Sunday, February 26, 2012

Plight Of The Dwarves, by Mark Bednarowski

The following article was written by Mark Bednarowski, and was originally printed in the magazine of the Tolkien Society (UK), Amon Hen (issue 228). It tells of the time from Sauron's return, until the day that Thorin II and Gandalf meet in the Green Dragon.

The article is reprinted with kind permission of the author. Andrew Butler from Tolkien Society (UK) helped me get in touch with him. Our gratitudes go out to you both!

The production of The Hobbit (H) is finally underway with a planned release in December of next year.

In anticipation of this event, it came to mind that brushing up on the history of the Dwarves (and straightening out all those similar-sounding names) may be of some interest. It is hoped that this article, largely derived from the Appendices of The Lord of the Rings (LotR), will provide some useful background information and help to understand what drove Thorin Oakenshield to journey to the Lonely Mountain.

It should be noted that the first edition of the H, was published before LotR, and the author did not initially intend for the H to be part of his legendarium, The Silmarillion (S). It was not until Tolkien wrote the Appendices to the LotR that he outlined the series of events that connected the H to LotR.

But later revisions to the H would be necessary to bring the book into resonance with LotR. The prime example of these revisions is the ring that Bilbo found. It changes from nothing more than a useful item to a burglar, making oneself invisible, to something of supreme importance – the One Ring. This means that LotR is not really a sequel to the H, but one to the S.1 This story is one of the Third Age and focuses on Durin’s Folk, the Longbeards. The Third Age saw the fading years of the Eldar and contained times of despair for the Dwarves in its latter half.

Sauron had returned and evil things began to stir again in Middle-earth. In brief, the treasures of the Dwarves were plundered; they were driven from their dwellings, and became a wandering people living in exile.

Moria, then called Dwarrowdelf, in the Misty Mountains, was the main dwelling of the Dwarves. It was not long after the fall of the kingdom of Arnor, 1974 III, that more trouble began to brew.2 Whether the Dwarves mined too deep or through the malice of Sauron, a Balrog was released.

Both the king, Durin VI, and his son, Náin I, were slain. Ultimately, this horrific creature forced the evacuation of their home in which they had dwelled for millennia. That year was 1981 III.

Most of the Dwarves fled north. The next king in line, Thráin I, founded Erebor or the Lonely Mountain. It was he that first discovered there the Arkenstone. Most of the others settled in the Grey Mountains to the north. The successor of Thráin I was his son Thorin I. (Not Oakenshield yet, that’s Thorin II.) It is unclear why, but Thorin I later departed Erebor for the Grey Mountains and took the Arkenstone with him. There followed peace for a while, but it was not to last.

More than three centuries passed before the Dwarves faced new enemies that reappeared in the northern wastelands next to the Grey Mountains – dragons. Perhaps this again came from the work of Sauron as his power slowly grew.

Dáin I, the great-great grandson of Thorin I, and his second son Frór were both slain by cold drakes. Once again, the Dwarves were forced to abandon their home and evacuated the Grey Mountains.

Some returned to Erebor, including the successor of Dáin I, Thrór. He also returned the Arkenstone to its proper place where a future daring burglar will claim it for himself. Others founded a new home among the Iron Hills located to the east of Erebor. One of the descendents of this group is Dáin II Ironfoot who comes later into the tale.

The tragedies of the Dwarves are still far from over. Although they have escaped the Grey Mountains, dragons continue to multiply. After a time, word reached the far north of the wealth of the King Under the Mountain. In one hundred eighty years time, Smaug, that chiefest and greatest of calamities, descends upon Erebor.

For a third time, the Dwarves are forced away from their dwelling and now become wanderers.

These include Thrór, his son Thráin II, and grandchildren, one of which is Thorin Oakenshield. The remainder fled to the Iron Hills.

In their escape, important items were saved. The map and key to the secret back entrance to the Lonely Mountain and a Ring of Power.

This Ring of Power was the first of the seven that was made for the Dwarves. It was first given to Durin III by the Elves long ago in the Second Age when it was not yet known what the true designs of Sauron were. Through the centuries, it passed down the line of kings of Durin’s folk until it came to Thrór. The story of the next tragedy to strike the Dwarves begins with him.

There came a time when Thrór made a decision to wander off with a sole companion, Nár, and made his way to Moria. What was it that drove him to do this? Perhaps it was a combination of being distraught from the ill fortune of himself 3 and his people with old age. Before he left, he bequeathed to his son, Thráin II, the last of the Seven Rings, the map and key, and his vengeance on Smaug. Perhaps Thrór’s decision was an effect of the ring itself. Its influence on the keeper may have grown stronger with the growing power of Sauron. What is worse is that it may have been at this time that Sauron came to learn who now possessed it.

Thrór’s journey ended in disaster. He was murdered by the great goblin Azog in Moria. His companion Nár reported the tragic news to his son that sparked the War of the Dwarves and Goblins, yet another despairing chapter in their history. Ultimately, the Dwarves won, but it was a Pyrrhic victory. The Dwarves lost more than half of their fighting force in the final battle at the east gate of Moria, also known as the Battle of Nanduhirion. Yet the Dwarves did not re-enter Moria. Dáin II Ironfoot of the Iron Hills said to his cousin Thráin II that the “world must change and some other power must come before Durin’s folk walk again in Moria.” Dáin II Ironfoot led his people back to the Iron Hills and Thráin and his followers returned to Dunland.4 The next set of events is the precursor to the H. Thráin, the possessor of the ring, map, and key, has in his heart to set out for Erebor. Only two companions accompany him. Both are members of the future band that travel on the Quest of Erebor – Balin and Dwalin. Yet, nothing is told to his son Thorin Oakenshield.5 Once Thráin was discovered to be abroad, the emissaries of Sauron hunted for him. Thráin was captured in Mirkwood and taken to Dol Guldur. Balin and Dwalin returned to report that they simply lost him when they woke one morning. Thorin Oakenshield then became the new heir.

When Thráin was reported lost, Gandalf now enters the picture. Thinking he may be in Moria, Gandalf searches for him there, but in vain. Yet five years later, in 2850 III, Gandalf comes to Dol Guldur to spy. While there, he discovers that its master, known as the Necromancer, is really Sauron and is seeking to collect all the remaining Rings of Power and information of Isildur’s heirs.

While Thráin was imprisoned, his ring was taken from him. The map and key may have been of little interest to Sauron, but, for whatever reason, were never confiscated. It may have been one of Sauron’s biggest mistakes. This part is vital to both the H and LotR. Gandalf’s possession of the map and key ultimately led to the Quest of Erebor. In the Quest of Erebor, the One Ring was found that ultimately led to the Quest of Mount Doom and the final downfall of Sauron.

Although Gandalf finds Thráin, he does not learn his identity, probably due to the poor Dwarf being half-crazed by his imprisonment and loss of his ring. He repeats over and over again “the last of the seven”. After Gandalf receives the map and key, sadly, Thráin then dies. His last words were “for my son”.6 Nearly a century will pass before Gandalf will realize the full significance of what he obtained from a pitiful old Dwarf locked in the pits of Dol Guldur.

In the following year, Gandalf, equipped with new knowledge, urges an attack on Dol Guldur at the White Council held in Rivendell. Saruman overruled the decision. Action would have to wait.

And that is basically how the story of Durin’s line unfolded prior to the events of the H. Later, in 2879 III, Gimli was born. In 2920 III, Gandalf visited the Shire for the last time7 before that fateful spring morning when he came to Bag End looking for a burglar to share in an adventure.

But also during this time, the troubles of the past grew more on the mind of Thorin Oakenshield. “The embers in the heart of Thorin grew hot again” and, like his father before him, he desired to reclaim what was once theirs. He was likely brooding over this and cursing the dragon under his breath while sitting in a dark corner of the Prancing Pony nursing a pint. It was March 15 2941 III.

The Innkeeper was busy serving customers and others were singing by the fire, when who by chance but Gandalf walked in and greeted him. They sat together and began to talk.

1 Letters, p136

2 In this time, the Hobbits claimed the Shire for their own and elected a Thain to replace the fallen king. (Appendix B)
3 Thrór was forced to abandon both the Grey Mountains and the Lonely Mountain because of dragons. (Appendix A, “Durin’s Folk”)

4 They later made exile in the Blue Mountains near the shores of Middle-earth in Harlindon, but at the time were in Dunland. (Appendix A, “Durin’s Folk”)

5 It will be of interest to see in the upcoming film how Balin and Dwalin react when Thorin asks Gandalf how he came to possess the secret map and key.

6 Unfinished Tales, p419 

7 He came to pay his respects for his friend the Old Took. (The Hobbit, p6)

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