I’d like to bring a bit of attention to Gimli’s last shot (see: Figure 1) in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). It’s lovely, it’s joyous, it’s brief, but it’s also terribly clever.
“Why” you’re probably wondering, “is a shot of Gimli in awe offalling petals… clever?”
It seems strange, I know, but with the help of The Silmarillion (1977), and a bit of patience for long text posts, all will become clear!
To those who have not read The Silmarillion, which is entirely understandable because of it’s admittedly Biblical writing style and swift pace, I’m going to provide a summary of relevant points. You can read the bolded lettering and understand the basics of what I’m conveying, but try to read the unbolded bits as well if only to further your understanding.
Eru Ilúvatar (God)is the all-powerful being who creates Eä, or existence.This means that he is the only one who can create other beings without answering to a higher power because he is the highest power.
He creates: the Ainur, the Maiar, Elves, and Men, respective to time of creation and power.
The Valar, the fourteen Ainur who shape Eru’s Eä into Arda, the world of which Middle-earth is only a continent (see: Figure 2), can create other beingsonly with Eru’s consent.
Eru keeps secret from the Ainur and Maiar the dates he has set for Elves and Men to “wake”, or come to be, in Arda.
Note: Eru doesn’t create the Dwarves.
“Then who does?” you’re likely wondering.
Aulë - the Valar known asthe Smith for his dominion over the “substances of which Arda [i]s composed” as well as his ability to forge those substances - is intrinsically creative.
This is an excellent trait for making the Two Lamps or Melkor’s Chain, Angainor. However, Aulë growsimpatient of waiting for the awakening of Elves and Men because he simply wants “learners to whom he [can] teach his lore and his crafts” (Tolkien 49).
Thus, Aulë is driven to create dwarves, an unauthorized creation of sentient beings,upsetting Ilúvatar.
In order to appease Ilúvatar, Aulë nearly destroys his beloved creations via hammer-blow.(see: Figure 3 below)
Luckily, Ilúvatar has mercy on both the Dwarves and Aulë. Seeing that the Dwarves are independent of Aulë because they cower in fear of destruction via hammer-blow, Ilúvatar deems their destruction unethical.
Of course, everyone is not so forgiving.
“[F]earing that the other Valar might blame his work”, Aulë makes the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves “in secret” (Tolkien 49). Secrecy - which indicates a lack of trust - is how he upsets his wife Yavanna Kementári,who holds dominion over all living things, including all flora and fauna. The latter of which involves trees.
Let’s play: “How mad is she?”!
Yavanna is not as mad as she could be, but upset enough to inform Aulë that “because [he] hid this thought from [her] until its achievement, [his] children [the Dwarves] will have little love for the things of [her] love” (Tolkien 51).
She also says, “[Let] thy children beware! For there shall walk a power in the forests [Ents and the trees they protect] whose wrath [the Dwarves] will arouse at their peril” (Tolkien 53).
Let’s play: “What could be the worst possible response?”! What Aulë says, of course:
“Nonetheless they [the Dwarves] will have need of wood” (Tolkien 53).
This powerful familial and marital conflict is why Dwarves and organic beings - such as trees and Ents - are not fond of one another in any way.
Trees do not appreciate being felled by Dwarvish axes.
Consequently, Dwarves do not appreciate being physically destroyed by the same timber they need to fuel their forges.
Recall: the very pillars of Moria are hewn into the shapes of trees because Dwarves, unlike Elves and Men, cannot walk through a forest safely. Therefore, imitation is the closest Aulë’s folk will come to experiencing a walk through the woods.
Indeed, we can use Gimli himself as an example of the result of this hatred, for in The Two Towers (1954), he claims that it is madness which drives Merry and Pippin beneath the boughs of Fangorn Forest, home to - you guessed it - trees and Ents! He has been taught by Gloin that one must be psychologically disturbed if they desire to willingly interact with trees outside of exploitation.
This is a hatred deeper even than that which divides Elves and Dwarves because it is caused by mutual fear.
Now. Hopefully, I haven’t lost you, because we’re returning to the original point I was attempting to enforce: the above shot of Gimli the Dwarf (see: Figure 1) is terribly clever.
If you are a fan of Tolkien’s works - as I suspect you are if you have reached this line of my incredibly lengthy text post - you are aware that Gimli undergoes a plethora of character development.
The distrustful, bigoted, and materialistic Dwarf we first encounter…
…becomes the Dwarf who would willingly die fighting beside an Elf in battle.
Indeed, Legolas of the Woodland Realm becomes Gimli’s dearest friend. The two explore one another’s worlds after the War of the Ring concludes.
Legolas visits the Glittering Caves at Helm’s Deep at Gimli’s request, and Gimli visits Fangorn Forest at Legolas’s request.
Even more so, when Legolas sets sail for Aman, Gimli is permitted to come with him.
This is possibly the largest light-hearted middle-finger that has ever been given to Aulë, Yavanna, or any of the Valar. Permission for any race besides Elves to visit Valinor has never been granted before to a Dwarf.
“But Leah…when do we really start to see this change?”
Evidence of this change is conveyed in The Return of the King via Gimli’s last shot, or Figure 1.
Peter Jackson may have cut out the scenes showing Legolas and Gimli defying social norms by experiencing one another’s worlds, but he implied that it happened in a single shot:
Gimli son of Gloin, a Dwarf, is shown appreciating the petals falling from a tree. And just like that, it is implied that an Ages-old conflict between Dwarves and the natural world…may be coming to a close.
Calum went on to the roof of the building to escape the loud music and sweaty, drunk people. He just wasn’t in the mood to party tonight. He felt alone even the crowd of pumped up people. He felt sort of lost.
His hand went into the back pocket of his jeans to retrieve his pack of cigarettes. He held the cigarette between his index and middle finger, lighting it with the golden lighter. He brought it to his lips, sucking in the smoke before puffing it out.
He had expected the roof to be empty. He had wanted to be alone, that’s why he came here. But he wasn’t alone. He could see the silhouette of a girl, leaning against the fencing. Her hair blowing in the wind. He could hear her sobs.
Calum wasn’t sure what do. Should he approach her or should he leave? Seeing the girl so upset, though, Calum couldn’t bring himself to let her be here alone.
What if she jumped or something? He wondered, as he took steps towards the girl.
“Hey, you alright?” He asked, tentatively.
The girl whipped her head immediately. Her cheeks were tear stained, black lines of mascara running down to her chin. Her nose was red, eyes puffy and flakes of eyeliner resting under her eyelids.
She looked taken aback. For a few seconds she just stared at Calum- eyes wide, like a deer caught in headlights. It took her a few moments to actually nod her head. She turned again, wiping her eyes and cheeks with the back of her hand.
Calum took a few steps further and walked up to her. He came to a stop beside her, leaning against the railings himself. “Are you sure you’re okay? You don’t look so okay.”
She let out a humourless chuckle. “Thanks.”
Calum felt his cheeks heat up. “I mean, you look really upset,” he rephrased what he wanted to say.
“I’m alright,” the girl brushed it off with a swing of her hand. “Just had a rough day.”
“You want to talk about it?” Calum asked.
Calum didn’t know why he was doing this but maybe this girl could use a friend on this lonely night just like he could.
The girl looked up at him again. “I don’t even know you.”
“I’m Calum and you’re probably never going to see me again.” He said, extending his hand without the cigarette. “So, you can trust this stranger with the tale of your bad day.”
The girl looked down at Calum’s extended hand, contemplating what to do. Then she extended her hand to meet his, shaking it. “Y/N. And you have really long fingers, Calum.”
Calum let out a laugh and the girl smiled.
“So, Y/N. Tell me about your bad day.”
Y/N sighed and then she launched off. “It’s just. I’ve had a very rough week. And today… Today I just broke down. I had pulled off an all nighter last night and I woke up late today. So I had to rush to my college looking like a homeless spatz. My test today was horrible- like I’m literally failing. Then I fell asleep in my psychology class and embarrassed myself. Later I spilled coffee on my shirt. And even though I’m not a big party person I went home, got ready for this party hoping to have a remotely better time here but no! Of course, nothing could go smooth right? My mom called me and we just had this huge fight over the phone and I feel terrible right now.”
Calum drew in the smoke from his cigarette and as he breathed it out, he said,“It’s going to be okay. Life can be shit sometimes. There are going to be bad days that just won’t seem to let up. But they will. And, I don’t know you, but you seem like a strong person to me, Y/N. You’ll get through it.”
Y/N smiled at the tall boy next to her.. “Thanks. I really just needed someone to listen.”
“We all need people to just listen sometimes.” Calum said.
“Yeah, it’s just that- I haven’t really made a lot of friends since moving here two months back. But I wouldn’t trade this for anything. This place is where I’ve wanted to be all my life.” Y/N looked out at the city lights shining against the dark, black sky. City lights had always mesmerised her. So had this city. And she was here. She was finally here.
Calum smiled. “I love this city. I love the rush, I love the energy it has. And the best part? Even in this crowded labyrinth, you can find a place for yourself.”
She hummed in agreement. “Can I ask you something Calum?”
Calum looked at her inquisitively. “Go on.”
“Why do you smoke?” She questioned.
Calum paused, the cigarette stopping between his parted lips. He shrugged taking in another puff. “I don’t know. I just do it on those days you know, the ones that just aren’t good for you? Like, maybe you didn’t wake up late, or things went your way. But you still don’t know why you feel so off.”
Y/N nodded. “I get that. Sort of anyway. But you really should find a better way to deal with it. It’s going to kill you someday.”
“We’re all going to die anyway.” He said.
“But this is killing yourself.” Y/N said. “I know it’s tough to just quit, but start trying. Let out your feelings some other way.”
“I’ll try,” Calum said. And he actually meant it. Y/N smiled and nodded her head in approval.
Silence descended on the roof. Both of them stood next to each other, finding comfort in the quietness. Her hair whipped in the wind and his parted lips occasionally let out clouds of grey. The city lights illuminated the dark night and their dark hearts, giving them enough light to find each other’s soul for comfort.
“I’m glad I talked to you, Calum and I hope you’re not just a stranger I never see again.”