Note from D.J. – I am posting this on behalf of Ori’s Quill. I’ve made some minor additions and edits, mostly updating information about Thrór’s ring seen in An Unexpected Journey, speculation about Thráin’s reappearance in Desolation of Smaug, and the details of Thráin surrendering the Ring to Sauron, but the majority remains Ori’s Quill’s creation.
The Last of the Seven
by Ori’s Quill and Dark Jackal
This is part three of the trilogy that connects the Concerns of the White Council, The Rings of Power and the Heirs of Durin with the One Ring to rule them all. A strong emphasis will be placed on the works of Professor Tolkien, but there are events in this essay that may unfold in the films Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again.
The Ring of the Heirs of Durin
Tolkien writes the following of the Rings of the Dwarves: “Possessors of the Ring (of the seven) did not display or speak of it, and seldom surrendered it until death, so that others did not know for certain where it was bestowed” – Return of the King, Appendix A. This passage is important in understanding more of Dwarrow culture. Like the bearers of the three, the ring bearers of the seven kept their precious treasures hidden and bore them in secret. To openly reveal the secret was to violate the sacrosanct tradition that all bearers, both Elf and Dwarf, strictly observed.
It is now known (thanks to Weta Workshop) that Thrór openly wears a Ring of Power in An Unexpected Journey, for in several scenes, he bears a ring of gold with very similar designs along the side as the Rings of the Dwarf Lords.
Nestled amid the elaborate rings that barnacled his broad fingers was a single blue-gemmed band of gold, exquisitely wrought and possessing a power beyond even the Dwarf Lord’s ken. This gift and heirloom was no mere trinket, but one of the Seven rings of Power given to the Dwarf Lords. [Description from Weta’s replica of Thror’s ring]
By wearing the ring openly, Thrór is violating that sacrosanct rule observed by several generations of Dwarves. But then a sickness was developing in him, a sickness of the mind, and we know that “where sickness thrives, bad things will follow” – Bilbo, An Unexpected Journey.
We know Sauron sought and obtained at least two other Rings of the Dwarves. In Part II, The Rings of Power, there was a discussion of the possible ways in which Sauron could have gotten them. There is speculation that he acquired the Rings of the Firebeards and/or the Broadbeams when Khazad-dûm was attacked in the year 1980 of the Third Age. Also there is speculation that when Sauron fled east in the year 2063 he may have acquired one or two from the lines of the Stiffbeards, Blacklocks or the Stonefoots. Once he obtained two of the Rings, Sauron was determined to acquire the Ring of the Heirs of Durin.
Thrór was the bearer of the Ring that Durin III received in the year 1500 of the Second Age. The Ring was Thrór’s greatest treasure even above the Arkenstone. After the sack of Erebor in the year 2770 T.A., Thrór lead his people in exile. During this time, Thrór became restless, and anxious to wander. He felt an unexplained need to travel, to journey to places far in search of treasure. Now described as old, poor and desperate, he makes a decision to abandon the exiles of Erebor. Appendix A states “He was a little crazed, perhaps with age and misfortune, and a long brooding on the splendor of Moria…or the Ring…was turning to evil.” We see evidence of this craziness in An Unexpected Journey, when Thrór paces about manically counting the gold amassed in Erebor. It is a dragon sickness brought on by the power of the Ring.
Before he secretly departed, Thrór gave Thráin the Ring of Durin’s line. He declares to Thráin “This may prove the foundations of a new fortune for you yet, though that seems unlikely. But it needs gold to breed gold.” Thrór then takes his companion Nár and goes to Khazad-dûm in the year 2790 T.A. Entering the Hollin gate (see the Rings of Power) Thrór is then killed by Azog.
Fast forward 228 years. By the time of the Council of Elrond, in the year 3018 T.A., all races were given news that Sauron had obtained the last of the seven. One of the members of that Council, for those who have not read the book, was Glóin. There is a discussion about the Seven Rings. It is feared that Sauron is gathering them. Glóin comments:
“The Seven are lost to us if Balin has not found the Ring of Thrór, which was the last; naught has been heard of it, since Thrór perished in Moria. Indeed, I now reveal that it was partly in hope to find the Ring that Balin went away.” -Glóin, The Fellowship of the Ring
Because Thrór never discussed the Ring passing to Thráin prior to going away to Khazad-dûm, the Dwarves could only speculate that the Ring disappeared in Moria. Glóin continues:
“Then about a year ago a messenger came…from Mordor…He asked urgently concerning hobbits, of what kind they were, and where they dwelt.” And finally to obtain and surrender Bilbo’s ring for “it is but a trifle that Sauron fancies…Find it and the three rings that the Dwarf-sires possessed of old shall be returned to you.” – The Fellowship of the Ring
This declaration from Glóin confirms that Sauron has possessed the final Ring of the seven. How Sauron acquires the last of the seven is revealed in The Quest of Erebor in the Unfinished Tales. Gandalf explains that when in the dungeons of Dol Guldur, he came across a witless, demented dwarf, broken and insane. Gandalf said the following:
“I understand now that I had heard the last ravings of Thráin II, though he could not speak his own name nor his son’s…he said he possessed a Ring. Nearly all of his ravings were of that: the last of the seven.”
The Resurrection of the Necromancer
“Without the ruling ring of power, the seven are of no value to the enemy.”
As speculated at the end of the essay Concerns of the White Council, with this statement Saruman is attempting to downplay a heretofore unspoken concern. The Extended Edition of An Unexpected Journey reveals the missing piece of the puzzle. He is replying to Gandalf’s questions about the last Dwarf Ring:
“Does it not worry you that the last of the Dwarf rings should simply vanish, along with its bearer? Of the seven Dwarf rings, four were consumed by dragons. Two were taken by Sauron before he fell in Mordor. The fate of the last Dwarf ring remains unknown. The ring that was borne by Thrain.” – Gandalf, An Unexpected Journey (Extended Edition)
Saruman counters with this statement:
“Without the ruling ring of power, the seven are of no value to the enemy. To control the other rings he needs the One. And that ring was lost long long ago. It was swept out to sea by the waters of the Anduin.” – Saruman, An Unexpected Journey (Extended Edition)
This is a significant clue as to how important acquiring the remaining seven Rings of Power is to Sauron. Recall Saruman’s maleficent ways. Perhaps he is already under the spell of Sauron when he declares this statement to the White Council. It is through his mendacious intention that he misleads the Council when they suspect that Sauron is attempting to collect the seven. For if their theory was confirmed, the Council would have aided Thorin and Company and attacked Dol Guldur sooner.
Why would Sauron desire the seven? He needed their power to regain the One. What happens after their acquisition is crucial to understanding why he wants the last of the seven. Each time Sauron acquires a Ring, it is a catalyst for other events to happen. Recall the chain of events that occurred when it was speculated that Sauron received the other two Rings of the Dwarves. Around the time of the Balrog invasion in Khazad-dûm, the Witch-king appears at Mordor and summons the rest of the Nazgûl. The forests of Greenwood the Great begin their disease process, the genesis of Mirkwood (this is the beginning of the ‘Dark Days’ that Haldir mentions in Fellowship). Then, 403 years later from the east Sauron returns, perhaps after acquiring another Dwarrow ring. “Sauron returns with an increased strength to Dol Guldur”- Return of the King Appendix A. Around this same time, Orcs assault Celebrían and she is wounded by the Morgul blade.
Also around this time, Déagol finds the One Ring and is murdered by Sméagol. The Ring of Power is then perceived. There is an action and a reaction. Sauron acquired two of the Seven, and at each time frame, he grows in strength and malice, and other more powerful events take place.
We have witnessed this pattern again all throughout An Unexpected Journey. Think back to Concerns of the White Council. Greenwood the Great is renamed Mirkwood. Huge Ungoliant spawned spiders emerge. Orcs of Gundabad are attacking in a very bellicose nature. Trolls are invading farms and villages. A mysterious blade appears, that of the Witch-king of Angmar, and an even more mysterious sorcerer emerges in Dol Guldur. There can be only one conclusion. Sauron acquired the last of the Seven!
Thráin the Insane
First seen to the right of Thrór, clad in red, inspecting the soldiers and jewelers, and then in the great halls of Erebor, he is the dignified Dwarf with the facial tattoos and a missing eye. Later we see him to the left of Thorin as they charge Smaug during the Sack of Erebor.
He is wounded, and Thorin carries him out as they flee. At the Battle of Azanulbizar he fights by his father Thrór’s side. Then he disappears “driven mad by grief. He went missing. Taken prisoner or killed…” – Balin, An Unexpected Journey. That is all that we see of the Heir of Durin with the piercing blue eyes like that of his father and that of his son.
Thankfully, Tolkien’s writings about Thráin supply what we need to know about this proud Dwarf. Born in the year 2644 of the Third Age, and named Thráin (which means “yearner” in Old Norse) he is father to Thorin Oakenshield, Frerin and Dís (she is the only female Dwarf named in any of Tolkien’s work), and he is also the grandfather to Fíli and Kíli.
During the Sack of Erebor, Thráin and Thrór escaped through the secret exit that Thorin would later seek on the Quest. In chapter one of The Hobbit, Thorin explains “The few of us that were outside and wept in hiding and cursed Smaug; and there we were unexpectedly joined by my father and my grandfather with singed beards. They looked very Grim but they said very little. When I asked how they had got away, they told me to hold my tongue, and said that one day in the proper time I should know.” The singed beards and the exiting of a secret door imply that Thrór and Thráin became trapped, most likely battling Smaug.
Later in exile, with Thráin by his side, Thrór leads his “small company of their kinsmen and faithful followers” south. After many years, Thrór passes the Ring of the line of Durin to Thráin and leaves secretly for Khazad-dûm.
It was during this time in Dwarrow history that Thráin becomes the leader he was groomed to be. After the murder of his father by Azog the Orc, Thráin rallies all the Dwarves of Middle-earth (something Thorin failed to do in his Quest of Erebor) to avenge the death and mutilation of his father. This mustering took three years to organize. It is the first time in the history of Middle-earth that all the Dwarves come together to fight united. Their loyalty to Thráin, the Heir of Durin, and his father stoked the fire of rage they felt “for this dishonour to the heir of the Eldest of their race filled them with wrath.”
What followed was war. The War of the Dwarves and the Orcs lasted from 2793-2799 T.A. Both sides showed no mercy. The zenith of the war was fought in the Battle of Azanulbizar (we see a scene of this battle in An Unexpected Journey. In the battle, Thrór is still alive; he and Thráin and Thorin fight side by side until Azog kills Thrór and decapitates him.) In Tolkien’s account Thráin led the first assault, and continued to fight despite being wounded in his leg and losing an eye. Azog and the Orcs lost the battle but at a great price to the Dwarves. Frerin, Thorin’s younger brother was killed as well as Fundin, father of Balin and Dwalin (perhaps this is why we see Balin openly weeping in An Unexpected Journey) and Nain III, father of Dain II who we will meet in There and Back Again.
Of Thorin: “It is said that Thorin’s shield was cloven and he cast it away and he hewed off with his axe a branch of an oak and held it in his left hand to ward off the strokes of his foes, or to wield as a club. In this way he got his name.” – Appendix A.
After the battle of Moria, Thráin asks Thorin if he would help lead the exiles to the Ered Luin in search of mining opportunities. Thorin’s response: “To the anvil. The hammer will at least keep the arms strong, until they can wield sharper tools.” So Thráin together with Thorin establish a new colony in the Blue Mountains and the colony prospers for many years. Like his father before him, Thráin develops an unexpected desire to wander. When Thráin left on the 21st of April in the year 2841 T.A., he takes with him a small select party including Balin and Dwalin, leaving Thorin to rule the new founded colony. Four years later, he disappears while camping at the edges of Mirkwood.
When Thráin disappears, he is captured and imprisoned in the dungeons of Dol Guldur. What happens to him there in the pits is similar to what happens to Gollum when he is captured and brought to Mordor. Both individuals are tortured. In the upcoming film Desolation of Smaug it is almost certain that major revisions to Thráin’s story will be revealed. Evidence from the teaser trailer and video logs show that Gandalf will meet Thráin at Dol Guldur, but in the present time (the presence of Glamdring proves this). This means that the map and key were passed from Thráin to Gandalf in some alternate way than described in the books, and before Thráin disappears, since Gandalf does not know what happened to him after he disappeared (for a summary of the importance of these two items to the fate of Middle-earth read On the Finding of Thror’s Map and the Key to the Lonely Mountain by Tedoras).
A description from a newly released figure “Thrain the Broken” by GamesWorkshop shows us the sad state of our mighty Dwarf father: Thrain is a broken husk – captured and barely able to remember his name, let alone his proud history and heritage. He is still dangerous, however, for deep in his damaged mind lie the instincts of a proud Dwarf warrior.
As a consequence of these alterations to the timeline, the significance of the Ring of Power may or may not be the same as it is in the text. Hopefully all will be revealed in the next week with the premiere of the second film.
Returning to the books, we know several key facts about Dwarves. They are known to be a tough race and difficult to tame. Seemingly cut from stone when created by Aulë, they have qualities of endurance and resist domination. For this reason, they are not easily turned to evil. Their weakness is their coveting of treasure, in particular metals and precious gems. Dwarves will guard their treasure with the utmost care and reserve, and never surrender it unless broken or killed.
Once Thráin was captured by Sauron it would be a simple enough task to take the Ring by force (and indeed to take the map and key as well), but Rings of Power were created to be dominated. To murder a ring bearer means losing that power. This might explain why Sauron will not murder Thráin. It is more likely his long captivity and torment were meant to break down his resolve until he became a minion of Sauron, or willingly gave up the Ring. Tolkien does not specify what actually happened to cause the breaking of Thráin’s mind. In The Hobbit, Gandalf finds Thrain witless and wandering in Sauron’s dungeon, but does not mention the ring (the concept of the rings was not fully developed at the time). This evolved into the mention in The Fellowship of the Ring that “it was taken with torment” and in Appendix A “Thrain was tormented and the ring was taken from him before he died”, but no specifics are given. It is only in The Unfinished Tales that Gandalf elaborates slightly on the final battle of Thrain:
It was nine years after Thráin had left his people that I found him, and he had then been in the pits of Dol Guldur for five years at least. I do not know how he endured so long, nor how he had kept these things hidden through all his torments. I think that the Dark Power had desired nothing from him except the Ring only, and when he had taken that he troubled no further, but just flung the broken prisoner into the pits to rave until he died. A small oversight; but it proved fatal. Small oversights often do.
It is clear from Unfinished Tales that he is “broken” mentally and physically, but does he lose his sanity because the Ring is simply taken from him after Sauron failed to bend his will? Or is it because Sauron finally succeeds, and Thráin surrenders the Ring himself, but goes insane for having lost his most valued possession? It may seem like splitting hairs over the matter, but it would give us insight into the endurance of Dwarves, and whether or not they were capable of resisting the most acutely focused efforts of Sauron. Unfortunately Thráin loses either way. Gandalf once explained to Frodo the dire consequences of trying to take the One Ring by force:
“You see? Already you too, Frodo, cannot easily let it go, nor will to damage it. And I could not “make” you—except by force, which would break your mind.” – The Fellowship of the Ring.
Of course, it is doubtful the rings affect Dwarves the same as hobbits, and the One is not the same as one of the seven (one should remember that unlike Bilbo and the One, the Dwarves would willingly, and without a Wizard’s encouragement, pass on their rings to their heirs), so it is hard to compare the two, but one wonders if Gandalf had Thráin’s fate in mind when he spoke of this.
Thráin was one of the greatest Dwarves of Middle-earth, father of our hero Thorin Oakenshield. He was tortured for five years to the point of insanity because he would not reveal or surrender his Ring, the last of the seven. Having a high endurance, a propensity to guard his treasure, and a rancor of evil tidings, he was tortured not only by Sauron’s forces, but also the mental dragon sickness imposed on him by the Ring, impossible to imagine, and impossible to endure.
He finally breaks. Sauron acquires the last of the Seven.
Carpenter, Humphrey. J.R.R. Tolkien, A Biography. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
Falconer, Daniel. The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey. Chronicles II Creatures and Characters. New York: Harper Design, 2013.
Works of J.R.R. Tolkien:
The Lord of the Rings. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1994.
Works of J.R.R. Tolkien and Douglas A. Anderson:
The Annotated Hobbit. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.
Works of J.R.R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien:
The Return of the Shadow. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1988.
The Treason of Isengard. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1989.
The Silmarillion. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.
Tyler, J.E.A. The Complete Tolkien Companion. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 1976.
lordoftheringswiki.com, thrainsbook.net, thorinoakenshield.net, tolkiengateway.net
Jackson, P. (Director). (2001). The Fellowship of the Ring. United States: New Line Cinema
(2012) An Unexpected Journey. United States: New Line Cinema/Warner Brothers
Falconer, Daniel. The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey. Chronicles II Creatures and Characters. New York: Harper Design, 2013.
deviantart.com, lotrwiki.com, thorinoakenshield.net, tolkiengateway.net, tumblr.com
Photoshop assistance: Kelly Ramage
Additional Research: Dark Jackal at thorinoakenshield.net