Other than possibly Ents, Tolkien didn’t really “invent” any of the species of Middle-Earth. Tolkien’s elves hark back to ancient stories of the Faerie, before the Victorians made them into Tinkerbell. The dwar(f)ves are in the Viking sagas. Trolls and goblins are ancient stories, as well.
Orcs are, when you get down to it, kind of non-specific boogeymen or goblins (divorced from the specificity of modern FRPGs). Nazgul are wraiths…black spirits. There have always been plenty of those.
I’m not denigrating the Professor’s creation (ME?! Seriously?), I’m just noting that he didn’t actually invent most of the TYPES of creatures in it. What he did with the cast that he drew from legend and adapted to his world is genius, though.
The Wikipedia article sob “Elf” and “Elves in fantasy fiction and games” does a really good job of tracing Elves. The really short summary is that Tolkein invented nothing there.
As other shave said, the wraiths and goblins are just generic restless dead and bogeymen, and certainly not something attributable to Tolkein.
Hobbit themselves *are *his invention. While legend had plenty of little people, none of them were particularly similar to Hobbits, in the sense of being creatures of the everyday world, rather than from “fairyland” and being no more “magical” than the people you meet on the street. The Hobbits were. AFAIK, a unique creature in that they were a separate, non-human race that inhabited the mundane world, rather than the underworld or caves or haunted houses or similar “remote” locations. While that has been copied *ad nauseum *by later fantasy writers, to the best of my knowledge it was something invented by Tolkien, and no small part of the appeal of his world.
The common Englishman is 3 feet tall, has pointed ears, lives for 120 years on average, can move absolutely noiselessly through woodlands and has greater resistance to disease and poisons than other humans and lives in holes in the ground?
I believe the argument was more to do with language, society, customs and so on, and I’ll cheerfully dispute that 120-year “average”; it’s mentioned somewhere that they “reached a hundred as often as not” but the Old Took himself just managed 130.
I kinda remember that too (intro before FOTR) but readers invariably conclude it was so. May have been the time frame during writing. We know “The Shadow of the Past” was written before 1940 but as Tolkien put it, LOTR “grew with the telling.” There are those who say WW 1 was a bigger inspiration. My take on that has more to do with his obvious reactions to things like urbanization, rise of industries, and developments that have made the world smaller (best demonstrated by the permanent closure of the undying lands, turning the world into a round sphere where mortals end up where they began.)
Not intending to weasel out of an obvious error, i must admit the WW2 allusion is a bit off.
Another source for the nazgul: the Oprichniki, Ivan the Terrible’s goon squad. They rode black horses, they wore black robes, they exterminated Ivan’s enemies, and five centuries after they were disbanded, Russian mothers still invoke their name to frighten disobedient children.
Ents: The Wizard of Oz has talking trees, and Alice Through the Looking Glass has talking flowers. Both pre-date Lord of the Rings. Not to mention the Green Man.
The first thing connected with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings that Tolkien wrote were stories that now can be found in The Silmarillion. He began working on them in 1917, twenty years before The Hobbit was published and sixty years before The Silmarillion was published.
The idea of elves could go back into Proto-Germanic times:
You should read some books on Germanic mythology. One place to start might be reading the text of Richard Wagner’s series of operas The Ring of the Nibelung. This is how, for instance, most Germans (and a lot of other people) know about Germanic mythology. (And, no, he’s not a relative of mine.) There are many obvious ways in which bits of the plot of The Ring of the Nibelung is found in Tolkien’s works. Of course, it’s even more important that you read the books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
I never thought of this before, but based on your description it could be argued that Hobbits are very similar to Munchkins of Oz, which predate Hobbits by only a couple of decades. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve read Frank Baum’s books but I seem to recall that Munchkins were clever little people and somewhat child-like but not particularly magical or fairy-like. And they lived in normal (but small) houses.
Tolkien was a great scholar of Northern myth & legend. He would never have claimed that he “invented” elves or dwarves or dragons. He was also well-read in more recent literature; there’s an etymology for orc although he tailored the creatures to fit his fantasy world.
He invented Hobbits. (And probably Tom Bombadil, but we don’t like to mention him.)