And He Never Forgave, and He Never Forgot- reblog

mopsthefloors on Tumblr posted this. I am reposting:

And He Never Forgave, And He Never Forgot: On Thorin Oakenshield, guilt, responsibility and PTSD

Or, how Peter Jackson managed to subtly slip in signs that Thorin Oakenshield probably has post-traumatic stress disorder (which would be logical, really nice as far as representation goes and not at all surprising).

Thorin Oakenshield, as we all know, is a tragic, tragic character.

 

The first image we get of Thorin is that of him in a situation that has the insanely high potential of being traumatic. In the introductory flashback we see him staring down at Thrór, who’s been driven mad by Gold Sickness.

Now, this comes from my personal experience: taking care of a sick loved one will be traumatic, especially if you’re watching them literally fall apart knowing there’s nothing you can do. If the loved one is a relative, it gets bad. If the relative is a parental figure (and I have a feeling that’s what Thrór was to Thorin), things getreally bad.

You feel powerless, small, worthless: your self-esteem is severely undermined and so is your self-worth: they’re going mad (or dying, or sinking deeper and deeper into depression) and there is nothing in the world you can do to stop this. It’s an exhausting and scary ordeal during which many times any feeling of discomfort you might experience will be pushed aside with a definite feeling of guilt, which can vary from “Someone I love is sick, any and all feelings I might have are going to be stowed away until they feel better because they are more important than I am right now” to “How dare I feel bad when they’re feeling bad.”

If it goes on for too long, you’re going to snap under the pressure. Lucky for him (ha.) Thorin doesn’t have the chance to snap: Erebor gets attacked by a dragon, which is mainly due to the fact that thanks to Thrór’s unstoppable greed, the dwarves of Erebor have amassed an insane amount of riches (including the Arkenstone).

Smaug attacks, and Thorin, the crown prince’s son and king’s grandson, whose duty is that to defend his people, fails, simply put, (although there was no chance of success whatsoever) and loses his home, his security, his status and everything and all that was ever familiar to him. Dwarves are killed in front of him, he nearly gets crushed when Smaug tears down the door: “rock-hard” and “sturdy” as he may be (since he’s a dwarf, and dwarves are built to endure), these kind of things are bound to take a toll on someone’s psyche. In the terrifying moments of the attack, he fears for his life and for his family. The dwarves of Erebor are thus humiliated, exiled and reduced to tinkers, toymakers and smiths.

Despite this, Thorin is still aware of the enormous responsibility that hangs over his head: he is of Durin’s line, of noble blood, future King Under the Mountain (although he doesn’t really have a mountain to rule). He is subject to pressure, both from himself and from those around him, and it’s a pressure that comes with being high-up and being somewhat of a last hope for the dwarves of Erebor (this is before Fili and Kili ever came into the picture and skewed the entire “new/last hope” situation, and don’t get me started on the toll that their own bloody legacy as last members of the direct Line of Durin probably took on those two- witnessing their first entrance into Erebor will be painful, bittersweet, and I will probably spontaneously self combust from second-hand emotional turmoil). The image of him as a saviour is only reinforced when the Battle of Azanulbizar happens.

Which also is, incidentally, the second time Thorin is thrust head-first into a highly emotionally scarring scenario.

(To make a stupid metaphor, Smaug and Moria are an explosion, raw, visceral, straight to your face. Thrór’s madness is the sound of water dripping over and over when you’re already snuggled up in bed and feel too tired to get up and shut it properly.)

At Moria, Thorin’s world (which had already been torn apart once and then hastily put back together) is completely and once again turned upside-down, as far as the emotional side of it goes. The dwarves, hopeless, head straight-on into a desperate battle to try and reclaim something that was once theirs. Moria represents a last light in a blundering darkness- a light that is going to cost them all a great deal of pain.

First off, although he is not mentioned anywhere in the movie (and whether or not he is seen is still currently being speculated) it is known that Frerin, Thorin’s little brother, dies fighting. Now, according to dates and all that, Frerin was 48 years old at the time of his death, which by dwarf standards basically means he’s a kid (Fili and Kili are 82 and 77, respectively, at the time of the Quest for Erebor). Secondly, Thorin is forced to witness this:

and that, ladies, gentlemen and mxs, is probably everyone’s worst nightmare.

Relative we hold dear being viciously murdered? Check. Relative who acted as a father figure being viciously murdered? Check. Relative who was sick being killed after all they’ve gone through? Check. Said relative has been killed in a horrible horrible way? Check, check, and check.

And if this isn’t the face of heartbreak, then I don’t know what is.

And so Thorin reacts the only way he can: he gets mad. He gets spiteful, revengeful, scorned: the same way he got after Thranduil (WHO WAS ALSO TRAUMATISED HELLO FIRST ALLEGIANCE HELLO OROPHER DYING IN FRONT OF HIS SON’S EYES BECAUSE HE RACED INTO BATTLE ILL-EQUIPPED AND ILL-ADVISED) “betrayed him” during Smaug’s attack (Thorin’s world is black and white, like a child’s: you’re either with him, or against him). Thorin is a fighter and he’s fought all his life, and so he bites back, and by biting back, becomes a legend, and also seals his fate.

There is one I could follow. There is one I could call king.” Balin says, reminiscing, as he reassures Kili he’s done nothing wrong although he’s joked about orcs, something Thorin can’t even begin to accept.

In that scene, the moment Kili mutters “Orcs.” Thorin starts, as if he’s been waken by a light, light slumber. Which could mean two things or, even better, a combination of the two.

One: Thorin’s scared shitless because he knows the journey is perilous, and as such needs to keep constant guard, and only lets himself sleep for restless short periods of time.

Two: Thorin can’t sleep because of what goes on in his head, let it be nightmares or flashbacks. And saying “orcs” out loud just makes matters worse. He knows what an orc raid is, and it sure isn’t a joke. He cannot possibly comprehend how anyone could joke about it (but the reality of orcs is, I think, so far from Fili and Kili’s reality that they have no problem joking about it: after all, up to now they’ve probably lived a relatively sheltered, prosperous life in the Blue Mountains). But Thorin, on the other hand, knows just what degree of brutality and violence orcs can reach. He’s seen it. He’s experienced it, down to every horrifying, devastating detail.

After Moria he has almost nothing left. He wanders through thousands of corpses, searching not for one body, but for three: his brother, his grandfather and his father, whom, right then and there, probably no one knew had lost his mind yet. And yet, Balin sees Thorin as a figure of hope, as a last glimmer in the darkness (this is reinforced by the way the entire sequence is filmed: Thorin appears shrouded in light, a sort of “heavenly savior” that will guide the dwarves to salvation- and yet he is covered in dirt and blood and grime).

But Thorin is fragile, and he is, deep down, scared:

There is no choice, Balin. Not for me.”

There is a legacy and a debt he feels he must pay back to his father and his grandfather and all who came before him: he lost the kingdom of Erebor, he watched most of his family die and now he has his chance to become a leader, a ruler and a king. The only thing that ties him to his past and to what he once was is a key and a map, and he cannot let go of either. The same way he cannot (and will never be able to) let go of the past. Having built a new kingdom for the dwarves in Ered Luin is not enough to fix Thorin. He needs more.

This need to redeem himself in his own eyes for his “failures” (most were things well beyond his control) is what pushes him to go on a quest that will eventually claim his life and that of his nephews (and may I add, only direct heirs). But in his mind he is doing something right, he knows this is what he is supposed to do. He is the leader of a lost people, burdened with the pain of seeing said people destroyed in the blink of an eye: when Bilbo attempts to go back to Rivendell when they’re camping in the Misty Mountains, he’s arguing with Bofur, yes, but not loud enough to wake anyone. Despite this, Thorin is very much alert- not surprisingly. As a dwarf who’s seen what he’s seen, he has a lot (too much) to think about. And in his case, sleeping sometimes can be too difficult, too scary, too much of a reminder of what’s happened to him to truly offer any solace. There’s a high chance that whenever Thorin closes his eyes, all he sees is dragonfire and beheaded kings. And at Bilbo’s “No you don’t. You don’t understand. None of you do. You’re Dwarves. You’re used to this life, to living on the road, never settling in one place, not belonging anywhere!” he is once again confronted with every little single thing he thinks he’s ever done wrong. Which, in one way or another, involve each one of his traumatic experiences.

And so when he is presented with the horrifying reality that the only good thing he’s ever done (kill Azog and win back Azanulbizar) was ultimately a failure, too, everything comes crashing down.

This is the pain of Frerin dying, this is the horror of Thrór’s beheading, the emptiness of Thrain going mad. This right here is a scared little boy who’s been forced to grow up too fast witnessing what little remnant of faith in himself he ever had going up in smoke. Thorin thought he’d avenged the desecration of the dwarves’ sacred halls and avenged his family. Thorin thought he’d done at least one thing right.

But he’s proven wrong there, too. And so the scared little boy does what he knows best: he gets mad, he fights back. He is empty right now: everything he’s ever done in his life doesn’t matter, because Azog is painstakingly still alive. And so Thorin’s number one objective is to fix things, to restore the fragile balance he’d created for himself: after all, he is Thorin Oakenshield, and one does not gain an epitome unless he’s truly done something extraordinary. But nothing is ever extraordinary enough in Thorin’s eyes. The Lonely Mountain is still in Smaug’s grasp, and Ered Luin is nothing but a pale shadow compared to it. He’s led his people through thick and thin, but it doesn’t matter, not right now. Azog is still alive. The one thing he’d done right is a lie.

And Thorin is willing to make things right for himself, whatever the cost. Which is why the entire conflict between Thorin and Azog is basically ten minutes of unapologetic, gratuitous foreshadowing: Thorin is well aware this quest might cost him his life. He isn’t afraid of danger and he isn’t afraid to die, he is so desperate to fix himself and what he’s done that he isn’t going to stop, ever, until he sees Erebor returned to the dwarves. Because, after all, despite all that it’s been through, despite the fact that Thrór went mad there, Erebor is still home.

Erebor is still a symbol of hope to him: it is where he grew up, where Dwalin grew up, where Balin acted as a tutor and a friend, where his brother and sister were born. Where he was happy, truly happy, where no shadows hung over him, where there were no legacies to prove, no ghosts to live with. And so when he sees the Lonely Mountain again, Thorin can’t help but smile: and it’s one of the few smiles he allows himself to show throughout the film.

It’s one of the few times he allows himself to feel hope, the same hope he’s already given to so many with all the things he’s done.

And that is worth more than all the gold in Erebor.

Disclaimer: this is all based on movie canon, more specifically on my own personal interpretation of how Peter Jackson and Richard Armitage chose to portray the character of Thorin Oakenshield. Very little book canon was used in this analysis, and please don’t kill me if I got something wrong. I am just a dumb kid with a blog who likes to write about stuff.

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About NYCPAT

From New York City. Anglophile, theater-goer, love books, music and LIFE.
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22 Responses to And He Never Forgave, and He Never Forgot- reblog

  1. Perry says:

    This is an interesting if somewhat imaginative take. How do you reblog something from tumblr to appear here are wordpress?

  2. AgzyM says:

    Interesting thought on poor Thorin. It’s easy to see him as the strong leader, confident and determined. But his actions are a result of great tragedy and trauma which you sum up so wonderfully here! How we’re going to survive the third film is beyond me…

  3. Teuchter says:

    Thank you *so* much for reposting this, Marie! I skimmed through the Tumblr post last night but had the hardest time reading the print it was so faint. This is so much easier on the eyes and also helped me understand the whole thing that much better.

  4. utepirat says:

    Thank you so much for reposting: I suffered so many years of “PTSD” until I recognised what it was. RAmania, so many themes brought up to discussíon that would never thought about in real life

    • Marie Astra says:

      I suffered from it too and didn’t know until I went into therapy – which I sadly didn’t do until I was in my 30’s!! It’s terrible. I think it’s a very plausible interpretation of Thorin.

  5. Oh, this is perfect. So many things I had faint notions about but couldn’t quite put together or put into words. Thanks for reposting!

  6. Teuchter says:

    Considering what Tolkien must have experienced in the First World War he must have had first-hand knowledge of PTSD, although the term was unknown at that time. I also think it is more than likely that he had also seen what it did to men he may have known.

    • Marie Astra says:

      Good thinking! Yes, I bet that did influence Tolkien’s thinking while he was writing the book.So interesting.

    • NuitsdeYoung says:

      The character is very much underwritten in the books, though: Tolkien didn’t put much of his experiences into book-Thorin. The film developed him very well, until the last film, when they seemed more concerned with whitewashing Bilbo, so did a bit of hatchet-job on Thorin.

  7. guylty says:

    Good idea to re-post. Saw it on tumblr but couldn’t concentrate on it there. A very well thought-out argument, explaining the workings of Thorin’s mind. Loved the illustrations, too.

  8. saraleee says:

    Thanks for re-posting this. I was looking for it and it had disappeared, so I’m glad you saved it. There are some very poignant and pertinent comments here.

  9. NuitsdeYoung says:

    Excellent! I’d had him taped as a PTSD case all along – as is Thrór, who had been orphaned, lost a brother, and lost his home in Ered Mithrin as a boy in a cold-drake (non-fire-breathing dragon) attack. He had then taken his people and the Arkenstone back to the old capital of Erebor and tried to rebuild his life. Of course the wealth of Erebor mattered to him: it had meant stability and security. Only then he saw his world destroyed again by another bloody dragon…

    I was unhappy with Jackson’s over-hyping of ‘dragon-sickness’ and the notion of ‘hereditary madness’ in the family. No, they’re not “dragon-sick”, just sick of dragons ruining their lives. And I think Jackson overplayed the idea of Thorin being ‘mad’ in order to whitewash Bilbo’s betrayal of him, which is done from greed and self-interest in the book. (“Doing it for his own good”? Yeah, right…!)

  10. Syntinen says:

    The OP could also have mentioned another massive canon trauma: that his father Thrain simply disappeared, and for 90-odd years Thorin hasn’t been able to be sure if he is dead or not. This has saddled him not only with the exhausting grief, uncertainty and stress that anyone would experience if their parent went missing and couldn’t be found, but also with a huge ongoing moral and political difficulty. It’s all very well for Balin to say he’s ‘someone I could call king’ – but can *he* call himself king? He can do the everyday business of leading the Longbeards as a caretaker in his father’s absence, but some decisions and some commands only the real king can make. If he makes up his mind to declare himself king and take those decisions, he’s open to the charge of usurping his father and wishing him dead (cf. Shakespeare’s Prince Hal); if he doesn’t, he’s open to the charge of letting down his people by not stepping up to his responsibilities. For someone so desperate to do the right thing and to *be* right, this is a terrible dilemma to be in. Even if nobody else dreams of accusing him of either charge, you can bet he’ll do it to himself.

    And there’s another non-canon source of fear and shame that the scriptwriters dreamed up to lay on Thorin: the invention that Thrain too suffered from dragon-sickness, and that therefore this is manifestly a dominant family trait which Thorin too can be expected to succumb to. (As far as I remember Thrain’s non-canon dragon-sickness is only referred to in the scene from the extended edition of AUJ where Thorin and Bilbo overhear Elrond saying so to Gandalf; I assume the OP hadn’t seen this or s/he would surely have mentioned it.) Bad enough to have watched your grandfather being rotted by madness without the expectation that it will get you too eventually – and the knowledge that outsiders look on your family as a bunch of nutters or moral weaklings. That’s not nothing to Thorin; pride is precious to him, and the knowledge that he can’t rebut and avenge such a slur on his bloodline because it’s true, is acutely painful.

    • NuitsdeYoung says:

      And there’s another non-canon source of fear and shame that the scriptwriters dreamed up to lay on Thorin: the invention that Thrain too suffered from dragon-sickness, and that therefore this is manifestly a dominant family trait which Thorin too can be expected to succumb to. (As far as I remember Thrain’s non-canon dragon-sickness is only referred to in the scene from the extended edition of AUJ where Thorin and Bilbo overhear Elrond saying so to Gandalf

      I wasn’t happy about that because it was the first indication where the script was going to go in the end to whitewash Bilbo’s behaviour.

      On the other hand, it may simply be Elrond extrapolating (incorrectly) on what is, in fact, the legacy of multi-generational trauma, not hereditary ‘madness’. (And it is painful to watch Thorin’s expression as he – and Bilbo – overhears this.) We have:
      1. Thrór having his life devastated twice by dragon-attacks, losing his home and family members.
      2. Thráin survives one dragon-attack, losing his home, then goes on to lose his father and one of his sons.
      3. Thorin is just a boy or youth at the time of Smaug’s attack, survives the devastation, and is the person who has to try to hold everything together, losing grandfather, brother and father, then supporting his widowed sister and her children, as well as leading the whole community…
      To me, there’s no ‘madness’ in the bloodline, but three generations struggling with repeated tragedies, and community and personal trauma. They hold up remarkably well, under the circumstances.

      • Syntinen says:

        But as you yourself said in a slightly different context, you can take the dragon-sickness out and nothing changes. It’s very possible that Thorin has inherited his personality type (pride, stubbornness, need to stay in control and show no weakness, etc) from his father and grandfather, and recognises this; in which case he will be only too painfully aware that he shares their potential for cracking up, and exactly what it will look like if he does. And the shame aspect of having others see and judge their ‘mental/moral failure’ is the same whatever label is given to it.

      • NuitsdeYoung says:

        Indeed he would. But what I didn’t like were the indications that the script was going to use this to let Bilbo off the hook. And it did.

        The other implication of making it out to be ‘hereditary madness’ is that it gives them a get-out clause for Tolkien’s gratuitous killing-off of the boys: that it’s ‘for the best’, as the termination of a ‘tainted’ blood-line. (While skating over the fact that Dáin would also be at risk if it were so dominant in the family.)

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