Arming the Crew: Thorin & Company's Weaponry


Thorin & Co. may not be the classiest crew around. They may not have manners. The distinct lack of Big People in the crew may even hint at some sort of height-based profiling. But there's one thing you can't deny: these dwarves are packing heat. From axes to swords (and almost everything in between), this band of dwarves is equipped to deal with just about anything.

Read on past the break to get an in depth look at the various implements Thorin & Co. have selected to deal out death and justice to any who stand in their way:

Axes

Detail of Gloin's axe
As surprising as it may seem, even though the dwarves are renowned for their use of axes in combat, only a few of the dwarves in Thorin's party have chosen axes as their primary weapon. Gloin carries a powerful long axe (which will later be used by his son Gimli, one of the renowned members of the Fellowship of the Ring), that can be seen on the left. Thorin Oakenshield sets out from Bag End with a slightly shorter axe.
Thorin's axe

The dwarves may prefer axes to other weapons for a number of reasons. Axes are cheaper and easier to manufacture than swords, which would appeal both to the dwarves' notorious desire to preserve their wealth and their practicality. This practicality is evident in the length of Gloin and Thorin's axes: both weapons are long enough to double as walking sticks to aid the dwarves in rough country.

Additionally, axes are particularly suited to the stature of dwarves:
Being short and very broad meant that their reach was limited, but they could bring a great deal of power into the arc of a blow; thus their fighting style was dictated by their physical attributes. For this reason, the Dwarven weapons appear to have been nearly all long-handled, in order to extend the arc and increase the impact of the blow.
 ––The Lord of the Rings: Weapons and Warfare; p. 53

Gloin's long Axe
Like many battle axes, Gloin's axe has a curved blade that increases the weapon's cutting edge. Additionally, the spiked tip of both dwarves' axes can serve as stabbing points. To decrease weight, and limit the shock delivered to a warrior's hands, the hafts of dwarven axes were probably made of oak (or another hardwood) reinforced with metal bands called langets. These langets protected the weapon's haft from being cut or broken by an enemy. Some wealthy dwarves (like Thorin) may have had axes composed completely of metal, including the hafts.

Battle axes used by Men are of variable quality, some being composed entirely of iron, and other being composed of iron with the cutting edge capped with steel. Dwarves, however, are master smiths, and their axe blades are undoubtedly composed entirely of steel, which would make their axes considerably lighter than those used by Men.

Gloin's throwing Axe
In addition to his long axe, Gloin also carries a smaller throwing axe. Unlike many throwing axes, which feature an elongated head with a smaller blade, Gloin's throwing axe is in many ways a smaller replica of his larger battle axe, with a large, curved cutting edge that ends in a spiked tip. This suggests that the weapon may serve multiple functions: a throwing axe, a smaller hand-to-hand axe, and a utility hatchet.

Both Thorin and Gloin's axes display the customary geometric motifs favored by the dwarves, including angular holes cut in the actual blades. These holes serve as more than just decorations––removing metal from key portions of the blade reduces the weight of the weapon (making it easier to both draw and wield the axe)  without compromising the blade's strength.

Both Thorin and Gloin are notable (and wealthy) dwarves of Durin's line. The fact that they are the only members of the company to carry axes may suggest that axes carry a special significance in dwarven culture beyond their practicality. Axes could function as a wealth status, or be a symbol of a warrior's prowess.

Swords

In Middle-earth, many different races use swords in combat: Elves, Men, Dwarves, Hobbits and Orcs. Each of the races employ different techniques to produce their weapons, ranging from the unmatched skill of the elves to the crude techniques used by the orcs.
Arwen's sword Hadhafang, "Throng-Cleaver"

Elvish blades are flowing and organic in shape, decorated with elegant patterns like vines and leaves, and used by warriors whose grace and skill are unmatched in Middle-earth.
Aragorn's sword Anduril, "Flame of the West" reforged from Narsil

The blades of Men tend more towards traditional styles: straight blades with a double cutting edge. These swords range in size from long swords with blades up to five feet long, to short swords used by mounted soldiers. Additionally, long daggers are often carried into battle.

Moria Orc sword

Kili's sword
On the other end of the spectrum, Orc blades tend to be rough metal sticks with a crudely crafted cutting edge. Most orc bands do not possess the ability to fully refine metal ore, resulting in imperfect metals that are often too heavy and too brittle to serve as suitable blades.

In Thorin's company, four dwarves set out from the Shire with swords as their primary weapon: Fili, Kili, Dori and Balin. Dwarf swords differ considerably from the blades used by Elves, Men and Orcs. Unlike elvish and human blades, dwarf sword blades are incredibly wide and often feature sharp geometric angles. The width of the blade and the various angles harken back to the dwarves' icon weapon: the axe. The thick blades on the dwarvish swords give the weapons more mass, and when powered by sturdy dwarf arms, this extra mass translates into more momentum on impact. Indeed, the dwarven swords could be more properly called falchions––a distinct type of heavy-bladed sword that combines the mass and power of a battle axe with the agility of a sword.

Fili's sword or falchion


Kili's sword can be seen at right, with its large fuller (blood groove) and notched blade that is thicker near the hilt and point and thinner in the middle. Despite the ominous name, blood grooves are actually a structural feature, which serve to lighten the blade without decreasing its strength.

Kili's sword (and all of the dwarven swords) would have been crafted by the master smiths of the Ered Luin, and hence be a functional and elegant weapon rivaled only by the elven smiths of Rivendell and Lorien. Dwarven swords were likely made using a technique known as "drawn and folded", where the the rough rectangle of steel is folded over on itself many times, creating a blade composed of thin laminated steel layers.


Fili carries twin swords that bear a striking (and terrifying) resemblance to butcher's knives. Of particular interest are the double fuller running the length of the falchion. The two ridges would greatly enhance the strength of the blade. Additionally, the blade is equipped with a small hook or spike above the main tip of the blade. Such a hook would be useful for snagging or catching an enemy's clothing or armor.


Dori's falchion/sword
Balin's sword has still no been seen, but it can be assumed that it is similar in build to both Fili and Kili's weapons, featuring the same thick blade, prominent angles and large fullers.


Dori's blade also features a thick blade and geometric angles. Interestingly, the tip of this sword is greatly enlarged, which would enhance its use as an axe-like or bludgeoning weapon. A second angle is found in the blade right above the hilt, acting as a small guard to stop enemy blades from sliding down Dori's sword and striking his hand. Note the distinct lack of fullers on Dori's sword. Unlike Fili and Kili, Dori is not a member of Durin's direct line, and his simpler blade may reflect his position in the hierarchy of the Exiles of Erebor.


Midway through the quest, Thorin himself takes up a mighty sword: Orcrist, the Gobline-Cleaver.


Thorin's sword, Orcrist, the Goblin-Cleaver
Forged by High Elven smiths during the long, dark wars in Beleriand, Orcrist first saw battle in the defense of the Hidden City Gondolin. Unlike the other dwarves' swords, Orcrist is an elegant elvish blade. However, unlike many of the elves' blades, Orcrist features a much thicker blade with a curved cutting edge and a straight back edge. The blade meets the hilt in a viciously curved tang that looks like it could serve as an effective weapon in its own right. Dark Jackal wrote an excellent discussion of Orcrist here, and posted another discussion of who Orcrist's original owner was here.

Miscellaneous Weapons


Nori's mace
Dwalin's war hammer
The rest of Thorin's company are decked out with a variety of implements of death: war hammers, staves, picks and halberds . . . even a large spoon.

Dwalin––perhaps the most fierce-looking of the thirteen dwarves––carries a war hammer large enough to give even a Cave Troll pause. The long haft gives Dwalin a longer reach and a larger swinging arc . . . increasing the bone-crushing power of the hammer. A war hammer has a distinct advantage as a weapon of war: the large, blunt head of the hammer can transmit a blow through armor, regardless of the armor's strength or thickness. Thus, a war hammer can cause concussions and damage internal organs regardless of the amount of armor an opponent is wearing. Additionally war hammers are effective anti-cavalry weapons, their long handles making them ideal for tripping or breaking a horse's legs.

Nori wields a mace with an exceptionally long handle . . . a weapon that once again functions as a useful walking stick. As with Dwalin's hammer, the long haft increases Nori's reach and the power of his swing. As an added option, the bottom of the haft is equipped with a spiked tip, which could double as a blunt spear at need.

Oin also carries a blunt pole-arm weapon . . . a simple staff, by all appearances a simple staff, but one that seems to be crafted completely from metal, befitting both Oin's status as a wealthy dwarf, and giving the staff additional momentum.

Oin's staff
Bifur's bill
Bifur's weapon is a long spear of sorts, though typical of dwarvish weapons the blade is almost disproportionately thick. In fact, the strange weapon most resembles a halberd or bill. The bill would have been effective at close quarters and at keeping mounted enemies at a safe distance. A little above the middle of the weapon is a small crossguard––as with Dori's sword, this cross guard would have provided much needed protection to Bifur's hands. The bill's blade has a slight angle at it's base, possible used to catch and pull at a mounted opponent's clothing or armor. Regardless of the weapon's true uses, Bifur seems to need a bit more practice with it . . . he certainly wasn't able to keep an axe from getting embedded in his thick skull.

Bofur's mining pick
Bofur's weapon of choice exemplifies that old dwarven practicality: his war hammer doubles as an every-day mining pick! This heavy-duty hammer or pick-axe has the added advantage of an asymmetrical design: one side of the hammer has a blunt head ideal for delivering crushing impacts through layers of armor; the other side of the head is a flat axe-blade, perfect for striking at unprotected limbs. Bofur's choice of the mining pick likely stems from his status . . . he and Bifur and Bombur are not of Durin's line, and represent the common dwarves that have worked and sweated in long-lost mines since the coming of Smaug and the fall of Erebor. The pick not only gives Bofur a means of defending himself, but is also the key to his livelihood.
Bombur's ladle

 Second-to-last comes Bombur's lade. While this weapon may not appear too fearsome, it can deliver a stunning blow to an unsuspecting enemy's head (or backside). What's more, Bombur has been known to whip up a mean pot of stew with his spoon . . . it is largely thanks to his weapon of choice that Thorin's company starts and ends each day with a full belly. Bilbo especially, I suspect, appreciates this fact.

Kili's bow and arrows
Last but not least we see Kili's bow. It does my heard good to be albe to dispel the strange idea that dwarves are incapable of using a ranged weapon. Because dwarves spend most of their time underground, it is likely that Kili's bow is not made from wood, but rather is a composite bow crafted either from horn or some type of flexible metal. The recurved arms of the bow increase the power and range of the weapon without significantly increasing it's size. The arrow shafts are probably created from some type of hardwood, likely gained through trade with the elves who live to the west of the Ered Lindon, or with the Hobbits of the Shire to the east. The fletching on the arrows may be leather, or it could be feathers collected from the ravens that often make nests above dwarvish mansions.While Kili's bow may not have the range of an elvish longbow, it is perfectly suited for a dwarf (whose eyes probably can't see as far as an elf can shoot anyways).

Well, that about sums up the list of weapons used by the dwarves. I think it's pretty clear that these guys are well-equipped to deal with any orcs, goblins or trolls that get in their way (or at least put up a good fight). Gandalf and Bilbo have their own weapons, of course, but those will be discussed at a later date. Join us soon for a look at the types of armor the dwarves choose for their journey!

Addendum

Balin's sword
The meticulous and ever vigilant DarkJackal has sent me a few additional links regarding the dwarves' weaponry.

First off . . . we actually DO know what Balin's sword looks like (and it's a good thing too, because it turns out Balin's sword is my favorite of the whole bunch). At right you can see an image of the sword strapped to the dwarf's waist. Now, there is one thing that jumped out at me when I first saw the sword in detail: while the overall design of Balin's sword is similar to the other swords reviewed at the beginning of this article, the level of detail is on a whole other level. Notice the intricate engravings running the entire length of the blade and covering the star-shaped expansion at the sword's tip. We don't see anything like that on Fili and Kili's blades . . . at least not anything that extensive or that intricate. This suggests something very interesting to me: we know that before Smaug laid waste to the Lonely Mountain the dwarves were master smiths. Their skills were never matched by later dwarves, as Gloin attested to Frodo in FOTR:
'But in metalwork we cannot rival our fathers, many of whose. Secrets are lost. We make good armour and keen swords, but we cannot again make mail or blade to match those that were made before the dragon came.'
––Fellowship of the Ring; Part II; Chapter 1: Many Meetings
I have a hunch that Balin's sword is an heirloom from Old Erebor, whereas Kili and Fili's swords are more recently made. The meticulous engraving and the elegant star-shaped tip of the sword speak of a past glory that the Exiles of Erebor have yet to regain.

Dwalin and his two axes
Another little tid-bit I missed out on is the fact that there is another dwarf running around with axes (TWO, in fact): Dwalin. Yes, apparently a gigantic hammer just isn't enough for this chap. The axes are interesting because unlike Gloin's axe, they have a straight cutting edge, which would lesson the total length of the business end of the axe. However, since there are two axes instead of just one, it probably doesn't matter all that much. Since Dwalin has two of the axes, we can assume that they are one-handed (unlike Thorin and Gloin's axes) and that the dwarf could wield both of them simultaneously if it suited him. The fact that Dwalin, a might and renowned warrior among the dwarves, carries axes like Thorin (the heir of Durin) and Gloin (a close relative of Thorin) may add further weight to the theory that axes are seen as a symbol of power or prestige in dwarven culture.

And last but not least, while working on another post I noticed that Fili was toting around an extra weapon that I had missed the first time around. If you look in the picture (above right) you can see Fili's vambrace or arm-guard, and––tucked into the vambrace––a knife. Yep, that's the handle of a knife pocking up out of his sleeve. Most likely it's a utility knife, made primarily for cutting and carving a variety of materials, but it can probably double as a combat knife in a pinch. Sweet!

35 comments:

  1. Wow! Such a great trove of information! I hope you don't mind if I link to it from my weapon page.

    Just a couple of notes. We have seen Balin's sword, and it's a real standout in design! It's sort of hiding here:
    http://heirsofdurin.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/hbt-dwf-005.jpg
    But you can see it in unfinished form here:
    http://heirsofdurin.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/111.jpg

    In addition to Thorin and Gloin, Dwalin has twin axes on his back:
    http://heirsofdurin.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/plaindwarf4.jpg
    But that doesn't impact your argument for status.

    Thorin is also a sword carrier, even before finding Orcrist. The style of his original sword is pretty interesting, very ornate and my guess is an heirloom. Only one picture I know of that shows it semi-clearly:
    http://heirsofdurin.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/10150326323406807_61754-mp4_000709174.jpg

    Also Fili and Kili's names are backwards. Kili is the Legolas wannabe, and Fili uses twin swords :-)

    It's funny to think that in the canon all these guys have are long knives, and not much more!

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    1. Thanks! And thanks for the extra notes . . . seems like no matter how good you do your homework, somebody out there has done it better! I guess that's a good thing though. I'm going to go ahead and update the post with your info and pictures . . . huge help!

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    2. Oh . . . and thanks for the heads up on Fili and Kili . . . I can't keep those two straight

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  2. Your post is so helpful in understanding why they picked the odd shapes and designs they did! A few of the same ideas were vaguely in my mind, but you added so much I had never considered.

    I've just spent tooooo much time going thru screencaps and searching for weird details. :)

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  3. Of course, one of the reasons that the swords of men (both in Middle Earth and in the real world) tend to be shaped so symmetrically is to allow for a scabbard. I can't see anything fitting the sword of Balin, can you? There aren't any scabbards shown in the company of the Dwarves, but surely that is somewhat counter-intuitive? If they're walking around for months in the wilderness, wouldn't they want to keep their weapons protected from the elements, and indeed themselves protected from their weapons?
    As usual Landon Burgener, your post is most informative, thanks :)

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    1. I've noticed the same thing about the shapes and lack of scabbards. It looks like Balin gets around the problem by running a leather strap down the length of his blade and looping it through the hole in the tip of his blade. And Thorin does have a scabbard for Orcrist (I'm not though about his original dwarven sword). I've wondered if there dwarves' weapons are just "special" in some way that protects them from rusting and what-not and that's why scabbards don't seem to be such a necessity. Thoughts?

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    2. Dori has a scabbard for his sword. Also, while I'm sure that Fili and Kili pack their swords in the slings on their backs, I can easily see their blades all in scabbards. Addressing the sword of Balin, I'm sure that if he'd wished to, he could have crafted a scabbard as wide as the widest point, much like with the scabbard of Sting. Oh, and, by the way, while I agree that Oin carries a blunt polearm, I don't think it's a staff. There seem to be four small spikes on the end. Finally, a comment at the bottom points out that Ori wields a sling shot. Perhaps you might add something regarding that?

      P.S. This is a different anonymous than the one who originally commented.

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  4. A most excellent read, well done.

    A few more weapons have made their way into the light: We have axes for Dori and Nori (http://cdn.ientry.com/sites/webpronews/pictures/hobbit_1_616.jpg). Similarly to Dori's sword, these seem to much more simple than the axes of Thorin and Glóin, benefitting of their status.
    Then there's the knifes: Nori's (http://cdn.screenrant.com/wp-content/uploads/the-hobbit-poster-comic-con-2012-24.jpg), Bifur's (http://cdn.screenrant.com/wp-content/uploads/the-hobbit-poster-comic-con-2012-13.jpg), Dwalin's (http://cdn.screenrant.com/wp-content/uploads/the-hobbit-poster-comic-con-2012-10.jpg), and also a good shot of Fili's knife (http://www.cinemablend.com/images/news_gallery/n31836/SDCC_2012_13420579403328.jpg) that was listed above.

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  5. Thanks for pointing all of these out! I'm really digging the look of all those knives! looks like I'll have to update the weapons post . . .

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  6. http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?um=1&hl=en&safe=off&biw=1249&bih=615&tbm=isch&tbnid=ORp60lIKNocmRM:&imgrefurl=http://collider.com/hobbit-movie-image-nori-ori-dori/100724/&docid=fX84xj86t1jM2M&imgurl=http://collider.com/wp-content/uploads/hobbit-movie-image-dwarves-nori-ori-dori-01.jpg&w=1638&h=2048&ei=dm-RUO7gG8fD0QXZmIDgBg&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur=310&sig=100765370814641109648&page=1&tbnh=139&tbnw=112&start=0&ndsp=18&ved=1t:429,i:69&tx=90&ty=117 also the metal chain around dori's waist is a flail seen him brandishing it in the hobbit offical diary 2013 but can't find the pic online sorry :)

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    1. You're right about the flail. Wish I'd caught that earlier, since that is one cool weapon.

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  7. I could be completely wrong here, but I'm pretty sure that Balin's weapon is actually a form of bar mace, not a sword. If it is a sword then it has no cutting edge to speak of towards the business end of the piece which would seem counter productive. And also the issue of needing a scabbard to protect the blade and Balin from being cut while carrying ot would be problematic if it is a sword. If it is a mace then it makes perfect sense both to have the star shaped projections which give better focus for the crushing blows it would land on any orc skulls. The cut out at the end also makes sense because if the mace got too heavy even a dwarf would get tired of swinging it. Just some thoughts. Cheers

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    1. Like Dalton Green notes below, I think that the weapon is some kinda mace/sword hybrid. Definitely weighted towards the far end to act like a bludgeon, but I do think that the bladed edge along the main shaft of the weapon could be used as a more traditional sword. Whatever the case, I think your point is a good one. Time to update the post I guess . . .

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  8. Hi, I just discovered this site and instantly became a fan. I really love all the work you've done here. It's been very useful in my little amateur sketches. :) And while I'm here I would like to make a quick comment

    I think there may be some validity to your assertion, Anonymous, about Balin's weapon. It does not have an edge at all at the more bulky end. But this makes me think that, since it does have a blade in the middle it could double as both a mace and a sword. The middle of the blade, which is indeed a cutting edge, could be used in close quarters for hacking at legs, arms, neck, or even the side of the head. The end of the weapon, having the hole in it and therefore not being too heavy to prohibit its use as a sword, would be quite useful for bashing in orc skulls or cracking ribs at a longer, more comfortable range.

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    1. Dalton . . . I had the same thought you did. It does seem to be a sort pf mace/sword hybrid. And its freaking cool.

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  9. Ori's sling shot, and Oin's staff. Oin's staff is used kinda like a police baton or Kama at times, but really over sized. Have you seen the film yet?

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  10. Bombur also uses his meatcleaver and ori has a small knife hanging from his hip

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  11. My family does medieval recreation- and we have several books on medieval weaponry.
    With that preface:
    Bifur's weapon is actually very similar to a Medieval Glaive.
    http://www.weapons-universe.com/Swords/Medieval_Polearms.shtml

    Otherwise, a very interesting post. I've bookmarked a lot of pages from this website- and others, and I do enjoy your posts.
    Sincerely,
    Dominique

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    1. Hmmm . . . a glaive . . . I hadn't thought of that.

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    2. Actually if you read the Hobbit book you will find that the dwarves from the iron hills used very similar weapons in description as Bifur's weapon and it is called a maverick in the book

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    3. Wait no I was thinking of Bofur sorry!

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    4. Bifur>>You're right, though I think they're called mattocks in the books, not mavericks. :)

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    5. Ooh yeah sorry it's been a while since I read it...

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. Organized content is the best way to display or post an article, thank you for making it easy to digest your post.

    Flame cut steel

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  14. I love this article! I've watched the movie quite a few times now, but still have trouble getting a good look at ALL the weapons the dwarves use. The comments pointing out different secondary weapons have also been real nice! Perhaps it would still be good to expand the article listing all these different "extra" weapons...? Also, in the top picture, is that a set of bolas or something hanging from Ori? Thanks for doing the extra research! This is really cool!

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  15. As the dwarves take their stand on the knoll (when Radigast's feign fails and just before Gandalf leads them into the crevasse to Rivendell, Oin (?) deploys a sling (not a sling shot) with a visually dramatic, inaccurate 'helicopter' release. As I think about it, a sling would be a better ranging weapon on a long hiking quest (weight and ammunition) than a bow.

    Bifor seems to be carrying sort of a cleaver on his belt.

    Sadly, there's no evidence of Bilbo's horse chestnuts ("What is your weapon of choice?" "Well, I have some skill at conkers."). :)

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  16. My two best friends Angelica and my brotha "Legolas" and I love this series, and have stayed with it from the start, can't wait till the rest of the movies comes out

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  17. In the scene where the dwarves are being chased into the trees, Ori is also shown to have a warhammer, one that appears to be as large as Dwalin's. Maybe it is Dwalin's and Ori borrowed it. Also, the thing Balin carries is definitely a sword. It is weighted at the tip, but he doesn't use it as a bludgeon at all. It is actually very similar to the swords the dwarves use at Azanulbizar. Tey have a diamond shaped tip. I think that the weight was not a problem for a dwarf so strong as Balin. He is seen using it one handed and twirling it with his fingers in the scene at Goblin town. And Bombur also appears to have a knife that looks somewhat like a large meat cleaver. Also, I agree with your 'hierarchy' statement with the axes, but one thing bothers me. Thorin says to Bilbo, 'The poorest of us had money to spend and lend'. Or something similar, i don't have the book right now. Anyway, it seems that the statement for the axes is probably true, but only for more intricately made axes, such as Thorin's or Gloin's. Many dwarves at Azanulbizar are seen using axes that are exactly like Grasper and Keeper (Dwalin's twin axes).

    But apart from that, this article was very informative, and thanks alot!
    Antiuca Torcoyondo

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  18. Just something else, Fili also has two small throwing axes sheathed on the outsides of his boots and Dwalin has knuckle dusters that look like they'd cave your skull in. But other than those great post really enjoyed reading it. Thanks.
    (Again I'm a completely different anonymous to the others)

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  19. Hi again just realized I made a mistake in my last comment sorry!
    Fili actually has 4 small throwing axes-2 strapped onto the fronts of each boot

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  20. Hi all, does anyone know where I might find some basic info on all these weapons? (dimensions, weight, materials etc.)

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    1. You might try Weta (https://www.wetanz.com/hobbit-auj/) or the hobbit shop (http://www.hobbitshop.com/category/collectibles/replicas+hobshopcollectrep_hobshop.do) They list dimensions and possibly weights.

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