Saturday, July 16, 2011

Balin and Dwalin

This image was released yesterday, but I was on my Friday sabbatical -- sorry about the lack of an "Open Friday" post as I was busy -- and I didn't see it until today.
These guys aren't too bad, though, again, Dwalin looks to have a very short beard, unless I'm just not seeing something right. That leaves just Thorin to reveal and let's be honest: he's the only dwarf whose appearance means that much in the end. I hope he looks more like Balin and Dwalin than like Fili and Kili.


  1. I think Thorin is going to be mega-"dwarfy." I think the rest of these guys had a lot of room to play around-- you know, anime hair & weird key swords-- because they are all gravy, all background. Thorin'll look like ten times the dwarf Gimli was. That is my prediction, anyway.

  2. I like the look of Balin, though I always though of his as the most heroic, since he's the one that tried to reclaim Moria, IIRC.

  3. I like this Balin as a future (and doomed) Lord of Moria.

  4. Admittedly better. Still don't hold out the highest hopes for the movies (based on LotR not these pictures), though.

  5. Definitely better. Based on the patterns we're seeing in the images so far, I would bet Mordicai is right: Thorin will be an über-dwarf with a beard he can tuck into his belt; he'll probably be the closest to Tolkien's description.

  6. One interesting thing is that Balin does look reasonably similar to the miniature of him that Games Workshop already produced (long before a Hobbit movie had even been thought of).

  7. Will Thrain be part of the movie? Didn't he make the map?

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  9. Did any one notice that Glóin has the same axe as Gimli ?

    Obviously passed down from father to son.

    I am loving Óin and Bombur the best thus far!

  10. phf - King Thrain will indeed be int he movie, Michael Mizrahi was cast for his role.

  11. I was really dreading Balin, and, well... I don't hate this design. Give him a moustache, a longer beard, and trim the weird quiffs at the end, and he isn't far off my mental perception.

    Just a shame about the others, but I'm not going to be a broken record about it.

  12. Taranaich, if you take a sip of some foul Dwarven ale, lounge back and think about it for a moment, a culture where beards are esteemed as a central symbol of both manhood and Dwarvenness is going to go either one of 2 ways: elaborate or extremely rigid conformity in beard design. Our experience of Islam/Judaism suggests the latter, but our experience of Victorian England suggests the former. Is there anything wrong with Jackson choosing to go against your personal views in this matter?

    It seems to me that a lot of fanboys here are simultaneously laying claim to a very serious appreciation of Tolkien while writing vast quantities of text about really really superficial aspects of the production. Before it's even released. I mean, FFS, the beards? Shouldn't you be more concerned about the acting, or something?

  13. Shouldn't you be more concerned about the acting, or something?

    You may well disagree but, for a lot of us, how closely a film's design hews to its source material says a lot about how closely it likely will hew to it in other areas. We already know that Jackson and company are making up huge swaths of material for The Hobbit films and they did the same in their previous efforts. Jackson has a track record of making bad decisions (or, if you prefer, decisions we think are bad) with regard to fidelity to Tolkien. I don't think it's necessarily unreasonable to look at these characters for indications of whether he's changed his stripes at all in this film, based on a book that's very different in tone from LotR.

  14. How true. In Bernard Cornwell's books, Richard Sharpe is a black-haired street urchin from London. In the TV series, Sharpe is a blond-haired man from Yorkshire. Only the most anal retentive Sharpe fans were upset about the change.

  15. That's interesting James, because I just looked at the Rankin-Bass version that you claim hews closer to its source material in design, and the handling of the confrontation with the trolls is absolutely reprehensible - there is no argument! Is this the benefit of hewing closely to the source material in design?

    If your complaint with the movie is that it may be spoilt by Jackson's liberties with plot, then have at it. But worrying about beards and hats? That is not the stuff on which good movies are built.

  16. I just looked at the Rankin-Bass version that you claim hews closer to its source material in design

    Actually, I'm not a defender of the Rankin/Bass version at all. I think only that it provides another vision of how it's possible to differentiate between the dwarves without resorting to the extreme visual individualism we see in Jackson's version.

  17. I know you're not defending the Rankin-Bass version, James, but you are presenting it as following the source material on design. It does this but then it butchers a key plot moment. What does this tell us about the importance of design?

    You should be focusing on the important matters, and how the Dwarves look is secondary to plot, etc. It could be that Rankin-Bass made a good decision about the troll argument (I can't recall it, maybe it doesn't work in film but works in print). But it's a much more important moment in the film than how Bilbo looks, since it determines how an uninitiated viewer interprets his character - it weakens him and reduces the viewer's perception of his individuality. Surely that's more important than whether or not the hair on his feet is thick enough?

  18. "individuality" there should have been "ingenuity." It may be pre-coffee for you, but it's bedtime for me...

  19. Maybe it's just me, but telling someone what they should or shouldn't be focusing on is a little out of line. If James had been writing entire treatises on this subject, then maybe a rebuke would be in order for spending so much effort on what's ultimately a trivial issue. But all he's done is post a handful of photos with a few lines of comment. I'd hardly call that "focusing," and it's certainly not misdirected focusing.

  20. Can someone post a quote from Tolkien about what his dwarves are supposed to look like? I haven't read any of his books since junior high school so I can't remember anything, other than the dwarves being short.


    p.8 "It was a dwarf with a blue beard tucked into a golden belt, very bright eyes under his dark-green hood (...) 'Dwalin at your service!'"

    p.9 "Instead there was a very old-looking dwarf on the step with a white beard and a scarlet hood (...) 'Balin at your service!'"

    p.9-10 "It was two more dwarves, both with blue hoods, silver belts, and yellow beards; and each of them carried a bag of tools and a spade (...) 'Kili at your service!' said the one. 'And Fili!' added the other."

    p.10 "Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, and Gloin were their names; and very soon two purple hoods, a grey hood, a brown hood, and a white hood were hanging on the pegs, and off they marched with their broad hands stuck in their gold and silver belts to join the others."

    p.11 "'At your service!' said Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur standing in a row. Then they hung up two yellow hoods and a pale green one; and also a sky-blue one with a long silver tassel. This last belonged to Thorin, an enormously important dwarf (...)"

    Please, notice that these are party clothes not meant for everyday use:

    p.11 "'Now we are all here!' said Gandalf, looking at the row of thirteen hoods -the best detachable party hoods- and his own hat hanging on the pegs."


    How does Bilbo look at the begining of his adventure?

    p.30 "Bilbo was wearing a dark-green hood (a little weather-stained) and a dark-green cloak borrowed from Dwalin. They were too large for him (...) His only comfort was he couldn' be mistaken for a dwarf, as he had no beard."

    How does his cloak look at the ending? (quoted from 'The Fellowship of the Ring')

    p.298 "(Bilbo) took off his party clothes, folded up and wrapped in tissue-paper his embroidered silk waistcoat, and put it away. Then he put on quickly some old untidy garments, and fastened round his waist a worn leather belt. On it he hung a short sword in a battered black-leather scabbard. From a locked drawer (...) he took out an old cloak and hood (...) so patched and weatherstained that their original colour could hardly be guessed: it might have been dark green. They were rather too large for him."

    We could as well extrapolate it to the dwarves.


    Thorin's weapon of choice:

    p.39 "(Thorin) caught up a big brach all on fire at one end; and Bert got that end in his eye before he could step aside."

    More about wardrobe:

    p.40 "'Better sit on the last fellow first,' said Bert, whose eye had been damaged bt Thorin (...) 'The one with the yellow stockings.'"

    Thorin gets a brand old sword:

    p.42 "There were (...) several swords of various makes, shapes, and sizes (...) Gandalf and Thorin each took one of these; and Bilbo took a knife in a leather sheath."

    No other weapon is ever named:

    p.153 "Some of the dwarves had knives, and some had sticks, and all of them could get at stones; and Bilbo had his elvish dagger."

    If anybody else was carrying a weapon of their own, or took it from the trolls' loot, it was gone and losted (probably confiscated by the Misty Mountain orcs) before they could make use of it...


    ...until eventually everybody gets his set of gear:

    p.222 "Now the dwarves took down mail and weapons from the walls, and armed themselves. Royal indeed did Thorin look, clad in a coat of gold-plated rings, with a silver-hafted axe in a belt crusted with scarlet stones. (...) he put on Bilbo a small coat of mail, wrought for some young elf-prince long ago. It was of silver-steel, which the elves call mithril, and with it went a belt of pearls and crystals. A light helm of figured leather strengthened beneath with hoops of steel, and studded about the brim with white gems, was set upon the hobbit's head."

    p.223 "Their glittering mail they had covered again with their old cloacks and their bright helms with their tattered hoods (...)"

    p.261-262 "Out leapt the King under the Mountain, and his companions followed him. Hood and cloak were gone; they were in shining armour, and red light leapt from their eyes. In the gloom the great dwarf gleamed like gold in a dying fire."


    What does a dwarf look like?

    p.94 "You would have laughed (...) if you had seen the dwarves sitting up in the trees with their beards dangling down, like old gentlemen gone cracked and playing at being boys."

    More about wardrobe:

    p.151 "'Fili or Kili,' he though by the tip of a blue hood sticking out at the top.

    At this point of the book, poor Fili have his beard shaved! Oh, my! :P

    p.151 "It took him ages to get the beastly stuff out of his eyes and eyebrows, and as for his beard, he had to cut most of it off."

    A final word about Dain's troopers:

    p.256 "Each one of his folk was clad in a hauberk of steel mail that hung to his knees, and his legs were covered with hose of a fine and flexible metal mesh (...) The dwarves are exceedingly strong for their height, but most of these were strong even for dwarves. In battle they wielded heavy two-handed mattocks; but each of them had also a short broad sword at his side and a roundshield slung at his back. Their beards were forked and plaited and thrust into their belts. Their caps were of iron and they were shod with iron, and their faces were grim."

    Source: 'The Hobbit' HarperCollins paperback edition 1999