Fili: Twice as Fierce – or – “The One-Dwarf Walking Arsenal”
This is the second 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:
1. Weapons of a King – Thorin Oakenshield
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
Fili, the direct heir to the throne in the line of Durin after his uncle Thorin Oakenshield, is bristling with more weapons than nearly any of the other dwarves. As one of the two hunters and scouts of the Company (the other one being his brother Kili), he is armed with two swords, throwing axes and knives. Though one of the youngest, he is a fighter of exceptional skill and versatility, trained in the art of battle with many weapons, fitting his swift-footed fighting techniques, which are based on speed and power.
Fili’s Dual Swords
Fili’s double wielded swords are likely to have been crafted by the master smiths of the Ered Luin, and are therefore functional and sturdy, yet elegant examples of dwarven craftsmanship. His swords seem to have been made using a technique known as “pattern welding” – in which different pieces of metal are hammered flat, folded and welded to form a pattern, and the core of hard steel, which is exposed at the single cutting edge, is sandwiched between layers of softer steel. This produces stronger and more flexible swords.
In contrast to Thorin Oakenshield’s dwarven sword “Deathless” which doesn’t emphasize either thrusting or slashing features but has both qualities, Fili’s swords bear a remarkable resemblance to hatchet blades or hunting cleavers.
Those heavy cutting weapons with their single-edged blades are an essential component of a dwarven hunter’s kit. The razor-sharp, heavy blades have little trouble in cutting through animal joints, including those of larger beasts. A good chop or two to the jugular vein is an excellent way to dispatch a warg, the main targets being the head, neck and forearms of the beast.
[Edited by kingfisher (June 23, 2014): Nick Keller from Weta Workshop published concept art of Fili’s swords (and his warhammer which hasn’t been shown yet in movie 1 and 2 (AUJ and DOS) on his website:]
The blades of Fili’s swords are also thicker and therefore stiffer than those of comparable double-edged swords, which in turn greatly improves their thrusting capability. While a double-edged sword would cut both ways and emphasize slashes and cuts, Fili’s massive dual swords cut one way and concentrate on thrusts and chops, working largely in the manner of an axe.
Though being very broad already, the blades widen considerably near the point, ending with a parrying hook on the back of the blade. Such a hook is very useful for capturing blades or snagging or catching an enemy’s clothing or armor.
The sword pommels – the knobs at the top of the hilt – are richly decorated (as well as the hilts), according to Fili’s royal status as a prince. They serve to reinforce and secure his grip on the hilt and also act as a counterweight to the blade, bringing the center of gravity closer to the hilt. Another distinct feature are the double grooves – called fullers – running along the length of the sword blades. They greatly enhance the strength of the blade, very suitable for the powerful blows that dwarves have the strength to strike.
Notable also is the double sword scabbard he carries on his back. A scabbard, also known as sheath, is a protective cover for a sword blade, commonly constructed with a wood core, leather covering and wool lining, so that the sword slides easily but securely all the way in. Additionally, the swords are held with leather straps to keep them from falling out.
With the scabbard sitting across one of his shoulders, he can draw one sword from underneath and the other from over the shoulder, although a back scabbard like his is mainly used for transporting the weapons.
In general, carrying swords on the back is far more comfortable than having a large scabbard dangling beside your leg, especially when it holds a heavy weapon or even two weapons. One actually loses a lot more mobility with swords waggling around by the legs hanging from a belt than from being strapped tightly to your back.
[Edited by kingfisher (May 17, 2014): With the second film “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” some more impressions of Fili’s back scabbard became available. The left back view is in Beorn’s House, the right picture shows Fili right before the Company enters Mirkwood]
Hunting Knives and Throwing Axes
Knives and daggers are generally working tools as well as axes, used for everyday functions such as scraping the meat off bones after a hunt, but also serve as side-weapons. Used for quick self-defense and close-combat fighting, where a sword would be too cumbersome, knives are the classic cut-and-thrust-weapon.
Worn upon his arms, Fili’s paired hunting knives are smaller than his swords, but equally keen and deadly. The knives’ shorter blades allow for easy concealment in his leather vambraces, as well as for greater maneuverability when spinning and rotating during close-quarters fighting. Fairly similar in shape to his swords, each dagger has a little royal crest engraved on the pommel, one of the few clues to his royal heritage
In addition to the knives, Fili carries small throwing axes attached to his boots. Throwing axes are especially difficult to use, as their rotation must match the distance to a moving target, or the enemy only receives a hard thump with the handle – and a new weapon.
The objective in each case is for the axe blade to stick into the target with a sufficient amount of force. For this to be successful, accuracy, distance, number of rotations and placement of the body must be all taken into account – usually, they are thrown in an overhand motion and before contact with the enemy to create gaps in the battle lines.
The shape of Fili’s throwing axes indicates that they are specially designed and well balanced to give them a good center of gravity and an even rotation so they can be thrown easily. But as a skilled fighter, Fili knows how to rotate the axes throughout their flight so that the sharpened edge of their heads will “stick” effectively.
- 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.