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The Dwarves of The Hobbit: A Quick Guide to the Company of Thorin Oakenshield

Updated on August 3, 2013

What are the differences between the Dwarves and which ones matter?

While the Dwarves do have distinct personalities and appearances, not all of the Dwarves are worth keeping track of.

In the book, there are only about five Dwarves that you need to tell apart from the rest. Most of them come in pairs or trios, and don't need to stand as individual characters. While they are fleshed out a bit more in the film, and the characters are generally improved by both additional notes and backstory in Tolkien's later works and by actually being able to see them, they can still get a bit confusing.

Who do you need to know about?

Intro image: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Movie Poster (The Dwarfs) (Size: 24" x 36")

Which is your favourite Dwarf?

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How Are They All Related? - All Dwarves are related to all other Dwarves

A family tree showing the relationships of all the Dwarves in the Company of Thorin
A family tree showing the relationships of all the Dwarves in the Company of Thorin

Most of the Dwarves are from one 'clan' - the Longbeards, or the Dwarves of Khazad-Dum (Moria), or Durin's Line. They are all descended from Durin the Deathless and his Dwarves, that lived in Khazad-Dum.

Most of them are brothers or cousins or both, and the only completely unrelated Dwarves are Bifur, Bofur and Bombur, who are from the Broadbeams or Firebeards (the two families live in the same place and are fairly indistinguishable). They supposedly serve as Thorin's honour guard, but that backstory wasn't developed much further.

Ori, Nori and Dori, three brothers, are not of Durin's line, but they are distantly related to Thorin, somehow.

The Durin Dwarves: Balin, Dwalin, Oin, Gloin, Thorin, Fili and Kili

The Durin Dwarves: Balin, Dwalin, Oin, Gloin, Thorin, Fili and Kili
The Durin Dwarves: Balin, Dwalin, Oin, Gloin, Thorin, Fili and Kili

LOTR appearances

  • Gloin appears at the Council of Elrond, with Gimli.

  • Gimli does not appear in The Hobbit, but is part of the Fellowship of the Ring in LOTR.

  • Balin's tomb is a plot location in Moria, in the first LOTR film/book, and Gimli speaks of him.

  • Ori is not mentioned in the film, but is the writer of the book the Fellowship finds in the Tomb and is probably the skeleton holding it.

  • The book also refers to Oin.

    • "We cannot get out.

    We cannot get out.

    They have taken the bridge and Second Hall. Frr and Lni and Nli fell there bravely while the rest retr [...] Mazarbul.

    We still ho[...]g ... but hope u[...]n[...]

    in's party went five days ago but today only four returned. The pool is up to the wall at West-gate. The Watcher in the Water took in-we cannot get out.

    The end comes soon. We hear drums, drums in the deep.

    They are coming."

    -Ori, the Book of Mazarbul

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Movie Poster (The Dwarfs) (Size: 24" x 36")
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Movie Poster (The Dwarfs) (Size: 24" x 36")

The Main Dwarves

Who do you need to know and what do they actually do?

Well, Thorin obviously. He's probably the most developed of the Dwarves, with a rich and tragic backstory, royal lineage, a far more pronounced arrogance and greed, and a plot central role as instigator of the quest and leader of the company. In another book, it wouldn't be 'The Hobbit', it would be 'The Adventure of Thorin'. As far as he's concerned, it's all about his personal vengeance and reclaiming his birthright (and incidentally getting his peoples' ancestral home back. This is incidental because by this point they have actually established a new home in the Blue Mountains). He's vastly prejudiced against Hobbits, considering them useless, mudgrubbing farmers beneath his notice (and indeed, this was partly Gandalf's motivation in suggesting Bilbo).

Balin the Dwarf Lego MinifigureCHECK PRICE

Thorin the Dwarf Lego MinifigureCHECK PRICE


Balin is the next most important Dwarf. Thorin's confidant, advisor and right hand man, he acts as second in command and look out. He's the friendliest of the Dwarves towards Bilbo, and the readiest to assist him when trouble strikes. Poor old Balin is the second eldest after Thorin, but appears to feel his years far more. In the book he has a white beard and red hood. You can learn more about Balin here.

Balin the Dwarf
One of the more recognisable and plot relevant dwarves in The Hobbit, Balin has a distinct personality in both the book and the film. The second eldest dwar...

Fili and Kili are a matched set, importance-wise, and very similar in personality. They are Thorin's nephews, and are the closest to him, in loyalty and affection, along with Balin. Thorin in turn looks out for them (and their relationship to him is probably why they were allowed to come when Gimli wasn't, as they were very close in age). By far the youngest of the dwarves, they are the most active, agile and keensighted, and generally called on to go off and scout. They're pretty friendly and less serious than the rest of the dwarves, and both are archers. Both have yellow beards and blue hoods, in the book (in the film, Kili is dark haired) and have long noses (Fili has the longest nose of them all). They're not twins, but they've both been described as the eldest/youngest. In the film, Fili is the eldest.

Fili the Dwarf Lego MinifigureCHECK PRICE

Kili the Dwarf Lego MinifigureCHECK PRICE


Poor fat Bombur is very recognisable and generally features as a punchline or an inconvenience. He eats a lot, is the size of two dwarves, is made fun of by the others, and is generally a bit grumpy about that, and tends to rush in foolishly when he thinks he's being left till last. For example, he helps knock Thorin, Bifur and Bofur down through Bilbo's door, right at the start (in the film, Thorin doesn't fall down, and there are six of the dwarves in the pile). He also falls in the black river in Mirkwood and has to be carried, and then tells stories of the wonderful feasts he dreamt of, affecting affecting the starving Company's judgement. He refuses to wait alone (and be counted as two dwarves) when Gandalf tells them to come in pairs to meet Beorn and comes in huffing and puffing behind his cousin Bifur and his brother Bofur. If he's not Being Fat, then he's usually found with Bifur and Bofur. One shining moment of sorts was when he fought the Trolls so strongly that they put him nearest the fire in the book. He also kicks a spider while wrapped up in a cocoon, after it bites him.

In the book, he had a pale green hood, played a drum, and asked for pork-pie and salad. In the film, he has a most remarkable thick beard braid, which runs in a solid braid from ear to ear, like an enormous chain. Because of his size, he chooses to stay and guard the ponies and supplies rather than risk the narrow path to the secret entrance at the Lonely Mountain, then has to be hauled up on ropes to escape Smaug. He's characterised as a bit lazy, and his padding protects him when riding in the barrels, leaving him comfortably asleep for the journey. Bilbo also takes over his watch and sends him in to sleep, before sneaking away to deal with Thranduil and Bard. At the end of The Hobbit, Bilbo learns that Bombur is so fat that it requires 'six dwarves to lift him to the dinner table'!

Dwalin the Dwarf Lego MinifigureCHECK PRICE

Bombur the Dwarf Lego MinifigureCHECK PRICE


Supporting Dwarves

Dwalin, Oin, Gloin, Bifur, Bofur, Dori, Nori and Ori

Bifur, Bofur and Bombur tend to do things together and were probably Thorin's honour guard. They are all related, and descendants of the Dwarves of Moria, but not of Durin's line.

Bofur the Dwarf's Costume
Bofur, one of the dwarves in Thorin Oakenshield's company on the quest of Erebor, gets a decent amount of screentime in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, an...

Bifur and Bofur are cousins, and again, not individually important. In the book, they both wear a yellow hood, and play a clarinet. Bofur asks for mince pies and cheese at Bilbo's, and Bifur wants raspberry jam and apple-tart . Both dwarves refused to help after coming out of the barrels and simply lay on the shore. In the film, both dwarves are toy makers (according to the character description). Bifur has an orc axe embedded in his head, with an effect on his mental state. He communicates in ancient Khuzdul and hand gestures. Bofur is only notable for his flap hat, although he does get some screen time in the film (for example, throwing a piece of food to Bombur in Rivendell, causing Bombur's bench to break) and is probably the most talkative (he's the one that teases Bilbo about the dragon, hands him a bit of coat as a handkerchief and... actually, teases him about a lot of things. He probably gets the most lines after Thorin, but none of them are plot relevant).

Bombur the Dwarf Lego MinifigureCHECK PRICE

Bofur the Dwarf Lego MinifigureCHECK PRICE

Bifur the Dwarf Lego MinifigureCHECK PRICE


Dori, Nori and Ori are brothers who are unrelated to the rest of the dwarves, and all play flutes. The elder two wore purple hoods and Ori wore a grey one. They carry (and drop) Bilbo in the Misty Mountains (Dori), lift him into a tree to escape the Wargs (Nori) and point out that he'd been left on the ground (Ori), but otherwise don't feature very much. In the film, Dori is blamed for losing him underground and Nori spots him slipping away. Dori is described as the strongest of the dwarves, fond of food and a bit of a grumbler. Ori accompanied Balin to reclaim Moria after The Hobbit ended and was the writer of the book that the Fellowship found, describing the events there. Ori and Nori are quite comical in appearance in the film.

Ori the Dwarf Lego MinifigureCHECK PRICE

Dori the Dwarf Lego MinifigureCHECK PRICE

Nori the Dwarf Lego MinifigureCHECK PRICE


The brothers Oin and Gloin are not particularly notable. In the film, Gloin looks similar to Gimli, as he is his father, and is one of the first to threaten Elrond at the Last Lonely House (until Gandalf assures him that they are being offered food). Oin is given an ear trumpet, which usually features humorously in visual gags at mealtimes (being filled with drink as a prank, stuffing it with a handkerchief as a comment on elvish music) and is apparently the healer of the group (though this isn't shown in the film). Oin is also something of a shaman; he is the one that read the portents saying that the birds were returning to the Lonely Mountain and the time of the beast (Smaug) was over. He's also the one that cries 'a raven!' when the thrush flies past at the end.

Oin the Dwarf Lego MinifigureCHECK PRICE

Gloin the Dwarf - Lifesize Standup PosterCHECK PRICE


Dwalin is quite visually distinctive, but doesn't do an awful lot. He is Balin's brother (and Gimli's uncle), and was born a couple of years after the fall of Erebor. He is another warrior, and accompanied Balin and Thrain to Mirkwood on the first quest to reclaim the mountain, in which Thrain was lost (in the book). He is described as having "a blue beard tucked into a golden belt, very bright eyes under his dark-green hood." In the film, he just has a dark brown beard, but does wear a green tunic under his furs. He was the first Dwarf to arrive, barged right in, and ate Bilbo's supper. Him and Balin sit and catch up for a while, before the others arrive, and he later plays an enormous viol (in the book). He often goes together with Balin, climbing the same tree and arriving together in Beorn's hall, as well as suffering in the barrels after escaping down the river. In the book, he's the first to notice that Thorin has vanished in Mirkwood and the loudest complainer about Bilbo not doing enough once they reach the Lonely Mountain, proposing that Bilbo sneak in through the Front Gate while invisible. He remained at Erebor after it was reclaimed, and his greatest claim to fame is living 78 years longer than any other known Dwarf, reaching the great age of 340. Both him and Balin fought at the battle for Moria (the War of the Dwarves and Orcs) where Azog was struck down, alongside Thorin.

Useful Reading - Learn more about the Dwarves and the Quest for Erebor

The Hobbit
The Hobbit

The original story, of course, is a must read.

 
Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth
Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth

This book is an organised collection of alternatives and fragments of stories that were never originally finished. It includes a section on the Quest for Erebor, in which Gandalf tells Frodo, Gimli and the rest of the Hobbits about how he met with Thorin and set Bilbo on his journey.

 
The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion
The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion

This book includes a lot of background information, including such things as the lifespan of Dwarves.

 
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Official Movie Guide
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Official Movie Guide

Interviews and essays with the cast and crew of Peter Jackson's film.

 

The Journey of the Hobbit - Where they travel in Part One: An Unexpected Journey

An Unexpected Journey Sketch: From Bag End to Mirkwood
An Unexpected Journey Sketch: From Bag End to Mirkwood

This is a quick sketch I did of the travels of the Company in The Hobbit (mostly based on the book, though the film doesn't contradict any of the places). The actual film cuts off at The Carrock (the rock outcrop), just before Beorn's House and Mirkwood.

I'm actually painting these, and you can see finished sections below on my DeviantART and on my Tumblr (the first two cut off just before The Carrock).

An Unexpected Journey: Part One by ~Flynn-the-cat on deviantART


An Unexpected Journey: Part Two by ~Flynn-the-cat on deviantART

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Balin the Dwarf
One of the more recognisable and plot relevant dwarves in The Hobbit, Balin has a distinct personality in both the book and the film. The second eldest dwar...

Bofur the Dwarf's Costume
Bofur, one of the dwarves in Thorin Oakenshield's company on the quest of Erebor, gets a decent amount of screentime in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, an...

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    • hntrssthmpsn profile image

      hntrssthmpsn 4 years ago

      Excellent! This makes me want to reread The Hobbit, which I haven't touched since I was a kid, and pay more attention to the dwarves!