The other day I was browsing through The Hobbit under circumstances you will all think me for keeping to myself. In the chapter in which Thorin & Company finally make it to the Lonely Mountain and open the magic door, there’s a brief passage in which Bilbo asks the thirteen Dwarves which among them will follow him into the dragon’s lair. Hemming & hawing follows. Fili & Kili look uncomfortable; Balin agrees to go a short way inside, but not into the heart of the mountain; no one else does even that much. Bilbo doesn’t care, of course, as he was just screwing with them; and the narrator (who, as we learn in LotR, is arguably Mr. Baggins himself) comments that while Dwarves are decent enough folk, they aren’t heroes, and one can expect only so much of them.
This got me to thinking. We all know of at least one inarguable Dwarf hero: Gimli son of Gloin, the latter being one of the Company who was willing to pay Bilbo to beard the beast but not to chance it himself. At the time of Bilbo & Thorin’s quest, Gimli was by Dwarvish standards but a lad–less than 70–and so naturally was not invited to come along. But what if things had been different? Imagine if Gimli had somehow been born earlier, and was of the proper age to go on the quest? It’s easy to imagine him replacing Bombur in particular, or perhaps Bifor or Bofur.
How would There & Back Again have played out differently?
I’m not sure to what extent Gimli was actually different from his da. I think it’s more that Bilbo’s adventure rekindled a spirit of heroism among the Dwarves. As of the Unexpected Party, they were in pretty sorry shape, driven from their home, and reduced to mining coal. I think most of them were just going along with the quest because they subconsciously figured that once it failed (which they were taking for granted), they could justify giving up the last scraps of their dignity.
But then, brave individuals really do accomplish great deeds. The dragon is slain, the orcs repelled, and there is once again a King Under the Mountain. For a youth living through that, that’d be pretty inspiring. Hence, Gimli.
I’ll grant that the question could be rephrased as “What if a single Dwarf in Thorin’s Company had had Gimli’s heroic spirit.”
I can’t imagine Gimli refusing to accompany Bilbo into the dragon’s lair. For that matter, I can’t imagine Bilbo having to ask. It would never have occurred to Gimli not to go, any more than it would have occurred to Aragorn, or, for that matter, Sam Gamgee. Any of those would have to be persuaded not to go.
Isn’t this more a case of the Hobbit and LOTR being very different in tone? Dwarves in LOTR are seen as a tough and hardy lot as they are in the Simarillion. Look at how elves are portrayed in the Hobbit versus the other books. The Hobbit was written for children whereas the other books sought an older audience.
I was under the impression that the dwarves form the Iron Hills, and those of Thorin’s company, come to that, acquitted themselves pretty well in the Battle of the Five Armies.
Balin’s return to Moria presumably called for some courage, too.
Thorin’s company may have been afraid of Smaug, but I don’t recall that they are depicted as cowards in general. In any case, at that point in the adventure the need was for stealth, not bravado, and his stealthiness was exactly what Bilbo had been brought along for.
Especially Sam. He would have needed to be physically restrained. If The Fellowship of the Ring had played out differently, can you imagine the job Aragon and the others would’ve had dragging Sam back home?
The dwarves weren’t there for skulky exploration; that was Bilbo’s job, the whole reason why they wanted him to come along. Time for some sneaky thief stuff? Send in the hobbit, we’ll have tea waiting when you get back.
I’m not criticizing the Dwarves. I don’t think even Bilbo was genuinely being critical of them in the passage I allude to; as I wrote, he was simply winding them up for the hell of it, as he knew perfectly well by this point that he’d be bearding Smaug all by his lonesome. (They sent him alone to scout out the trolls’ camp, after all, when he was considerably less experienced, and by this point in the adventure he was pretty much co-leader with Thorin.)
I’m just wondering how an the presence of an unambiguously heroic Dwarf such as Gimli would have changed the events of the Quest of Ererbor.
Hmm. Do you mean if Frodo had died, or something else? If the former, I think book-Sam would have been terribly grieved, but he wouldn’t have objected to going home; Rosie was waiting for him, after all. And at no point does anyone seriously consider separating Sam from his master. As Elrond basically says, either they acknowledge that he is going to go, or try to leave without him and find him following on his own unless locked in a dungeon.
If we’re assuming Gimli-as-of-LotR, I agree that he certainly would have volunteered, but he was brave, not brash. If nobody else, Bilbo himself would have had the sense to point out that dwarves aren’t too great at stealth and subtle, and Gimli had enough sense that he would have (reluctantly) agreed. At most, I think that once Bilbo by himself had found the weak spot, Gimli might have taken Bard’s part in the story (or at least, tried-- He’s never shown aptitude with a bow, and it’d probably be tougher with a melee or thrown weapon).
He was only about 62 years old! It wouldn’t have been possible!
He probably would’ve faded into the background. Most of the dwarves are kind of one-note, aside from Thorin, Balin, Dwalin. Fili and Kili - interchangeable twins devoted to their relative. Bombur - fat. Bofur - played by the only actor I’ve heard of. Bifur - the other one. Glóin - his presence is magnified once we find out who his son is. Óin - the brother/Gimli uncle. Dori, Nori, Ori - well I had to look them up to remember the rest.
I am still waiting for the adventures of his crotchety grandpa, Gróin.
But there is a Peter Jackson contrived connection to Gloin/Gimil: (quote from wiki) :
In Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, Gimli calls Balin his cousin, though their kinship is technically “first cousin once removed”. Gimli takes up Balin’s axe when the Fellowship discover the Chamber of Mazarbul. He uses it in the ensuing battle and in all battles thereafter. As opposed to Gimli’s previous axe, the axe of Balin is larger and double-bladed with a shorter handle. In the book there is no reference to Gimli changing his weapon, which is not described in detail; there is also no mention of Balin’s axe.
I don’t recall that. But I approve of it. I guess I should watch the PJ movies again.
Gimli’s kind of grabby that way. At the Council of Elrond (in the movie), when he decided it was time to smite The One Ring, he grabbed the axe of the dwarf sitting next to him and… well, he owed that guy an axe.
If Dwarves are anything like my very southern family, a “first cousin once removed” is still very much “my cousin” and would often be just as close and involved in your life as the rest of your close relatives. I have to go over to 3rd cousins before I stop knowing intimate details of their lives, and I’m not even particularly trying to keep up with them anymore. So I don’t necessarily agree that PJ is making up a close family connection when there isn’t one. He’s just shortening the explanation to one that makes sense and doesn’t require long boring family histories.
Now, him making up the “new axe” story, I can totally believe that.
As for the OP - I think that Gimli in the books would have been bright enough to realize that there wasn’t much point to him going all they way down with Bilbo when sneaking was necessary. I DO think that he would have taken Balin’s place going halfway down the tunnel (and he wouldn’t have done it grudgingly either) and I liked whoever suggested that he may have taken over Bard’s job in actually slaying the Dragon while Thorin was suffering from GoldGreed and busy being a pissant.
A couple of things to contribute. Bilbo is an unreliable narrator, having lied in the first edition about how he obtained the ring from Gollum. Bilbo is also spinning a yarn and not doing history, which Frodo and Sam were.
Next, the Dwarves were no match for Smaug and knew it.
Well, probably a well-roasted dwarf and a well-roasted hobbit. The only reason Smaug wasn’t able to roast Bilbo was that it took him a while to figure out which way he came in, and therefore where he was. But if he had seen Gimli and roasted him, he probably would have caught Bilbo in the same blast, too.