Tuesday 20 November 2012

Thirty Days to Thorin (4) - The One Woman

I need to apologise to you. I promised you thirty days of countdown to the release of The Hobbit and I have not been very good at keeping my promise. You know how it goes: real life gets in the way: work, important life-changing decisions, busy times, family, etc. So I hope you're still with me and I promise I will make up for the lost time: I will publish all of the thirty blogposts before 12 December when The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey is released in Belgium. Today, on International Men's Day (19 November, by the time I publish this that will be yesterday), I thought I would talk about the women in Tolkien's story, and the Dwarf-women in particular.
Galadriel, as played by Cate Blanchett
Image courtesy of www.TheOneRing.net
With the exception of the Galadriel (who does not appear in the original story), the story of The Hobbit is quite a ‘boys club’, don’t you think? 13 male dwarves, a wizard, a hobbit, Bard the Bowman, The Master of Laketown, Beorn etc. So much so that Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh had to invent characters to inject some female energy into their films. They decided against creating more Dwarves, but went for Elves instead. That’s how the character Tauriel (played by Evangeline Lily) was born.

I guess it was a wise decision not to create female dwarves for the films: they are so elusive that their existence is even questioned. On page 411 of The Lord of the Rings - The Return Of the King, Tolkien speaks about female dwarves:

“It was said by Gimli that there are few dwarf-women, probably no more than a third of the whole people. They seldom walk abroad except at great need. They are in voice and appearance, and in garb if they must go on a journey, so like to the dwarf-men that the eyes and ears of other people cannot tell them apart. This has given rise to the foolish opinion among Men that there are no dwarf-women, and that the Dwarves grow out of Stone.”

I don’t know if she will even be mentioned in the films (she’s only a reference in the book), but there is one important Dwarf woman – the company of dwarves would not have been complete without her - she is the One Woman.
The youngest members of Thorin’s company of dwarves are Fili and Kili, his nephews. They are the sons of Thorin’s only sister, Dís. In fact, Dís is the only female dwarf that J.R.R. Tolkien ever mentioned by name.
The last Heirs of Durin's Folk: Fili (Left - Dean O'Gorman), Kili (Right - Aiden Turner) and their uncle Thorin Oakenshield (Middle - Richard Armitage) 
Dís (born Third Age 2760) was the daughter of King Thráin II and sister of Thorin and Frerin. Like her brothers she was born in the Lonely Mountain and was driven into exile in T.A. 2770 when the dragon Smaug took control of the kingdom.
The name Dís was probably derived from Old Norse -dís ("sister of") which is found in many Nordic names. So Dís is simply named as the sister of her brothers – not very gender-friendly, Professor Tolkien!
On the other hand, although it is often believed that the name Frerin came from either the Old Norse Dwarf-name Frár ("Swift") in the Völuspá, or from the Old Norse word frérinn ("frozen"), to me, it simply sounds like “frère”, the French word for “brother”. That would mean that both Dís and Frerin were named as the siblings of the heir of Durin’s Folk, Thorin.
OK, Tolkien, listen up: your stories need more women!! Thank you. That's all.

1 comment:

  1. And look - this message appeared on TheOneRing.net today!! SPOILER Alert

    Stuff.co.nz confirms a very SPOILER dwarf!
    November 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm by Demosthenes -
    An article this morning on Stuff.co.nz ostensibly about some some custom jewellry that will grace the red carpet next week at the Hobbit Premiere has also dropped a bombshell confirmation about something we’ve wondered about since Peter Jackson’s sixth Vlog. If you don’t want the spoiler, don’t head below the cut!
    Odette Anscombe-Smith has created three custom pieces for her friend Carolynne Cunningham, who is a producer and assistant director on The Hobbit.
    Cunningham will choose one, and the others could well be worn by stars of the movie.
    “I wanted to make something that had unknown origins – something that could have been made by elves, could have been made by dwarves . . . something a dragon would covet,” she said.
    “Some of this inspiration might have been drawn from her time as a featured extra in the Hobbit films – as a dwarf woman, complete with beard.” [editorial emphasis]
    Still doesn’t tell us when the lady dwarf (or dwarves) will make an appearance, but we now know they will at some point.[end of quote]

    Could this be Dís making an appearance in the film after all?