Last year I wrote a very spontaneous essay on my three favourite dwarves mainly because I was annoyed how much hate they received for reasons I did not understand. Never did I think this essay would become as popular as it did.
Now, after The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug came to the cinemas, a couple of people came up to me and asked me carefully: “Are you going to do it again after this film?”
I wasn’t going to, but after some time I thought: You are right, maybe I should. And if people are actually expecting me to do it, I should even more so. So I thank those people for their trust and hope they will like my second attempt as well.
I will be using the common abbreviations for the three parts of the trilogy: AUJ = An Unexpected Journey, DOS = Desolation of Smaug, TABA = There And Back Again
What might not be obvious after the first or second viewing, and what took me also a while to notice: All three heirs changed distinctively from AUJ to DOS. Thorin is lured by the gold, Fili has to decide where his loyalties lie and Kili, well… we all saw what happened to him (how dare you, Kili?)
Thorin’s change was the biggest. After being the rough but still likeable tragic hero in AUJ he is now tempted more and more by the gold. It might not be as obvious yet (I expect this change to follow an even more drastic course in TABA), but the true dimension can be seen in a couple of short glimpses.
We all know the obvious scenes: “I will not risk this quest for the life of one burglar,” and the confrontation between Thorin and Bilbo inside Erebor, but it is in fact his facial expressions that tell us a lot about what is going on in his head. I had never seen such utter despair on Thorin’s face before than in that scene where he thinks the whole quest is lost because of the last light of Durin’s Day dilemma. He looks as if his world would shut down any minute. In this moment he assumes the big goal in his life is lost and he must realize that he never made any plans should he fail. Because a dwarf simply does not expect to fail, especially not such a proud one as Thorin. He has that same fear a bit later in the film. When the dwarves hear the dragon inside the mountain, he gets the same helpless “Oh no, I won’t be able to fulfill my quest!” face. It is an almost perfect depiction of hopelessness and loss of goals in life.
On the other hand he changes very quickly in his temper. When Bilbo finds the keyhole after they had given up, and Thorin picks up the key from the ground, he has this especially greedy and demanding look in his eyes. It’s a look that makes you back up involuntarily, and no way would you ever consider antagonizing him!
Thorin’s mood towards others also changes. He becomes more restless and impatient the closer he gets to the mountain. In AUJ he was the perfect leader and protective of every member of his company. There are multiple times where he cries out for certain dwarves or Bilbo, saves them, etc. He might be too stubbornly proud at times to admit caring for them, but his actions speak otherwise. The last time we see this kind of Thorin is just before Beorn’s house when he grabs startled Bombur by the beard to drag him along into safety.
Later in DOS, however, Thorin gets more careless about the other dwarves. He doesn’t even hesitate to leave Kili and Bofur behind, not even a mention of Oin, hardly fights for Fili remaining in the company, and he is even willing to risk Bilbo’s life – or even harming him himself! As long as he gets gold and the Arkenstone everything else is secondary to him – even leaving behind his own kin (more on this particular scene later on).
In both films Thorin is confronted with a situation where he is more or less asked “Weren’t we supposed to meet Gandalf here?” When he answers in the cave in the Misty Mountains his face and voice show concern and to me it always sounded as if he is not comfortable at all going on without Gandalf. While in DOS, however, he is almost annoyed to be asked. After all, what is Bilbo thinking? That he needs that stupid wizard to fulfill his quest? Of course he thinks he could do all of this without the help of others. His mind is already that influenced by the gold sickness at that point.
There is one scene in particular where it shows how far this has gone: when running away from Smaug he actually commands Bilbo to go with Balin, and for an instant he faces the dragon completely alone. But he himself realizes just a second later that this was a very bad idea, that he is not invincible after all. It leads to the scene of him standing on Smaug’s snout. Without Dwalin’s and Nori’s help he would have never made it out of there.
Interestingly enough seeing all the gold in Erebor doesn’t seem to give Thorin relief. He looks as if it burdens him when he finally has it in front of his eyes. It’s a typical behaviour of drug addicts: they can live neither with nor without their drug. And in the end dragon sickness is no more than a classic addiction.
Kili is introduced to us in AUJ as a very cheerful dwarf, sometimes reckless and maybe not the brightest, but still likeable. Ever since the Special Extended Edition, and even more so since DOS, we know that his looks are not the only thing about him that is completely atypical for a dwarf. Being open-minded to other cultures is a good thing, and is actually even hinted at for the young dwarves in the Hobbit book, but his attraction to an elf is just too much for a proper dwarf. I like it how the other dwarves in Rivendell make fun of him when he shows interest in the elves – it marks him the odd one out. So it is very surprising that NONE of the dwarves in the company says anything about him getting even more serious about this in DOS.
Kili also has two similar scenes in AUJ and DOS: twice he is the first one who thoughtlessly jumps into danger. While it ends well in the troll scene, it doesn’t when he tries to reach the lever at the elven gate. Kili is a very young dwarf and maybe battle-ready, but not battle-hardened yet. He enjoys fighting and showing his abilities; you can see that in every scene of him using his weapons. But before this quest he obviously never has been in a real fight before. Even more importantly he never had a serious injury before. So the moment that arrow hits him, he must realize for the first time in his life that he is not invincible and he could be dead quicker than he thinks. He got a glimpse of bad things happening when he was separated from his brother in the stone giant scenes, but now it got even more serious (and that trend will continue in TABA…). And each time things don’t go as planned he is startled yet again. He hasn’t yet learned to deal with setbacks.
And starting from the point of his injury, Kili acts atypically again by suffering and whining over his wound. He tries to cover it up, but doesn’t really succeed. Dwarves have learned not to show pain or weaknesses, to be tough and always ready, no matter how miserable they might feel inside. Thorin gives us a beautiful glimpse of this as he slips out of his burning coat and just walks on as if nothing had happened. I am sure he was also afraid of injuries in that moment, but never would he show that, which also means he has no sympathy for those who do. He is very impolite towards whining Kili and gives him absolutely no time to rest, even burdens him with even more weapons to carry. And I am quite sure at least this little part has nothing to do with dragon sickness, but is simply annoyance with un-dwarflike, dishonourable behaviour over a – what he probably considers– tiny little wound.
In DOS Fili seems to have little else to do than worry about his brother and show off his weapon arsenal. Many people have expressed concern over this, because he should be given greater importance being an heir of Durin and because of his fate.
I, too, was annoyed, especially because Fili has three big scenes in the book (the rope scene, the apple line, being haughty with the captain of the Lake-town guard) and none of those made it into the film. However maybe even to Fili there is more than one sees on the surface.
Yes, he is over-protective of his brother, but that is not necessarily a bad thing, as Kili IS his little brother after all. I imagine before going on the quest somebody (Thorin? Dis?) told him to look after his brother for the duration of the journey. And he is a loyal, responsible dwarf, so he holds on to that, even though he is only five years older than Kili, which is absolutely nothing in the long life of a dwarf. And even if nobody told him that, maybe he is just doing it as a habit. After all, to dwarves kinship holds the highest value so it is just natural he is so close to his brother. Why does Kili hardly show any of this? Well, he is the younger one, and he is introduced to us as quite a reckless individual (even his mother thinks so), so it might just be his personality. That is even more a reason for Fili to watch out for him.
Of course when one has to look after the other he has to be alert, and Fili definitely is, considering all the knives, swords and daggers he carries with him. He might have overdone it a bit though. Yes, just like Kili, Fili too is battle-ready but not battle-hardened yet. Maybe he was nervous when packing and took more than he needed. But better too much, than too little, right? Still, even though he might have the same concerns about battle and getting injured as Kili, he seems to be the more stoic one and doesn’t show it too much on the outside. That is one of several hints of him being the more regal one of the two.
Fili copies a lot of characteristics of his uncle; being a tough fighter and not showing concerns too much on the outside are two of them. Also, he is just as sceptical about elves as Thorin. Never at any point in Mirkwood does he show any sympathy for them, not even when they save his brother. And when Tauriel comes to Lake-town to Kili’s aid, he doesn’t quite know which feeling should prevail – concern for his brother or mistrust of the elf? Those mixed thoughts can be seen on his face at any point there.
Interestingly enough, as Thorin stops being protective of his companions in DOS, Fili takes over doing so. No, I am not even talking about Kili here. Once the four dwarves stay behind in Bard’s house Fili takes on a kind of leadership role. And there he starts to act very grown-up when orcs and later the dragon are about to come. He not only tells Bard to get his children out of danger, he even tries to protect them himself when Bard can’t do so anymore. He must be afraid himself (who wouldn’t?), but still he throws himself against the orcs with his bare hands in a desperate attempt to keep them away from the girls. Later on he even pushes one of the girls out of danger and tries to protect her with only his body. People might call me crazy here, but to me that is a turning point for Fili – where he grows up and shows responsibility on his own. It is also an important foreshadowing for those of you who know the book. I just desperately hope this will be followed in TABA!
And then of course there is the major motive of Fili so far. In AUJ he was shown to us as almost blindly loyal to his uncle. He still shows us this in DOS; however, the last time this motive is to be seen is in Beorn’s house, where twice he looks to Thorin for help or answers or whatever he hopes to find there. After this, Thorin started to change. There was hardly any time to interact between Beorn’s house and the flight from Mirkwood, but once the dwarves step out of the barrels, Thorin is suddenly very different towards his nephews. In an almost rude manner he doesn’t care at all about Kili’s wound and even scolds Fili for worrying so much over just a scratch. Possibly the first time Fili doesn’t quite pay attention to his changed uncle, but even then he already stayed at his brother’s side to aid him. And then at the parting scene Fili has to think his loyalties through.
There are two scenes I want to look at in particular: the healing scene and the parting scene. Let us start with the healing and no, I won’t go into any of the hate on this scene, as my personal opinion is of no concern here. It is interesting how the brothers react here though. Fili is not at all fond of elves and in this scene he never takes his eyes off Tauriel, always alert should she hurt his brother. Up until the end he doesn’t trust her. Even when Oin says it was a privilege to watch elven magic he hasn’t lost his scepticism. He probably still can’t believe he let her proceed at all. At the same time though he is definitely relieved to see his brother saved, even if he can’t quite arrange it with his dwarven pride to thank her.
Kili, well, I am still puzzled on how to interpret his reaction in this scene. At one point I thought he is talking about Tauriel, at another that he is talking about “some” woman and even that he might talk about his mother. Right now I mostly follow the theory that he is in a fever daze when he talks about love. But my own mood changes every day, so I’ll let everybody make up their own mind. The fact is, he is 77 years old. Dwarves hardly ever marry before they are 100 years old, so the question is, at this tender age, is Kili mentally mature enough to know what love is yet? Compare with 12 year olds who “love” a new person almost every week. After all, he might not mean it as seriously as it sounds. In the end I don’t think he would really have love, marriage, a relationship, sex (you choose) in mind. I see him more like a 14 year old human boy, interested enough to look at women already, but that’s about it.
Reaching for Tauriel’s hand is reasonable and almost sweet. Of course every person longs for physical contact in moments of great danger, and in those moments you don’t even care whose hand it is you hold.
Too bad Thorin wasn’t there though, it would be too interesting to know what he would have thought of this scene.
The parting scene is the first one that belongs almost only to the three heirs in the first two movies. And that is not the only reason why it is so special, for many things happen in this scene, although it only lasts for one minute!
Thorin’s decision to leave Kili behind comes completely unexpected to the younger nephew. Unlike Fili he hasn’t noticed the change in his uncle until then (some might argue he was busy with something else by that time…). And he even tries to charm his uncle with that little puppy smile that might have worked a million times before, still hoping his uncle is not serious. But he learns it the bitter way. In fact the glare Thorin gives him after this is so creepy, that Kili himself must be scared in this moment. There is nothing of old Thorin in those eyes in that moment; he is totally overtaken by dragon sickness there. And Kili is completely dumbstruck as he has never seen his uncle in this state before.
So that throws Fili into action. In his mind he must have been doubting his uncle before, as there is one glance full of skepticism he has for Thorin while he greedily tells the people of Lake-town of gold and treasures. The moment of the parting scene, however, is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. He starts one final attempt, but of course it’s in vain. Fili must choose his loyalties. And while Thorin tells him that the quest is more important than his kin, Fili must remember his dwarven roots which DO put kin over anything else. And he must admit that if one of his kinsmen cannot accept his help, then he has to turn to another one who does, no matter how hard this decision is for him. This doesn’t mean he is disloyal to Thorin there, but he has to admit though that there is nothing he can do for him at this point and tries to be useful at least somewhere else.
So is this atypical for Fili who has always been portrayed as “Thorin first”? Well, it is definitely not AUJ Fili, but he, too, changed in the course of his quest and this is the moment where he starts to show traits of the future king in him. It probably eased his decision when even Thorin pointed this out to him. Also, it is very true to the book, albeit in a totally different context. In the book both Fili and Kili disagree with Thorin when he goes completely mad over the Arkenstone inside Erebor. When they are trapped inside, it is them (and Bombur) who long for the outside, for sun and peace with all the other peoples outside the door. They don’t fall to the dragon sickness and don’t even understand how their uncle could, so in a way they turn their back on their uncle (or more precisely on the quest) in this moment. When you look at it, Fili is not doing anything else in this scene in Lake-town. Considering that Fili and Kili might not make it to Erebor or may come a lot later than this particular book scene, it is good we see this motive at least at some point in the films.
So what will happen with the three heirs in TABA? With all the alterations made from the book’s storyline in DOS I wouldn’t dare to make any predictions. Except of course the inevitable WILL happen, but when and where and how? We will see about that. I am definitely looking forward to how they will flesh out those three. They could totally mess it up, but they could also make it very interesting. In the end, only time will tell. All we can hope for is an honourable end to the story of the three Heirs of Durin in December 2014.