Monday, July 18, 2011

On Thorin II Oakenshield The King Under the Mountain

There have been quite a few comments in the OSRsphere lately on the recently revealed image of Richard Armitage as Thorin II Oakenshield.  Many are quite upset about the depiction comparing him to a Klingon, and even Jon Travolta's character in Battlefield Earth.  In my personal opinion, I think Peter Jackson and co. did a fantastic job in bringing the world of Middle-earth and its characters to life on the screen, and I tend to believe that he will do the same for The Hobbit films.  I think our perception on how these dwarves are supposed to look is based in the Rankin/Bass cartoon generally, but I thought I'd do a bit of digging on the character of Thorin II since it's been quite a while since reading The Hobbit or the appendices of the Lord of the Rings.

Thorin II is described in The Hobbit as being very stern with a long beard and a cloak the color of sky blue.  Further information on Thorin II is detailed in Appendix A in Return of the King in the subject of Durin's Folk.  Thorin II was born in the Third Age in 2746.  After his family was driven from the Lonely Mountain by Smaug, they wandered around for a while in search of a new home.  They wandered the lands homeless for many years, and for a while settled in Dunland.  Thorin's grandfather, and King Under the Mountain when Smaug descended upon the Lonely Mountain, Thror, embarked on a quest to reclaim the realm of Moria.  In his attempt, Thror was slain by the orc king there.

In 2799, Thorin II fought in the Battle of Azanulbizar where he earned the name Oakenshield after having his shield shattered and using an oak branch in its place.  Eventually Thorin and his folk left Moria despite winning the war against the orcs, because of rumors that the balrog still lurked within the depths.  They settled in the Blue Mountains, and were somewhat prosperous for a time.  The exiled king, Thain (father of Thorin II) embarked on a quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain, but never made it there.  He was captured by Sauron's agents and held captive in Dol Guldur.  It was at this time that Thain gave Gandalf the map of the Lonely Mountain, although the wizard held onto it for many years, not knowing who Thain's heir was.

Thorin II became king of the exiled dwarves and they prospered and grew in the Blue Mountains under his lead.  Eventually Thorin longed to return to the Lonely Mountain and reclaim what was his by rights.  In 2941 Thorin assembled his group to embark on the quest to reclaim the mountain, which eventually would include Bilbo Baggins.  That same year, after reclaiming the mountain thanks to the help of Bilbo, he perished in the Battle of the Five Armies, never truly getting to see the full glory of his kingdom restored.

In the time in which The Hobbit is set, the year is 2941 of the Third Age, putting Thorin II Oakenshield as 195 years old.  Certainly an aged and hardened dwarf.  In various depictions of the character by Alan Lee, Thorin II is shown to be an older dwarf with a long thick gray beard.  There are obvious differences in that description and the recently released image of Armitage as Thorin II.  His beard appears short and cropped and although he is certainly not a young looking character, he hardly resembles the aging appearance we are given by the previous depictions, as well as the general description we can gather based upon his age at the time of The Hobbit.

Perhaps this entry comes off a little "fanboyish" in nature, but Jackson's detail to the original source material, at least by appearance of the characters in the films, has stood up to the literary sources.  I find it strange that he would not invoke this same detail in his depiction of Thorin II, who is one of the most iconic characters in The Hobbit, and indeed in all of Middle-earth.  I can only fathom that these are perhaps simply early release stills and not the final version of the character that we'll see in the film.  I am still faithful that Jackson will do The Hobbit justice, but I, like many of my fellow bloggers, stand scratching my head at this depiction of the King Under the Mountain.