Balin (Middle-earth)

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Tolkien character
AliasesLord of Moria
Book(s)The Hobbit
The Fellowship of the Ring
Unfinished Tales

Balin is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. He is an important supporting character in The Hobbit, and is mentioned in The Fellowship of the Ring.


Balin is the only dwarf of Thorin's company whose name does not come directly from the Old Norse poem "Völuspá", part of the Poetic Edda.[1] The name does appear in Le Morte d'Arthur, but Mallory's Sir Balin is not nearly as likeable a character.[1]


Early life[edit]

Balin was born in Erebor in T.A. 2763 the son of Fundin. In 2770, the year Balin turned 7, Erebor was sacked by Smaug, and the Dwarves went into exile. During that period his younger brother Dwalin was born. Their father Fundin was killed in 2799 in the Battle of Azanulbizar. In 2802 Balin and his brother settled in the Blue Mountains with their surviving family. In 2841, Balin and Dwalin were among those who set out with Thráin II,[2] but they lost Thráin and returned to the Blue Mountains.

The Hobbit[edit]

Balin is a dwarf member of Thorin Oakenshield's company of dwarves who in T.A. 2941 travel with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf in the Quest of Erebor, on which the plot of The Hobbit centres.

The second dwarf to arrive at Bilbo's house at the beginning of The Hobbit, preceded by his brother Dwalin, Balin is part of the company assembled by Thorin to kill the dragon Smaug and to retake the mountain kingdom of Erebor. Like his brother Dwalin, he plays a viol. Other than Thorin, he is the only one explicitly said to have been at the Mountain prior to the coming of the dragon. According to Appendix A in The Return of the King he was 7 years old while Thorin was 24 on that day. Among the company of dwarves, Balin is the second-eldest after Thorin.

Tolkien describes Balin as "their look-out man": he spots Bilbo approaching the Green Dragon Inn at Bywater, spots the trolls' fire in the Trollshaws, and is the first to see the elves in Mirkwood. After Thorin and Co. escape the goblins in the Misty Mountains, Balin as look-out for the company cannot notice Bilbo (made invisible by wearing the One Ring), and after this incident he comes to respect Bilbo's abilities as a burglar. Balin serves as the de facto spokesman for the party after the Elvenking captures the dwarves, as they do not at first realise that Thorin has been imprisoned with them as well.

In the course of the Quest, Balin is the Dwarf who develops the closest friendship with Bilbo.[3] He is the only one who volunteers to accompany Bilbo down the secret Erebor passage to Smaug. Some years after the Quest, he and Gandalf visit Bilbo in Bag End, where Balin tells of the mountain's glory restored in the years after the Battle of the Five Armies.

The Lord of the Rings[edit]

An artist's rendition of Balin's tomb. The inscription as devised by Tolkien translates to "Balin Son of Fundin, Lord of Moria".[4]

In T.A. 2989 Balin left Erebor and ventured to reclaim Moria with a company of dwarves including Óin and Ori (two of his companions from the Quest of Erebor), and Flói, Frár, Lóni, and Náli. Balin discovered Durin's Axe,[5] and established a small colony, but the dwarves were overrun by orcs soon afterward and Balin was killed by an orc archer in the Dimrill Dale in 2994. Thus he died in the same place his father had been killed.

In The Fellowship of the Ring, Gloin mentions that the fate of Balin's colony was uncertain, as no word had come from Moria in many a year. The Fellowship later comes upon Balin's tomb in the Chamber of Mazarbul, and learn of his fate from the dwarves' book of records. Balin's tomb is inscribed "Balin Fundinul Uzbad Khazad-Dûmu", with smaller runes beneath giving the translation into English (as the representation of Westron): "Balin, son of Fundin, Lord of Moria".


Ken Stott as Balin in The Hobbit film series

Don Messick voiced Balin in the 1977 animated version of The Hobbit. In the 2003 video game adaptation Balin is voiced by James Arnold Taylor.[6] In The Lord of the Rings Online (2007) Balin makes a brief appearance in the prologue for the Dwarven characters, set shortly before The Quest of Erebor. In the Mines of Moria expansion (2008) the fate of Balin's company is elaborated upon, as the players can revisit Balin's old campsite and witness signs of the dwarves' accomplishments in Khazad-dûm before their demise.

In Peter Jackson's film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings Gimli refers to Balin as his cousin but seems unaware that the dwarves who returned to Moria were in danger. When the Fellowship discover the Chamber of Mazarbul where Balin and other dwarves were dead, Gimli takes up Balin's axe in addition to those he already carries.

In Jackson's adaptation of The Hobbit, Balin is portrayed by Ken Stott. He is shown witnessing at first hand the arrival of Smaug in Erebor, and together with Thorin and Dwalin he fights in the Battle of Azanulbizar. In the aftermath of that battle, as king Thror is dead and Thráin missing, Balin accepts Thorin as the new king, and acts throughout the films as his most trusted advisor. Balin is initially skeptical of Bilbo's competence as a burglar. He attempts to talk Thorin out of pursuing the Quest of Erebor, but follows him without question when Thorin makes his decision clear. Balin signs Bilbo's contract as a witness and later tells him the story of Azog and how Thorin acquired the epithet "Oakenshield", and later explains to Bilbo the significance of the Arkenstone. When the company arrive at the hidden door of Erebor, Balin fears that Thorin might succumb to the same dragon-sickness as his grandfather, and he is seen weeping openly when his fears come true. When Bilbo departs after the Battle of the Five Armies, Balin personally bids him farewell.

Family tree[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rateliff, John D. (2007). The History of the Hobbit: Part I. Mr. Baggins. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 23–24. ISBN 0618968474.
  2. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, Appendix A:III p.358; ISBN 0 04 823047 2
  3. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1937), The Hobbit, 4th edition (1978), George Allen & Unwin, ch. XII p. 182; ISBN 0-04-823147-9
  4. ^ "Balin". The Encyclopedia of Arda. Mark Fisher. 1 March 2008. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  5. ^ The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Bridge of Khazad-dûm".
  6. ^ "The Hobbit (2003 video game) Cast & Crew". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 16 December 2014.

External links[edit]