The Resurrection of Durin

As my regular PC is in the shop, the neo-khuzdul translations I was working on grinded to a sudden halt.  Though I had made a backup of most of the documents I was working on, some of the files are just too enormous to run on my little old backup-PC.

Hence the idea of writing another article for the blog in the meanwhile slowly took form.  Asking around for suggestions I quickly received some superb ideas concerning things people always wanted to know about the dwarves, but never had seen answered.   I believe I have received enough excellent suggestions to create many new articles in the months to come.  So thank you all for that.

There were many ideas I wanted to start researching straight away, one of them jumped out just a bit more than the others, which is the topic I want to talk about now.

Mike. wrote: “I never understood how the whole resurrection of Durin worked.  Was Durin II son of Durin the Deathless? If he was, how could Durin the Deathless have been “reborn” in Durin II, if they at one point were both alive?  Also, Tolkien says that Durin the Deathless died at the end of the First Age, living longer than any other dwarf. Yet at the same time says that Durin’s line never failed, from father to son.  Surely Durin must have seen his children die and grandchildren die, perhaps even many generations.  How did he hold his line in check from not claiming the thrown during his reign?  Looking forward to your view on my questions DS”

Thank you so much for your excellent question Mike.

Let me start with your first question: “I never understood how the whole resurrection of Durin worked.  Was Durin II son of Durin the Deathless? If he was, how could Durin the Deathless have been “reborn” in Durin II, if they at one point were both alive?

For those that don’t know exactly what you are talking about, this refers to appendix A in the appendixes of Rotk

There he lived so long that he was known far and wide as Durin the Deathless. Yet, in the end he died before the Elder Days had passed, and his tomb was in Khazad-Dûm: but his line never failed and five times an heir was born in his House so like to his Forefather that he received the name of Durin. He was indeed held by the Dwarves to be the Deathless that returned, for they have many strange tales and beliefs concerning themselves and their fate in the world.

In this quote I believe we already find the answer to your first question. In my opinion Durin II could not have been the son of Durin the Deathless.   Apart from writing “Forefather”, Tolkien writes: “the Deathless that returned”.  If both were alive at the same time he could not have “returned” at the time of the birth of Durin II, as he was still alive.  Some have suggested the possibility that the soul of Durin the Deathless would have transferred to Durin II on the night of his death, but I cannot agree with that as I find it to be contradicting to the quote above.   Now, according to me this does give us a hint when Durin II would have been born.   “…an heir was born in his House so like to his Forefather that he received the name of Durin. He was indeed held by the Dwarves to be the Deathless that returned …” This means it is very likely that the dwarves would have known the previous Durin when the heir was born, to be able to judge this likeness.  It is possible off course that statues of the previous Durin existed.  Meaning that Durin II was likely born at the start of the Second Age, as we know Durin the Deathless died at the end of the First Age, so keeping their lifetimes within one generation of each other.

Tolkien strengthens the idea that Durin II was no son of Durin the Deathless in this quote from Last Writings (HoMe XII):

“For the Dwarves asserted that the spirits of the Seven Fathers of their races were from time to time reborn in their kindreds. This was notably the case in the race of the Longbeards whose ultimate forefather was called Durin, a name which was taken at intervals by one of his descendants, but by no others but those in a direct line of descent from Durin I… Of these Durin’s the Dwarves reported that they retained memory of their former lives as Kings, as real, and yet naturally as incomplete, as if they had been consecutive years of life in one person.
How this came to pass the Elves do not know; nor would the Dwarves tell them much more of the matter. But the Elves of Valinor knew of a strange tale of Dwarvish origins, which the Noldor brought to Middle-earth, and asserted that they had learned it from Aulë himself… The Dwarves add that at that time Aulë gained them also this privilege that distinguished them from Elves and Men: that the spirit of each of the Fathers should, at the end of the long span of life allotted to Dwarves, fall asleep, but then lie in a tomb of his own body, at rest, and their its weariness and any hurts that had befallen it should be amended. Then after long years he should arise and take up his kingship again.”

For some the last line “Then after long years he should arise and take up his kinship again.” Was seen as a sign that every Durin was in fact the very same dwarf.   I don’t entirely agree with that assumption.  As the “he” in “he should arise” refers to the spirit of the Father (in this case Durin).  Tolkien states clearly that he rests in a tomb of his own body.  So the body of Durin the Deathless did not arise to walk Arda again, yet his spirit did and found a new home in the body of his own offspring.   So not a resurrection, but a  reincarnation in fact.

It is interesting to notes that this isn’t something exclusive for the Longbeards, but this gift was given to all the seven fathers.

This does make me wonder one important thing though, how did the dwarves know without a doubt that the son of the current King was indeed the spirit Durin the Deathless reborn ?

“…an heir was born in his House so like to his Forefather that he received the name of Durin.”

“Of these Durins the Dwarves reported that they retained memory of their former lives as Kings, as real, and yet naturally as incomplete, as if they had been consecutive years of life in one person.”

This would indicate that the dwarves did not give their children* an outer name at birth (*or at least those of direct Royal line).  The likeness here could have be physical, but would obviously have been spiritual.  Tolkien stated that dwarves were born with beards, perhaps the beard of the new-born was like that of Durin the Deathless – though I doubt a new-born dwarf would have had a beard alike to that of an elder dwarf (yet, perhaps that was the likeness that gave it away).  But as it was the spirit that found a new home in the young dwarf, it would be logical that the dwarves would wait for some sign of the little one to indicate it was indeed Durin the Deathless reborn.

As the dwarves have both an outer and inner name (see previous articles on this), there would have been no pressure for the father of the young dwarf-prince to give his heir an outer name, as the child already had a name used by his family (his secret inner name).  In addition to the fact dwarven children are hidden from the outside world, as their parents are highly protective of them, the inner name would suffice for years.  Until the young heir was old enough to venture out of the Halls of his father would an outer name really be of any use.   Meaning that there was plenty of time for young dwarf prince to prove that Durin the Deathless had returned within him.  As the memories of Durin the Deathless would have been as real to the young dwarf as his own, this should not have proven too much difficulty to convince the dwarves that Durin was reborn.

 

Turning to the second part of Mike’s question:

Also, Tolkien says that Durin the Deathless died at the end of the First Age, living longer than any other dwarf. Yet at the same time says that Durin’s line never failed, from father to son.  Surely Durin must have seen his children die and grandchildren die, perhaps even many generations.  How did he hold his line in check from not claiming the thrown during his reign?”

Most would think that Durin the Deathless would have seen many of his children and grandchildren die.

I don’t agree with that myself.  Though Tolkien mentions that no other dwarf lived longer than Durin the Deathless and that this gift of long life became less with every generation, being stronger though with those that were named Durin.  We must not forget a very important detail in this story, and that is that the Fathers (and their spouses) were laid to sleep for a very long time. During this time they obviously had no children, hence their first children were born long after they themselves were created.   So, did Durin see any of his offspring die before he himself passed away?

Well, we know that by the third age life-expectancy of the dwarves had been reduced to around 250.  Which is indeed true for the majority of the Kings mentioned in Tolkien’s overview of Durin’s Folk.  Durin the Deathless was created by Mahal many years before the awakening of the Elves.  So let’s say he was created in the year 900 of the Years of Trees.  And died at the end of the First Age, for the sake of our example here, let’s say in 567 F.A. This would fit with all of the known lore.  This would make Durin the Deathless 6316 Years old at his time of death (multiplying Valian years with 9,582).

Knowing that the children of the first generation were born after 1090 YoT (after the dwarves awake) and gently reducing the age expectancy with 3 to 9% every generation until we reach the end of the First age (when Durin the Deathless died) we notice that the next in line to be King would have been Durin’s eldest son, who himself would have likely reached the fine age of 5000 (deducted by the notion that age expectancy gradually reduced over time).   This means that Durin the Deathless would not have seen any of his children or grandchildren die.  Though his offspring was not as long lived as him, the fact that he slept for a very long time before he had children allowed him to see many generations be born and none of them die.

The children of Durin the Deathless would not have been that lucky unfortunately, as they would have seen many generations of their offspring die (as their offspring died earlier each generation).

It could be argued off course that as they were long-lived they likely had children at still an older age than dwarves in the 3rd age.  I don’t believe this would have been the case.  For three reasons:

* Tolkien mentions that the army of King Azaghâl in the Battle of Unnumbered Tears numbered 6.000 dwarves. Assuming that the majority of the male Broadbeam dwarves entered this battle, this gives us a clear view on dwarven population numbers of this period.   If it was the custom of the Kings of old to have children at an age far greater than one-hundred (which is about the dwarven custom), it would simply have been impossible to reach this number of 6.000.   To reach this number the dwarves of elder days would also have fathered many more children than was the custom by the third age. But more on that topic in a future article.

* In HoME XII a similar question is raised (How many Kings were there between Durin I and Durin IV?) and it seems Tolkien changed his mind a few times on the topic.  On a piece of paper he had first written “5”, which he later replace by “12”, and later still by “many”.  This is speculation, but perhaps it can be suggested that Tolkien also did the math and noticed that it would have taken many dozens of generations to given them the numbers he had in mind.

* When Mahal created the seven fathers they were already adult dwarves, ready to have children of their own. They slept for about 200 years of the Trees (about 1800 years in our reckoning), so for them to wait any longer still to have had children would not make any sense, nor would it make possible the dwarven numbers that are mentioned in later stories.

You also asked: “How did he hold his line in check from not claiming the thrown during his reign?”

Well, I don’t believe this would have been a problem that Durin the Deathless faced himself.  He was Mahal’s first dwarf and his son would have become the next King after all.  This problem would have arisen with his grandchildren and those that followed.  As they became old and eventually died, while the son of Durin was still alive.  After a few generations you might expect that sooner or later an heir was born that did not agree with the fact that he was not going to be King, due to the fact that his great-great-grand-daddy, the King, was still around.

I personally doubt that however, as the important thing here is that we should not compare the behaviors and succession customs of men with those of dwarves.   The succession of the Numenorean Kings saw such problems, as a result of their extended age they chose to have children at a later age (some having children still when they had passed the age of one-hundred).  This ensured they did not have too many living generations in their line, making their rule a more solid one as there were less contenders for the crown.  With the dwarves I cannot see this happen so easily as we must not forget that Mahal made the fathers (rulers of each house) and their line was practically a sacred institute. The Kings of men did not necessarily come in a straight line from the very first man that roamed the East, hence the line of the Kings of men could have been contested more easily as well.   With dwarves, challenging that “sacred institute”, would have been “not done”, as in a way it would have challenged the wisdom of Mahal himself.

I hope that answers your great question Mike, and it proves interesting reading for all.

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About The Dwarrow Scholar

The Dwarrow Scholar first experienced the brilliance of Tolkien when he received a copy of The Hobbit from his uncle as a kid, reading it feverishly again and again. Some years on, when he got his very own walk-man (aye forget about tiny iPods, this thing was a brick and played cassette tapes) he made his own little audiotape of The Hobbit, so he could listen to it on his bike on his way to school. Between reenacting the Battle of Five armies with 4 of his school friends (still feel sorry for the kid that had to be the Orc) and before the days of internet, you would find Roy frequently in libraries trying to find all he could about Tolkien and his beloved dwarves. When Roy isn’t delving into Neo-Khuzdul or searching for lost dwarven treasures on the net he’s enjoying time with his wife and son, re-reading his tormented Tolkien paperbacks, watching a good movie, learning new languages or playing a game of LoTRO on Laurelin as Kandral Strongbeard.
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