For those paying very careful attention, there was some level of distress when 2012 started and there still was no casting announcement for Dain in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, due this December, and The Hobbit: There And Back Again, which is set for 2013.
The diehards are probably nodding, but for those who haven’t read The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien in a long time — or ever — don’t worry because we will introduce you to one of the biggest, baddest muthers in Dwarfdom and all of Middle-earth. Even the absurdly deadly elves like Legolas charted a wide path around this chap on the battlefield.
A month ago came the announcement: Finally there was a Dain role and it would be filled by Billy Connolly, a Scottish actor known best for his stand-up comedy. It was also noted that casting was complete. Connolly isn’t a household name to Americans, but in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, he is beloved. His comedy is easy enough to find on YouTube, although it isn’t safe for work. (Unless it’s okay to cuss like a drill sergeant, truck driver and sailor at work.)
While Connolly seems a good physical fit for the role, it was confirmation of his character Dain being included as an important piece of the casting puzzle that should be a real shot of adrenaline to fans. With an already full slate of Dwarves, there was a thought that perhaps Thorin or one of his kinsmen would take over Dain’s role in the plot. While this might simplify things for the audience, it would leave out the dynamic bad-boy of Middle-earth. But now that we know he is in, lets make introductions, keeping in mind that this is an adaptation and could change.
Dain is actually officially Dain II Ironfoot and by the time we meet him in The Hobbit films, he is a veteran of bloody wars and is a Dwarven death-dealer of great renown. Of course Jackson may well take the time to detail his history instead of just having him and his army walk on stage before a major battle in the second film. But even if he doesn’t, let’s look back at the information we get from Appendix A in Lord of The Rings, including a little history lesson.
HISTORY (but we promise it's not boring!)
The poor Dwarves lost one kingdom to the Balrog for 1,000 years and another to the dragon Smaug for 150, so we see them in Jackson’s films at less than their best.
Years before events in The Hobbit, the exiled dwarf king, Thror, wandered into Moria to check things out and never came out alive. A nasty orc called Azog (played in The Hobbit by Conan Stevens) killed him, carved “Azog” in his head and tossed it outside Moria to some other Dwarves with a mocking bag of coin.
The Dwarves were enraged and deeply offended so they hunted down orcs and fought bloody battles underground for nearly a decade, and finally ended up in a showdown outside the gates of Moria, still trying to kill Azog. And here is where Dain enters the picture.
THE YOUNG WARRIOR
This last, great battle between the races was so fierce that it is said to still cause “Orcs to shudder and Dwarves to weep.” Carnage, blood, and the attempted annihilation of each race by the other make the combat tragic and epic. Dain was there as a young fighter, barely old enough to be allowed to fight at all.
His father was also there and Dain was forced to watch his own father fall by the same creature Azog, who then was about to escape back into the mines. In Tolkien’s own words: “Right before the doors he caught Azog, and there he slew him, and hewed off his head.”
He used his famous red ax to slay Azog — lets hope we get to see it, and this bit of history, in the films. Afterwards, the Dwarves thought they would move back into Moria but Dain stood alone at the entrance, gazed into the darkness, saw the Balrog and led his people away, refusing to enter. That would be enough to make Dain famous, but his history of butt-kicking was far from over.
THE BATTLE OF FIVE ARMIES
Dain and his armies were the great hope of Thorin Oakenshield (his second cousin) during the late stages of the tale told in The Hobbit. It was to him they looked to bring the physical might of Dwarves to The Lonely Mountain to preserve the treasure there, even if it meant military action against Elves and the Men of Laketown.
And why not? Dain, and his band of fighters had lived through that terrible war with goblins and learned slaying on that battlefield and after, carving out a tough existence and hunting down more of their sworn enemies. They were well equipped and tough and deadly. It also brought Dain back to the battlefield against the son of Azog, named Bolg. After the battle, Dain went on to become a king himself, but still his battles and acts of greatness were not done.
THE WAR OF THE RING
It isn’t stated in the Lord of the Rings movies, but the war was spread beyond just what we see on film. When Sauron couldn’t get the Dwarves to join him, even with the lure of a great Dwarven ring (they sent Gimli to warn Elrond instead) troops were sent north to attack them and the men of Dale.
Dain was there again, fighting side-by-side with men against a common foe, even though by now he was over 250 years-old. When the king of men fell before the Gates of the Lonely Mountain, Dain stood over him, protecting his body, still wielding that mighty ax. It was there he died, but the mountain fortress was preserved and the army defeated, keeping Sauron from invading Rivendell and other places with his fortress. Of the battle Gandalf said:
“When you think of the great Battle of the Pelennor, do not forget the battles in Dale and the valor of Durin’s Folk.”
Just weeks before Dain’s noble death defending his friend, Gandalf defeated the Balrog, clearing the way for the Dwarves to eventually settle their ancient kingdom again.
As a vet of three of the great Dwarven wars, and somebody who proved great valor in all three, Dain II Ironfoot is surely one of the great fighters in Middle-earth history. Will Jackson have the time and the will to present this on screen? We can only wait until December to find out.
Larry D. Curtis, as part of the team at TheOneRing.net, has been comprehensively covering the works and adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien for more than a decade, making the not-for-profit site the leading source about The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings for fans and film makers world wide. Curtis is one of the lead content producers for the site and represents it at conventions and press functions. You can read his The Hobbit Countdown here at Movies.com every other week. You can reach him at MrCere@TheOneRing.net.