He brings out the best in others but the worst in himself, and his contradicting traits come through in the end. Some may find him useless to the plot, others might see him as essential to the growth of other characters. His position may be challenged, but his history will forever remain the same. He is Thorin Oakenshield, the greedy, arrogant, first leader of the expedition, who gains wisdom only in his death.
Thorin has penchant for money and is strong and prideful with others. When he was captured by the elf-king, who also has a weakness for treasure, “especially for silver and white gems; and though his hoard was rich, he was ever eager for more, since he had not yet as great a treasure as other elflords of old.” (Pg. 195) The elf-king persisted in asking Thorin about his intentions, such as asking him the reason for “three times trying to attack his people at their merrymaking.” (Pg. 196) All Thorin would reply was, “Looking for food and drink, because they were starving.” Thorin is willing to say anything to keep his information of the treasure to himself, as he stubbornly replies the same answer to the elf-king’s every demand. He refuses to expose any details about the treasure, and is “determined that no word of gold and jewels should be dragged out him.” (Pg. 196) Thorin is too prideful to admit that he has a secret, has a huge unwillingness to bend to the will of others; and is too greedy to share any of his information to anyone as he has an over desire for his family treasure.
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Thorin’s arrogance lets Bilbo seize the chance and become a true hero to himself and his companions. Thorin uses his talent of dressing words up to suggest to Bilbo that he should go into the secret passage first, and at the same time shirking the riskiest activities, forcing the small hobbit to face them instead. Thorin is too arrogant to admit that he is afraid to be harmed by anything in the secret passage, as he says here: “Now it is time for our esteemed Mr. Baggins, who has proved himself a good companion on our long road, and a hobbit full of courage and resource for exceeding the usual
allowance – now is the time for him to perform the service for which he was included in our Company; now it is the time for him to earn his Reward.” (Page. 246) Thorin is implying that he wants Bilbo to enter the tunnel first, the “service” being Bilbo’s agreement to be a burglar, but he has to say it in the most formal way possible by speaking with mock politeness and stiffness; offending Bilbo with his sarcastic and selfish sayings, yet at the same time appealing to Bilbo’s ego and unleashing his Tookish side.
You can tell that Bilbo has become more confident as he prepares to enter the tunnel: “He was trembling with fear, but his little face was set and grim. Already he was a very different hobbit from the one that had run out without a pocket-handkerchief for ages.” (Pg. 248) Thorin’s pride gets in the way of himself, setting off Bilbo’s best qualities that were unknown to the readers and creating a leadership void that provides Bilbo the chance to seize the initiative and become a true hero.
By the end of the novel, Thorin’s arrogance gets him into trouble, but he dies with words of friendship and praise for Bilbo on his lips. Even though he has benefited from the help of many people along the way to reach the treasure and gold, once he gets his hands on Smaug’s treasure, he becomes irrationally greedy and obsessed with wealth, to the extent that he would rather wage a violent war than give the men from Lake Town their fair share of the treasure.
His intense desire for the treasure, typical of the dwarf love for “beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic” (Pg. 19), and his refusal to reconcile with the elves add to the tension in the plot and to Thorin’s and Bilbo’s friendship. When he dies of fatal wounds suffered in the Battle of Five Armies, he is buried with the Arkenstone, a gesture of love but also of the futility of battling for treasure. It is only in his death that he apologizes to Bilbo, “Farewell, good thief… I wish to part in friendship from you, and I would take back my words and deeds at the gate… If more of us valued food and cheer and song about hoarded gold, it would be a much better world.” (Pg. 333) He finally realizes the wrong in his deeds and knows the importance of true value.
Overall, Thorin Oakenshield is a stubborn, proud person that is especially
foible to the appeal of jewels, yet he can also be a thoughtful, decent person if you give him time to think about the situation. He might be a straight-forward thinker that makes decisions rashly, and he might be selfish and conceited, but he is a noble person and would never give up without a fight. He plays a big role in showing the readers Bilbo’s true abilities, and despite his mistakes, he winds up coming through in the end when it really counts, which makes him a true, brave hero in The Hobbit to me.