amount of alcohol in the beer consumed, which is the number of fluid ounces in a drink multiplied by the number of drinks consumed multiplied by the ABV of the drink. If a hobbit consumes two half pints of beer, the formula for A looks like this:
9.6 ounces x 2 half pints x 5% ABV = 0.96 oz
If we use this formula to account for the blood alcohol level of a male hobbit who drank two half pints of beer in an hour on an empty stomach, with an average human elimination rate, this is what we get. :
(0.96 x 5.14 / 70 x 0.73) – 0.015 x 1
(4.934 / 51.1) – 0.015 x 1
.0965 – .015 x 1 = .082 BAC%
For the record, 0.08% puts you above the legal limit for driving in the US (Granted, Hobbits don’t drive cars. Do they need a license for ponies?) Let’s see what happens. happens when we adjust the elimination rate for someone with a bigger liver, closer to the range of a chronic drinker:
.0965 – .028 x 1 = .069 BAC%
If we assume the latter, then a hobbit that puts away a pint in an hour would be in “buzzing” territory – lowered inhibitions, a little louder and louder, heightened emotions. If the same hobbit consumed 1.5 pints in the same hour, his blood alcohol level would skyrocket to 0.12%, leading to severe motor and memory impairment as well as poor self-control. Two full pints in an hour would lead to a blood alcohol level of 0.17%, which would cause that same hobbit to start feeling dizzy or nauseous, with blurred vision and a possible risk of fainting. By three pints and a blood alcohol level of 0.26%, the poor guy is probably throwing up near a poor farmer’s stables and leans on his friends for support because he can’t walk without help.
So if a hobbit consumed a regular half pint per hour, he would maintain a wave of euphoria. But if they plan to use at a faster rate, they need to watch themselves (or have good buddies looking out for them). Which means Hobbits treat alcohol the same way humans do, but in smaller portions. And they probably have awesome livers that do the job for them.
Just some useful info for when the hobbits drop by to party …
Originally published in October 2016.
Emmet Asher-Perrin tried Hobbit beer in New Zealand. That was delicious. You can bug them on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of their work here and elsewhere.