Glóin – His Axe Stands Ready
This is the sixth part in a series highlighting the various weapons used by the dwarves in the Company of Thorin, including speculation on their form and function. The essay concentrates on the original weapons as shown in the first movie “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”, and doesn’t cover additional concept weapons that were never actually used – or weapons from the following films. References are drawn from the films, tie-ins and supporting materials.
Related articles are:
1. Weapons of a King – Thorin Oakenshield
2. Fili: Twice as Fierce – or – “The One-Dwarf Walking Arsenal”
3. Kili and His Weapons – Deadly At Every Range
4. Dwalin – Weapons of a Veteran
5. Balin – Mace or Sword from Ancient Times?
7. Óin – A Healer And His Staff
Glóin, son of Gróin, accompanies Thorin Oakenshield on his quest as both participant and investor. Being sturdy retainers and traditionalists, Glóin and his brother Óin are cousins to Thorin, the King in Exile, and hold his quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the Dragon Smaug as one of greatest importance for the future of their people.
Along with Bombur, Glóin is the only other married Dwarf in the Company (there being a shortage of female dwarves in general). His wife is an acclaimed beauty with a particularly fine beard. Glóin is the proud father of a young son, Gimli, who will go on to become part of the famous Fellowship of the Ring.
Both Glóin and Óin are old enough to have known the glorious days before the fall of Erebor and feel keenly its loss – for Erebor is the heritage of the House of Durin. Over time, this lost heritage burdens their dreams and Glóin would see the majesty of the Dwarves restored for his son Gimli’s sake, and all the Dwarves to come, and he rallies to Thorin’s side, packing axe and coin for the journey.
As adroit with weapons as he is astute in business, Glóin is a stout but sturdy warrior and wary of both Elves and the Wizard. The dwarves that Glóin grew up with used to work hard – and play hard. Being an outspoken and hot-tempered dwarf, politics and sweet promises are not to his liking, and he mistrusts and sees through those who try to blind others with their allegedly cunning attitude. Glóin proves that dwarves are as strong as the pillars of the earth.
Glóin’s Battle Axe
Glóin’s Battle Axe is most probably a family heirloom, given from father to son when he comes of age to carry the axe for the family, and is as sturdy as its wielder, though being a fine piece of dwarven craftsmanship. In the first place it’s of course a weapon for chopping wargs, slicing trolls, beheading orcs and – finally – killing dragons. But due to its long handle it can also double as a walking stick in rough country, to ease the strain of long walks through the vast open grasslands of Middle-earth.
Axes in general are very popular weapons because they can also be used as tools and are cheap to make. A battle axe is specifically designed for combat, so to say a “specialized” version of a utility axe. Some are suitable for use in one hand, while others – like Glóin’s Battle Axe – are larger and normally wielded with two hands.
The shaft of Glóin’s Battle Axe is square edged, with tightly wrapped double-cross leather strapping, which keeps the axe from slipping through his grasp. The length of the handle gives Glóin’s axe a much longer reach, which – combined with his great strength – enables him to hack into enemies at a three foot distance.
The blade should be made entirely from steel rather than iron with a steel cutting edge, which has been fire-welded in place separately. It’s carefully crafted and the ornate detailing befits the weapon of a wealthy dwarf of Durin’s Line. The socketed head of the blade also includes short langets – long strips of metal affixed to the faces of the haft to prevent it from being damaged during combat.
Glóin’s axe has a curved blade which increases the cutting edge. That single, sharpened crescent-shaped blade concentrates the whole weight of a blow on a small target area, so that the battle axe should be able to slice deeply into an opponent’s armor. Additionally it has a spiked tip which Glóin can use to directly stab at an opponent, and so provides him with a secondary weapon of penetration.
In battle, Glóin charges forward with a powerful swing of this axe, fighting enemies at a medium range because of the long haft of his axe, which is not good in defense, so combat can get tricky in a crowd and requires great skill. But it’s perfectly fitting for his statue, because it extends the arc and impact of his blow.
I want to quote Heirs-of-Durin-user Grim Helbeard here, explaining about the handling of a Dane Axe which can count as an early type of battle axe. It has primarily been used during the transition between the European Viking Age and early Middle Ages and reminds us (a little) of Glóin’s axe:
“A Dane Axe held at half shaft can use its shorter lower bearded blade to grasp and drop shields – then you can project the longer upper end of the blade forward as a thrusting tip. Depending on the curvature and texture of the shaft – you need to become comfortable with projecting and retracting the axe handle smoothly for transitions from close combat to more aggressive field warfare.” (Grim Helbeard)
So maybe we can assume, that Glóin might use his axe with a similar technique. Holding his axe with two hands at the end for a wide swing at medium range fighting – but slipping to half shaft for close quarters fighting. So Glóin needs to react quickly in battlefield conditions and types of enemies he has to face.
Glóins Throwing Axe
In addition to his melee weapon, Glóin utilizes a smaller throwing axe for ranged attacks (and to be ready for combat in crowded situations), which he carries tucked in his belt on the right side. It’s very similar in shape to his battle axe.
Throwing axes are especially difficult to use, as their rotation must match the distance to a moving target, or the enemy only receives a hard thump with the handle – and a new weapon.
The objective is for the axe blade to stick into the target with a sufficient amount of force. For this to be successful, accuracy, distance, number of rotations and placement of the body must be all taken into account – usually, they are thrown in an overhand motion and before contact with the enemy to create gaps in the battle lines.
As a skilled fighter, Glóin knows how to rotate the axe throughout its flight so that the sharpened edge of its heads will “stick” effectively. But it’s apparent that Glóin prefers engaging in direct combat rather than using his throwing axe.
Glóin’s knives with bone/tusk handles
In addition and almost unseen throughout the films, Gloin carries two beautiful knives in a little sheath attached to his belt at the back. I know of no other scenes where these knives are shown, except as in this picture, so I can’t analyze the blade shape properly, but we can at least see the handles of those knives which seem to be made from bone – or rather tusks, according to their curved shape.
Bones, tusks, and antlers from living animals as grip material for knives can memorialize an important and successful hunt and give the knives a high personal value. The choice to use horn, bone, shell, or ivory as grip material can be one of beauty, adding visual appeal to the smooth and polished blade – but also the texture of many of these materials helps to improve grip strength. Many horns, bones, and ivories become sticky when wet, thus improving grip security while fighting.
And to hide those little knives at his back makes them perfect weapons “of last resort” for Glóin. No matter which weapon, however, Glóin uses them all with equally devastating power!
- Chris McNab: Swords, a Visual History. London, 2010.
- Rupert Matthews: Weapons of War: From Axes to War Hammers, Weapons from the Age of Hand-to-hand Fighting. London, 2009.
- Dorling Kindersley: Arms and Armour. London, 2011.
- Harvey J.S. Withers: The Illustrated Directory of Swords & Sabres. London, 2011.
- Ken Mondschein/J.Paul Getty Museum: The Knightly Art of Battle. Los Angeles, 2011.
- J.R.R. Tolkien: The Peoples of Middle Earth. London, 2002.
- Daniel Falconer: Chronicles: Art & Design (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), 2012.
- Brian Sibley: Official Movie Guide (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), 2012.
- Jude Fisher: Visual Companion (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), 2012.
- Axes in the Viking Age – http://www.gav.org.uk/Research/Viking%20Age%20Axes.pdf