Monday, December 1, 2014

Keep Watching Over Durin's Sons

It’s almost too bad Tolkien didn’t create a dozen dwarves, otherwise we’d have one for each day of the 12 days of Christmas. However, since there are the twins Fíli and Kíli, I suppose they can count as one day. There’s not many posts left till Christmas, and The Battle of the Five Armies comes out in 3 days, but let’s discuss as many of the dwarves of The Hobbit as possible!

Reference to dwarven family trees is only made a couple of times in Peter Jackson’s film adaptations, and most of what movie-goers know is that Fíli and Kíli are Thorin Oakenshield’s nephews. They are all the direct descendents in the line of Durin; but there are also a few others in the company who are related as well. And those who aren’t are all related to some of the other dwarves in some way. With Christmas fast approaching and most of us preparing to host or visit family, would you trade that for a Durin family Christmas? (I mean, if it meant being in Middle-earth, I might take it. But on the other hand, I personally don’t like having a scratchy chin or spending a lot of time indoors/underground. Give me sunlight…).

What/who is the line of Durin, anyhow? Tolkien was a master at creating so many backstories and history, turning over (almost) every rock and giving us a lot of lineage and family tree information on the races in Middle-earth. Durin’s roots go right back to the foundations of Middle-earth. If you’re really interested in all the backstories and roots of this, go find a copy of The Silmarillion. To keep it short and simple (for now!), there were seven original dwarves created for Middle-earth by one of the Valar. The Complete Guide to Middle-earth describes the Valar as the “fourteen greatest (excluding Melkor) of the Ainur who chose to enter Ëa to fulfill the Vision of Ilúvatar” [1] (Ëa referencing the earth). Basically, the Valar are angelic servants (that take on physical form) of the creator, Ilúvatar. Aulë was the particular Valar who created the dwarves, Durin being one of the first seven.

From Durin, some of his most famous descendents came--Thorin (the second) and Fíli and Kíli (sons of Thorin’s sister), but also a few who made an appearance in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Balin, Dwalin, Óin, and Glóin were all on the family tree, although they were not as close genealogically to Thorin’s side. Balin and Dwalin were both brothers, as were Óin and Glóin. And--if you’ve kept careful watch in The Hobbit or anywhere in the books--Gimli is included in this family tree as well. Not only were the thirteen dwarves companions and comrades in arms, they shared a lot of Durin’s royal blood.

Tolkien didn’t write much about Thorin, his folk, and their traditions and life outside of his main works, especially before their quest, where we see most of their character development. After his grandfather being killed and the dwarves chased out of the mountain by Smaug, Thorin and Durin’s Folk eventually settled in the Blue Mountains until their quest began. Tolkien simply refers to this area as “Thorin’s Halls.” In both names and culture, we see Tolkien borrowing a lot from ancient Norse mythology and poetry, but you have to search his additional histories to piece together exact details. The same is true for the dwarves, even though you will find even less details on them--not even the only dwarven twins recorded in Tolkien’s histories are given much of a personality in The Hobbit. For all its faults pointed out by Tolkien purists, Jackson’s movies do a nice job of fleshing them out, paying particular attention to Kíli in particular. But the strong family ties are portrayed well; the twins are fiercely loyal to Thorin, and Fíli in particular is being trained to take over as the heir to the throne someday. Both brothers, like Thorin, possess stubborn pride (a very dwarf-like trait, it seems to me; or perhaps even more apparent in Durin’s Folk?) and loyalty to each other, which is a great portrayal of the dwarven race. It is rare to meet a Tolkien fan whose favorite race and obsession is the dwarves; even though many of us appreciate them, I’m pretty sure most of us would sign up for being elves without a second thought to what being one would really be like. There is something to be said for dwarves though. For all their pride and stubbornness, obsession with lineage, and hoarding of treasure, we see in both the movies and books both Durin’s Folk and other descendents of the original seven staying true to each other. There is a bond of brotherhood there, and as much as they seem to love their treasure I think when pushed, these dwarves would choose kin and friend immediately.

Durin’s line ended not long after Thorin was gone with Durin VII, a direct descendent and the last one, and as detailed as Tolkien usually got, the only explain that the world was growing old and the time of the dwarves was ending. We may see Jackson do something different than the inevitable ending of The Hobbit in his last movie (which most of us think has to happen, but also dread it. Tears will be shed) but other than the line of Durin being changed, I don’t see it as having any other real effect upon the dwarven race. Sure, there could be speculation about how Thorin’s character could change, or if the line would be continued longer, but I think the biggest change will be how the War of the Ring would be affected--and for Jackson to continue true to his adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, he can’t steer too far from the original. In The Lord of the Rings, we don’t see large numbers of dwarves, due to Sauron’s takeover of Middle-earth (the destruction of the dwarven settlement lead by Balin in the Mines of Moria being one of the disastrous effects)... and I wonder if Thorin had been around, if things would have been different. I have a feeling that he may have been entrenched in his mountain, protecting and hoarding his riches, even if Sauron’s forces came for him as well.
If you ever come to a point where you realize your hoarding and coveting habits are becoming too dwarf like, remember to stop before it’s too late and your greed backs you into a corner with no conceivable story plot out other than the inevitable, like poor Thorin. Tolkien’s work contains a lot of good life lessons, one of them being that the things that we want to last the longest either won’t fulfill us or they will outlast us--so choose wisely. And be thankful that you aren’t one of Durin’s doomed line.

[1] Foster, R. (2001). The complete guide to Middle-earth: From the Hobbit through the Lord of the rings and beyond. New York: Ballantine Books.


  1. *Tolkien geek girl squeal of happiness*

    1. Thanks Mirriam!! Glad to hear I'm not the only one geeking out over research ;)

  2. This made my little nerd heart happy.

    1. Yay! Thanks for commenting, it's encouraging for me to hear that people actually like reading this stuff!

  3. I just found this awesome blog and I'm so glad I did! It's so nice to find other people to fangirl with. It looks like there are quite a few fandoms that I haven't joined! (yet)(-;
    Awww, I love it when people do nerdy Tolkien/Middle Earth posts. This was great! Not many people talk about the dwarves, but I'm glad that The Battle of the Five Armies will be focusing on them a bit. I'm so sad it's the last movie, and so sad too... )-: I think I will cry when I see it... Have you seen it yet?