One thing that crops up frequently in fandom discussions is the fact that the movie timeline is clearly not the same as the book timeline.
Because for starters, this? Doesn’t make any sense:
There’s also been numerous side mentions made by cast in crew, for example Richard said he thinks Fili and Kili’s father fell at Thorin’s side in battle, presumably Azanulbizar, which is a bit impossible when you consider the boys wouldn’t be born for another 80+ years after that. However, it’s a nice biographical note to have their father also die at Azanulbizar, so here’s my alternative proposed timeline, to be used for the purpose of movie fanon interpretations without resorting to increasingly wild takes on how dwarves age.
- Erebor doesn’t fall in 2770 TA (171 years before the quest) in the movie-verse, instead it falls 100 years before the Quest in 2841.
Why? First, it’s a nice round number that’s easy to remember, while giving a sense of loss. 100 years since Erebor fell is a long time to pine, and maybe even move on, and long enough for Thorin to feel he has failed in not reclaiming it yet. Ancient history to some, but not to others.
- Thorin was not 24 at the time, he’s about 70 (born around 2770, coincidentally the year Erebor canonically fell and there’s a certain poetry to that)
Why? Thorin in the film is clearly not 24 by the dwarven standard of aging that puts their majority at 70-100. Unless there’s some complicated explanation where dwarves are physically maturing at the same rate as Men and then just sticking there, and then undergoing a ton of education until they’re an “adult” at 100 years…? Having Thorin aged 70 at the time of the fall means he’s young enough to be confused when Thror spites Thranduil, but old enough to reasonably be on the battlements and take up arms against the dragon. If he can face a dragon and lose his home at 70, Kili can face the quest at 77. It also explains his short beard at that point, since I think we can safely go with Richard’s headcanon that Thorin ritually chops his beard off to commemorate the fall of Erebor and the “burnt beards” of the dwarves who fled, which explains his short beard later in life. We also have the picture of Gimli at 60 who does not have a full beard yet, so putting Thorin at 70-ish makes overall sense.
- Dis has Fili and Kili relatively young, at the age of 75/80, in 2859 and 2864. Still 14 years Thorin’s junior, that means it’s young (perhaps forbidden?) love, a product of their exile.
Why? The ages are just generally being messed with in the movies, but since we don’t know the identity of Fili and Kili’s father, Dis being young and being with someone for love actually makes some sense and fits well with what little we know. It also means Fili was born 18 years after the fall of Erebor, late enough to have heard stories from his mother and uncle without it being totally ancient history. It also makes his birth a product of the exile, rather than the settlement in Ered Luin, which again fits very well with fanon takes on Fili and Kili and the life of the Erebor refugees. We don’t want to change Fili and Kili’s ages because theirs are the only ones that actually matter to the movie canon by being almost too young to come on the quest.
- The Battle of Azanulbizar takes place around 2870 TA.
Why? Because Thorin is 100 years old now. Old enough to be an adult, with the same face and build that he will have later in life, and old enough to be in the battle without any question as to whether he should be there. He’s still “a young dwarf prince”, but him taking up the mantle of leadership after the death of his grandfather and disappearance of his father actually makes sense now. Furthermore, Fili and Kili are now 11 and 6, respectively, which means their father could very well have died fighting alongside Thorin at Azanulbizar (as per Richard’s headcanons). They’re old enough to vaguely remember him, which means Thorin does not feel comfortable stepping in to become a father figure, but young enough for Thorin to have been a formative influence in their lives and relate to them, “the tales you told us [of the Mountain]”. Young-ish Thorin helping to raise his sister’s-sons is also a hella cute part of fanon that is v. important to me.
This also means that the fact Smaug has slept for “60 years” means that he could have been awake to hear about Thorin getting the name Oakenshield.
It’s still long enough before the Fell Winter that the dwarves making a dent in the goblins of the Misty Mountains at Azanulbizar means there are fewer to attack the Shire during the Fell Winter, ensuring its survival, which is also very important to me.
- 2890 TA - Bilbo is born.
Still keeping with canon, however it allows the segue that old Bilbo makes between Thorin’s life in exile with a sharp detour into, “And that… is where I come in,” make a bit more sense, because now his birth is running concurrent with the Erebor dwarven exile, and after the loss at Azanulbizar it’s very likely Thorin was a blacksmith around the same time baby Bilbo was playing with wooden swords. We can assume Thorin’s settlement in Ered Luin has been there about 50 years as a result, which tracks well with Bilbo having some fear of “wild, roving bands of dwarves” because the battered remnants of the Erebor refugees would have passed by when he was still quite young, and the hobbits are probably still talking about it.
- 2941 TA - Thorin is about 170 at the time of the Quest.
Why? The age fits very well actually. It means Thorin is in the prime of his life, if you assume dwarves live to be about 250 on average he’s just far enough past it that the silver streaks in his hair make sense. It’s very close to Balin’s canonical age of 178, which allows for the interpretation that Balin and Thorin’s ages were at least swapped for the film (at the very least, actually Balin looks to be about 130 or so when Erebor fell which would make him about 230 in this alternate timeline, which makes sense for the “age” we get for him). It means he lost his home 100 years ago, and his father and grandfather about 60 years ago, which worse nicely too because it matches Bilbo’s “60 years ago” from Lord of the Rings, with parallel passages of 60 years between significant events.
I’m sure my math is wrong in some places, and obviously it’s also very tempting to say Thorin is 195 and very well preserved (I am only chopping off about 24 years after all). I’m sure there’s a lot of other Middle Earth events that this clashes with, but as far as I can tell it does allow for all the events of the movies to fit together coherently, so I’d definitely value the thoughts of other people!