Dwalin – Weapons of A Veteran
This is the fourth 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. 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
5. Balin – Mace or Sword from Ancient Times?
6. Glóin – His Axe Stands Ready
7. Óin – A Healer And His Staff
As one of the more senior members of the Company of Thorin Oakenshield – next to his older brother Balin and the brother-pair Oin and Gloin – Dwalin is a professional warrior and veteran fighter, and heavily armed with a bunch of weapons: a mighty war hammer, two nasty axes strapped to his back, a dagger, and of course – his brutal knuckle dusters which translate every handshake into an assault. Some also say, his head would be a weapon too… talk about being prepared.
Dwalin and Thorin are said to have a especially close relationship. Growing up together and sharing the bitter air of exile while fighting their way through numerous hordes of goblins and orcs – for example at the dreadful “Battle of Azanulbizar” (T.A. 2799) where Dwalin and his brother Balin lost their father Fundin – Dwalin remains “Thorin’s staunchest supporter” with a fierce and unbending loyalty. More like a brother than distant kin, Dwalin would willingly lay down his own life if it would save Thorin Oakenshield’s.
Since his life and the lives of others depend on his weapons and his skill in wielding them, Dwalin takes great care of them. It’s told that he “cherishes every nick and scratch, since each marks the death of an enemy. He does not suffer fools gladly nor is he the most loquacious member of The Company, leaving the talking to his brother, Balin. In truth, Dwalin prefers his weapons to do the talking for him, and he is looking forward to letting them chatter loudly” (Jude Fisher: Visual Companion (AUJ), 2012).
Dwalin’s War Hammer
It’s not surprising that a war hammer consists of a handle and a hammer head – much like a normal hammer. It is primarily used as a bludgeoning weapon and designed to deliver the full force from a blow to the opponent, with the fighting method being based on strength and accuracy in hitting the target.
It is a weapon of mass, having the ability to strike with shock and percussion through armor – or to smash thick orc skulls. Such strikes can injure the foe by causing concussions or denting the armor and joints so that the enemy would be unable to move. While – in contrast – swords and battle axes concentrate on slashing and thrusting moves, tending to ricochet off hard surfaces (like armor) and are sometimes likely to give only a glancing blow when not aimed properly, a single blow from a war hammer is sufficient to shatter bones and cave in skulls, even when a helmet is worn.
The head of a war hammer is typically made of metal. It can apply more force than other hammers, due to its larger size and has the ability to distribute force over a wide area. For weaker foes like goblins, just the weight of the head may be used for blows, but for tough Orcs or Uruk-hais, the war hammer is swung like an axe.
The handle can have different lengths – very similar to long-handled axes vs. throwing axes – and according to the length of the handle, the use of the war hammer is different as well. A long haft extends the arc when the hammer is swung and – in this – increases the power of the blow. It’s also very effective against mounted opponents or tall foes like trolls or giants, when directed at their legs and making them stumble and topple to the ground where they can be attacked more easily. Of course the handle end of the hammer can also be used as a weapon when the opponent is within direct reach. Though shorter handled hammers are generally better in close quarter fighting or from horseback.
Dwalin’s war hammer is indeed a fearsome weapon to meet. The enormous, four-sided hammer-head has a pyramid-shaped protrusion on its face which focuses even more impact into a small area. It is counter-balanced by a peen (or pein – the end of a hammer head opposite the face, typically wedge-shaped). To protect the handle from assault by an opponent armed with an edged weapon, the socket extends into steel-langet-like enforcements that run down the sturdy wooden haft and are riveted to it. The war hammer has some notable heft, with the mass centered around the head. Nevertheless, the hammer is quick enough to make fast recoveries should the first blow not find its target.
With these specifics, Dwalin’s war-hammer resembles mostly a blacksmith’s straight-peen (sledge) hammer. These hammers have a wedge-shaped head which is oriented parallel to the hammer’s handle (in contrast to cross-peen/diagonal hammer heads). They are normally used by blacksmiths during the forging process to deliver blows for forging or to strike other forging tools. A main difference though is the pyramid-shaped protrusion on the hammer face. But as this hammer is a weapon of war and not a mere tool any more, this modification is understandable. But Dwalin doesn’t need to hammer the heads of his enemies flat (though he may want to), but only to inflict some serious damage to his foes. Nevertheless it can be seen as a natural extension of the blacksmith’s tool becoming a weapon.
Simple as the hammer might seem, there are different approaches to using it. Holding the handle very close to the hammer head makes the hammer easier to control and quicker to strike, but it reduces the force of the blow (also known as “choking the hammer”). Whereas holding the handle close to its end increases the lever arm and produces a more effective – though slower – blow. Fighting with a war hammer typically requires two hands and a swinging motion involving the entire body, in contrast to smaller hammers used for driving in nails.
As if such a gigantic war-hammer wouldn’t be enough, Dwalin – as a professional warrior – also fights with two axes, which he carries crossed upon his back. Unlike Gloin’s long-handled battle-axe with its curved blade, Dwalin’s axes have a straight cutting edge, which gives rigidity, stability and control when cutting. Though a curved blade increases the cutting edge and is ideal to penetrate deeply in a strike or slice, a straight edge aids more a hacking motion – to chop easily through bone, dent plate armor, or inflict blunt trauma through mail armor (compare this to Fili’s swords, cutting one way and concentrating on thrusts and chops while working largely in the manner of an axe).
Those two short-hafted axes are simple in shape, but wide in blade and can be wielded one-handed and simultaneously – unlike Thorin’s and Gloin’s long-handled axes. The Blog “In a Hole-in-the-Ground” speculates in addition: “The fact that Dwalin, a mighty and renowned warrior among the dwarves, carries axes like Thorin (the heir of Durin) and Gloin (a close relative of Thorin) may add further weight to the theory that axes are seen as a symbol of power or prestige in dwarven culture.”
Michelle Nevins analyzes in her essay “An Introduction to Runes in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”:
“As our heroes Journey on to Rivendell and are greeted by Lindir, a close up of Dwalin’s battle axes reveals cirth cast into the cheeks of the axe heads. Recall that the Angerthas Daeron, Angerthas Moria and Angerthas Erebor have slightly different phonic sounds for certain runes, but the English translation is “Grasper” and “Keeper”. The runes read uk.lat (Ukhlat – “grasper, holder”) and umraz (Umraz – “keeper”). (…) The names “Grasper” and “Keeper” were Graham McTavish’s suggestion based on the names of two hounds Emily Brontë owned. Mr. McTavish’s take is that Dwalin “grasps your soul with one axe and keeps it with the other”. Initially Sir Peter Jackson loved the idea and was quoted as saying “we could get it in Elvish and the fans will love it”. Considering the amount of research and detailed analysis that David Salo did on Khuzdul, Dwarvish outstanding smithing abilities, the crudeness of the weapons, and Dwarvish resentment of Elves, it can be most likely ruled out that the translation is A. Daeron.”
In addition, Dwalin wears a wicked dagger in a scabbard attached to his belt on his left hip (picture see portrait of Dwalin at the beginning of this essay, where he holds the dagger), with the blade being notched or serrated close to the hilt. A serrated blade has a jagged cutting edge, so that the cutting action results in many tiny splits of the cut material – not unlike a saw. It acts as a weapon of last resort, but can also be applied as a utility tool.
Dwalin’s Knuckle Dusters
One could also argue if Dwalin’s knuckle dusters count as armor or weapons, but as he doesn’t wear leather vambraces to protect his hands and forearms and – instead – chose to transform his already deadly fists to weapons of their own, they shall be included here.
Graham McTavish himself describes his approach as follows:
“I have a pair of knuckle-dusters. I mentioned that I saw Dwalin as the kind of guy whose hands are as much of a weapon as his hammers. So if he ever finds himself with no weapons, he still has his hands.That led to a discussion about the possibility of armoured gauntlets and how it would be good to have something that was articulated. Then Richard Taylor (…) came up with spring-loaded knuckle-dusters that will probably be responsible for some serious Orc damage.” (Brian Sibley: Official Movie Guide (AUJ), 2012)
Dwalin’s knuckle dusters carry heavy steel blades, held together with chains which are linked to broad wrist straps, so that when Dwalin pulls his fists, the knuckle pieces would stick out wickedly. They are weapons used in hand-to-hand combat to strengthen the impact of a punch.
Both knuckle dusters are also different from each other – while the right-hand one features two broad blades, Dwalin carries four smaller, but nonetheless equally sharp blades on the left one. And though they are really tough tools, as every dwarven weapon they show distinctive dwarven motifs, like the little ornamental designs etched into the sides of the four blades and the heavy geometric chain elements.
In general, this is canon for all dwarven weapons – they are tough, and made to last, but always crafted with an attention to intricate details and a high degree of finesse.
And – taking into account that Graham McTavish says he sees his hands as “Insult” and “Injury”, the primary purpose of his knuckle dusters becomes quite clear…
And last but not least, Dwalin’s hands are not his only built-in weapons – so is his head!
It consists of thick, sturdy and stubborn dwarven bone and is decorated with distinctive dwarven tattoos, as angular and hard-edged in design as the Dwarf himself.
The tattoos show a pictorial history of what happened to the dwarf race – “a memorial to their suffering” as Graham McTavish says himself in the Extended DVD-Edition of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”. Dwalin commemorates every important episode in his life with a new tattoo.
And how he uses this deadly weapon of a head? See for yourself…
- 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.
- Howard Monroe Raymond: Modern Shop Practice V2, American Technical Society, 1916
- Gif: http://teamdurango.tumblr.com/post/44497501316/dwalin-is-a-biker