Battle rages outside the gates of Erebor. The army of the Iron Hills Dwarves has come as requested to assist Thorin in his attempt at protecting his home. However, the leader of the Erebor Dwarves himself is cowering inside the walls, unwilling and unable to face the chaos he helped to orchestrate.
Dwalin: “Since when do we forsake our own people? Thorin, they are dying out there.”
Thorin: “There are halls beneath halls within this Mountain. Places we can fortify, shore up, make safe. Yes. Yes that is it. We must move the gold further underground to safety.”
As a last attempt at appealing to Thorin’s sanity, or the character he once possessed, Dwalin verbally assaults his leader with the notion that Thorin himself should have known. The Thorin we met in Bag End would not have to have his lieutenant telling him what needed to be done, or what his next move should be.
Had Thorin remained the same as he was, he would have charged the Orc ranks before they reached Dáin. However, he has decided to run, to flee. His flight or flight instincts have been reduced to only flight. Fighting seems futile.
Thorin doesn’t even hear Dwalin’s appeal for help and assistance. His eyes seem to focus on nothing at all, showing a lack of life inside them. What he hears Dwalin say registers in his mind as a need to further hide from the chaos outside. The throne Thorin sits upon seems hollow in a way. There is no gravitas to speak of, no authority, no power, only a cowering madman.
This madness has taken control of his body as well as his mind. As Thorin develops the plan to fortify himself even further, he stands from the throne only to become unbalanced, as if his own legs weren’t able to carry him. He is literally off balance.
No value for life
Dwalin: “Did you hear me? Dáin is surrounded. They’re being slaughtered, Thorin.”
Thorin: “Many die in war. Life is cheap. But a treasure such as this cannot be counted in lives lost. It is worth all the blood we can spend.”
Again, Dwalin tries to appeal to the leader, the warrior, the commander in chief he relied upon to help the forces of the Iron Hills. This time, however, Thorin explains his new worldview in the crudest of fashions, directly and mercilessly. No man, or rather Dwarf, that is fighting for his life outside the gates of Erebor seems to be of any value to Thorin.
They are, in his mind, all expendable. He doesn’t count himself among them though. It would seem he thinks of himself as more worthy than anyone fighting for his cause. Thorin would gladly kill every single one of his allies if it secured him the treasure.
It is greed at its highest. The jealousy, the need to possess is stronger than any other human emotion Thorin once had. He used to be a Dwarf of his word, honor, pride, and belief in his people. What he has been reduced to is a Dwarf whose only goal in life is to safeguard some cold gold coins whose value is arbitrarily decided by others, making it important, significant in the lives they lead.
But, if we were to dig deeper, all they are is metal, nothing more. So it amounts to Thorin placing more value upon a mere metal than people of flesh and blood. Nothing that we haven’t seen or heard of in our own history. Still, it is a gruesome view to have.
Dwalin: “You sit here in the vast halls with a crown upon your head and yet you are lesser now than you have ever been.”
Thorin: “Do not speak to me as if I were some lowly Dwarf Lord as if I were still Thorin Oakenshield. I am your king!”
Dwalin, surprised by his leader’s viewpoint, looks at him as if he were looking at a relic of a long-extinct character that once flourished inside this Dwarf he admired. Dwalin speaks directly and plainly with tears in his eyes, saying exactly what he has become and how he is perceived not only by him but by the rest of the company as well.
Now, there has come a point where Dwalin feels it important for him to voice his opinion. The distrust of not finding the Arkenstone pales in comparison to Thorin’s unwavering unwillingness to participate in the battle outside his gates.
Thorin, it would seem, feels shame and embarrassment over being thought of as Thorin Oakenshield. The thought of him being what he was places him in anguish, now that he has assumed the throne he has fought to reach. However, as king, he appears to have lost all that once made him human. Assuming a king’s role, I suppose, Thorin saw fit to change his attitude. Were it not for the madness incurred by the gold, would he have remained the same as he was before he reached Erebor?
The title he spent years trying to attain, now seems to have put him in a rather compromising position. The madness does not help him, but, like all kings, he now has to think of preserving his hard-won kingdom from outside influences and attempts at his throne. It’s what almost every king in history has done, think about himself and his fortune first before the welfare of his people. It is no different with Thorin. The only extenuating circumstance is the madness that has driven his need for possession to the foreground.
Loyal to a fault
Dwalin: “You were always my king. You used to know that once. You cannot see what you have become.”
Thorin: “Go. Get out. Before I kill you.”
Dwalin has always regarded him as his king, someone he would always follow, no matter the circumstances. And even now he does so. The company could have taken to the battlefield on their own, disregarding their leader’s wishes to stand down, and assisted Dáin in his fight against the Orcs. However, they chose the path of honor and loyalty, even though in their hearts they knew it was wrong to do so.
Though they still know Thorin’s decision to have been the wrong one, trying to open his eyes to reality, they stay behind, honoring their leader’s wishes. Loyal to a fault as Bilbo said.
Desire for harm
Now, that all seems to be lost, Dwalin does not shy away from expressing his opinion. Thorin does not want to see the truth about his character. No matter how right Thorin thinks he is about his decisions, it hurts him to know the truth about himself. Which is why, at that precise moment, in an attempt to curb his rage toward Dwalin, which would inevitably end in harm, he employs him to leave.
Thorin is aware of what his anger could do to his lieutenant, so he summons what sanity he has in order to keep himself from hurting Dwalin.
Dwalin, on the other hand, becomes instantly terrified of Thorin. He would never have thought to hear those words coming out of his leader for whom he has been the right hand in every confrontation. To fear him now is unbelievable, but a reality nonetheless.
Gallery of Kings
In his confusion and disorientation, Thorin goes alone into the Gallery of Kings where he lastly tried to drown Smaug in gold and failed. The gold, however, remains there still. A reminder of his failure as well as an appropriate reflection of who he has become. In this short but very important and impactful scene, Thorin confronts himself, alone with his demons.
Dwalin: “You sit here with a crown upon your head. You are lesser now than you have ever been.”
Thorin: “But a treasure such as this cannot be counted in lives lost.”
Balin: “A sickness lies upon that treasure.”
Bard: “The blind ambition of a Mountain King.”
Thorin: “Am I not the king? This gold is ours. And ours alone. I will not part with a single coin.” Bard: “He could not see beyond his own desire!”
Thorin: “As if I were some lowly Dwarf Lord Thorin Oakenshield.”
Balin: “A sickness which drove your grandfather mad.”
Dwalin: “This is Thorin, son of Thráin, son of Thrór!”
Thorin: “I am not my grandfather. I am not my grandfather.”
Gandalf: “You are the heir to the Throne of Durin.”
Dwalin: “They are dying out there.”
Gandalf: “Take back Erebor.”
Dwalin: “Dáin is surrounded. Dying. Is surrounded. Dying.”
Gandalf: “Take back your homeland.”
Bilbo: “You are changed, Thorin.”
Thorin: “I am not my grandfather.”
Bilbo: “Is this treasure truly worth more than you honor?”
Thorin: “I am not my grandfather.”
Gandalf: “This treasure will be your death!”
The voices in his head are those of his companions, of the people that have taken the journey with him, whose remarks, though unimportant then, are now ringing true. He does not feel anger toward them, quite the opposite, he seems to be taking them in, absorbing them as if to form an opinion of himself. It would appear that what he thinks of himself is not what he portrays in reality.
It is a curious thing to have one’s mind filter out thoughts and present them in order to drive one into action. Normally, dark and negative thoughts such as Thorin is experiencing drive one to self-harm or suicide, if that person chooses to believe them and has had a long-lasting problem with self-worth.
However, Thorin has been brought up to succeed the throne of his grandfather, taught and bred to be king with all the pride and self-worth the title comes with. As a member of the Dwarven race, Thorin, like all other Dwarves, has a natural inclination to think of himself as more worthy than any other race. So, on that front, there is no fear of him harming himself.
Thorin has said, time and again, that he is not the same as his grandfather, meaning, that he would never let himself be taken over by some mental disease. Though he has feared this fate ever since he witnessed his grandfather’s demise, he was vocal to others about not repeating the same downward spiral. Now, it seems he doesn’t have a choice but to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Would he have become mad had it not been for the susceptibility that he has in his blood? The others of the company do not seem affected by the treasure. So, were it not for his blood relations, would he have gone mad?
Whatever the answer to these questions, the reality before us is such in which another king of Erebor has succumbed to dragon-sickness. His eyes perceive the slithering dragon in the molten gold beneath his feet. It could be interpreted as his own reflection rather than another entity altogether.
As he sees a reference to Smaug, fright overtakes him. He seems scared to be depicted as the same beast he himself tried to kill, whom he blamed and hated for taking over his throne in the first place.
However, to hate Smaug at this point would be to hate himself if he is that reflected on the surface. Before he could realize the hate toward himself, the gold surface begins to swallow him, forming a pit from which he cannot escape. It envelops him in a matter of moments. His distorted mind projects this twisted reality of the golden sinking hole that engulfs him without leaving a single sound be heard from his lips.
Follow me to my next post.