The Hobbit, How to tell the 13 Dwarves Apart

So how does one tell apart 13 dwarves in a movie and learn all their names?

Well for starters it helps to know their back story. Each dwarf has a story, and if you know their story then you can learn the names and faces of each dwarf. Easy! With time you will figure them all out.

Lets start with the easy ones.


Thorin Oakenshield—technically Thorin II*—is the one dwarf you won’t forget. He’s the leader of the company that disrupts Bilbo’s pastoral idyll in the Shire en route to reclaiming his people’s home under the Lonely Mountain. As you find out early in The Hobbit film, this gold-rich kingdom (also known as Erebor) was lost to the fearsome fire-drake Smaug. In his Unfinished Tales, Tolkien describes Thorin as an “heir without hope,” hardened by both despair and rage. “The years lengthened,” Tolkien writes, and “the embers in the heart of Thorin grew hot again, as he brooded on the wrongs of his House and of the vengeance upon the Dragon that was bequeathed to him.”

Played by a frowning Richard Armitage, Thorin in The Hobbit draws immediate comparison to Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn in the earlier LoTR movies— yet another scion of a glorious bloodline reduced to skulking in shadows. Thorin earned the sobriquet “Oakenshield” at the Battle of Anulbizar—an epic dwarf vs. orc bloodbath at the gates of the greatest lost dwarf kingdom, Moria—where, amid the clash of blade and axe, he was forced to defend himself with a splintered oak trunk. The dwarves won that fight, but lost half their numbers, including their king Thror, Thorin’s grandfather. His father, Thrain II, wanders off, half-crazy, and, as we learn in Tolkien’s appendices, is captured and tortured by the über-evil Sauron. Thorin leads his dwarves to settle in the Blue Mountains northwest of the Shire, but never shakes the tug of his eastern birthright and his hatred for the dragon who stole it. He intones in the first chapter of Tolkien’s The Hobbit: “Far over the misty mountains grim/ To dungeons deep and caverns dim/ We must away ere break of day/ To win our harps and gold from him.”

*Thorin I is six generations Thorin II’s elder; he was King under the Lonely Mountain before choosing to abandon it to colonize another set of mountains (descendants would return). This is where it gets even more complicated: their whole bloodline is descended from the kings of the greatest dwarf kingdom, Khazad-Dum, also known as Moria, which we see in The Fellowship of the Ring and which was lost to that ancient demon of the deep, the Balrog. The dwarves, for Tolkien, offer a cautionary moral tale: their insatiable greed and lust for the treasures of the earth serve only to bring evil upon them.


Dwalin is the first dwarf to arrive at Bilbo’s home. Tolkien says he has “a blue beard tucked into a golden belt.” As you can see, Peter Jackson’s adaptation has done away with the multi-colored beard scheme, perhaps mindful that Tolkien wrote The Hobbit for children. Instead Dwalin’s most noticeable signifier is his bald, oblong head. Not a prominent figure in Tolkien’s books, Dwalin in the film is your stock-in-trade dwarf warrior, taciturn and Scottish-brogued (the more playful ones in the company conveniently have Irish or Northern Irish accents). In Tolkien’s books, we learn that Dwalin and his brother Balin fought alongside Thorin’s house at Azanulbizar; their father, Fundin, died there. So, yes, he’ll be killing lots of orcs.


Dwalin’s older brother, Balin, is the kindly old dwarf of the company. In the book, he has extraordinary vision and often keeps watch; in the film, he appears a bit doddering. Balin befriends the out-of-place hobbit Bilbo sooner than the other dwarves. After the events of The Hobbit, Tolkien says Balin disappears with a troupe of dwarves to retake Moria. We only discover his fate in The Fellowship of the Ring, when Gimli the dwarf finds Balin’s tomb and the skeletons of his kin.


Speaking of Gimli, meet his father, Gloin. Another veteran of the bloody Wars of the Dwarves and Orcs, Gloin looks every bit the grimacing, ginger-haired axeman his son (played by John Rhys-Davies in LoTR) is. Gloin did not allow Gimli to join Thorin’s quest—it’s assumed—because of Gimli’s young age.


Brother of Gloin, Óin is a somewhat befuddled dwarf with an oversized ear trumpet. After the events of The Hobbit, he joins Balin’s expedition to Moria and, according to Ori’s account, is killed by the “Watcher in the Water,” a lake monster which resurfaces in The Fellowship of the Ring.


Kili and his brother Fili are Thorin Oakenshield’s nephews and the youngest members of the company. Like their uncle, they have somewhat normal—perhaps even fetching—noses; in Tolkien’s questionable aesthetic universe, good looks have a lot to do with the pedigree of your lineage. Almost elf-like, Kili is also very adept with a bow.


In Fili’s case, the film has stayed true to the book: Tolkien says that he and his brother Kili both have yellow beards; in the film, at least Fili does. Youthful and courageous, the nephews of Thorin Oakenshield often act as scouts for the company.


Dori, alongside his younger brothers Nori and Ori, joined Thorin in exile in the Blue Mountains. Eager flautists, they accompany their distant relation on his quest to reclaim Erebor. Don’t let his grey beard fool you—Dori is one of the strongest of the 13 dwarves.


For viewers of the film, the most identifiable feature about Nori will be his absurd facial hair, sculpted with braids into a strange Christmas-ornament arrangement. Brother to Ori and Dori, distant relations of Thorin, he plays a minimal role in Tolkien’s narrative. The film’s producers, though, seem keen to deepen the character. An advance statement from Peter Jackson’s studio about Nori says: “Nobody ever quite knows what the quick-witted and wily Nori is up to, except that it’s guaranteed to be dodgy and quite possibly illegal.” Is that the hairpiece of a criminal?


Younger brother to Nori and Dori, Ori is the bookish geek of the 13, polite with a penchant for scribbling away in his journals. His writing habit comes into most dramatic effect not in The Hobbit, but in a famous scene in The Fellowship of the Ring. Ori is among the group that goes with Balin to retake Moria; it is the final words of his chronicle that Gandalf chillingly reads out: “We cannot get out. A shadow moves in the dark. We cannot get out. They are coming.”


To give the somewhat innocuous Bifur some personality in the movies, the filmmakers decided to shut him up. How? Well, have a look at his head. There’s a rusty orc axe-blade permanently wedged into his skull. He’s alive and goes about doing dwarvish things like glaring dourly and spilling food on his beard, but the wound means he doesn’t talk much, muttering only on occasion in unintelligible Dwarvish. Bifur is cousin to Bombur and Bofur, a trio from a lesser lineage of dwarves unrelated to Thorin and his clan.


Brother to the portly Bombur and cousin to the quasi-mute Bifur, Bofur completes the antic trio with a mustache that curls in symmetry with his outlandish hat. Expect him to be chirpy, goofy and perhaps a bit cloying.


The first words Tolkien uses in reference to Bombur are “immensely fat and heavy” and that’s all you have to remember of the brother of Bofur and cousin of Bifur. His beard is braided in a circle that rests against his vast stomach; he will be the butt of numerous gags and fat jokes over the course of the films. In one moment in Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Bombur’s companions have to haul his girthy frame up using a series of ropes. He makes up for such burdens by being one of the more affable dwarves of the company.

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