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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:

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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!

 

Chapter Text

Let’s preface this by saying my overall knowledge of the science of economics can be summed up with the term “laughable”. So this is a more sociological look at Erebor as I see it (or would write it in an AU such as this), and how it would look in a theoretical AU where Smaug never came. This will primarily be based on movie canon, dipping only a little into book canon.

First of all, the words “Tolkien” and “Economy” don’t really go together. There’s clearly money in Middle Earth, but Tolkien also clearly had no interest in figuring out how it worked. As one better essayist than I stated, “Who does the laundry in Rivendell?” Then you run in to the fact that Erebor itself mines gold. In theory, and this is one I subscribe too, Erebor is the wealthiest kingdom in Middle Earth. However, wealth is defined by scarcity. Erebor can’t just open the doors and allow all that gold to go pouring out into the world, there’s likely not enough goods in Middle Earth to even spend it on.

Dwarves as a race, as far as we can tell, have an almost biological imperative to create beautiful things. I tend to see this trait as being the basis of what is referred to as “greed” by outsiders, but I tend to think of the dwarvish “love of gold” to be more a love of art or beauty, but simply in the mediums of precious metals. By this theory, Erebor isn’t valuable in the way Fort Knox is, but rather in the way that the Louvre is. This is very hard for outsiders to grasp, especially Men, hence the poor reputation the dwarves enjoy.

So you’re Erebor. You’ve got more money then you can ever hope to spend without the risk of making money itself worthless. You have an extremely homogenous culture living in what amounts to a city-state in size. You have outsiders to do all the things your people don’t like to do, like farm. In exchange you give out a controlled amount of cash so that those who provide for you are well taken care of, and to create a hub of trade for the goods you sell (this would be Dale). 

Then what does Erebor look like on the inside? 

You could go with Dragon Age’s rather bleak Orzammar model, with a polarized society defined by extreme wealth and extreme poverty, with those who leave for “the surface” stripped of all titles and rank. However, this is where I’m going to pull out the Tolkien hammer, because rarely is Middle Earth bleak in such modern ways as you see in Dragon Age, though this means it’s also less realistic of course. There’s no evidence in canon of “poor” dwarves except for the exiles once they lose their home. The shot we get of prosperous Erebor at the beginning shows dwarves who, in my opinion, seem to enjoy their work. As I said, on a biological level it seems dwarves enjoy mining, crafting, and smithing. They would do it on their own even if those items weren’t creating wealth. If anything, the reason they’d have to be careful with the items they allow to leave Erebor is that they probably make so damn many of them that the supply could even outpace demand, making dwarven crafts worthless if they ever were unleashed in large numbers, because dwarves just like making them. 

Erebor with all its wealth, if it is careful, can basically make sure that every dwarf within the city 1) has all their needs met 2) has leisure time to make beautiful objects. This is, by the way, an almost direct quote from The Hobbit (p. 23), and they paid for outside goods either by apprenticing the children of Men or by selling their own works, so no menial jobs probably have to be done by dwarves at all. This would mean being a dwarf of Erebor is like belonging to an extremely exclusive club. In our own terms, “universal income” is probably a baseline “right” of all the dwarves there, an arguably socialistic model.

However, to begin extrapolating on this (since now we’re going the boundaries of what Tolkien discussed) this could easily be the basis of their poor reputation elsewhere (except as crafters). You’d have to be very careful managing these assets, you wouldn’t want to release too many goods so you don’t devalue them, since your entire culture now depends on protecting your citizenry, and wealth and the structural integrity of the mountain itself are what protects you. You can’t outlast a siege because your economy isn’t self sufficient in terms of food or menial labor. This would probably make dwarves quite unpopular with some people on the outside, who would see them as uncaring of others, or greedy. Also, any sort of outreach to other races (see: the Council of Elrond) would have to be weighed and measured in terms of material cost and loss of lives, since dwarves don’t have a high procreation rate, and their wealth is used to keep their very small citizenry alive and up to their preferred standard of living. Which, you know, since no one seems to be offering them help in return and the mythology itself says they’re a hidden and unwanted race, I don’t particularly see why they’d even want to be all that generous outside the boundaries of trade. The best way to define the attitude of Middle Earth towards dwarves that I seen is “casual disdain”. 

I suppose this is a bit long and rambling, @irzhava and I were discussing it mostly in the context of a fic where the Mirkwood elves were exiled and called upon the aid of a still-strong Erebor. In such a case of petitioners, I can see a very long bureaucratic process with a lot of discussions before the city-state of Erebor as a whole makes a decision. Or maybe you’d just see dwarvish goodness, passion, and impulsiveness, I’m sure on an individual basis that would be the case. 

As for someone coming to live in Erebor, I can see that being almost impossible. Like other modern insular, homogenous wealthy states (Norway, Switzerland) with their own internal source of wealth (oil, banking, in Erebor’s case gold) they’d be very expensive for outsiders. What exactly can you pay the dwarves with as far as currency that they don’t already have? Presumably labor, food, books, and textiles, which are more cumbersome to carry than coins. You’d have to come as a trader, most likely, or you’d have to deal in intangibles like news and stories. So basically, I can see non-dwarves who want to live in Erebor needing to petition the government for some sort of guest status, where either their trade goods or their services buy them in to the social network of available wealth, since gold or gems would probably be useless as currency within the city, it’d be more of a bulk crafting item, like bronze or iron. The exchange rate for outsiders coming into the city would be a nightmare. So essentially you have two economies - the economy inside Erebor, and the economy outside, which bear very little resemblance to one another? I’m wrestling with how luxury goods work inside Erebor and don’t really have an answer for what exchange rate the dwarves use, except that I imagine it’s a fairly closed system? 

You’d also probably have very little interest in immigration from the government, since the dwarves would have a pretty good thing going, you wouldn’t want to disrupt the balance, or inspire too much envy by letting outsiders see the lifestyle you have, you would in fact be fairly secretive about what you have. Erebor would have Dale to deal with outsiders in general, and with outside trade and menial labor/agriculture needs. I’m sure you’d still have warriors, obviously these are dwarves, but they’d be more about using their superior skill and weaponry to defend their outside interests like Dale, or the mountain itself. A lot of their military might probably would be in arms dealing more than in lending soldiers. 

For someone like Thorin, it would be a very protected world to grow up in. It would be very jarring to leave this sort of world behind, to go to a place where a chest full of gold is a king’s ransom when compared to Erebor, where a chest of gold was probably just seen as metal smithing equivalent of fabric cast-offs. It may even be difficult to find work as a dwarven smith in the wide world, since Erebor may have reserved its craftsmen for high-level work like armor and swords for kings, and other beautiful objects, not day to day stuff. It would definitely feel menial, if not insulting, to be hired to make things like pots and horseshoes, and the pay would insultingly low. Since the Erebor exiles may not have agricultural or textile skills within the refugee camp, you’d have to buy those items and that too would get expensive quickly. 

This is all the more reason a stable Erebor would be very, very careful not to have their economy crashed, as it would mean the literal difference between life and death for their insulated, isolated, leisure-rich population.

 

Part 2

Comparing gold to art is also a much better way of portraying it, in my opinion. It’s not about money or wealth, after all the dwarves only really exchange it for food and textiles with Dale, things that they need in order to free up more of their population to dedicate themselves to pursuit of beauty. It feels almost incidental that the other races view such items as valuable for exchange, rather than valuable to be treasured and admired. I could almost see the dwarves being puzzled by this, once upon a time, just as we might be puzzled to see paintings used as currency and traded willy-nilly (which, by the way does happen, and I think dwarves would feel a similar pang that I do at the thought that this trading is done with little appreciation for the inherent beauty of a piece, with only a focus on its utility and monetary value). They make use of it, but perhaps even coins themselves are a necessary evil to them, the smallest and least artistic measurement of gold they can exchange. One that for some reason Men and other races find valuable, but isn’t too much of a loss to the overall great works of beauty. Even then, they go out of their way to make those coins beautiful, because I imagine they can’t bring themselves to do otherwise. Perhaps too that is why they mostly gift weapons and armor to other races (Narsil was made by a dwarf, PJ *glares*, and so was the dragon-helm of Hurin, and Bilbo’s mithril shirt) because at least those items are treasured by the recipient for their utility if not always their beauty to the extent that dwarves would prefer. 

There is definitely a double-standard at play too, since the closest single “object” one can define as starlight to the Elves would be the Silmarils, and they surely wreak more havoc over those gems than the dwarves ever do, again, PJ putting Elves on a pedestal *le sigh* 

So yeah, long story short, I greatly appreciate fan works that properly describe gold in the context of dwarven culture as not at all similar to what it means to Men. It feels right to me, as a fantasy race that this happens, and I do endeavor to do so myself, never describing the value of gold to the dwarves as having very much to do with monetary wealth (except insofar as it comes to dealing with the other races, who are quite backwards) and everything to do with love of beauty, and craft, and all other good things. To dwarves, gold and other metalworks are part of their art culture, their legacy, their pride and value as a culture. To lose Erebor is to lose the equivalent of the Louvre, or the Vatican Museum, not the equivalent of the Swiss Bank. I even question if dwarves can be “greedy” in the sense that Men can when they “hoard” gold, it’s more about not putting the survival of their people as second to other things than it is about keeping the wealth, Thorin’s mistake was to say the inheritance of the dwarves was worth less than that dwarves themselves, not that he wanted to keep it at all. Because really no price can be placed on those works as a legacy of their people, except that they are worth less than the cost in dwarven lives, one more reason the loss of any lives in taking Erebor back is too high, except insofar as they’re trying to make a better life for other dwarves (which I truly believe was Thorin’s intention). 

 

 

Chapter Text

(As I have said previously, I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about the political power-struggle we glimpse in The Hobbit trilogy, and its hints at a rich and intricate past between the three players of Erebor, Dale, and Mirkwood (née the Greenwood). I want to support this mini-treatise with some dates from the wider Tolkien canon, but the movie clearly changes the timelines as well as the motivations of the three major players of Bard, Thranduil, and Thorin Oakenshield, so they will only be used as a vague reference point rather than absolute truth.)

In the beginning, there was the founding of Erebor. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

(Especially this guy)

 

No, but seriously, Erebor has actually been “founded” twice. Once when it was physically established as a dwarven settlement, back in 1999 of the Third Age (for reference, the events of The Hobbit take place in 2941, almost 1000 years later). However, at the time it was not a settlement of any particular note and certainly had not struck upon the treasure that would make its name. That changed in 2590 TA (some 600 years later), when dragons destroyed the dwarven settlement in the Grey Mountains, Thror’s home, and killing Thror’s father Dain I and brother Frór (something of a trend for the line of Durin). Thrór fled, his brother Grór going on to found the settlement in the Iron Hills while Thrór went to Erebor. This is what I call “the second founding of Erebor” because it marks the change from when Erebor went from one of many dwarven settlements to an actual dwarven kingdom ruled by a king of Durin’s Folk (the Longbeards), much in the same way that “Byzantium” becomes “Constantinople”, the city already existed but did not become a capital until the Emperor of Rome (Constantine) made it one.

Character Note 1, Tauriel: It’s worth mentioning here that Tauriel has lived in Mirkwood at least 600 years based on Legolas’s mention of how Thranduil sheltered her. Since the second founding of Erebor took place in over 500 years before the The Hobbit, it’s safe to say that Tauriel is literally older than Erebor, something I really wish she and Kíli had the chance to talk about sometime.

(“I am literally older than the kingdom you’re trying to reclaim,” said Tauriel never)

Tauriel’s age bears mentioning because it means the Greenwood was there long before Erebor became a major kingdom, which would affect the way an immortal like Thranduil would view that kingdom. For one thing, he would have had very long dealings with Thrór, who was King of Erebor for basically the entire time the “kingdom” existed. Thror’s sense of security in his line through his son and grandson cannot be understated, he’d ruled for at least a century before Smaug came and, unlike his father Dain I, had two heirs of two generations to entrust his line to.

Which brings me somewhat to the realm of speculation, hopefully based on some evidence. The alliance between Mirkwood and Erebor was a natural one, but not a comfortable one in my opinion. Thranduil would have been forced to realize that this small dwarven mining settlement was now a power to be reckoned with, that he could no longer ignore it. The history between the elves and dwarves is an uneasy one, filled with ongoing tension when it’s not flaring up into actual violence. Given his age and ancestry, Thranduil would almost certainly have known or at least known people who knew King Thingol, who was murdered by dwarves due to the dispute over the Nauglamir. He would likely not have been pleased at the prospect of a major dwarven kingdom “appearing” on his doorstep, but given its wealth and Thranduil’s own greed for gems (which is canonical) he would have been unable to ignore them and would have had incentive to join an alliance, though perhaps not an alliance he had any intention of honoring beyond the immediate use of trade.

(I call these the “Definitely-Not-The-Nauglamir” TM)

Entering into this political landscape we also have Dale, which was established the same year as the second founding of Erebor (2590). Based on the movie, we can assume that Dale’s existence is entirely owed to the wealth flowing out of Erebor, and the need the dwarves had for a trade provider of goods like food and textiles, since they supported themselves through metalwork and were not self-sufficient, nor did they seem to have any interest in being self-sufficient, seeing such other works as beneath them and their natural skills. Dale is what allowed Erebor to reach the heights of its wealth, by freeing the dwarves to focus on their crafts rather than delegating a portion of their population to subsistence, and in return Erebor repaid Dale’s service of seeing to their needs with wealth beyond imagining. This was a mutually beneficial relationship, but more than that it was a symbiotic one, because when Erebor fell, Dale went with it.

As something of a third wheel in this relationship is Mirkwood. As an ancient kingdom of the Elves, Mirkwood would be a major local political player. They have an army, and lands, and guard the road to the West. However, they do no sow crops, nor do they work metals, or really do anything useful except subsist off their trade contacts with others (much like Erebor), except when it comes to their own hunting for sport in the forest. They are rich, however, due to their age and would have benefited from both Dale and Erebor.  Yet they were also proud, and Erebor would have surpassed the wealth of Mirkwood ten times over in a very short time by Thranduil’s reckoning. Between the blow to his pride and his power, not to mention his greed and distrust of dwarves, the alliance between Thranduil and Thrór would have been a distasteful if useful one.

Enter the dragon sickness. At some point during his reign, Thror’s greed took on a new element, became grasping and covetous and unwilling to part with a single coin, even when a contract existed. This would have placed further strain on the alliance with Mirkwood, because as we see Thrór gives in to petty spite against Thranduil, teasing and taunting him with the wealth of Erebor and showing Thranduil to be the junior partner, something that would enrage proud old King Thranduil. 

Character Note 2, Thorin: This is the world Thorin was born into. A world where an alliance between Mirkwood and Erebor was the natural state of the region. One in which Dale existed to support Erebor, and was repaid with wealth from trade. Because Thorin was born long after the alliance between Erebor and Mirkwood was struck, he would not be able to imagine a world where such an alliance did not exist; he would not naturally understand the tension between Thrór and Thranduil. He would live in a world that glorified this alliance with festivals and songs, not understanding that these glorifications were meant to reinforce a shaky and uncomfortable agreement between two races that naturally hate each other. Hence his confusion when Thrór, in his sickness, begins to mock Thranduil. Thorin’s confusion was clearly a direct result of the fact that as young dwarf he did not understand the tensions between elves and dwarves. In that, he was much like Kíli. Thorin was born a child of privilege, an heir to literally the wealthiest kingdom in the world at that time. To him, the conflicts between dwarves and elves would be centuries-old history. He would have heard such tales, but not leant them much credence because he would see Mirkwood as a supporter of Erebor and its reign, much like Dale in that respect. Though old dwarves would tell Thorin of the crimes of the elves, he would see them as secondary to the importance of the alliance between Erebor and Mirkwood. Can’t you see that we’ve moved on to better times? Thranduil would never break his word. Thranduil is a war hero of the Second Age, he is a trade partner of Erebor, he is our ally, he is—

Thranduil proves himself to be everything that the dwarves ever suspected an elf could be. Cold, remote, holding grudges for centuries beyond the lifespans of all who were involved, uncaring of the lives of lesser mortals, controlled by pride and greed, faithless in the repayment of services rendered, inconstant to allies when it serves his purpose, changeable in his moods.

In my eyes, Thranduil’s betrayal on the day the dragon came was purely a matter of self-interest. To quote Niccolo Machiavelli:

 

“Upon this, one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge.”

Thranduil had several choices on the day that Smaug came: he could send in his armies to battle the beast, which had already taken the city, he could abstain from fighting Smaug directly but lend aid to the dwarves of Erebor in their weakness, or he could do neither and leave the dwarves of Erebor to be destroyed entirely. Clearly, he chose the final option, but why? Many have remarked upon how Thranduil’s baffling behavior, when it seems only a little aid would be needed to vastly improve the circumstances of Thorin and his people, and to honor his alliance. Yet he utterly betrays it, utterly breaks his word on all fronts. The excuse given is that he will not face a dragon a second time, especially when he sees Smaug as a calamity that the dwarves brought upon themselves and therefore not falling under the vague conditions of their alliance, but that still should not preclude aid to the refugees.

(“I could help but…nah.”)

To me, there is only one explanation: Thranduil desired the utter destruction of Erebor and the dwarves that inhabited it. Perhaps not out of pure malice, rather he realized that his people would never be forgiven for not taking on the impossible task of slaying the dragon. Even if he leant aid to the refugees, the muttering would begin immediately that he should have done more to help against the dragon, instead of taking the “easy” job of helping the refugees. He’s not entirely wrong in this, if Thorin’s immediate reaction is anything to judge by. So he follows the advice of Machiavelli: if he helps the dwarves in any way, they will have the strength to take revenge against him for his perceived failure to kill Smaug (regardless of whether he could have done so at all, or would have only lost countless lives as Erebor did, leaving the entire region weakened). It is better in this instance to allow the dwarves of Erebor to disintegrate utterly, broken and scattered by diaspora, unable to rally the strength for vengeance on their faithless ally. As we see in Battle of the Five Armies, Thranduil thinks in terms of centuries. It will only be a short time before all the dwarves who remember Erebor and the alliance are dead, better to let this generation perish in the short time it will take than to risk invasion.

This brings us to the “present” – 2941, Thranduil’s reaction to Thorin in Mirkwood, and later his actions at the Battle of the Five Armies.

Personally, I find it a bit puzzling that Thranduil immediately divined Thorin’s purpose in Mirkwood. To my eyes, the presence of thirteen dwarves appearing on Thranduil’s doorstep was obviously assassination, given Thorin’s extremely vocal hatred of Thranduil and the history with Thingol. It would be ludicrous to assume that a dozen dwarves are on their way to take on a dragon that destroyed a fortress city with literally thousands of warriors. In any case, Thranduil does guess their purpose, and offers his help in exchange for jewels long denied by Thrór and later by the dragon.

The violence of Thorin’s response tells Thranduil everything he needs to know – the dwarves have not forgiven Thranduil’s failure to aid them, quite the contrary.  They will literally suffer imprisonment and death rather than give Thranduil the least of the treasures in their halls. It’s not a matter of payment, it’s a matter of honor and they will die for it rather than treat Thranduil as anything other than an enemy.

Thranduil has only one recourse at this point – prevent Thorin from going to the mountain, at least until such a point that he can bend the dwarf to his will, which is probably never. This immediately explains Thranduil’s decision to lock down Mirkwood as soon as Thorin escapes. If Thorin is successful in slaying the dragon, Mirkwood is next. The only thing keeping the dwarves from coalescing around a new king is the presence of Smaug. The dwarves will flock to the banner of Erebor the minute the fortress city is reclaimed. That means literally thousands of dwarves from Ered Luin and the Iron Hills amassing on Mirkwood’s doorstep for a war of vengeance.

The death of Smaug will mean another thing: the revival of Dale. At present, the only reason that well-constructed city lies empty is because of Smaug. That’s why Lake-town was built upon the water, to defend against the dragon fire. Now, what’s terribly interesting about Lake-town is that they have an active trade relationship with Mirkwood, one that the Master of Lake-town canonically does not want to lose. Lake-town trades wine to the Woodland Realm, because Mirkwood does not produce anything on its own. In Lake-town we can see the effects of Smaug’s presence on the region, meaning nothing permanent can be established and no true wealth accumulated because it risks drawing Smaug’s attention, but we also see that Mirkwood of itself is not nearly as good an ally as Erebor was. Mirkwood is isolationist and not terribly wealthy, at least it does not share its wealth. Erebor was the natural ally of the Men in the region because they were willing to trade the wealth they produced in exchange for goods; Mirkwood is not, at least not to the same extent. Mirkwood as a primary trade partner is one reason why Lake-town is poor, however as their strongest partner and the one with the best standing military, it is in Lake-town’s interest to stay in Thranduil’s good graces rather than risk losing them on the hopes of regaining Erebor and Dale.

Much can be said of Thranduil’s political motivation based on the actions he takes immediately following Smaug’s death. He could have leant archers, or soldiers to Lake-town had he seen them as an ally worth defending. Knowing that the dwarves meant to rouse the dragon, a conscientious ally would have leant those soldiers just in case Smaug took his anger out on Lake-town, a very real possibility if the dragon was indeed merely sleeping rather than dead as the dwarves hoped. Thranduil does not take this action, so I must take this to mean he cares very little for Lake-town.

However, once Smaug is dead, Thranduil recognizes the immediate needs—not of Lake-town, but of Dale. The dragon’s death means the revival of the city, the reclaiming of Erebor means that the alliance will be reestablished between those two cities and peoples.

It means that Mirkwood will now be the kingdom that did not help either of its allies against the dragon.

Thranduil’s Machiavellian plan is at risk of failing. When given the option to help a weakened ally or to allow that ally to be destroyed, rather than risk that weakened ally becoming an enemy, he chose destruction rather than risk his kingdom. However, that destruction was not fully achieved, and now he has a weakened and enraged enemy on his doorstep. His gamble failed.

In that light, the food makes perfect sense. Thranduil only has one option now: to buy the friendship of Dale with food in their hour of need, before Erebor can rally to lend that aid itself. To set Dale up in opposition to their natural trade ally of Erebor, to sow dissent between them, and to reinforce the rather paltry alliance Mirkwood had with Lake-town as more trustworthy than the great wealth Dale once knew with Erebor. To that end, he must also prevent the return of Erebor as a major power in the region, because that balance is now tipped against him by his own actions (some of which were beyond his control, if we believe there was no real chance against the dragon in the first place, but he will still be blamed for that failure).

A key element of preventing Erebor from attacking Mirkwood is to make sure it is not ruled by the dwarf with the most personal sense of betrayal against Thranduil: Thorin and the line of Durin. Hence why Thranduil’s goal is to make sure they are slain, and to go to “war” against thirteen dwarves. With Erebor open for the taking, Thranduil can reestablish the balance of the region by giving the stolen wealth of Erebor to Dale and to Mirkwood, until that runs out.

All of these plans are thwarted by the arrival of the goblin armies. Then a new rule comes into play: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. From the fire of the Battle of the Five Armies a new alliance is forged between the Dale, Mirkwood, and Erebor as ruled by Dain II rather than Thorin. Thanks in part to Gandalf too; it fuses three feuding kingdoms into a single entity that will one day face the Shadow. However, on its own, the “good” races of that region had every reason to fight and hate one another due to old betrayals, and it is only through the introduction of heretofore unknown elements that they are able to move on past that point. 

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Alkjira asked (paraphrased): Why did Thranduil come to Erebor when Smaug attacked, but then turn away?

1) On the surface, I’d say it’s just narrative convenience :-/ The implication is that Thranduil came to help, saw the dragon, and turned around. No word on whether he offered any other kind of aid to the dwarves. We presume not, though it makes almost no sense unless Thranduil is supremely Machiavellian and hoped the lack of aid would wipe out the dwarves who would now certainly have a grudge against him. 

2) You bring up a fascinating point though, because the timing makes very little sense. Look, the locations of PJ’s Middle Earth are complete nonsense in The Hobbit trilogy. Where the fuck is Dol Guldur, or Mirkwood, or the Iron Hills, or Gundabad if they’re less than a day’s march away from Erebor and then why did it take the Company so long to get there? So the distances are fucked, nevermind trying to figure them out or how long it takes to field an army, which should be days if not weeks. Given that our “previous” scene was Thror denying the gems to Thranduil then yeah, it’s not absurd to think that Thranduil already planned an invasion and was thwarted. To someone as young and naive as Thorin, who seemed to honestly be more astonished by Thror’s refusal than hating Elves at that tender age, it could have read as “Allies who came to help and then turned away”. 

BUT he could be wrong. Thranduil could have indeed been coming to invade at the same time as Smaug, for similar reasons. This corresponds with 1) his lack of aid to the dwarves (of course he wouldn’t help them, he wanted to wipe them out) and 2) why his attack IMMEDIATELY resumed the minute Smaug was dead, as Smaug was only an interruption to his plans. It explains too why he didn’t even attempt to negotiate or make a peaceful request for the gems, they were never his intention. They may not even have ever been his only intention, he could very well have intended to seize all the gold in the mountain as part of the ancient vendetta between elves and dwarves and just one too many insults from Thror. In his own words, “I am patient, I can wait” even for things like vengeance for past slights. This is obviously movie-Thranduil only, but you raise an excellent question. 

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So while I’m not as well-read in the Bagginshield corner of the fandom as I should be, I’d like to think I’ve read enough to be aware of overall trends. With the debut of Battle of Five Armies, I’m hoping that some of the more alpha-male depictions of Thorin will give way to a more nuanced approach, and that shy delicate Bilbo as a characterization will die the fiery death it deserves.

Yet even sensitive takes on Thorin tend to have him as a darker figure, commanding and stoic. When showing depictions of Thorin in love, I know I myself am guilty too of either writing Thorin as having difficulty expressing himself, or being tormented by his own affections. In mature scenes he’s often described in shadowy, forceful terminology, his desires dark, his movements strong or violent as an overall theme. (Keep in mind, this is a gross generalization and meant as commentary, not judgement.)

But lately I’ve been working on post-BotFA takes on Thorin and Bilbo in love and I’ve been forced to confront a realization: Thorin’s affections are not dark by any means.

Thorin-in-love is bright. He lights up. He’s happy, he smiles, and if anything he looks decades younger. Thorin in love is de-aged practically to the days before Erebor fell.

Case in point (in chronological order and all looking at Bilbo)

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(I’m so sorry for the last one)

It’s all the more dramatic when set against the strangely dark shadows that come over his features when he’s in the deepest throes of dragon sickness, when he’s dressed as his grandfather. And boy, is that an essay for another day, the conflict between youth and age in The Hobbit, and how Thorin shedding his grandfather’s image is his redemption, the way he looks younger when he looks at Bilbo with love. 

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(By the way, has anyone else noticed the shadow effects on Thorin’s face every time we see him with dragon sickness or is that all in my head?)

My conclusion is more my thinking aloud about writing Thorin’s characterization when showing him in love, specifically with Bilbo. I’ve detailed elsewhere how Thorin has trouble separating himself from his responsibilities, and that Bilbo is one of the very few people (perhaps the only person, including Dwalin sadly) to whom he is only Thorin and not an extension of the line of Durin. Thorin in love is actually free, and brought back to the days before he lost everything. If you imagine almost a split personality stemming from the day Smaug attacked, “Thorin” as a person is really only about 30-50 years old, before loss and tragedy suffocated that part of him. (By the way, I’m dealing with romantic love in this essay, but Thorin in love with friends and family also de-ages him and he smiles freely with the people he cares about, actually quite frequently if you pay attention.)

This opens all sorts of fun possibilities about “hopeless romantic goober” Thorin, which honestly I don’t think is a stretch if you see that smile in the acorn scene. That is Thorin hopelessly in love, with almost no trace of illness. Even his movements change on the Ravenhill when Bilbo appears and he’s no longer sick. Thorin’s steps actually get lighter, reminding me of Richard’s interview where he said young Thorin has a very different fighting style than standard age Thorin, the latter of which is heavier and tightly controlled.

For me this means as much as it seems to make sense to write Thorin as this almost Byronic figure who is dark in his passions, actually I think love literally ignites him and sets Thorin free from the shadows that make up his life. In those moments he most resembles other members of his family like Kíli, and I imagine someone like that is lurking beneath all the trauma he went through. Oh, certainly not feckless or entirely care-free, but gentle and lively, someone who actually smiles instead of smirks and gives those smiles freely at even the smallest gesture. Someone who does not want to lead his loved ones into danger, to whom all life is precious, someone who was very badly hurt over and over again and who would never allow refugees to suffer, or the weak to be harmed.

Thorin has had to be hard, but beneath it all I really do think Thorin is a young dwarf who lost his home and wanted to go back to it, who fought hard for his family, who wants nothing more than to protect the ones he loves, and yes, someone for whom love is light and wonderful and something that makes him smile

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(Now, if you want to talk about characters who are repressed and have trouble displaying honest emotion unless their heart is actually ripped out of them, let’s talk about Bilbo Baggins.)

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You know, I must admit I don’t have as much depth to add about Bilbo as I did Thorin. I read up a lot on Thorin because he fascinates me, and I have a lot of Richard’s personality and interviews to go off of for filling in the blanks. I’ve not read up nearly as much on Martin Freeman’s take. 

However, I would offer:  Bilbo is meant to be a 20th c. repressed English (specifically: Oxford) gentleman. He’s modeled after Tolkien himself to some extent, as someone who dreamed of dragons finally getting the chance to face one with his own unique skills. 

As to Bilbo’s repression: he’s not stoic or brooding. He’s grouchy. He’s vocal about when the dwarves are irritating him, eventually, and he’s not shy when it comes to complaining about problems. But it’s always quite mild. Even when he’s angry at the dwarves he never really explodes, he never gives them a straightforward order to leave, which I think the dwarves would have understood. Everything in Hobbiton is about appearances and respectability. One can make pleasant conversation or small-talk, or exhibit outrage, but showing the depths of emotions not so much. 

So what does Bilbo in love look like? Bilbo in love is Concerned. 

(All credit to thorinshielding for the gifs, an excerpt from this post about Bilbo looking at Thorin when Thorin isn’t looking

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Which is funny, because I honestly believe Bilbo fell in love first 

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And realized it last

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(And only left Erebor because he could not stay with Thorin no longer there)

Bilbo in my mind is unaware of how in love he is. I think in part because, as Martin Freeman said, Thorin is a bit mysterious to him. He’s a legend, he’s not part of Bilbo’s world, he’s from the books and maps. I think Bilbo has trouble connecting the idea that what he feels for Thorin is more than awe until Balin asks him to put it into words. But he was in love throughout, and I think on some level it was the dragon sickness that brought it out of him, because it gave him the chance to take care of Thorin.

I shy away from such gross generalizations as “Bilbo is a caretaker”. I don’t actually see him as parental (he shies away from very small children except as a storyteller), for example, even if he is domestic in the literal sense (I think Thorin is domestic too, the only difference is he doesn’t have a home). But I believe, like Thorin, he shows his love by taking care of others and protecting them, and that’s one of many very interesting parallels between them. As Richard said, it’s two people from wildly different backgrounds finding each other in an improbable place and understanding one another. Bilbo shows his love by helping Thorin get his home back, not Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror get his kingdom back. He shows it by leaping up to defend Thorin from Azog, from asking Thorin’s permission before giving orders to the company to get in the barrels, by keeping the Arkenstone from Thorin because it would make his sickness worse, by being the only person who mentions that Thorin isn’t eating or sleeping, not just that he’s obsessed with gold. Bilbo knows immediately that Thorin is better when he charges out of the mountain, and his first concern isn’t fear for his own safety (Thorin did just threaten to kill him after all), but to get the news to Thorin as soon as possible that he’s walking into a trap. His first instinct when he finds Thorin on the battlefield is to take care of him and heal his wounds. (*sob*)

Bilbo in love is demonstrating the very hobbit-y priority of taking care of the health of the person they’re in love with, just like Sam making sure Frodo ate on their quest, or Pippin finding Merry on the battlefield and his first words to him being “I’m going to take care of you.” That’s hobbit-speak for “I love you.” They don’t necessarily say it with grand gestures or poetry or valuable gems or mithril armor. To a proper English gentleman like Bilbo it would be unthinkable to make such grand gestures, or demonstrate overt affection anywhere but in private.

He shows it instead with his concern. With small, every day acts of love that keep the darkness at bay. 

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(From 2014)

For awhile now we’ve heard the terms “gold sickness” and “dragon sickness” bandied about in the Hobbit fandom. The two tend to be used interchangeably and for awhile this has bothered me, a niggling question at the back of my mind. The interchangeable nature of the names implies they are the same disease, and that the “dragon” in dragon sickness means one acts like a dragon in the desire for gold. 

But what if this isn’t true? What if the answer has been staring us in the face, and PJ has been saying the name of the disease that Thorin contracts the whole time?

What if Thorin never suffers from gold sickness, but from the totally separate disease of dragon sickness?

Let me explain:

The whole reason the gold sickness came into being is because the dwarves were still using the Sauron-corrupted Rings of Power, namely the seven dwarven rings, all of which have been destroyed except for the ring that was given to Thror.

This means that as Sauron regained strength, his corruption grew in the surviving dwarven rings and twisted the good qualities of them to evil. Meaning, Thror’s “sickness of the mind” is really a product of Sauron’s growing strength, a known canonical fact. 

Thrain is said to have gone mad after Azanulbizar, which is coincidentally after he received the dwarven ring from Thror. Being tortured to insanity by Sauron may have had something to do with it too (*sarcasm*).

Dragon sickness, on the other hand, may be a succinct name for a very well known phenomena in the Tolkien universe, suffered by Turin Turambar and possibly Fram.

(cut because it got long)

Keep in mind, everyone who has talked about the Durin “sickness of the mind” has been unaware of the dwarven ring or unaware of Sauron’s return. Therefore very logical conclusions were drawn by people like Gandalf, Elrond, Balin, Thorin, etc. based on false premises. In the AUJ EE Gandalf even mentions the dwarven ring in passing, but draws no conclusions as to its wider impact other than that it has gone missing.

So, what if there is no sickness in the line of Durin, and there never was? It merely follows such hereditary patterns because the dwarven ring is given to descendants. After all, we’ve seen no touch of it in Balin or Dwalin, Oin or Gloin, Fili or Kili, all of whom are equally of the line of Durin. 

And most importantly we did not see it in Thorin when he lived in Erebor.

Why is that? Presumably if all it took was contact with vast wealth Thorin would have exhibited signs. Instead he is shown to be wary of his grandfather’s sickness. This has raised the puzzling question of how he could not be self-aware of his illness once he contracts it, or why he had not contracted it before. 

Except Thorin does get sick when encountering the hoard, because the hoard that has lain under Smaug for over a century is not the same hoard that enchanted his grandfather.

Dragons are cursed beings. From the Lord of the Rings wiki:

[Dragons] also had a hypnotic power called “dragon-spell”; weaker-willed beings could be put into a trance or bent to a dragon’s will when the beast spoke. In addition, this dragon-spell seems to have had the ability to plant mistrust in the listener’s mind. This power also extended to a dragon’s treasure hoard, causing it to excite feelings of greed and animosity among others. Feuds and battles frequently followed upon the death of a dragon; usually between the Hero who slew the beast and the original owners (or their heirs), as well as an occasional ambitious third party. Some have speculated that this ‘curse’ played a part in Fram’s death at the hands of the Dwarves after he had slain Scatha. The same could be said of the famous 'Battle of Five Armies’ upon the death of Smaug. Source

As stated before, Thorin was wary of the gold sickness, though he had no need to be so long as he did not bear a dwarven ring. He would have recognized the signs. He was not one to get lost in a delirium. But the hoard of Smaug is now cursed and it is that curse that he suffers. Since it bears superficial similarity to gold sickness there would have been little reason to investigate further, but actually the symptoms are wildly different and only linked by correlation, i.e that treasure plays a role. 

I’ve been puzzled for awhile as to why the terms “gold sickness” and “dragon sickness” are used interchangeably. It niggled at the back of my mind as not quite right. Gold sickness by its name implies that the sufferer is driven mad by greed. The only way dragon sickness could be the same thing is to imply that the sufferer acts like a dragon, and this makes them desire gold. But what if the “dragon” in dragon sickness really means the source of the disease? Because if that’s the case then Thror and Thrain never had dragon sickness. How could they? Their contact with Smaug mainly consisted of running away from him, the gold of Erebor was still uncorrupted by his presence.

So, we have been tricked into conflating two diseases because they appear to be used interchangeably. We shouldn’t feel bad about it, because the very wise appear to as well, including Elrond and Gandalf. On the surface, gold sickness appeared as mental illness and Thorin succumbing to a disease with similar symptoms made the case for it being hereditary. However, the gold that drove Thror mad was not in the same state as the gold that drove Thorin mad and dragons are known to be cursed beings that also curse their treasure.  This explains why Thorin is not more careful about his symptoms, he knows from experience that he does not suffer the same disease his grandfather did and he is correct. They have completely different sources, the latter of which (dragons) could not possibly have had impact on Thror. 

The wise of Middle Earth have not come to these conclusions because they didn’t know about Sauron or his impact on the dwarven rings and have been drawing their own conclusions for centuries as to why the line of Durin became suddenly gold obsessed. Butif we assume some book canon here, everyone became gold obsessed when coming into contact with Smaug’s hoard, therefore it cannot be a hereditary illness at play or even solely the fault of the gold because no other dwarf was shown having the illness before Smaug came to Erebor. 

One huge upside to all of this is that all of these diseases are artificial, curses caused by dark powers, which means we drop that problematic and annoying use of mental illness as an explanation. 

Tl;dr Gold sickness and Dragon sickness are completely different diseases and Thorin has been misdiagnosed. 

*collapses from the wordiness*

Note: There is the very real possibility that they’ve just given two names to this “mental illness” of the line of Durin over at PJ’s workshop and that Thorin is merely succumbing in the same way as his grandfather. It’s certainly a simpler explanation, and will probably turn out to be true but a girl can dream of a more nuanced world, can’t she?

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indigoire asked: I'm listening to your meta (just started part three) and I'm sure you make mention of it later, but what do you consider dragon sickness to be? Because it's very unclear in the movie. Is it mental illness or is it a curse, or is it mental illness brought on by a curse? Is it a physical sickness and the scene in the golden hall is Thorin's fever breaking, essentially? Everyone seems to go back and forth on what this sickness really is.

So I answered this in two parts, but since the second part was a bit cleaner I’m putting it first and all the ramble-y stuff is under a cut:

I guess I can’t say definitively what dragon sickness is, so first let’s look at its symptoms and the fact that it hits Thorin harder than anyone else:

  • Obsession with gold, to the point where it replaces all other priorities in the victim’s life (Thorin on his own values life, and is subverted into holding life as less valuable than gold over the course of his illness)
  • Mood swings triggered by thoughts of wealth. Ex. “It was nobly done—but the treasure…” and also “We have to do something” from Dwalin triggering Thorin to immediately think of hiding the gold, and again the acorn scene’s sudden shift when he hears there are people outside (threatening his treasure, in the same way Smaug would be suspicious of anyone outside his door).
  • Paranoia that those around the victim will try to steal from them. Smaug also showed this paranoia. This paranoia leads to isolation. Conversely, breaking this isolation is shown to help lessen or remove the effects of dragon sickness.
  • Ego Boost “I am fire, I am death!” “Am I not the king?!” “Do not speak to me as if I were some mere dwarf lord, as if I were Thorin Oakenshield” Dragon sickness comes with a power trip that borders on mania. Complete assurance of one’s own superiority, based on the possession of the treasure. The act of possessing treasure and being “king” is all one needs to be actualized. The thought of losing the treasure causes hysteria. For someone like Thorin, who has been beaten down by life, constantly losing people and thing that are dear to him (like his home), and who just found out the great accomplishment of his life, which gave him his epithet Oakenshield was a lie, this kind of power rush gives him a high he’s rarely if ever experience, that of being proud of himself. It would be heady even without the illness, but it turns his victory of reclaiming Erebor into something dark and tragic. It also makes it harder for him to get free of the dragon sickness, because with no point of pride in his life before falling ill it’s hard for him to judge and compare and choose which person he would rather be: Oakenshield or the King. Objectively, Oakenshield was a better person, but it certainly doesn’t feel that way.

Basically: behaving like a dragon in all ways except the physical transformation. (*cough*)

 

So I wrote this section first but it was all over the place so I’m putting it second because that’s how my brain works and also it’s not as streamlined:

Ok, but first of all it’s important to preface this by saying dragon sickness is a fantasy illness. While it may borrow from the symptoms of real illnesses, and Richard certainly did some research into the mannerisms of people who are suffering some form of illness, there is no 1 to 1 comparison and so I hope no one takes offense if I speak very candidly about it.

 First of all, I really like your comment that Thorin coming out of the gold sickness was like a fever breaking, because I think a fever is almost a more apt way of describing what is shown in the movie than a mental illness, because quite honestly the film is a bit ??? when it comes to that. Thorin lost in delirium seems more accurate in some scenes than Thorin having a mental breakdown. It is also, as you say, a curse of some sort in that it is clearly magical and/or it affects a magical race. I know PJ doesn’t stress it very often compared to the elves (who he makes into some kind of angels, quite frankly), but dwarves are magical too. I think emilianadarling in her fic “Beneath the Mountain Music Woke” had the best and most otherworldly take on dragon sickness, where as a dwarf Thorin imagines rubies dripping from his hands and sees gold when he closes his eyes. So I do personally believe dragon sickness has magical properties in that it preys upon the fixation dwarves have on gold and precious gems as a non-human race. The equivalent in elves would be some sort of excessive obsession with starlight, I suppose, it’s a fixation humans can sympathize with but not fully understandbecause to them gold and jewels are not just pretty objects but integral to their being. However, that is straying into pure speculation as far as “dwarves as a different race” goes and is not fully backed up by movie canon. I just wanted to put it out there to stress that dragon sickness is something that happens to fantasy races. While the movie through Gandalf alludes to the fact that everyone around the mountain is currently being touched with dragon sickness, Thorin is the only one explicitly shown to be a victim.

I think the film portrays dragon sickness as a combination of all you said because they themselves are not totally clear on it. It’s a little bit hereditary mental illness, or at least hereditary predisposition to a mental illness, it’s a little bit of a fever with hints of delirium, it’s a little bit of an eldritch magical curse. I’d really like to know if dragon sickness is called that way because it makes one act like a dragon, or if it’s said to be caused by dragons. The film goes back and forth on that too, one minute saying that Smaug’s presence has cursed the gold, the next saying that dragon sickness is a “fierce and jealous love” and therefore something dwarves are familiar with on their own. In “Prayers” I ended up just shifting it to a fever that leads to a physical transformation, in essence saying that as a member of the line of Durin, Thorin  is predisposed to the early symptoms of dragon sickness, the fever aspect, but without contact with gold a dragon has sat upon he would not begin to physically transform, which is Stage 2 of dragon sickness that not everyone gets to without said contact. Even there it was a little fuzzy. 

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So I was listening to one of my favorite Bagginshield feels songs “All We Are”, by Matt Nathanson, when a particular line caught my attention in regards to Thorin.

“Well, it’s hard to change the way you lose, when you think you’ve never won.”

And it made me realize something: Thorin is a loser.

Oh, not literally, after all he has a lot going for him. But from his own perspective, Thorin’s life has been nothing but a string of failures. Starting with losing his home, being unable to provide for his people, being unable to find his father once he vanished, being unable to save his grandfather. Because lest we forget, he did not reach Thror’s side soon enough to defend him, but was only able to avenge his death with half measures. He did not kill Azog as he believed, only wounded him. (It should be obvious by this point that I’m only talking about movie!Thorin) He did not defeat the orc armies, only put them to rout. In that same battle he also lost his brother, who he also could not save, and various other relatives including Fundin, who was an uncle of his. It can’t even be said that they successfully buried the dead, since there was not the time or ability, instead they were forced to burn them in a sacrilegious act that took on significance in the aftermath of that terrible battle.

Settling in Ered Luin was not a victory either, since by all accounts it was a poor substitute for Erebor. His people were impoverished and living on bare subsistence for many years. One presumes that eventually the settlement stabilized for Thorin to be able to initiate the quest for Erebor. But remember in this too, he failed at gathering more than a dozen dwarves to his side, even after addressing hundreds of their closest kin and allies. Even for so obvious and heroic a goal, he could not sway any other dwarves to his side besides a few of his cousins and some opportunists.

And, good lord, then you have the quest itself! They’re nearly eaten by trolls, then crushed by stone giants, then killed by goblins if not for Gandalf providing a distraction and an escape, then by wargs, and all they’re able to do is hide up a tree while waiting for another distraction and escape. Thorin attempts to provide that distraction, by facing his old foe Azog in single combat.

He is defeated almost instantly, and only rescued by the acknowledged weakest member of the party. I mean it, he doesn’t even get a blow in on Azog, and instead endangers others when they need to step in and rescue him for his attempt at heroism.

Desolation of Smaug is little better. Mirkwood is a disaster, when they get lost and are nearly eaten again, this too Thorin could blame on himself. Then they’re captured, and thanks to Thorin’s old grudge against Thranduil they have little chance of escaping without help. The quest nearly ends right there. To jump forward, even facing Smaug ends in humiliation as they set the dragon loose on Laketown, the exact circumstance that Bard warned them about should they attempt to take the mountain.

Guys, Thorin’s life is just one humiliation after another at this point, how is he even still standing for goodness sake?!

Ok, but to my point now: regardless of how badly things have gone to that point, they do gain the mountain. Smaug is defeated. Erebor is reclaimed. Though the circumstances could hardly be worse, Thorin has won.

And I honestly think that alone would be enough to drive him a little bit crazy.

They say this sort of madness happens to a lot of people who have sudden success in life: lottery winners, overnight celebrities, etc. A world of “no” suddenly turns into a world of “yes”, and good sense vanishes with those boundaries. They are patently and demonstrably self destructive as a result. On some level it is postulated that the sudden turn of fortune is so unexpected that the “winner” cannot help but try to undermine it, if only to prove that it’s real or to make it disappear if it isn’t and prevent the inevitable disappointment.

I’ve gone into great detail on this before in other meta, but basically the need to reclaim Erebor is all that’s keeping Thorin together in life. He’s a lot of trauma and longing and desperation all wrapped up in a shell of bravery that is borderline suicidal. The closer he comes to the mountain, the closer he comes to confronting the source of everything that is broken inside of him, and it’s tearing him apart. The sudden loss of that external drive and pressure makes him fly apart spectacularly. But just as much there is the sudden nature of his success. Not just on the quest but in life, this is the first time Thorin Oakenshield has ever really won anything. Because I don’t think he’d see Azanulbizar or Ered Luin as victories. Balin even points out that he has nothing to be ashamed of, that he has “built a good life for our people in the Blue Mountains”, but it’s not enough. This first true, unequivocal victory of a lifetime ambition is also the first true joy and peace I think he’s ever allowed himself and he just. Can’t. Handle. It.

Thorin can’t handle success. He can’t handle victory. Like so many others who have been dealt a life of hardship, he can’t handle the sudden turn of fortune for the better. He can’t allow himself even a hairsbreadth of self-congratulations and reward because he’s so built against expecting such things. He’s built himself a wall against pain and disappointment because there was no other choice, and in the process lost what it was to be whole, and happy, and content in himself.

So all in all I’d say that the dragon sickness at this point is almost unnecessary. It certainly keeps Thorin on the road to ruin, overwhelming his better judgement. But I think on some level the story could have been told without the inclusion of the illness, simply as the tale of how even the strongest amongst us can lose control once they finally achieve their heart’s desire.

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farashasilver asked: Do you mind if I pick your brain about dragonsick Thorin and the rest of the Company? It's clear he still recognizes them ("my sister-sons"), but do you think he sees them as threats, or tools, or even possessions? (1/2)

 

(2/2) If he is mentally assigning Bilbo a place as Consort (placing him beside the throne) is he perhaps mentally arranging the others into their places in the mountain, almost like arranging his hoard? Or do you think they’re just incidental to him?

Hooo, boy, the question of dragon sickness! Specifically what it is, how it works, does it effect others or only Thorin, etc. etc. is one that plagues the fandom. I think, ultimately, we’ll never have an answer because I have a cynical suspicion that the filmmakers themselves don’t entirely know, what with its wide variations between acting as a fever, vs. acting as a magical curse that spreads to all who come in contact with the gold and the vestiges of Smaug’s evil aura, vs. hereditary mental illness.

However, that’s not quite what you’re asking is, it? But rather, how does Thorin see others under the influence of dragon sickness?

I’m going to start this by listing my #1 pet peeve with the way dragon sickness is viewed: there is no evidence that Thorin views people as possessions at any point during the dragon sickness. There is no evidence that Smaug saw living beings as possessions, as our primary example of what dragon sickness is driving the victim towards.* Dragon sickness, by all evidence, does not apply to anything except material items and concepts of status.

(Cut because this got long. I hope you’re happy I just burned an hour responding to this and I loved every second of it :P)

(* This isn’t “Prayers to Broken Stone” talking. Perhaps dragon sickness doesn’t cause a physical transformation that we know of, but we have interviews and anecdotes saying that dragon sickness makes you act like a dragon hence why I use Smaug as an example of what dragon sickness is turning a person into and the ultimate form of the illness.)

Honestly, it drives me absolutely ballistic whenever I see meta or fanon where Thorin sees Bilbo as a possession at any point. There is literally no evidence of this anywhere in the story, and it wouldn’t take much. Some variation on, “You are mine,” would suffice, and there isn’t even a whisper along those lines.

The closest we see Thorin to claiming the lives of others as his possession is when he threatens to spill endless blood to protect the gold. However, his words are “Life is cheap,” which is not something that a dragon hoarding people’s lives as possessions would say. Don’t even get me started on how this is an inversion of Thorin’s character due to the illness, and further highlights how much Thorin values life when he’s in his right mind.

No, clearly the dichotomy of the illness is “Signs of Wealth and Status” are worth more than “Life and Living Beings.” This is why Bilbo continues to be a positive influence on Thorin throughout, he’s the one life Thorin sees as valuable. He reminds Thorin of the value of life with the acorn and that helps temporarily take him out of the sickness, until Dwalin comes along with word that the hoard is threatened by the refugees.

Long story short, let’s just toss the idea of people as possessions to dragon sick Thorin completely out the window. There’s the gold, and there’s people and the more the sickness progresses, the more he sacrifices people to the gold.

(I’m sorry if I’m rambling, but I’m trying to be thorough here, also this is one of my favorite topics.)

So to your point first about the Company: they are not his possessions, except perhaps insofar as they are his subjects and that boosts his status. However, subjects-as-status-symbols appears to be a secondary concern at best to dragon sickness. Smaug was perfectly content to be King under the Mountain with no subjects under his control. Neither is Bilbo a possession, as “romantic” (actually, deeply disturbing) as that notion may be. Though honestly, I’m very disturbed by those who coo over the idea that Thorin sees Bilbo as “belonging to him”, since there’s no evidence of this even under dragon sickness, never mind this bizarre notion that Thorin would shield Bilbo from harm by isolating him as a treasure, which again never appears anywhere in the narrative. Thorin arms Bilbo in order to protect him from battle, which already implies he expects Bilbo to fight beside him. Anyway, back to the topic. 

Only the gold and the mountain itself appear to matter to Thorin under dragon sickness, in a complete inversion in what being a king should mean. It’s a perversion of the idea of kingship as Thorin held it before (“Loyalty, honor, and a willing heart, I can ask no more than that,” which is representative of the kind of person that “has always” been Dwalin’s king). Thorin may make reference to spilling the blood of others as his possession in order to defend the gold, but I got no sense that he would actively seek out more subjects, or that in the absence of people to do his bidding he’d, quite honestly, even notice their lack, and not simply defend the gold with his own blood.

Other than that, I would go with your first assessment of the Company: they are threats to him. In this, the Arkenstone becomes representative of the entire hoard. Their inability and, in his mind, unwillingness to turn over the Arkenstone shows that they are untrustworthy around Thorin’s possessions. As a narrative device it would be absurd to use the entire hoard as an example of why he can’t trust them, for example with the idea they’re keeping gold coins to themselves, since so long as it is within the mountain it is in his domain. However, a single valuable stone could be stolen, and to show that he feels even the slightest treasure being stolen, a single piece of gold stolen, would draw the direct parallel to Smaug and dragon-like powers too quickly. Not until Thorin actually uses a dragon voice and says he, “will not part with a single coin,” do we realize the depth of his similarity to Smaug.

Of course, Thorin is not completely lost. Rather, the withholding of the Arkenstone gives him a point of paranoia on which the sickness can fester. I think the ultimate “goal” of the dragon sickness, the teleology of the illness, is to isolate the victim amongst the treasures they hold so dear. Contact with others is anathema to it. Thorin is at his most healthy when surrounded by others, or having an intimate moment of friendship with an individual. He’s at his most starkly ill when wandering the hoard by himself, or later when sitting on the throne in isolation. He even looks dazed in those instances, slipping into a very dragon-like trance, almost a sleep, as he contemplates his wealth and the threats against it. The same could clearly be said for Thrór, wandering the treasures halls alone when most driven by the sickness. Again, this is why I don’t see people as possessions under the influence of dragon sickness, because the presence of others mitigates the ravages of the illness. At best it may tolerate people-as-subjects who stand by silently and don’t interfere with the victim, only add to the status, but that is an uncomfortable alliance because of the threat they pose as potential thieves.

Going further into your question, is he arranging the dwarves as items in a hoard? I would say no, at most he’s arranging them and Bilbo in a hierarchy. However, I don’t believe it is a complex, organized hierarchy because I don’t believe that dragon sickness values people the way it values treasure. Rather, I think it is the most basic and primal of all hierarchies known to the human mind: Us vs. Them, Me vs. You.

In social psychology 101 it’s referred to as “ingroups” vs. “outgroups”, and to grossly simplify, we see the world as “people who count as me” and “people who count as them”. People with whom their life is as important as your own, vs. people whose lives are “other”, not as important, indeed: expendable.

In Thorin, dragon sickness combined with the absence of the Arkenstone are pushing those he once held dearest from the “ingroup” zone into the “outgroup” zone. The dwarves who once made up his closest friends, family, and confidantes are now outsiders and untrustworthy, their thought processes are opaque and suspect. He can no longer tell whether or not they have evil intentions towards him. He can no longer read them effectively through the haze of suspicion. Clearly as the dragon sickness clouds his mind it cuts him off increasingly from identifying others even as individuals, much less individuals who matter to him. Balin, Dwalin, Fíli and Kíli, everyone is just another potential threat, an outside invader waiting to steal from him and attack him.

(To go slightly into assumption zone and away from direct evidence – I also see Thorin as someone who heavily bases his self-esteem and stability/purpose in life on others. His grounding comes from his family and the dwarves as his people, he has pride in them even if he doesn’t have pride in himself, and this keeps him going. Having that cut away is perhaps the worst thing that could have happened to him. Being King under the Mountain helps fill in where his ego was lacking in terms of personal aggrandizement and actualization, but it cuts off him and his personality type from the much stronger bonds of support that he needs to be stable and healthy.

As I’ve said exhaustively elsewhere: it’s why it’s hard for him to break out of dragon sickness, because being “merely” Thorin Oakenshield again is painful compared to the addictive high of being "King under the Mountain". It’s also why I’ve said withholding the Arkenstone was a huge mistake, because he is not his grandfather, as has been said exhaustively, and the inability to trust his closest kin was a far more insidious point of vulnerability to the ravages of dragon sickness in Thorin's case than any amount of additional wealth could be.)

Now, you also asked about Bilbo. The idea of ingroup vs. outgroup is actually what makes his relationship with Bilbo so extraordinary, and I daresay compelling (from a shipping angle). In the hierarchy of those within the Mountain, the Company and Thorin’s subjects, Bilbo counts as Thorin. That was not a typo. Bilbo at Thorin’s right hand on the dais is not as significant as the fact that he’s on the dais at all. Smaug would not tolerate a threat to his power from an outsider, he would not tolerate another person making claim to the title of King under the Mountain.

I would argue very strongly that to Thorin, Bilbo is not a separate person insofar as he does not represent an outsider, or a threat. Rather, he is a co-owner of the Mountain and the gold. He is Thorin’s last remaining equal. The acorn scene clearly secures this by showing that Bilbo is not a threat to the gold because he values the acorn more than treasure, but we see Thorin putting Bilbo on equal footing above Balin and Dwalin before that, so I would say that something more is going on there. All that scene did was remove Thorin’s last trace of suspicion, though I’d be very curious to see what put Bilbo in a trustworthy position in the first place, since Thorin apparently magically began to believe him over the others at the end of Deslation of Smaug for… whatever reason. Whatever happened, we open in Battle of the Five Armies with Bilbo in a position of superior (if tenuous) trust, and even if unexplained it’s clearly irrefutable.

If we go with the idea that dragon sickness intensifies feelings of love, then it could very well be that Bilbo has been swept up in that, but I think it’s a little more nuanced than that. Again, because I don’t think dragon sickness has an impact on the victim’s view of living people except to move them into the “threat” category. Bilbo escapes this by being as dear to Thorin as his own life, not by being as dear to him as the gold, or any other inanimate possession.

There’s a lot of evidence to show that Bilbo is co-ruler rather than possession: standing on the dais beside Thorin and yet not in a subordinate position, the gold is “ours and ours alone”, giving Bilbo a valuable item from the hoard because in essence it is not leaving the hoard or Thorin’s possession because Bilbo is an extension of him. Now, the question is, why is that? And my answer is: it’s a testament to Thorin’s strength of character and underlying psychology.

Even as the dragon sickness is aggressively moving people from “friend” to “threat” in Thorin’s mind, he still resists. He does so by subconsciously subverting the illness, and moving someone beneath its “notice” into the “Me” category, thus keeping the illness from tearing that bond apart. Thorin may subconsciously recognize how much he depends on other people in his life for his stability, and Bilbo is consistently shown as someone who helps him beat back the illness.

I would venture to say that keeping Bilbo by his side is Thorin make a great subconscious effort to throw off the illness. Notice what Bilbo has done for Thorin again and again: rescued him. He rescued Thorin (and the Company) from the trolls, from Azog’s first attack, from Thranduil’s dungeon, and effectively from Lake-town by vouching that Thorin was trustworthy enough to be allowed to continue his journey. None of these events have gone unnoticed to Thorin. Bilbo could very well represent rescue in Thorin’s mind, so keeping him close is as effective a counter and antidote as Thorin can manage in his current state to this invasion of his mind.

Bilbo also represents a moral compass, for example with his statement that he will help them get their home back, and again when he vouched. In a world where Thorin’s every line of support is being cut away by paranoia, his bond with Bilbo becomes stronger as the last remaining support and the most effective counter to the confusion he’s currently mired in. He is constantly looking to Bilbo for support, for example in the mithril shirt scene when he pulls Bilbo aside and announces that he is “betrayed.” One could argue in that instance that him giving Bilbo the mithril shirt is to defend Bilbo(/himself) from potential attack from the other dwarves, because Bilbo is now in Thorin’s confidence and therefore equally under threat from them in the paranoia of his mind. The Company is now effectively as much a threat as the refugees and elves outside the gate because they are "Other", ie "not-Thorin".

The idea that Bilbo could betray Thorin is now completely foreign to him as a result, because it is the same thing as Thorin betraying himself. Notice that even though he can see the Arkenstone, he immediately assumes that it is a ruse. That is so telling, because Thorin has been searching literally day and night for the artifact, and the first time he sees it he shrugs it off as a fake. Of course, on some level he’s trying to dodge the clear blackmail and leverage that the Arkenstone represents to him, by convincing himself it’s not real, which is actually a very sensible thing to do if one recognizes how much of an effect a single object can have on you while you’re ill. Until Bilbo speaks up.

Now, I don’t see Thorin’s attack on Bilbo as a premeditated assault. Rather, I see it as wheels spinning in confusion. First he tries to act as King in order to give himself stability and remind himself of the ego that dragon sickness has given him, “Throw him from the ramparts!” is an order. Once disobeyed though, Thorin is left floundering because he must take action, effectively, against himself. His “subjects” become secondary to him, as they have always been under the dragon sickness. He’s less concerned with their apparent betrayal than he is by the whiplash from his last support tie snapping back on him. He throws his weapon aside before he lays hands on Bilbo, and clearly pauses once they are face to face, not sure what to do next when confronted by this person who was as dear to him as his own life. His instincts are warring between the significance of the betrayal and the fact that the only thing keeping him steady up to this point was Bilbo’s presence and support. Note that he lets Bilbo escape immediately and makes no attempt to retrieve him or even reference him again.

Further note that even though Thorin has just seen Dain coming over the hillside in one of the biggest and most satisfying wins of Thorin’s life (especially satisfying against his hated enemy Thranduil) this does nothing to bolster his mood. He immediately collapses into the worst bout of dragon sickness we’ve seen yet, sitting immobile on the throne in a trance until Dwalin appears and pulls him slightly out of it. Note again, people serve as a counter to the dragon sickness. The more Thorin interacts with others, the more lucid he is. Perhaps because dragon sickness is strengthened by isolation. Perhaps because dragon sickness is strengthened by supplementing and fulfilling the needs of its victim, and since Thorin psychologically needs companionship to be stable and whole within himself, it is strengthened when those bonds are cut and the sickness can serve as his only point of ego.

Tl;dr: So what are my conclusions after this very long and rambling essay? Living people always provide a counter to dragon sickness in Thorin, because dragon sickness actively isolates him and when alone the disease becomes stronger. They do not count as possessions, only as threats to his material wealth. Bilbo was--or perhaps Thorin subconsciously  made him into--a loophole in this by becoming as dear to Thorin as Thorin himself, something the disease does not directly target because part of dragon sickness is also about sustaining the life of the victim, even by pushing them into cowardly acts they would never otherwise commit (except in defense of their treasure). By slipping Bilbo into the “me” category, he escaped being a target of that paranoia and remained Thorin’s support. However, once that support was gone Thorin free-fell into an advanced stage of the illness. 

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Some BotFA/ dragon sickness meta because it is literally my favorite Hobbit topic:

I believe the reason we don’t see the Company help Thorin sooner, other than narrative convenience, can only be described as the bystander effect.

Definition: The bystander effect, or bystander apathy, is a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders. In other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help. Several variables help to explain why the bystander effect occurs. These variables include: ambiguitycohesiveness and diffusion of responsibility.

Essentially, everyone was expecting someone else to do something about the fact that Thorin was losing his mind to the dragon sickness and could not be counted on as an effective leader. In my opinion, the best thing they could have done was locked him in a closet or sat on him until it all died down. But they didn’t, why?

Balin: Balin is actually the one I blame the most as the oldest figure of authority, the highest ranked besides Thorin, and the one Thorin is most likely to listen to. Yet his one intervention along with Dwalin is extremely tentative, they don’t really do much more than ask Thorin to reconsider his madness, which is rather ineffective regardless of whether it’s an actual mental illness or more of a fantasy curse. Asking isn’t going to snap him out of it. My theory is that it has something to do with why Thror wasn’t taken out of power, to whit, some sort of Dwarven law that would see any overpowering of the king, even for his own good, as treason. Historically it’s not unusual for the body of the king to be sacrosanct in such a way that he can’t be removed from power even to help him, and perhaps dwarves have a strict law on this. 

Dwalin: Dwalin tried, actually succeeded, but didn’t do something sooner. Why not? First, as I’ve written elsewhere, I think Dwalin’s friendship and respect for Thorin can never be underestimated, BUT it carries a dangerous double-edge which means his respect for his king keeps him from acting as a friend should. This is more or less explicitly stated between Thorin telling Bilbo he did “what only a true friend would” and the fact that even at Thorin’s darkest moment, Dwalin’s words of comfort are “You were always my king,” which, given that Thorin is caught in delusions of grandeur, may not actually be the most helpful thing to say. Basically: Dwalin couldn’t help because he didn’t realize Thorin needed an equal more than he needed a loyal man-at-arms. Another reason he may not have acted was that he was waiting for Bilbo to do so, explained below. 

Thorin’s Nephews: Simply put, they either weren’t there to intervene at first (I think a deliberate story choice by the script writers, there’s no way they would have let Thorin get that bad without intervening, hence why they were left behind in Lake-town with Kili’s injury). Then, they were probably waiting for their elders like Balin and Dwalin to intervene. When that didn’t happen is when Kili finally explodes, pushed to the edge by Thorin’s VERY OOC decision not to fight at Dain’s side. Fili said nothing because the narrative forgot he existed. They too however were only pushed to act after Bilbo was out of the picture. 

The Company: Fealty, low rank, the fact the movie forgot that Gloin and Oin were Thorin’s cousins? The fact that Oin, the healer, was away for a good chunk and then the movie forgot he was a healer? Narrative convenience? In-story I’d say it’s because Dwarves simply don’t rebel against their king, which meant all of their hands were tied as far as standing up to Thorin’s madness. It’s really the only in-universe explanation that works. 

Bilbo: Bilbo is the most complex one and lies at the center of BotFA. Yet he too was suffering from the bystander effect. As a non-dwarf, Bilbo assumed the other dwarves would do something when their king was so obviously sick. As dwarves shackled by their fealty to their king, the dwarves were hoping the outsider would be able to step in to do what they could not. Over the course of the Quest, Bilbo had become increasingly capable, basically a second leader in getting them out of scrapes. Certainly by the vouching scene in Lake-town, there was some sort of special bond between him and Thorin. However, Bilbo seems largely unaware of all of this. He doesn’t see himself as anything more than “just a hobbit”, certainly not as the one who can intervene when their leader and king is losing his mind. If nothing else, that would seem an obvious job for the dwarves who have known Thorin all his life, not for the burglar who joined at the last minute. 

Most likely what happened was a miscommunication, and the time lost on realizing that miscommunication is when everything went to hell. In the time it took for Bilbo to get up the courage to try to intervene with Thorin (the acorn scene, the mithril shirt scene) outside events spiraled out of control. When Bilbo realizes the dwarves will not or cannot do anything, the situation outside the gate prevents any sort of healing effort and instead demands a political/martial solution from Thorin, who doesn’t seem to know what planet he’s on. Really a perfect storm of bad circumstances. The Arkenstone as a gambling chip really is his best bet with the little power he believes he has. Actually, one can’t help but wonder if this too is a product of Bilbo’s self-doubt in his own influence. Could Bilbo have theoretically stepped up, as an outsider and taken Thorin’s place when negotiating with Bard? Would the dwarves have followed him? Would Thranduil and Bard have accepted his authority? It seems very possible that they would have, especially with Gandalf there as well. 

Well, instead Bilbo is given no choice but to flee for his life (and flee right back into danger once he sees that Thorin has recovered, because priorities). 

This is when the dwarves realize they have to take action. Which is very interesting that they wait so long, because it basically shows as true that they expected Bilbo to do something that they could not, and this forces their hand. However, even in the most dire of circumstances, no one lays hands on Thorin. Again, perhaps the body of the king is sacrosanct. They use only words. Kili is really the only one who raises his voice, even Dwalin stays extremely respectful the whole time during his confrontation. 

TL;DR It’s my theory that the dragon sickness situation got as bad as it did because everyone inside the Mountain was expecting someone else to take action against Thorin. The dwarves have some kind of law against rising up against their king, and Bilbo didn’t realize his power as default leader, and didn’t take that power, instead trying to appeal to other “greater powers” to solve the problem for him. Only once the dwarves’ best chance to help Thorin was gone (though they never informed Bilbo they saw him as their best chance) the dwarves act but in an extremely muted fashion. Perhaps it was events happening too quickly, perhaps it was denial over how badly sick Thorin really was, but the time it took to solve the problem was arguably fatal as a result, despite having Thror as a roadmap. 

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experimentalpotion asked: OMG probably my shipping googles are too tight on me but whatever. So Bilbo, while in tent, said that Thorin values the Arkenstone above all else, but wow, during all this angst on the ramparts... like Thorin was hurt because it was BILBO who betrayed him, and as it goes, we all are hurt the most by the betrayel of those who are most dearest to us. And like Thorin´s issue wasn´t more about the stone rather about BILBO, so... um, I think Bilbo was veeery mistaken in his assumptions.

Oh, I definitely agree. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that withholding the Arkenstone was not the right call on the part of Bilbo or Balin. Of course, they couldn’t alter it, because that’s what is in the book, but here’s my view on why they were wrong:

1) They were diagnosing the wrong person. There’s a saying in military history that you’re always fighting the previous war. Balin had witnessed Thror’s dragon sickness, which was indeed aggravated by the stone, as it represented the pinnacle of his power and wealth. The problem is that to Thorin it also represents the pinnacle of Thror’s power and wealth. I think Balin’s diagnosis is not sufficiently nuanced to realize that the Arkenstone is something totally different to Thorin than it was to Thror and far more in line with a memory of his lost grandfather and his legacy, as well as proof to Thorin that he is worthy to walk in the shoes he has just occupied. Could that too have made him worse? Perhaps, or perhaps…

2) Thorin was being far more torn apart by the fact he couldn’t trust his friends and family than he was by the absence of the Arkenstone itself. Loyalty, honor, and a willing heart was the basis of Thorin’s trust in the people around him, and as someone who has been so often beaten down and betrayed, that trust was utterly precious. It’s the basis of his current self-confidence, now that he can no longer base it off of defeating Azog all those years ago and the name Oakenshield. So long as the Arkenstone was missing, all of Thorin’s most desperately needed emotional support was called into question, and I do believe that made the sickness so much worse. 

3) In the absence of trust in his friends and family, Bilbo was the only person Thorin could trust. His only light in the dark, based on the fact that Bilbo with the acorn showed that he had no interest in precious items or worldly possessions. Thorin is shown to be desperately clinging to his trust in Bilbo even as he’s surrounded by the greatest achievement of his life none of it matters because he can no longer trust anyone else near him. When Thorin gives that bitter laugh at “Your claim?” all I can think is that he’s laughing at the notion that 1/14th share, or the Arkenstone itself, could come anywhere near the value he placed in his ability to trust Bilbo. Note that once it is gone Thorin free-falls into the sickness. Until then he was still holding on to himself somewhat, still functional. Despite having a huge win in the form of Dain coming to their aid, his despair is immediate as it sinks in that he lost Bilbo and he goes nearly catatonic on the throne as he hits rock bottom. Trust was far more precious to him than the Arkenstone.

4) He gave it to Thranduil. Thanduil. Thranduil, Bilbo, really?! Oh of course Bard was there too, quite visibly as Thranduil’s lackey against Thorin. Of course we understand Bilbo’s motives and Thorin once cured immediately admits it was the right thing to do, but if someone I trusted lied to me and gaslighted me and then gave the most precious artifact I had of my family and grandfather’s pride to the person I hate most in the world, who literally stood by and did nothing while my people died, I think I would go a little ballistic too. Unfortunately everyone was wrong there, and everyone was right, and everyone had understandable motives, which only makes it a worse mess all around. 

So long story short, I agree. Bilbo was absolutely right to use the Arkenstone as the only bargaining chip that could effectively break the deadlock ( though the deadlock itself became irrelevant with the arrival of Dain and then the orcs). However, he was utterly mistaken in the belief that Thorin valued the Arkenstone more than his trust in Bilbo and his other loved ones, as that was clearly tearing at Thorin far worse than the absence of the stone itself. 

Part 2

emsiecat answered your question “I hear some people enjoy my meta, and I guess miss it??? So if there’s…”

(You might have answered this before?), how you think things might have gone had Bilbo confessed to giving away the Arkenstone before the ‘public humiliation’ thing happened? Would Thorin have reacted differently? Would it change events from there on

Ok, so here’s the thing, it’s kind of impossible to know. Obviously we have the book and they were never going to deviate on it for that scene (well, except that Thorin is more heartbroken than angry and I will never be ok). But then again, the films did change enough canon (like Azog living) that it is fair to speculate on how things could have fallen out differently given the characters they gave us, and how different they are from the book. 

I’m not sure Bilbo confessing to giving away the Arkenstone would have had a much better impact. Even Kili is pretty outraged to see the stone in Bard’s hands, so that I think still would have been a problem and may have fallen out much the same way - the public humiliation isn’t really what made Thorin flip out, it was Bilbo’s betrayal and I don’t think a change of scenery would have done much more than make the whole scene a little quieter, with Bofur still hustling Bilbo out of the mountain. 

The more interesting question is, what would have happened if he had given it to Thorin instead of Bard?

Because unfortunately, giving the Arkenstone to Thranduil and Bard in the films didn’t do anything except buy the Company maybe 5 minutes on the battlements, because Dain’s army showed up immediately. Even in the book, Bilbo’s actions of giving away the stone barely have any impact at all. He didn’t know the orcs were coming as well, which would bury all the differences between Elves, Dwarves, and Men literally within minutes or hours of the gesture. So in essence, you don’t need Bilbo giving the Arkenstone away to save their lives. 

This is by no means to undermine the heroism of that action, or the care he showed in trying to save their lives, or the cleverness in using the one object that could break the stalemate. 

However, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I think Balin’s advice is wrong to Bilbo on the Arkenstone. I think he was fighting the last war, he was thinking about Thror’s obsession and how it stole his reason. He was not thinking, could not even begin to comprehend, the extent to which the absence of the Arkenstone only drove up Thorin’s paranoia because it was a symbol of Thorin’s right to stand in Thror’s place. Not having it also stole from Thorin his certainty that he could trust those closest to him. I don’t think necessarily that it would have cured him, he could indeed have gotten worse and become almost catatonic, focusing only on the jewel in his hand. 

However, I don’t think having it would have made him more violent or despotic, probably just more dazed like Thror was. If the Arkenstone was a drug, it would be a huge injection all at once, but probably one that would make him more passive because he could now trust those around him not to steal from him, and trust in Bilbo. So I don’t think giving it to Thorin would have been the best thing, and in fact forcing Thorin to confront the lowest depths of his illness once he hit rock bottom after losing the stone may have snapped him out of it much sooner. But I think as far as managing his symptoms and giving him peace of mind, having the stone on hand would have made him more able to rely on his support network of the other Dwarves, and it would have spared him the pain of losing Bilbo (even if that pain is what jolted him out of the sickness). 

There’s also the question in all of this: was Smaug right? Or was Smaug deliberately manipulating Bilbo to do the one thing that would drive Thorin even more insane, which is fear and suspicion of theft? It would certainly be more in keeping with who and what Smaug is, it is Tolkien lore that dragons deliberately lie to send their prey mad, and that could have been a textbook example. Why do we suddenly trust Smaug’s judgement on what is best for Thorin?

There’s also the question of whether the Arkenstone has any power beyond the symbolic, which the movie leaves dreadfully vague, and so it’s hard to say if the impact on Thorin would have been much better or worse had he had it in hand.

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murmuredlullabye asked: See this is fascinating because now I'm wondering if Thorin's goldsickness might have actually been more MANAGEABLE if they had given him the Arkenstone, reaffirming his trust in them and the fact that the Company supports him. One of the things therapists repeat over and over again when dealing with mental illness is the need for a string support network, which is exactly what Thorin couldn't believe he had.

THIS EXACTLY!

I can understand Balin’s fears. Perhaps he thought that with the Arkenstone in hand there’d be nothing to distract Thorin and he’d go into free-fall. Or perhaps he thought it would bring out a twisted and megalomaniacal streak that we see a glimpse of when Thorin denies aid to Bard. 

But then we get that line, “As if I were a mere dwarf lord, as if I were Thorin Oakenshield,” and my heart stops. Because there it is, this thing we’ve only been getting glimpses of since AUJ when Thorin cannot meet the eyes of those who show faith in him. Thorin is so touched by the loyalty of those who agree to follow him, even though you know he thinks they’re only there for their own wealth and self-interest. The thought they’d follow him at all with “loyalty, honor, and a willing heart” is clearly extremely meaningful to him and heavily implies it’s a rare thing, given the fact that he did not gain a single volunteer from the meeting of his kin and all but four members  (excluding Gandalf) of the Company are direct relatives of his. Bofur, Bifur, Bombur, and Bilbo are the only ones who are not members of the direct Line of Durin who agree to help. Balin is the only one making jokes about “Not the best, or brightest.” Thorin, for all that he is a legendary warrior from an exalted lineage, never makes a joke at the expense of the dwarves in the Company.

The problem of course is, since Thorin can’t believe that anyone would follow him on the quest for himself, but all rather out of self-interest in reclaiming Erebor, there’s going to be that whispering voice that says they all have an interest in the Arkenstone. To Balin and Dwalin it is absurdly obvious that no one would withhold the Arkenstone from Thorin, because to them Thorin has always been their king, and that’s a line they would never cross. But Thorin doesn’t intrinsically know that, he is actually shocked when Dwalin says “You have always been my king,” though to Dwalin the statement seems obvious. There’s a huge failure to communicate going on here, and it’s aggravated by the loss of the stone, and the dragon sickness, and the fact that Thorin has put so much off until he reclaims Erebor, only to have his judgement clouded once he’s there. 

Thorin desperately needed his support network once the dragon sickness descended. And lest we forget, it was Smaug who planted the idea in Bilbo’s head that giving the Arkenstone to Thorin would have a negative effect, and throughout Tolkien dragons are noted as using poisonous words to twist the minds of their victims and that was clearly happening there, as Smaug obviously does not have Thorin’s best interest in mind but is actually sowing conflict deliberately. 

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Interesting point, but if you run with the idea that dragon sickness literally turns Thorin into the opposite of himself, in how it makes him abandon Dain and his armies, suspect his own family, and value hoarded gold over the lives of his people or other refugees, I wonder what we can construct of Thror? 

Because we see very little of Thror except when he’s under the dragon sickness, but perhaps we can reconstruct a glimpse of who he used to be if we assume the sickness essentially turns dwarves into dark mirrors of themselves.

Hoarding gold —-> Generous? There was much talk of gold flowing out from Erebor, making Dale prosperous amongst others. So we may be able to assume that before he got sick, Thror was extremely generous with his vast wealth. 

Refusing the gems/Breaking contracts —–> Extremely devoted to keeping his word? We may be able to assume that if Thranduil gave the gems to be set in a necklace, and Thror refused to give them back or raised the price before returning them, that Thranduil assumed at one point that Thror was trustworthy enough to give the gems to in the first place. For example, if Thror was particularly noted for keeping his word, which makes sense for the great king of a great kingdom. 

A hatred of elves —–> open to dealing with other races? We can also assume he refused to give Thranduil the gems out of a hatred for elves. This could be a transformation from being a person who overlooked race, which is also in evidence from the alliances Thror forged with Mirkwood and Dale in the first place. 

- Putting his family in danger at Azanulbizar —-> overly protective of family? If we assume that losing the mountain did NOT cure Thror of dragon sickness, then the bid to reclaim Moria could have been part of his greed. The deleted scene of Thorin talking about fireflies refers to a very isolated and insular life, where the heirs were fiercely protected by Thror, perhaps even forbidden to leave the mountain. That may have changed over time, with dragon sickness making Thror willing to throw away the lives even of his closest kin, who once he would not even allow into any kind of danger. After all, his line being secure in his son and grandson was a huge point of pride for him, especially since we know Thror lost his brother and father in the Grey Mountains to dragons. This also jives well with what we see of Thorin’s illness and “life is cheap” if we assume dragon sickness imposes some similar changes on similar people. 

Conclusion? So what does that leave us with - the transformation of a generous, gregarious person who did not see race and freely traded with them, who was obsessed with the safety of his family, dedicated and driven, capable of founding one of the wealthiest kingdoms in Middle Earth and sharing the wealth to promote their neighbors in the region. A person that dwarves like Thorin and Balin would look up to unquestioningly and idolize, someone even Elrond could admire, and Thranduil do business with. Someone who built up Dale as well as Erebor. So when things began to sour, there was such a buildup of admiration but also of faith, that no one could believe that the person they’d known to be so wise for centuries could ever break and become the opposite. If we look at Thorin under the dragon sickness though, and who he became, essentially the opposite of who he once was, then perhaps we can see who Thror was too.

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But man, baggvinshield‘s post about Thorin being overt about his romantic feelings for Bilbo under the influence of dragon sickness really has me thinking (such a good post btw). Because I did a post not long ago that postulates that dragon sickness doesn’t just change one aspect of dwarves it infects, but it actually turns them inside-out as far as their personalities go. Like, every trait they had before is essentially reversed. I did a post about what we can deduce about Thror’s personality if we assume this to be the case (so like, he’s greedy now, which means that once he was generous).

But what does this say about Thorin in regards to Bilbo?

- Quickly gonna say, I don’t think dragon sickness made feelings for Bilbo where there were none, it’s not that kind of reversal. Rather, it’s changing his behavior in revealing it, and that behavior says a lot. 

- I think the dragon sickness attacks Thorin’s ego primarily, basically giving him one where there wasn’t any before. So Thorin having delusions of grandeur, seeing the kingship as something that makes him untouchable in his authority, something that he flaunts with rich clothing meanwhile ignoring the plight of his people, those are all things Thorin on his own would never do. We have a lot of evidence to back that up: the fact that once he breaks free he switches to fairly simple clothes, the fact that he’s primarily concerned with the feelings of the Comany in regards to him as his first priority once he snaps out of it, the fact that all his arrogance about being king (”I am your king!”) is basically snuffed out immediately and that he throws away the crown. My point is - we have other actions he took under dragon sickness as examples of just how much the illness didn’t just change his behavior, but actually inverted it to the polar opposite. 

So how does he behave towards Bilbo under dragon sickness?

Not making him look for the Arkenstone or be an active member of the Quest.  - “Sober” Thorin did not single out Bilbo for special treatment or remove his responsibilities (”We send the lightest first” “I will not risk this Quest for the life of one burglar.”) That may seem harsh and un-romantic, but witness too that Thorin turned Kili, his own kin, away from the Quest when he presented a risk to it. Thorin doesn’t put his loved ones before Erebor. Not until Erebor is reclaimed does he apologize profusely for all all the actions he had to take to get it back, heavily implying that he wishes he didn’t have to take them but too bound up in honor to do otherwise (”I am sorry I led you into such peril” is not spoken until after he is certain he succeeded). So essentially, dragon sickness stops Thorin’s natural instinct not to give his loved ones special treatment which is a good quality for a leader to have, and one the dragon sickness undermined. 

Assuming that Bilbo will stay in Erebor - “This gold is ours and ours alone,”, having Bilbo with him on the dais, and my own belief that parting with the mithril shirt did not represent “parting with a single coin” because he didn’t see giving it to Bilbo as giving it away. This leads me to believe that “sober”, Thorin would be very cautious about making such an assumption. And we have evidence of this with “Go back to your books, your armchair and your garden.” On his own, with a clear mind, Thorin assumes that Bilbo will want to go home after all this is over and encourages him to do so. Only under the sickness is it revealed that he may wish it to be otherwise, only the sickness I think gives him the confidence to make this assumption. I would say that in his heart of hearts, Thorin may wish Bilbo would stay, but he would never presume to force him and only under the sickness would he assume that what he wants will happen. Because on his own Thorin almost never assumes what he wants will happen (without costing him his life see: Erebor and Azog’s death).

Thorin is unable to see his own flaws under dragon sickness - witness his confusion whenever someone brings up that “he is changed.” This leads me to believe that he has a very heightened awareness of his own flaws naturally, and tragically this is one reason that dragon sickness probably feels good, and therefore is more difficult to escape. It’s like a drug in that respect. Normally, Thorin would hear others pointing out his flaws and listen - see his expression when Elrond talks about the dragon sickness. See the way he evades praise when Balin gives his speech about Azanulbizar, or Dwalin in Lake-town where he looks reluctant to step forward. We can assume that normally he would take criticism from Bilbo very seriously (see his expression in the Misty Mountains when Bilbo said he was right to say Bilbo didn’t belong there), and actually under the sickness he wavers and begins to consider Bilbo’s words and looks like he might snap free.

Ignoring Bilbo’s advice under dragon sickness - see “Do as he says” in the Mirkwood Dungeons, or even his look of realization with the trolls when Thorin understands Bilbo’s plan. Yet at the gate when Bilbo says they can’t possibly fight because they’re outnumbered, Thorin brushes his concerns aside and acts as if he knows better. So right there we see that on his own Thorin would take Bilbo’s advice extremely seriously, and had he been sober in that instance he most likely would have appealed to Bilbo for a plan on how to deal with the army at their doorstep. 

Being super flirty with Bilbo under dragon sickness - just going back, but that look he gives Bilbo at “never underestimate dwarves” is SO flirtatious, I cannot believe. Also the mithril shirt itself could be seen as a blazing gesture of his regard. Whereas, on his own Thorin would probably be much more quiet about his love, saying it with looks rather than speeches or gestures, as he does in the acorn scene and at their farewell. His love is usually in his eyes in soft looks, rather than open flirtation. (I’d like to imagine Thorin as basically drunk in that instance and ifwhen he got better he definitely had a moment of Oh Mahal please tell me I didn’t do that last night help I’m so embarrassed why)

Controlling Bilbo’s movements/manhandling Bilbo at all - Thorin once cured is very open with how much he wants Bilbo to be free to return to his own life. Only under the sickness does he try to control his movements, or manhandle him, or lay hands upon him. Again, I think that means we can safely assume that no matter how far Thorin could be “pushed” while sober and sane he would never lay hands on Bilbo or presume to drag him away from the Company or otherwise do more than verbally request he do something (”Master Baggins, I suggest you keep up” after Rivendell). Caveat to this being Thorin’s responsibilities as leader of the Company, where he will give orders but only in that capacity and out of necessity for their to be a central leader. He never presumes to ask others to do things just for himself, not even when he kept Kili away (where I got the sense that on his own he understood and wanted Kili to come, but he even frames it to Fili as “when you are king, you will understand” which clearly shows that this was an order he gave as a leader, and not as a family member. See point 1). 

I can’t think of any other particular examples off the top of my head, and obviously this is only my own take, but it does have me thinking a lot about how Thorin and Bilbo would advance their relationship after, and who Thorin would be now with his awareness of himself under dragon sickness, and knowing that oh god he blew it he was way more obvious than he meant to be, oh Mahal please let the ground rise up and swallow him whole, but only after he’s done looking softly at Bilbo with his heart in his eyes

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I think Thrain would go into sensory overload if he was dropped into the middle of the Arkenstone Debacle/Battle of Five Armies issues. He may no longer be mad from Sauron’s torture but he is deeply traumatized and probably still has issues telling reality from illusion. 

I think one on one he could do some good. I think he could remind Thranduil of his obligations, but honestly I doubt Thorin was the only one with that strong a reaction to Thranduil’s betrayal of their alliance, and I doubt that Thrain could get results now if he couldn’t before.

Thrain would be most useful in helping Thorin. If Thorin could be convinced that Thrain is really there, it may even help break him out of the dragon sickness. For one thing, he may not even technically be king at that point, but more importantly I think Thrain could give Thorin forgiveness he desperately needs - assurance that he has done well, that he doesn’t need to throw his life away on Erebor, that he did not fail his father (Thrain I think would have been horrified if Thorin showed up at Dol Guldur looking for him). 

don’t think Thrain could be an effective leader or politician at this point, nor that he should be forced to take on that role. I think he’s seen too much. But as a support and pillar of trust and love for Thorin I think he could quite literally have single-handedly resolved a lot of the issues Thorin had under dragon sickness (with having no one he could trust) and help dispel a lot of Thorin’s traumas as well for the better. I don’t think it’s a stretch, for example, that Thrain would caution Thorin yet again against taking on Azog alone, and even if Bilbo was absent he’d have a voice of reason encouraging him to, for example, take a larger force to challenge the Pale Orc and perhaps even, for example, leave Fili and Kili behind (as Thrain tried to do with Thorin all those years ago).

Part 2

madametortilla asked: I'm really curious to read about your meta regarding an AU where Gandalf saves Thráin and brings him back to Thorin (in Erebor) during the the siege of Erebor. Thorin would be flabbergasted, to say the least.

OH MAN OH MAN

Sometimes I can’t even think about what would have happened if Thorin saw Thrain again because I get SO. EMOTIONAL. 

Quite honestly, I think it would have been enough to snap Thorin out of dragon sickness. Forget the Arkenstone, which he tried to pretend was a trick, this would mess him up but in a positive way. If it’s during the wall scene he would definitely pull the whole, “This is a trick!” thing but he would definitely waver too. Thrain would look very different after all.

However, there is no way in hell that Thrain would allow himself to be used as a hostage against Thorin, and it would speak poorly of Thranduil, Bard, and Gandalf if they allowed that to happen. Thrain would do everything in his power to get to his son’s side, especially if he saw the marks of dragon sickness on him. 

But let’s examine this for a moment! Because a lot of what dragon sickness targets would be resolved by having Thrain around.

Thorin’s position as king. Perhaps the dodgiest as far as him possibly reacting badly, but having Thrain around does somewhat throw Thorin’s claim to the throne into question, since Thrain was the Crown Prince and not him. One thing I get really emotional about is the fact that Thorin crowning himself indicates that, one way or the other, he has given up on his father being alive. 

Thorin’s belief that he must reclaim Erebor is, in my opinion, based on what he sees as the “final words” of his father and grandfather. I truly believe that a huge part of his obsession is his belief he’s carrying out their legacy. After all, the battle at Moria was meant to gain a new homeland for the exiled dwarves of Erebor, that both fell in the taking of it means that the last thing Thorin knew of them was that they wanted to get a home back. We learn later that Thrain under no circumstances wants Thorin to go back to Erebor. Thrain being able to clarify this would have a profound impact on Thorin. He may still wish to reclaim Erebor for his own reasons, but it would no longer be relying on the belief that he’s doing it in Thrain’s name. 

Thorin’s isolation. One problem that the dragon sickness is clearly causing is isolating Thorin from the others on the belief they stole they Arkenstone. Thrain clearly could not have taken it, so immediately Thorin gains an ally and confidante that he can trust, which can only do good things for him. 

Thorin as an orphan. Thorin is clearly profoundly hurt by the loss of his family members. This causes its own isolation, where all the other members of the Company have a brother on their status level to relate to. Yes he has his nephews, but he’s in charge of them. Having his father around gives Thorin someone he can lean on, which will do wonders for his health in my opinion. 

Thorin as the bearer of every responsibility. There is no one who can tell Thorin he’s working too hard, or that he’s not well, without breaking the status hierarchy. As his father, even if he’s not king, Thrain can bypass all of that in private and give Thorin orders on self-care that no one else has the authority to give. 

Thorin’s insecurities. A huge part of Thorin’s sense of inadequacy before the Quest began was his inability to find his father. Having Thrain back, even if he didn’t save him, would soothe a part of him that has been suffering since Azanulbizar. In this one thing, at least, he was not wrong. Thrain is alive, and has returned. He’ll get a new sense of inadequacy that he wasn’t the one to save Thrain, but this can be mitigated by Thrain’s living presence. 

Thorin’s dragon sickness. Something of a reiteration of all the previous points, but I truly do believe Thrain could snap Thorin out of dragon sickness. If the sickness feeds on isolation and a sense of inadequacy made up for by his kingship and worldly possessions, Thrain can serve as an antidote and voice of reason for all of those, soothing Thorin’s sense of self-worth, helping to get him away from the gold, and also being a trustworthy voice because he cannot have stolen the Arkenstone, or even if he had it would be because Thrain has a greater right to it than even Thorin does. I can see the dragon sickness trying to convince Thorin that Thrain is a threat with his greater right to kingship, but Thorin being far too overjoyed at the return of his father to pay any attention to that impulse. 

I just… there needs to be more Everyone Lives AU where Thrain is alive, but I almost can’t do it myself because of how painfully joyful it would be for Thorin, especially at his lowest moment under dragon sickness. Thrain could, in my opinion, have saved the day had he been there.

 

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With regards to Thorin's quote in Desolation of Smaug "I have the only right," and how it contrasts with his later statement in Erebor, "I have no right to ask this of any of you." Seen here: http://avelera.tumblr.com/post/108049236755/boromirs-thorin-in-dos-v-thorin-in-botfa

I’ve seen a posts that regard this transition as character development, but to me it’s not that at all, it’s actually very consistent characterization throughout.

In the first gif, Thorin is being questioned on his right to enter the mountain. As the heir to the kingdom, and an extension of the line of Durin, Thorin is speaking what he believes to be the truth. (Never mind what Bard is saying, essentially barring Thorin from returning to his own ancestral home in much the same way the hobbits tried to bar Bilbo from Bag End.) Thorin’s self-doubt has never manifested itself in any doubt towards the rights of his lineage and the pride of his people. 

Where Thorin’s self-doubt manifests is his right to ask anything of anyone as a person, as Thorin Oakenshield. That’s what’s happening in the second gif. Thorin has cast off the kingship at this point, he’s thrown away his crown and come before the Company as only himself, not as an extension of the line of Durin or as the heir of Thror. He’s asking them to help him redeem his own person by coming with him into battle. He's not commanding them as their king to do so. Thorin truly believes he has no right to ask people who have followed him across the world to follow him now into battle, because he truly believes no one would ever follow him if not for his right and ancestry. 

This is a huge part of the tragedy of his character. When Dain cries for the dwarves to rally around their king, when the Company follows Thorin into battle, when the tide turns because Thorin has joined it, it’s because he is king. Not because of lineage or right, but because he is everything a king should be. Except Thorin cannot see that, cannot understand it. He does not see himself as worthy of kingship, only an extension of a far greater person, his grandfather, against whom he is only a pale shadow by comparison, at least in his own mind. 

This is what makes Bilbo’s, “To me he was never that,” so poignant, and why the dwarves are elevating Thorin into legend. To them, they are showing in death that he was their king in his own right, a legend in his own right, even if he could not see it. But to Bilbo, he was always a person of his own, and a friend, and I think in some ways that was the greatest gift he could ever give Thorin, who in all his life was never able to separate himself from all the expectations upon him, except in Bilbo’s eyes. 

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castellan-garak asked: i totally dig the 'thorin takes bilbo's last name' headcanon, but i was wondering why you said he thinks oakenshield is shameful? that was in botfa when he was dragon sick & talking to dwalin, right? he said his epithet like it was something dirty, but i didn't understand why

I may be over-extrapolating on it, which is always possible, but the fact is that his voice is broken and he’s clearly sobbing or on the edge of tears when he says, 

“Do not speak to me as if I were some lowly dwarf lord… as if I were still Thorin Oakenshield… I am your king!”

Even if you don’t read self-loathing into that line there’s definitely some disassociation going on just from the wording and use of the third person. That’s the most mild interpretation. I personally think it’s something much deeper, the fault line of something that’s been eating at Thorin since Azanulbizar that has only been given voice in the desperation and confusion of dragon sickness. Any way you read it, his identity as Oakenshield is associated with “lowly”. Not a king, but just one of many dwarven nobility carrying no greater significance.

I’ve expounded on it exhaustively elsewhere in other meta - but in an attempt to make a long story short: 

1) Being a king is clearly better than being Thorin Oakenshield 2) Thorin Oakenshield was an identity he had since the day his grandfather and brother died and his father went missing (not to mention various uncles and cousins died if one considers Fundin at the very least). 3) He gained that name avenging the brutal murder of his grandfather, presumably by killing Azog 4) In Richard’s own words, that’s the moment where he became the Thorin we know. His fighting style before that is skilled by a bit juvenile and all over the place. He becomes a driven and contained fighter from that point on as part of his physical identity (so it’s a significant moment) 5) In AUJ he discovers that Azog is still alive, his grandfather is therefore unavenged, his family is once again at risk from a driven psychopath AND, if he understands any Black Speech, that Azog had a hand in personally torturing Thrain while Thorin was unawares. 6) He loses the oak shield in the battle, both literally and figuratively losing his right to that name. 7) Presumably, that name was the basis of most of Thorin’s positive image of himself. Even if he counted Ered Luin as a poor replacement for Erebor, even if he was a failure in other ways, at least he had avenged his grandfather and gained a warrior’s title. Not so much anymore.  

I think Thorin associates the name Oakenshield with all of the suffering in his life. It recalls a dark day in his past, a day where he lost everything even if he earned some respect. But clearly I think he would rather have the throne of Erebor as he was intended to have it rather than lose his grandfather and undergo all that suffering. In a way, becoming King represents a break from the suffering in his life, the accomplishment of his goal. Under any other circumstances it would be a joyous and quite possibly healthy move to make that distinction. IE, I don’t think under healthy circumstances like picking up a new epithet (for example, seeing marrying Bilbo and gaining the name Baggins with it as a proud moment and a turning point in his life) would necessarily be unhealthy for him to cast off Oakenshield and pick up a new name. Especially if he sees “Oakenshield” as “lowly”. The problem is that he puts all his pride in being king and keeps none for the person he used to be which is clearly not healthy. 

Ugh, man I could go on with this forever but tl;dr - I think there’s a lot of trauma attached to the name Oakenshield, bad memories and good things too with the respect he earned (but didn’t earn because it was a lie until he finally killed Azog for good). I think even when Thorin comes back to himself and feels secure once more in his identity as Thorin Oakenshield and not the king (and perhaps even abdicates the throne, which I believe he did when he threw away the crown) - I think it would not necessarily be unhealthy for Thorin to take on a new epithet and a new identity as he embarks on a new and healthier life. I don’t think Oakenshield should be cast away, but if Silmarillion has taught us anything it’s that people can have an absolutely endless list of nicknames for all their accomplishments.

But, as a side note, Bilbo couldn’t take Oakenshield anyway because it’s not a last name it’s a titleThorin does not have a last name

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experimentalpotion asked: "He had thrown away the crown, Dwalin had said, why would you put it back?" This made me think of "Will you follow me one last time?" So if Thorin threw away the crown, that meant he really was abdicating the throne? And his words with following him one last time support that? Cause once he is not a king, he will really have no right to ask them to follow him once more, cause he will be just a simple mortal. BTW, thanks for the snippet and effective breaking of my heart! Well done!

Sorry for the heartbreak >.< (This is the fic they’re referring to)

I truly believe Thorin abdicated the throne in his own mind when he threw away the crown. It makes the most sense when you consider the words, “I have no right to ask this of you,” because he has effectively thrown away that right. Thorin has never had an issue commanding the dwarves as king and heir of Thrór, his difficulty extends when he’s acting as only Thorin and when he has nothing to offer them in return. Or so he believes, now that the mountain is claimed I don’t think he believes the dwarves of the company have any further reason to follow him.

Dwalin is the only one who would have possibly seen Thorin before and after, and put together that Thorin threw away his crown. He’s the only one who might connect that Thorin didn’t want to be king anymore, especially when you consider he went up to Ravenhill by himself, or just with Fíli, Kíli, and Dwalin, and then took steps to make sure Fíli and Kíli got out of there (*sob*). That is not the action of a king with a kingdom to rule, but of an individual trying to make up for his past mistakes of letting Azog live. He could very well have sent Fíli and Kíli away when it got dangerous because he intended them to follow as kings. 

However, Dain does not know of this, and Thorin never said with words that he no longer saw himself as King under the Mountain, so I feel it would be natural considering the whole, “To the king!” and the fact that even Gandalf says, “They’re rallying to their king,” for outsiders to still see Thorin as a king, and style him as one after his death. It would be an intensely personal and not widely advertised matter that he did not think of himself as one in his final hours, and may have even resisted the crown and the title had he been able to. That styling him as a king would be against his wishes, and perhaps bordering on an insult because of the great battle he fought to throw off the sickness. I feel like only those who knew Thorin very well in those final hours would make this connection, but of course they would only be small voices amongst all those who wished to honor Thorin Oakenshield, and likely drowned out. Hence too why I believe Bilbo’s words about, “That’s how you choose to honor him,” is his very polite way of not interfering with dwarven matters, but ultimately choosing not to partake in a ceremony that honor Thorin as a king, because that’s not what he would have wanted. He’s going off to mourn Thorin alone as an individual, as his friend or maybe more, because that’s how Bilbo chooses to honor him. 

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Anonymous asked: Your post was interesting and I'm nervous weighing in so let me know if you want me to send a private message, but I did want to add it's commonly accepted that Thorin can be dick, sometimes it becomes all he ever is, and maybe parts of the narrative contributes? Ppl see Elrond as the smart one nobody listens to, so his comments about Thorin aren't seen as wrong. Thorin dies so the common opinion is that it was narrative punishment. Bilbo's flaws are ignored bc he's seen as just innocent.

Yeah no those opinions are definitely around! But I’d say this:

- Thorin can be dickish, and Thorin also dies, but it seems bluntly ignorant to say that those two things are directly related. A character can die without it being a result of their flaws, unless this is a hyper-simplistic morality tale (and therefore boring as fuck). Thorin had a richly complex life and died facing a shadow of his past, but if people see A led to B led to C led to D and assume that means A = D then that’s their loss. Not to mention, Azog had nothing to do with dragon sickness??

- Elrond says “Men are weak” “Dwarves care nothing for the troubles of others” voices outright skepticism of the hobbits succeeding in the Quest. He was right about Isildur and jaded as a result, but wrong about Aragorn (and admits it), right to be careful of the dragon and to be concerned Thorin would fall to dragon sickness, but voiced no belief at all that they could overcome these threats (so again, he was wrong). There’s a difference between a character being wise vs. all-knowing, and the latter is frankly boring. Elrond can be an overall good person and still dislike or be uncertain about other good people that he’s never met before

- Bilbo being innocent - I’m going to laugh for a thousand more years at this. Bilbo is grouchy, snarky, brave, caring, clever and also a thief and a liar. He was as much a part of the narrative as Thorin and the two are well matched in their mix of bad and good qualities. Why he gets polarized to this perfect little angel is so baffling to me on so many levels, but if people choose to ignore them there’s not much I can or should do about that *shrugs*

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Anonymous asked: Sorry, I'm not even sure how to articulate my point lol. I don't think dragonsickness is exactly like a real mental illness (I can see Thorin having depression, he reads exactly like a victim of trauma since that's what happened) but I know some people like me could relate to the feeling. But since it's the wise characters like Gandalf or elves saying it, it's taken as him proving them right. And he dies anyway, so even if he believes he needs to die to redeem himself, it's not challenged.

1) Totally agree re: Thorin’s potential for depression. Thorin without dragon sickness has definite signs of being a victim of trauma, possible signs of depression, and clear examples of a low sense of self-worth. I tend to read this as “nurture” rather than “nature” based, as in a result of his experiences, but other very articulate fan writers ( like madamefaust) have speculated that he may have a family predisposition to depression, insomnia, etc. Either way, I’ve only ever seen this point respectfully treated by fans and, arguably, by the creators ie Richard Armitage’s character building. 

2) I agree that wise characters in LotR/Hobbit can often come across as “Word of God”, but I would point out that they are just as often proven wrong. Elrond claims “Men are weak” and skepticism about hobbits on the quest, and is proven wrong and admits to being wrong, he also claims that dwarves care nothing for the troubles of others and is directly contradicted by Gimli joining the Quest not a day later, and even in that face of that contradiction continues to be petty by barely acknowledging the Dwarves. These characters are not all-knowing, they have histories and opinions and prejudices just like any other character and as Gandalf also says, “Even the very wise cannot see all ends.” Elrond voices concerns about Thorin’s apparent hereditary illness but he does not state that Thorin will fall, he asks Gandalf’s opinion and Gandalf voices his support that Thorin has every right to pursue this quest, and will likely justifiably do so even without Gandalf’s help. By the time Gandalf voices his concerns about dragon sickness to Bilbo about Thorin’s health, it’s after Thorin is demonstrably ill, and after Bilbo has effectively betrayed Thorin’s trust. Gandalf is saying that after this act, it would be foolish for Bilbo to return to Thorin’s side and if anything, Bilbo pronounces unequivocal faith and trust in Thorin. What he wasn’t ready for was just how much the illness had changed Thorin’s natural behavior and it is presented as an aberration, not who Thorin really is. There’s constant evidence that this illness turns Thorin effectively inside-out. 

Tl;dr: wise characters are constantly shown to be wrong in the Middle Earth world, and Thorin’s case was no different.

3) I really, truly, do not believe Thorin’s death was his moment of redemption. This was: 

Thorin’s willingness to fight redeemed him, and it’s constantly reinforced that this is what Thorin would naturally do on his own, because he is noble and courageous. His kin like Dain and Kili vocally state their confusion when he doesn’t join the battle immediately. This is Thorin as he naturally is. Now, Thorin may believe himself unredeemable because of his bout of illness, much in the same way Boromir is ashamed for briefly succumbing to the Ring’s call. Their shame may jointly lead to a lack of self-preservation due to despair, but again, both set out to fight to redeem themselves, not die to redeem themselves or they could simply have fallen on their swords immediately. Joining a battle does not automatically mean going to one’s death, especially for such skilled warriors. 

I’d say Thorin’s belief in his need to die is directly challenged when Bilbo says, “Don’t you dare!” Bilbo is arguably the person who has suffered the most from Thorin’s illness, arguably the person who has the most right to wish Thorin ill, and he immediately rejoins Thorin side, is immediately joyful to see Thorin recover, and vehemently denies his death or the need for his death. He is clearly broken by Thorin’s death, and we also see Thorin’s despair let up immediately when he sees Bilbo, both when they reunite on Ravenhill (where Thorin immediately calls a retreat, saying they should live to fight another day) and by the joy on his face at Bilbo’s reassurance that it was all worth it. I see no evidence that Thorin’s death was anything but a tragedy and a senseless loss, except insofar as he fought nobly to defend his people from Azog and gave his life to that cause and that was not senseless. However he did not give his life to dragon sickness, or mental illness, but rather to something he believed was worth dying for, a shadow that had haunted his family and led to many deaths he needed to avenge. 

Part 2

Insofar as Thorin “needed” redemption, I think he got it the moment he came charging out the gate with the other dwarves behind him. I think that’s one reason Richard fixates so much on that moment: it’s the real moment where Thorin was comfortable in himself again. He made up for his failures towards his kin, he’s actively defending his home, and he’s proud in a way that doesn’t depend on the gold or the kingship. 

He had lingering doubts though, especially in his treatment of Bilbo. That’s why the relief is so palpable when Bilbo comes to warn him. With a glance they establish that all is forgiven and they are on the same side once again. Then Thorin gets slammed by his past again, and those wounds are ripped open all over again. From that point, I don’t think we’re dealing with the dragon sickness fallout anymore. Rather, we’re dealing with the very failures that made dragon sickness so seductive. 

Because what was Thorin’s weakness when it came to dragon sickness? Being a mere dwarf lord, “Thorin Oakenshield”. I will forever argue that the reason Thorin didn’t snap out of dragon sickness sooner is because it felt good. It gave him self confidence and a sense of power he’d never had before. His identity was now based on being king and possessing the gold, rather than on all the failures he’d suffered. Even if Thorin knew he was sick, it was hard to go from literally being high on self-confidence he’d never had before to the painful memories of being Thorin Oakenshield. It was wrenching to go back to that, and acknowledge that being king in this fashion was just another of his many mistakes, and one he’d have to make up for. 

What clarity and confidence Thorin had in pulling free of dragon sickness and regaining Bilbo was lost when the wound that made him who he was was reopened with Fili’s death. The name Thorin Oakenshield is clearly not an exalted one for him, it represents all the suffering he’s undergone. What’s worse, it now represents an even bigger failure, because he gained it for killing Azog and he was tricked into believing Azog was dead. Now he has to make up for that, but it’s already too late and he’s lost even more. It’s why he can’t look away from the body floating beneath the ice, he has to see Azog dead with his own eyes this time. 

So Thorin has three things he needs redemption for before he can feel peace. 

1) The death Azog, which was the basis of his fame and ultimately a lie. More importantly, he must see an end to this threat to his family, and make up for those he could not save. 

2) Reclaiming Erebor, which has become the driving purpose of his life. 

3) Apologizing to Bilbo and gaining his forgiveness as the person who suffered the most from Thorin’s bout of dragon sickness. 

Thorin accomplished these all before his death, but his peace does not come from his death nor was it a requirement of his redemption. He was already redeemed the minute he came out the doors of Erebor with the Company. I would argue, based on their willingness to charge out with him, that he did not need it even then except in his own mind. 

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experimentalpotion asked: I have a feeling that when Thorin was telling Bilbo "Go back to your books and armchair. Plant a tree…” Well I guess these were the last things Bilbo wanted at all in that moment, and maybe his thoughts were: to the hell with books and armchair! I want you to live! I want you to stay! Like Thorin was sending him home with these words, but maybe Bilbo on the contrary wanted to STAY. Cause when he returns to the shire, there are no books and cosy armchair, he finds an empty hole in the ground(

Yeah, I think that’s absolutely true. There’s a LOT going on in that short conversation (which I’m still too emotionally devastated to re-watch outside of gif form). 

Bilbo was absolutely saying to hell with the books and armchair if it meant Thorin living. He saw a whole world open up and then crumble in the space of a few (final) breaths with the realization of how much Thorin loved him and how much he loved Thorin in return. 

Thorin in return knew what was coming and wanted to part knowing that Bilbo was happy. He remembered Bilbo’s speech *very* clearly, word for word, and wanted happiness for Bilbo. However, I almost found his particular choices very telling. Because he could have also told Bilbo to take his share of the treasure and go home, or some other parting words that indicated what he wanted for Bilbo, and what ‘happiness’ meant to him. It also modified the books for “food and cheer”, so it’s deliberate. I truly believe Thorin named all the things that represented happiness to him at that moment of realization: Bilbo’s home, the things Bilbo treasures, and the acorn that will grow into the tree representing Bilbo’s memories of him. I really think in his final moments, having accomplished his quest, Thorin and Bilbo had undergone a reversal. Bilbo wanted something heroic and larger than life - he wanted Thorin in his life, and Erebor, and to hell with the Shire. And for Thorin, Erebor had become a dark and blood-soaked place. What he longed for was home, and peace, and Bilbo in his life. Failing that, he wanted to die knowing that Bilbo was happy, not truly understanding how impossible that would be for Bilbo without him in it. 

I think Thorin’s encouragement for Bilbo to go home is what really drives him there, rather than any desire on his own part. That, and with the terrible weight of that grief I think he went home to see if his books and armchair and garden would truly cure it. I don’t think they did, but he had to try for Thorin’s sake and because that was the last thing Thorin asked. In that regard too, Bilbo became far more like Thorin over the course of his quest: noble, brave, a fighter, someone seeking home, on a superficial level clad in blue, and most importantly, someone who lives by the dying words of others. Thorin lived to reclaim Erebor on behalf of Thror and Thrain, people who could never take back the request and who could not see how that goal was tearing Thorin apart. Had they known, I think Thror would have taken it back, we *know* Thrain did, they both would have told Thorin to give up on Erebor (in a way that Balin can’t, because Thorin is responding to the final words of his forefathers, words that can never be taken back).

Likewise, Bilbo in his final moments on screen is like Thorin at his darkest ones. He’s regained a home that has become a place of loss and madness, with only a golden object for company that is slowly driving him insane, and the reason he even “wants” this home is because of the dying words of another person. If Thorin had known how miserable Bag End would make Bilbo, I don’t think for a second he would have sent Bilbo back there. Like Erebor for Thorin, Bilbo is encouraged to return to Bag End because dead loved ones believe it’s what’s best for them, not able to take those words back when confronted by the reality of the misery those “homes” now embody.

… This just became a really long rambling parallel on Bilbo and Thorin, but long story short, YES I completely agree Bilbo wanted to stay during the death scene, and to hell with Bag End.

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Ok, at this point I know I’m kinda well known as a Thorin junky and I spend 90% of my time agonizing over that big lump of dumb dwarf king, but I’d hate to think that Bilbo has fallen by the wayside. 

So as I’ve said exhaustively in a couple posts, I see Thorin as someone who is externally grounded, as in his sense of stability and self-worth is based outwardly on the opinion of others. His pride is in the dwarves as a race, and the line of Durin, rather than his own accomplishments (since he does not recognize those, or does not count them as noteworthy in the absence of reclaiming Erebor). Love for others makes him shine, 

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isolation leaves him in shadows. 

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In contrast, though not to over-simplify either of them since they both have elements of each, Bilbo is fairly grounded in himself. He is, in his own words:

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and he actually uses that to ground himself in moments of agitation (contrast with Thorin and “I am not my grandfather" in moments of extreme stress). Bilbo doesn’t fret about his identity or his responsibilities. He doesn’t need to prove himself to be worthy of anything. While he’d like to be thought fierce as far as adventure goes, he could take it or leave it and still be a whole person. You can leave him alone in his house and while he won’t be the best person he can be, he will not be lost in the way that I think Thorin would be. 

By Richard’s own admission, Thorin was an ember burning low before the quest began and had he not gone on the quest the lack of activity probably would have had him suffer a spiritual death if not a physical one. Bilbo’s spiritual death was also threatening, but it would have been MUCH longer in coming by languishing at Bag End. 

So Bilbo is good for Thorin because he grounds him in something solid that is based on who Thorin is rather than what Thorin represents, a rarity in Thorin’s life. 

But since this is about Bilbo, not Thorin, let’s add this: While Bilbo plants Thorin, Thorin brings Bilbo out into the world.

On his own, the stability that keeps Bilbo healthy and stable would also see him atrophy. Gandalf was not wrong that Bilbo had to move before he started to grow moss. Thorin as a wanderer since his youth in exile, as a warrior, as a figure of legend and a questing hero, is the living embodiment of the figures in Bilbo’s books and maps. He is adventure. He is also stabilized by other people, and he shows Bilbo how to derive life and actualization from being around others. There wouldn’t be a Thorin without a Bilbo, but equally there would be no Bilbo (as we know him) without Thorin. 

Ironically, Richard (paraphrased) said we saw Thorin at his happiest at Bag End (X). One could extrapolate that to: we see Thorin at his best at Bag End, on fire and ready to take on the world based on his ideals. 

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In general, we see Thorin at his best when he’s contemplating home. 

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By contrast, we see Bilbo at his best when he stops thinking about his own home, but when he begins to actively look towards adventure. 

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When he looks to Erebor, and stands up for the dwarves, 

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and stands up against the dwarves and Thorin in order to protect them 

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(because it’s harder to stand up to your friends than your enemies), and when he risks life and limb in battle to bring Thorin a warning, 

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we are seeing Bilbo become so much more than he was at Bag End, to becoming not just a whole person but a better person. 

Thorin and Bilbo are looking past one another to different things that fulfill them. In essence, they are also looking into one another to find fulfillment of their dreams and desires, the things they need in addition to the things they want. And honestly, I don’t see how it gets much more romantic than that.

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Headcanon that Bilbo is all repressed and proper and terrible at revealing genuine emotion when not under pressure, at least until he gets married

Suddenly, all bets are off. In the privacy of their home, Bilbo cannot keep his hands off Thorin. He showers him with compliments, laughs openly, and is constantly kissing, touching, and generally making no secret of how utterly besotted he is

Thorin is definitely not complaining (dwarves after all, are very demonstrative with their affections), but he is a little surprised at this abrupt turn-around from the fussy hobbit he first met

He shouldn’t be, at least not if he better understood Bilbo’s upbringing. The Shire may be hung up on propriety, but if you look around there’s a lot of public displays of affection within families. Sure, Sam could barely look at Rosie while she was dancing, but husbands and wives kiss and hug in public all the time. Bungo and Belladonna were by all accounts smitten with one another, and Bilbo’s home life was full of displays of affection that he took for granted as what love looks like. That he’s been alone all these years, living by himself and without family around, is entirely to blame for his reserve. 

But once it’s declared, once the world knows that he and Thorin are married and have done everything properly and just so, there’s no more shame attached to showing affection (at least, for this person and his extended family, of course) and Bilbo has very little trouble (and needs very little encouragement) to be a complete nuisance about his love for Thorin.

Part 2

Bilbo and marriage, further ramblings

Going back slightly to “Bilbo will show affection once he’s married” meta tidbit, it felt kinda weird to write because we do, many of us, live in a day and age where marriage is less important and so fraught with different views and lots of baggage, such that many see it as secondary to a healthy relationship, hence why I think you see a lot of fics (myself very much included) where marriage doesn’t really come up between Thorin and Bilbo, or it’s more of an afterthought

But Bilbo is old fashioned. He is quintessentially old fashioned, integrally so when you consider when the character was created. He comes from a (based on our world) time when marriage was central to any life (social, reproductive, economic, etc.) and given that the Shire is a pocket of Tolkien’s Oxford (more or less) in the middle of a medieval fantasy world, he comes from a place where marriage maketh the man, or woman, as far as establishing you place in society. For Tolkien, it would be unthinkable to be otherwise. Bilbo is odd in large part because he never marries. 

However, he is the product of a happy marriage, by all accounts. I don’t think it’s too much to say that Bilbo would actually have fairly romantic views of marriage given his parents, given the fact he places such importance on remaining in the house that his father built for his mother out of love. He states openly that he belongs there, in this physical manifestation of his parents’ love. Yet he remains isolated within it, does he not? 

 As much as I hate the dominance of coming of age stories, and appreciate that Bilbo is more of a midlife crisis story than coming of age, there is something to be said for the fact that he finally lets go of his parents love for one another in order to pursue a love of his very own - adventure, and by extension Thorin if you’re a Bagginshield shipper. 

So I actually really can see Bilbo placing enormous importance on a formal declaration of love and a formalization of that relationship via an official marriage. That’s how it’s done. There’s a threshold there, something that often fades in and out of importance for the modern western world.

(Aside: just look at the fact we have multiple “coming of age” ages, which dilutes the threshold down so we’re never “really” adults and many scholars believe that’s why we have the persistence of “I don’t feel like an adult” because we’ve lost those ceremonies that surround coming of age, with marriage or rites of passage associated with a particular time in someone’s life. It’s no longer menstruation/puberty, or 16, or even 18 because you can’t necessarily drink, or 25 because you may not have your own household, or marriage because you may decide not to… basically, because we’ve lost the rite of passage, we’ve lost a certain level of certainty within our lives.)

To take it back to Bilbo, he lives in a society that still has that certainty. When you’re married, it’s real. Before then it’s improper to show too much emotion or attachment before the formalization. We see time and again in 19th c. literature and (modern looks at said literature) how there’s such focus on courtship. There’s chaperones to defend one’s honor, there’s formalized interactions, there’s dances designed to expose people to potential partners in a controlled environment. There’s a hell of a lot of romance around the idea of repression, of not being able to do what you want with the person you’re in love with (which Richard absolutely loves talking about, and I think he subscribes to it somewhat as a romantic method if you consider his “acorn face” as his strong suit in portraying romance across multiple roles). We’ve kind of lost that too as a formal part of our society, there’s really no reason to wait to show intimacy anymore, and while much is gained there is a little that is lost in the fact there is no waiting until marriage (again, I am speaking from a western-centric viewpoint and only about my own culture and tangentially similar cultures). 

Anyway, long long story short, I rather like the idea that Bilbo does see it as a threshold, that is, crossing the threshold. No matter how much he loves Thorin or yearns for him, until they’re married such displays remain very strictly controlled. Perhaps that’s why he finally opts to call Thorin his “friend”, when he knows within the strictness of his society he can’t claim any more, given that it is all a “might have been”. It could also be why he hesitates to show affection for Balin, Thorin’s extended family which would have become his family, for whom public displays of affection would then have become acceptable, because again they’re a “might have been” for him, almost his family. But for all the rewards of crossing the threshold there is the down side of what happens when you never get to cross it, you are stuck without the formal declaration, without being to make any real claim and if you’re from such a structured society, that’s all it will ever be - you cannot make that claim if the marriage doesn’t actually go through, not on the dowery, not on the family, and not on the title of betrothed or husband. At the end, you must fall back on “friend.”

But if when they get married, that would all change. Bilbo, who grew up with Bungo and Belladonna within a house built by their love for one another, would I think feel very comfortable finally expressing that love now that threshold is crossed, now that is is “allowed”. That is the goal, ultimately, why it is put off so carefully, why it’s called “marital bliss”. The suspense is meant to enhance the final joy. At that point, there would be no barrier, formal or otherwise, to being completely demonstrative with his affections in the privacy of his home, and outside it (though with somewhat more propriety, some exception made for joyful newlyweds). 

 

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Anonymous asked: Okay, so: I know Thorin's your favorite character, but that you also like Bilbo. Now you've said that you don't even think Bilbo is a good person, which is a little puzzling to me? Maybe because I come at this from the other side (Bilbo is my fav, yo) but I find it increasingly difficult to parse what you and a lot of other Thorin fans think Thorin would get out of a relationship. All I'm hearing lately is that Thorin makes Bilbo a better person and so on, and quite frankly it's a little

2/2 upsetting. I am NOT accusing you of hating. I just want to know what you think made Thorin fall in love with Bilbo, and not just that Bilbo likes Thorin for himself, because that’s not a good basis for a relationship. Sorry if this doesn’t make sense, or came across more passive-aggressive than it was meant, I’m not a native speaker.

Hey Anon, I know I can’t expect everyone to have read all my meta, there’s so damn much of it since I tend to talk at length, or all my fics. But I’d like to think that my fondness of Bilbo comes across in the copious amount of writing I’ve done about him? And if I don’t over-stress my love of Bilbo it’s because I assume it’s a given that I love him? 

The thing is, as a darker character, Thorin tended to draw a lot more fire. Most of my meta is responding to mischaracterization of Thorin as a bad person, and the mischaracterization of Bilbo tends to be that he’s all sweetness and light, which is baffling to me because he can be a snarky little shit. It bothers me a lot when people reduce complex characters and relationships to “The sweet one & the aggressive one, the light & the dark one” because I think Thorin and Bilbo are equals and have equal, if different, mixes of those qualities. I abhor the polarization which leaves Thorin a shattered mess that Bilbo needs to clean up, or Bilbo so weak and shy and fragile that he’s at Thorin’s dark mercy. It’s just not how I see them. (mostly I see them as grouchy, grumpy nerds who adore one another and strengthen and inspire each other through tough times).

I would never say Bilbo’s a bad person. I’m just against this characterization that says he can never do bad things, or be held to blame for anything. The Arkenstone could have been better handled, but then again it’s a stressful situation that would be almost impossible to navigate. Likewise Bilbo can fight and defend himself, and he’s clever as hell and tricked some very powerful and dangerous people (the trolls, Thranduil, Thorin under dragon sickness, etc.). Pretending that good = helpless, incapable of killing or defending his life or those of others, or incapable of lying or making a mistake and hurting his loved ones, is so weird to me and it’s so weird to me that by saying Bilbo can be a complex person I’ve somehow come across as saying he’s bad?

I said the other day that I think contact with Thorin, his cause, and the other dwarves, via Gandalf, made Bilbo want to become a better person and he did become a better person in the course of helping them. I think Thorin is an inspiring figure, especially in the movies, and Bilbo fell for him for that reason. That being said, I think Thorin was inspiring to Bilbo before he knew anything about Thorin’s rank or title, which would mean nothing to a hobbit in any case, so it’s particularly touching to me that he would believe in Thorin as a person, because I think Thorin ascribes most of his own positive qualities to his lineage, race, and responsibilities, ie, Thorin considers his “best” quality to be that he is Thror’s heir, and he struggles to uphold that legacy and thinks little of himself as a “person”, whereas to Bilbo the legacy of Thror means little or nothing, he believes in Thorin’s courage and honor (vouch for it, and fights to defend it, even when Thorin cannot because of dragon sickness). 

But you asked what does Bilbo give to Thorin - I guess I could say a hell of a lot? I mean, to say the least, how could you forget him saving Thorin’s Quest on multiple occasions, trolls, spiders, elves, and his willingness to face Smaug alone? Even if that’s no basis for a relationship, it’s still a considerable tribute to another person. As for their relationship, I think Bilbo fulfills something in Thorin that he very rarely encounters - someone who believes in him who has nothing to gain in doing so. Thorin can dismiss or minimize the respect he gets from the other dwarves because they have 1) an obligation to do so because of his title and 2) because they have something to gain for themselves if Erebor is reclaimed. For himself, Thorin’s barely able to ask anything when not acting as a leader or in their interests (”I have no right to ask this of any of you.”). 

After the Goblin Tunnels, Bilbo stands up and says he wants to help Thorin and the dwarves, not because he hopes to gain anything in return, but because they’ve lost their home and he thinks they deserve to regain it. This would have been huge for Thorin. I truly doubt he’d ever heard an outsider or even a non-family member profess that kind of love and faith in the same things Thorin has love and faith for. Not to mention, outsiders who should have offered their help (like Thranduil), failed to do so in a fantastically traumatic way. This is taking steps to heal a wound inside of Thorin that’s probably ached since Erebor fell - someone else actually giving a damn about them for some reason other than treasure. 

On his own though, outside of the Quest, Bilbo does offer a lot more. He’s smart as hell, well-spoken, caring, practical, and has immense respect for Thorin. When they’re together and alone they don’t have to worry about the trappings of their broader lives - Thorin isn’t a hobbit to judge Bilbo on his “propriety”, and Bilbo isn’t a dwarf to get hung up on or expect things from Thorin because of his rank. They are uniquely themselves outside of societies that are very complex for both of them. 

That’s even if you ignore everything they went through together on the Quest, seeing the best and worst of each other, multiple times saving each other’s lives and the lives of people they care about, and becoming a team. RA specifically calls Bilbo Thorin’s confidante by the time we get to BoFA, they are incredibly close as people. 

So, I dunno, if you don’t think that’s a good basis for a relationship, that’s your prerogative, but if I don’t highlight a certain aspect of their relationship, for example what Bilbo gives to Thorin in return, it’s because I thought it was fairly obvious to anyone who has seen the films?

 

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Anonymous asked: psst hey do you have any thoughts on why Thorin prefaced his "I have never been so wrong" declaration with so many insults? like, he sounds pretty angry right before he hugs Bilbo; was he angry at himself for having treated Bilbo so rudely? was he going to end with something different and changed it at the last moment?

Pfft, I have a lot of feelings about that scene, Anon, but the majority of my opinions on *why* it played out that way come down to, “narrative suspense.”

After all, Bilbo is clearly relieved that Thorin is ok, and he has some awareness that he did something fairly out of character in order to save Thorin, and if his expression on the eagle’s back is anything to go by, he hasn’t stopped worrying since Thorin took those first steps down a burning log.

So it’s heartbreaking for him to do all that, and find out that he might have done something wrong, that there’s literally no pleasing this person he resepects. I felt that look in my soul the first time, when you’ve done everything you can and not only had your efforts thrown in your face, but told they’re not good enough, a mistake, from someone who’s opinion you actually respect. You can see his heart sink to his feet. It was a very cold moment of horror, at least for me sympathetically, that confusion that comes from doing everything right and still getting in trouble for it.

But Bilbo is not in a place to really know if kind words are coming? Thorin’s been pretty cold towards him since the start, his thought processes largely impenetrable to Bilbo. He can hope to do well by Thorin, but he can’t *know* if he has, which makes that moment worse as he believes he hasn’t. In fact, he’s only made Thorin angrier with him.

But honestly, outside the story? The line was clearly constructed to *give* us that cold feeling, to make *us* wonder if Thorin is really angry with him, if we’ll ever understand what is good enough for Thorin, if Bilbo ever can be or if he’s just doomed from the start no matter what he does. We’re very much in Bilbo’s “shoes” in that scene. So honestly, it makes little sense for Thorin to about-face like that and phrase it quite that way “did I not say you were a burden, that you had no place amongst us?” is a very weird way to launch into saying you’re wrong, because that sentence construction is designed to *recall* something, not contradict it. So it’s a bit of writerly cheating, in my opinion.

But, eh, it is *explainable* for Thorin’s character. He’s just had a bad scare with the weakest member of the Company throwing himself in front of Azog, a creature that brutally murdered many stronger warriors than Bilbo. Thorin’s also been whacked by shame before and after that fight, with Bilbo professing his faith in the quest and then saving a person who more or less insulted him and told him to go home earlier that very day. Thorin was also constructed by RA to be a “contradictory” character, and to have mood swings and be a bit inconsistent, perhaps given to flights of passion, hence his hyperbole with “NEVER been so wrong” (or is it hyperbole? if you want to go with a romantic reading, misjudging a person who saves your life, who you fall in love with by calling them useless and nearly driving them away is a HUGE mistake, especially if you go with a fanon “his One” reading (though I hate that fanon term, it does work when referring to dwarven monogamy)).

Anyway, I think it was the script writers cheating to build suspense, but Thorin *giving* someone a scare like that by changing his tune so quickly is in itself an in-character thing, maybe just not with that exact grammatical phrasing. I forgive it, though, since it is in many ways the emotional climax of the story ;)

 

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(Written in 2013)

One of the things that struck me while seeing “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was Thorin’s dual nature. Now, Richard Armitage in an interview (which I can’t find for the life of me) did state that he had set out deliberately to establish a dual nature in Thorin, as he does with many of the characters he plays. In another interview he describes Smaug as sort of Thorin’s dark parallel, that Thorin will become more like Smaug as they approach the mountain. So right there we’re seeing that Richard Armitage in his performance intended to have a bit of a dark side/light side conflict in Thorin, all wrapped up around the issue of the treasure of Erebor. Furthermore, Armitage has also made frequent allusions to the deeper lore of the Tolkien universe, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he used some of Tolkien’s other flawed leaders in order to inform his portrayal of Thorin.

It’s important to note here that I’m really only exploring Thorin as portrayed by Richard Armitage in the film, and not the book version as such. They are very different characters with very different morals, and share only a few superficial qualities. Thorin in the books is much more of a treasure hunter, and only really has his revelation about what truly matters on his deathbed. I’m actually quite intrigued to see how the movie will pull off the transition, for their version of Thorin seems highly selfless and only interested in treasure insofar as it benefits his people. The problem comes from whether or not avenging his people’s treasure and pride is really in their best interest.

This is really where I began to see the similarities with Maedhros within Thorin’s dual nature. Though first film has only given us hints so far, Thorin clearly has multiple motivations driving him to reclaim Erebor and it’s mostly wrapped up in concern for his people. But how he looks out for his people contains an inherent contradiction that he doesn’t seem entirely aware of, at least not yet. Thorin is looking out for the wellbeing of his people, and he wishes to reclaim the wealth of his people. This is also tied up in the need to get revenge on behalf of his father and grandfather for their disgrace, exile, and death. The latter two, the need to reclaim wealth and take revenge are very much tied up in the pride of the dwarves. At the moment, Thorin seems to view these as inextricably linked to one another. Yet we know this is not entirely true because of Balin pointing out to Thorin that he has made a good life for the dwarves in the Blue Mountains, the wellbeing of his people is already at least partially seen to. Thorin will not concede the point, because he clearly has a sense of responsibility that demands he do more for them. This is a very Tolkien-esque question – what is the primary concern of a good person and a good leader? To what extent should pride, honor, duty, and wealth be a deciding motivator? While Tolkien consistently writes characters for whom these are paramount concerns, he almost universally comes down on the opposite side. That though heroic characters are defined by these concerns, they would be better off if they were more like hobbits and cared for comfort and personal/community well-being over more abstract concepts of wealth and pride.

As a heroic but flawed Tolkien leader these issues are at the heart of Thorin’s dual motivations. He is at his best when concern for his people and his companions, their lives and not their pride, are in command. He is at his worst when his concern for the wealth, pride, and vengeance of Erebor rules him. And yet even the latter are noble and almost entirely selfless instincts, he is a dutiful son and a dutiful leader. It’s just that sometimes his allegiance to his forefathers clouds his judgment when it comes to the care of the living.

Throughout the Silmarillion we see Maedhros in a similar conundrum. After Fëanor’s death, Maehdros is the de facto leader of the Sons of Fëanor and of various Noldor/Elvish factions over the years. There are many instances where the elves under his care would benefit from settling down, making peace, and reconciling with past enemies. There are even a few stretches of time where they manage to do this. Yet every time this peace is interrupted by the Silmarils, in particular the oath Maedhros and the other sons of Fëanor made to take back the Silmarils no matter who has them, be they friend or foe. Maedhros’s oath to his dead father that he would always seek the Silmarils is a dutiful gesture, by some counts one could even consider it “good” if not for all the horrors that come from it. Furthermore, Maedhros himself isn’t really a bad person and he could be a good leader, if not for the oath.

For the moment, Thorin’s motivations, to see to the wellbeing of his people and retake the treasure of Erebor on behalf of his forefathers, are not in conflict. This will change as they approach the mountain, and come to a head in the very Fëanorian moment when Thorin repudiates Bilbo’s friendship because of a bright shiny stone (it’s quite possible that Tolkien’s parents were murdered by jewelry when he was a child, but I don’t judge). The Arkenstone of Thorin, like the Silmarils of Maedhros, represents the point where the wellbeing of their people is in conflict with their pride. Many dwarves would die for the Arkenstone, and do, as do many many elves for possession of the Silmarils. They choose to of their own free will when they pick pride and the treasure of their people over their own lives. Thorin and Maedhros will also take similarly foolish last stands, with a few of their kin against many enemies, in order to reclaim a jewel that mattered more to their forefathers than it does to them, and which is actively damaging their lives. In the process, they will lose their kin as the darker sides of duty and filial loyalty trump their self-preservation and good leadership qualities.

(As a quick aside, Bilbo provides a very interesting role as the peacemaker by using the Arkenstone to break the détente between Thorin and Bard. It almost makes one wonder if all the terrible events of the Silmarillion would have happened if there had there been more hobbits around. Tolkien consistently uses hobbits as a means to break some of the high flung and ridiculous tropes of heroic tales. They are the least likely heroes, but where they step in they are often able to avoid the fatal flaws that would destroy most heroes short of their goals. Other hobbits too are seen to do this, as if hobbits are Tolkien’s very own self-inserts into the great epics of the past sent to fix things up and get everyone to stop fighting. Anyway.)

TL;DR I suppose my conclusion to all of this is Thorin and Maedhro were both split between filial duty and the leadership of their lost and scattered people. Oftentimes they were unable to see the difference between regaining the pride/treasure of their people and looking out for their wellbeing. When attending to the wellbeing of their people, they are both good leaders, but when they are unable to separate their two motivations we see their dark side and they bring ruin down on everything that truly mattered.

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Hmm, I understand the purpose of the question, and don’t get me wrong, I am 1000% in favor of marshmallow Thorin. 

That being said, I wouldn’t mind using this question to address one thought that’s sort of been in the back of my mind in this regard. Back in the day when it was all Dark Fuck Prince Thorin I would have given anything for more common characterization of Thorin as I saw him: that he is someone who loves his family, battles through his insecurities (not always successfully), is always willing to admit when he’s wrong, is slow to make friends but true to those he has, unforgiving of his enemies, stubborn in the face of adversity. 

More often than not though we saw a lot of abusive!Thorin, dark!Thorin, greedy!Thorin, etc etc based off of a surplus of stereotypes and a dearth of critical thinking/observation (or, hey, people just wrote what they wanted to, which is also fine). So honestly, I could not be happier that we’re seeing more of Thorin’s soft gooey center, especially when it comes to his love for his family and Bilbo.

I guess I’m just wary of the pendulum swinging too far the other way? Of course writers, artists, and fans can interpret fictional characters however they wish, in whatever way is most relevant to them. Far be it from me to tell anyone how to write Thorin or any character. When I write meta I’m mostly ruminating on how I see him, and how I would write him based on these observations. So to your point about marshmallow Thorin I would say this:

Thorin is a marshmallow in the sense that he is someone who feels things very deeply: be it love, loyalty, or betrayal. He is deeply touched by the Company’s willingness to follow him (you’ll notice that even when Balin is skeptical towards the physical and mental prowess of the other dwarves, Thorin neverbadmouths them or shows anything less than respect and faith in them, except maybe once when disciplining his nephews but even that was because they were teasing Bilbo, also a member of the Company). He is clearly deeply affected by Thranduil’s betrayal, no need to go into detail there. And when it comes to Bilbo we see throughout that the hobbit’s actions impact Thorin emotionally, both good and bad. 

However, I hesitate in going overboard on the marshmallow characterization 1) because I take everything way too seriously as you may have noticed :P 2) I don’t want to lose track of Thorin’s strength. He has endured untold hardships with bravery and leadership, he is an incredible fighter, he is tough on the battlefield, he will never relent when facing his enemies (perhaps even when he should), and is part of a warrior culture that he embraces as far as courage and valor. 

Basically, Thorin is a tough, stubborn, angry sonuvabitch, which makes his marshmallow side (which is a VERY private face) all the more endearing, but he does have a very tough outer shell which should not be lost track of. I’ve seen some attempts to make Thorin a blushing, stuttering mess, and while that’s cute and has its place in romcom-y type stories, we’ve actually never seen Thorin blush or stammer at any point in movie canon. Even in the acorn scene with Bilbo he is looking at someone he loves unreservedly, he is not holding back or embarrassed by his affections. Honestly, I don’t think Thorin even knows how to be a blushy stuttery mess, for the sheer fact that as a dwarf he is very direct with his emotions and unlike Bilbo sees no need to mask them when in private. 

I guess I’m just worried about the uke shy bashful characterization that drove me insane when applied to Bilbo may just be transferred over to Thorin, and while I’ll take this characterization over the reverse because it has at least a modicum of role-reversal, it’s just as untrue to the characters as shy!Bilbo and DFP!Thorin was. 

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One piece of meta I’ve really wanted to write is that Thorin may actually be an “odd” dwarf in much the same way that Bilbo is an odd hobbit, and for many of the same reasons.

I mean, look at the other dwarves. They’re so boisterous and out there and loud and uncomplicated. Look at Dain, Thorin’s closest equal in rank as well as family. Look at Gimli. Heck, look at any member of the family. Even the ones who are slightly less craggy and “dwarvish” like Fili and Kili are uncomplicated, straightforward, and not really given to such melancholy or solemnity. Even more “rational” dwarves like Balin are stubborn against outsiders and don’t really have this air of tragedy about them. You never really see a “tragic” dwarf. They experience tragedy, and they weep long and loud and unashamed, but they don’t carry their grief with them.

I think Thorin may have been changed by Erebor’s fall and by his responsibilities before and after in a very profound way. Balin was old enough to be his own person, to maybe have a more realistic view of Erebor as just a place, a wonderful place, but still not any more worthy than the Blue Mountains as far as a good life. Thorin was young enough to idealize it, to this day.

Thorin was young when he was thrust into the world on the most difficult of terms. He is experienced in the world of Men and experienced with the treachery of elves. He lost so much of his family. He has no brothers to turn to, or father figures like the other dwarves do. He is very self contained.

So I guess I’m wondering… to the other dwarves, is Thorin ‘odd’? He fights well, but does he glory in fighting the way Dwalin does? It seems to me he approaches battle with a grim sort of fatalism. He shares quiet moments with his kin, even triumphant moments, but he has no one he really casually confides in. He has Dwalin, I don’t want to take that away, but in a moment of peak stress Dwalin still refers to Thorin as his king, when in my opinion Thorin most needed a friend and an equal at that point, someone who allowed him to step down from the figurative dais and be “Thorin Oakenshield”, when being king was destroying him on every level.

Bilbo is considered odd because of his interest in the outside world. He goes away, and is changed by it. I’ve always believed that Thorin and Bilbo have almost all the same qualities, they just approach them from completely opposite directions due to the circumstances of their lives. Matters of home, of adventure, of the expectations of society on them are both huge parts of them, but Bilbo has what Thorin does not and vice versa in almost every respect on those points. Bilbo is odd in his drive to leave home, Thorin is odd in his single-minded drive to return home, even to other dwarves. In short, Bilbo is a bit of a wild hobbit by the end. Thorin is a bit of a quiet dwarf, intense in totally different ways than his kin. I feel like his kin would notice this, they would know this about him, hence Balin’s attempt to reassure him in Bag End about Ered Luin. Or his assertion of Thorin’s bravery at Azanulbizar. Or the fact they can’t really reach him in the dragon sickness, or really understand how to be a “true friend” to him.

I don’t know, I don’t know if we have enough material to go on, as such. But it’s just this lingering sense I have. That maybe to Bilbo, at least at first, he doesn’t pick up on the fact that Thorin is perhaps as out of place amongst his own people, though he still loves them, as Bilbo is amongst hobbits once he comes home.

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I’ve seen a lot of discussions that present the idea that Thorin should not have brought Fíli and Kíli on the Quest, or that he would have kept Bilbo from the battle had Bilbo still been there, or that if he could he wouldn’t let anyone fight at all.

Simply put, guys, that is not true. At all. Thorin would never prevent someone from going into battle in an attempt to protect them, and like many things when it comes to Thorin Oakenshield; the reasons are complicated and desperately sad.

1) Thorin is from a warrior culture, and keeping someone from a fight shows a lack of respect

At the most basic and I daresay admirable level, he would not stop Fíli and Kíli from coming on the quest because he trusts them as warriors. To give them that trust, and then say he would not risk them is the exact sort of treatment Eowyn is rebelling against in The Two Towers: it is would shame them. As heirs to Erebor, and grown adults, they have a right to join the quest if they wish to, and Thorin has no right to turn them away.

Likewise, at no point does Thorin even whisper that Bilbo should not join them in their dangers. His fears, rather, is that Bilbo’s incompetence will slow them down, and get Bilbo killed. Jumping down to save Bilbo from a fall off a cliff, an accident that is a result of the perils of their journey, is not the same as keeping him from danger. Even saying Bilbo should not have come is not the same as keeping him from danger. The choice is still Bilbo’s, because at no point does Thorin order him away, though presumably it is his right to do so he would never impose it.

Thorin does protect people in battle though; he stops them from charging into danger or being slaughtered when the fighting would be unequal. However, he’s a dwarf and a warrior, he would not stop people he loves from fighting in the first place.

The one time he keeps someone from a battle is Kíli, because he is obviously wounded. But he does not present keeping Kíli away as weakness of Kíli ’s fighting spirit; it’s the simple facts of the Quest and the speed necessary to get to the door in time. Fíli, by the way, does try to help Kíli because of his injuries, and Kíli does not appreciate it, as seen when Kili waves him off at the beggining of BotFA for trying to help him stand.

2) The exile taught Thorin not to squander resources

With so few dwarves remaining after Erebor and Azanulbizar, Thorin has learned not to be picky about the resources available to him. He takes “not the best or brightest” warriors with him on the Quest and does not turn away anyone who volunteers, even Bilbo. Perhaps, in large part, because protecting people by holding them back from a fight just isn’t an option when you have so few fighters available to you, (see: Helm’s Deep), and it’s the reality he is accustomed to.

Which, by the way, is as good a place as any to point this out: anyone who hid and cowered in their homes when Smaug attacked is almost certainly dead. Those who took up arms would have at least been in a position to defend themselves, escape, or at least die honorably instead of “cowering and clawing for breath.” Thorin is traumatized by the deaths at Erebor, and holding people back from battle would not have prevented those deaths.

3) Thorin has never been protected, and the one time someone tried he lost them forever.

Thorin grew up knowing he would be king, and being king means assuming greater responsibility. In exile, it meant greater responsibility without very much of the greater privilege that goes with it. Thorin would have learned that he cannot turn from a fight, or from his people in need. Whatever his age was, whether he was a minor or older, he was not kept from Azanulbizar, or from fighting the dragon, and in turn he does not extend this form of protectiveness to anyone else.

What’s worse is this: there was one instance where someone tried to stand between him and a threat, and that was his father Thrain on the battlefield facing Azog. And what was the outcome of that? Thrain vanished, without even a body to be found, and Thorin still had to face Azog, but now alone, without his father by his side, having just witnessed his grandfather’s death. It puts a whole new tragic spin on his freak-out that Bilbo defended him against Azog, because the last time someone did that he lost them forever.

Thorin would never protect someone else by holding them back from battle, simply because it would not occur to him to do so. No one has ever done it for him, and the one time they did ended in one of the greatest tragedies of his life, one that he would not risk extending to others.

Conclusions:

Thorin charges into battle, but he expects those warriors who are willing to be there behind him. If he defends others it is not a premeditated attempt to keep them out of danger, but rather an on-the-spot reflex to keep them from hurting themselves or others (holding back Ori in the warg chase, holding back Kíli when it would hurt him or Bilbo during the troll incident, holding back Dwalin and the others at Ravenhill because further fighting would be suicidal), but whenever he does it is tactical.

Thorin does not even consider the possibility of keeping Bilbo or any of his kin from the battle unless there’s an advantage involved or it is their choice. Even giving Bilbo the mithril shirt was not so that Bilbo could hide behind the walls, it was so that Bilbo could come out and fight with them in armor that suited his fighting style to be light and quick and quiet.

They are adults and warriors. It is their choice to follow him or stay behind; it is their choice to go into battle at all. Thorin would not shame them, he would not give up the resources, and he would not expect anyone to do the same thing to him. The thought of holding others back is unthinkable to him and in his mind it is not noble to do so. The only time he backs away from a fight is when his personality has been turned inside-out by dragon sickness. Only then does he consider not fighting to be the safest way to defend what he values most.

There is one caveat to this, the one time we see Thorin show remorse for the dangers he lead his loved ones into was on his deathbed. There we learn that he’s sorry that he led Bilbo into such peril, but Bilbo reaffirms that it was his own choice. Perhaps, without the need to reclaim Erebor on his shoulders, Thorin could have given in to a desire to protect his loved ones by holding them back from a fight, but so long as Erebor loomed in his life, his protectiveness would neverextend to holding others back from battle, even if he wished to.

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Anonymous asked: Hobbit Meta: Relationship between mirkwood and Erebor after botfa if Thorin had snapped out of his dragonsickness earlier?

Well here’s the funny thing that I think @madamefaust has said more eloquently than I: his statements about Mirkwood weren’t actually that unreasonable even under dragon sickness. They were reasonably distrustful of Mirkwood, I’d say the others dwarves are a good benchmark for how Thorin would have acted normally. On the wall, for example, Kili still yells at Bard and Thranduil for possessing the Arkenstone. The hostility between dwarves and elves is still there, in fact it has been exacerbated by the fact Thranduil brought an army for… what exact purpose except to take the mountain for himself and its treasure now that Smaug is dead and the Company (along with Erebor’s rightful king) likely dead with him? Regardless of dragon sickness, Thranduil was very much in the wrong in the movie.

The bigger question would be, “how would the relationship with Lake-town/Dale/the Men be different?” Because for me the most hair-raising moment of Thorin’s dragon sickness was when he denied aid to refugees, having been one himself. That was to me the most OOC thing he did, in particular since they too were refugees of Smaug and his actions. The dwarves would rightfully be wary of a larger force and the treasure within, but it was clearly gold sickness that prevented Thorin from working out a better arrangement with them sooner. With the Men on his side, they could have mitigated the threat that the Elves posed. Also Dale was not only Erebor’s ally, but their lifeline for food and other supplies the dwarves don’t produce themselves. As I discussed in this meta post about the politics of the region, Erebor needed a new Dale to make the city what it once was, it was disastrous to do anything but try to woo the Men to the dwarves’ side again. That allowed Thranduil to swoop in with food and begin political maneuverings which, if successful, would cripple the future strength of Erebor. Without Dale, Erebor could never sustain the kind of populace it once had, keeping it a minor regional power instead of the major one it once was. 

So to sum up, had Thorin snapped out of his dragon sickness sooner, he could have gotten the men of Lake-town on his side sooner with promise of money to rebuild Dale, which Erebor needs almost as much as the Men do. The Men on his side would have given him a better position of strength with which to negotiate with Thranduil, but Thranduil vs. Thorin / Mirkwood vs. Erebor / Elves vs. Dwarves would likely have remained just as hostile, but perhaps Thranduil would have actually been forced to negotiate rather than move instantly to saber rattling?

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brglarbaggins asked: About your answer to emsiecat's question: I think that when Balin advising Bilbo to keep the stone from Thorin he might've also been concerned about the political power/kingly rights that'd be bestowed on him. In his state, he might've commanded countless dwarves to their deaths, like azanulbizar 2.0 or worse. Your thoughts?

A fair point, and a very interesting one. However, Dain had already showed up with his army ready to take on the Elves, and unless Thorin lied in the missive and said he possessed the stone, it appears he didn’t need it to get at least one army to show up. 

The problem here too is we’re getting into the exact nature of the Arkenstone, and the fact it’s very unclear. Thror didn’t have the Arkenstone when he rallied the Dwarves to Azanulbizar in the movies, he didn’t have it at all in the book when he went there, died, and Thrain rallied the troops to Azanulbizar to avenge him. In that instance, the Dwarves’ respect for Thror is what rallied them. 

The movie canon is really unclear about the extent of loyalty it can muster. If we just go with what is stated - getting Bilbo to go down, fetch the Arkenstone and come back would have conferred on Thorin the right to summon everyone who turned him down at the beginning of AUJ in order to launch a head-on assault against Smaug. The book it’s super unclear why they need it except that it’s shiny and valuable and Bilbo has been sent on essentially a treasure hunt (look, I can’t blame PJ/Fran/Philippa for any changes they made to the book because the book is kind of a mess when it comes to motivation and sequence of events, and would have translated very poorly to the screen as anything but a children’s story because wtf is anyone’s plan at any point???)

Lastly, given Thorin’s catatonic state when the dragon sickness hits him hardest, and given Thror’s daze, I’m not sure either of them had the will to launch that kind of assault? Thorin didn’t seem terribly invested in doing anything at that point with the battle outside his door, his only concern was hiding the gold and he wasn’t even taking active steps to do anything about it, just talking about it. Sure the Dwarves may obey him out of fealty even in that state, or Thror for that matter, but you gotta admit “Welp, I guess we have to launch a suicidal strike on Moria because he’s got the Arkenstone now” is a pretty flimsy justification for a war, or anything for that matter, I mean we’ve never actually see loyalty given to the Arkenstone put into effect because the whole thing is kinda bullshit, so it may be Thorin’s crazy levels of optimism that getting it back would have any impact at all. 

Yeah, tl;dr They didn’t need the Arkenstone for Azanulbizar the first time, also I don’t think Thorin was in a state to move from the throne, let alone command armies (and that’s kinda fucking tragic in its own right), so I don’t think that kind of fear on Balin’s part would have been well-founded.

 

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Random thought about the wounds Thorin received in the battle against Azog, and how they might apply to writing post-BotFA Thorin.  

If  Because Thorin survived the battle, he would have several major wounds to recover from, some of which would alter his appearance and mannerisms either in the short term or permanently:

A scar over his right eye. While with treatment it may only be visible as a fine line, Thorin’s features would be permanently altered by his battle with Azog. Consider this in some ways makes his appearance match his father’s, but because it’s a slice rather than a more ragged tear it would probably heal cleanly and only be a thin scar rather than a major disfigurement unless it became infected (ie, the author can write it as being a major or minor an alteration to his appearance as they wish, because of the potential for infection, especially considering it’s an orc blade and potentially poisoned or otherwise virulent).

A potential limp. During the battle, Azog’s blade went through Thorin’s foot. Depending on the damage, and the fact that he was able to walk after (though that could just be adrenaline) it’s likely that barring infection Thorin would be able to walk again on that foot and even fight as normal. However, it’s equally possible that it would take some time before he recovered enough to walk unaided, and that he could have a noticeable limp from that point on. This limp could potentially bar him from fighting permanently if the author so chooses, but more likely it would be temporary or somehow compensated for (see: Dain Ironfoot). The potential for infection could lead to Thorin losing the foot if the author so chose, but it would probably be a narrow wound. 

Difficulty breathing. Azog’s blade missed Thorin’s heart, but it almost certainly punctured his lung, based on the blood flecks on his lips and his difficulty breathing, it is also likely that lung collapsed. However, with treatment this is survivable but it would very touch-and-go there for a bit depending on the sophistication of his care (medical people: feel free to call bullshit on me here, I’m speaking in broad terms out of ignorance). My point being, that it could take a while for Thorin to be able to breathe again easily. Furthermore, he would almost certainly bear the scar on his left pectoral and a smaller one on his back from where he was pierced, and since it’s a larger wound than the relatively thin slice over his eyebrow it would probably leave a more lasting scar, in addition to any others he took in the battle. 

Addendum: We can also assume a fair amount of bruising and minor nicks and cuts as a result of the battle. Thorin is almost certainly battle-scarred from earlier fights as well. After AUJ he probably had bruises (rather than cuts, thanks to his armor) from the whipping by the goblins and from being a warg’s chew-toy for a bit there. In general he’d probably have cuts on his hands from the barrel sequence, as well as in general from weapon’s training and working in a forge. 

 

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So after reading linddzz fic “Safe and Distant” I was hit hard by a realization: as far as Thorin knows when he arrives at Bag End, Bilbo has already agreed to come along and it’s only after meeting the dwarves (and Thorin) in person that he apparently changes in mind.

Without delving into the book (because they are separate) we can reconstruct what Thorin & Co knew about Bilbo in advance.

- He’s a Hobbit (“So, this is the hobbit.”)

- He styles himself as a burglar (“Looks more like a grocer than a burglar.” (Thorin plz) - “You’ll need a burglar.” “Yes and an expert one too.” “Well, are you?” They’re not asking if he’s a burglar, they’re asking if he thinks of himself as an expert, his profession his already known.)

- He has agreed to serve them dinner. There will be food, lots of it, and Gandalf will make an announcement while they’re there. 

So as far as Thorin knew, Bilbo had already agreed to come along, the contract was ready, and they would depart in the morning. Balin says “It appears we lost our burglar” which assumes that Balin and the others assumed they already had him. As a result, no attempt was made to convince Bilbo to come along, or to use a delicate touch. Quite the opposite, there’s some good-natured ribbing from Bofur about what Bilbo has gotten himself into. 

So here’s the question: could some of Thorin’s early animosity towards Bilbo stem from his perceived “fickleness”? If Thorin is already insecure about the success of the quest, and just heard from Dain and his other kin that it’s viewed as hopeless and they will not help him, hearing that he had a burglar and then that the burglar changed his mind as soon as he met Thorin and the Company, and then changed it again would not speak well of the hobbit. Especially from a dwarven perspective, which values constancy and oaths. 

In a way, from the outset Bilbo was accidentally set up to fail as far as winning the regard of the dwarves, because he appears to be an oathbreaker and fickle, not to mention disliking the dwarves or not trusting them to succeed, almost immediately. It may just take a long time for Thorin to get over this, since it’s essentially a sucker punch straight into all his fears and insecurities. 

So what if we do accept that Thorin had a love-at-first-sight moment with Bilbo? 

Well then we have to accept he was almost immediately rejected (granted, he was kind of a jerk too with the teasing about being a grocer).

And he only found that affection again much later, when Bilbo “reaffirmed” (actually, declared for the first time) his faith in the quest, in Thorin, and in Thorin’s people. (can never find the actual gif when I need it)

Linddzz, all credit to you for figuring this out because after poring over this movie for years it literally never occurred to me that Thorin thought Bilbo was already coming along, and honestly IMO that changes everything. 

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Anonymous asked: with overprotective to the point of almost abusive! thorin, i don't see it at all either?? i will say he does care very much about his family but all dwarves we've seen would be insulted by excessive hovering, even fili and kili imo who want to be seen as adults in equal standing? i don't see him regularly as trampling over people's agency at all.

I have literally never seen evidence of him trampling over other people’s agency, which is why I’m so baffled by that characterization? 

And that was well phrased - dwarves and warrior cultures in general in the Middle Earth movies disdain being excessive hovering or being protected (see: Eowyn, or Kili shoving Fili off for being so concerned with his wounds). 

I think the only times even the slightest case can be made for “controlling” Thorin is when he’s giving orders as a leader (”When you are king, you will understand” he says to Fili after he forbids Kili from coming along - clearly showing that order was AS A KING, not as an uncle) and perhaps when he drags Bilbo aside during the mithril shirt scene (but even that reads to me as someone terrified pulling another person away from people they see as threats, thanks to his paranoia in that moment). 

Otherwise, Thorin is extremely careful about the agency of others “I have no right to ask this of any of you, but will you follow me one last time?” and “Go back to your books…” but also giving the mithril shirt at all is for Bilbo to go into battle, as it would be useless if he left Bilbo behind to “protect” him. 

*le angry sigh*

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To be honest, I’m just really confused by any fanon that says Thorin would keep someone from joining the Company? 

Like, let’s be real here, this is the biggest most dangerous goal of Thorin’s life. He literally says, “Loyalty, honor, and a willing heart, I can ask no more than that.” His issue with Bilbo was not his lack of physical prowess (he’s bringing Ori and his slingshot along by the way), or that Bilbo can’t fight or fend for himself (that was Dwalin talking, Thorin only listened), nor does he question the intelligence of those who chose to follow him (that was Balin). He listens to all sides, and when Gandalf insists he tells them to give Bilbo the contract. At no point does he question anyone who chooses to join. 

In my opinion, what Thorin was questioning was whether Bilbo willingly came on the Quest. Never mind what a kick in the teeth it must be to be told you have a volunteer, only for that volunteer to “back down” the minute he meets all of you (in truth, Bilbo hadn’t agreed in the first place, but Thorin didn’t know that and to his eyes it was Bilbo changing his mind). Thorin isn’t saying Bilbo shouldn’t have come when he says, “He’s been lost ever since he left home,”, that’s Bilbo’s interpretation, but what he means it that Bilbo has a chance to leave and if he’s going to he should just do it already, and stop shoving it in Thorin’s face that they’re probably doomed, and risking the entire Quest falling apart because one person can’t make up their mind. Thorin’s priority is to keep the Quest together, which is why in my headcanon he was trying to get Bilbo to make his decision one way or the other, so that Bilbo’s eventual desertion didn’t cause a domino effect where all the other dwarves left too. Keep in mind, Thorin just failed to get the Iron Hills dwarves, his own damn cousin, to join him. He’s not some proud, unquestionable figure with a ton of followers. He’s a quasi-failure who is taking one last desperate shot and the only people willing to follow him are his immediate family, and a few opportunists. 

Thorin is not in a position to keep anyone from joining the Company, and in my opinion, he knows it. He’s actual very respectful of those who came, but he doesn’t coddle them. His position is to be the leader and the quest will succeed or fail based on his leadership (and, incidentally, Bilbo’s quick thinking which is why they’re perfect for each other oops). This characterization of Thorin as a proud tyrant imperiously saying who can or cannot join is just so weird to me because there’s basically no in-movie support for it at all (as ever, the book is another matter). 

 

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kanonsymphonia asked: 1/2 You do an absolutely marvelous job in your analysis, I find that I cannot help myself. There is a scene in Desolation of Smaug that has confusing for me, and I was hoping to get your opinion <3 It's the scene where Thorin states "I will not risk this quest for the life of one burglar." We see Balin scold him, "Bilbo. His name is Bilbo." After the mountain quakes, Thorin runs inside in what seems to be an attempt to save him, only to hold him at sword point as he demands to know about the

2/2 Arkenstone. Moments later, Smaug appears, and it shifts as Bilbo inches behind Thorin and likewise Thorin seems to shield him to a small degree. In following scenes, there is no trace of the prior malice and he even goes to lengths to call Bilbo by name and protect him as the Company works to outwit the dragon. What exactly transpired in this scene that led up to him treating Bilbo so highly in the third movie? I can’t put my finger on it, but something clearly happened beneath the surface!

Gosh, thank you for the kind words, and for your patience while I responded to this. 

Ok, as to part ½ I actually find that moment between “His name is Bilbo,” to Thorin running in to save him, to holding him at sword point extremely heartbreaking, especially in the context of BotFA, since on its own it’s a bit confusing, and I’ll address the second half of your question in a moment.

I think, what we’re seeing immediately after they get the door open is this moment of Thorin finally returning to Erebor, and it’s a joyous moment but to paraphrase Richard, the smell of his home is now laced with death and it’s a “spiritual” moment for him. I think there we get the beginning of the light and darkness that’s going to be wrenching Thorin apart over the rest of the story, something we only saw hinted at in Bag End with how his terminology for Erebor shifted back and forth between retrieving the great wealth vs. reclaiming a homeland. I think the dragon sickness began to catch hold when the smell of death came up to Thorin from the tunnel, and when his moment of joy at being home transitioned into the immediate concern of getting the Arkenstone back. Though to be sure, there was also a moment of it in Lake-town too when he’s brooding over the windlance. 

So I think he’s hovering between sickness and health there, with dragon sickness holding him paralyzed when he sends Bilbo down, because dragon sickness actively keeps its victim from seeking danger (thus subverting Thorin’s courage and honor), and it gets worse ever time Thorin believes someone he loves has died, which he may very well have in that moment before Balin snaps him out of it by reminding him of the very real emotional bond he shares with Bilbo. So we see him healthy, briefly, as he comes back to himself and goes charging in, no longer paralyzed.

And then he sees the gold. 

I would say that we’re seeing Thorin tilt wildly between dragon sickness and health in the following moments. The sight of the gold makes him worse, actively fighting Smaug makes him better.

However, I also have a cynical view. I think the dwarves fighting against Smaug was a later addition, so I also think it’s a product of sub-part editing and later scene additions that don’t match the tone of the first take, and the first take was not updated to reflect the changing moods of the re-shoots. 

As for what happened between the second and the third movie to make Bilbo the most trustworthy of the Company? *Shrugs* I literally have no idea and I hope the BotFA EE will clarify. There’s some clumsy editing at the beginning of BotFA too, where Thorin is first shown in his Thror finery, but then they flash back to him giving orders to find the Arkenstone but it’s kind of presented as being the present, except he’s wearing his DoS outfit. It’s kind of a mess and all over the place trying to pick out what happened in those intervening days before Fili and Kili et al. arrived. Clearly Thorin fell fast and hard, but why Bilbo was taken into his confidence during that time is not entirely clear and a little bit sloppy without clarification. As a shipper, I’m ok with it but… eh… long story short, I don’t have an answer to why Thorin trusts Bilbo so much at the beginning of BotFA :-/ I guess I could headcanon it to “He believed Bilbo was telling the truth when he said he didn’t have it, which leaves all the other dwarves as suspects.”

 

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deustiel asked: Please meta about a half-second clip?

image

Source: @perriidott 

Meta below the cut

Ok, let me get my thoughts in order here. 

So what’s happening here? Narrative convenience aside, Balin and Dwalin are trying to curb Thorin’s irrational search for the Arkenstone by confronting him as respectfully as they can. They’re very nervous to point out that Thorin is essentially accusing the dwarves of having stolen it as Thorin falls further into the depths of paranoia. This is a huge blow because “loyalty, honor, and a willing heart” and the fact Thorin said he would trust the dwarves of the company over “an army from the Iron Hills” seems to have gone out the window. This is not the Thorin they know. 

Much Bagginshield discussion has surrounded Bilbo’s placement in this scene, and rightfully so because it’s really weird. I somewhat blame narrative convenience again, all of BotFA is setting up the emotional punch of the Ramparts Betrayal and the Death Scene, so Thorin and Bilbo are suddenly visually a lot closer than they’ve been in the previous movies, it’s almost jarring as the film sets up the new status quo which is a bit of a leap from DoS and AUJ. That being said, there is some logic behind it. Bilbo has shown himself to be a trustworthy non-dwarf on many occasions, probably the only one Thorin has ever met. Why he leaps from suspicion of Bilbo in DoS to trusting him in BotFA with regards to the suspicion of him stealing the Arkenstone is a bit of a leap, but let’s just assume that in the course of the dragon chase scene he figured Bilbo didn’t have it. That means he’s got one person he’s fairly certain (not completely certain, see the acorn scene) hasn’t stolen from him. He’s had no similar encounter with the other members of the company. 

Furthermore, and this is more my theory, he is assuming that it has a greater obvious value to the dwarves than to Bilbo. If Bilbo doesn’t value the Arkenstone as an expensive/pretty jewel, there’s not much more it would mean to him. However, Thorin did say that the oath of the dwarves was sworn to the one who bears the King’s Jewel, which could theoretically mean that any dwarf there could supplant Thorin’s right to the throne by simply taking and holding the Arkenstone. Maybe the Ur’s  and the Ri’s wouldn’t be able to make much claim as commoners, but specifically Balin and Dwalin are of the line of Durin, Thorin’s cousins, so if they possess the Arkenstone they could conceivably steal the right to kingship out from under Thorin, which is what his dragon-sickness afflicted mind sees as a real possibility. 

Ok but on to Bilbo, because otherwise I go down the dragon-sickness rabbit hole again. 

Bilbo has the Arkenstone, the thing Thorin is currently screaming about. I’m not sure how others saw the film, but to me it had been obvious since DoS that he picked it up from under Smaug’s feet. They have the scene in BotFA (not 100% sure if it’s just before or just after this scene) where we have it confirmed that Bilbo has the stone at this moment. 

There’s a lot of really fascinating extrapolations from that fact

- Humor. Ok, let’s just get that out of the way. Martin’s awesome face is fantastic at conveying the awkward humor of this scene. This is Bilbo’s “oh shit” face. Possibly his “oh shit what have I done” face. He probably reeks of guilt right now. If Thorin wasn’t totally batshit, he’d know in an instant that Bilbo has it, I mean just look at him. From a visual storytelling perspective, this look is bringing levity to an otherwise tense scene. 

- Ok with that out of the way, let’s break down what this means. Bilbo is at Thorin’s right hand, the only person Thorin thinks he can trust, and Bilbo can’t even fully contemplate this for the honor it is because he knows he has no right to be thereHe is the thief. 

Thorin doesn’t notice Bilbo’s shifty look because of the level of trust he bears him now. Bilbo has supplanted Balin and Dwalin as his right hand man as a result. He is literally placing Bilbo above his family and the company as a result which idk is kinda romantic if the situation wasn’t so dire.

- Balin and Dwalin may be utterly baffled or they may suspect that Bilbo has the stone, Balin has it more or less confirmed by Bilbo in the next scene. Simply put, regardless of who has the stone, they don’t want Thorin to have it. I’ve pointed out why this is a bad idea on their part elsewhere

- The most interesting question, and what I’m trying to get to I guess, is why does it fall out like this? On the surface, Bilbo is afraid for himself. It’s super awkward that he took the stone and now things have spiraled and there’s really no good time to set it right by giving it to Thorin and now Thorin’s getting crazier by the day and more vengeful, and only now are Bilbo, Balin, and Dwalin, his closest peers (his nephews are not Thorin’s peers) are realizing just how bad it has gotten when Thorin is threatening harm to those closest to him. Bilbo is afraid for himself, which on its own would be enough to explain the scene and honestly to dismiss Bagginshield as a motivation.

- Except Bilbo isn’t just afraid for himself. He’s afraid for Thorin. Regardless of the peril of that moment– I mean it would be a very bad idea right then and there to bring out the stone and “Here’s the burglar!” the thing like he did after the Goblin Tunnels– but he could easily just duck around the corner, root around in the treasure room for a bit and then exclaim Oh, here it is! Haha silly us, under this vase the whole time! If Bilbo was only afraid for himself, that’s exactly what he would do next.

- Let’s be clear, Bilbo wants to give Thorin the stone, he’s desperate to. But Smaug’s warning about it driving Thorin mad is literally ringing in his ears. He’s literally more afraid for Thorin’s sanity and safety than he is for his own physical wellbeing, because certainly he’d be out of harm’s way if he gave up the stone. Keep in mind, the stone as a bargaining chip to save them from Thranduil isn’t even an idea yet, that necessity hasn’t arisen. 

- (Oh, and lest we should think that “I think it would make Thorin worse,” just means Bilbo is afraid Thorin would be more violent with the stone and potentially physically harm him and others (thus negating the idea he’s afraid for Thorin’s health rather than their safety by withholding it), let’s remember his declaration to Gandalf, “I’m not afraid of Thorin!” He seems so startled and outraged during that declaration that Gandalf would even bring up the possibility that it totally negates the idea that his main concern is anything except Thorin’s safety (and that of the company). Also as seen with the ramparts betrayal, Bilbo is honestly shockedwhen Thorin threatens and then lays hands on him. So physical harm was never a major fear in his calculations about revealing the Arkenstone as much as the fear for Thorin’s sanity.)

- Anyway. So Bilbo goes to Balin, the most level-headed dwarf who knows Thorin well, who is basically Thorin’s father figure, and asks him what to do. Balin tells him not to give the stone to Thorin, and you can see Bilbo is crushed by this. Not only that he can’t dispel this nightmare and bring peace to Thorin’s fears by giving him the stone, but also that Balin thinks that it would make Thorin’s already frightening descent even worse, and Bilbo would literally risk personal harm to himself rather than allow that to happen. 

So that “Oh shit” face I was laughing about? It’s a sad laugh, because this is the moment Bilbo realizes how bad it is and just how stuck they all are. They don’t have a cure for Thorin, they can only try not to make it worse, but Thorin is getting worse anyway by the day. Thorin just basically said he would physically hurt anyone who keeps it from him which is so OOC as to be frightening on its own. They don’t know what to do. And Bilbo doesn’t even have the comfort of the moral high ground that Balin and Dwalin have. They can at least voice honest bafflement and give assurances that they’d never betray Thorin and they’d never steal.

Bilbo is saddled with the guilt of doing this to help Thorin, but also knowing he’s betraying his trust at the same time. He can’t even take refuge in the idea that this is the one time he’s ever stolen, because he’s also got the Ring weighing on his conscience (hence the beginning of the acorn scene we really don’t know if he’s looking at the Ring or the Arkenstone because both are weighing on his conscience and changing his view of himself as an honest person). Bilbo knows he’s in deep shit here and he doesn’t know how to get out of it. It’s what propels him eventually into Thranduil’s tent to try to do anything to break this stalemate and probably buy Thorin the breathing space to get some help. Of course it goes disastrously. 

He’s a thief but he’s an honest one, that’s the moral quandary Bilbo faces until he gives up the stone to save their lives. It’s in some ways the lie he tells himself so that he can still recognize himself. In some ways it’s a disservice he does to himself to even consider himself a thief, as Thorin points out when he absolves him in the death scene, pointing out it was no theft at all but rather the actions of a true friend. 

Overall the message of that face is: sometimes it’s harder to help your friends than to hurt them, and he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Which is not a comfortable place for a Baggins to be. 

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Anonymous asked: meta request: how long do you think it would take bilbo and thorin to reconcile post-botfa?

*rubs hands together with glee* oh this is a fun one! I’m sorry for taking so long to get to these but they are such a nice treat to come to on a slow day. 

Funny enough, I would have given a very different answer before BotFA came out, as is somewhat evidenced in PTBS. The first third of that fic is Thorin and Bilbo learning to forgive each other again because I like many fic writers assumed a much more violent and rage-filled ramparts scene (when instead we got a far more sad and emotional one, with very little actual attempt by Thorin to do harm). If I wrote that fic after BotFA it would have been a very different story, not the least because the whole first third of them learning to admit they care for one another would be unnecessary. In BotFA, they never stopped.

My answer now based on BotFA would be: immediately. Even before that on Ravenhill, the nod between Thorin and Bilbo spoke to me of instant forgiveness. Thorin was immediately apologetic for his actions once they had a moment to speak of them aloud, and Bilbo looked frankly baffled by the idea that Thorin would need to ask for forgiveness at all. It was very clear that contrary to what many fic writers anticipated, Bilbo never gave up on Thorin for a second and had no trouble telling the difference between Thorin’s actions while sick vs how he would act under his own power. Likewise Thorin immediately stated without equivocation that Bilbo did the right thing with the Arkenstone.

That being said, I think there are other reconciliations beyond forgiveness for the Arkenstone/Dragon Sickness/the Ramparts that could happen that they might need to work through. Thorin exhibited a very scary suicidal streak that I think Bilbo would struggle with (granted that behavior is tied up in the whole Heroic Warrior King thing, but Bilbo may not quite grasp that given his background). And though the cliche has been done to death, I think Thorin would struggle with accepting Bilbo’s forgiveness? I could see some self-doubt there, especially if it got tied up in the question of whether or not Bilbo’s going home immediately. 

TL;DR I think they’d each be totally fine with each other immediately, in fact that’s basically true in canon as far as we can see. They may have other lingering questions between them but I don’t think it’ll be tied up in the other’s “crimes” as much as it would be with how to go forward now that they’ve clearly shown that they care for one another a great deal. 

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From Indigoire: Kind of a tangent, but the Thorin bit reminded me of the scene in BotFA where Thorin’s talking to Bard about giving his word and he goes “what choice did we have but to barter our birthright?” Which makes me think maybe Thorin’s done so in the past.

 I completely agree. Here’s the thing, I felt like we get these tiny glimpses of the sacrifices Thorin has made over the years to keep his people alive. But the thing is, his narrative tends to stay on sort of an Aragorn-like progression of a noble king in exile. They faced hardships, but at least to me the story feels like it doesn’t quite want to acknowledge the true depths of privation and what that would actually do to someone. The exile is a sore point for Thorin, but it never stopped him from being a hero.

But what if that wasn’t the case?

Because sometimes when Richard speaks the lines, I get this sense that he saw Thorin at his lowest points, and that those lowest points might have included true desperation and not the shiny, fantasy style poverty which is some tasteful rags and a lot of burning anger, rather than true bleakness. Richard even talked about how Thorin was facing a death of the soul before Gandalf showed up, that he had this burning need to reclaim Erebor but it was fading and threatening to go out, and with it the last spark of who he truly was. 

I don’t know about you, but to me it seems farfetched that someone as strong as Thorin is portrayed would be worn down simply by living in Ered Luin, even after Azanulbizar. I like to constantly stress that Thorin went from the prince of the wealthiest nation in the world to a beggar. Not even just a beggar on his own, but one who was most certainly overcharged and spat on, because the dwarves of Erebor are rich, as everyone knows, and desperate, so why not overcharge them? Everyone knows dwarves are greedy, why not take them for all their worth in their time of need? A huge, jarring shift of circumstances, from a kingdom that even Thranduil must bow to for an alliance to someone who even churls among Men would cheat. 

I’m actually very interested to see a realistic look at what such a change of circumstances would do to a psyche. I actually believe that had Thorin lived  he would be very careful about risking the kingdom again, or changing any circumstances for the things that are going well. He may not even realize he’s doing it, he’s just trying to grasp onto any stability for good things. As much as I see him as a very reckless hero, there’s some glimpse of that cautiousness which comes with living on the edge of ruin in that Gandalf had to convince him to try to reclaim Erebor. In that light, I can see his fighting in battle in two ways 1) trying to reclaim lost glory, after all he was a hero at Azanulbizar and rightfully so, but also 2) fierce, almost suicidal desperation and perhaps not a wholehearted belief they’ll get through this without it. I dunno, again I don’t want to woobify or anything, but I enjoy adding additional dimensions to the character that actually work. 

So here’s a thought - what if one of the reasons the dwarven clans refused to help Thorin is because he’s known for breaking his word? Also, his grandfather led them to ruin, the goodwill towards the line of Durin is probably running quite thin at this point. But I was talking with striving-artist and we were talking about what would truly crush Thorin’s soul and we came upon this - needing to break dwarven closely-held morals in order to survive. Hence we discussed Thorin being forced to flee towns where they have debts, being forced to run off with payments before delivering on the goods because he’s trading on dwarven reputation for honesty but if they don’t make enough soon they won’t survive the winter, and he’s needed elsewhere. What about making shoddy swords, because good swords take longer, and only learning later that the town that commissioned them faced an orc hoard? What if some of the bad dwarven reputation for lying and cheating is based on the Erebor dwarves in exile being forced by desperation to renege on their words, something that is taboo to dwarves, because they’re being taken advantage of and they’re at the end of their resources?

THAT sort of thing I think would drive Thorin low and wear him down. That’s why I’m really fascinated by the idea he might still be carrying these burdens when he meets Bilbo. You’ll notice that Dwalin doesn’t claim Thorin will keep his word in Lake-town. He only says that Thorin has a hereditary right to the mountain. What if Dwalin knows that Thorin won’t? He’s seen it before, and while he understands the circumstances that made it necessary, I kinda love the idea that Thorin has a slightly grubby soul. That the joy we see in him at Bag End is about shedding a lot of that, but then they just hit failure after failure under his leadership and there’s a real question if they’ll get through this because he can’t go back to who he was forced to become during the exile. Just the idea of Thorin actually caught between a rock and a hard place. 

We constantly talk about ‘why’ Thorin is going to Erebor when it’s demonstrably such an unhealthy place for him. What if going back to Ered Luin is worse? What if Thorin wasn’t just dying inside, but he was actually morphed into something that would have once been unrecognizable to the prince of Erebor? What if all that dead weight has sloughed off on the road, but the Dwarven Clan Chiefs know him, they know he’s not actually trustworthy anymore? So of course Dain is happy to see him, once he’s reclaimed the mountain. They all want the Thorin they knew back, including Thorin! But he’s been stuck in inaction for years? 

Anyway, Thorin who has seen true poverty and has had to make moral sacrifices in order to survive it is an interesting concept to me. It somewhat defies Tolkien’s world where money seems to have no particular value except insofar as Smaug sits on a bed of gold. How Bilbo supported himself before the quest is unknown, the true cost of the dwarves in exile is unknown, considering theoretically one ruby in their pockets should have been enough to set a family up comfortably for years just about anywhere else. So why wasn’t it enough? Do you know how much a day laborer makes? It would not be unreasonable to assume that he would see one gold coin in years as a blacksmith based on ancient standards. 

 

A talent, a unit of weight for gold or silver, typically weighed about 33kg … which would take an ordinary laborer 6,000 days (16 years). X

Imagine Thorin going from a world where he has coins just lying around to one where he must work as a smith for weeks, if not months, to make a few silver. Where because his people are known to be desperate, a ruby which should have equaled many gold coins isn’t enough to buy them enough bread for the whole refugee camp. The thought makes me a bit dizzy to be honest, but I feel like the movie world only hints at this, and Tolkien barely even mentions it and seems to have little to no sympathy for his dwarves.

When Thorin was trying to reclaim Erebor, he was doing it for Gimli’s generation. Gimli is what dwarves normally are, what they should be - stalwart, brave, never reneging on a bargain, who says things like, “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” I feel like that is dwarven morality. But I can’t help but think that’s their morality in prosperous times, “it’s easy to be a saint in paradise”, and Thorin saw the darkest depths and fought to claw his people out of them, but may have gotten grubby himself along the way. To me, that’s a far more inspiring leader, but I think also one who would have some self-loathing issues.

That one to me is fascinating if he meets a truly unpleasant and selfish Bilbo, and both of them become better through their meeting. Bilbo sees Thorin as he is trying to become again - a prince and a hero on a noble quest. Maybe he doesn’t see or know about the depths Thorin sunk to (at least in his own mind). So when he stands up and says that the dwarves deserve a home, Thorin is actually thunderstruck. Likewise with the vouching scene. Perhaps that’s Thorin realizing that somehow, this impossible person believes in him, perhaps a small and grubby part of him is thinking “Oh good, we’ve got someone to lie for us, so we’ll get out of this in one piece” while another is thinking he actually wants to be that person, he wants to be worthy of that faith?  

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madametortilla asked: I'm thinking about the way Thorin says in the EE of DOS: "This, Master Baggins, is the world of Men", which may suggest a possible dislike of Men in general or of their ways. I'm assuming that this pertains to the terrible exile years where Thorin and his kin had to wander laboring in the villages of Men. I wonder a) what Thorin and the dwarves think of Men (not just the people of Laketown) and b) how dwarves are regarded by other races.

I think the short answer to both a and b is “poorly.” :P

I actually really loved that line because it was such a reminder of the exile. I don’t think Thorin hates Men the way he hates Elves, but clearly it’s not a good relationship. He is wary and distrustful in every instance we see him interacting with Men - from the Prancing Pony in Bree, to Lake-town, to Erebor. Exceptions made for the cute waitress, but I mean how can you not love Katie Jackson. 

If I had to give my theory, which would be better informed by re-reading LotR but my brain is too bleary right now, I’d say Beorn pretty much summed up the general view of Men (and Elves) towards dwarves: they’re greedy, disdainful of others, and prefer their treasure above all else. 

It should go without saying that I see this as an insulting and unfair criticism. I think dwarves are disdainful of others because they’ve been shown disdain in return, from the very earliest days of their creation shunted aside and given second fiddle to literally everyone else. I think gold and jewels are not just currency to them, but actually a legacy of their people, akin to our great masterpieces of art. Substitute ‘gold’ when dwarves talk about it to the equivalent of the Mona Lisa, Erebor to the Louvre, and I think you get a much better sense of why Thorin is protective than by just assuming it’s about monetary value. For one thing, the latter just doesn’t make sense, the dwarves are clearly not spending it on very much outside of Dale, nor could they even if they wanted to, their wealth reserves are so laughably ahead of everyone else in terms of billions

As for why dwarves like Thorin would be distrustful of Men I’d point out that in many instances the dwarves are at a disadvantage. Sure they’re strong and tough as hell, but they are smaller, and there are a lot fewer of them. A dwarf can probably out-class a man in endurance and possibly strength, but a group of Men together can probably overwhelm a dwarf, especially one who is alone on the road with none of his fellow people around. I think that’s what Thorin was aware of in Bree, that he is essentially alone, and dwarves are rumored to be very rich, and he is in fact a perfect target until Gandalf shows up. I got the sense that he has been mugged, or nearly mugged, in the past most likely by Men. It’s not a stretch to imagine that word of Erebor’s refugees would have spread, and given its fabled hoard that would have made them targets for many unscrupulous sorts, either by theft, overcharging for goods, or violence. 

As for Lake-town, I got the sense that Thorin was warning Bilbo about a place of chaos and low standards. The Shire is a very homogenous place, everyone is pretty harmless and gets along, they have standards of behavior and can expect a modicum of decency from one another. Dwarves I imagine are similar, in that they are a relatively homogenous culture with a low population, with the rest of the world against them and culturally (perhaps even biologically) so different from them that it creates a sense of close kinship even between different Dwarven clans. They have laws and standards that are generally obeyed, they all look up to the same kings, heroes, and leaders. 

Men by contrast have no centralized culture or government. They are heterogeneous, untrustworthy, and have a huge population compared to every other race. Culture clashes would be inevitable between Dwarves and Men, not to mention Elves and Men, and Hobbits and Men, for that exact reason. The word of one Man does not protect you from his fellow, or even from him since oaths are less binding than they are to dwarves (extrapolated by the Company’s unwillingness even in the face of danger and death to turn on Thorin). To Dwarven culture, this would be as a rule seen as dishonorable and untrustworthy. Thorin is warning Bilbo that in this place, the rules of good conduct do not apply, they may be robbed as easily as looked at. Thorin is clearly expecting Bard to turn on them at any moment, which speaks to other bargains broken in the past in a way that left him and others in danger. It means heightened alertness and a preparation to go down fighting, because if the dwarves cannot use their superior fighting prowess to get out of the situation, then being in the midst of settlement of Men they can be easily overwhelmed, robbed, beaten, imprisoned, or killed. And you get the sense Thorin has not had very many Men stand up against such poor treatment.

I would argue that during the exile and on the road, Thorin met good Men as well as bad (again, see his reaction to the waitress, this isn’t a categorical racial hatred as it would be with Elves. He can tell the difference between those who do and don’t mean him harm) but with their superior numbers that equation can always turn, where the bad outnumber the good. That, at least, was my sense of those words. 

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(Cross-fandom analysis)

GOD, CAN WE TALK ABOUT RICHARD IN ALL HIS ROLES BUT ESPECIALLY FRANCIS FOR A MOMENT?

Ok, so there’s something very inherently masculine about Richard’s performances. 

And I can say this, idk with authority, but maybe with close scrutiny that it imbues a lot of his roles. Look, I’ve been writing intensive psychological character studies of Thorin for a couple years now, one being a fic with over 100,000 words, and most of that based on his interviews more than even the content of the movies, so I feel like I’ve kinda spent a lot of time in that headspace.

ANYWAY

So there’s a difference between “masculine” and “masculine” in my mind. There’s ra-ra, Rambo-style testosterone and explosives and whatever other nonsense that is kinda what men want to be

But the thing is, men are human, right? They’re fuckin’ organic beings just like women and they are as much bound by insane societal strictures and amongst them are, excellently performed by Richard, concern with body image, troubles with intimacy, senses of duty, the need to become more but the inherent conflict within that is maybe wanting something else and maybe that something else being not as ragingly toxically patriarchal. And this is important

Because god fucking dammit is Richard super fucking good at showing the inherent conflict in even (if not especially) the very strongest, most imposing men. 

Look, Francis Dolarhyde is frankly tortured by his body. He wants to be this solid rock of literally inhuman muscle, but as I think Richard expertly portrayed, he can’t achieve that. Richard was actually better at portraying Dolarhyde’s pathology with his body than a body-builder would have been able to. Because Richard works out obsessively and yet he still has that bit of padding, that bit of softness. And the thing is, he’s criticized the fuck out of himself in “Strike Back” and in other, earlier roles which called for a perfect six pack of abs because his body type literally cannot achieve that. Richard is in fact so fucking perfect at these men tortured by the fact that they do everything right but can’t make up that impossible last 10% that is demanded of men in order to be considered “perfect”. And like women, men are told they can’t be desired, should put off being desired until they achieve something that is literally impossible

And Richard is in fact one of the top most desirable men in the (western) world. Let that sink in for a second. This man still has body image issues.

But back to Dolarhyde. Dolarhyde is a perfect victim of toxic masculinity. What tortures him about his love of Reba, except that it is gentle? He wants to cherish her, he is overawed that she called him “a sweet man”. Not a powerful, strong, frightening man, the desires of the Dragon, but a sweet man. Yet such a characterization is strictly forbidden to that image of masculinity and Richard kills it there. He’s so fucking good like, let me just rant here for a second, he is so fucking good at capturing that divide in the male psyche between wanting to be cherished, and loved, and cared about and for, vs this horrifyingly strict and restrictive view of the killer, the bodybuilder, the man with rough hands and no emotions who should cringe at being called sweet whereas Dolarhyde more or less melts at the thought. Because he’s a human being. He’s a human being who wants desperately, in his own words, to share what he is, what he is becoming. The inherent conflict was when he could not share his ascent into toxic masculinity of biting and murder and (literally) rape without hurting the woman he loved, and he went to exorbitant lengths (within his own head) to make sure that she was separated from the madness, and from him. That she believed he was dead. 

The thing is, Richard does this across so many roles. The Crucible is an excellent example of a stomping, snarling figure, literally a dark monolith of a man within the Salem society. Yet what undoes him? His own shame. His wife’s censure, and his own projected image of his wife’s censure of him. He wants intimacy so terribly that years later he’s still tearing himself apart for daring to seek it elsewhere when his own marriage, the one intimacy allowed to him in his society, was falling apart. By the end we see this man crushed and then uplifted by his seeking of intimacy. And yet what also saves him? His willingness, indeed it is imposed upon him but he accepts it, to cast aside the image of the “strong man” who is untouched by anything but reason and iron-clad faith, when he casts those aside he finds his salvation and forgiveness and actualization. In large part, when he forgives himself those roles and finally accepts what matters most to him: the gentle intimacy in his life of the person he cares about most. 

One could very strongly say the same for Thorin in “The Hobbit” when his most gentle, real and relatable moments are those murmured words of affection between him and Bilbo, most notably at the end of the first movie, in “the acorn” scene and the “death” scene in the third movie. Richard is uniquely skilled at showing salvation through intimacy. Men who are driven to the very edge of humanity, to unbearable levels of torment and even madness, by their circumstances. By expectations put upon them by their male relatives -Thorin in this case regaining Erebor on behalf of his forefathers even when it’s clear that the mountain is toxic to his existence and identity. Yet he is redeemed by gentle companionship, by his friends like Dwalin, his close relatives like Kili. Perhaps almost-lover, if you believe that interpretation of him and Bilbo (as I do). 

This redemption through love is also seen in “North and South” where once again we see a man strictly bound in society’s expectations, seeking the companionship of an equal in Margaret Hale. Like in many of his roles, Richard looks at the actress (and sometimes it is in actor, in other roles) standing across from him as if the sun rises and sets on their word. His greatest torment is that the gruffness of his life and upbringing leave him ill-equipped to express himself to the object of his affection. Richard makes up for this with looks of intensity and adoration that are practically blinding, and he does it across his various roles. He does it with friends and with lovers, to the point where it becomes difficult to extricate the two and leaves many questions as to whether they can be. Richard has a singular ability to show who is the most important person in the life and arc of the character he is playing.

A last word on Dolarhyde, but what was most striking about the finale episode was that even before he spoke the words, a close viewer could see that the Dragon was no longer directly in control. Whatever goodness existed within Francis, the Man, had gained just a bit more power. Perhaps by saving Reba he had done some, and it recasts that desperate struggle for her life and shows him coming out stronger for it. For having spared her the wrath of the thing inside him. Richard had so perfectly articulated the split personality inside his character that we can see when Francis won over the Dragon

The split between the toxic masculine and the vulnerable, romantic masculine is so striking in Richard’s performances. And it is not feminine, there is nothing about it that speaks to the feminine except that it at times adores the feminine (though not always, there are roles even in Strike Back where the object of his focus and affection appears to be a man). 

Richard is an extremely masculine actor, but he goes to a place where most male actors only dabble for the most “bromantic” moments of the script: the place where the toxic masculine fails men. The place where they crave connection, “sharing”, intimacy, touch that is more than a companionable pat on the shoulder. The place where Francis is tormented by the fact his body cannot match the masculine ideal, the place where toxic masculinity allowed Proctor in the Crucible to have an affair and that affair destroyed the intimacy that Proctor really wanted. It is the place where Thorin throws his life away securing the future of a home that literally drove him mad, and is last seen smiling talking to Bilbo of small, domestic things like an armchair, a garden, a home in the Shire. At that moment, it is possible to believe that Thorin would very well give it all up to go back to such a humble home and trade away all the glory the quest has gained, seeing that it was really not what he wanted or needed. It is also the place where John in “North and South” finally bites back his own pride, the pride that will not allow him to speak frankly or shed his arrogance, in order to offer himself to the woman he loves.

“Offering” is another aspect of this. In all his roles, Richard shows his devotion by the act of offering himself. Making himself vulnerable, in some cases literally submissively presenting himself to the object of his adoration. He is a large, strong, imposing man who shows his devotion and indeed even his fear and vulnerability, by offering that which is most tender and easy to hurt and even destroy to the person who can mostly easily destroy it with only the smallest word. He exposes himself to them as a way of silently saying “I love you” but there is a hidden plea in it as well. “Walk gently upon my heart, it is yours”. It is what makes him such an effective romantic lead, why it is right of him to shy away from action roles that will no doubt come his way. Richard’s strength lies very much in his ability to allow himself to show weakness

I’ve had many thoughts and feelings about Richard’s art, and will most likely have many more, but what is most striking to me is how powerful this man is within his strongest niche, and Francis has (unsurprisingly) become one more character to add to the list of men, not vulnerable men but simply men, who Richard makes shine. 

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mostlyanything19 and I had a discussion not long ago where we agreed we have a great deal of difficulty writing Bilbo in fic and figuring out what makes him “tick.” This has been a problem that plagues my writing of Bilbo. He’s a great narrator character and he’s good at moving the plot, and I can easily picture him performing a certain action a certain way, but I’ve never quite been able to grasp his inner workings the way I could Thorin. 

At the beginning of Red Dragon there’s a quote from Alphonse Bertillon that has been on my mind lately, “One can only see what one observes, and one observes only things which are already in the mind.” It got me thinking about why it is that I don’t see Bilbo’s inner workings, because he and I don’t necessarily share them. 

Thorin’s inner motivations are clear to me. I feel them intensely and I can easily conceptualize a mental “3D model” of how he’ll act in certain situations. We say “cream egg” facetiously but it’s fairly apt. A gooey center encased in a slightly less gooey outer shell. Thorin’s emotions are intense and he expresses them freely, though sometimes they are controlled by rigid discipline. He’s stubborn and courageous, and it’s not so much that he doesn’t think well of himself it’s that he has larger things to worry about. 

Bilbo is self-interrupting, and fussy, and proper, and I’ve long been able to express that without truly understanding the internal workings of the character that leads to those reactions. 

Then I got talking to linddzz last night after a few drinks and crying over BotFA and something just clicked. 

Don’t be ridiculous. Get your head out of your ass,” for all its crudity, is the phrase that makes up the core of Bilbo’s being and actions. Unless Bilbo is overwhelmed by action or there is a clear, immediate and present danger, you can actually see how he constantly stops himself from being… himself. 

(This is gonna be another long one, guys since I’ll be exploring the idea for myself for the first time.)

We see him as a young hobbit gleefully attacking Gandalf with a wooden sword (something I’m sure he’s considered later in life with a real one). He’s joyous, and carefree, and then interrupted. Though Belladonna’s actions are completely understandable there, from the perspective of reining in an unruly child, it’s a pattern that Bilbo would eventually internalize. 

Gandalf is taken aback when he meets adult Bilbo all those years later. Where’s the adventurer, the scholar, the budding anthropologist who wanted to meet elves in the woods and was getting himself into messes wandering the Shire? Something happened to turn him into this fussy homebody, who can’t even look an odd stranger in the eye and actively flees him in the marketplace. Who cares more about dishes and doilies than leaving his home. Who pores over books and maps because he still thinks about the outside world but for some reason doesn’t dare engage it. From what we hear, this is a dramatic and troubling shift. Somewhere along the line, someone took everything that made up young Bilbo and told him to stop doing that. And he’s been stopping himself from being Bilbo ever since.

Bilbo’s facial expressions are extremely unique, and provide us with the greatest insight into what’s going on. He’s self-interrupting. You can see him begin to have an emotion, or several at once, and then school his features to settle them back into something social acceptable. Neutrality, irritation, calm agreement, concern, and worry are acceptable. Extreme joy, extreme sadness or tears, overwhelming amusement, in short, the dwarven emotions, are largely cut off to him because in his society they are ridiculous and excessive and he must consider how he is viewed by those around him rather than express how he feels. (It’s one reason that being around the dwarves is so good for Bilbo.)

The few times we see Bilbo express honest, uncontrolled happiness, for example, are when there’s no one around to see him. In Rivendell, when he wanders by himself and takes in the beauty of this place he’s only ever dreamed of. In Mirkwood, when the butterflies flutter around and he sees the sun for the first time in days. In both instances there is no one there to witness his uncontrolled euphoria, and once back amongst the dwarves he’s all business again. Even when he finally breaks down in tears at Thorin’s death, he only does so once he is truly alone. He can’t even bring himself to cry over the death of comrades in front of others, his self-control is actually that rigid which is, wow, actually really intense.

That is the “Don’t be ridiculous,” part.

Now for the, “Get your head out your ass,” part (though I welcome a better way to phrase this, lol). Notice that despite all that Bilbo has done, he never allows himself to feel his accomplishments or even really acknowledge them (and wow is that a trait he shares with Thorin). It’s never about him – even when it really, really is. “I’m just a hobbit” is constantly reiterated. He’s almost never acknowledged for his great deeds like saving the dwarves and he never brings it up and in fact dismisses himself on the Carrock rather than take credit, even though he just saved Thorin’s life. He never once says “I saved you so many times, you should thank me.” Not. Once. Because that falls under “get your head out your ass”. “Stop thinking this about you, or that you’re so great, or that you should be the center of attention. It wasn’t that big of a deal.”

And you can see him thinking that, that he never tries to cash in on the goodwill he’s built up, he never rubs anything in anyone’s face even though with the number of times he’s saved them he probably could. Even when he brings up the vouching, he doesn’t mention that it’s probably the reason they made it out of Lake-town in time for Durin’s day. He only mentions that his honor is at stake too.

Interestingly, the only time Bilbo reflects on his past deeds and talks them up is when he’s giving his titles to Smaug. Again, clear and present danger forces Bilbo to reshuffle himself in his mind, to become the adventurer and the hero, but he almost seems unaware that he’s doing it, or that what he’s done is noteworthy.

It’s actually most maddening during the period of dragon sickness in BotFA. Bilbo is clearly the person with the greatest access to Thorin’s trust. He is literally the only one Thorin is listening to at all anymore, the only one who can wrestle Thorin back into the light. Yet he’s constantly checking himself, he’s constantly reevaluating his own worth and his own worthiness to take on this challenge. Bilbo clearly believes the other dwarves have the greater wisdom and awareness when it comes to Thorin. They’ve got this. 

They clearly do not got this. 

But Bilbo simply can’t acknowledge that this is all on him now. Because he can’t believe that he is someone that has that kind of power over someone like Thorin. He’s so hesitant and holding himself back when it comes to interfering at all in this clearly serious matter. Even when he finally does take action it’s to get others to intervene, because he’s only a “little hobbit” who cannot possibly sway the heart and mind of the king. 

You even see it in the camera angles when Thorin confronts him about being betrayed. He can barely look Thorin in the face, but if he could he would see that Thorin is honestly terrified at the prospect of being betrayed, he is in fact taking Bilbo into his confidence on a deadly serious matter and he is clearly, well, singularly obsessed with Bilbo. This gives Bilbo immense power when it comes to interacting with Thorin, and he never once puts his foot down and uses it. Even at the gate, his words are entirely styled as a fair business transaction rather than a decision Bilbo has made to intervene, and he persists in believing that Thorin’s anger is over the Arkenstone when clearly Bilbo’s apparent betrayal has hit much closer to home for Thorin. 

Bilbo is not prepared for how intensely Thorin feels about him… pretty much ever in BotFA. Acorn scene, mithril shirt scene, the gate, the death scene, every single one shows Bilbo unprepared for being the center of Thorin’s attention and an important person in Thorin’s life. 

Sorry for the shipper tangent there, but it plays into the fact: sometimes you can see Bilbo begin to question. You can see him begin to consider that maybe he is a big deal, maybe he does have a great deal of power. He always buries it again immediately. He shouldn’t be ridiculous, he shouldn’t believe that he himself is a significant figure. Being more than he is, showing his true emotions, those are all ridiculous. 

Watch the film again. Note all the times Bilbo begins to have a sincere emotion, and then stops himself. Of the few times where we see huge, honest smiles from him there’s no one around to see him. In Rivendell, or at the top of the tree with the butterflies, or even when he’s looking at the One Ring in his pocket at the end in Bag End. Bilbo schools his features for others. Don’t be ridiculous. Outward expressions of powerful emotion are ridiculous and must be controlled. It’s so ingrained that you see the flicker of everything he’s thinking all at once before it’s all suppressed with something safer. Neutrality, or fussy concern, or politeness. 

In a way, it’s what makes his 111th Birthday so noteworthy. Bilbo has finally pulled free of it. It’s been a long road, but he no longer cares about making a scene, or what the other hobbits think of him. He’s ready to be Mad Baggins disappearing with a bang and a flash. This is, arguably, who he has been the whole time, when he’s not preventing himself from doing so. 

Considering this is a lot of how I see John Watson too, I wonder if this may be Martin’s own internal conflict, or type-cast, “every man” characters who really aren’t “every men” at all, who have a heart for danger and adventure that they constantly suppress in order to fit in to their world. As a rather joyful weirdo, it’s never occurred to me to ever control my actions the way Bilbo does, which is why it may have taken so long for this to click.

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(Cross-fandom with BBC Sherlock - contains spoilers)

A really excellent post about John Watson in Sherlock Season 4 by @thepurplewombat got me thinking about Martin Freeman’s acting, which got me thinking about Bilbo, as is my usual train of thought, and it put me in the mood to ramble a bit.

First of all, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an actor have two characters be so infantilized as Martin Freeman’s roles are with John Watson and Bilbo Baggins. Both John and Bilbo are constantly depicted in fanworks as soft, emotional nurturers who often wear their heart on their sleeve and are the small, yaoi blond sub to their tall, dark, and brooding partner. This baffles me because it is a huge step away from the text, though of course this is all my opinion and I don’t want to come across as telling others how to do fanworks, so allow me to give my perspective.

Martin Freeman is very, very good in both of those roles at showing men at war within themselves. Martin once said the only similarity between Bilbo and John was the actor who plays them, and in that I’d say he’s wrong, or if he’s right it’s because he’s put something of himself so strongly into both roles that it would be uncomfortable to express in an interview. To the latter I cannot comment, not knowing the man personally, but here’s how I see the similarities between John and Bilbo:

Both John and Bilbo are defined by who they were supposed to be in life. John desperately wants to be normal, but more than that he wants to want to be normal. He sees his desire for action and danger, the desire that sent him into war in Afghanistan, as a faultline within himself. He resents the injury that sent him home from the war, where glimpses throughout the series (mostly in the first episode, but later his reaction to seeing Sholto) that the war was one of the high points of his life. More than his injury though, he resents in himself the fact that he misses the war. He wants to be someone who is glad to have been sent home, he wants to be someone who wants to put the war behind him as some sort of embarrassing adolescent phase, one that he’s grown out of in favor of settling down with a job as a doctor, a wife and children.

The reason, I think, for the sheer joie de vivre that we see in John in the first episode of BBC Sherlock, is because Sherlock allows John to be himself. He provides a replacement for the war, as Mycroft observes. For a short time, John is able to forget the war within himself and what he “should” do versus what he wants to do. But the tension returns soon after, as his nagging feeling that he should be working harder to settle down returns in 1.2 the Blind Banker with his dates with Sarah. For a little while we see John hoping he can live the superhero double life, but as this puts stress on his non-Sherlock relationships the tension within him is exacerbated. Can he really have it all, or does he have to choose, as the girlfriend Jeanette first puts into his mind in 2.1 Scandal in Belgravia, between a normal life and a fulfilling one with Sherlock?

I think there is a valid reason why so many fans and fanwork makers project a gay narrative onto John, and that’s because there is an element of struggling with one’s true desires running through the narrative. Like many gay men of a certain time period (and today), he wants to want a wife and children because it is the narrative society has told him he should want. He’s not only never been able to accept himself for who he is, which is a man who loves danger and who is lost, self-destructive, and off-kilter without it, but in addition when he is reminded of society he becomes resentful of the things and people that give him joy in life, namely danger, and Sherlock’s role in it. 

I daresay for a little while near the end of season 2, John was close to making a decision in his life between inflicted domesticity and desired danger. He was leaning towards Sherlock, which I think is the root of much of the ship’s popularity. Sherlock and John felt as if they were moving towards being finally open with one another, with accepting one another in their lives as something they needn’t be ashamed of, of moving on past what society asks of them. Again, one of the core plot points of many gay narratives. This all went to hell when Sherlock faked his death, and didn’t take John with him. 

John had dared to begin thinking he could buck what society wanted of him, but in return his life– as he was beginning to build it– was utterly destroyed. He dared to fly close to the sun, to happiness, and in his hubris he was crushed back to earth by Sherlock’s “death”. He did what many people do when confronted with such a trauma: he retreated back into the past. He made a somewhat superstitious assumption that he had been punished for not wanting domesticity, that he had been slapped down by the universe, and therefore that all that was left to him was to be who he was “supposed” to be - an upstanding member of society, a husband and father.

This is the reason why the revelation of Mary being an assassin was so traumatic in John’s life. Sherlock is back, and Mary is as dangerous as Sherlock, and as dangerous John had been on the battlefield. He had made the assumption that domesticity would protect him from himself, and it had failed. Now he has been burned badly by both sides of the desires in his life. He literally could not win and was horribly punished in both cases, losing Sherlock then losing his wife. Neither side of his personality could taste of anything but failure and grief. So yes, he became angry, he became introverted, as many trauma survivors do, he snapped at the people who represented either side of himself, he was seriously, deeply shell-shocked. 

And to a very real extent, Sherlock understands only later what he has done. The reason why the Christmas episode features Watson saving Holmes from the Reichenbach Falls goes the way it does is because Sherlock finally understands that his moment of over self-reliance by leaving John out of his plan to destroy Moriarty’s network is where he lost everything he really wantedSherlock’s version of a happy ending is one where he never faked his own death, and never lost John as a result. Had he not faked it, he and John were in the process of fumbling their way towards a happy life together. Unlike every other interpretation of Sherlock Holmes, the BBC Sherlock is one where John is unable to forgive Sherlock for his betrayal, and that in my opinion has poisoned the narrative and left so many viewers dissatisfied, because the show was at its best when it was two men who had no exact word for what they were to each other, but who knew they were better and happier together. Men who were willing to throw society aside in order to complete one another. Sherlock, as much as John, believed he had to be alone because society had shown him no one could accept his eccentricities, so he too was learning that they could ignore the voices outside and build something together. 

Adventure died, domesticity was used as a bandage to replace it, domesticity was poisoned, adventure returned only for John to discover that it too was poisoned by his grief and resentment which were in turn caused by the initial trauma of Sherlock’s death.

It may seem a jarring pivot here to suddenly switch to Bilbo Baggins, but indulge me. 

Gandalf upon meeting Bilbo again after many years is shocked at what he finds. He had considered young Bilbo to be one of the few hobbits of the Shire with a thirst for something more from life, and a desire for adventure. Yet the man he finds so many years later is an utter homebody who claims to want nothing more from life than the comfort and solitude of his home. 

We as the audience have not seen what happened in the intervening years, but we do get some hints from Gandalf: Bilbo’s parents have died, including his mother who loved adventure. He has refused to marry, though he is by all accounts the town’s most eligible bachelor, from the book we know it’s because part of Bilbo sensed he was waiting for something, someone to take him away who year after year never came. I would extrapolate here that the slow decay of time and society had beaten Bilbo into an acceptable, bland person. Not happy as such, but comfortable, and without the energy to change even as he never felt any true joy or purpose. This makes him similar to Martin’s John Watson, something that as an American is somewhat baffling to me and that I would typify as an “English” trait: both feel tremendous pressure to conform to society, while in their hearts they were meant for something different. 

We never see Bilbo smile quite so joyfully as when he finally takes the leap and runs out his door. Like John Watson leaving his cane behind and racing through the streets of London, he has rediscovered an inner fire that was thought dead. I hesitate to speculate on a real person, but given the similarities and some tidbits from Martin’s personal biography, I wonder if he has ever felt that split between being a respectable family man versus the glamour and extroversion of his career. Even in “Fargo” we get the sense of a man trapped by domesticity who longs to be something more (in the case of that story, a murderer, but to each his own). 

I tend to see Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield as the “Sherlock” of The Hobbit trilogy. It’s his quest that Bilbo embarks upon, so in a very real way he represents the danger that Bilbo is chasing after. Though Bilbo repeatedly mentions his desire to return to the comforts of his home, he only once attempts to do so and only after he perceives that Thorin (the adventure itself?) has rejected him. Once accepted into this life by Thorin’s embrace of Bilbo and his desire to help, it’s interesting to note that Bilbo never brings up Bag End again. And on Thorin’s deathbed, is is Thorin who reminds Bilbo of his desire to return home. Thorin vividly remembers that speech, perhaps because Thorin too is someone who is seeking home and recognized that desire in Bilbo but arguably from the opposite direction, in that Bilbo is enhanced by the desire to leave home for adventure, Thorin is enhanced by the desire to leave the world of adventure to return home.

What’s so striking about the moment when a dying Thorin urges to Bilbo to go home and live a long life is how confused Bilbo looks. He really does appear to have forgotten about Bag End entirely, just as he’s confused by Thorin’s request for forgiveness. In both cases, he seems utterly baffled that Thorin thought he needed forgiveness, and that Thorin thought Bilbo wanted to return home. Like John Watson on the case, he has found a life that makes him happy, he has forgotten domesticity. 

At least, both John and Bilbo forget domesticity until the life they dreamed of building outside it is suddenly, and brutally snatched from them by the death of the person that represented adventure to them. The only two times we see Bilbo cry in the trilogy is over the death of Thorin, once at the moment of his death and the second time at his funeral. Sherlock’s gravestone is the only time we see John lose his composure and give in to tears, at least until Mary’s death. (You would never know it given how often fanworks depict Bilbo and John as constantly in tears, but there you are.)

With Thorin snatched from him, Bilbo can’t even consider remaining in Erebor, not even for a day after the funeral. This wouldn’t be so odd, given the emphasis the character has placed on returning to Bag End, if not for what happens when he finally returns to Bag End. 

Bilbo’s return to Bag End is strikingly not a happy ending. After disrupting the auction of his belongings, Bilbo enters an empty, grey home that is in ruins in much the same manner as Thorin’s Erebor. Both homes were ransacked by greed, both leave the returning hero bereft and under the sway of evil, cursed gold. Our last glimpse of young Bilbo’s face is almost demonic as he smiles down to one comfort remaining in his life: Sauron’s Ring. For all that The Hobbit trilogy is about the desire to return home, in both cases we learn that home is perhaps the most dangerous and toxic place for our characters to return to. The domestic has been corrupted, the only purity lies in adventure and the road, where Bilbo returns as soon as he is free (60 years later) of the Ring’s influence.

Why did Bilbo return home? Because he wanted to, because Thorin asked him to, because he felt it was the right thing to do? Whatever the case, we see it is a bad place for him, a place where he is utterly alone with his demons. John Watson is not so different, we rarely see him truly smile when he is not on the case with Sherlock, yet he feels continuously compelled to go on dates, to marry, to settle down, to raise a family that he seems ultimately unable to connect with because it’s not where his true passions lie. Bilbo, by the way, never marries.

Both John Watson and Bilbo Baggins, as portrayed by Martin Freeman, are men caught between their soul’s desire for danger and adventure, and their society’s desire for them to stay home and conform. Freeman’s tremendous acting ability, especially his talent for showing a character thinking two things at once, enhances this aspect, or perhaps places it in both of characters in the first place. Perhaps it is something that comes from within the man himself. Perhaps it’s just a character he feels he understands for other reasons. But the popular fanon of John or Bilbo being domestic, protective nurturers has always rung false to me. They are both men of action who have been forced to be otherwise by a society that wants to soften them. But there is anger within them, there is rage, there is an adventurer that loves danger more than comfort longing to get out, and that inner turmoil sets up within them an endless inner war.

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Ok, that title’s a bit controversial but hear me out:

It shouldn’t come as news to Tumblr that BBC Sherlock was kind of a big deal. However, as the group that ostensibly “discovered” the show, Tumblr has also already gone through cycles of being jaded with it, finding numerous problems, analyzed and obsessed over it to death. People here are constantly falling in and out of love with the show, if they ever liked it in the first place, but there’s one thing that I think is sometimes missed outside this sphere:

BBC Sherlock was a huge deal in entertainment on a global scale (at least in the English speaking world which is my frame of reference). It’s not just that it did well and launched the careers of Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch. BBC Sherlock has actually directly changed the course of Hollywood and some of its biggest franchises.

BBC Sherlock has actually had a huge influence on some of the biggest franchises to ever exist: The Lord of the Rings/Hobbit series, on James Bond, Fargo, Marvel, Star Trek, Frankenstein, Shakespeare… huge blockbuster films have borrowed from the cast based on their performance in Sherlock, specifically in order to reference them as was the case with Andrew Scott as C in James Bond, or Benedict as Khan or Dr. Strange. (On a wider scale, BBC Sherlock could be widely responsible for this new “British Invasion” where British actors are being cast on a mass scale in American films. The original LotR trilogy had a ton of American actors like Viggo, Elijah, Sean, Liv, etc. The Hobbit had only Lee Pace . Goddamn Spider-man has been cast with a British actor, and I’d argue BBC Sherlock prompted or at least expanded this latest wave of talent search across the pond.)

So given that Sherlock actors are being typecast based on their role in that series, I don’t think it is a stretch at all to say that many elements made Martin Freeman perfect to play Bilbo, but Peter Jackson specifically stated that BBC Sherlock is why he held up production, an incredibly expensive process, just to get Martin specifically as Bilbo. That his performance in Sherlock is part of how he actually planned out how he would use Martin in the film. 

All of this is very old news, but then again we haven’t had the complete extended trilogy to work with until quite recently, and as such have not been able to see the entire intended arc of the films. 

Tumblr will know better than any other site that the homoerotically charged relationship between John and Sherlock is a huge part of the appeal of the series. One may argue that it is the reason that the series took off at all. And even my homophobic dad will point out that John and Sherlock are really, really gay. Like, so much that even the heteronormative gaze thinks something is a bit fishy, at the very least. So PJ and Co. (I’d argue it’s Philippa more than PJ) could not have avoided the fact that part of what made those performances so magnetic was the underlying homoerotic tension. There is no question John and Sherlock love each other, the only debate is whether or not canon has a sexual component, or whether or not it could, or should. 

So basically: you don’t cast Martin Freeman as your main character and deny the fact that one of his greatest strengths is playing opposite someone he has homoerotic tension with, especially if you’re basing your casting off BBC Sherlock. 

Yes, they cast Benedict in it, but I could have told you from when the news first broke that he was never going to be “seen” in the film, because they were going to avoid having John and Sherlock standing opposite one another in any way because it would be too obvious a reference to Sherlock (he would not play Bard, for example, so I wasn’t the least surprised that he was cast for his voice only). If anything, it just further emphasizes how much BBC Sherlock inspired The Hobbit.

Really though, with Martin as the person they moved production for, that means Richard Armitage (as Thorin) was a more flexible choice (and he knew it, going so far as to not unpack his bags for the first weeks because he was so convinced he would be switched out). Which means part of why he was cast was to have chemistry opposite Martin, rather than the other way around. 

Look, Thorin in the book has really only one touching scene with Bilbo, on his death bed. The person who really shows concern for Bilbo’s well-being and talks to him and has any level of friendship with him in the book is Balin, and he was clearly switched out to be the grandfatherly figure of the films. Thorin was even de-aged to give him more in common with Bilbo and not be an older figure. They gave him dark hair even though there was no indication in the books that he was dark-haired, and Richard’s hair and eyebrows are fake in the films, so they could have been anything. Thorin in the book has white hair, and his nephews are blond, so literally they cast Martin opposite yet another tall, dark haired, blue-eyed, intense man on a mission. 

You cast him from homoerotically charged BBC Sherlock in order to bring chemistry and heart to your film, you put him opposite a Sherlock-like figure as much as one can given that Thorin is a warrior king and not an intellectual savant, you have Martin in a scene where he watches this person die and is shattered by it in a way that clearly echoes John watching Sherlock’s “suicide” and funeral in how he broke down at the tombstone, you have them build this rapport over several movies and you tell me, that after all the things that had to be changed to build this relationship which DID NOT EXIST in the book in this manner, that they were clueless about the possibility of Bagginshield? 

To me there are just too many deliberate choices that had to go into the casting and creation of Thorin and Bilbo, with these call backs to BBC Sherlock littered throughout the films, for it to be entirely coincidence. Now I do believe PJ may have not realize just how homoerotic it was (based on some conversations I’ve had with people who worked on the film) but everyone else on it apparently agreed that the homoerotic tension was everywhere reinforced (with a sly wink and a nod, not horror whenever someone brings it up, including prop and makeup people I’ve spoken to). 

Personally, I think Philippa is responsible, having seen BBC Sherlock and understanding it’s popularity (you can’t tell me the woman who created Tauriel wasn’t perfectly aware of fandom and the post-LotR the Mary Sue storm, and didn’t at least somewhat base Tauriel off the fandom’s common model for a woman in the Fellowship) - you can’t tell me she didn’t understand the homoerotic element and work it in just so they could play to Martin (and Richard’s) strengths and try to steal a bit of the magic that made BBC Sherlock so successful, and bring it to The Hobbit. 

Basically, you can’t tell me that the casting and storytelling choices weren’t all deliberate, weren’t heavily influenced by BBC Sherlock, and weren’t at all impacted by Johnlock, or that the creation of Bagginshield subtext was at all accidental.

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Look, the evidence is there and probably agreed upon by everyone on Tumblr and/or with eyes.

1) Bilbo never married, and in a society with such enormous families and such an emphasis on domesticity, not to mention his own personal wealth before and after the quest, he was quite a catch. Therefore one can assume just by his actions that it is personal choice.

2) This fact is actually confirmed in the apocrypha by this quote where Gandalf explicitly points out that Bilbo avoided having a family, but then can only speculate on the reasons for this in a way that sounds blatantly queer coded, essentially that there was always something missing from his life (adventure, explicitly, love in the form of a same sex relationship which would be forbidden imo implicitly) 

3) Even in the movies we see Bilbo’s alarm at the sight of large families (”My goodness, are these all yours?”) his reference to young people as “sticky” (”Keep your sticky paws off.”) his lack of ever mentioning a woman unless it was some elven maid out of legend or Lobelia, his rival, whom he only discusses with disdain in the movies. You can’t even claim that it’s just because he’s on an adventure that these things never come up, because Sam had barely spoken to Rosie and talked about her quite often. So we can assume there’s no one he has even considered back home. 

And on and on. Look, one of the things you learn in literary analysis is not to impose your own views on a lack of evidence (ex. there is in fact no actual reference to incest in “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Poe, it’s all implicit and assumed based on later readings and derivative works like movies and such). Sometimes it can be really hard to see what’s really there, and I see this all the time in Tumblr meta (ex. there’s no explicit mention that movie Thorin has PTSD in the movies, unlike Frodo who has actual flashbacks on screen, yet many pieces of meta take his PTSD as a given. Likewise at no point do any of the dwarves call upon Mahal in the books or movies and yet it’s the most common popular exclamation in fic (they actually call upon Durin in the movies, as in “What in Durin’s name is going on?”)). 

Ugh, my point is just that it’s annoying when people assume a character is straight until proven otherwise, as I’m sure we can all agree, and it’s annoying when it’s “sexualizing” a character to give them a sexual identity but only if it’s anything other than straight. You’d hear no outcry at all saying that Bilbo was obviously straight, but heaven forbid you mention that he’s obviously gay in the mainstream. It’s about what’s seeing what’s there and what isn’t there. Ultimately, we have no confirmation and likely never will, but equally we have not a single piece of evidence suggesting Bilbo had an interest in women, whereas we have many subtextual mentions of his oddness, bachelorhood, isolation, and other activities which suggest that he’s either some form of ace or queer-coded, even beyond The Hobbit, which is a children’s book I will concede (and therefore can just not have sexuality feature anywhere as a matter of course), but even into LotR which is not and the Unfinished Tales which are written for adults but never published in Tolkien’s lifetime, and which hold the only discussion of why Bilbo remained alone in language that is startlingly queer-coded.

Part 2

The book doesn’t have proof that Bilbo takes any interest in anyone at all, so if one wished to ascribe one the greatest canonical evidence would be in support of him being somewhere on the ace spectrum.

For example, in the Donald Duck comics Donald is the uncle to the three brothers, rather than a father, perhaps because it removes us the question of whether or not the character has ever had sex or has any sort of sex life to speak of. 

In Disney works especially you frequently see parents removed from the scene and mentors replaced with close but childless friends or relatives, as one sees with Bilbo and Frodo, perhaps for the very reason of removing any question of sex from the narrative. That being said, in those narratives you frequently see economics removed as well. The ways money works in Donald Duck with Scrooge McDuck or frankly just about any Disney story is a huge mystery. It’s an even bigger mystery in Middle Earth. What even is the value of Erebor, is the line of Durin the richest family in the world? How does Bilbo make his money before the Quest? What is a gold coin worth in the Shire, if you even had somewhere to spend it? What makes the Gamgees poor and the Bagginses rich within that context? What even are Elves economically? Who does the laundry in Rivendell? Who does the mucky jobs anywhere for that matter? 

Sorry, got off on a tangent, but it’s not uncommon for stories from the 20th century to eschew these points altogether, perhaps because they were politically loaded questions in a time of Fascism vs Communism vs Anarchism vs Socialism vs Capitalism etc etc and so on. It was impossible to insert money into the narrative without making a statement, and perhaps for similar reasons it’s more comfortable to avoid any discussion of sex or race at all (skin color is rarely brought up in Tolkien’s work, except to say Hobbits have brown fingers and to use “Fair” to describe features, which more applies to beauty than color - Likewise in Disney we have animal characters that also avoids the question of race). 

But going back to your point - I think book Bilbo merits a queer reading to at least be considered. But holy hell, movie Bilbo absolutely screams homoromantic, at minimum. 

 

 

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rutobuka2 asked: that troll never fucking read the hobbit. the whole quest was about bringing out the best in bilbo, who was stuck in a lifestyle of selfish comfort and stubbornness?? how is that christ-like? but then, if you take material from the movies, thorin is a bit more "human", a 3D character with doubts and frustrations, but he literally made bilbo come out of a shell and learn how to love and help others? the quest and the love for thorin literally built bilbo's character and greatness

It can be entirely said in the films that any good qualities Bilbo had he learned from observing Thorin. He demonstrably did not give a shit about the dwarves when they first showed up, he was a coward afraid to even TALK to Gandalf, he was a miser and greedy with his food, and as far as we can tell never did anything for anyone but himself ever since his parents died. Sure he had some inner love of adventure, carefully hidden, and within him were qualities which would eventually blossom into courage and wisdom, but the fact is that was his character arc to become a better person.

Contrast that with movie Thorin who basically has no sense of self (or self preservation, frankly) who throws himself into horrible physical and existential danger to get his people home which, yes, sometimes necessitates he gets kinda growly with people who give him shit while he’s trying to do that. He’s not perfect, he holds grudges (which are justified) but sometimes against people who had nothing to do with his plight (which is not). He can be rude but the fact is he kinda usually has something else on his mind when that happens (saving Bilbo from falling off a cliff face, for example, or getting to the hidden door in time when it comes to Kili’s injuries). The whole point of dragon sickness was that it turned him into something he wasn’t. 

The whole point of Bilbo saving him from dragon sickness in ANY sense (which he actually doesn’t, as such, his words and those of many others come back to Thorin and he frees himself after realizing how much he’s changed because of the gold) is that Bilbo reminds Thorin of who he used to be. Bilbo by observing Thorin and becoming more like him now serves as a touchstone to help bring Thorin back to himself

Thorin (and the plight of the other dwarves) inspired Bilbo to be a better person. All Thorin had to do on his emotional journey of being a better person was accept that maybe outsiders like Bilbo want to help them, and shouldn’t be so callously dismissed. Bilbo literally went from caring about no one except himself to risking his life to save his friends of another species he heretofore thought very little of. Bilbo’s moral improvement arc is HUGE compared to Thorin, who doesn’t even really have a moral arc in BotFA except to break free of a parasitic disease that twists him into something he isn’t, and achieve his goal of providing a home for the people he literally sacrifices everything for. 

But, y’know, Bilbo can do no wrong, after all, and Thorin is such a meanie… ugh

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emsiecat asked: If Bilbo were to stay in Erebor with Thorin. What do you think he would do to alleviate homesickness? Would he even get homesick do you think? How easily do you think he'd take to the role of Consort? Alternatively if Thorin went to the Shire with Bilbo, how easily do you think he'd fit in? Would he become a blacksmith or something else? Would the hobbits be pretty cool with him or suspicious and gossipy and mean at first?

Ooh, this is a very fun one, though I’m gonna say this is pure headcanon because this is rich (and well trodden) ground for every individual writer to explore. 

For Bilbo in Erebor, I’m going to try to buck the trend a little bit. Rather than say “a garden” which I think is the most prevalent trope I’ve seen, I’m going to say pipeweed and poetry. Here’s the thing, we actually have book and movie canon for how Bilbo deals with living away from the Shire when he moves to Rivendell. He smokes his pipe and he writes. Granted, Rivendell has gardens of its own (and side note, the characterization of Bilbo as an obsessive gardener is odd to me because we know he has a gardener of his own in Mr. Holman, who Sam Gamgee is eventually apprenticed to before he takes over the work at Bag End himself) so while I think Bilbo treasures a garden I’m not sure he’d obsessively work in it himself. 

I’d even argue he wouldn’t get overwhelmingly homesick any more than he did in Rivendell. Bilbo explicitly noted that Frodo was unlike him, because Frodo’s home was in the Shire, whereas ever since the quest for Erebor Bilbo has been relatively rootless for a hobbit. Also, after all, moving to Erebor doesn’t mean he can never go back! I can see Bilbo going back to the Shire with a bunch of dwarven crafts and toys, rallying up his most beloved furniture and heirlooms, formally leaving Bag End to a relative of his choice, and going back to Erebor with most of his homesickness assuaged for the foreseeable future. Maybe stopping back time and again a bit like Gandalf just to check in on things. 

As for Consort, I’ll push back a little against that too. I know it’s a popular trope, and I can absolutely see Bilbo picking up some diplomatic duties (chiefly I see him as doing most of the talking with Mirkwood, just to keep the elves and dwarves from killing each other). But we have no canon regarding dwarven queens, co-rulers, or consorts. I think Thorin in this instance is sole monarch and their relationship is quite private, which I think is their preference thank you very much. I don’t see it having very much bearing on politics except insofar as Bilbo is a trusted adviser, basically a family member by marriage at that point, as important to Thorin’s court as Balin or Gloin would be. 

As for Thorin in the Shire, I think others have pointed out eloquently that it would take some sort of trauma to get Thorin to settle in the Shire. However, that trauma could easily be that he survives and Fili and Kili don’t, or simply the after-effects of dragon sickness and any injuries from the Battle of Five Armies. He could see himself as, or be seen as, unfit to rule for whatever reason (perhaps rousing a dragon and dropping it on Lake-town’s head?) and abdicate gracefully to prevent bad blood. Whatever the reason it would almost certainly be tied up in his relationship to the kingship. But assuming simple retirement, for example, as a happier reason for him to be there after some period of ruling in Erebor, I’ll answer the rest of the question. 

I think blacksmithing would be something Thorin enjoys, but I doubt he’d do it commercially, first because they don’t need the money and second because customers are pains in the ass because it may bring back bad memories of the Exile. To be honest, based on Bilbo’s homecoming? Yeah the hobbits would probably be dicks to them. Thorin would either have to win them over, or go the route Bilbo canonically did in the book, just tough it out until the younger generation grows up, and until then go traveling or otherwise simply bear the stigma of being an odd and eccentric (at best) outsider. Dwarves are an oddity in the Shire after all, very much associated with Bilbo and Gandalf from that point on. I don’t think it would be entirely bleak in the Shire for him, but I think there’d be resistance and their lives would be pretty private unless Thorin deliberately set out to make friends (which I’m of two minds on of whether or not he’d actually do that). I love Shire AU but I go back and forth in my fics on how successful their tenure there is, but then I also go back and forth with Erebor :P Though I think Bilbo is content in Erebor to a much larger degree than Thorin would be in the Shire unless Thorin is somehow traumatized like Frodo and goes there to heal, then I think he’d be content in the Shire in a way that Bilbo is not. 

I mean, these are headcanons more than meta, and basically I’m happy to pick any position when it comes to exploring the aftermath in a fic! After all, how good and bad things are is a great source of tension ;)

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experimentalpotion asked: Do you think that Bilbo and Thorin would make better ring-bearers on the mission of destroying the ring? After all Bilbo did manage to let it go, while Thorin was the first Durin who did manage to fight of the dragon sickness. If we look at Boromir and Frodo, I´d say that Boromir sort of just snapped out of it without putting a fight, and in Frodo´s case it was Gollum, who took the ring from him, at that brought him to his senses, but with Bilbo and Thorin it really did take a strong will.

Definitely will-power broke both Bilbo and Thorin free (though we don’t know for certain if other Durins have escaped dragon sickness). In fiction I generally avoid writing Thorin and Bilbo doing the quest instead of the Fellowship ( missmithen has my eternal respect and awe for tackling an LotR AU in “Clarity of Purpose”) but if I must speculate…

There’s a few factors involved here that should not be discounted as far as the One Ring’s effects:

1) By the time Frodo did his quest, Sauron’s power had increased exponentially. It may not even be that Frodo was weaker than Bilbo, but rather that the Ring was stronger than when Bilbo bore it. 

2) The Ring’s seduction seems to be cumulative. Just because Boromir broke out of it one time, does not mean he could have done so again and again. It seems a bit of roulette, with the odds stacking against your favor every time. I love Boromir, but I don’t think Frodo was wrong to split the Fellowship then. Clearly the Ring’s power had grown to the point where Men were hearing its call too strongly, and even Galadriel had difficulty letting it pass her by. 

3) I can’t for the life of me find the quote, but Aragorn explicitly says at some point in the books that were it his choice it would be he, Gimli, and Frodo going into Mordor, or something like that. The reason being that dwarves are more resistant perhaps even than elves to its domination. Not only is Gimli never tempted, he is the ONLY person at the Council of Elrond who is even able to take immediate dramatic action to destroy the Ring. Everyone else there is already too much under its spell.

So I actually think that Thorin as an honor guard for the Ring, as a dwarf, would be a strong choice. I think the Ring could have gone long undetected in Erebor for that reason too, that the dwarves are stubborn against its call. However, I wouldn’t blame Frodo for being weaker, he had to deal with it at full power, which Bilbo did not. If the Quest was done many years sooner, then yes it’s possible Bilbo and Thorin would have done “better”, but that’s more a factor of the power of the Ring than individual will power I think, at least when it comes to Bilbo and Frodo. 

Part 2

grimapparitions asked: After reading your latest chapter about Bilbo taking the ring to Mordor, it feels so..right in a way, that Bilbo be the one to take it, not Frodo, and Thorin go with him to help him through the madness , because he knows all to well what its like. Gah, I had more feelings but im garbage at writing things down,now im off to find some Bilbo takes the ring fics, lol. Love you and everything you do, ta

I’m going to publish this because it got me thinking? I think the feeling has to do with “story shape”, in a way, not exactly structure but the way that stories “feel” right or wrong?

Tolkien himself wrestled with who would be the protagonist of Lord of the Rings, I’m pretty sure he did take a stab at versions where it was Bilbo but I don’t remember what stopped him. (There was also a point where the “Strider” figure in Bree was supposed to be a hobbit called “Trotter” who would lead the younger hobbits on their adventure and that was at one point possibly going to be Bilbo too.)

I feel like the films made the question of “Why wasn’t it Bilbo?” more apparent with their tone. “The Hobbit” book is a children’s novel, it does read as a bit silly, so you do want a different protagonist taking on the big Epic Quest later down the line. And who is it going to be? Well, it has to be someone Bilbo would give the Ring to, and since Tolkien interestingly decided it wouldn’t be a son (hmmm…) it became a nephew (technically cousin) and I’m sure after that the whole timeline slotted somewhat naturally into place with it needing to be many years later. Keep in mind too, that when Tolkien wrote The Hobbit the ring was just a magic ring. The author himself didn’t “discover” until much later that it was the One Ring. So since in the films this information isn’t just known but highlighted, it dramatically changes the tone of the films as well and again, sets up a Quest that’s a lifetime away from being fulfilled.

Furthermore, in the films they tried to make Bilbo’s story match the tone of Lord of the Rings so it felt like a more natural prequel than the book does. And that kinda leaves you with the question, why wasn’t it Bilbo? Why did it take 60+ years (even more in the books) to figure out what the Ring was? And also with the film they enlarged the theme of corrupted items like the Arkenstone. I mean, clearly Tolkien didn’t really see the dwarves in The Hobbit to be the makings of a Fellowship-like group, because he didn’t see them as particularly noble, but the movies also highlight their nobility and characters so you’re left with an even stronger sense of “Why couldn’t some of the dwarves have gone to Mordor with Bilbo?” especially given their resilience to the Ring’s corruption (Gimli is canonically the person most trusted to get Frodo through Mordor if it came down to it because of this resilience). 

There was also the powerful theme of madness in the films (again, not really present in the book in regard to Bilbo and even Thorin’s isn’t necessarily explicitly an illness the way it is in the films). You’re left with this powerful parallel of Thorin returning home and being driven mad by the Arkenstone, which Bilbo and his family save him from, and then with Bilbo going home with the Ring and being saved by…. Frodo and Gandalf, years and years later. In the film structure it feels like there’s a missing step, and it’s so bleak to consider that he had no respite from its influence until he was old, and no apparent companion until adopting Frodo. 

Thorin lives, and is the one to help Bilbo overcome his own madness and corruption its parallel form, while destroying an item of evil and saving the world just feels like a natural next step to the relationship and plotlines the films set up, whereas it’s left a little bit dangling as it is? Certainly I’ve made references to the Ring in fics that were meant to parallel canon and received a ton of comments saying that the reader wondered why destroying the Ring wasn’t the next natural step? (In my case, it’s just because the Lord of the Rings is FREAKING HUGE and I think it’s fine as it is, so let’s just change some of the stuff leading up to it but not force Maggie to re-write Tolkien’s tome, shall we? :P)

Thanks for this message, it was really interesting!

For those curious, the drabble we’re discussing can be found here

And while we’re discussing fan-written “Bilbo takes the Ring to Mordor” quests, the best one I know of is @mithen‘s “Clarity of Vision” series.

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Interesting, we were talking about the 3 Act structure today in my class and the teacher brought up that the 2 Act Structure is hard to pull off because it feels incomplete. She coincidentally used the words “there and back again” as an example of a dissatisfying, 2 Act Structure.

And I realized that even if the book maybe doesn’t do this, if you follow Thorin as a main character or Bilbo with Thorin as a main character throughout the movie trilogy, it does sort of feel like a 2 Act structure. Bilbo goes to the Mountain and comes back. Thorin reclaims the Mountain, has to defend the Mountain… and that’s it. Because he dies, along with his heirs.

She said the 2 Act structure is hard to pull off because of that feeling of incompleteness, but it can be haunting if used for tragedy. A lot of the Hobbit movie structure is a mess, but I wonder if they did this on purpose to some extent with at least those character arcs, and a lot of the grief the fandom feels is on some subconscious level over this 3rd Act - Thorin’s goals shifting now that he is king, or Bilbo needing to choose between two homes, that was denied by the sudden cut off of the deaths.

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So I just had a weird thought, and I know I’m one of the worst perpetrators of this, but are there any fics out there where Thorin just really enjoys being king of Erebor?

I mean, I know with the dragon sickness and so much of his life being on the road, the general fanon is that he’d have some discomfort in the role, even if he was competent at it. That the work load would be unbelievable and maybe for one reason or another he’s unsuited, or dragon sickness just soured the whole idea of kingship for him. It fits with the themes of PJ’s Middle Earth that almost all rulers we see are reluctant, and it fits a lot with the inner tragedy and dourness of Armitage’s portrayal. 

But honestly it’s almost gotten to the point in my mind where Thorin having unreserved joy at the day to day of being king is the bigger twist. And I can think of a few reasons that would be the case:

- Most of his stress in life probably came from lacking the resources to care for his people, or earn them the respect they deserved. Having the treasury once again at the disposal of Durin’s Folk would probably be a huge relief. Being able to throw money instead of toil at a problem would probably feel great!

- Thorin is demonstrably a pretty inspiring leader when shit isn’t going pear-shaped and just generally stressing him the fuck out all the time. He seems to really love his people too. Maybe being in a position of strength instead of impotence wouldn’t just be a relief but actually actively enjoyable for him.

- Dwarves are pretty chill dudes?? Between the Company and Gimli and Dain’s enthusiastic welcome, I see a lot less murderous backstabbing than I see a bunch of joyful hardworking badasses who enjoy the pleasures of life. Maybe there wouldn’t be any politics making his life difficult, if anything I can’t help but think the dwarven population would be super supportive??

- Sure Erebor is haunted and dusty and full of death, but the 13 dwarves built a goddamn ramparts in like 6 hours, one can only imagine what a large group could do in a few months. His home has been ruined, but they really could probably bring it back to full shine in a very short time, and it would be far less creepy once it’s full of life again.

- Presumably, in an Everyone Lives AU, things turned out pretty ok. Maybe instead of brooding over it, Thorin would actually be relaxed and elated?? The best case scenario worked out? Things are looking up??? 

 

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Anonymous asked: What are your thought's on the scene where Bilbo is planting the acorn? Do you think that when he says "it's a promise", it can be another parallel to kili giving Tauriel the rune stone ("keep it as a promise")? I ask this because I love your metas, I hope it isn't a bother. Thanks!

Aaw, thank you Anon!

I confess, when I first “heard” about the acorn burying scene, I was really heartbroken and against it and hoping it wouldn’t make it into the movie.

That was because the description of it was very dismissive of the acorn scene between Bilbo and Thorin. The description just said that Bilbo buries it in Dale as a gift to the Lake-towners, and it was very “wtf” because he had promised Thorin he would bring it home and use it to remember all the dwarves and the adventure by.

What the early description didn’t include was that Bilbo buries it during the battle, when he’s convinced he’s going to die. Which puts a whole different spin on it. I’m still slightly glad that it wasn’t shown, because I prefer the idea that he buried it in the Shire (and maybe it’s the Party Tree). It also puts a spin on the Death Scene that I’m not in huge favor of, with Bilbo having already planted his tree in Dale, convinced he was going to die, when Thorin asks after it. (Or maybe it strengthens it, because Bilbo always saw himself as dying, but thought it impossible that Thorin ever could.)

But more I kinda wish it had made it into the movie because it was a great character moment, and the movie thrived when it was showing character moments and kinda sucked when it was focusing on action (unless it was dwarves kicking ass, but I’m biased).

Bard’s words in that scene about seeing no hope and no way out could easily have come from Thorin (Bard and Thorin have many parallels between them, it’s a shame they didn’t get along), and on some level I kinda feel like Bilbo was reacting as if Thorin said them instead of Bard? Not to take anything away from Bard’s character, but Bilbo’s actions were very much in line with the how he reacted whenever Thorin felt hopeless (like when they couldn’t find the keyhole, or in the Mirkwood dungeons). His kneejerk reaction is to fight back against despair, which I think is the essence of hobbit heroism. Not blind optimism, but rather framing and contextualizing despair to make it lesser, to point out there is a world beyond suffering and that fighting against evil is not in vain.

Bilbo buries the acorn to remind them that life will continue beyond them, that there is hope. He had told Thorin he would look at it to remember “the good, the bad, and how lucky I am that I made it home.” Burying it there, Bilbo can look at it “the rest of his life” which at this point looks like it will be quite short. But that also contextually means he’s looking at it and remembering the Quest, then and there, and his hope of life. It could mean not that he sees that as the place he’s going to die only, but it could be read that he now sees Dale and Erebor as his home. He has made it home, and he’s going to fight for it. It could mean that as he looks at he’s thinking of Thorin and the Company and the Quest, the good as well as the bad. That this is the image he’s taking with him into the dark (much the same way Thorin took Bilbo’s face, and the memory of their conversation about the acorn and Bilbo’s first pledge that he would help them get home).

And this may be extrapolating too far, but at this point think of it: Thorin is still buried within the mountain and will soon spring forth healed of his sickness, like the sprouting from the ground. And given who he last spoke to about the acorn, I can’t help but think that Bilbo is thinking of Thorin when he buries it, and his hopes for the futures, of who will survive the battle, of who is still shut away safely waiting to come forth, even if Bilbo should fall in the attempt. Even if all hope is lost, Thorin is buried somewhere, safe, and when he comes out it will be reminder of life, the good and the bad, and how lucky it is to be home.

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lumateranlibrarian asked: Upon rewatch of BotFA, I have a question: what prevented Bilbo from simply giving the people of Laketown straight-up gold from his share of the treasure? Why did he have to use the Arkenstone, when even a fraction of his share could have been enough?

Well as you may recall at that point, Thorin was pretty bugfuck paranoid about any amount of treasure leaving the Mountain. And actually, that is what Bilbo did eventually was contribute his share of the treasure to the people of Laketown (if I’m remembering the book correctly, and my attention is split right now). 

The idea of the Arkenstone is that it forces Thorin to give away gold to buy it back. Bilbo gave them a single item which was equal the value of his share, as was his argument at least, and in exchange for getting it back he volunteered in share of the gold. He did not believe in their state, the dwarves would turn over that gold even if it was arguably his own share which he was free to dispense.

There’s also the matter of transportation I mean, the dwarves were heavily outnumbered. How were they supposed to dispense the gold? By hand, themselves? Let Laketowners in to come get it, when they would have outnumbered the dwarves 10 to 1? Part of the argument was the dwarves wouldn’t begin to treat until the army went away or until their kin showed up to bolster their numbers and equalize the negotiations. 

Look, there’s a lot of way that situation could have not gone south, which is part of what’s so heartbreaking. 

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I think there is some logical basis for the idea of misogynistic dwarves from Tolkien himself, and his writing about how female dwarves are few and must be kept within the mountain for their protection. Meaning, if another writer runs with this idea in a thoughtful way, I’m hardly one to judge them because there is source material to back them up, and there is potential for well-written drama and intelligent criticism of the real world if one utilizes this interpretation. However, if it is used lazily or just as a trope to make Thorin into a bad guy then that’s their decision but I will definitely not read it. 

As for Thorin keeping women out of the Company, I would actually argue against that on one point: Thorin never criticizes anyone in the Company, even when he appears to be criticizing Bilbo with the fall off the cliff what he really says is, “He’s been lost ever since he left home.” (Projecting much, Thorin?) Thorin never says that someone else can’t join, unlike Balin he never makes snide remarks about the worthiness of others in the Company. In my opinion, Thorin is just so damn flattered when anyone decides to join that he can overlook just about anything. His concern with Bilbo was that Bilbo would get killed, or that Bilbo’s waffling about whether or not he wanted to be there would make others give up on the quest too (not to mention what a blow to Thorin’s pride it must have been to have someone not really sure if they wanted to be there, and whining about it constantly when it’s basically the biggest goal of his life). So I’d actually disagree about Thorin keeping women from the quest or anyone on any basis, other than if they were physically going to get themselves killed or endanger others. He brought Ori, for goodness sake, without any complaints, I don’t even think lack of physical prowess or “dead weight” is an issue, so much as a lack of willingness, that is what Thorin is trying to avoid, if that makes any sense. 

But going back to the gender thing:

The fact is, we only see Thorin interact once with a woman in the movies, and never in AUJ (which is when a lot of the fandom characterizations about him were developed) - and that’s the waitress in the Prancing Pony to whom he is unfailingly polite and definitely does not make any gesture or indication that he sees women as people who must be hidden or contained. 

From that I would personally derive that even if it was 100% canon that dwarves believed their own women must be sheltered and hidden (which I have trouble believing in the context of Gimli’s female friendships like Galadriel and Eowyn), it would be in my opinion that exile and exposure to the wider world means that 99% of dwarves totally get that other races don’t face their reproduction problems and therefore would be intelligent enough not to hold others to their standards. 

However, even that is an extremely conservative reading, again based on Tolkien. In this instance, I prefer when talking dwarven gender to run more with Pratchett, who was very well-read in Tolkien lore and, standing on the shoulders of giants, took dwarven gender to a natural and well-thought out conclusion, which is that dwarves have a type of misogyny which is actually extreme egalitarianism. They are all just dwarves, only “male” insofar as how they appear to the eyes of the outside world, only “female” when it comes to the bearing of children and even that doesn’t appear to have any further gender role tied up in it, as the bearer is still just a dwarf. There’s actually no real confirmation in Discworld that the dwarves who eventually rebel and decide they want to start wearing feminine clothing are necessarily even female by Human standards of genitalia, they may have simply decided they want to enjoy the gender binary (forgive me for any callous language here, it can at times be challenging to discuss gender in a fantasy environment, and with fantasy races and cultures like the dwarves who have no real-world equivalent really). 

Personally, I see no reason why dwarves would be sexist, because I truly don’t believe that the “smaller female population” is locked within the mountains. I believe there’s some misunderstanding there, either that currently pregnant dwarves choose to stay in the mountain (when that is an option, which it was not during the exile) for their own protection. I believe that male and female dwarves really are indistinguishable and there’s no reason to believe that a good portion of the Company isn’t “female-by-Human-standards”.

Going to the competence kink, I would also add that in this regard, I think that sexually minded dwarves are probably “bisexual-by-Human-standards”, again, that your genitalia plays very little in to who they are attracted to given their gender culture, it’s just a happy accident whether the couple can conceive children together. Basically, it is also very much Tolkien canon that dwarves are attracted to the great works and competence of other dwarves, so I think Thorin for example would be super turned on by Bilbo’s competence, and as an aside that there’d be no real issue one way or the other what his gender was. 

That being said, I think there’s a more compelling case that the Shire is heteronormative, and if either of them is struggling with homosexuality it would be Bilbo. Again, I can read this any number of ways, from homosexuality being open and welcome in the Shire, to it being accepted but kept somewhat quiet, to it being a major taboo that Bilbo struggles with as per the historical time period in England that the Shire is based on (early 20th c.). Bilbo himself however is the son of the adventurous and “remarkable” daughters old Took, so I personally do not see Bilbo as misogynistic, or having any issue towards adventurous women. The one issue I can potentially see is that he may struggle with his own lack of interest in women and having a large family, which would be more unusual and isolating in the Shire. Then again, he may be totally at peace with it and be seen as a favorite uncle by everyone because childless couples have their own niche in Shire society *shrugs* Tolkien doesn’t really go into this, so I consider it free for interpretation by writers, even if I personally prefer that they put some thought into it. 

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thecosmosknowsitself asked: What do you think LGBT is like in Hobbit culture vs Dwarven culture? I think about this a lot

I think this is definitely a place where we need to invoke “Death of the Author” - Tolkien likely saw no reason to even bring up homosexuality in Middle Earth because all his fantastic races are basically Biologically Catholic, and I imagine that’s 99% his own British propriety and him squirming at the thought of having to elaborate on the sex lives of anyone let alone his creations, rather than the kind of post-Tolkien sci-fi/fantasy world building that we are all used to. For the best extrapolations I’ve ever seen on the sex lives of Dwarves, for example, see Terry Pratchett, who is a post-Tolkien fantasist and does think things like “If we say the men and women are indistinguishable to outsiders, what does that mean on a cultural level?” whereas for Tolkien I think it was just, “I’m disinterested in writing Dwarven women.”

Now, to my theories, which I mostly employ for the purpose of writing fanfic:

Now, going with Death of the Author, I still tend to put Hobbits mentally in a sort of proper British society at the turn of the 20th c. If homophobia exists in Middle Earth, it’s probably there and maybe amongst certain groups of Men, though not all. It’s interesting to note that without actual Christian influences, which Middle Earth does not have beyond the morality of the author, and more importantly without a Puritanical movement you actually have a much wider acceptance of homosexuality in most cultures. Look at Roman culture, for example, where it was simply a norm.

In many instances, the purpose of marriage in a society is to determine inheritance and heirs, marriage was more of a business transaction historically than something one did for love, and I could see that being the case in Shire culture.

Which is my elaborate way of saying: I tend to write hobbit marriages as being between one man and one woman because we have evidence for it in canon. However, I believe there’s a broad range of acceptance levels that a fanfic author could reasonably assume based on the type of story they want to write. Someone who wishes to write a story about Bilbo fleeing homophobia (because he is clearly gay, in my opinion, just looking at the Unfinished Tales and all sorts of implied queer readings with his oddness and the fact he never marries, it’s absurd to me to think he is heterosexual if he’s any sexuality at all) could easily do so by having the Shire be extremely homophobic. However, since we have no actual homophobia in the story I could just as easily take the fact that Sam, Frodo, and Rosie cohabited (cohobbited?) and raised their children together as a sign that polyamorous relationships are actually the Shire norm, I mean just look at the Buckland cousins and all the co-raising that goes on there. The nuclear family is actually not in strong evidence in the Shire so much as we see the village mentality of big families living together almost tribally, so you could equally have as wild and free loving a society as you wished, if you were thus inclined as an author. I like to think Bilbo didn’t marry in part too because he was the product of a great romance, and couldn’t see himself settling down into a marriage of anything less, even for the purpose of having children as would have been acceptable in his society even without love. And in that instance I can easily see homosexual marriage being a thing in the Shire as much as anywhere else. 

TL;DR - Hobbit society can be anything the author wishes, in my opinion, ranging from Puritanically restrictive to free-loving polyamory as the norm. Personally though, I still like that against a backdrop of prissy fussiness against public displays of affection because Bilbo’s own self-censoring of emotion as part of his society is a huge part of who he is. 

As for Dwarves, you cannot, in a million years, convince me that Dwarves would have a problem with homosexuality.

I always pull a face when the fact that Thorin can’t marry Bilbo because of homophobia is the conflict of a story. It just doesn’t make any sense to me and seems gratuitous and designed to make Dwarves into bad guys. Let’s look at what we know:

- The Dwarven gender rate according to Tolkien is horrifically unbalanced, with only 1/3 of dwarves being biologically female and according to him they prefer to remain within the mountain as a result. Even when a man and woman find each other and fall in love mutually, which many don’t, they don’t necessarily have kids. With such a shortage of women you can’t even begin to convince me that Dwarves wouldn’t also seek love amongst the same sex. 

- Even if we accept a version of fanon or later Dwarf lore like Pratchett that dwarves have a 50/50 gender split, and it’s only outsiders that can’t tell the difference, you can’t tell me this is a society that puts a ton of emphasis on outwardly heterosexual couples. In such a world I can only imagine that gender and procreation capabilities are an extremely personal matter and no one’s business but the couple’s. Personally, I’m of the headcanon that the reason dwarf women are so rare is because only 1/3 of dwarves identify as female, and that has nothing to do with genitalia. We do have the bathing scene with the fountain to say that dwarves don’t have that much modesty with each other, but we also have them wearing a lot of layers that could say the opposite. Maybe they’re like Men where some are modest, and some are not (I didn’t see Thorin at the revelry, for example). If women are given a hard time amongst Men, then there’s a perfectly sound reason why dwarves would hide the number of women they have, and that they’re scattered about the populace at the same rate of 50/50 as Men, if only to avoid the hassle of other race’s cultures. 

Since Dwarves were technically built on the Elven blueprint, and Elves too don’t overly distinguish between male and female, a case can simply be made that they don’t put much stock in gender as determining one’s role in society. In appearance Elves are quite androgynous, in book and movie in my opinion, and there’s nothing really barring women from taking up any craft that Tolkien names, it’s just his own bias that the warrior women are rare, though many of the greatest Elven heroes are female. So I can equally see Aule simply “improving” on the design, or seeing no reason in the first place while the gender divide should have anything to do with one’s station in life. 

ANYWAYTL;DR - However you slice dwarven gender breakdown and politics, I can’t in a million years believe they would be homophobic and in fact I will bet that many if not most Dwarven relationships are homosexual if the gender breakdown Tolkien gives us is true.

That being said, I also go with the idea Dwarves are racially monogamous, maybe not exclusively because they are living beings after all, but dominantly so. Which brings up the question of how many of them are virgins even later into life…

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madametortilla asked: I really like the ugly!Durins troope. It's very interesting to notice how attractive they're to us, but I do wonder how they're regarded within their own race, and just how they cope with their insecurities and by generally feeling so unattractive that it's hard for them to believe someone might regard them as handsome. Talk about double standards.

I admit, I loved exploring this trope in “The Company of Mad Baggins”, though I believe alkjira did it first? It’s certainly a tantalizing idea. I like to believe that Dori, Bombur, and Gloin are the hotties of the Company by dwarven standards. Tolkien said that long hair is the aphrodisiac of the Elves (someone once joked very cleverly that Luthien being able to magically grow her hair was the equivalent of being able to knot a cherry stem in her mouth for elves, lol). My opinion on dwarven standards is:

- Round and/or muscular bodies. In truth, a good medieval warrior’s body would not be cut like a modern underwear model, a minimum of fat is necessary for any truly extreme physical endeavor, and dwarves have toughness as a virtue. To them, Elves would look unnaturally elongated and stretched, like aliens. A handsome dwarf is one who’s form runs to bulk with some combination of fat and muscle. Ex. Thorin does have a warrior’s muscles, so he’s not hopeless, just a bit on the lean side (which is not as desirable), Ori is thinner but his potbelly is probably considered cute, Fili at least has his hair and his youth excuses his leanness, Kili looks extremely adolescent by dwarven standards. Not hopeless, necessarily, just… young, like baby-faced and acne-ridden by our standards. 

- Lots of hair, which they share with elves if in a slightly different form (Legolas and Gimli lack a lot of shared standards of beauty, but they can agree on this one). Big bushy beards, long luxurious locks, mustaches, braids. Each clan is different, so Bofur’s long mustache is a bit unusual but just as good as anything else. Fili’s hair and weapons skill makes up for his youth and skinniness. Gloin is a dreamboat, Bombur’s huge loop braid is the human equivalent of six-pack abs, etc etc. Kili looks extremely young and is probably considered the most unfortunate looking of all the Durin line, though he could grow out of that with time. Thorin’s short beard is a bit like ritually scarring - it’s not that dwarves don’t maintain different beard styles, but there’s usually something that’s longer, like Bofur and Fili’s mustaches, in order to show off. That Thorin as uncrowned king of the Longbeard clan (which, true to its name does pride itself in long beards like Thror and Thrain’s as seen in the flashbacks), would have one so short when he can clearly grow it longer is a advertisement of mourning. It represents an honorable gesture, but it’s a little hard to look at if you’re a dwarf, a bit like if a human had scars on their cheeks to represent mourning, as some cultures do. (I wrote this in more depth in my fic, “Shorn”)

- Gray hairs. Dwarves get tougher, not weaker with age, and I imagine they have their children fairly late, so gray hair mean a long life and experience rather than a loss of fertility, as it does for Men. Dwarves would never cover up their gray hairs, rather it makes them look distinguished. Thorin is just starting to come into his “full bloom” of beauty, so to speak, with the oncoming silver of his hair, Thror was a silver fox, Balin is fine as hell. Being younger with dark or red hair isn’t necessarily ugly, but the signs of age do add a certain something for dwarves, basically their “peak” attractiveness. 

- Battle scars. Not to the level of orc scarification, where it’s done deliberately, but a missing eye or lost limb would not be a turn-off to dwarves, but rather it would be seen as a mark of a heroic lifestyle and honored as such. For example, Bifur’s axe-in-the-head, or the scar after it’s removed, would not be treated as a blemish. Nor would Thrain’s lost eye, or Dain’s presumably iron prosthetic foot. Only non-dwarves would see those as a problem, and dwarves have a much better track record with wounds and disabilities (not to mention gender equality) than the other races. A dwarf who considers himself ugly, like Thorin in Mad Baggins, might at least look forward to battle to add some “beauty marks”.

- “Unusual” Noses (by the standards of Men). Long pointed noses, snubbed noses, potato-shaped noses. The fine, aristocratic ski-jump of the elves is not appealing to dwarves. Give them a nose with a bit of personality. The line of Thror is particularly noted for the “Durin nose”, which is quite distinguished, though Bombur’s rounder one is equally attractive if in a different way. 

So basically as I see it, Thorin is plain and his most attractive features are his nose, his battle scars, his long hair and the gray beginning to show up in it, however the short beard does take away from his overall aesthetic beauty and it is meant to be so. 

Fili has a lot of potential, nice hair, the beginning of warrior muscles, fighting prowess, a good nose and attention to his looks in the form of his braids and beads. He could fill out a bit more, but he’s hardly a bad catch. 

Kili basically looks like a pimple-faced teenager. There may be hope for him down the line, but really it’s a face only an elf could love (and they do). 

Honestly, since my own standards are pretty broad (I personally have a terrible thirst for rounder figures, male or female, in addition to more conventional muscular ones, though of course it depends on the personality first and foremost) I have a great time subtly shifting “our” conventional standards of beauty a few degrees over to reset “true north” to something more dwarvish. It’s far more enjoyable to me than simply assuming that because Richard is gorgeous that Thorin would be to his own people. On a side note, I personally see Bilbo’s taste running to “odd” for his people as well, where he is completely mad for Thorin’s solid, muscular build, whereas most hobbits prefer softness. Bilbo, minus his lack of beard, actually runs pretty close to what dwarves find attractive (so like… he’s hot but has the equivalent of a shaved head to make him slightly unusual looking, but not unattractive by any means) to Thorin, who goes utterly crazy over his belly and body. Bilbo is a bit self-conscious, because he assumes that because he finds Thorin hot, Thorin must be hot by dwarven standards, and it takes a bit of clarification for him to understand that while Bilbo’s average for his people, Thorin is by no means all that special for his own. Bilbo considers himself a very lucky hobbit. 

Similarly, with elves Kili’s biggest awakening was finding out that he’s about as hot as they get for dwarves, which is a welcome (even tearful) realization for him who always thought himself hopeless. Tauriel can’t get enough of him, and he can’t get enough of her, even if the other dwarves are confused XD

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numenor:

ok so like ive been thinking,,,, where does this hobbit movie fanon thing come from that dwarves are Super Good at dealing w/ mental illness?? like in the movies the dwarves’ literal response to the gold sickness is “hey thorin :/ that’s .. not entirely cool but we’re not gonna do anything about it.” like. they had no plan to help thorin, at all, they just sat around and waited for him to pop out of gold-sickness. and you can make an argument for hobbits dealing badly with mental illness (see frodo’s choice to ditch shire life because he could never quite fit back in with his physical/emotional scars) but dwarves? ?? idk man

IMO if I had to guess… it’s wish-fulfillment on the part of the authors, which is pretty rampant in any fandom and often has nothing to do with the observable canon. Another possibility is that discussions of LGBTQA+ lifestyle with an emphasis on genderqueer and trans* became more common on Tumblr around 2013, the same time as the Hobbit AUJ came out (at least, that’s when I observed it becoming more of a common topic). This rise, combined with Gimli’s comment in The Two Towers that dwarf women and men are indistinguishable (which is backed up by Tolkien and Pratchett), led to widespread headcanons that dwarves were far more accepting of gender and sexuality. At the same time it was also a common trope for AUJ fics regardless of ship that Bilbo came from a more rigid society with regards to gender and sexuality, and found freedom in the ability to express his true self around the dwarves. Given that being understanding of sexuality, gender, and mental illness are often intertwined on Tumblr as values, it’s possible that when giving dwarves an understanding culture towards gender and sexuality, mental illness crept in too.

However, I would say I agree, I think at least as far as PJ’s movies go, they have a lot more in common with the Klingon culture with its fixation on physical prowess if anything. The closest in-movie example I can see of dwarves dealing with mental illness would be their treatment of Bifur, but that could be argued that dwarves are good at dealing with battle-related injuries like amputation, missing eyes, or embedded axes to the skull. Btw, it’s worth noting this is totally divorced from Tolkien’s actual works, where Gimli isn’t nearly as gruff or buffoonish, and is noted for being a steadfast and supportive friend who I think would be much better at dealing with mental illness than his movie counterpart.

As I’ve noted in a bunch of my dragon sickness meta, such as this one, the dwarves really, really do suck at helping Thorin with his dragon sickness. Even Dwalin who arguably does the most to snap him out of it still calls Thorin “King” when what Thorin really needs is a friend. Balin basically admits defeat from the beginning. There seems to be a pervasive culture where even mentioning that the king may be ill is taboo. No one seems to have done anything about Thror for similar reasons. Maybe it’s limited to monarchs where their word is law so their mental illness can’t be treated or even acknowledged, but given the physically-focused nature of the dwarven culture portrayed in the films, this is my very long winded and rambly way of agreeing with you that while it’s up to the author in fanfic, as very good case can be made that dwarves are really inept and uncomfortable with dealing with mental illness.

It’s a very interesting point you raise!

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freakinamask answered your question “I hear some people enjoy my meta, and I guess miss it??? So if there’s…”

Dwarven perceptions of family (both as a unit and as like a bloodline thing) vs Hobbit ones and how the actions of the Sackville-Bagginses towards Bilbo are viewed by each culture (pretty please)

I think in a word: extremely confusing. 

So we don’t have a ton to go on as far as how Dwarves view their families from within in quite the same way that we do with Hobbits, in part because Hobbits seem more based off of real people in Tolkien’s experience so we can kinda just look to early 20th c rural England for a lot. Also because the first 50 something pages of LotR is all about Hobbit culture. Dwarves, on the other hand, are kind of more out of the Norse epics with fealty and clans and sister’s-sons. 

So on the one hand, we have Thorin asking for help from his relatives and them turning him down, on the other we have the fact that thing he was asking them for was to face a dragon that had wiped out a civilization. So their refusal is kinda understandable. In the books, the battle of Azanulbizar was basically fought because Azog killed Thror (rather than something that happened during the battle) and as Thror was seen as a father figure to all dwarves, they rallied to avenge him and there was an extremely close paternalistic bond there. The book also has Gandalf advising Thorin not to raise an army, hence why they go in secrecy and stealth, rather than a refusal on Dain’s part. So in Tolkien’s books I think it’s safe to say that Dwarves are pretty much always there for each other without question, in the movies it’s a little more negotiable but their bonds of loyalty are clearly strong to a fault, where they refuse to disobey Thorin as their king even when he’s clearly unsuited to rule. 

Which is my very roundabout way of saying that I think Dwarves would be extremely baffled that there are blood ties between Bilbo and the Sackville-Bagginses, and yet that family would try to steal from him. I think however though, the shear size of Hobbit families and their interconnectedness would be baffling. Blood ties may be simultaneously more important to hobbits and less, because there’s so many hobbit relatives it would just stand to reason that you can’t be friends with all of them?

However, there’s also the fact that Dwarves are very much “with each other against the world” and they have been since they were created, a race they are pretty cohesive (except for maybe inter-Clan rivalries and if you go back far enough there’s the Petty-dwarves to consider and how they were ostracized). We only really see Hobbits as a large group within their own environment, but once they’re out in the world they’re stick together closely. Once invaders come into the Shire in LotR, even Lobelia stands up to them and is embraced by the Hobbit community as a hero. We see a lot of their infighting because in their homogenous society there’s a lot of petty conflicts and sniping, but faced with a threat they’d probably form a unified front, just as the Dwarves have had a mostly unified front since their creation. Perhaps if we got down deep into Dwarven society we’d find there’s just as much rivalry and competitiveness, we just don’t really see it. In that light, maybe Thorin and the others wouldn’t really be shocked at all. 

Obviously, Bilbo takes sniping and infighting with relatives as a normal part of life, but I think perhaps if properly framed someone like Thorin could understand that this is generally harmless and normal (after all, Bilbo was extremely baffled at the ransacking of his house, so that was not a normal or expected occurrence) and who knows, maybe within their own society it’s similar?

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Y’know, I’m often torn when writing Hobbit fic about having dwarves refer to Mahal by name as an exclamation (”Mahal bless me!”). In the books, certainly in The Hobbit, they only make sort of standard English-y exclamations like “Bless me!” and “My goodness!”, Mahal/Aule is never mentioned, and Durin is only referred to as an ancestor. 

I haven’t re-read Lord of the Rings in ages, but again I’m pretty sure that dwarves never refer to their ancestors as anything besides a proper noun in that book. They refer to Durin as a past king, but not in the same way Thorin does in The Hobbit: AUJ where he says, “What in Durin’s name is going on?” The only times the Valar are referred to in LotR that I can recall is when the elves exclaim to Elbereth in their songs, but again, her name is used more as a reference, or calling upon her, and not as a curse word or exclamation the way we’d say “God be praised!” or “Goddammit!”, simply put she is not a goddess to be worshipped with an organized religion so much as a revered figure, more of a demigoddess if anything.

The thing is, I really like what fanon has done with having dwarves talk about Aule, and having them use the Khuzdul word for his name the way we would say “God”. But Tolkien never had them do that, perhaps in part because he was a good Catholic who would never have someone use the Lord’s name in vain, especially not towards what amounted to a pagan god. 

(By the way, no one in LotR EVER refers to Eru Iluvatar the way we would say “God”, no one in LotR seems particularly aware that Iluvatar exists except maybe the Elves, but they don’t refer to him or seem to consider him a Creator to be worshipped the way we would God. Elves praise Elbereth but there’s also no sign that they worship her in any particularly religious way. Fan writers using “Eru” as a substitute for “God” as in Bilbo saying something like “Eru bless me!” is one of those little pet peeves I have that I try not to let ruin fanfics for me, because there’s not only no indication that the Hobbits are aware of the Valar (yes, including Yavanna, guys, the idea that Yavanna created the hobbits is pure fanon, her name is NEVER uttered by a hobbit anywhere in Tolkien’s works) but Tolkien has actually said that the hobbits take little to no interest in cosmology or metaphysics, they are utterly unaware of the existence of the Valar. Bilbo is a scholar for having even heard of Elbereth, the Elvish star-demigoddess.)

But I actually do like and use dwarves referring to “Mahal” in my fics, even if in the films they only ever exclaim Durin’s, and I wrestle with how to use that because Mahal just sounds natural. I think it’s different for me because Tolkien put so much less effort into the dwarven culture than he did the elvish one that I can easily imagine that he didn’t really delve into their exclamation outside of battle cries like Baruk Khazad! And I can easily imagine that Bilbo didn’t know what they were saying and so it’s possible they could say Mahal or Durin’s name in front of him without him taking much note of it as our narrator. 

Basically it comes down to cherry-picking fanon. I totally understand why people give hobbits Yavanna as a creator goddess (though I do secretly hope they know it’s not canon), and give LotR and Hobbit characters a greater knowledge of the Silmarillion events than anyone outside of elves seems to have in the actual books, but I’m also equally guilty of picking some things I like and using them so *shrug* to each their own.

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… in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition in order to describe the aura around Rivendell created by Elrond (and unbeknownst to Bilbo, Vilya the Elvish Ring of Air).

From JRR Tolkien’s Essay “On Fairy-Stories” p. 53

“We need a word for this elvish craft, but all the words that have been applied to it have been blurred and confused with other things. Magic is ready to hand, and I have used it above (p.10), but I should not have done so: Magic should be reserved for the operations of the Magician. Art is the human process that produces by the way (it is not its only or ultimate object) Secondary Belief. Art of the same sort, if more skilled and effortless, the elves can also use, or so the reports seem to show; the more potent and specially elvish craft I will, for lack of a less debatable word, call Enchantment. Enchantment produces a Secondary World into which both designer and spectator can enter, to the satisfaction of their senses while they are inside; but in its purity it is artistic in desire and purpose. Magic produces, or pretends to produce, an alteration of the Primary World. It does not matter by whom it is said to be practised, fay or mortal, it remains distinct from the two; it is not an art but a technique; its desire is power in this world, domination of things and wills.

Tolkien is very exact about the difference between Magic and Elvish Craft in “The Lord of the Rings”. Magic is primarily worked by magicians who predominantly work for the cause of evil, such as the Witch King of Angmar, or the Necromancer. Hobbits do indeed refer to Elvish craft as “magic” in the books, but they are gently rebuked or even laughed at when this happens, allowed to continue calling it so only because in their ignorance and innocence they don’t understand the difference. In dialogue between Elves and Hobbits in LotR we see the expression of Tolkien’s beliefs on this distinction. 

It’s quite possible Peter Jackson and his writers understood this and simply didn’t want to mess around with the distinction for a film audience, but it bears noting that Gandalf’s twinkly agreement with Bilbo that “magic” is indeed at work is out of step with the way magic actually works in Middle Earth. It would have been more in keeping with Tolkien’s work to have Gandalf correct Bilbo and say it is Elrond’s craft or enchantment that creates the sense of wonder around Rivendell, not “magic” in the way the forces of Evil like Sauron and his minions use it. I admit, the distinction is sometimes lost on me, but it bears noting. 

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I’ve seen some really fantastic takes on making Middle Earth with much more cultural and cuisine variety than the films or books portrayed. Personally, I’ve always head-canoned Erebor cuisine as northern Russian, since the Lonely Mountain and St. Petersburg appear to share a latitude, and climate deeply influences cuisine.

I poked some fun at this with Thorin preparing the rather horrifying “herring under fur coat” dish for Bilbo in my last drabble, largely because I’m rather sick of the idea that Thorin CAN’T cook (he did live many years on the road and fended for himself, he’s not HELPLESS) but someone can be a decent cook and still prepare a dish that someone finds disgusting based on their own cultural experience, as was the case with Bilbo and salted herring mixed with boiled vegetables and mayonnaise :P

That being said, the one real hint we get of dwarven cuisine (besides there distaste of leafy greens) was Gimli’s “roaring fires, malt beer, red meat off the bone” in FOTR. So: bbq and beer, got it. 
But then again, Gimli is kind of a more “Scottish” dwarf (like Dain), and then you have Bofur with his North Irish accent and ultimately for me I kinda decided that dwarves are just generally “Northern” across pseudo-European Middle Earth. So Ered Luin is more Scottish/Northern Irish, but once you travel far East, like Erebor, you get more Scandinavian (Grey Mountains?) shading to Russian. 

This was partially informed too by the quasi-Byzantine architecture we saw in Dale, which to my eyes looked rather Medieval Russian (given their close ties with Byzantium) and the rest made sense. 

But I still see dwarves as primarily preferring red meat and having that Scottish/Northern influence, so imagine my delight when a little more researched (don’t laugh at me, @Sansael) when I learned of Russian Shashlik, which is not only Russian barbecue but Russian barbecue MADE WITH SWORDS 

I MEAN 

HOW DWARVISH IS THAT?! 

Not to mention it’s considered a more upper class dish, and given Erebor’s wealth that makes PERFECT sense. 

So, long story short, definitely planning at least one more Shire AU cooking adventures with Thorin being actually a fairly competent cook, but his native tastes being different enough that Bilbo needs to adjust from his rather bland, southern English Shire expectations. But yes, “herring under fur coat” first, next up shashlik :3

 

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Anonymous asked: Your opinion on the Dwarves have Ones trope

Ugh *massages temples*

So basically - I hate the term, but I recognize its utility. We have Dwarves which are a non-human culture, one that we presume is widely culturally if not geneticallymonogamous or asexual. (This is also true of Tolkien Elves, by the way, perhaps more so, and yet you never see the “One” trope applied to elves in Tolkien fanfic.)  So yeah, as a writer, when you are writing non-humans who accept one love in their lifetime or none at all, it makes sense that they may have a unique term to address this. I’ve even been tempted to use the term in this context.

What I don’t like is the word itself. We have so many gorgeous words with long, rich histories in English that convey the same idea as the (rather juvenile and inelegant, in my mind) “One.” Friend, lover, husband, soulmate, darling, partner, etc. and yet we use a number? 

I for one find it interesting the idea that dwarves don’t have weddings, because in their society once you find your partner everyone just knows and there’s no need to have a special ritual around it, as it is also impossible that you would end up with anyone else. So Thorin just immediately referring to Bilbo as his husband the minute he knows both of them are on the same page as far as being in love, has great comedic potential too since in the Shire without the rigid monogamy culture (ie you can remarry, or marry without love) Bilbo would probably jump out of his skin the first time he’s called Thorin’s “husband” since he doesn’t understand that love=marriage without passing through the whole “wedding” thing in Dwarven culture. That’s one way to deal with cultural difference that missmithen and I giggled over some time ago. 

Mostly, I just don’t like that it’s so widely perceived as canon. There’s not a single mention in any Tolkien work of a “One”. It’s a totally fanon term and so many fics seem to just take its existence for granted, and I can’t help but wonder if they know that Dwarves don’t have a One in Tolkien’s text? Or that they’re not the only monogamous species? And why they feel the need to say “One” when there’s so many other words for love and partnership in our language?

So basically, it’s me being a big grouch :P

Part 2

There’s two pieces of Canon that could back it up - (to paraphrase) Tolkien’s quote about dwarves loving only once or not at all, and that many dwarves never bother to get into relationships especially because their population is only 1/3 women (which I think combined with Gimli’s statement based on the LotR appendix that dwarf men and women are indistinguishable is what led to a lot of the gender play fic we see in the Hobbit fandom, and the general liberty with which authors treat dwarven conceptions of gender despite lack of canon representation of female dwarves or in fact any dwarf in a relationship). 

The other is the similar statement that Elves only love once* (*some terms and conditions may apply, for example Finduilas in Children of Hurin, so Elves are monogamous unless it’s plot related apparently). Furthermore, that elves actually fade if their love is denied, as a broken heart is one of the few things that can kill these immortal beings besides injury. Kinda goes along with Tolkien having so many of his races be Biologically Catholic as I like to call it, so he never has to address things like infidelity in immortal relationships, they’re all strictly monogamous by default. 

That I think combined with popular soulmate trends which may have indeed been doing the rounds early in 2013 may have lead to someone using “One” as shorthand to describe a soulmate, and applying that to Tolkien’s world. As I’ve said elsewhere, I totally understand why it’s a useful word, it just rubs me the wrong way because Tolkien’s world is SO linguistically based and unlike most other fandoms where fanon runs rampant because the writers didn’t provide backstory on every little thing, Tolkien actually HAS provided backstory on an exhaustive amount of Middle Earth’s culture and history, so there’s a lot of fanon where there doesn’t really need to be any. Again, which is totally fine, I just hope that people are conscious of what is fanon and what is canon because the canon can in fact be very rich and rewarding to work from and a lot of stuff that ends up in fanon often comes from other fandoms and carries with a lot of very tired, overused tropes (so many yaoi tropes…. so many…). 

TL;DR The “One” thing is not without basis in Tolkien’s world, he just never used that word for it, and I’m still not sure who was the first author to apply it to Hobbit fic.

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ask-novelty replied to your post “After reading your latest chapter about Bilbo taking the ring to…”

Somewhat of a random question, but hypothetically speaking, let’s say that Tolkein’s Hobbit/LOTR and PJ’s Hobbit/LOTR takes place in two different parallel timelines, possibly existing as one at some point before branching off into two different paths. What would you say was the inciting incident that cause the divide into two divergent paths between the more innocent timeline and the darker timeline?

Been thinking about this one since I saw it, actually! I mean, obviously PJ took liberties, telescoping a lot of Middle Earth history and just plain altering it to better fit a cinematic medium. I kinda feel like the differences in the stories of LotR and The Hobbit aren’t so intertwined that it would be the same event for both? But here’s my theories:

1) In LotR: Elrond witnessing Isildur’s failure. At least, under those particular heartbreaking circumstances, Isildur’s nasty little smirk etc. I think he also saw it in the book, but in the movie he’s just way more salty about Men in general and it feels to me like he passed a lot of his distrust of Men onto Aragorn in the form of a sort of internalized racism. A lot of the biggest changes in the LotR movies are around Aragorn’s ancestry - his self doubt over Isildur manifesting as him NOT seeking to become king but in fact being a reluctant king, which creates tension between him and Boromir, perhaps even in some way informing Faramir’s “choice” to try to take the Ring rather than give it up, though that’s a stretch. I wanted to go for an event as far back as possible, but Elrond’s attitude towards Men and the possible repercussions of it strikes me as a strong potential “divergence point” between the books and the movies to explain their differences.

2) In The Hobbit trilogy I’d have to say it’s Azog surviving the Battle of Azanulbizar. Obviously that whole battle went way different than in Tolkien’s writings, since it was in itself revenge for Thror’s death, Thror died before the battle in the books. Maybe that could count as the divergence point. But let’s think of it this way: Thorin takes on Azog instead of Dain, wounding him instead of killing him. This makes Thorin immediately a more heroic figure, so he’s less of the foolish treasure hunter that we see in the book. He’s got more purpose as the bearer of his own heroic legacy and the burdens of it. Azog is alive, Dain never killed him, so you have all the nastiness that falls out in the trilogy because the Company is pursued by a persistent nemesis instead of a series of rather ridiculous circumstances. 

Furthermore, because Thorin’s experiences have made him a different person, Bilbo sees him differently, so he’s not snarking about this absurd windbag leading the party, he’s actually very respectful of this solemn and fairly quiet hero that Thorin has become. There’s a connection between them that in the book never really came to light until he saw Thorin’s heroic charge in the golden armor, just before their final parting. Perhaps Thorin himself had never known heroism until that charge, and it transforms him into someone Bilbo can respect in the final hour. Well, for having killed Azog, he becomes someone Bilbo can respect much sooner. The feel of persecution perhaps also exacerbates Thorin’s madness in a way that it’s not in the book, because he really has evidence of people out to get him (Azog) in a way that the book only had by chance. 

(Also one of my favorite fanfics ever (which is devastatingly incomplete) plays with the idea that Bilbo’s first lifetime follows the book, but he goes back and relives it and it becomes the movie timeline and I adore it so much it’s called (Un)Familiar Ground by the Feels Whale

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The Bagginshield Fanfic Timeline - An analysis by Avelera. This is just my opinion and no fics are named. I don’t pretend to have totally exhaustive knowledge of all Bagginshield fics, this is just my overall observations since having started shipping Bagginshield the day AUJ was released. No particular reason to share this now except it was on my mind. 

AUJ Era Bagginshield Fic: Free-for-all. Almost everything is either implication or extrapolated from The Hobbit book using movie appearances, there is no cohesive movie canon so fanfic writers are free to imagine the quest ending however they see fit. Bagginshield is a ship, but it’s simply one of many as every character is shipped with every other character (and even characters that haven’t shown up yet like Tauriel). Popular characterizations and tropes coalesce, such as dwarves using Khuzdul pet names, dwarvish hair braiding culture, Bilbo-the-Gardener, fem-Bilbo, secretly-female dwarves, and general fanon Dwarvish culture for everything from their view on gender to physiological differences from other races. Quest-retelling fic is rampant. Bilbo and Thorin when shipped together often correspond to standard yaoi tropes of Tall-Dark-Aggressive-and-Brooding and Blond-Flowerchild-Innocent-Submissive, though there are many exceptions. Since Thorin’s character is still fairly mysterious in the films, authors are often uncertain of how to voice his character by comparison and it’s not uncommon even in Bagginshield-centric fics for Thorin to spend most of the story in the background or not talking. Also, displays of affection and/or actual lengthy conversation between Thorin and Bilbo in many instances don’t occur until the climax or even the final chapter of the story. 

DOS Era Bagginshield Fic: The DoS theatrical release adds depressingly little to the Bagginshield ship compared to the AUJ Hug Scene and the various hopes and imaginings of fic writers as seen in DoS-predictive fics. Early DoS fic is less transformed and more sustained from AUJ era fics as no major disruption happens, fic writers simply continue to write in the established tradition and ongoing stories rather than change their plans dramatically. Fans look forward to BotFA which promises the book’s Mithril Shirt Scene and the Death Scene for more ship-y moments. This changes somewhat when the Extended Edition is released and we get the vouching scene from Bilbo and a few other Bagginshield moments. Tauriel is added to the mix of characters though and many Kili-centric fics change in tone as a result, as they now have to either explain why Kili isn’t with Tauriel in favor of another dwarf of choice, or the new “canonical” ship of Kili/Tauriel is added to the general mindscape. 

In the lead up to BotFA’s release, Thorin-hate reaches a fever pitch as fans extrapolating Richard’s performance and appearance onto the book canon of the Arkenstone Debacle scene have Thorin shaking Bilbo and threatening to kill him. Bagginshield shippers, based on fanon works that assume a darker characterization of Thorin, are often accused of enjoying an abusive ship despite the fact the series was not yet complete and how these book scenes would be depicted in the films was yet unknown. 

BotFA Era Bagginshield: Explosion. An influx of new Bagginshield authors sweep into the fandom, fanfic writers who previously could not “see” the ship jump enthusiastically on board. Even long-term Bagginshield writers are shocked (and immensely gratified) by the intimacy between the characters as seen in the Mithril Shirt Scene, the Death Scene and especially the entirely unanticipated Acorn Scene. Thorin’s characterization in fic dramatically softens, to the point where it’s clear if a fic was written pre- or post-BotFA just by the contrast of how aloof and forbidding Thorin is vs how emotional and soft. Thanks to the actual film depiction of the Arkenstone Debacle, where Thorin is shown as heartbroken rather than enraged by the revelation of Bilbo’s betrayal, much of the Dark Thorin characterization and abusive ship accusations lose their justifications as a completed character arc for Thorin becomes available. Quest-retelling fic becomes less common (or is simply exhausted) compared to Everyone Lives AU aftermath stories and other reimaginings. 

Addendum:

Lots of the wilder dwarvish culture aspects came from the AUJ era when fanfic writers really sunk their teeth into this rather new interpretation of dwarves we got in AUJ even vs. the LotR films. Keep in mind, none of the LotR era dwarves had tattoos or gave any indication that they were born before the age of 1,000

While there are hair and beard braids there, in general their design was a lot more simplistic and the only dwarf we had long-term exposure too was Gimli, who was turned into a bit of a joke compared to his book-counterpart. So anything you see regarding hair-braiding culture, Khuzdul-use, hidden gender or differing views on gender binary (which was somewhat owed to Gimli’s TTT line about dwarf women) are total fanon by AUJ-era fic writers.

Vestigial fic tropes from this era are mostly based around book canon but with movie appearances. Thorin and Bilbo having their final words to one another in a tent is from the books (I’m very guilty of that across multiple fics). Anything where Thorin is imprisoned alone and at length in Mirkwood is from the book and common from AUJ era fic’s anticipating DOS. There was an entire fic once where Bilbo couldn’t be around Thorin because being held over the ramparts had traumatized him, while in the movie not only did Thorin barely lift Bilbo as he was pressed against the wall (it was more of a shove than a near-murder), but the idea of Bilbo being traumatized at that height is rather laughable since the ramparts were barely a story tall and over water, Bilbo climbed down it later that night without even blinking.

But mostly I’d say Serious & Forbidding Thorin is the longest-term holdover from the first couple years of fic, also Thorin barely talking. I’d owe that latter point to the fact that Bilbo talks a lot and he has the LotR series and the Hobbit book for authors to build a voice off of, since he’s still pretty similar to his book counterpart in all ways except his view of Thorin. Whereas Thorin was so dramatically changed from the book that there wasn’t really much to go off of besides a dozen lines of dialogue. I know for my part it took at least 10,000 words of writing Bilbo’s POV before I dared attempt Thorin’s, though now I’m much more comfortable with it obviously.

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Some musings on fanfiction literary trends, fandom, and the evolution of online culture (as seen in 15+ years of Tolkien-based fanfic from The Lord of the Rings to The Hobbit films) 

Reading 15-year-old Lord of the Rings fic is absolutely wild because the prose style for fanfic has changed so much during the intervening years. There was a huge focus back then (~2002) on mimicking Tolkien’s style with elevated language, a lack of phobia over using the passive voice, and otherwise formal “epic” dialogue patterns. 

At times it’s a bit hard for me to read, because my inner editor voice wants to rearrange sentences and remove “on the nose” description and dialogue (explicitly saying what the character is or is not thinking/saying like “He spoke nothing of his fears, which were great.”)*

It got me thinking about fashions in prose. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this style, just as there’s nothing inherently “wrong” about 19th c. romantic purple prose vs 20th c. spare, Hemingway-esque thriller prose. Yet writers and teachers of writing delight in creating long lists of what should and should not be done as if they’re ironclad laws of physics rather than extremely subjective matters of taste and changing times.

But back to fanfic, I’m fascinated by the unspoken linguistic trends that pervade fandom, from phrases ( “he smelled of X, and Y, and something all his own”), to aversion to adverbs, to casual vs elevated tone. Even tropes like A/B/O are fascinating in how they spread from niche fetish communities to fandoms that aren’t even tangental to one another, and from there become vehicles for dialogue on matters of society, gender, sexuality, and even history. The pace is rapid, less than a few years ago in The Hobbit community I observed that fanfic writers needed to make some sort of author note in the margin if there was a trans* or gender queer main character, in order to clarify that aspect of the story to unfamiliar readers. Today, such fics hardly need a disclaimer at all because the issue is so much more widely understood, this wider awareness seeming to rise in rough parallel with the IRL fight for trans* rights. Similarly, fifteen years ago in the Lord of the Rings fandom a story that contained slash of any kind (even if they lacked any form of explicit sexual scene) would often contain long, agonized explanations as to why these characters were “just friends” if it made the reader more comfortable, or that the chapter containing a slash sex scene was skippable if it made fans of Tolkien’s work uncomfortable. 

Another trend is the evolution of the acceptance of the Mary Sue. Again, 15 years ago in the Lord of the Rings fandom, it was possibly the most reviled concept out there. “Tenth member of the Fellowship” “Girl falls into Middle Earth” were easy and constant targets of ridicule. The frustration was somewhat understandable, given that at one point I remember counting the first 10 pages of Fanfiction.net, and at the time and fully 60% of the new stories involved a female self-insert character into what was inevitably the film universe. Fans of the book often fled to make their own archives where such stories were explicitly forbidden unless the reached a certain level of prose quality. One of the most popular comedy serieswas of partnered assassins who would “jump in” to various fanfic universes and waylay Mary Sues before they could make contact with the main characters (all tongue in cheek, I remember adoring these self-aware self-inserts as a teenager). 

Nowadays, I’d venture to say that level of vitriol towards Mary Sues is falling out of favor. I personally still struggle with reading any sort of self-insert fanfic, or any OC fanfic in general, which is a psychological leftover from developing as a reader and writer during that era. But I’ve observed that, like with slash, acceptance has grown and Mary Sues are now defended in a “live and let live” manner. Certainly I would rather avoid reading a Mary Sue fic by a new writer, but I wholly support their writing efforts and see it as an important step in their development as writers. 

For younger fans, you have to understand, this level of basic tolerance was not always the norm. If you’re puzzled by people asking readers not to “flame” it’s because in the early 2000s it wasn’t uncommon for trolls to go into fanfiction comment sections just to send insulting messages to the author for the very ideaof their story, to the extent that authors would have to beg in the notes “don’t like, don’t read”. “Don’t like, don’t read” has largely become an unspoken rule of fanfic as a result. (Though Tumblr has removed some of that tolerance, in my view, by the way dashboards work putting “objectionable” content in front of people’s eyes through the clusterfuck of a tagging system.) This evolution runs roughly parallel to the fading of legal “disclaimers” which were once necessary at the top of fics, as fanfic has gained wider acceptance and the need to defend oneself legally online against aggressive authors and creators has vanished in all but the most extreme copyright violation examples.

The greatest change in fanfic in the last decade+ though is without question the acceptance and then the prevalence of slash. It has gone from a small and passionate, but often disdained, niche group–that was seen by some as a fetish culture akin to furries or BDSM, with its own fan conventions–to practically the norm of fanfiction (at least on AO3, which is also relatively new and signaled a huge fundamental shift in the way fanfic is consumed online). I vividly remember in my early days of LotR fanfic seeing the passionate slash fans “over there” and how they were seen as a totally separate, rabid subculture rather than as part of the “mainstream” fandom community. Now, I would say they are the mainstream in fandom.

Meanwhile, “Gen” has gone from the more “respected” “elevated” subgenre to a struggling one. Again, to specify, this is based on my observations of changes in the Tolkien fandom spanning the LotR to The Hobbit film period, and a US-centric one at that. Het fics are still thriving, where I’ve observed a closer linguistic parallel to the language and tropes seen in popular romance novels than I necessarily see in slash fanfic, though there is bleed through. Het is no longer the accepted default along the lines of “canon relationships” that it was 10 years ago, i.e you didn’t even need to tag for romance if it was a het story with the usual main pairings, it just meant you were writing "canon adjacent” works.

It’s curious to watch these changes in fanfiction, as I daresay they mirror the changes seen in the literary world over the past 200+ years, the only difference really is how fluid and fast these changes are. A year online feels like a decade compared to IRL literary trends, and it has also been fascinating to watch what I perceive to be the bleed-through of ideas that fandom has been batting around for years entering the mainstream. For example, the growing acceptance of same-sex relationships in fiction, and a growing comfort with female-led stories with a push back against the automatic knee-jerk accusation of “Mary Sue” as a bad thing. It’s hard to say which came first, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that fanfic played at least a small part in the wider cultural acceptance.