So, yesterday, my friend read chapter 13 of the Hobbit to my 8 year old.
Me: “Why are most of the dwarves in this book? They have no function. Oin and Gloin, for instance? Cut those dudes out. Keep Balin, Thorin, maybe Kili. Or Fili. The rest… don’t need them.”
Friend: “They’re ensemble.”
Me: “And Bombur. He’s the most useless dwarf of all, and is the source of just about every bad situation. Bombur should stay home.”
And on chapter 13:
“All the dwarves do is cry about everything. Every single situation, they’re a bunch of spineless cowards, and it’s Bilbo who has to run the show. What a bunch of whiny, horrible characters.”
Except the spider battle in Mirkwood, where the dwarves actually fought. Let’s look at the record, shall we?
Trolls: Useless. All get captured. Bailed out by Gandalf.
Goblins: Useless. All get captured. Bailed out by Gandalf.
Wargs & Goblins: Useless and stuck in tree. Bailed out by Giant Eagles.
Meeting Beorn: Useless. Actually a liability to getting hosted.
Crossing the river in Mirkwood: Mostly useless (one useful dwarf). The fat one falls in and has to be carried by everyone else.
Hunting in Mirkwood: Useless. They catch nothing and starve.
Scouting: Useless. Bilbo has to climb the tree.
Meeting the Elves: Useless, just tick off the elves each time.
Spiders: Useless, all get captured and have to be rescued by Bilbo. Some of them fight, but most of them are incapable.
Elves: Useless, all get captured and have to be rescued by Bilbo in the barrels.
Barrels: Useless, Bilbo has to release them all after rescuing them.
Lake-town: They are able to do something (finally) based on their reputation.
Searching for the entrance: Useless. Bilbo figures it out.
Scouting the dragon: Useless. Bilbo does the work.
Escaping from the dragon: Useless. Bilbo must rally them and forces them to go into the lair of Smaug. But what if the dragon is there? HELLO!? Isn’t that what you were planning on?
At no point do the Dwarves manage to be pro-active about anything. They are a sum-zero waste of resources and provide for the hobbit to arc, nothing more.
And Thorin is a lousy leader. He accomplishes nothing. Does he ever lead? At the very end, in the 4 chapters coming, he does lead, sorta, but his leadership is lousy and leads to more conflict. How convenient.
Pity that JRR didn’t have a writer’s group to give him good feedback. I’m sure Clive probably *did* give good feedback but JRR ignored it. That would have gotten rid of the extra dwarf baggage and tightened up the narrative some.