What follows is a guest post written by Anjy Roemelt.
What’s So Special About These Dwarves?
by Anjy Roemelt
The Hobbit – Dwarves. Who would ever have expected them to rock the fansites like they did after “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was released last December. Why, I pray thee, should we be so enamored of these small, stocky figures with hoods and lanterns, crawling through mines and all looking alike with their beards? We saw them in “The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the ring” at the Council of Elrond. We knew who Gimli was – barely. The other dwarves looked slightly modified by photoshop. White beards, eyebrows curving the other way, or no discernible difference at all. I must admit I didn’t think much about the dwarves before I saw the film. I was looking forward to Bilbo and Gandalf, curious if they would feature Legolas in Mirkwood, and expecting to be mildly entertained, but mostly for nostalgic reasons in reminiscence of The Lord of the Rings. I have never been so wrong in my whole life.
I did not pay much attention to trailers, being busy with reality, and only had a look at a guide-book to the movie a couple of days prior to the premiere. I liked Fili and Kili in that book and thought “There’ll be some eye-candy in it, then, so no need for the maxi-popcorn.” I have never been … see above. Of course, I fell in love with Thorin at first glance. Who didn’t? I’m ready to fight anyone who did, though. They have no business hankering after him, he’s mine!!!! But that is just – or unjust – the icing on the cake. The dwarves as a whole bear a fascination I see in so many contributions to websites and notice in talks in still-existing-real-life. I have a theory why that is so. Let me know if you agree (and also if you disagree, I feel obliged to add).
First they are family. They belong together, and as the audience I can make myself believe I do, too. I pin their pictures to my kitchen-door, I wear their items, I sing their song, I am one of the family. Better, sometimes, than my real one. Family as it ought to be. Loving and teasing and fighting for one another. It’s vital we know these things are still important. Yes, I KNOW real life is different and I’m over-demanding or projecting childhood-illusions onto movie-characters (can somebody please lock Uncle Sigmund in the basement!) – but, NO!, they’re not illusions. They are what family life ought to be for everyone and everywhere. We may have lost it, but that does not mean it never existed. If it exists as a longing, then it exists.
Secondly, they fight. For one another. For something. They have something more important to them than their comfortable homes and regular income. Even more important than food – and that IS important to a dwarf. Balin makes this clear to Thorin: there is no real need to go back to Erebor. They have a home in the Blue Mountains, they have peace and a safe prospect for the future. They can raise their kids far away from dragons and destruction, and they grow up like Fili and Kili, just playing war and dressing up like warriors but never in any real danger (which mother wouldn’t want such a life for her sons?) Yet, they will go with Thorin into an insecure future if ever there was one. Bombur is willing to go on a journey which will mean a snack in the morning and a frugal pot-luck in the evening. Dori is willing to go where branches will tangle in his braids and there is no mirror. Ori is willing to go away from his mother’s knitting. Nori, of course, is willing to go anywhere. All of them has a choice, all but Thorin, and they disregard their personal choices to follow him.
This is – of course – utterly politically incorrect, psychologically wrong and, in fact, pathological. If you do something like this in real life, you need a good shrink. Then why do so many of us long to do just that? To find something in our lives that is more important than food and insurances and i-phones? Something that is not only bigger but greater than the virtues we have been taught since kindergarden. Living in the civilized west we feel going on a quest for religious reasons is out of the question. Really, most of us, me included, are not sure enough that our personal beliefs ARE the only ones true and possible, to want to wager our lives on them. Our nations might be a reason if we are, say, Croatian or Turkish or from Kazakhstan (these being the most passionate people about their nations I have met, so far), but for most of us the daily hassle with governments and bureaucrats diminish our love for our actual nation a tiny bit. So, what is there to fight for? Our football team! I’d go anywhere for my football team (soccer, for US-readers), but still there is something about Thorin & Co that exceeds hoisting the colours of my club.
There is something in most human souls that longs to be part of something great, something worthy to give everything for. It’s mostly not reasonable to take such a decision in real life, and it is absolutely impossible if you have a family, children you are responsible for, but as with the family, the longing is still there. That it is there proves there is a reason for this. It is okay to long for something greater than me. It is okay to find things in my life which are worth a risk and worth an eschewal. It is okay to value this longing and keep an eye on it. It might be something in my life that does not diminish with age, something that does not grow stale in the using. It might be something that makes me go on when other things fail. It might even be God …
And then there is the humour of it all. Starting with Bilbo. All these great feelings and longings I have described so far, and I should go for them without a hanky? No way! Bebother and confusticate reality! The greatness and the kingship, and the nobility, and glory would be unbearable without the humour.
Tolkien wrote the book like that. There is always a humorous twist in the events, usually provided by Bilbo, that reminds us of our own insignificance in the great events taking place around us – and still we are part of the pattern. Tolkien depicted the Hobbits as the real “humans” in his universe. He said about himself “I am in fact a hobbit in all but size”. They are the kind and simple and down-to-(middle)earth people everyone can identify with when the kings and queens and warriors and immortal elves have proven to be a bit exaggerated for the rest of us. So, let’s have some supper at Bag End.
So, why the dwarves? Maybe because we long for something and they give us courage. They are not as high-brow and aloof as the elves, nor as rigid as the men of Gondor, yet they provide a tad more … well, greatness …. than the hobbits. They are great AND small, noble and funny, what we want to be, and what we are, all rolled into one. They are adorable. Aaaaand – as an afterthought – to identify with a dwarf rather than with an elf is so much less pressure on my BMI ;-).