Loss of control over the goings on in one’s own house is a frustrating thing. This can occur when a relative visits, or any member of the extended family, who is not familiar with the house etiquette or has the appropriate manners and respect. This can be tolerated to a certain point, knowing that at some point they are going to leave. So, we make the most of the time spent together and look forward to the day that our homely kingdom will belong to us again.
But what happens when an unexpected party of rude, unruly and disrespectful Dwarves overrun your living accommodations, taking every edible thing in sight for themselves without any regard for your own personal needs? They come unannounced and don’t divulge the end date of their visit. What would you do?
Óin and Bifur
Bilbo: “Excuse me that’s my chicken. If, if you don’t… That’s my wine. Excuse me!”
Bifur speaking in Dwarvish.
Óin: “He’s got an injury.”
Bilbo: “You mean the ax in his head?”
Óin: “Dead? No, only between his ears. His legs work fine.”
A fine piece of comedy in a chaotic situation. Bifur’s injury has rendered him incapable of talking in any other language except Khuzdul. This, naturally, isn’t a problem for his fellow Dwarves who also occasionally use this secret language of the Dwarves. However, for Bilbo to understand him, he needs a translator. Luckily, there was Óin. Well, not so much a translator, rather an explanator of why Bifur is the way he is.
Óin, on the other hand, is deaf. His little trumpet helps him hear whoever is talking to him. In this instance, he had not heard Bifur’s statement to Bilbo in Khuzdul. He simply took it upon himself to give the necessary information about Bifur that Bilbo did not know.
Óin, of course, falsely hears what Bilbo has actually said, and answers a question about Bifur he thought he heard. So we have one non-English speaking Dwarf, one deaf Dwarf who misunderstands frequently, and one frustrated Hobbit, who can’t make heads or tales of the whole lot.
What is interesting is Óin’s thoughts on Bifur. He does make him out to be an idiot, basically, which in itself should be a derogatory estimation of a fellow Dwarf. But I reckon they all see Bifur the same way. The fact is, however, that Bifur had an altercation with an Orc who injured him by digging an ax into his head. This left him with a language impediment, as well as a tendency to go berzerk at anyone who threatens the safety of his fellow Dwarves.
Bifur is also a toymaker, one that now, due to his injury, spends his time playing with them rather than assembling them. He has reverted into a childlike state of wonder and playfulness, which in itself is not a bad place to be. He takes life more simplistically than all the others do.
Óin is a sage of sorts. He is the apothecary or the medic of the group. This character description came about from the creative team’s idea that Óin invented ointment. He and Glóin are an inseparable couple of Dwarves, who whenever there is a need, build a fire. Óin is also a portent reader. Wherever there are portents to interpret, he is your Dwarf.
Bombur and Bofur
Bilbo: “Put those back. Put that back. Put that back. Not the jam please. Excuse me. Excuse me. It’s a tad excessive, isn’t it? Have you got a cheese knife?”
Bofur: “Cheese knife? He eats it by the block.”
Bilbo: “No, that’s Grandpa Mungo’s chair. No, so is that. Take it back, please.”
Óin: “I cannot hear what you’re saying.”
Bilbo: “It’s an antique. Not for sitting on. That is a book, not a coaster. And put that map down.”
Bilbo’s eyes bulge out as he sees Bombur coming out of the pantry with all the blocks of cheeses he could carry. For one person that would be an excessive amount of cheese, but Bombur is no regular person. There is no intriguing backstory to Bombur except that he is related to Bifur and Bofur. But other than that he is known as the fat Dwarf, one that would surely make an indelible dent in your pantry.
Bofur is there to set Bilbo straight on the eating habits of his cousin. Bofur is one flute playing, happy-go-lucky, lighthearted Dwarf. He does not take anything too seriously and tries to find the humorous side in every situation. A very handy character to have in a serious situation.
Dori and Nori
Bilbo is not really interfering in the Dwarves’ rearrangement of his belongings, he is trying to influence their behavior by verbally correcting it, pointing to their mistakes. His efforts are bluntly ignored by the Dwarves. He is just an annoying mosquito buzzing around them, creating tension, where there is none. The Dwarves certainly don’t think anything of rearranging his house. Not disruptive or disrespectful at all.
Dori: “Excuse me, Mr. Gandalf?”
Dori: “May I tempt you with a cup of chamomile?”
Gandalf: “Oh, no thank you, Dori. A little red wine for me, I think.”
And then there is the occasional mother goose, who looks after the needs of others. This would be Dori. He is the one Dwarf who is blessed with good manners and respect. If this were his house he would have been a better host than Bilbo is being. This protective and serving attitude of his, developed as he took care of Ori, who is the scriber of the group, whose writings are read before Balin’s tomb in Moria in the Fellowship of the Ring.
Nori is another one of Dori’s protegees. He had been kicked out of his mother’s house for being too reckless. He doesn’t shy away from stealing whatever takes his fancy. Sadly, Dori’s influence on him, the restrictions he had to enforce to keep Nori out of trouble, have not helped at all. Nevertheless, he is family, and as such, Dori sees him as his responsibility.
The missing Dwarf
Gandalf: “Uh, Fili, Kili. Oin, Gloin. Dwalin, Balin, Bifur, Bofur Bombur, Dori, Nori. Ori!”
Bilbo: “No. Not my prizewinners, thank you. No thank you.”
Bifur speaking Dwarvish.
Gandalf: “Yes, you’re quite right, Bifur. We appear to be one Dwarf short.”
Dwalin: “He is late, is all. He traveled north to a meeting of our kin. He will come.”
While everyone is fussing around, trying to make the most out of such a small space, Dwalin reclines against the wall taking in the chaos. He had started this ruckus and is now staying out of the action. There are enough of others to help set up.
A little wine
Dori: “Mr. Gandalf? A little glass of red wine, as requested. It’s got a fruity bouquet.”
Gandalf: “Oh. Cheers.”
Glóin: “Bombur’s on his second leg of lamb already.”
The glass of wine Dori brings Gandalf is comically small for the likes of a Wizard. Nonetheless, Gandalf takes the sip with as much pleasure as he can. Sadly, there was only one sip in it for his size. Even if he had an entire Hobbit bottle of wine, it would have lasted him another sip maybe two. It takes a lot of work to become intoxicated while drinking out of Hobbit glasses.
Bilbo: “Excuse me that is a doily, not a dishcloth.”
Bofur: “But it’s full of holes.”
Bilbo: “It’s supposed to look like that. It’s crochet.”
Bofur: “And a wonderful game it is too, if you’ve got the balls for it.”
Not only is Bilbo very in tune with the history of his possessions, their origin, and makers, he is also familiar with the many ways of knitting. This could mean that he was very attached to his mother, who, I suppose, took to teaching crochet to Bilbo and now uses this technique to knit beautifully decorative doilies. Not a particularly masculine pastime, but then again, Bilbo is multifaceted.
Bebother and confusticate
Bilbo: “Bebother and confusticate these Dwarves!”
Gandalf: “My dear Bilbo, what on earth is the matter?”
Bilbo: “What’s the matter? I’m surrounded by Dwarves. What are they doing here?”
Gandalf: “Oh, they’re quite a merry gathering once you get used to them.”
Bilbo: “I don’t want to get used to them. Look at the state of my kitchen. There’s much rod into the carpet. They’ve pillaged the pantry. I’m not even gonna tell you what they’ve done into the bathroom. They’ve all but destroyed the plumbing. I don’t understand what they’re doing in my house!”
He has had enough. Bilbo goes right to the source of his troubles, Gandalf. If the Dwarves won’t take him seriously, then the instigator of this little gathering should be able to put a stop to it all, or at least accept his grievances. Gandalf tries to point out the whimsical and positive side of the Dwarves, which doesn’t alleviate Bilbo’s frustration.
Moreover, when asked why the Dwarves are there, Gandalf doesn’t answer. He distracts Bilbo with his own opinion of them. It would have been counterproductive to mention the plan to Bilbo when he was still thought of as a flight risk, especially now with the added frustration of the mess of his sanctuary.
Ori: “Excuse me. I’m sorry to interrupt, but what should I do with my plate?”
Fili: “Here you go, Ori. Give it to me.”
Bilbo: “Take that back. Excuse me. That’s my mother’s West Farthing pottery. It’s over 100 years old! And can you not do that? You’ll blunt them.”
Bofur: “Oooh. Do you hear that, lads? He says we’ll blunt the knives.”
Ori is the only Dwarf who politely comes up to Bilbo to ask about his plate. He is very mild natured and very respectful toward others. As opposed to others in his company, he is the only one who concerns himself with the wants of his host.
The others, however, find Bilbo’s nagging rather interesting and decide to sing him a little song to commemorate his frustration.
The song to liven a chore
Blunt the knives, bend the forks Smash the bottles and burn the corks Chip the glasses and crack the plates That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates! Cut the cloth, tread the fat Leave the bones on the bedroom mat Pour the milk on the pantry floor Splash the wine on every door! Dump the crocks in a boiling bowl Pound them up with a thumping pole When you’re finished if they are whole Send them down the hall to roll That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates! Text by J.R.R. Tolkien
And when the song is done, so are the dishes, washed, dried and stacked on a table in front of Gandalf. They have found an elaborate and entertaining way to do a tedious and time-consuming chore. No dish was broken and the Dwarves made up for the mess they had made in the first place.
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Photo credit to Der Hobbit Broschur XL 2020, Athesia Kalenderverlaug GmbH