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)

Timeline - Dwarvish History (1981-2941, 3rd Age)

Events relating to Durin's folk, the Longbeards.

1981, III - Dwarves mine Moria too deep and accidentally release a Balrog.
- King Durin VI and son Nain I are slain by Balrog.
- Most of the dwarves flee north, and settle in Grey Mountains.

1999, III - The next king in line, Thrain I, founds Erebor, the Lonely Mountain.
- Thrain I discovers the Arkenstone in Erebor.
- Thrain is suceeded by next-in-line, Thorin I (NB - not Thorin Oakenshield, that’s Thorin II).

2210, III - Thorin I departs Erebor for the Grey mountains, taking Arkenstone with him.

2463, III - White Council is created.

2463, III - Deagol finds The One Ring and is killed by Smeagol at Gladden Fields.

2470, III - Smeagol flees into the Misty Mountains.
2570, III - Dragons attack Grey Mountains.
2589, III - Dain I (great-great grandoson of Thorin I) slain by dragons.
2590, III - Dain I’s 2nd son Fror slain by dragons.
2590, III - Dwarves abandon Grey Mountains, some (including Dain I's successor, Thror) return to Erebor.
- Thror returns Arkenstone to Erebor.
- Some Dwarves settle in the Iron Hills (east of Erebor). Dain II Ironfoot is one of the decendents of this group.
- Meanwhile, dragons continue to multiply, and eventually Smaug descends upon Erebor.
2770, III - The town of Dale is destroyed by Smaug.
- For the third time, Dwarves abandon their homes.
- Thror, his son Thrain II, and his grandchildren (including Thorin II aka Thorin Oakenshield) wander middle-earth, taking with them the Map and Key to the secret back entrance to Erebor, as well as Thror's Dwarven Ring of Power.
- The other Dwarves flee to Iron Hills.
- Thror wanders off with a sole companion, Nar. He leaves the Dwarven Ring, the Key and the Map to Thrain II. Thrain II vows vengeance upon Smaug.
- Sauron learns about the Dwarven Ring of Power and its wearer, Thror.
- Thror is murdered in Moria by the Great Goblin, Azog.
- Nar reports Thror's death to Thrain II, who begins the War of the Dwarves and Goblins.
- The war’s final battle is fought at the East Gate of Moria (Battle of Nanduhirion). Thorin II loses his shield and wields an oaken branch instead (and becomes Thorin Oakenshield).
- After the battle, Dain II Ironfoot leads people back to Iron Hills and Thrain returns with his people to Dunland.
- Thrain II, with Dwarven Ring, Map and Key, with Balin and Dwalin, decide to head to Erebor.
2845, III - Sauron's agents capture Thrain II in Mirkwood, and take him to Dol Guldur.
- Balin and Dwalin find Thrain II gone after they wake up, and return home. Thorin Oakenshield is pronounced the Heir.
- Thrain II loses the Dwarven Ring to Sauron while captive. However, somehow he keeps the Key and Map.
2845, III - Gandalf hears of Thrain's loss, searches (in vain) for him in Moria.
2850, III - Gandalf goes spying in Dol Guldur, and discovers that The Necromancer is Sauron, and is collecting Rings of Power, and is searching for Isildur's Heirs.
- Gandalf finds Thrain II but does not recognise him. Thrain II has gone mad after losing the Dwarven Ring, repeating the words "last of the seven" over and over again. Thrain II gives Gandalf the Key and the Map, stating "For my son", then dies soon after.
- Gandalf keeps the Key and Map for almost 100 years, not realising its significance.
2879 III - Gimli, son of Gloin is born.
2890, III - Bilbo Baggins is born.
2931, III - Aragorn son of Arathorn is born.
2941, III - (March 15) Gandalf meets Thorin Oakenshield "by chance" in the Prancing Pony, and Gandalf forges his plans which will require a Burglar.

Welly-moot Theme - Dwarvish History

For our theme for the Welly-moot 1.1, we asked the question how Gandalf ended up with the Map and the Key that he gives to Thorin Oakenshield.

The upcoming Hobbit movie will in all likelihood start from that meeting, so it might be good background information for everyone.

For our Welly-moot, Kris had prepared some readings from Tolkien's Letters, as well as from the Unfinished Tales, and from the Appendices from ROTK. I'd also prepared some notes to help put it all into perspective.

To tie everything together, Mark Bednarowski from the Tolkien Society (UK) has very kindly given us permission to reprint two articles relating to this era of Middle-earth.

I will publish these here as separate entries so they can be linked to more easily.

The Timeline - Dwarvish History (1981-2941, 3rd Age)
Article 1 - Plight Of The Dwarves, by Mark Bednarowski
Article 2 - A Wizard For All Seasons, by Mark Bednarowski

What might also be quite useful is a map to Middle-earth. I found a nice one online that I used at the meeting. It's not the official Tolkien one but a good one to use anyway.

Click for larger map

Hymn of the Hobbits (by Jens Goetz)

At the February 2012 Welly-moot, we were visited by Jens Goetz from the German Tolkien Society. Jens started our meeting off with a song he wrote (reprinted here with his permission):

Hymn of the Hobbits
By Jens Goetz
Melody: We are the champions

We are the hobbits, my friend.
And we keep on eating, till the end,
We are the hobbits.
We are the hobbits.
No time for diets.
Cause we are the hobbits.
And eat till the end.

Thanks, Jens! It was a great way to kick off the meeting!

Welly-moot 1.1 (Feb 26, 2012)

The first official meeting of Welly-moot was a total success, as all who attended would agree.

Instead of As well as the usual chaotic, coffee-drinking, cake-eating, gossip-mongering sessions of 2011, we also managed to stick to the announced theme ("How Gandalf ended up with the Key and the Map").

Special Guests
Speaking of Gandalf - we had two Gandalfs present at the meeting! I had received word that Jens Goetz from the German Tolkien group Tolkien Stammtisch Rhein-Main would attend, however we were all amazed when he walked in to the meeting in full Gandalf the Grey costume! Well done and well met, Jens, and a pleasure meeting you!

Tolkien Societies reps - Mervi from Finland, Jens from Germany, and myself.

After introductions, Jens started the meeting off with a rousing singalong of 'Hymn Of The Hobbits' (sung to the tune of Queen's 'We Are The Champions'). The lyrics (reprinted here with Jens' permission):

Hymn of the Hobbits
By Jens Goetz
Melody: We are the champions

We are the hobbits, my friend.
And we keep on eating, till the end,
We are the hobbits.
We are the hobbits.
No time for diets.
Cause we are the hobbits.
And eat till the end.
Everyone joined in with the chorus with enthusiasm,

I mentioned TWO Gandalfs - I'm not sure how clear this was to everyone there, but also present at the meeting was Michael Elsworth, who doubled for Gandalf in the LOTR movies. According to his very brief page on IMDB, he was also the Gondorian Archivist who helps Gandalf get to the library in Minas Tirith in FOTR.
Careful with that torch in a library!

What isn't clear on his IMDB page is that he was also Cirdan the ship-building Elf who originally receives a Ring of Power from Sauron in the Prologue of FOTR. This means Michael was not only one of the first three people on screen - he was also the only person to wear a Ring of Power as two separate characters (since Cirdan eventually passes the Ring on to Gandalf)!

Unfortunately Michael had to leave the meeting slightly earlier than I expected, so I did not get a chance to properly introduce him to the group. Hopefully he will grace our meetings again, and I will correct my inadequacy!

The Theme
 Kris and I had planned to discuss the format and content of the meeting properly beforehand, but we have both been very busy lately and the discussion just hasn't eventuated.

Luckily, since Kris is a trained as a teacher, she didn't wait for me to begin. She started the discussion by handing out blank paper to anyone who wanted to take notes on the session. Kris had arrived to the meeting with a good sized bag full of Tolkien books. Among them were The Return Of The King, the Unfinished Tales,  and The Letters Of JRR Tolkien.

Kris on the left, reading, everyone else writing (from left, Rachel, Michael, Martyn, Viv, Charlene, Jenifer, Ryan, Mervi, Jens, and (the hands of) Jo and John

Using the Appendices of ROTK, Kris took us through the events leading up to the meeting between Gandalf and Thorin Oakenshield, that fateful day in the Prancing Pony.

I had also prepared a few notes, and I had brought a small map of the relevant areas in Middle-earth, so Kris and I filled in each other's omissions. The complete timeline will be published here just as soon as Kris and I have a complete (and agreed upon!) version of it. Watch this space!

I've been in touch with the UK Tolkien Society about reprinting Mark Bednarowski's excellent articles on the subject, and Mark has gracefully granted this, so I will provide those here online as well.

Best moment of the afternoon - Kris finished her timeline off with "...and finally, Gandalf stands in front of the round green door in the Shire, and that..." (points at Jens in Gandalf costume) "... is where you come in!"

Jens immediately responds with "Yes - would you like to see a photo of that moment?"

Click for better detail

Jens's photos certainly brought home the reality of living in Middle-earth New Zealand.

All in all there was a really good turnout. Ryan and Jenifer brought little Hawk along (he's getting less little every meeting!). After a year of Facebook contact, and a month after her arrival in NZ, I finally met Charlene, and she'll be coming on a LOTR tour with me in the next week as well. My partner Alex had invited Viv, a friend of hers, from her current workplace. Martyn had brought Michael and Rachel.

Mervi from the Finnish Tolkien Society again managed to make it to Wellington from her NZ travels, and Ayako and Randall drove all the way from Palmerston North with their delightful daughter Rio and her friend Akari. It was nice to see Kumi again, but John and Jo I hadn't met before and I hope will join us again for the next moot.

And with Jens "Gandalf" Goetz from Germany, and Kris and myself, that made 20 Welly-mooters. I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did - I'm looking forward to our next meeting, which will be on the 29th of April, 2012. I will announce the next meeting's theme in the next few weeks, as soon as Kris and I agree on it. We're taking suggestions!

  - Jack Machiela

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Heads up people! Welly-moot this coming Sunday!

A quick reminder about the upcoming Welly-moot this weekend.

The meeting will be held on :

Sunday, February 26th, 2:00pm
upstairs at the Embassy Cinema

For the first "proper" meeting I'm proposing a subject to start the ball rolling with, however if we completely veer off that, then I'm more than happy with that as well. I gather a few things have been happening to a few of us in the meantime, so I'm sure there will be plenty to discuss (the studio's Non-Disclosure Agreement allowing, of course!)

With a look towards the Hobbit movie being filmed here in Wellington, I would like start the first meeting with a discussion about how it all began - how did Gandalf end up with the map and key that he passes on to Thorin in Bag End, on that fateful night as The Hobbit book begins.

Mark Bednarowski from the UK Tolkien Society has written on the subject on at least two occasions now, articles which were published in their magazine Amon Hen (for those who subscribe, they are in issues 228 and 233). I'll have those issues with me as well, if anyone wants to brush up!

Apart from all the regulars (odd though that sounds, for our first meeting!), I'm also expecting Jens Götz from the German Tolkien Society (Deutsche Tolkiengesellschaft) who is currently travelling through New Zealand. Jens contacted me a few days ago.

So, please tell a few people - send a link to this page to all your Tolkien-lovin friends, and see you all at the Embassy at 2:00pm this Sunday!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Upcoming trip

Due to my upcoming trip to Europe later this year, I have changed the date of the June moot from June 24th to July 1st. All other details will remain as they are. Please update your calendars.

While in Europe I hope to make contact with the Dutch and Belgian Tolkien Societies. Also I'm absolutely planning a visit to the Tolkien Shop in the Netherlands!

I'll be in the Netherlands and Belgium mainly, and possibly a quick trip to Germany if there's time.

We're not going to make it to the UK on this trip, unfortunately. A pint at the Eagle and Child will have to wait for another time.

Is there anything else I should add to my list? Leave me a comment here or email me!

  - Jack