– Balin: Father Christmas (in a good way)
Balin, along with Thorin, is the only dwarf (in both book and ‘An Unexpected Journey’) to be given a proper background history that serves well for a secondary character of his stature. In Tolkien’s novel, it clearly emerges how a special relationship is formed between the dwarf and Bilbo – the former often providing encouraging remarks in otherwise gloomy situations. Indeed, Balin is one of the first in the Company to start respecting and admiring the hobbit’s abilities during the Quest.
During the production of the films, actor Ken Stott kept a very low profile when it came to interviews and vlogs. Suffice to say, this increased my expectations to see his performance on screen.
Sporting a fine white beard, a red-toned costume, a tantalising sword and mace hybrid weapon and a charismatic persona, Balin has come out on top as my favourite dwarf in ‘The Hobbit’. He exudes a true quality that balances sympathy and wisdom – a close friend and reliable adviser to Thorin himself. He is very much the equivalent of a dwarvish Gandalf the Grey …
The major fact that differentiates Balin from the book is his age. In the film he is meant to be much older than the eldest in the novel (who is Thorin) – thus further reinforcing the idea that Balin is a much more experienced dwarf than the rest: a character upon which the whole Company can safely rely on.
All in all, I’m really looking forward to see more of this character and eagerly await the spine-tingling shot of him proclaiming the now renowned words: “That, my lad, was a dragon …”
Balin’s brother Dwalin (Graham McTavish) is the kind of dwarf whom you’d rather not come into conflict with. On screen, he wields a mighty war hammer, a pain-inducing set of iron knuckle gloves and an array of impressive tattoos ….
Compared to the blue-bearded Dwalin in the novel, there is a comparable difference. However, unlike most of the other protagonists, we do get glimpses into Dwalin’s character at times and the nature of dwarves in Tolkien’s world. Intemperance seems to afflict both film and book versions of Balin’s brother.
One of my expectations of seeing ‘An Unexpected Journey’ was to witness Dwalin wielding his war hammer; swinging it swiftly through the air with ease whilst taking out countless Orcs or goblins. Thankfully, we did get some Warg-smashing moments, along with a flavour of Troll-tooth-breaking instances with the use of this trusty weapon (even Ori gets to try it out in some sequences).
So what of the whole Dáin buisness?
Well, I can’t actually talk about this particular dwarf right now – since we have yet to see him in the next two films. But from the book, I’ve always imagined him to be somewhat similar to the cinematic version of Dwalin – strong, loyal, occasionally tends to become frenzied in battle and even his own appearance.
However, this is all just pure imagination and we will have to wait and see what happens in 3 and a half months’ time and another year following that …
(Images taken from the ‘Heirs of Durin’ site here)