Rumours of Thráin …

**Warning: possible minor spoilers from The Hobbit**

> Who is this Thráin?

You know, that crazy dwarf – king-to-be character – which was supposed to make an appearance in The Desolation of Smaug – but clearly didn’t.

Upon seeing the first two films in The Hobbit trilogy, Thráin II (son of Thrór, father of Thorin Oakenshield) appears to be a rather key ingredient in the whole narrative – despite his lack of Thráin IIparticipation in the story.

After all, he’s the one who gave the key and map of Erebor to Gandalf prior to the Quest. Without which, let’s face it, the adventure would not have been the same.

In the cinematic adaptations, our glimpses of Thráin’s character come in the first hour or so of An Unexpected Journey. We meet him in the prologue as the son of King Thrór and the bold defence he mounts alongside his heir, as the dragon attacks Erebor.

Next, we see him in a flashback to the battle of Azanulbizar and after the death of Thrór, he “was driven mad by grief. He went missing, taken prisoner or killed.


The uncertainty of whether he’s dead or alive, proves to be a point of speculation in the development of the story.

Those who’ve read the book learn that the acquisition of the key and map of Erebor occur whilst Gandalf investigates and discovers Thráin lying in a pit in Dol Guldur – close to death.

Originally, a scene showing Gandalf and Thráin’s meeting appeared in the trailers for An Unexpected Journey, but after the decision to split the film from two to three, that scene was moved to the second installment.

However, once again, the missing dwarf seems to have remained just that: missing.

He was mentioned briefly at the start of The Desolation of Smaug – hinting that he was still alive, but other than that, we see no sign of him.

This is where the Extended Edition comes in …

Co-producer and co-writer, Philippa Boyens, a few months ago (here) confirmed that we will be seeing Thráin in the Extended Edition of The Desolation of Smaug.

From several trailers and behind the scenes footage, we can collate the puzzle together and arrive at certain conclusions – but also create new difficulties as to how and why this character was cut out of the theatrical version.

> Thráin in Dol Guldur

There is ample evidence showing that Thráin and Gandalf encounter each other in Dol Guldur.Gandalf and Thrain Fighting (Dol Guldur)

As the wizard makes his way into the seemingly abandoned fortress, he is attacked by the dwarf (as can be seen in the trailers of him jumping on Gandalf).

Several fighting shots in some of the other trailers show the two characters engaged in combat – presumably following the previous ambush.

> Gandalf’s Counter-Spell Scene

In the theatrical version of The Desolation of Smaug, as Gandalf investigates the ruined fortress, he chants a phrase to counteract a concealment spell – thereby revealing the enemy within.

I’m quite positive that Ian Mckellen’s voice was added after the decision was reached to cut the Thráin sequences. If you look carefully at the scene, there is a quick low-angle shot of Gandalf – revealing the tall battlements behind him.

This is exactly the same shot we have seen numerous times in the trailers: showing a figure (presumably Thráin himself) jumping on the unsuspecting wizard.

However, in the final version, Thráin has been removed and Mckellen’s voice over added.

Thrain Jumping (Dol Guldur)

Looking closely, although we can hear him saying the spell, the wizard’s mouth isn’t moving – which sustains the theory that this final shot was not intended to be played as it was originally filmed.

> Escaping from Orcs

Thrain at Dol Guldur (escape VFX)When Gandalf is discovered, he is chased by Orcs through the ruins. In the film, we see him running over a bridge, before turning round to repel the pursuers: causing a massive rock to fall down and destroy the path.

A video (here) released by the studios, giving us access to the wizardry of visual effects, we are provided with this shot in its raw and unfinished state.

With greenscreen covering the background, the camera follows the pursued wizard as he emerges out onto the bridge – but merely a second or two before, a smaller figure on the left side of the screen can be seen running out of shot.

Undoubtedly, this is Thráin after his encounter with Gandalf.

To further prove this idea, in one of the online video production diaries, we get to see Thráin urging Gandalf to follow him through the maze-like corridors of Dol Guldur.

> The Story of Thráin in the Extended Edition

When the Extended Edition finally arrives in November, what shall we expect? For instance, when Gandalf is casting the counter-spell, shall we get Thráin ambushing him from above? If so, how will the scene unfold?

Will they have to alter some of the shots from the theatrical edition to complement the flow of this particular sequence?Thrain at Dol Guldur (VLOG)

Only time will tell, but until then, I’m curious enough to lay out a brief summary of how I believe these events will develop.

Who knows? I may be completely wrong; but I think that from the sparse clues we have, we can sum up a good structure of the sequence …

– Gandalf investigates Dol Guldur and casts his counter-spell

– He is ambushed by a mad Thráin

– The two engage in combat

– Thráin’s madness subsides

– Information is passed between the two characters

– Gandalf and Thráin are attacked by Azog

– They flee through the corridors of Dol Guldur

– Thráin disappears and Gandalf is taken prisoner

The real mystery now is: what is Thráin’s fate?

In the book, we learn that he died long ago when he surrendered the key and map of Erebor to Gandalf. However, the film adaptations have shifted the timeline and kept Thráin alive well after the Quest has begun.

Will he meet his end in the Extended Edition of The Desolation of Smaug, or is there more in store for this character in the upcoming third film? Perhaps he might **possible spoiler** assist Gandalf in escaping the fortress **possible spoiler**.

Until then, we’ll have to wait a bit more to find out …

In the meantime, what are your thoughts and ideas on this intriguing dwarvish mystery? 🙂

44 thoughts on “Rumours of Thráin …

  1. Interesting post. I’m excited to see how this will all pan out. Another aspect of this that I’ve seen few fans touch on is Thorin’s understanding of the map and secret passage. In the book Thorin was away from the mountain when the dragon came and he had no idea of a secret passage until Gandalf gave him the map and key. In the first film Thorin doesn’t seem ignorant about it though. He asks “How did you come by this?” (or something to that effect) instead of “what is this?” Likewise, in DOS after Thorin enters the through the secret door he and Balin have a very emotional scene together and Thorin talks about how he “knows these walls”. So in the film it seems Thorin knew about the tunnel already. The next question to ask is how did Gandalf come by the map and key in the film? In the book Gandalf meets him in Dol Guldur way before the events of The Hobbit, but in the film universe Tharkun doesn’t go to the the ruined fortress until DOS. Will we ever get to see Thrain give Gandalf the map? Could we see that perhaps in flashback in DOS or even in BotFA? Maybe they could tie it all into Thorin’s tragic fall somehow. Anyway, that’s enough rambling from me, excellent post! Looking forward to more!

    1. Thanks Andrew 🙂

      Very interesting observations regarding Thorin’s awareness of the secret passage. You are perfectly right; Thorin seems to know more than his book counterpart.

      Furthermore, I’m pretty sure that the trailer shots we saw of Gandalf and Thrain fighting each other were going to be part of the Map and Key acquisition scene (a flashback before the journey began – notice the lack of Glamdring in the shots).

      And as much as I’d love to see that scene, I can’t understand how it would fit now – since Gandalf said that Dol Guldur was abandoned …

    2. Is it just me…it kinda looks like that dungeon keeper who was taunting gandalf about in the cage before being dispatched by galadriel was a morphed thrain…perhaps morphed by sauron?

  2. Great article, James. Taking the viewpoint of the book rather than the film, why did Sauron have Thrain as his prisoner in Dol Guldur and for how long? And how was it Thrain was able to keep both his key and map secret until Gandalf comes along (perhaps Gandalf was meant to have the key and map like Bilbo was meant to have …). Maybe Thrain was far more heroic than given credit for. Any long stay in the dungeons of a ‘dark lord’ is not going to be easy on the mind but Thrain may not have been your average “dark lord’s” prisoner. Much rested on him passing on the baton and he did so in handing the map and key to Gandalf.
    But why was he in Dol Guldur in the first place, and perhaps, for a long time? What did Sauron want? Did he believe that suitable manipulation of Thrain could lead to a breakthrough in dominating the dwarfs? Perhaps, Thror, his father, had been an indicator that the ring was getting near to breaking dwarfish resistance. Would Sauron have a special interest in breaking the dwarfs for he was once a Maiar of Aule, the originator of the dwarfs before they were given true life by Illuvator. And perhaps, for all Thrain’s faults, whatever they were, his legacy was not only the map and key, but a refusal to bow to Sauron. Other dwarfs may do so, but not the house of Durin, and not this dwarf.

    I wonder if Thrain died like Aragorn. He had fought the fight, passed on the map and key, and then it was his time to go. I wonder if he died in the arms of Gandalf.

    1. Thrain possessed the ring of Thror (one of the Dwarf rings of power) and becoming restless at the loss of Erebor, journeyed away from the Blue Mountains and was captured on the borders of Mirkwood.

      By being a prisoner in Dol Guldur, Sauron was able to claim another ring of power – leaving him to die in the pits.

      The mystery is why didn’t he just kill him and how Thrain managed to survive the ordeal? Perhaps, the use of the dwarven ring of power also strengthened and prolonged his life beyond the norm.

      1. Hi James, thanks for your reply. Your last question is what I was getting at. Yes, Sauron wanted the ring, but what did Sauron want from Thrain himself having got the ring. I was speculating there might be more going on than just leaving him to die – after all, why give seven rings to the dwarfs in the first place, and whether there was something personal here, for Sauron, because of his history with Aule.

        A thought about Sauron: when did he fall? Was it at the beginning with the corruption of the music by Melkor or was it later. If it was at the beginning, then the Maiar were already organised under certain Valar (e.g. Sauron was related to Aule). If later, how late, and did the creation of the dwarfs have anything to do with Sauron’s fall (i.e. Aule did not tell him about them – his greatest creation – and Melkor used that to seduce Sauron). Pure speculation of course – and Sauron may have fallen very early on anyway.

      2. Having done a bit more thinking, Sauron probably fell early as he seems to have been involved in all of Melkor’s deceitful works upon Arda (Silmarillion – at end of Valaquenta) – unless the creation of the dwarfs was also very early before Arda was full shaped, then this would not have been part of his fall directly but it is interesting that it was Aule who ‘slipped up’ in the way he did.

      3. Yet more ‘fun’ thinking. Sauron is corrupted early on before the creation of the dwarfs, but Melkor somehow knows what is in Aule’s heart. Part of his seduction of Sauron is Aule is not involving him in everything but if he joins Melkor, Melkor will involve him in all his works. It goes without saying I am stretching things here, hehe. I guess I am desperate for a dwarf – Sauron connection – and that I need to see a councillor. 😉

      4. I think I will have to defer to Gandalf on this (Unfinished Tales p336). Thrain was in the pits of DG for at least five years. ‘I think that the Dark Power desired nothing from him except the Ring only …’. Dang! And Gandalf being the wisest of the Maiar is more than likely right. My last desperate fling – not even a molecule in size – is there may be the incy-binciest sliver of doubt in the first two words but I would never bet on it.

    2. Hey Bob,

      I’ve read all your fascinating comments below. I’m commenting here since it won’t allow me to reply to your last posting.

      Anyways … reading The Silmarillion, I always thought that Sauron was corrupted after the Music of the Ainur. Before and during the Music, Melkor was alone and only after Ea and Arda had come into being did he corrupt Maiar to his side. Of course, Tolkien doesn’t specify this but it’s the way I’ve always read the Ainulindale and Valaquenta.

      The matter of Thrain being kept alive is intriguing, but difficult to answer. Your UT quote seems to seal the topic, though it still begs the question as to why he would have been left alive.

      The simplest answer I can arrive to is that, having claimed the dwarven ring, Sauron simply left Thrain to die there. Rather than kill him off, he was content (and found it good sport) to let him suffer in torment.

      Isn’t that what dark lords do, apparently? 😉

  3. Interesting that they seem to intend to make Thrain such an important character in the movie. He was so minor in the books, but I understand that, like the Elvenking, they had to do quite a bit of embellishing if they wanted to turn a relatively short book into a three-part film. The good news is that, just like the “orc/elf battle down the riverside” scene, even those of us who know the book backwards and forwards will have moments of uncertainty & surprise. Great post!!

    1. Heh! You are so right about the many unexpected things us book fans have experienced so far in these two films.

      So much so that most of the story in film 3 is somehow still a big mystery to me as to what’s going to happen (or change!) 🙂

    1. Apologies for the lack of rest then! But thank you so much for your comments. I shall be throwing in more analytic posts in the near future … beware!

  4. Maybe the way they’re setting up the movies is that Thrain is the one who betrayed the company. “Who did you tell about your quest?” Maybe Sauron connived to get Thrain to give the key/map to Gandalf knowing that it would get to Thorin. And then He could hound the company, ending that line, and opening the way for him to recruit Smaug to his side. *Just rough speculation and others can probably make better points or counter points to this idea*

    1. Hey Braden thanks for your input 🙂

      That’s something that’s been nagging me since I heard that line! I’ve always thought that we’d see the scene in Desolation were Thrain confesses he let slip Thorin’s plan – it would make absolute sense then that Azog knew how and where to find the Company.

  5. Gandalf still must have encountered Thrain at least once before the Quest of Erebor, as he already had the map of Lonely Mountain and the key to the Secret Door. Did Thrain entrust them to the Wizard before the Battle of Azanulbizar? In the event that Thror, Thrain and Thorin all fell in battle?

    1. I have wondered about that. The book it was quite clear that Gandalf only met Thrain in Dol Guldur. In the movie, however, there seems to be two different meetings between Gandalf and Thrain. The first is when Thrain passes the key and map to Gandalf. From Gandalf’s talk, it seems that Thrain is quite sane and purposeful in seeking out Gandalf to pass the dwarves’ legacy and Gandalf urges him to march upon Erebor. Then it becomes murky as nobody knows what happens to Thrain after the Battle at Moria, and Thorin hears word of him wandering around Dunland but Gandalf says that it’s been ages since they’ve heard word of his father.
      So I think the movies timeline is like this: Gandalf met Thrain after Smaug took the mountain and was given the map and key – Gandalf urges Thrain to take back the mountain but Thrain tells him there’s no chance because of the dragon so they’re going to take Moria instead – during the Battle of Azanulbizar Thror is killed and Azog injured – then Thrain was taken prisoner by Azog’s goblins because Thorin injured Azog – but Thrain escapes and is therefore seen wandering around where he’s actually trying to locate his son and people again – but then he’s captured again by Sauron for the dwarven ring before he can find Thorin – Gandalf is actually worried that there is no word about Thrain (he conveys his worries to the White Council that the last dwarven ring has simply vanished) and that’s why seeks out Thorin to take back Erebor – Thorin says the same thing as his father, that there’s a goddamn dragon there so they can’t, and so Gandalf brings up the idea of using a burglar – and when Gandalf ends up in Dol Guldur, he encounters Thrain.

      1. That makes sense. If they don’t explain how Gandalf gets the key and the map in the films I’m going to consider your explanation as the real events (in the cinematic universe, of course).

  6. For the sake of consistency, I’d like to see a flashback prologue for the Battle of the Five Armies. If they don’t do one, it will be on only film of the six without one. So, assuming they follow the established formula: what information in the past would yet be helpful in moving the story forward? I don’t know if there is any. But it would seem that how Gandalf received the map and the key would be the only untold story. What if we get to see Gandalf in Dol Guldur BEFORE An Unexpected Journey. He’ll find Thrain (in the appendix he doesn’t yet realize the identity of this dwarf), receive the map and key, and escape the fortress. This could set up Gandalf in BOFA remembering how he escaped before (he does tend to forget things: remember in Moria?) Just a theory.

    1. That wouldn’t make sense. It’s pretty clear in the films that all the events in Dol Guldur prior to the Quest for Erebor have never happened.

  7. In Tolkien’s Silmarillion, it is mentioned several times of dwarvish strong will against subjugation. During the telling of the Second Age, it mentions the difficulty Sauron had in getting the seven rings back from the dwarves (the rings were mainly consumed by dragons) he only was able to get a few, the last being Thrain’s. It also mentions that dwarves do not pass into the shadow world, so they couldn’t become like ringwraiths because of their stubborn will.

    Personally, I am disappointed (from what is known) of the films lack of time frame and knowledge for Gandalf. He had been to Dol Guldur at least two times. First, in 1100 TA(ROTK, Appendix b, p. 1060) The Istari and chief Eldar discover a evil power in Dol Guldur, and believe it is a Nazgul (no doubt Gandalf discovered this since he was the wanderer). 2060 TA, power grows in Dol Guldur, the Wise fear its Sauron. Three years later Gandalf goes to Dol Guldur, Sauron flees. 2460, Sauron returns to Dol Guldur. 2850 TA, Gandalf enters Dol Guldur again, discovers Necromancer to be Sauron, and finds Thrain gets map and key. 2941 TA, events of the Hobbit, White Council meets and attacks Dol Guldur, and Sauron flees them.

    Basically, the Appendix B of Return of the King are very helpful, and Unfinished Tales for understanding who the Istari are. Though I like how the films are twisting the facts for a action packed film, I am disappointed as well.

    1. Hey Caleb, first of all thanks for that Silmarillion reference. It explains why Thrain would have survived for a while as a prisoner in Dol Guldur.

      Also, it looks like the filmmakers condensed the several comings and goings of Gandalf into one (or two) events and moved them within the same timeline as the year in which The Hobbit takes place (TA 2941) – thereby avoid any confusion on the part of the audience.

      Like you, I’m glad they’ve restructured some things, but I also expected we’d see Gandalf’s encounter with Thrain the first time – not just listening to the wizard telling the story of how he got the map and key.

  8. I think it more likely the third film will open with a Flashback, as all 5 previous films have, and that it will be Gandalf’s previous visit to Dol Guldur and his encounter with Thrain that netted the Key and Map that we see in this sequence. Then we will move to the present, which will be Gandalf in his little cage just hanging around in Dol Guldur now as a prisoner, and then most likely the White Council’s appearance follows and the story moves forward at a very fast clip after that (dragon attack), armies marching, armies fighting, etc etc.

    1. Welcome Yu! 🙂

      I’m pretty sure that those brief trailer shots of Gandalf fighting Thrain occur BEFORE the start of the Quest and are scenes when he receives the key and map.

      However, ever since they changed the structure of the films, it appears as if those same shots were going to be used for a different encounter with Thrain in Dol Guldur – and nothing of the map and key would be mentioned in that scene.

      But who knows? I can’t wait till November 3rd now 😀

  9. All this seems interesting, but it is sadly made clear in An Unexpected Journey, when he meets Radagast for the first time, that Gandalf has no idea that something is happening in Dol Guldur, so as much as I would love to see such a scene, I believe it is impossible in the story Jackson and co. have created.

    1. Brian thanks for your comment 🙂

      As you rightly say, Gandalf seems to have no idea what is happening in Dol Guldur. However, this extended scene with Thrain takes place during the Quest – when Gandalf discovers who the Necromancer is – therefore, it would not be out of place if it made its way in the extended edition.

      Regarding the fate of the scene showing the acquisition of the key and map of Erebor, I’m afraid that won’t see the light of day at this point.

  10. I love the dwarves. I am hoping for a flashback of the three Thror Thrain and Thorin having a deep discussion just prior to the Battle of Azanulbizar about how no one has helped them thorough all of their struggles. And that when they do take back Erebor they owe no because no one would help them. Also in the flash back I would like to Threshing to both his son Thrain and grandson Thorin who ever survives the Battle that must take back Erebor. This discussion and what happens in the following battle Thorin seeing his grandfather be headed and also the lost of his father Thrain. Thorin makes it his lifes goal to take back Erebor. I think it also would be nice tosee something said about Thorins brother you can see his face and name on the tapestry showing theline of Durin. I would find it surprising that Peter Jackson would not give us an explanation about his brother. lastly I think you would be awesome to eyeStrain help Gandalf and the white council fight thier way out with Thrain dieing a hero’s death.

  11. I also ment to say that with having the flash back scene with Thror telling both Thrain and Thorin that they must take back Erebor will help people understand why Thorin starts to become such a jerk to Bard and the Elves he already does not like. With his life long quest finally finished with no help from the humans or Elves again he is probably pissed when they demand his gold. Plus the Dragon sickness starting to get a hold of him Thorin is going to be in a dark place in this movie

    1. Hey Brian, thanks for your input 🙂

      I quite like your flashback idea with Thror, Thrain and Thorin. Thinking about it, it would also make a great prologue to the third film if they decide to do something similar ,,,

      Who knows!

  12. I have a question have any of you been wondering about Thorins brother Frerin. you see his name and face next to Thorin in the tapestry that Bard locates in Laketown. but there is no mention of him in either of the first two movies. I find it hard that Peter Jackson would not give me explanation to this with in the movie. I know Frerin died in the battle at Mora. I would love to see him in the flashback scene but unfortunately I don’t believe that will happen. I would love to here the pinions of others on this. To tell the truth I just think the dwarves are badass ass and would love to see as many as possible on screen.

    1. Some people have speculated that Frerin is the dwarf treasurer standing next to Thorin in the prologue to An Unexpected Journey. He’s the one that offers the chest of white gems to Thranduil …

      Heirs of Durin

      He looks “royal” enough, taking into consideration his attire and place amongst Thorin, Thrain and Thror – but it hasn’t been confirmed.

      Nevertheless, I like to believe it is him whenever I see that scene 🙂

  13. It would make sense seeing how he is standing next to Thorin in the throne room. I have all art books from weta and there is nothing about him in any of them. I have seen on tumbler art work of Gerard Butler as him. Good actor could see him play him.any thanks for the feed back man.

  14. They keep bringing up the “insanity” running in Thorin’s bloodline…I guess they want to show an insane Thrain in the third film as a kind of prologue to Thorin going buggy.

  15. Having seen the extended version of the DOS I am confused. How does Gandalf come by the key and map in the movie version? When he runs into Thrain it is clear he hasn’t seen him for a long time and barely recognises him so he can’t have gotten the map and key off him anytime recently?

    1. Ah … intriguing question. It’s one of those issues that has been bothering me ever since The Hobbit was split into 3 films.

      My own theory behind it is that, having seen shots of the Gandalf/Thrain encounter at Dol Guldur in the very first teaser trailer, we were originally going to be see the dwarf king handing over the key and map to the wizard prior to the start of the Quest.

      Presented to the audience in the form of a flashback scene, we would have been introduced to Thorin’s father and the concept of Dol Guldur abandoned.

      However, I’m guessing that once several substantial changes were made to the plot, scenes shifted around and perhaps Peter Jackson decided to use the “unused” footage of their encounter for this part of the story in DoS and tie-in the revelation of the Necromancer to Gandalf.

      Thrain not recognizing the wizard may also be explained by the fact that being a prisoner in Dol Guldur, his madness also clouded his memory and even though they may have met a few months or years prior, he would have almost forgotten about it.

      Then again, I’m hoping that after the release of Film 3 we will get some further explanation as to the evolution of the story … *fingers crossed!* 😀

  16. Thanks for the reply! Yes I can only assume that in Peter Jackson’s interpretation Gandalf must get the key off Thrain at sometime much earlier. Also when he meets Thorin for the first time in Bree he states that it is not a chance meeting.

    Therefore I guess when he received the key he knew what it was for. Hopefully the third movie explains it as it wouldn’t be like the team to leave a gaping plot hole

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