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Old 06-10-2013, 04:47 AM   #1
Zigūr
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Dwarf shortage

This may seem like an odd question but... does anyone else think that the Dwarves in the films are too small? Not too short necessarily, but they always seem to me to be rather tetchy when they appear alongside Men and Elves, as opposed to the stout and stocky way they appear in my head. The Professor describes them as being 4.5-5 feet I believe, and while I appreciate that we generally see them around Elves and High Men which might skew the perspective, I can't help but feel that they don't come across as particularly robust or solidly built compared to the other people around them. They just seem rather small, like bearded Hobbits. I didn't notice this as much with Gimli (although I still did to some extent). It might be exacerbated by the fact that some of the 'focus Dwarves' in "An Unexpected Journey", such as Thorin, are kind of slim. It's also possible that the Hobbits are a little taller than in the books (and so is Gandalf, for that matter); Bilbo barely seems smaller than any of the Dwarves.

It particularly struck me during the moon-runes scene, from which there is an excerpt here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CjA_Pb3bk8
Is it just me, or do the Dwarves seem tiny, and Bilbo really quite large? I realise there's only so much visual trickery that can be done but I rather like to imagine that the Dwarves compensate for their smaller stature with an altogether broader frame (more square than rectangular, if you will). Here they just seem, well, little.

I apologise if this comes across as a rather bizarre thread but the notion has been weighing on my mind for some time, which probably suggests that I have too much of it free. And I would be curious to know if there were any other Dwarf proportion enthusiasts out there!
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Old 06-10-2013, 06:24 AM   #2
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There might be something in that though I am not best placed to judge as I have as yet still only seen stills of the hobbit. However I would say that while John Rhys Davies is tall he also has a large frame (in the Indiana Jones films he appeared substantial compared to the far from short and weedy Harrison Ford) which scaled down fairly well to my mind to a stocky but active dwarf. The actors playing the current dwarves that I know from other things are tallish and lighter built. Lanky even in some cases. Scaled down they seem a bit flimsy.
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Old 06-10-2013, 11:08 AM   #3
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I thought so too. The biggest reason, I think, is what Zigūr said - there's only so much you can do with visual manipulation, and the actors already had to wear fatsuits.

However, there's also a risk of making dwarves look too stocky. Last summer at the Return of the Ring, Tolkien artist Jenny Dolfen told an anecdote about somebody suggesting that the width of a dwarf's shoulders should be five times their head (while normally the width is 2-3 times the head), effectively resulting in pictures that look like this:

(Yes I really just made it for you, I'm that bored.)
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Old 06-10-2013, 02:18 PM   #4
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Contrarily, I do think that the dwarves are just a little bit too short and don't have a problem with their stockiness or lack thereof. I wasn't so bothered by their stockiness because I figure even dwarves are going to have different body types.

I was more bothered by a couple of scenes in the film where the techniquies to make the dwarves look dwarf-sized failed utterly, the Battle of Azanulbizar where the dwarves are charging is the worst offender in this regard. The charging dwarves in that scene are so obviously human sized that it renders the scene cover-your-eyes awful. And that really worries me as to what the Battle of Five Armies will look like.

There were also a couple of instances where the dwarves would seem to randomly change sizes relative to their surroundings and other people because of the differences in height between the actor and their stand-in.

However, these are the perils that come with trying to do a live action film that has a race or two who count short height as one of their defining characteristics.
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Old 06-11-2013, 03:06 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mithalwen View Post
However I would say that while John Rhys Davies is tall he also has a large frame (in the Indiana Jones films he appeared substantial compared to the far from short and weedy Harrison Ford) which scaled down fairly well to my mind to a stocky but active dwarf. The actors playing the current dwarves that I know from other things are tallish and lighter built. Lanky even in some cases. Scaled down they seem a bit flimsy.
Perhaps this is why I didn't find it nearly as noticeable in the other films. I saw John Rhys-Davies at a convention a few years ago and he's definitely a large man, which probably helps a good deal.

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However, there's also a risk of making dwarves look too stocky. Last summer at the Return of the Ring, Tolkien artist Jenny Dolfen told an anecdote about somebody suggesting that the width of a dwarf's shoulders should be five times their head (while normally the width is 2-3 times the head), effectively resulting in pictures that look like this:
...
(Yes I really just made it for you, I'm that bored.)
Thank you! Five heads does seem a bit excessive, although if a Dwarf had a broader head than a Man the 3 headspans scale might work a bit better. Perhaps Dwarves' heads just seem bigger due to their beards.

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Contrarily, I do think that the dwarves are just a little bit too short
...
I was more bothered by a couple of scenes in the film where the techniquies to make the dwarves look dwarf-sized failed utterly, the Battle of Azanulbizar where the dwarves are charging is the worst offender in this regard. The charging dwarves in that scene are so obviously human sized that it renders the scene cover-your-eyes awful. And that really worries me as to what the Battle of Five Armies will look like.
My original complaint was just going to be 'too short' but I felt like some issue of breadth might become involved too given that the Men and Elves they encounter are more often of the 'High' variety. I just imagine Dwarves being physically imposing; in the film, however, compared to Elrond, for example, they just seem miniscule. I've always felt they should be rather burly; I suppose I almost kind of imagine that if Durin's Folk were to other Dwarves what the Noldor were to Elves and the Dśnedain to Men to some extent, and that would translate into a kind of bulk. I agree that their height varies wildly in the films. I think Azanulbizar is not helped by their CGI opponents giving absolutely no frame of reference either. I kind of imagine that the "massive" film Azog, who towers over Thorin on his Warg, might come up to an Elf's chin. It's also not helped by the fact that Bilbo appears to be about four feet tall, not somewhere between two and three feet.
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Old 06-11-2013, 03:50 AM   #6
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Tolkien says hobbits coult be up to fourfoot normally a little shorter than dwarves. The Bullroarer was four foot five and only Merry and Pippin were taller. Now Tolkien notes that they were halflings related full Numenorean height which had diminished by the end of the third age though Aragorn was still very talll at about six foot six and Boromir a couple of inches shorter. Now Tolkien tends to make his central charactwers tall for their kind and the higher status characters tend to be literally higher so it would be conitent if Frodo Merry and Pippin as high born hobbits were closer to four foot than three even pre ent draught and so closer to two thirds than half the height of the men and elves.
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Old 06-11-2013, 04:27 AM   #7
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Tolkien says hobbits coult be up to fourfoot normally a little shorter than dwarves. The Bullroarer was four foot five and only Merry and Pippin were taller.
So they were, the Prologue says two to four feet and not, as I thought, two to three. Evidently my Hobbit-lore is not up to scratch! "An obscure branch of knowledge, but full of surprises" indeed.
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Old 06-11-2013, 06:40 AM   #8
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Verily and there is the comment that they now seldom pass three feet which is misleading unless you keep the translator conceit firmly in mind and remember that he means at the time of Tolkien "translating" the red book rather than when the events recorded took place.
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Old 06-11-2013, 07:24 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Zigūr View Post
I think Azanulbizar is not helped by their CGI opponents giving absolutely no frame of reference either.
"Frames of reference" are an interesting thing to reflect on regarding dwarves because as a race one of their defining characteristics only becomes apparent in relation to others, i.e. they need others around to help define themselves.

This has always kind of bugged me and I've thought from time to time it would be nice to have a story that centers on dwarves, but you can't tell that they are "dwarves" until well into the plot when they meet members of another race for the first time and are shorter than the other race.

This issue also calls to mind the Elder Scrolls universe where the (sadly extinct ) Dwemer are more or less the same size as everyone else but are considered "dwarves" because they spent so much time interacting with giants.
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Old 06-11-2013, 11:10 AM   #10
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Yes. I havev always thought that the Breelanders were probably seldom more than wha we would think of as average height with most on the shorter side of it. Think of Aragorn's Bree nicknames, Strider and Longshanks,. He could have been up to a foot taller than the typical Breelanders which means there was typically a smaller height difference between Breelanders and Dwarves than Breelanders and Rangers. It may have been a factor in their suspicion of the Rangers.

Elrond with lineage featuring Thingol and Tuor as well as a prime Noldorin strain should have been big but Tolkien describes as stocky with hobbits being smaller even when not much shorter. A dwarf should give an impression of great strength and not in a wiry way.
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Old 06-12-2013, 06:08 AM   #11
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Hobbits heights... or some citations I've collected about this

An extract from a letter apparently addressed to Tolkien's American publishers, and probably written in March or April 1938. Houghton Mifflin seem to have asked JRRT to supply drawings of hobbits for use in some future edition of The Hobbit.



Quote:
(...) The feet from the ankles down, covered with brown hairy fur. Clothing: green velvet breeches; red or yellow waistcoat; brown or green jacket; gold (or brass) buttons; a dark green hood and cloak (belonging to a dwarf).

Actual size – only important if other objects are in picture – say about three feet or three feet six inches. The hobbit in the picture of the gold-hoard, Chapter XII, is of course (apart from being fat in the wrong places) enormously too large. But (as my children, at any rate, understand) he is really in a separate picture or 'plane' – being invisible to the dragon.

JRRT, letter 27

Much later, in one note dated around 1969, as I read the following anyway, JRRT ended up describing full grown males at an average of 3 foot 5 inches.



Quote:
'... to this: Dwarves about 4 foot high at least. Hobbits were lighter in build, but not much shorter; their tallest men were 4 ft. but seldom taller. Though nowadays their survivors are seldom 3 feet high, in the days of the story they were taller which means that they usually exceeded 3 ft. and qualified for the name halfling. But the name halfling must have originated circa TA 1150, getting on for some 2,000 years (1868) before the War of the Ring, during which the dwindling of the Numenoreans had shown itself in stature as well as life-span. So that it referred to a height of full grown males of an average of, say, 3 ft. 5.'

That's quoted in The Reader's Guide to The Lord of the Rings, Hammond And Scull. Another contemporary note states that at the time of the story the average height of a male adult hobbit: Harfoots at 3 foot 6, Fallohides slimmer and a little taller, and Stoors broader, stouter, and a little shorter. In The Hobbit it's noted generally that 'hobbits are smaller than the bearded Dwarves'.

In one of these late notes JRRT also said that the remarks in the Prologue are unnecessarily vague regarding the height of Hobbits.
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