The Hobbit Reread 2: Durin's Folk
Ok . . . I know I took forever getting Part 2 of the reread out. In my defense, I've been out of town for over a week. Sorry. Anyways, today we'll be discussing the ROTK Appendix essay Durin's Folk. This essay will give us a quick overview of the history of the Longbeard dwarves leading up to the beginning of the Hobbit.
Both elves and dwarves have strange (and apparently different) tales of the dwarves' creation. Durin was the first of all dwarves and awoke alone beneath the Misty Mountains, and all of the Longbeard kings (including Thorin Oakenshield) are descended from Durin. After awaking, Durin wandered through the Misty Mountains until he came to the vale of Azanulbizar where he discovered the caves of Khazad-dûm where he founded the mansions of Moria. Durin lived so long that he earned the name Deathless, though in the end he did die. Five of his descendants––among others––have inherited his name and ruled the Longbeards.
At the end of the First Age many Broadbeam and Firebeard dwarves escaped from Beleriand to Moria where they mixed with the Longbeards. Even during Sauron's time of power the Longbeard's wealth increased, protected behind the impervious doors of Moria.
Midway through the Third Age, when Durin VI ruled in Khazad-dûm, Sauron's power was again growing and the Longbeard's finally dug too deep into the mountain roots. A Balrog was roused from sleep and over the next year the demon laid waste to Durin's kingdom, until the surviving dwarves were forced to flee.
Most of the dwarves fled north, where the surviving heir to the throne, Thráin I, discovered the Lonely Mountain and the Arkentsonte, and established his kingdom there. His son, Thorin I went north to the Grey Mountains; however, after many years the mansions there in the north were destroyed by dragons and Thráin's descendant Dáin I was killed.
Dáin's son Grór settled in the Iron Hills, but his heir Thrór returned to the Lonely Mountain, reestablished the kingdom, and became King Under the Mountain. It was beginning at this time that the kingdom of Erebor grew to the height of its power, and the Men that lived near the Longbeards prospered. The orcs and other evil things were driven from the region, and for a long while the dwarves knew peace and their riches grew. Eventually the fame of the King Under the Mountain's wealth spread far enough for Smaug the dragon to hear of it. The dragon attacked Erebor and the surrounding countryside, destroying all of it.
Many dwarves escaped the destruction, including Thrór himself, as well as his son Thráin II. After many years of wandering Thrór grew restless and desperate. He gave on of the Seven Dwarven Rings to his son and then went in search of riches, hoping to restore his wealth and kingdom. Thrór and his servant Nár travelled to Moria, and Thrór entered the mines. Inside he was killed by a band of orcs led by Azog, the dwarf's head was thrown to Nár who carried it back to Thráin:
"If beggars will not wait at the door, but sneak in to try thieving, that is what we do to them. If any of your people poke their foul beards in here again, they will fare the same. Go and tell them so! But if his family wish to know who is now king here, the name is written on his face. I wrote it! I killed him! I am the master!"
Then Nár turned the head and branded on the brow in Dwarf-runes so that he could read it the name AZOG. That name was branded in his heart and in the hearts of all the dwarves afterwords. Nár stooped to take the head, but the voice of Azog said:
"Drop it! Be off! Here's your fee, beggar-beard." A small bag struck him. It held a few coins of little worth.Thrór's murder infuriated the Longbeards, and they swore vengeance on Azog and declared war on all of the orcs in the Misty Mountains. All seven of the dwarven clans sent warriors to aid Durin's folk, and the dwarves hunted the orcs up and down the mountain chain, finally driving Azog and his army to the gates of Moria. In the final battle of the war, in the vale of Azanulbizar, Dáin II gained renown by killing Azog, and Thorin II was given his surname Oakenshield. The dwarves won and drove the last of the orcs from the Misty Mountains, but even with all seven Houses gathered they did not have the strength to retake Moria or confront Smaug the Dragon in the Lonely Mountain.
After the Battle of Azanulbizar, Thráin and his son Thorin II (along with a few of their folk) lived for a while in Dunland north of Rohan, then wandered through Eriador until they came to the Blue Mountains, where they established their own small mines.
The Ring that Thrór passed on to Thráin was believed by the Longbeards to be the first of the Seven, and they took pride in the fact that it had been given to Durin III by the elven smiths of Eregion, and not Sauron himself. Unlike men, Sauron could not enslave the dwarves through the rings . . . in fact, the only effect the rings had on dwarves was to turn their natural love of gold and riches into greed. Because of their ability to resist the rings' corruptive powers, Sauron's hated the dwarves all the more.
Eventually, Thráin tired of life in the Blue Mountains. He named Thorin Oakenshield his heir and then departed eastwards with Balin and Dwalin. He never told Thorin what his plans were, but he began to make his way back towards the Lonely Mountain. When he and his companions had reached the eaves of Mirkwood, Thráin was captured at night by Sauron's minions. Balin and Dwalin searched in vain for their companion, but were eventually forced to return to Thorin in the West, never having learned what became of Thráin.
Thus Thorin Oakenshield became the Heir of Durin, though he had no kingdom. For a long time he brooded and planned, trying to find away to avenge his fathers and take back Erebor from the Dragon. Finally, after many years, his chance came when he met Gandalf in Bree and together they began planning the Quest to Erebor.
Yeah, yeah . . . there is a bit more of the essay, but if I'd reviewed any farther, we'd start spoiling the actual story! So I'll stop there for now.
The truth is, the dwarves were always my favorite race in Middle-earth, and Durin's Folk was always my favorite thing to read in LOTR. Weird, I know since it's only three or four pages long and has nothing to do with Frodo's quest. But, there you have it.
One question I always have when reading this essay is this: supposedly, dwarves make babies just like everybody else; but, we're specifically told that Durin awoke alone in the Misty Mountains. So . . . if he was all by himself, that implies that there was no Mrs. Durin. And if there was no Mrs. Durin, where did the little Durin II, III, IV, V, and VI's come from? Maybe not an important detail, but one that has bothered me for a while now.
Ever since images of the movie dwarves started cropping up, I've been intrigued by Bifor, Bofur and Bombur. Tolkien specifically states that unlike the rest of the dwarves that go with Bilbo to the Lonely Mountain, these three are dwarves descended from the folk of Khazad-dûm, but not of Durin's line. Now, this could simply mean that they are not of the royal family; but in Durin's Folk, Tolkien also mentions that after the First Age many dwarves from the Broadbeam and Firebeard Houses fled the ruin of Beleriand and joined with the Longbeards in Moria. So saying that Bifur, Bofur and Bombur are not of Durin's line (since he is the ultimate source of the Khazad-dûm dwarves) may mean that the three dwarves aren't Longbeards at all, but descendants of either the Broadbeams or Firebeards. (I'm going to cheat and say that movie Bombur's red beard agrees with my little theory.) IMO, that'd be pretty cool, since that'd make B, B and B the only non-Longbeard dwarves we meet in Tolkien's Legendarium.
Another thing that caught my attention was the fact that the Longbeards actually abandoned the Lonely Mountain twice. Hundreds (maybe thousands) of years before Smaug attacked Erebor, Thorin Oakenshield's ancestor and namesake Thorin I left the Lonely Mountain to colonize the Grey Mountains in the North. When you first read the passage, it sounds like there were still dwarves back in Erebor, but then Tolkien clarifies and explains that Thorin I's descendant Thrór actually brought the Arkenstone back to Erebor . . . which suggests (to me at least) that most, if not all, of the Longbeards had left the Lonely Mountain for some reason. Hmmm . . . mystery. What could have driven them out the first time? It's also interesting that it was Thrór himself that reestablished Erebor and he was still king hundreds of years later when Smaug attacked and destroyed the dwarven kingdom. All of which means that Erebor's heyday of power and riches just wasn't all that long. Interesting . . .
Probably the most important part of the essay is the history of the War of the Dwarves and Orcs. This brief section lays a lot of groundwork for the enmity between Thorin & Co. and the Goblins/orcs they run into during their quest. I have to take a moment and just say that if there isn't some kind of flashback to the Battle of Azanulbizar in the movies, I'll be incredibly disappointed. It's just such a cool moment . . . how could PJ possibly let it slide?
One thing that jumped out at me while I read about the War and the Battle of Azanulbizar, was the fact that Dain Ironfoot's character is going to see some major changes if rumors are true and in the movie Azog hasn't actually died. I mean, the whole reason Dain is so renowned is because he killed Azog when he was still just a young dwarf. So yeah, it will be interesting to see how these issues are dealt with.
It will also be interesting to see how Thorin deals with a still-alive-Azog. I mean, can you imagine at the Battle of the Five Armies when Thorin & Co. finally come smashing out of the mountain . . . suddenly Thorin sees Azog, the guy who killed his grandfather and brought so much death and destruction upon the dwarves. Dain and Thorin are practically going to have to fight each other to decide who gets dibs on killing the orc.
All right, I think that about sums it up for this second portion of the reread. Again, sorry for the delay . . . I'll try and be more on-time next week. Until then, hang in there!
Next time on The Hobbit reread: The Quest of Erebor