Thorin Oakenshield

Thorin Oakenshield is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's 1937 novel The Hobbit. Thorin is the leader of the Company of Dwarves who aim to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from Smaug the dragon. He is the son of Thráin II, grandson of Thrór, and becomes King of Durin's Folk during their exile from Erebor. Thorin's background is further elaborated in Appendix A of Tolkien's 1955 novel The Return of the King, and in Unfinished Tales.

Thorin Oakenshield
Tolkien character
In-universe information
AliasesKing under the Mountain
King of Durin's Folk
RaceDwarf
Book(s)The Hobbit (1937)
Unfinished Tales (1980)

Commentators have noted that Thorin is Old Norse both in name and character, being surly, illiberal, independent, proud, aristocratic, and like all Dwarves greedy for gold. From a Christian perspective, Thorin exemplifies the deadly sin of avarice, but is able to free himself from it at the time of his death. This deathbed conversion has been compared to the moral transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol.

Thorin appears in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit film series, in the Rankin/Bass animated version, and in the 1982 game of the same name.

AppearancesEdit

The HobbitEdit

"Long ago in my grandfather Thror's time our family was driven out of the far North, and came back with all their wealth and their tools to this Mountain on the map."

Thorin describes his background to Bilbo in ch. 1 "An Unexpected Party"

In The Hobbit, Thorin, a Dwarf-King in exile and twelve other Dwarves visited Bilbo Baggins in his home in the Shire. This was on the wizard Gandalf's advice to hire Bilbo as a burglar, to help them steal their treasure back from the dragon Smaug. Smaug had attacked the Dwarves's mountain, Erebor (the Lonely Mountain) about 150 years before, and had taken both the Dwarves' mountain and their treasure. Thorin was determined to get the treasure back, and especially wanted the Arkenstone, the Heart of the Mountain, an heirloom of his Kingdom.[T 1]

Others took up the song and it rolled loud and high over the lake.
  The King beneath the mountains,
  The King of carven stone,
  The lord of silver fountains
  Shall come into his own!

The people of Lake-town welcome Thorin in ch. 10 "A Warm Welcome"

On the journey, the company encountered a band of trolls; Thorin was the only Dwarf not to be taken unawares. When Gandalf had rescued the company, letting dawn turn the trolls to stone, they opened the trolls' lair. Thorin found the Elven blade Orcrist in the trolls' cache,[T 2] and used the sword fighting goblins in the tunnels beneath the Misty Mountains. At the same time, Bilbo found a magic ring, using it to escape from the tunnels past the goblin guards.[T 3]

When the Dwarves were captured by the wood-elves of Mirkwood, Thorin insisted that the others not disclose their quest to their captors.[T 4] Bilbo, invisible with his magic ring, evaded capture, and organised the company's escape, floating in barrels out of the wood-elves' fastness. Thorin was the first to emerge from the barrels at Lake-town, marching up to the leaders of the town, declaring himself as King Under the Mountain.[T 5]

  "How came you by it?" shouted Thorin in gathering rage.
  "I gave it to them!" squeaked Bilbo...
  "You! You!" cried Thorin, turning upon him and grasping him with both hands. "You miserable hobbit! You undersized – burglar!"

Thorin responds angrily to Bilbo's taking of the Arkenstone in ch. 17 "The Clouds Burst"

With provisions from Lake-town, Thorin led the company to Erebor.[T 6] Seeing that Smaug was not there, the Dwarves reclaimed some of the treasure; Thorin gave Bilbo "a small coat of mail" made of mithril as the first instalment of his payment.[T 7][a] The Dwarves then learnt from the ancient raven Roäc that Smaug had been killed: Bard the Bowman had managed to shoot Smaug as, furious at the Dwarves' theft of some of his treasure, the dragon set about destroying Lake-town.[T 9]

Faced with demands from Thranduil the Elvenking and Bard for a fair share of the treasure to be distributed to the wood-elves and the men of Lake-town, Thorin refused to acknowledge their right to any of the hoard. He fortified the Mountain against his new rivals and sent to his cousin Dáin Ironfoot for reinforcements.[T 9] Thorin was furious when he discovered that Bilbo had stolen the Arkenstone to use as a bargaining counter, and sent him from the Mountain. Conflict amongst the Dwarves, men, and elves was averted only by an invasion of goblins and wargs, whereupon the Dwarves joined forces with the wood-elves, the men of Lake-town, and the great eagles in the Battle of Five Armies.[T 10]

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. But, sad or merry, I must leave it now. Farewell."

Thorin repents on his deathbed, accepting Bilbo in ch. 18 "The Return Journey"

During the battle, Thorin was mortally wounded, but he made his peace with Bilbo before he died. When Thorin died, he was buried with the Arkenstone, and Orcrist was returned and laid upon his tomb. The blade would glow blue should Orcs approach, and they could thus not take the Mountain by surprise. Thorin was succeeded as leader of Durin's Folk by his cousin Dáin.[T 11]

The Lord of the RingsEdit

Part III of Appendix A in The Return of the King gives an overview of the history of Durin's Folk and more of Thorin's background. When Thorin was 53 (young for a Dwarf), he marched with a mighty dwarf-army against the orcs of Moria. After the battle he led his people to establish a foothold in the Blue Mountains west of the Shire.[T 12]

Unfinished TalesEdit

Unfinished Tales elaborates on Thorin's reasons for accepting Bilbo into his company. As depicted in the story "The Quest of Erebor", Thorin met with Gandalf in Bree shortly before the quest began. Gandalf persuaded him that stealth, rather than force, was needed to infiltrate Erebor; they would therefore need a burglar. Gandalf feared that Sauron could use Smaug as a weapon, and was concerned that Thorin's pride and quick temper would ruin the mission to destroy the dragon. He thought that Bilbo would be a calming influence on Thorin, as well as a genuinely valuable addition to the company. Thorin, who did not think much of Hobbits, reluctantly agreed, calculating that Bilbo's presence would be a small price to pay for Gandalf's help.[T 13]

OriginsEdit

 
Detail from the Stora Hammars I stone, depicting the Hjaðningavíg[1]

Tolkien adopted Thorin's names from the Dvergatal, the list of Dwarves, in the Old Norse poem "Völuspá", which is part of the Poetic Edda.[2] The name "Thorin" (Þorinn) appears in stanza 12, where it is used for a dwarf, and the name "Oakenshield" (Eikinskjaldi) in stanza 13. The name "Thorin" ultimately derives from that of the Norse god Thor; it means darer or bold one.[T 14][3] The names also appear in Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda.[4]

The Dwarves of Norse and Germanic legend are skilled in metalwork, including making weapons, ships, rings and jewellery; they are knowledgeable, strong, and turn to stone in sunlight. They are characterised as having a strong association with gold, mining, wealth, living underneath mountains, and being long-lived, ungrateful, and getting into arguments about payment. The Tolkien critic Tom Shippey suggests that Tolkien's "master-text" for his Dwarves was the Hjaðningavíg. In that legend, the Dwarves are characterised by revenge, as in "the long and painful vengeance of [Thorin's father] Thráin for [Thorin's grandfather] Thrór", and Shippey argues that Tolkien chose these qualities for his Dwarves.[5][6]

InterpretationsEdit

Shippey writes that in chapters 6–8 of The Hobbit, Tolkien explores "with delight that surly, illiberal independence often the distinguishing mark of Old Norse heroes".[7] The philosophers Gregory Bassham and Eric Bronson contrast the way Tolkien introduces hobbits, as "plain, quiet folks who never do anything unexpected", with how Thorin would have "introduce[d] himself, with aristocratic titles and songs of ancient lineage. We do not open the book to read of the wrath of Thorin the way we learn of the wrath of Achilles in the opening lines of The Iliad."[8]

The Tolkien scholar Paul H. Kocher writes that Tolkien characterises Dwarves as having the "cardinal sin of 'possessiveness'",[9] seen sharply when Bard the Bowman makes what Bilbo feels is a fair offer for a share of Smaug's treasure, and Thorin flatly refuses, his "dwarfish lust for gold fevered by brooding on the dragon's hoard".[9]

The Jesuit John L. Treloar, writing in Mythlore, suggests that Tolkien, a Catholic, explores the seven deadly sins in his Middle-earth writings. He states that in The Hobbit, both Smaug and Thorin exemplify avarice, but respond to it differently. In his view, Smaug is evil and lets avarice destroy him, whereas Thorin, sharing the general weakness of Dwarves for this particular vice, nevertheless has sufficient good will to free himself of it at the time of his death.[10]

Bassham and Bronson compare Thorin's deathbed "conversion" from his greed and pride, as he reconciles himself with Bilbo, to Ebenezer Scrooge's "big moral transformation" from grumpy miserliness to generosity and cheerfulness in Charles Dickens's 1843 novella A Christmas Carol.[11]

AdaptationsEdit

 
Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit

In the 1977 animated version of The Hobbit, Thorin is voiced by Hans Conried.[12]

In Peter Jackson's three-film adaptation of The Hobbit (2012–2014), Thorin is portrayed by Richard Armitage.[13] The film adaptation adds to Thorin's quest an arch-enemy in the form of the villainous orc leader Azog.[14]

In the 1982 game The Hobbit Thorin appears as an AI controlled character and one of his seemingly random actions ("Thorin sits down and starts singing about gold", which occurs when the player does nothing for a while) became quite famous.[15] In the 2003 video game, Thorin is voiced by Clive Revill.[16]

Family treeEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Bilbo gave the mithril shirt to his relative Frodo Baggins for his quest in The Lord of the Rings. Frodo is "staggered" to hear from Gandalf in Moria that "its worth was greater than the value of the whole Shire and everything in it".[T 8]
  2. ^ Names in italics in the family tree are Thorin and his company from The Hobbit.

ReferencesEdit

PrimaryEdit

This list identifies each item's location in Tolkien's writings.
  1. ^ The Hobbit, ch. 1 "An Unexpected Party"
  2. ^ The Hobbit, ch. 2 "Roast Mutton"
  3. ^ The Hobbit, ch. 4 "Over Hill and Under Hill"
  4. ^ The Hobbit, ch. 8 "Flies and Spiders"
  5. ^ The Hobbit, ch. 10 "A Warm Welcome"
  6. ^ The Hobbit, ch. 11 "On the Doorstep"
  7. ^ The Hobbit, ch. 8 "Not at Home"
  8. ^ The Fellowship of the Ring, book 2, ch. 4, "A Journey in the Dark"
  9. ^ a b The Hobbit, ch. 15 "The Gathering of the Clouds"
  10. ^ The Hobbit, ch. 17 "The Clouds Burst"
  11. ^ The Hobbit, ch. 18 "The Return Journey"
  12. ^ The Return of the King, Appendix A, Part III
  13. ^ Unfinished Tales, part 3, ch. 3 "The Quest of Erebor"
  14. ^ Tolkien, J.R.R. (2007). "Return to Bag End". In Rateliff, John D. (ed.). The History of The Hobbit. 2. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-00-725066-0.
  15. ^ The Return of the King, Appendix A, Part III, "Durin's Folk"

SecondaryEdit

  1. ^ Dutton, Douglas Robert. "Narratives: Hjaðningavíg". The Skaldic Project. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  2. ^ Solopova, Elizabeth (2009), Languages, Myths and History: An Introduction to the Linguistic and Literary Background of J.R.R. Tolkien's Fiction, New York City: North Landing Books, p. 20, ISBN 0-9816607-1-1
  3. ^ "Poetic Edda". Translated by Henry Adams Bellows. 1936. Retrieved 27 September 2007.
  4. ^ Sturluson, Snorri. "Prose Edda". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 27 September 2007. Tr. Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur.
  5. ^ McCoy, Daniel. "Dwarves". norse-mythology.org.
  6. ^ Shippey, Tom (2005) [1982]. The Road to Middle-Earth (Third ed.). HarperCollins. pp. 70–72. ISBN 978-0261102750.
  7. ^ Shippey, Tom (2005) [1982]. The Road to Middle-Earth (Third ed.). HarperCollins. pp. 90–91. ISBN 978-0261102750.
  8. ^ Bassham, Gregory; Bronson, Eric (2012). The Hobbit and Philosophy: For When You've Lost Your Dwarves, Your Wizard, and Your Way. John Wiley & Sons. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-470-40514-7.
  9. ^ a b Kocher, Paul (1974) [1972]. Master of Middle-Earth: The Achievement of J.R.R. Tolkien. Penguin Books. p. 26. ISBN 0140038779.
  10. ^ Treloar, John L. (1989). "The Middle-earth Epic and the Seven Capital Vices". Mythlore. 16 (1 (59)): 37–42. JSTOR 26812105.
  11. ^ Bassham, Gregory; Bronson, Eric (2012). The Hobbit and Philosophy: For When You've Lost Your Dwarves, Your Wizard, and Your Way. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 14–15. ISBN 978-0-470-40514-7.
  12. ^ "Hans Conried". Behind the Voice Actors. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  13. ^ Winning, Josh (18 July 2011). "See Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit". Total Film. London, England: Future Publishing. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  14. ^ Berlatsky, Noah (17 December 2012). "Peter Jackson's Violent Betrayal of Tolkien". The Atlantic.
  15. ^ Campbell, Stuart (December 1991). "Top 100 Speccy Games". Your Sinclair. Dennis Publishing (72): 28.
  16. ^ "Clive Revill". Behind the Voice Actors. Retrieved 5 May 2020.

External linksEdit