In Defense of Fili, Kili and Thorin Oakenshield – an Appreciation Beyond Hot Dwarves.
[Originally written in German by ArchedCory and translated to English, with editing by D.J.]
*Movie and end of book spoilers* – You’ve been warned!
In regards the royal trio, there has been much complaining over the past year: Too undwarven, too handsome, not enough beard… It is too bad that many people never got past this. Yes, we already know plenty of reasons for their appearance – there are 13 dwarves and we need to distinguish them, etc…but I turned away from the topic of appearance a long time ago to dig deeper into the matter instead. Though I never liked Thorin in the book, Fili and Kili were my favourite dwarves from my first reading of the story. But because the three of them are related to each other, I gathered information about all of them from whatever books and production videos were available prior to the film.
Thorin is very well described in the book, though his motivation often remains hidden (which is probably why he appears to be unsympathetic for many readers). However we don’t know a whole lot about Fili and Kili. Most of the time when they appear together, they are in a good mood, and they are often sent scouting. Only Fili has a solo moment or two in the book (such as the scene involving the rope, and later on the apple barrel). So from the reading we know only that they are cheerful, they are young, and they are Heirs of Durin. But that alone is already a LOT more than we know about some of the other dwarves, such as the brothers Dori, Nori and Ori.
However, even from this information alone one can conclude quite a lot about their characters: We have two fairly young dwarves who have never been involved in a serious fight, and who are very eager to go on this journey. On the other hand they have absolutely no idea what they can expect; they know Erebor and Smaug only from tales. Thorin, however, knows very well what lies at the end of the journey, so he especially keeps an eye on those two boys. Of course he is glad they come along, but he also wants to keep them from harm. Since the two boys find everything exciting, he has to dampen their enthusiasm every once in a while, because life out there is not a picnic.
Regarding the royal descent: Fili is the older brother and second in the line of succession. He feels the pressure weighing down on him a lot more. He knows if anything happens to Thorin it is up to him to fulfil the quest. He HAS to be a responsible dwarf despite his young age, no matter if he wants that or not.
Kili, on the other hand, has a lot less to worry about. He is only third in the line of succession (I guess you can sleep more easily over that). That, and the fact that he is the youngest in the company, make him a naïve but adventurous dwarf who often acts heedlessly and doesn’t always think before talking.
And behind all that stands Thorin, to whom his legacy and his quest to reclaim Erebor is so important that he totally gives himself up to it. It goes so far that he would even give his life to fulfil the quest for his people. So he not only keeps an eye on his nephews, but he also reprimands them should they act foolishly because of their youth.
Now these are all thoughts I had prior to seeing the movie.
When the first images of the dwarves appeared I felt their “undwarven” appearance seemed odd, but the more I saw and read, the more I could embrace the designs and take them for granted. By this point I don’t even notice it in the movie, and I now believe that Fili looks just about perfect for a dwarf. They act, move and talk like dwarves, and that alone is convincing enough for me.
I especially like their gear and the love for details in their clothing. They really tried to give them a distinct royal style, and I find it very convincing! Fili, Kili and Thorin each have their own emblem, which repeats itself on clothes and accessories. You can see that Fili and Kili haven’t traveled much and never fought, because their raiment appears to be completely new and unworn. Thorin gains size simply by his cape (and I know how odd it is to say that about a dwarf). Add to that the boots and the fur… simply amazing!
And then there are the weapons. Thorin’s actual sword (not Orcrist) and his axe are undoubtedly recognizable as dwarven weapons: Big and heavy but at the same time elegant and never bulky. I smirked when I read about Fili’s armoury: His two swords are designed so wonderfully! The double scabbard is a gem in itself; worn on the back, he pulls out one sword from over his shoulder and the other one from underneath. Then there is his warhammer, and even in his garments he is carrying weapons – daggers in his gauntlets and two throwing axes in each boot. With this in mind, it is such a huge shame that you can see Fili fighting only twice in the whole movie. And even that goes by in the blink of an eye.
Let’s not forget Kili with his sword (a design which I find absolutely lovely) and his bow, the style of which never makes him seem to be an Elf because it is shorter and heavier than any elvish bow. It is unfortunate he relies on the bow throughout most of the movie (to the point of almost getting monotonous). I would have loved to see him use the sword more often. Oh and for completeness: According to the Weta Chronicles book, Kili also carries a pocket knife which can also be used as a saw. Maybe we will get to see this in one of the later movies.
But let’s put aside the topic of appearance—enough has been said about beards, noses and hair—and instead, let us look at character implementation in the movie. Fortunately, I found that whatever I had pieced together before the movie debuted actually occurred! But many of these things will only be apparent if you have thought about it thoroughly. I have heard comments like “Fili and Kili are without character,” and it is something I cannot comprehend.
Let us begin with Thorin. He is as pretentious as expected. BUT – and I didn’t expect this – you get to see what made him that way. And suddenly you start to feel deep compassion for him. His emotions are no longer perceived as unsympathetically arrogant, but as deep bitterness. Richard Armitage portrays this bitterness, and also the typical stubbornness of dwarves, to an extent that goes beyond the human. He totally blew me away! It goes so far that tears burst into my eyes when Thranduil turns him down, when he listens to Balin’s narration of Azanulbizar, and especially when he loses his Oakenshield – probably the biggest disgrace for him.
Fili is really the more responsible of the brothers. Yes, he has one overly obvious line (“If there is a key, there must be a door!”) but besides that he only says reasonable things. His oration in Bag End deeply impressed me. I didn’t expect that from him! But you can see the prince in him revealed in this scene.
In contrast, Kili is often so rash that it gets nearly annoying. There is always a thoughtless comment on his lips, and he never thinks beforehand if his actions are reasonable. And still he tends to go unscathed in almost every situation – I guess it’s the luck of the fool. When he feels insecure he often looks to Fili or Thorin for advice. His heritage is never as pressing a matter to him as it is to Fili. For him this whole journey right now is just an exciting adventure.
Thorin also plays the fatherly figure to Fili and Kili, and that is shown surprisingly often – IF you are looking closely. It’s apparent in the two times he reprimands Kili (of course it would be Kili, as the young, heedless dwarf) or the moments in which he calls out for them, or entrusts tasks to them. Perhaps you noticed how in the Trollshaws he stops Kili from attacking all by himself. Earlier, when he calls out for Fili and Kili to look after the ponies he adds “Make sure you stay with them!” It reminded me of mothers; they always add something like “be careful” after their instructions while people who aren’t close wouldn’t do that. And when he believes Fili to be lost on the stone giants, you can feel very strongly his despair over this ONE dwarf although a lot more of his company were involved in this collision.
Compare this to the relationship of the boys towards Thorin: It becomes obvious (albeit often only through mimicry) that Kili really wants to impress Thorin. This is visible for instance in the end scene, where Kili helps Thorin up on his feet. Earlier, when Kili frightens Bilbo, and Thorin reprimands him, he seems to be really embarrassed. Often he sees things first and immediately reports to Thorin because it is important to him that the information comes from HIM and Thorin also notices that. And when Thorin gives him this “Hello? Could you please shoot that warg?” look when they are surrounded in the plains, he is embarrassed again for not thinking about it first. On the other hand, when he shoots his first warg (in the forest with Radagast) he gains a short but approving glance from Thorin. How great it must have been for him to get that!
However I get the feeling Thorin is generally aware and proud of Kili’s archery skills. You can see some kind of reaction from Thorin in almost every scene involving Kili shooting an arrow. He even shouts out to him at one point: “Kili, shoot them!”
Fili, on the other hand, has deep respect for Thorin, and he would never get into trouble as Kili does. He takes his responsibilities seriously, and he is even more loyal to Thorin than all the other dwarves in the company. There is one line in this context which I found exceptionally remarkable: When they lose their ponies and Bilbo asks if they should report to Thorin, it is actually Fili who says “No, let’s not worry him.” It’s such a simple line, but this is very typical for Fili. He wants neither to get Thorin angry nor Kili into trouble. You can really see his concern when he desperately cries out for Thorin in the end while they are flying on the eagles (that is a real goosebump moment).
You can see both boys’ concern when the two of them come together in defense of Thorin (yes, even that moment exists in this movie!) When Thorin is defeated in the last scene and even Bilbo seems to fail after his heroic deed, the three dwarves closest to Thorin begin one last desperate attack: Fili, Kili, and after them also Dwalin.
The relationship between the brothers is one of my favourite parts. They have never been separated, and they love each other dearly, and really do everything together. They even think alike so it seems. You always see them together: at the table in Bag End, in almost every wide shot, in battle, and most poignantly in the end when they share the same eagle! They also lift Bilbo onto his pony together in the very beginning. Another nice moment was when Thorin and Bilbo spot Erebor on the horizon and talk about it so that the whole company also looks at the mountain—except for Fili and Kili, who stare into the opposite direction. I don’t know what they see there, but it must be a lot more important to them at least.
And then there is the scene were they lose two ponies, although they paid attention SO well. I suppose in reality they really just behaved mischievously again.
And watch them closely when one of them speaks. The other one is usually looking at the talking brother in approval. Also Fili is never laughing at Kili when he is making one of his silly remarks. Even then Fili seems to be proud of his brother.
All in all the two boys are very refreshing to see especially BECAUSE they have no clue what is lying ahead of them.
By now it should become clear why the scene on the stone giants is so heartbreaking for me. When he reaches out for Fili but can’t grasp his hand, Kili is truly horrified. He cannot imagine a life without Fili. It would be the biggest disaster for him if Fili were no more. Yes, there is only a moment to catch his facial expression, but I think it is very easy to read all that in there.
I once read that someone felt it was entirely irrelevant to the movie that those three dwarves are related. Excuse me, but have you even read the book? The first time their relationship is mentioned is as “early” as ESGAROTH! But it is in a very impressive way. The dwarves step out of their barrels and Thorin introduces his nephews as:
“The sons of my father’s daughter, Fili and Kili of the race of Durin.” Yes, he is very proud of them! As I said, in the book it is never mentioned before that, so why in the movie? Those who haven’t read it won’t know, but they already get little glimpses of it and it will become plausible later on. This is not any different in the book by the way.
One of those little glimpses is – to me at least – the most important scene concerning the Heirs in this movie. When Thorin enters Bag End he suddenly spots Fili and Kili and gives them a proud smile (and keep in mind: Thorin hardly ever smiles!). It is hard to make out, I admit, because of the camera angle in this scene. But it is definitely worth watching for!
So why Thorin-Fili-Kili? Because their characters and the interactions between them make them the most interesting group of people in this whole story. So when I worship them it is really not at all about the much too often quoted “hot dwarves” but about the Heirs of Durin, whose story couldn’t be any more gripping.
So in the future movies I already look forward to Fili’s dilemma with the apples, the fact that Fili and Kili won’t be influenced at all by the call of the gold, and somehow, even to the heroic death of all of them. Because I know PJ will celebrate them in their full glory.
And in the end they are Heirs of Durin. What is there not to like?