Remember the scene:

The company has been ambushed and cornered by the orcs and wargs. Thorin runs forth to do battle with Azog the Defiler, carrying the Oakenshield that earned him his name. It's a little different than it was when we last saw it in the flashbacks, it's nicely smoothed with age, and it has some interesting looking metal bits on one end, but it's definitely the same branch.

Azog defeats him easily, but our hero, Bilbo, steps in and saves the day (night, whatever). Dwarves battle orcs and wargs, then the eagles fly in and decide the battle.
One of them scoops up unconscious Thorin and his loosely held sword. The namesake shield was carried along for a few seconds, then falls, and is abandoned.

I don't think there was a big plot purpose in this, so was it symbolic? What did it mean?

  • I've always seen this as being suggestive of a PTSD flashback on Thorin's part rather than something that really happened; maybe the EE commentary might have something to say?
    – user8719
    Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 11:52
  • @DarthMelkor - Alas, no. Nothing useful.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 21:49

2 Answers 2


I see that scene as a visible manifestation of Thorin's identity crisis.

Thorin was born to be Thorin, son of Thrain, son of Thror, King under the Mountain, but this was denied by the coming of Smaug and the sack of Erebor.

At the battle of Azanulbizar at the eastern gate of Moria he earns himself the name of Thorin Oakenshield thanks to his duel against Azog, which turned the tide of the battle and gained the dwarves a victory, though a bitter one because of their heavy losses.

At that point, as he strongly believes his father to be still alive, Thorin does not consider himself a king - not even a king in exile -, even if that's actually how the other dwarves see him:

[Balin:] “That is when I saw him: a young dwarf prince facing down the Pale Orc.”
[Balin:] And I thought to myself then, there is one who I could follow. There is one I could call King.”

(from AUJ)

[Dwalin] “You were always my king. You used to know that once.”

(from BOTFA)

From his own point of view he is Thorin Oakenshield, the one who defeated Azog the Defiler. The fact that he kept the oaken branch, carving it into a proper shield and adding metal spikes, is a visual clue of how much he clings to that title, valuing that duel more than anything else he accomplished.

Note that, once again, the other dwarves think otherwise:

[Balin:] “You don’t have to do this. You have a choice. You’ve done honorably by our people. You have built a new life for us in the Blue Mountains, a life of peace and plenty. A life that is worth more than all the gold in Erebor.”

(from AUJ)

In goblin town, the Great Goblin malevolently rubs salt into the wound:

[Great Goblin:] Well, well, well, look who it is. Thorin son of Thrain, son of Thror; King under the Mountain.
Oh, but I’m forgetting, you don’t have a mountain. And you’re not a king. Which makes you nobody, really.

But Thorin is far more shocked to learn about Azog:

[Great Goblin:] I know someone who would pay a pretty price for your head. Just the head, nothing attached. Perhaps you know of whom I speak, an old enemy of yours. A Pale Orc astride a White Warg.
[Thorin:] “Azog the Defiler was destroyed. He was slain in battle long ago.”
[Great Goblin:] “So you think his defiling days are done, do you?”

And finally, the scene in question: Thorin finds out that Azog is still alive, and stronger than him.

His most valued deed is worthless, his battle title means nothing. He will later say Dwalin:

[Thorin:] “Do not speak to me as if I was some lowly dwarf lord…”
“As-As if I were still...Thorin...Oakenshield.”

(from BOTFA)

His losing the physical oaken shield parallels his losing the identity of Oakenshield - the war hero - after having already lost his kingship. Now he must desperately fulfil his quest to reclaim Erebor, in order to prove his value.


  • +1 | Logical, supported by evidence, reasonable. Well done. Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 14:53

It's mentioned in the official commentary but no specific reason is given, other than that it happens.

Jackson : "This is the moment where Thorin loses his oakenshield, that he...there it is. It's probably still there, on this hillside. All these years later"

At best guess, there are a couple of possible reasons why they chose to have him lose it;

  • The shield represents his mistrust of relying on others. Note that it's no use in fighting Azog whereas Bilbo is the one who actually saves him.

  • His makeshift shield represents his withdrawal from the world. By losing it, he regains his connection with normal dwarvish society.

  • I interpreted the scene in the same way, it fits well the character change seen by the end of AUJ. Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 6:41

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