Rationale: In this series of posts, I am attempting to explore the character of Thorin Oakenshield, Heir of Durin, King in Exile soon to be played by Richard Armitage in The Hobbit movies. To understand the character better, I have followed the story of his ancestors as outlined in J.R.R. Tolkien's Appendices in "Return of the King" and "Unfinished Tales". I am now up to the point of joining the story of the Quest of Erebor as it is told in "The Hobbit".
Thanks to members of C19 who have shown their support for what I am trying to do with this blog. A group read of "The Hobbit" will be starting with discussion on that board this Friday, 1st April.
Bilbo was described as a well “to do” Hobbit. The Bagginses were respectable hobbits – they had no adventures and led very comfortable lives. Bilbo is described however as having an adventurous streak in him passed down on his mother’s side through the Took lineage. Bilbo lived in a beautiful, comfortable Hobbit hole, and led a peaceful, indulgent, and settled life until Gandalf appeared at his door one morning. Gandalf tells him that he is looking for someone to share an adventure and is having difficulty finding anyone.
"Bilbo: 'I should think so – in these parts. We are plain quiet folk and I have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anyone sees in them.'
Gandalf: 'I will …… send you on this adventure. Very amusing for me, very good for you – and profitable too, very likely, if you ever get over it.'
Bilbo: ‘Sorry! I don’t want any adventures, thank you. Not today. Good morning! But, please come to tea – any time you like! Why not tomorrow! Come tomorrow! Goodbye!’
With that the hobbit turned and scuttled inside his round green door, and shut it as quickly as he dared, not to seem rude.” J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit.
Gandalf however was unperturbed.
The next day, Bilbo discovered he was to be the unwitting host to a party of 13 dwarves and Gandalf. Initially all Bilbo was concerned about was that he would run out of food and as a consequence he would have to go hungry. (Hobbits are food lovers). With the arrival of each group of dwarves, he became increasingly flustered and annoyed as he was put to work preparing an enormous meal for them. After fussing over the food and then supervising the washing up however, he became enthralled by the music and songs of the dwarves, and he felt a growing desire to experience the mountains, trees, waterfalls and caves they sang about. The thought of a plundering dragon however made him thankful he was in the safety of his comfortable Hobbit hole and so frightened by the dwarves tale was he, that he thought of hiding behind one of the beer barrels in the pantry. As Thorin outlined the plans for the perilous journey ahead of them, Bilbo was so overcome with fear that they had to lie him out on a sofa with a fortifying drink. Bilbo’s sense of adventure surfaced however when he overheard Gloin (Gimli’s father) say:
“Will he do, do you think? It is all very well for Gandalf to talk about this hobbit being fierce but one shriek like that in a moment of excitement would be enough to wake the dragon and all his relatives, and kill the lot of us. ……. As soon as I clapped eyes on the little fellow bobbing and puffing on the mat, I had my doubts. He looks more like a grocer than a burglar!’ J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit.
This was too much for Bilbo and a sense of pride (which he later regretted) made him state his intention of helping the dwarves on the quest.
Bilbo therefore was very much used to his comforts and leading a safe peaceful life. There was however an inner tendency (mostly hidden) to yearn for adventure. It was this streak in him that weakened his resolve resulting in him volunteering to help Gandalf and the dwarves.
Thorin appeared at the tea party with Bifur, Bofur, Bombur and Gandalf. We are told that Bilbo opens the door so quickly that the four dwarves fall in on top of one another. Thorin, described as an “enormously important dwarf”, was not at all pleased at falling flat with the three other dwarves on top of him and stood to meet Bilbo with a haughty frown on his face. This is the first impression we have of him. Thorin as the leader of the dwarves of Ered Luin, drinks red wine, sings and plays a golden harp. He reportedly gave speeches that were wordy but often strayed from the point.
“This was Thorin’s style. He was an important dwarf. If he had been allowed, he would probably have gone on like this until he was out of breath, without telling anyone there anything that was not known already”. J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit.
It is implied in the story that Thorin and Gandalf are well known to one another as they sit talking and blowing smoke rings by the fire, (Thorin with his feet on the fender), as the others do the washing up. From reading Gandalf’s version of the “Unexpected Party”, we know that he and Thorin have met already at Bree, and then in Thorin’s halls, prior to the meeting with Bilbo.
In this chapter Thorin tells Bilbo the story of the sacking of Erebor (The Lonely Mountain) by Smaug the dragon, and how his family and people had been exiled as a consequence.
“….. we went away, and we have had to earn our livings as best we could up and down the lands, often sinking as low as blacksmith-work or even coal minimg. But we have never forgotten our stolen treasure. And even now, when I will allow we have a good bit laid by and are not so badly off’ – here Thorin stroked the gold chain round his neck – ‘we still mean to get it back, and to bring our curses home to Smaug – if we can’. J.R.R.Tolkien: The Hobbit Ch. 1.
We also learn that Thrain, Thorin’s father, had entrusted Gandalf with a map made by Thrór, Thorin’s grandfather, last King Under the Mountain, with a key to a secret door leading into the Mountain.
What is not mentioned in this chapter and is later expanded on by Tolkien in other works is that regaining the treasure was not the only reason for Thorin’s desire to defeat Smaug – it was also a desire to restore the Mountain and lands to his people.
Thorin therefore has the air and demeanour of a leader. Unknown to Bilbo at this stage (and to the reader), is that Thorin is the heir of Durin, King in exile. He is simply described as "very important". He has seen a deal of tragedy in his lifetime, and has worked long and hard to establish a settlement and living for his people in Ered Luin (the Blue Mountains). He has a burning desire however to re-establish his people back in Erebor, to reclaim his land, his people’s wealth and his rightful inheritance by defeating Smaug. He was not keen to attack Erebor by stealth and would rather have tried to form an army (in “kingly” fashion), but has reluctantly agreed to follow Gandalf’s advice and enlist Bilbo as a “burglar” to assist the small company in their surprise attack on Smaug.
While writing this post, I was envisioning the look Thorin must have given Bilbo when he first entered Bag End after falling through the door. He is described as haughty, and I thought I would post one of RA's best "haughty" looks. Obviously the cravat will be replaced and a beard and longer hair added, but the posture and expression are all there imo.