Amidst a rhyming mass of Dwarves, he is one of the few members of Thorin’s Company for which Tolkien actually wrote a distinguishable role in The Hobbit. Even so, he’s been given much less attention by both FFG and Peter Jackson than many other Dwarves with smaller parts. He is one of only three Dwarves (besides Thorin) who has an identifiable relationship with Bilbo in the book. Meanwhile it is Bofur who, despite being a virtual cipher in Tolkien’s text, gets two popular ally cards and a scene stealing turn in An Unexpected Journey.
While FFG has passed him over for a hero card for eight other participants in the Quest of Erebor, he is called “the strongest” by Thorin. And though most viewers wouldn’t be able to identify him by the end of The Hobbit film, at one point in the novel he even surpasses Gandalf in truly caring about Bilbo’s fate on the quest. It’s time to make amends for this treatment by featuring our first Dwarven character at Master of Lore — a really “decent fellow” named Dori.
EXPLORE THE LEGEND
This passage comes from the sixth chapter of The Hobbit titled “Out of the Frying-Pan and Into the Fire”. In it, we are reminded of Dori’s essential personality and chief function in the tale, that is, dutifully taking care of Bilbo. After Gandalf slays the Great Goblin and urges the Dwarves to follow him, Dori is the only one to remember Bilbo. He cries out, “Half a minute!” to Gandalf and pauses to collect Bilbo, hands tied, onto his back for the escape. Dori runs along “at the back” until he is “grabbed from behind in the dark” and drops Bilbo. When Dori emerges on the other side of the Misty Mountains, Gandalf grills him about why he did not “pick [Bilbo] up again.” In response, Dori indignantly recounts the “helter-skelter” action exiting Goblin-town in a paragraph long summary that became the basis for a half hour long video game CGI-fest in An Unexpected Journey (which I thoroughly enjoyed, by the way).
Dori was really a decent fellow in spite of his grumbling… there were hundreds of eyes looking at them. Still Dori did not let Bilbo down.
It seems, however, that despite complaining about being a “porter”, Dori feels genuinely attached to Bilbo after this little misadventure and he immediately risks his life a second time for the sake of the hobbit. When the wolves attack, Dori shows he is “really a decent fellow” by “actually climbing out of the tree” in order to “let Bilbo scramble up and stand on his back”. Dori is able to jump for the branches again “only just in time” as a snapping wolf nearly makes him pay for helping Bilbo get to safety.
As the Eagles make their eucatastrophic swoop to save the party from the flaming trees, Dori is “borne off last all”, once again bringing up the rear and bearing responsibility for Bilbo. The hobbit “just manage[s] to catch hold of Dori’s legs” and hangs on to his ankles as they soar up “above the tumult and the burning”.
That Dori would be willing to sacrifice his life for the quest is fairly remarkable, given that we learn in Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings that he, Ori, and Nori are only “remote kinsmen of Thorin”. It is possible that his affinity to Bilbo grew from the fact that he “shared the hobbit’s views about regular meals, plenty and often”. Apparently, Dori was among the Dwarves of the Blue Mountains who followed Thorin to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and, according to Glóin in The Fellowship of the Ring, he lived there afterwards under the “venerable and fabulously rich” Dáin Ironfoot. Being “the strongest” of the company, we might reasonably assume that he fought in the War of the Ring, perhaps again serving as the rear guard in the battles of Dale, carrying his compatriots to safety, and displaying “the valour of Durin’s Folk”.
SHOWCASE THE ARTWORK
The card art for Dori was painted by Jake Murray, who we previously featured for his The Eagle Are Coming! illustration. The way the art is cropped and colored on the card though, you can barely make out the curly hair of Bilbo as he is toted on Dori’s back, which originally made the composition a bit baffling to me. At first glance, I thought the arms belonged to Dori and he was a deformed hunchback! I think you’ll agree that the uncropped original is much clearer.
As we’ve come to expect from FFG artists, Mr. Murray paid close attention to the details of the text, giving Dori the “purple hood” that he is described hanging up in opening chapter of the novel. On his blog, Mr. Murray says that he painted Dori at a time when his artistic style was being influenced by Rembrandt. Looking at one of Rembrandt’s famous self portraits, it’s not hard to see the resemblance, all the way down to the styling of the purple hood. I hope it’s not too presumptuous to suggest that as an artist with such a reputation for empathy for the human condition, Rembrandt is a great model for our “decent fellow” who stays behind to help out little Bilbo!
The next images for Dori are from the 1977 Rankin/Bass and 2012 Peter Jackson film adaptations respectively. Note that although colorful hoods were not part of the costuming for Jackson’s dwarves, Dori still sports purplish attire as per his description in the novel.
Warner Brothers’ publicity blurbs for The Hobbit included this description of the character, which extrapolates quite nicely from his appearance in the novel:
A distant relative of Thorin Oakenshield, Dori is the eldest amongst his brothers Ori and Nori. He is the strongest in The Company of Dwarves, and spends much of his time watching out for Ori, making sure he hasn’t caught a chill or gotten himself killed by Wargs or Goblins. Eternally pessimistic, with a natural tendency to expect the worst, Dori is nonetheless quite prepared to risk life and limb in order to get the job done.
Dori is played by Mark Hadlow who can be seen participating in “dwarvercise” in the latest video production blog from the set of The Desolation of Smaug.
The final piece of artwork to showcase is this “photo manipulation” by Spain based DeviantArt user A.D.L. In this image, Dori looks like a Viking warrior which is appropriate given that his name comes from an Old Norse poem called the Völuspá.
While Tolkien’s linguistic inspiration for Middle-earth is well recognized, it may be less known that the names of most of his Dwarves and the character of Gandalf come from just seven short stanzas of the Poetic Edda, an epic Norse myth most famous for its tales of the gods Thor and Loki. Indeed, in The Peoples of Middle-earth, Christopher Tolkien writes that Dori and these other borrowed Dwarf names “provided [his father] the whole starting point for the Mannish languages of Middle-earth”. Next time you read The Hobbit, try imagining Scandinavian rather than Scottish accents for your Dwarves to have a more Tolkienesque experience!
DISCUSS THE CARDS
After exploring the role that Dori plays in the lore of the The Hobbit, we can see that his ability is absolutely appropriate thematically. His response reads, “After a hero is assigned any amount of damage, exhaust Dori to place that damage on Dori instead”. As in the book, he might be doing it “in spite of his grumbling”, but Dori is willing to stay in the back and preserve your hero on the quest at great personal risk. Just as he did for Bilbo, he will not let you down.
As for his stats, I’d love to see one more attack strength on Dori to reflect Thorin’s comment that he is “the strongest” in the company. With Dáin Ironfoot on the table, he does attack for three, but this is merely equal to Bifur and Tactics Bofur and one behind the Veteran of Nanduhirion for the highest attack base among Dwarf allies. I do like that Dori is a natural sphere match with his brother Ori and Legacy of Durin which makes it easy and thematic to bring this descendent of the House of Durin into play.
While I haven’t used Dori too often in my Dwarf decks, YouTube power player Glaurung regularly runs our stalwart ally in his solo Thorin and Company deck to make insanely quick work of even the most difficult quests. Follow the links here to watch him take down the Massing at Osgiliath in just 16 minutes with a few timely uses of Dori’s damage soak — Part 1 and Part 2.
For the thematic player, it is possible to perfectly recreate Dori’s role in the novel thanks to The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill saga expansion. The third quest of the set titled “Dungeons Deep and Caverns Grim” allows for a blow by blow reenactment of the scene when Dori saves Bilbo’s bacon from the fire in the chapter “Out of the Frying-Pan Into the Fire”. In my snapshot, I’ve even placed Born Aloft on Dori (with help from a Song of Battle on Thorin) so that he can sacrifice his skin to save Bilbo from the attacking Wild Wargs and then be rescued himself by the Eagles.
Finally, I want to dedicate this post to a guy who, like Dori, has been a “really a decent fellow” the past few months as I’ve struggled to keep up with new posts. Many thanks to Shipwreck for being our Dori here at Master of Lore and carrying the work with his enjoyable articles. It’s an honor being in the Company with you, sir. To play off the featured quote for this entry, hundreds of eyes are looking and you haven’t let them down!
Wow! What a kind shoutout! I am at your service (and your family’s)!
I’ve often wondered if the nigh-anonymity of the dwarves was both a boon and a curse for game/movie makers. You could, mostly, turn them into whatever kind of character you needed at the risk deviating totally from the spirit of the text. I think the game’s done fairly well, the movie’s less so.
I also really love the Rembrandt connexion to this piece.
Apparently even Tolkien struggled with what to do with so many indistinct Dwarves. In earlier drafts of The Hobbit, he tried to flesh out more of them, but eventually decided to just give lines to a few and let the rest blend into the background.
The challenge of adapting this on screen is one of the reasons making The Hobbit film, in many ways, is even more difficult than Lord of the Rings. I’ve enjoyed listening to The Tolkien Professor podcast Riddles in the Dark which discusses this and a variety of other issues in anticipation of the films.
The latest episode is about the relationship between Bilbo and the Dwarves and it gave me the idea for this article. It’s worth checking out!
thanks for the Lore
I too assumed that Dori was disabled/laying/crawling from his artwork, which i didn’t infer from the text of the Hobbit, so seeing the full piece really makes a lot of sense.
I only really use this card on the 2nd Hobbit quest, Fast Hitch and sting on Bilbo to quest for two, take undefended damage, and ready him to join the attack on the giant.
I’m glad I’m not the only one who was wondering what was up with Dori’s arms. Thanks for confirming that I’m not crazy.
Bilbo defending with Sting with Dori back-up sounds like a winning combo, especially if you can get some healing on Dori. Thanks for sharing!
Dori is one of my favorite Dwarf allies in the game, both for thematic and gameplay reasons. He is amazingly useful in any quest, in order to provide a “safety valve” for your heroes.
Compared to the other Dwarves (excluding Dáin), would you say he is “the strongest”? I know these types of rankings are tough to make because of the different utility of each card given the deck, but that’s what makes the discussion worthwhile. I’m not just talking attack strength, but overall usefulness. Who is the best non-Thorin, non-Dáin Dwarf? Maybe a poll for your blog? I guess I’d have to vote for Thalin.
[…] Mr. Murray’s work at Master of Lore twice before, both in The Eagles Are Coming! and Dori and he’s outdone himself again here, presenting a bold portrait of who he calls “a […]