The key

Dwarves of the Square Table

Would you brave the unknown to reclaim your homeland? Would you willingly enter a dragon’s den to rebuild a life that no longer exists? The Dwarves that inhabited Erebor, those who have survived the wrath of the dragon, are scattered over the seven kingdoms. They have built their lives away from their home, as best as they could. Another generation had been born in this new life that may never come to live in Erebor. Hindrances lie before them they don’t even know about, and when they reach their destination, a dragon will lie in wait. 

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Insult and motivation

Ori: “I’m not afraid. I’m up for it. I’ll give him a taste of the Dwarvish iron right up his jacksie!”

Dori: “Sit down.”

Balin: “The task would be difficult with an army behind us but we number just 13. And not 13 of the best, nor brightest.” 

Nori: “Hey, who are you calling dim?”

Óin: “What did he say?”

Fili: “We may be few in number but we are fighters, all of us, to the last Dwarf.”

Kili: “And you forget we have a Wizard in our company. Gandalf will have killed hundreds of dragons in his time.” 

Ori, the youngest of the company, is geared up to face the beast. His unfounded courage soars to present itself to others. He refuses to be looked upon as a child, which in turn Dori confirms with his demand to sit down. Balin is much more sensible and reasonable. He is the consiglieri of the company. He reasons correctly that they cannot storm the dragon’s den with only thirteen of them.

Balin knows these Dwarves and can assess them better than they can assess themselves. Their strengths and weaknesses are known to him, which is why he comments the way he does. 

Balin’s comments don’t sway Fili. He is certain of the braveness and fighting skill of all the Dwarves present at the table. Most importantly, the courage of their hearts is what motivates them to take part in such a quest. Even if there are weaknesses in them as warriors, the fearlessness they have imprinted in their genes will overturn whatever might be lacking. 

Family support

Killi points to Gandalf. He relies on his expertise as a Wizard to slay their dragon. Kili sees Gandalf as their ultimate fighting tool. Fili and Kili are both nephews of Thorin and they will be inheriting the throne after Thorin’s demise. So, their attitude toward this quest is one of support and problem-solving. They are there to support their uncle in his quest, to the bitter end.

They are also ones who have not actually seen Erebor. Their lives began after the attack of the dragon, so they were born in exile. What they know of Erebor is what Thorin had told them. However, as rightful heirs to the throne, they need to ensure the quest’s success. And as Kili nicely points out, Gandalf will be there to lend a hand.

Put on the spot

Gandalf: “Oh, well, now. I wouldn’t say…”

Dori: “How many, then?”

Gandalf: “What?”

Dori: “How many dragons have you killed?”

Dori: “Go on. Give us a number.”

Bilbo: “Excuse me. Please.”

Gandalf, on the other hand, does not like to take center stage, especially when there is nothing to contribute to the conversation. He avoids the question of dragon slaying, presumably because he had not faced such foe yet. The Dwarves become rowdy as Gandalf procrastinates. To defuse the growing tension, Bilbo pleads for civility. But the Dwarves overthrow his efforts. 


Thorin: “Shazara! (Silence) If we have read these signs do you not think others will have read them too? Rumors have begun to spread. The dragon Smaug has not been seen for 60 years. Eyes look east to the mountain, assessing, wondering, weighing the risk. Perhaps the vast wealth of our people now lies unprotected. Do we sit back while others claim what is rightfully ours? Or do we seize this chance to take back Erebor? Du Bekâr! Du Bekâr! (To arms! To arms!)

Only after Thorin raises his voice to the Dwarves to settle down, do they immediately take their seats. He is the authority figure in this company, and they follow his every word. Thorin is also very logical, for they aren’t the only ones whose eyes are directed at the mountain. Óin isn’t the only one who can read the portents. There might already be an army marching upon Erebor ready to claim the treasure as theirs while they sit in a Hobbit hole arguing about it. Thorin motivates his company in spite of a slim chance of success. They rally to him without a second guess. 

The key

Balin: “You forget, the Front Gate is sealed. There is no way into the mountain.”

Gandalf: “That, my dear Balin, is not entirely true.” 

Thorin: “How came you by this?”

Gandalf: “It was given to me by your father, by Thrain. For safekeeping. It is yours now.”

A twist in the development. Gandalf pulls out a key from his sleeve, a key that can open another passage into the Lonely Mountain. No one knew there was another way in, not even Thorin. As the key is presented to the company, Thorin remains stunned. He cannot fathom why Gandalf is the one to be holding the key. Logically, it should have been given to him, it belongs to him as the rightful heir to the throne. But his father, Thráin, had given it to Gandalf to keep safe. Gandalf has waited all these years since the attack of the dragon to present Thorin with it when the time was right for him and his company to reclaim Erebor. 

As the key moves in the main shot of the camera, from Gandalf to Thorin it passes the eyes of all of his company, who, like him, sit stunned. For Thorin, however, this is an heirloom of his house, of his father and grandfather. As the key comes into his possession, Thorin is breathless. It is as if he had seen a ghost from his past. This was a key to his kingdom, a key that would ensure his reclamation of Erebor, a key that would change the fates of not only him and his family but all the members of his company. It is also a sign, a sign that this quest has come at the right time. 

The mastermind

Fili: “If there is a key. There must be a door.”

Gandalf: “These runes speak of a hidden passage to the Lower Halls.”

Kili: “There’s another way in.” 

Gandalf: “Well, if we can find it, but Dwarf doors are invisible when closed. The answer lies hidden somewhere in this map and I do not have the skill to find it. But there are others in Middle-Earth who can. The task I have in mind will require a great deal of stealth and no small amount of courage. But if we are careful and clever, I believe that it can be done.”

So now we come to it. The mastermind behind this quest is Gandalf. He hadn’t given any explanation to Bilbo all this time, and now he unveils himself as the culprit for Bilbo’s confusion. As he says “no small amount of courage” he looks Bilbo directly into his eyes. This startles Bilbo as he was not prepared to be in any kind of consideration for this quest. This single look is the final piece of the quest puzzle. 

The burglar experience

Ori: “That’s why we need a burglar.”

Bilbo: “Hmm. and a good one too. An expert, I’d imagine.”

Gloin: “And are you?”

Bilbo: “Am I what?”

Óin: “He said he’s an expert. Hey!”

Bilbo: “Me? No. No, no, no. I’m not a burglar. I’ve never stolen a thing in my life.”

Balin: “Well, I’m afraid I have to agree with Mr. Baggins. He’s hardly burglar material.” 

Bilbo: “Nope.”

Bilbo is shocked as the Dwarves hound him with questions about his burglar skills. He is, after all, a very respectable Hobbit, whose unimpeachable character is known far and wide. For the Dwarves to even insinuate that he would be a good burglar, is more than ridiculous, it is insulting. He defends himself against their unfair assessment of his character. 

But this isn’t the last word on the subject. Read on in my next post. 

Photo credit to Pezibear on Pixabay

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