Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Thorin Oakenshield on the Pier of His Fathers


  Some people's soft spot is for romance, the idea of flaming love, or forbidden love--mine has always been true friendship. Any real love, it seems to me, starts with the sincere beginnings of friendship. My favorite theme in The Hobbit always has been, and will be, the friendship between Thorin and Bilbo. I love it. I feel that it isn't sufficiently touched on in the book.

  One thing I loved in the movies was that Thorin was explored more, as a character. In the book, I was very much irritated that someone who had the drive to take back his homeland and lead a gang of rowdy dwarves was portrayed only as a determined, pompous grumpy-gus. I sensed that there was much more to him, much to be admired and known. In the movies I got to know, as we all did, what Thorin believed in, what he feared, what he loved. And his developing friendship with Bilbo--oh man, I loved it.

  And of course that's what makes the end so really heartbreaking. I knew it was coming, but still, they did such a good job (with the movie) that I admit I did cry just a bit. I rarely cry at all, but I can tell you I've always been a sucker for warriors' deaths. Especially ones that I truly care about. Here's an example of two people who found a reason to believe in the other, both of them characters who didn't form such respects and friendships easily. And when Bilbo goes back to Bag End, stating that the person who had employed him was a friend, it made me ponder on the whole journey of their friendship. And I think that's the major backbone of the whole story. It's not just the precursor to Lotr. The events that set that future in motion. It's not just the series of events that brought a homely hobbit from his comfy hole out into the wide world to the point where he is a major mover in the world of men, facing a dragon, negotiating in battle, fighting for those he has traveled with. It's a good example that life often is more about the relationships we form, the iron bonds of friendship that enable us to believe, to keep faith, to realize the value of things.

thorin oakenshield king pics


  In the end, I was wondering--who was Thorin really? Understanding the whole of him, what would I see, not just the tortured warrior and king? I have watched him closely, as he is a favorite character, but I often find that even with close, excited observation of a beloved character I still miss things that I can only reflect back on once the story is over, and I have the whole story arc in its entirety before me. I presume that is what it must be like in some respects, looking back on one's own life, remembering the events that have brought that person from one point to the present. Time and perspective cast illusive beams of light, only bringing illustration when we are prepared and the moment of curious reflection pricks us to look back.

  I think, in the whole, Thorin was a lover of his own country. His people. He had a lot of heart. Bitterness has easy footholds in any human heart, masking much of any possible tenderness. Thorin was driven with the belief that it was his destiny and duty to bring back the stability and glory of Erebor. It was his inheritance to rise it from the ashes that Smaug had left it in. His love was for those who were true of heart, well portrayed by the line (which won my heart the first time I heard it in the original trailer--I knew then it was going to be a great movie!):

   "I would take each and every one of these Dwarves over an army from the Iron Hills. For when I called upon them, they answered. Loyalty. Honor. A willing heart... I can ask no more than that." 

  Tell me that isn't worth remembering.

    As the journey continues, you see how much his determination is turning into something poisoned. I believe we can want/strive for something so hard that it starts becoming something else entirely. A bane. As the group got closer and closer to their goal, we see this needy, almost greedy glint flash occasionally in Thorin's glance. He still remains the dauntless leader that they need throughout it all, fighting for their lives as they try to outwit The Dragon, Smaug--but you can see the change. As Balin's says, he is not himself.

  Those who've read the book knew it would only get worse. That the things we respected would be twisted, only glimpsed here and there in their pure form. In the movie we were mercifully given moments where Thorin forgot about everything, and was reminded by Bilbo of the simple, pure things that matter in life. Things so simple, ordinary, that they make Thorin smile. Because Bilbo does not dwell on gold, or riches, or kingdoms. But the good things of home. Whatever form it takes, meaning for him, his garden, his Hobbit hole, his books. Yet all too soon, regardless of the worries and railings of his fellow dwarves and friends--Thorin descends into madness as we knew he would.

sons of durin pic
  I find it so interesting, how the fear that he would end up the same as his fathers before him turned out to be justified. Like Aragorn, he fears the weakness that has run in his bloodline, claimed the honor of those before him--but unlike Aragorn, who was able to rise above it all, Thorin does have his descent into darkness--his step onto the road of destruction. Thorin falls into the history of his people, his forefathers, into its glory, into its madness--and its end. The sons of Durin do not see the morn after the war. It is a truth that often enough, the things that make a kingdom great bring with them the veins of evil that lead to its demise. In this case, it was the rulers, the bloodline. So obsessed with the riches and glory of what their nation had brought forth that it became a poison.

  Thorin feared this, but was so imbued with the same lifeblood that even the most honorable desires that moved him to regain the lost kingdom for his people did not prevent him from turning back on himself, touching those tempting lusts for gold, for glory, for power. Yet honor can live alongside even the darkest strains of greed. And it is to be thanked that there are those who continue to stand beside us, be the best sort of friends that anyone can hope to have in this world. Those that still believe in us, and remind us of the best of ourselves--challenge us when we turn our back on what is true and good. Remind us of the simple, good things in life.

  I don't believe that Thorin would have been able to come back if it had not been for Bilbo's friendship. Nevertheless, one pays the price for their deeds. In the end they still fall on the sword that they have made for themselves. Some just have the blessing, the privilege of one last defense for what they truly believe in.

  Thorin lived--burned--under the banner of what his people and kingdom stood for, was the impersonation of all his forefathers before him, the good and the evil, in all its tortured complexities. It is a credit to him, and to what he truly believed in, that he was able to come back in time for the final defense. To rise to the challenge, standing taller for a moment then his predecessors. To truly give of himself in a way that could be glorified in song, even as, as so often happens, his bloodline did die away. Our cost in life is terrible. Yet the good we do is greater still.

  The honor of Thorin's life, and how his desires, greed, and righteous fear drove him, will always be memorable. A fallen king--but a fallen king in glory.

  His will always be one of my favorite stories.


  ~Elora Carmen Shore, Pendragon