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Balin the Dwarf

Updated on August 3, 2013

From the Company of Thorin Oakenshield in the Hobbit

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 dwarf in Thorin's company after Thorin, (the apparent eldest in the film, as Thorin was made a lot younger), Balin is the faithful follower, the wise elder and the second in command. He is extremely loyal to Thorin and there's an element of hero worship in their relationship.

He was originally from Erebor and was with Thorin when Smaug attacked. Balin accompanied Thror, Thrain and Thorin on their various campaigns and attempts to reclaim Moria and the Lonely Mountain. After the adventures in the Hobbit, he returned to clear Moria of orc and successfully claimed it as a dwarf stronghold again. By the time of Lord of the Rings, however, Moria had been overrun and Balin had fallen.

Balin played by Ken Stott in the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Balin played by Ken Stott in the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

"A descendant of nobility and a Dwarf Lord in his own right, Balin is one of the oldest members of The Company of the Dwarves. Wise and gentle by nature, he has been forced to live a life fraught with war and the ongoing struggle for survival. Related to Thorin Oakenshield, Balin is one of his closest, most trusted advisors - but deep in his heart, this wisest and most loyal of Dwarves harbors troubling doubts about the wisdom of the Quest for the Lonely Mountain."

-Warner Bros (official character description for the Peter Jackson film)

Balin's Mace Prop ReplicaCHECK PRICE

Balin arrives second at Bilbo's house, where he greets his younger, more warlike, brother, Dwalin. In the book he played fiddle and wore a scarlet hood. In the film, none of them have instruments, and he wears an embroidered deep red outfit. A warrior, he wields a mace, which is available as a prop replica from Weta Workshop, and a sword.

In the film, he appeared to be the eldest of the company, and Thorin's confidant. He was on the parapets of Erebor with Thorin when Smaug attacked, and Thorin dragged him to safety out of reach of the dragonfire. In the book, he was with Thorin, but he was only have been seven to Thorin's twenty four years (according to Appendix A in The Return of the King). He helped convince Thorin to consider Bilbo when he misinterpreted Gandalf's comment about "professional stealth" as meaning "trained treasure hunter" (beforehand in the book, described in 'Unfinished Tales', at the party in the film).

He was visible in two flashbacks with Thorin: when Smaug attacked Erebor, and fighting at the gates of Moria (with Dwalin and Thorin. His beard was grey in both scenes.

It's unclear whether any of the other dwarves were from Erebor, especially as most of them are too young (Dwalin was born in exile, for example) and Balin is the only one explicitly stated as from there in the book. Balin took at least one onscreen opportunity to describe Thorin's heroism and greatness and general magnificence as a prince, when he tells the story of how Thorin rallied the dwarves, and literally disarmed Azog at Moria (after Azog had killed Thror in battle). This differs slightly from the book, where Thror died before the battle (and was the cause of it) and Dain Ironfoot killed Azog (Azog's son, Bolg, became the goblin leader). In both book and film, this is when Thorin became Thorin Oakenshield, when he fought using an oak branch as a shield.

In the book he usually co-ordinated with his brother Dwalin (e.g. climbing a slender fir to escape the Wargs together, being introduced to Beorn together).

In the book, he stepped in as the leader when Thorin was absent (when the spiders attacked and when they were captured by the elves in Mirkwood; Thorin was either in an enchanted sleep or already a prisoner of Thranduil for both events). He was responsible for holding onto and checking over the contract, pulling out his spectacles to do so (there was no contract in the book, just a short letter).

Bilbo Baggins' ContractCHECK PRICE

Described as "always their look-out man" he was the sharp eyed watchman of the company. In the book he is the first to notice Bilbo approaching to join the company, the troll's fire, and the Mirkwood elves. It was therefore notable when Bilbo managed to sneak past him when he was on watch after they escaped from the goblins - none of this happens in the film as these events occurred slightly differently. In the book, he respected Bilbo somewhat more after this and volunteered to follow him down the passageway to Smaug's treasure chamber later on (the only dwarf to do so). He was kind and friendly, and when he learnt about the Ring he was highly amused, "muttering and chuckling to himself" into the night. He was also the dwarf to encourage the others to go find Bilbo in Smaug's treasure chamber, when Bilbo dropped his torch and was lost in the dark.

He drops by Bag End at the end of the Hobbit, in the company of Gandalf, to catch up with Bilbo, before heading off to Moria. He had evidently prospered in the meantime, as his "beard was several inches longer, and his jeweled belt was of great magnificence" .

Balin: A Quick Painting - A quick painting of Balin based on his appearance in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Balin Son of Fundin by Flynn the Cat
Balin Son of Fundin by Flynn the Cat
Balin Son of Fundin of Durin's Folk
Balin Son of Fundin of Durin's Folk

Quick Timeline: Notable Events

  • TA 2763: Born in Erebor

  • TA 2770: Companion of Thorin when Smaug came and forced to flee Erebor

  • TA 2793-2799: Part of the War of the Dwarves and Orcs led by Thrin II with Thorin (failed attempt to reclaim Moria, begun after Thror was killed by Azog in the book). His father Fundin son of Farin and Thorin's brother Frerin died here.

    Film version: In Peter Jackson's film, the Dwarves of Erebor apparently went straight to Moria, which is were most of them died, rather than most of them being killed by Smaug and the Ironhills Dwarves fighting at Moria.

  • TA 2841: Accompanied Thrain on failed return to the Lonely Mountain and lost him in Mirkwood (book only - in the film Thrain wandered off alone)

  • Returned & lived in the Blue Mountains (Ered Luin) with Thorin.

  • TA 2941: Joined Thorin's company for the Quest for Erebor (a.k.a The Hobbit)

  • TA 2989: Reclaimed Moria with with in, Ori and others

  • TA 2994: Killed by a goblin archer in the Dimrill Dale

  • TA 3019,: The Fellowship of the Ring discovered his tomb in the Chamber of Mazarbul (Chamber of Records)

Balin Toys - Lego, Action Figures & Heroclix

Lego Hobbit Balin the Dwarf Minifigure
Lego Hobbit Balin the Dwarf Minifigure

Balin has an awesome little Lego version of himself running around out there waving a sword at people's toes.


Familial Ties & Relationships

  • Dwalin's elder brother and they are both the son of Fundin

  • Fundin is a distant cousin of Thrain (Thorin's father)

  • Balin is the cousin of Gloin and Oin

  • Gimli's first cousin once removed

  • One of Durin's Folk (Dwarven 'tribe')

Balin's Family Tree: Immediate Family - The line of Durin: how Thorin, Balin and their close kin are related to each other

Balin's immediate family tree and relationship with other important characters
Balin's immediate family tree and relationship with other important characters

Notes: the Line of Durin follows a direct descent from Durin the Deathless in the First Age, through five reincarnations of him, and then his descendants. They are known as the Longbeards, or Durin's Folk, and originally dwelt in Khazad-Dum (Moria).

  • Balin is actually 17 years younger than Thorin. They were 195 and 178 respectively in The Hobbit (though the timescales were changed for the film to allow Thorin to be younger and probably so that Balin would be an adult when Smaug attacked).

  • Thorin's sister Dis is one of the few named female Dwarves.

  • Gimli, the son of Balin's cousin Gloin, was 61 at the time of the Hobbit, too young to come along.

  • Gloin attends the council in Rivendell with Gimli.

  • Dori, Nori and Ori are distantly related to Thorin (and therefore Balin), but no further details are known

Epic Beards from The Hobbit (Balin's beard is second from the right)CHECK PRICE

Hobbit Weapons (Balin's mace is centre left)CHECK PRICE

In the Film

  • Played by Ken Stott

  • In the film he bushy white beard divided into two upcurling sections, with no moustache

  • He is average in height (much shorter than Dwalin and Thorin).

  • He wields a mace

In the book

  • He had a white beard (with no further description) and wore a red hood

In older editions of The Hobbit

(It was revised to tie in with LOTR)

  • A yellow beard

  • Hood was scarlet, then yellow

  • Didn't originally spot the Troll's fire, it was Dwalin instead

  • Had a son name Burin or Frar, who was essentially Gimli's character; he accompanied Gloin to the Council of Elrond, but was later changed to be Gloin's son.

Why Does Thorin Look Younger Than Balin?

Or rather... why does Balin look so old?

In Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, Thorin looks a lot younger than Balin. Leaving aside what may be a deliberate choice on the part of the film makers to cast Thorin as young and brash, rather than old and stiff necked, there are two possible explanations from Tolkien canon.

The first is that when he initially introduced Balin as "a very old-looking dwarf with a white beard" that he simply forgot to take this into account, later, when establishing ages and dates, that Balin was apparently old.

The second is that Balin's aged appearance and white hair was in fact unusual, and not an accurate reflection of his true age. Based on a quote from The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion by W. Hammond and C. Scull, Balin was actually too young at 178 to be white haired and ancient., as most Dwarves remain mature adults from about 40 to the age of 240, only visibly deteriorating after that. The expected lifespan of a Dwarf is 250 years - Dwalin was the longest lived Dwarf recorded, living to 340 (over 78 years longer than any other known dwarf).

  • "Dwarves of different 'breeds' vary in their longevity. Durin's race were originally long-lived (especially those named Durin), but like most other peoples they had become less so during the Third Age. Their average age (unless they met a violent death) was about 250 years, which they seldom fell far short of, but could occasionally far exceed (up to 300). [Christopher Tolkien comments: It will be found in the genealogical table that the life-span of all the 'kings of Durin's folk' from Thrain I to Nain II varied only between 247 and 256 years, and no Dwarf in the table exceeded that, save Borin (261) and Dwalin, who lived to the vast age of 340 (the date of his death appears in all the later texts of the table, although the first to give dates seems - it is hard to make out the figures - to make him 251 years old at his death.] A dwarf of 300 was about as rare and aged as a Man of 100.
  • Dwarves remained young - e.g. regarded as too tender for really hard work or for fighting - until they were 30 or nearly that (Dain II was very young in 2799 (32) and his slaying of Azog was a great feat). After that they hardened and took on the appearance of age (by human standards) very quickly. By 40 all Dwarves looked much alike in age, until they reached what they regarded as old age, about 240. They then began to age and wrinkle and go quite white quickly (baldness being unknown among them), unless they were going to be long-lived, in which case the process was delayed. Almost the only physical disorder they suffered from (they were singularly immune from diseases such as affected Men, and Halflings) was corpulence. If in prosperous circumstances, many grew vary fat at or before 200, and could not do much (save eat) afterwards. Otherwise 'old age' lasted not much more than ten years, and from say 40 or a little before to near 240 (two hundred years) the capacity for toil (and for fighting) of most Dwarves was equally great. [pp. 284-5; p. 288, n. 17]"
    • The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion
    • by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull

You May Also Be Interested In... - Learning more about the Dwarves and The Hobbit

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

Did you like Balin? - Or did you prefer one of the other Dwarves?

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    • Titia profile image

      Titia Geertman 

      6 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      Can't remember if I ever saw the Hobbit movie, haven't read the book either (yet), but from the looks in your article I think I'm gonna like it.

    • LisaKoski LM profile image

      LisaKoski LM 

      6 years ago

      It's been a couple of years since I read the book but I loved the movie adaptation. I really like all of the products you have listed here.

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 

      6 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      I've read the book several times but I haven't seen the movie yet. Probably catching it next weekend.

    • youthministry profile image

      Paul Turner 

      6 years ago from Birmingham, Al.

      well done. Loved the movie.

    • PlethoraReader profile image


      6 years ago from Silicon Valley

      Have seen the movie twice and read the book, he always reminded me of the wise old man. Blessed.

    • chezchazz profile image


      6 years ago from New York

      Looking forward to seeing the latest Hobbit movie next week. Thanks for the refresher course.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      6 years ago from Canada

      I read the Hobbit book way back when I was about 16 years old so when the Lord of the Rings movie came out I was quite surprised that the Hobbit had not been released in movie form first. Thanks for the refresher course on Balin the Dwarf. I have quite forgotten most of the characters in the book.


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