Here I am! In my new place all safe and sound AND with cable and internet. It wasn’t always so—the cable and internet part I mean. So, I filled my hours of unpacking and sorting listening to—oh yes—The Hobbit. I love the Hobbit to what I hope is not an unhealthy extent.
Anyways, every time I listen to it on tape I keep realizing different things. One time it was Gandalf’s hidden jerkface nature, another it was the stupidity of dwarves, this time I realized that, if Thorin was a woman, he would be accused of being on a constant period.
Seriously! This character swings from arrogant to noble to selfish throughout the whole story more times than Bilbo longs for something good to eat (and you all know that means it happens a lot).
One moment its: “I’m the great Thorin Oakenshield, King Under the Mountain and I was wronged in the past but because of my great awesomeness you must be impressed by my very existence! Listen to me make a grandious speech and do not interrupt!” The next moment its, "Oh you are a great and wonderful Hobbit and watch me be humble!"
And the thing is, I don’t think it helps with Thorin’s believability as a character. Or rather, during his swings toward noble, I just don’t think I can believe it since I’m stuck on his arrogant, self-serving mood he was just in.
I mean, I never thought of Thorin as a noble, pure, character. I think that’s one of his ‘charms.’ He really is spoiled, self-centered, and arrogant, and the dwarves as a whole serve as a foil to Bilbo himself. However, he’s not supposed to be so spoiled all the time, or at least I don’t think so. He’s supposed to have his flashes of goodness. For example, during the Battle of Five Armies, he and his men charge out of the Lonely Mountain to help defeat the Goblins. At different points throughout the book he would say to the hobbit how valuable he was, or how noble he was, or how he had misjudged him.
Then, when he dies, I think we, as the reader, are supposed to care because he wasn’t so unlikeable all the time.
The problem is, I didn’t care. It meant nothing to me and I felt nothing because I didn’t really like Thorin. Despite his swings toward nobility, I could not forget the arrogant Thorin that made himself at home in Bilbo’s hobbit hole that first night.
Perhaps there is the problem. We were introduced to Thorin in a downswing—when his character was in ‘noble arrogant I-want-everything dwarf prince’ mode. It’s a character we understood and was established in our minds and, in fact, it took a while to get to when Thorin had a random upswing. As such, we had a harder time associating any sort of true goodwill with Thorin, and the good will we saw we weren’t quite sure about.
It didn’t help that those good patches of mood didn’t last long which made Thorin seem, to me at least, a little fake, as if there was a sudden veneer covering his true character.
I mean, I can understand this character, and I don’t think it was truly a veneer, even though it felt that way. It’s more a character who isn’t very self aware, and so when they have these feelings, they come off looking fake and as if the character has another motive.
I don’t know if Tolkien meant for us to believe these true flashes of goodness, or if he meant that to just be the way Thorin’s character was: moody. But, unfortunately, I never really liked Thorin, and I think, all in all, that was a direct result of those moods. Both the bad moods, and the good moods.
I guess, in the end, it doesn’t really matter all that much since Balin was the coolest anyways.