The Mythgard Institute recently posted a podcast about Thorin (previous editions have been about Thror and Thrain). Here is the summary from Mythgard.org:
Prof. Corey Olsen and Dave Kale finally get to the heart of the matter and discuss Thorin Oakenshield. They compare his different portrayals across The Hobbit, Appendix A of The Return of the King, and different versions of The Quest of Erebor and analyze how they may be combined and adapted by Peter Jackson’s team in the upcoming The Hobbit films.
This episode can be downloaded as an mp3 from their website. I’m happy to see it covers many of the things I have pondered about the character. Mr. Kale and Dr. Olsen are (obviously) well-informed on the topic, and attempt to support their speculations with available evidence. Among other things, they focus on how material outside the main Hobbit text (namely “The Quest of Erebor”) may impact character relationships in the story, particularly in terms of heightening early tension between Gandalf, Thorin, and Bilbo.
There is more than one version of the “Quest” in Unfinished Tales, but the following segment makes the conflict between Thorin and the wizard very explicit. After Gandalf has introduced the hobbit, Thorin is not only contemptuous of Bilbo, but has a hard time hiding his skepticism of Gandalf’s wisdom. Gandalf basically counters with “it’s either my way or the highway”:
“Listen to me, Thorin Oakenshield!” [Gandalf] said. “If this hobbit goes with you, you will succeed. If not, you will fail. A foresight is on me, and I am warning you.”
“I know your fame,” Thorin answered. “I hope it is merited. But this foolish business of your hobbit makes me wonder whether it is foresight that is on you, and you are not crazed rather than foreseeing. So many cares may have disordered your wits.”
“They have certainly been enough to do so,” [Gandalf] said. “And among them I find most exasperating a proud Dwarf who seeks advice from me (without claim on me that I know of), and then rewards me with insolence. Go your own ways, Thorin Oakenshield, if you will. But if you flout my advice, you will walk to disaster.”
(Tolkien, J.R.R. Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-Earth. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1980).
So far, the only interaction we have seen of their movie counterparts is in the trailer, where Gandalf and Thorin are discussing the care and safe-keeping of Bilbo, or more accurately, the lack thereof.
There are no fireworks between them in this short clip, but there is the hint of a challenge/threat in Thorin’s words, as if he is testing whether or not Gandalf’s conviction is strong enough to allow the potential sacrifice of his small friend. But we also know from the set report by Quint (of Ain’t It Cool News) that Thorin respects Gandalf. He describes a scene between Ian McKellen and Richard Armitage:
It’s late in the day and the idea is that this is a suitable place to make camp, but Gandalf wants to push on and seek Elrond’s council at Rivendell.
This scene is all about Thorin and my first real chance at seeing Richard Armitage craft a layered performance with the character. Thorin’s a stubborn dwarf, very much a leader, but is smart enough to heed the council of Gandalf.
He is a man torn in this scene. His deep resentment at the elves (he believes they have betrayed his ancestors by not stepping in when they needed their help) pulls him one way, but his respect for Gandalf pulls him the other.
Armitage does a great job with Thorin’s inner struggle. The look on his face isn’t someone locked into a decision. Gandalf urges him to seek Elrond’s help, for the good of the quest. Instead of playing it like a stone-faced general, Armitage does weigh his options and mostly in reaction to Gandalf’s words, not in his own dialogue. (Nov. 27, AICN)
If this is any indication, by this point in the film Thorin has given Gandalf his trust, but whether that comes from a general respect for wizard-kind (which he may have had from the start), or a new-found appreciation due to events, is unknown.
Additionally, Mr. Kale and Dr. Olsen debate how Thorin’s more youthful-than-expected appearance may affect his willingness to take advice from the elder-looking Gandalf. I personally do not feel Thorin’s age need influence anything relating to Gandalf. Whether Thorin is supposed to be 100, or 200, becomes irrelevant when compared to the wizard’s thousands of years. But I can see how, as a viewer, we might believe an older-looking Thorin is more like a peer to Gandalf, while a younger one would appear brash and less wise. The Mythgard folk imply that because Thorin looks younger than Balin, that it must be so. I’m not certain this is an established fact in the film just yet. I think they could be the same age as their book versions (where Thorin is pushing 200, and seventeen years older than Balin). As a descendant of Durin the Deathless, Thorin may be unusually well-preserved. [Update: I feel like I need to support my assertions, so here is the quote giving Tolkien’s notes on dwarf age and appearances:
“Dwarves of different ‘breeds’ vary in their longevity. Durin’s race were originally long-lived (especially those named Durin), but like most other peoples they had become less so during the Third Age. Their average age (unless they met a violent death) was about 250 years, which they seldom fell far short of, but could occasionally far exceed (up to 300). A dwarf of 300 was about as rare and aged as a Man of 100.
Dwarves remained young – e.g. regarded as too tender for really hard work or for fighting – until they were 30 or nearly that (Dain II was very young in 2799 (32) and his slaying of Azog was a great feat). After that they hardened and took on the appearance of age (by human standards) very quickly. By 40 all Dwarves looked much alike in age, until they reached what they regarded as old age, about 240. They then began to age and wrinkle and go quite white quickly (baldness being unknown among them), unless they were going to be long-lived, in which case the process was delayed.”
After reading this, it becomes apparent that Balin’s movie appearance (which is lauded by many purists as being “what a dwarf should look like” deviates further from the standard than Thorin’s. In The Hobbit, Tolkien describes Balin as being “a very old-looking dwarf with a white beard” even though he is only 178, and we must wonder if he just forgot about that when writing his genealogy, or if it is an intentional oddity about Balin.]
Either way, I don’t predict this to matter much in terms of plot. A coming-of-age story seems far-fetched for a character like Thorin, in my opinion.
The podcast ends with predictions on whether or not Thorin is present for the fun with the giant spiders. In the book, he is captured by elves right before the spiders get the rest of the group. The 4th v-log showed dwarves, Thorin included, running from something in Mirkwood, partially covered in cobwebs.
In a separate shot, most of the dwarves are nicely cocooned. Judging by the broad-shouldered silhouette, I tend to think the dwarf sitting upright is either Dwalin or Thorin, but can find no way to make a positive ID.
We cannot know for sure which scene comes first. In the first picture they may have escaped from the cocoons already, and have only the residue to show for it, but Mirkwood appears to be covered in webs, and it would be tough not to contact them when running. If that is the case, Thorin may yet be free to fall for some exclusive elven enchantment. Mr. Kale and Dr. Olsen each make good arguments for why the filmmakers might, or might not, choose to include Thorin in the spider fight.
Overall, there is quite a lot covered in their discussion, though one of the things I would have liked to hear are thoughts on whether or not the Arkenstone will play an important role in the movie (will it even be mentioned?). But we must save something for another time!