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In The Desolation of Smaug, when the Dwarves get captured by the Mirkwood Elves, Gloin shows Legolas a picture of his son, Gimli.

But if you look at Bilbo Baggins, he is about 30-40 years old at that time, and somewhere in the Tolkien trilogy it is mentioned that he keeps the One Rings in his possession for about 50-60 years and then he passes the One Ring to Frodo Baggins when it is around his 100th birthday.

That would mean that Gimli is well over 60 years old when he is at the council of Elrond in Rivendell.

Does that make sense? Or do Dwarves age differently as well, like Gandalf?

  • 2
    Bilbo passed the ring to Frodo on his 111th birthday, to be exact. – chepner Apr 3 '17 at 13:59
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    Dwarves and Hobbits (in fact all non-human speaking-peoples) live considerably longer than Men. – user82044 Apr 12 '17 at 8:14
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    Why is that surprising? Frodo is around 50. – Gnemlock Apr 12 '17 at 20:40
  • I wouldn't conflate the two mediums. Jackson's films are fun and all but one shouldn't necessarily try to make the films and books consistent with one another...especially since the director didn't bother in many cases :) - Also worth nothing that just because the picture is of a young Gimli doesn't mean it is a recent image. I carried around a baby picture of my first son until he was 6 or so – NKCampbell Apr 12 '17 at 20:41
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Significantly older

The year of Gimli's birth is given in Appendix A, in the family tree for the Line of Durin, as 2879 of the Third Age (click to embiggen):

enter image description here

Appendix B gives the date of the Council of Elrond as October 25, 3018.

So Gimli is actually almost 140 years old when we first meet him, and is certainly that age by the end of the trilogy.

So yes, in general, Dwarves live longer than humans do. Tolkien nowhere specifically discusses their lifespan, but we can look at the dwarves whose ages we know (which is basically just the people in that family tree), and see that most of them hover around 250 years:

enter image description here

Outliers include:

  • Durin I (not included on that chart, because he'd screw with the scale something awful), who lived for at least 2395 years1
  • Dwalin, who for no adequately explored reason died at the age of 340, of causes unknown
  • Borin, who died at age 261, cause unknown
  • The four dwarves who didn't reach 100 years: Frór (37), Frerin (48), Kíli (77), and Fíli (82). All of them died in battle: Frór fell to a dragon in the Grey Mountains, Frerin died at the Battle of Azanulbizar, and Fíli and Kíli both died at the Battle of Five Armies
  • The four additional dwarves who didn't reach 150, all of whom also died in battle: Náin son of Grór (134) and Fundin (137) were both killed in the Battle of Azanulbizar, Náin I (149) was killed by Durin's Bane, and Dáin I (149) was killed by the same dragon that killed Frór

Such a limited sample size makes it difficult to say anything intelligent about dwarvish lifespan, but it's clear that it isn't unusual for a dwarf to celebrate his 250th birthday.

Gimli himself, it may interest you to know, left over the Sea with Legolas when he was 262; we don't know how long he lived after that point.

In the films

It's worth remarking that this may or may not be true of the films, which notably condensed the timeframe in some places (in particular, they almost certainly removed the 17-year gap between Bilbo's Party and Frodo setting out for Rivendell).

From a purely cinematic context, there's ample evidence dwarves enjoy an extended lifespan, at least compared to humans; in An Unexpected Journey, we're told that Smaug's attack on Erebor took place at least sixty years before the events of the film:

Thorin: The dragon Smaug has not been seen for 60 years.

An Unexpected Journey (2012)

We see this assault in flashback in the prologue, and we see that Thorin, Thráin, and Balin are all present at this event, and all appear full-grown. They're evidently substantially older than sixty in the film trilogy, though we don't know their true ages2.

As well, Gimli in Fellowship has every expectation of meeting Balin in Moria, sixty years after the events of The Hobbit trilogy:

Gimli: So, master elf, you will enjoy the fabled hospitality of the dwarves; roaring fires, malt beer, red meat off the bone. This, my friend, is the home of my cousin, Balin.

Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

It's clear that Gimli hasn't been in contact with Balin recently (the dwarf-corpses are all old, decayed, and cobwebby), but the fact that he expects Balin to be alive and capable of ruling a city after well more than 120 years (Balin clearly wasn't young, even in the prologue to An Unexpected Journey) is telling.

Although we don't have enough information to deduce Gimli's age in the context of the film, clearly sixty years is far from unreasonably old, and may even be rather young. Stil, every source cited above would have been legally available to Peter Jackson to use in his films, so 140 stands as a fair guess.


1 We don't know precisely when the Dwarves first awoke, but the first reference to them in Elvish histories is about YT 1250, in the Years of the Trees3, so he must have been "born" before that time. His death is given vaguely in Appendix A as "First Age", meaning he died sometime between YT 1500 (the final Year of the Trees) and FA 590. Because the Years of the Trees reckoned years differently than the Years of the Sun, this puts a lower bound on Durin's age at 2395 solar years

2 I'll remark at this point that the birth years for all three are present on the tapestry Bard consults in Desolation of Smaug; though they aren't visible in the film, you can see them in the prop replica sold by Weta on their website. Although we may be able to use these dates to get a better estimate of the character's ages, I'm hesitant to do so; as I've remarked before, there's not necessarily much interaction between the writers and the propmasters, so there's little indication that these dates are anything more than Easter eggs.

If you're curious, the dates on the tapestry agree with the dates in Appendix A, shown in the image above.

3 Though some earlier drafts put their first meeting in the First Age, which would lower that lower bound quite considerably

  • 1
    Thanks for the enlightning answer. I used to think that Dwarves would live as long as Humans. And 60 years then would sound a bit old to go on such a huge quest. As I always believed Gimli to be younger as well. – Tenzin Mar 31 '17 at 19:21
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    @Tenzin Amusingly, Gimli was deemed too young to join the Quest for Erebor at age 62, per Unfinished Tales: "I knew Thorin, of course; and I wish I had been there, but I was away at the time of [Gandalf's] first visit to us. And I was not allowed to go on the quest: too young, they said, though at sixty-two I thought myself fit for anything." – Jason Baker Mar 31 '17 at 19:26
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    I never gave any thought to how old Gimli was when he set sail for Aman. I can picture Mandos advising Manwë: "Let him take the ship. You won't need to let him disembark. <wink wink>." – chepner Apr 3 '17 at 14:03
  • Dain Ii Ironfoot was only 32 at the Battle of Nanduhiron in 2799 and it was considered amazing how well he fought at such a young age, making hims sort of a child hero in the eyes of the Dwarves. So I guess that Gimli would have been old enough to go on the Quest for Erebor, in the same way that David Farragut as old enough to serve in the War of 1812, or John Lincoln Clem in the US Civil War – M. A. Golding Apr 7 '17 at 23:50
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    @TylerH There's only one Durin I, and by all accounts his life really was uncommonly long. From Appendix A: "Durin is the name that the Dwarves used for the eldest of the Seven Fathers of their race, and the ancestor of all the kings of the Long-beards. He slept alone, until in the deeps of time and the awakening of that people he came to Azanulbizar, and in the caves above Kheled-zâram in the east of the Misty Mountains he made his dwelling, where afterwards were the Mines of Moria renowned in song. There he lived so long that he was known far and wide as Durin the Deathless." – Jason Baker Jan 15 '18 at 16:51

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