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:
|Detail of Gloin'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|
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|
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.
|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|
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 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|
|Dwalin's war hammer|
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.
|Bofur's mining pick|
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|
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!
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 MeetingsI 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|
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!