Weapons of a King – Thorin Oakenshield
This is the first 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 film, tie-ins and supporting materials.
Related articles are:
2. Fili: Twice as Fierce – or – “The One-Dwarf Walking Arsenal”
3. Kili and His Weapons – Deadly At Every Range
4. Dwalin – Weapons of a Veteran
5. Balin – Mace or Sword from Ancient Times?
6. Glóin – His Axe Stands Ready
7. Óin – A Healer And His Staff
Of course a dwarf-lord like Thorin Oakenshield didn’t set out on the quest to reclaim Erebor without proper weapons made by dwarven craftsmen (at least not in Peter Jackson’s world. Tolkien chose to arm his 13 dwarves with nothing more than short knives). Thorin is skilled with blade and axe, and can swing both with equal fervor and virtuosity. Thus he initially carried a long-hafted battle axe, his dwarven sword “Deathless” and – of course – his legendary “Oakenshield”.
Axes in general are very popular amongst dwarves because they can double as tools and weapons more often than other objects.
Thorin’s long-handled axe is reminiscent of a throwing axe with a single, triangular-shaped blade at the top, which picks up the customary dwarven motifs with their sharp angles. His axe even has an angular hole cut into the blade.
But Thorin set out from Bag End with not only this axe, but also his dwarven sword “Deathless”, which he used before the coming of the dragon Smaug (TA 2770), and through the battle of Azanulbizar (TA 2799), during which he used it to dis-arm (literally) the Pale Orc Azog.
Dwarven swords are not unlike those of other races, being either long swords, pointed short swords or broadswords with a double-edged blade. But unlike elvish and human blades, dwarf blades are generally very wide and follow, both in pattern and style, their distinctive motifs, the same as their axes, as described above. “Deathless” has Thorin’s emblem present above the short cross-guard which protects his hand, as well as at the end of the pommel (which is a knob at the end of the hilt, providing counterbalance to the blade). The pommel’s shape is reminiscent of a crystalline formation.
Dwarven swords can feature either thrusting or slashing characteristics. For example, a thrusting sword has a sharp point for stabbing, and a blade with a diamond cross-section – that is when the sword is thicker in the middle, and therefore more rigid (you can only see the blade’s cross-sectional design if you were to cut a blade in half crosswise and then look at its cut end). On the other hand, a slashing sword places more emphasis on the cutting edge, but is weaker against mail or plate armor.
However, some swords have both qualities, and so does Thorin’s “Deathless”. Held by a half-scabbard, it has a wide blade that tapers to a long point, capable of punching through armor. And it is also sharpened along both sides right to the tip (a double-edged blade), ideal for slashing attacks. If you look closer, you can also recognize its hexagonal cross-section and the ornate fullers (the beveled grooves in the flat side of the blade). This sword, wielded by a skilled fighter like Thorin, can savagely thrust around, under, or over an enemy’s shield, and is especially good in close combat.
The thick blades of the dwarven swords give them more mass as well, and this fits their fighting style perfectly, which is all about power and damage. Therefore, a heavy weapon is very useful because you get your body behind the weapon and allow the weight of the weapon to do the damage.
The last of Thorin’s original weapons is no less legendary – the “Oakenshield” from which he received his by-name. During the dreadful battle of Azanulbizar, when Thorin’s shield was lost and he found himself without protection, he made do with the branch off an oak tree, holding it in his left hand to ward off the strokes of his foes.
It saved his life, and he carried it at his side for years, adapting it, and tending it to stop the wood from cracking. He even hollowed this oak branch a bit, so it became more like a vambrace, which, when reinforced with durable metal prongs on the end, could be used offensively as well as defensively. “Thus he got his name, or also because in memory of this he bore ever after at his back a shield made of oak wood without colour or device, and vowed to do so until he was hailed again as king.” (PofME, p.281)
And though these weapons had served him faithfully right up to the present day, all three – sword, axe and oaken shield – were unfortunately lost after finding Orcrist, escaping Goblin Town, and being saved by the eagles… So this is their story – not to be forgotten. Additionally, if you are interested in details on Orcrist, I recommend reading this essay: Orcrist: The Sword of Thorin in Book, Film, and Replica.
[Edit by kingfisher (May 3rd, 2014): Found concept art of Thorin’s weapons, © Frank Victoria, Weta Workshop]
- 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.