What Sort of Thorin Will We See in The Hobbit Film?

What Sort of Thorin Will We See in The Hobbit Film?
By DarkJackal

[Originally posted November 27, 2011]

I’ve had the contemplative vision of Thorin on my mind of late, the stately leader and moderately diplomatic king.  But I thought I would revisit the original film image we were given some months ago, of a warrior, possibly unbound by the constraints of morality.  This version looks like he would be tremendously difficult to reason with, were one to disagree with him.
thorin difcurvesWhen I read The Hobbit, the Thorin of the early chapters does not feel like the one of later chapters, and it is not simply due to the regular character growth that can be expected in a novel (such as Bilbo’s attitude boost).  Thorin goes through a personality shift towards the end of the story, which one could argue was brought on by the “dragon-sickness” and the sight of gold.  But the dwarf who was unyielding in his assertion (after the death of Smaug,) that not a coin of treasure be given out except on his terms, and who does not hesitate to go to war to make his point, hardly seems like the reasonably good-natured fellow at the beginning of the story (who puts up with occasional ignoble treatment, and breezily demands six eggs with ham the first night in Bag End!)  He might have been a bit of a grump, but this Thorin somehow managed to remain calm even when Gandalf reveals the shocking information about what really happened to his father Thrain in the Dungeons of Dol Guldur.  I challenge anyone not to flip out were they to find out such news right in the middle of dinner!

alan_lee_02-BilboandtheDwarves

Bilbo and the Dwarves, by Alan Lee

I did research on the character for my story A Quarrel of Oak and Flame, where I tried to strike a balance between these two presentations, as well as find a reason for what I view as a disjuncture.  Going back to the source, Tolkien changed his mind on the ultimate fate of the character part way through writing the book; in earlier drafts, Thorin did not die in battle, nor was he possessed by an overwhelming greed for the Arkenstone (info via History of the Hobbit, by John D. Rateliff, a dork historian’s dream tome!)  So there was no poignant death-bed redemption for the King under the Mountain (there was originally no Battle of Five Armies, and no Dain Ironfoot either, but that’s for another post).  This original Thorin suffered all the troubles of getting to Erebor, but had none of the moral conflict which marks the later character as tragically flawed, and ultimately, more interesting.

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The Death of Thorin, by John Howe

Since I have not read complaints about Thorin’s character being inconsistent, I may be seeing more of a disconnect between the early and later chapters than many do.  But I tend to believe Tolkien revised his estimation of Thorin’s threshold of tolerance long after the character was first conceived.  In “The Quest of Erebor”, a story fragment written years after The Hobbit was published, Gandalf has a discussion with a far more forceful Thorin, before meeting Bilbo:

“Anyway, there is one that I have my eye on as a companion for you, Thorin. He is neat-handed and clever, though shrewd, and far from rash. And I think he has courage. Great courage, I guess, according to the way of his people. They are, you might say, ‘brave at a pinch.’ You have to put these Hobbits in a tight place before you find out what is in them.”

“The test cannot be made,” Thorin answered. “As far as I have observed, they do all that they can to avoid tight places.”

“Quite true,” Gandalf said. “They are a very sensible people. But this Hobbit is rather unusual. I think he could be persuaded to go into a tight place. I believe that in his heart he really desires to – to have, as he would put it, an adventure.”

“Not at my expense!” said Thorin, rising and striding about angrily. “This is not advice, it is foolery! I fail to see what any Hobbit good or bad, could do that would repay me for a day’s keep, even if he could be persuaded to start.”

“Fail to see! You would fail to hear it, more likely,” Gandalf answered. (“The Quest of Erebor” from The Unfinished Tales)

I’m curious just which Thorin we will be seeing most of in the film.  Taking hints from an interview with Richard Armitage in The Scotsman (which can be viewed here at RichardArmitageNet.com), Thorin will have a good measure of darkness to him:

“With my character in The Hobbit, there’s this emotional explosion and suppressed anger, and I’m trying to work out whether I have that in me, or whether I’m going to have to imagine it. I guess there’s a dangerous place, my own darkness, that I don’t access in life but have the ability to go ‘alright, just for this role, I’ll open this door and have a peek’.”

If you have somehow arrived here without having seen any of Richard Armitage’s previous roles, you may not understand just how disturbing this statement is in terms of what Thorin might be like.  Lucas North, Guy of Gisborne, Heinz Kruger…none of these guys would have the red carpet rolled out for them at the Pearly Gates.  Gisborne, in particular, raised poorly suppressed anger to new heights.  So it amazes me to think Armitage is questioning whether or not he has the level of anger and emotion he needs for Thorin.  Hasn’t he had plenty of opportunity, via these roles, to work out the limits?  Perhaps I’m misinterpreting the statement, and he’s thinking in terms of type, rather than intensity.  But if not, then I expect this Thorin Oakenshield will be more emotionally charged than anyone (myself included) could have anticipated.

422px-John_Howe-Thorin

The King Under the Mountain, by John Howe

“The embers in the heart of Thorin grew hot again, as he brooded on the wrongs of his House and of the vengeance upon the Dragon that was bequeathed to him. He thought of weapons and armies and alliances, as his great hammer rang in the forge; but the armies were dispersed and the alliances broken and the axes of his people were few; and a great anger without hope burned him, as he smote the red iron on the anvil.” (“The Quest of Erebor” from The Unfinished Tales)

21 thoughts on “What Sort of Thorin Will We See in The Hobbit Film?”

  1. Great analysis of the character! You bring up a good point about the dragon-sickness . . . I wonder if Thorin will be a steady character through-out the films . . . haughty and angry all the time, or if his character will undergo an abrupt change upon seeing the treasure of his ancestors?

    • I’m trying to decide if they are thinking of Thorin as the Aragorn, or the Boromir, of this film (not that he has to be either, but just to simplify it in my head). I’ve seen quite a few people associate him with Aragorn (myself included) but only on a very shallow visual level (that and the fact they are both kings who can sing!) But as far as attitude, I’m leaning toward Boromir; Proud to a fault, brave but not very altruistic, and capable of repentance, but only at the last possible moment 🙂 Aragorn, on the other hand, could do almost no wrong, and that certainly isn’t Thorin.
      The Ring was Boromir’s undoing, but the Arkenstone is its equivalent for Thorin, at least in the book. I can see some foreshadowing of his dragonish behavior throughout the story, but then only come to a head when he sees it (and this is assuming the stone will even be mentioned. Never know what they might re-write).

  2. I love this. It really made me think even deeper into Thorin’s complicated character. Not to mention giving me goosebumps thinking of (possibly) Gisbourne’s intensity doubled….tripled?? wow, awesome 🙂

    • I know, I keep thinking are they really going to let him do his “thang”, meaning that perfect blend of repressed aggression punctuated by moments of unfettered violence? Surely not, its the Hobbit, they can’t possibly. But then maybe they sort of can, since violence to things like orcs and trolls is perfectly acceptable to the audiences who normally watch this stuff.
      I still wonder if I’m not reading too much into this, but then why would you cast him in the role if you weren’t going to use one of his greatest talents?

  3. Great analysis as all of your analysises (is that a word!?) are. I’ve imagined Thorin as, at heart, a good person (as most dwarves are!). But I believe the theory that the dragon-sickness got to him, combined with a fierce and great sense of responsibility to actually succeed in doing something for his House. He saw that his grandfather and later learned his father both failed to reclaim Moria and Erebor, and I’d have thought this just made his thirst for success (for their sake) stronger, and worse as he neared his ‘prize’ at the end of the story. He’s been in exile and doing eff all for a long time, his resentment at his hopeless situation growing. I’d imagine he felt pretty worthless for a long time, and unable to strike out. I wonder why they didn’t undertake it together. Was Thorin forbidden from trying to reclaim it, with Thrain not wanting to loose his heir and forcing him to stay put? Maybe they talked about going on it together, which put the seed into Thrain’s mind to set out alone for it? Who knows…? A dwarf’s pride, couple with thoughts of inner failings and a need to right them, and a responsibility to avenge his father and grandfather’s legacies…. plus the sight of kingship at the end and the treasure of his house restored, turned Thorin into a full blown control freak. I think he naturally has some anger (let’s do some childhood psychology on this one! :P) and I’ve always imagined him to be very emotional, feeling love, anger and sadness at their most full-blown. Not a good recipe for a calm and logical thinker when faced with quick decision making in a crisis… like what to do about Elves and Men who come wanting their share of your treasure….

    • That’s a great question about why Thror, Thrain, and Thorin couldn’t seem to coordinate, or even communicate their plans well to each other. We know they value their secrets, but you would think they could clue their own offspring in on some of the really important ones before they go off on doomed missions. Maybe they are just an incredibly dysfunctional family, and it has nothing to do with dwarven customs at all.

      When you think about the battle of Az., everyone was employed in the fighting without worry for losing heirs or whatnot. But maybe that was the reason for more concern later on. Once they had time to count the living and came up short 50%. I wonder if Thrain wasn’t a bit mad before the Necromancer got him. And how can you explain Dwalin and Balin not mentioning any of this to Thorin? His oldest friends and trusted advisers – my ass! “Dwalin, Balin, you best be ‘splainin!”

      Your summary of all the stresses Thorin has had to bear makes it perfectly logical that he would act as he did, with or without any external influence of ‘dragon-sickness’.

      • Yep, they’re a very frustrating people. I think Thrain went crazy ever since Thror gave him the Ring.

        Oh and yeah! I bet Thorin was super mad at Balin and Dwalin that night!! Like bros… did you forget or something?!

        Thorin is my number one angry angsty baby.

  4. Also I need more info on The History of the Hobbit!! What happened with Thorin in the first draft?

    • I will try to summarize when I get a chance. 🙂

      • eeeeeeee love it. But no Dain 😦

      • Haha, I bought volume one of it today at a bookshop! Going in next week to see if they’ve ordered volume two in- there was only a fat hardback for £35 with the whole thing in. 🙂 My Hobbit nerding knows no bounds.

        • *Raises nerd hand clutching fat hardback* Yeah, it’s really pricey. It’s dry reading (when footnotes form much of the book, you know you’re in for it). I started out reading word for word and then went to skipping around. As you can see from looking at the first vol. it’s a bit hard to say “this is his first draft” since it’s composed of a billion little changes (most that aren’t very important) but there are some that are interesting. Just as an example in vol 2, here is word change that would have made Thorin’s intentions crystal clear about the Arkenstone:
          “That of all the treasure I name unto myself and I will slay (later changed to “be avenged on”) any one that withholds it.”
          Gives more weight to the next line of:
          “Bilbo heard these words and he grew afraid [no shit] wondering what would happen if the stone was found—wrapped in an old bundle of tattered oddments that he used as a pillow.”

  5. GOD THORIN YOU HAVE SO MANY ISSUES.

  6. Matthew Douglas Ritchie said:

    dus thorin died in the movie thare and back agin .

  7. That’s very interesting. I’d not read that Tolkien changed his character arc in the story. I’m guiltily glad that he did.

    I’d attributed the attitude shift partially to the way Bilbo’s perception of him change, and partially to the aspects of his personality he chose to display in the given circumstances.

    They kind of robbed him of that duality in the movie, but I understand why they did it.

  8. I admire thorin stubborness especially his courage against enemies but sometime he forget all the bonds of fellowship something that aragorn or bilbo never do and this makes get angry at thorin

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