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Are there too many dwarfs with Bilbo and Gandalf?

Belthil

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Seven was enough for the Brothers Grimm and they knew how to tell a tale or two.

Having just finished reading The Hobbit it occurred that not all the dwarfs have fully fleshed out characters and it can be difficult to remember who is who. Do we know why Tolkien chose thirteen?
I think Tolkien was just in a rebbelious mood, defying fate... :)

The number 13 is considered an unlucky number in some countries. The end of the Mayan calendar's 13th Baktun was superstitiously feared as a harbinger of the apocalyptic 2012 phenomenon. Fear of the number 13 has a specifically recognized phobia, Triskaidekaphobia, a word coined in 1911. The superstitious sufferers of triskaidekaphobia try to avoid bad luck by keeping away from anything numbered or labelled thirteen. As a result, companies and manufacturers use another way of numbering or labelling to avoid the number, with hotels and tall buildings being conspicuous examples (thirteenth floor). It is also considered unlucky to have thirteen guests at a table. Friday the 13th has been considered an unlucky day.

There are a number of theories as to why the number thirteen became associated with bad luck, but none of them have been accepted as likely.

  • The Last Supper: At Jesus Christ's last supper, there were thirteen people around the table, counting Christ and the twelve apostles. Some believe this is unlucky because one of those thirteen, Judas Iscariot, was the betrayer of Jesus Christ. From the 1890s, a number of English language sources relate the "unlucky" thirteen to an idea that at the Last Supper, Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th to sit at the table.
  • Knights Templar: On Friday 13 October 1307, King Philip IV of France ordered the arrest of the Knights Templar, and most of the knights were tortured and killed.
 
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Merroe

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Indeed Rivendell_librarian: why 13!?

Having checked a number of my sources, there is no trace as far as I can look.

I chased some bad ends which are mentioned here just for reference (yet worthless):
  • Aule initially created 13 dwarves. This corresponding number must be a coincidence though: the dwarves were soon organised under the Seven Fathers. Moreover, it seems very unlikely that JRRT had that in mind already in the very early days when he wrote TH.
  • The 13 dwarves in his company needed to represent all Seven Kingdoms, maybe? Only Durin's name is ever mentioned, and I have seen no information that their combined lineage covered all Seven Kingdoms. In fact, it is much more logical that all of them answered to Durin's lineage alone, because they answered to Thorin's call.
Belthil's reference to the ill-luck figure is an option. From my own side, shortly and honestly concluded, I don't know. :(

Anyone else...?
 
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Thanks for trying Merroe. I've got The Road to Middle earth lined up as a book to read sometime so maybe the answer (or a clue) is there. However, I do think that with 13 dwarfs there are too many to flesh out their characters properly. In fact one of the more rounded characters is smaug!

I didn't know that about Friday 13 and The Knights Templar. Thanks Belthil
 

Olorgando

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JRRT’s source fort the names of the Dwarves in TH was the Völuspá (or “Prophecy of the Seeress”), according to Wikipedia “the first and best known poem of the Poetic (or “Elder”) Edda” and “It is one of the most important primary sources for the study of Norse mythology.” Within this is the "Dvergatal" ("Catalogue of Dwarves"), apparently considered of dubious source. JRRT got almost all of the names of the Dwarves (and a to him “odd man out” Gandalfr!) from this list, which would have made for a much larger group of Dwarves.

But I’d guess that Belthil has pretty much covered the 13-as-an-unlucky-number territory. With JRRT being a devout Catholic, my vote would go to the Last Supper. So, Gandalf chose Bilbo, among some other reasons (all provided by JRRT after publication of LoTR), to up the unlucky thirteen to the “baker’s dozen” fourteen (this 12=14 is apparently a late development. Mostly it seems to have meant 12=13. Oh well :( ).
 

Squint-eyed Southerner

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Tolkien later expressed some regret about "this rabble of dwarves out of Voluspa". But T.A. Shippey notes that he must have examined it closely and critically -- more than most scholars did; for one thing, what was an elf -- 'Gandalfr' -- doing in there with a pack of dwarves? Tolkien apparently decided the prefix meant 'wand', and that a 'Wand-Elf' -- whatever that means -- must have once had some sort of association with a company of Dwarves, in a poem or story now lost.

Also on the list, something that looks like a nickname: 'Eikinskjialdi' --- 'Oakenshield'. What does that mean?

As we know, Tolkien supplied the answers -- and stories and poems -- himself.
 
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Belthil

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Tolkien later expressed some regret about "this rabble of dwarves out of Voluspa". But T.A. Shippey notes that he must have examined it closely and critically -- more than most scholars did; for one thing, what was an elf -- 'Gandalfr' -- doing in there with a pack of dwarves? Tolkien apparently decided the prefix meant 'wand', and that a 'Wand-Elf' -- whatever that means -- must have once had some sort of association with a company of Dwarves, in a poem or story now lost.

Also on the list, something that looks like a nickname: 'Eikinskjialdi' --- 'Oakenshield'. What does that mean?

As we know, Tolkien supplied the answers -- and stories and poems -- himself.
Good of you to ponder on the Voluspa! Such an important and wonderfull piece of work!!

This Voluspa site: http://www.voluspa.org/voluspa.htm gives indept commentary! :)
 

CirdanLinweilin

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I think Tolkien was just in a rebbelious mood, defying fate... :)

The number 13 is considered an unlucky number in some countries. The end of the Mayan calendar's 13th Baktun was superstitiously feared as a harbinger of the apocalyptic 2012 phenomenon. Fear of the number 13 has a specifically recognized phobia, Triskaidekaphobia, a word coined in 1911. The superstitious sufferers of triskaidekaphobia try to avoid bad luck by keeping away from anything numbered or labelled thirteen. As a result, companies and manufacturers use another way of numbering or labelling to avoid the number, with hotels and tall buildings being conspicuous examples (thirteenth floor). It is also considered unlucky to have thirteen guests at a table. Friday the 13th has been considered an unlucky day.

There are a number of theories as to why the number thirteen became associated with bad luck, but none of them have been accepted as likely.


  • The Last Supper: At Jesus Christ's last supper, there were thirteen people around the table, counting Christ and the twelve apostles. Some believe this is unlucky because one of those thirteen, Judas Iscariot, was the betrayer of Jesus Christ. From the 1890s, a number of English language sources relate the "unlucky" thirteen to an idea that at the Last Supper, Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th to sit at the table.
  • Knights Templar: On Friday 13 October 1307, King Philip IV of France ordered the arrest of the Knights Templar, and most of the knights were tortured and killed.
I didn't know about the Judas one, and I am Catholic! :O


CL
 

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