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 of falling 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 beings only 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 as the 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 grows impatient 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.
Thank you for such a brilliant and lovely post