From Tolkien Gateway
Daniel Govar - The Hobbit - Balin.jpg
"The Hobbit - Balin" by Daniel Govar
Biographical Information
TitlesLord of Moria
LocationThorin's Halls
Lonely Mountain
AffiliationThorin and Company
Balin's folk
LanguageKhuzdul and Westron
BirthT.A. 2763
RuleT.A. 2989 - T.A. 2994
Death10 November, T.A. 2994 (aged 231)
Dimrill Dale
Notable forQuest of Erebor
Balin's expedition
HouseHouse of Durin
Physical Description
Hair colorWhite beard
ClothingScarlet hood, jewelled belt
GalleryImages of Balin
"Instead there was a very old-looking dwarf on the step with a white beard and a scarlet hood; and he too hopped inside as soon as the door was open, just as if he had been invited. "I see they have begun to arrive already," he said when he caught sight of Dwalin's green hood hanging up. He hung his red one next to it, and "Balin at your service!" he said with his hand on his breast."
The Hobbit, An Unexpected Party

Balin was a Dwarven leader, the son of Fundin and elder brother of Dwalin and a member of Durin's Folk. He was one of the Dwarves that travelled with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf to reclaim Erebor. When Bilbo first met Balin, the Dwarf was very old looking with a white beard and a red hood and would later become close friends with the hobbit.[1]

History[edit | edit source]

Early life[edit | edit source]

Balin was born in T.A. 2763, the son of Fundin. When he was seven years old, Smaug invaded the Lonely Mountain. After the Dwarves were driven out at great loss in 2770, Balin and his father Fundin lived with their king Thrór in Dunland. His brother Dwalin was born two years later.[2]

Fundin fought in the War of the Dwarves and Orcs, and was slain in the Battle of Azanulbizar in 2799. Balin was present at this battle but his role remains unknown.[note 1] The Longbeards under Thráin II, including Balin, at first returned to their forges in Dunland, but they moved into Eriador shortly after, and colonized the Blue Mountains.[2]

Thráin's expedition[edit | edit source]

Thráin longed to return to Erebor, and with Balin and Dwalin and a few others in T.A. 2841 he went on an expedition to their ancient hall.[3] Sauron had them in his sights, eager to take the Ring of Thrór from the exiled king. Wolves, Orcs and evil birds harassed the small company as they came east. One night, as they had crossed the Anduin, an evil rain forced them into the eaves of Mirkwood, and the company was split. Thráin was never seen again (captured and taken to Dol Guldur), and Balin and Dwalin returned to the Blue Mountains to report the news to Thorin, the new king of Durin's line.[2]

Quest of Erebor[edit | edit source]

In 2941,[3] during Gandalf's efforts to persuade Thorin to take Bilbo to Erebor (before the party at Bag End), Balin played an important if unintentional role. When Gandalf said that "professional stealth" was needed Balin misunderstood him as recommending a trained treasure-hunter. As Gandalf defended hobbits in general and the particular hobbit he had in mind, stating that his hobbit had some gold, silver, and crystal, Balin again jumped to the conclusion that Bilbo was an outright thief. In his anger at this remark Gandalf proclaimed that Bilbo had to come or else the enterprise would be a failure, and Thorin then agreed to meet the hobbit. Thus Balin accidentally insured that Bilbo would be part of the quest.[4]

Sneaking into Camp by Darek Zabrocki

On the day of the unexpected party Balin was the second Dwarf to appear at Bag End; his comment, "they have begun to arrive" flustered the hobbit considerably, along with asking for beer. Then also him and Dwalin were the first dwarves to go help Bilbo in the kitchen after the hobbit complained. Later, when the Dwarves made music, Balin and his brother Dwalin brought in and played viols along with bringing Thorin's golden harp covered with green cloth.[5]

On the day after the party Balin stood at the door of the Green Dragon Inn, awaiting Bilbo's arrival.[6] This was the first of many instances where Balin served as the chief look-out for Thorin's company. In fact, it was when Bilbo (wearing the One Ring and thus invisible) sneaked past Balin on look-out duty after their adventures with the Goblins in the mountains that Balin began to develop great respect for the hobbit.[7]

Balin and his brother Dwalin tended to act together as a pair. In the clearing of the Wargs Balin and Dwalin were the two who swarmed up a tall slender fir.[7] When the Dwarves arrived at Beorn's hall, the two brothers were the third pair to appear.[8] Thorin did split the two when they crossed the Enchanted River – Balin went in the first boatload with Thorin, Bilbo, and Fíli while Dwalin came last with Bombur.[9]

Balin's growing fondness for Bilbo became apparent after the hobbit had rescued the Dwarves from the spiders in Mirkwood. Having seen Bilbo vanish they, especially Balin, wanted the true story of Gollum and the Ring explained. Finally satisfied as to how Bilbo had sneaked past him after the mountains, Balin called the hobbit "Good old Bilbo".[9]

When the Dwarves were hauled before the Elvenking they did not know that Thorin had been taken before them and put into a cell deep in the king's dungeon. Balin, being the second oldest of the party, became the spokes-dwarf. His angry, surly answers to Thranduil led to their confinement too.[10]

Balin and Dwalin were two of the most unhappy Dwarves when unpacked from their barrels before Lake-town and were not asked to help release the others.[10] After leaving the town and as their ponies trudged towards the Mountain, Balin and Bilbo rode together in the rear, leading ponies laden with supplies.[11]

Visit to Bilbo by Alan Lee

That Balin had become the fondest of Bilbo of all the Dwarves was demonstrated when the hobbit made his first descent into the Lonely Mountain. None of the other Dwarves volunteered to accompany Bilbo except for Balin, who did go partway down the passageway. Balin waited there and when Bilbo returned he delightedly carried the tired hobbit back to the door.[12] Later, when Bilbo dropped his torch in Smaug's lair, Balin pointed out that it was the Dwarves' turn to help and declared that he was quite willing to go.[13]

Upon escaping from Erebor, Balin led the company to Ravenhill.[13] Balin later fought valiantly and survived the Battle of Five Armies.[14]

In the autumn of 2949, Balin accompanied Gandalf to visit Bilbo in the Shire.[3] Bilbo noted that Balin's beard was many inches longer and that he wore a magnificent jewelled belt. The three friends talked for hours and Bilbo learned of the new prosperity of the Kingdom under the Mountain and the restored town of Dale.[15]

Expedition to Moria and his death[edit | edit source]

Balin, Lord of Moria by Joona Kujanen

Though the riches of Erebor made the Dwarves prosperous again, there were many who longed to return to Moria. Dáin Ironfoot counseled against it, but Balin mounted an expedition in T.A. 2989.[16] They hoped to regain the treasures, and Balin had also hoped to find the Ring of Thrór, which was assumed to be lost when Thrór entered the Gates years before.[17]

Together with Flói, Óin, Ori, Frár, Lóni, Náli and many other Dwarves, Balin entered Dimrill Dale. After a short battle the group entered the Great Gates. They stayed in the Twenty-first Hall, and Balin set up his throne in the Chamber of Mazarbul. He proclaimed himself Lord of Moria.[18]

For five years the colony thrived. They managed to find many old treasures such as Durin's Axe, helm, mithril, and armouries. But on 10 November T.A. 2994, as Balin went to look in Mirrormere, an orc archer fatally shot him. Balin's body was placed in a tomb in the Chamber of Mazarbul.[18]

But the archer was just the van of the orcs who came up the Silverlode. The Dwarves were trapped. After a fierce battle in the halls and a final stand in the Chamber of Mazarbul the colony was completely wiped out.[18] Not knowing what really happened, Glóin and his son Gimli were sent to Rivendell to seek news about the colony.

Gimli eventually learned of their fate when he crossed the dwarven realm with the Company of the Ring and found Balin's Tomb.[18]

Etymology[edit | edit source]

Though most names of the Dwarves in The Hobbit come from the Völuspá, in fact the name of every other member of Thorin's company aside from Bilbo, Balin is not one of them. The name rhymes with Dwalin, but has no apparent meaning.[19]

Jim Allan has suggested that Balin may be derived from Old Norse bál ("fire"), thus meaning "Burning-one". Allan also links the name to Le Morte d'Arthur, which includes a character named Balyn (spelled Balin in some editions) and to a Beli of The Mabinogion.[20][note 2]

Genealogy[edit | edit source]

Náin II
2338 - 2585
Dáin I
2440 - 2589
2450 - 2711
2542 - 2790
2560 - 2803
Thráin II
2644 - 2850
2662 - 2799
2671 - 2923
2746 - 2941
2763 - 2994
2772 - Fo.A. 91
2774 - 2994
2783 - Fo.A. 15
2879 - Fo.A. 120+

Other versions of the legendarium[edit | edit source]

There are a number of differences regarding Balin as presented in early texts as opposed to the published version of The Hobbit. Below is a list of noticeable differences:

  • Earlier, Balin's beard was yellow instead of white, and his hood was described first as scarlet and then as yellow before red became the final choice.[21]
  • Originally it was Dwalin who spotted the Trolls' fire on the hillside; later this was changed to Balin.[22]
  • When Balin and others scouted the Front Gate at Erebor, in the pre-publication version referred to ravens nearby as "spies of evil".[23] In the published story the suspicious birds were changed to crows.[11]

In the earliest drafts of The Lord of the Rings, Balin had a son named Burin (or Frár). Burin accompanied Glóin to the Council of Elrond, and became part of the Fellowship of the Ring. The character was changed to Gimli, son of Glóin in the final version.[24]

Portrayal in adaptations[edit | edit source]

Balin in adaptations

Films[edit | edit source]

1966: The Hobbit (1966 film):

Balin is omitted. Thorin Oakenshield only travels with an unnamed guard and the princess of Dale.[25]

1977: The Hobbit (1977 film):

Balin's voice is provided by Don Messick. Apart from Thorin, he is one of only three of the other Dwarves who speaks with any regularity (Dori and Bombur being the others). Before the Battle of Five Armies he is named General by Thorin. It is unknown if he survived the Battle of Five Armies, as only six of the thirteen survive (with Thorin and Bombur among the casualties and Glóin amongst the survivors) in this film.[26]

2001: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring:

Balin is mentioned by Gimli as the King of Moria, and his tomb is seen in Moria.[27] No mention is made about the past of Moria and his expedition, and Gimli seems confident he is still alive.[28]

2012-14: The Hobbit (film series):

Balin is played by Ken Stott.[29] A description of Balin in The Hobbit films was released by the studio:

A descendant of nobility and a Dwarf Lord in his own right, Balin is one of the oldest members of The Company of the Dwarves. Wise and gentle by nature, he has been forced to live a life fraught with war and the ongoing struggle for survival. Related to Thorin Oakenshield, Balin is one of his closest, most trusted advisors – but deep in his heart, this wisest and most loyal of Dwarves harbors troubling doubts about the wisdom of the Quest for the Lonely Mountain.
Warner Bros.[30]

Balin is presumably the oldest of the 13 Dwarves in the films (in the book he was the second oldest -- younger than Thorin by at least ten years). Balin warns Bilbo Baggins that Thorin Oakenshield is subject to a hereditary disease of "Dragon Fever" (excessive love of gold).

Radio series[edit | edit source]

1968: The Hobbit (1968 radio series):

Balin is played by Peter Pratt.[31]

1979: The Hobbit (1979 radio series):

Balin is played an Gail Chugg.

1980: Der Hobbit (1980 German radio series):

Balin is played by Wolfgang Spier.

1989: Hobit (1989 Slovak radio series):

Balin is present, but no actor is specified for the role of Balin.

Games[edit | edit source]

1982: The Hobbit (1982 video game):

Balin is omitted; Thorin is the only companion of the player, Bilbo Baggins.[32]

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game):

Balin's Tomb is visited between the levels "2nd Hall" and "Abyss Fight". It is a block of stone, raised from the ground by four ornamental legs.

2003: The Hobbit (2003 video game):

No actor is credited for the role of Balin. He is one of the older dwarves, and has a long white beard. He is the team's lookout.[33]

2004: The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth:

Balin's Tomb is one of the objectives of the first act in the Good Campaign. Several groups of orcs, as well as three trolls, have to be fought off before a break in the wall allows access to the next hall and the Bridge.[34]

2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Young Balin makes a cameo appearance in a flashback sequence depicting the Battle of Azanulbizar. Older Balin makes another silent cameo during the Company's departure for the Quest of Erebor. In the present day, the fate of Balin's expedition in Moria is uncovered by the sons of Bifur and Bofur.

2011: The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest:

Balin's Tomb is featured in Moria.

Miscellaneous[edit | edit source]

1989: The Hobbit (comic book):

Balin is portrayed white-haired and quite old; he looks distinctly older than his brother Dwalin, whose hair is still a very dark grey. His role is unchanged from the book; he is the lookout, and visits Bilbo in the epilogue.


  1. In a note considered for inclusion in Appendix A published in The Peoples of Middle-earth, Tolkien stated that Dwarves reached fighting age around thirty. Balin was 30 at the start and 36 at the end of the war, so conceivably he did participate as a warrior.
  2. It is known that Tolkien worked on editions of both Le Morte d'Arthur and The Mabinogion; cf. The Fall of Arthur and Pwyll Prince of Dyved, respectively.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "An Unexpected Party"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "Durin's Folk"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Quest of Erebor"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "An Unexpected Party"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Roast Mutton"
  7. 7.0 7.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Queer Lodgings"
  9. 9.0 9.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Flies and Spiders"
  10. 10.0 10.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Barrels Out of Bond"
  11. 11.0 11.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "On the Doorstep"
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Inside Information"
  13. 13.0 13.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Not at Home"
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "The Return Journey"
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "The Last Stage"
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Many Meetings"
  17. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond"
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Bridge of Khazad-dûm"
  19. J.R.R. Tolkien; Douglas A. Anderson, (ed.), (2002) The Annotated Hobbit: Revised and Expanded Edition, "Roast Mutton", note 20
  20. Jim Allan, "Giving of Names", in An Introduction to Elvish, p. 223
  21. J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, Mr. Baggins, The First Phase, "The Bladorthin Typescript", p. 32
  22. J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, Mr. Baggins, The Second Phase, "Trolls", p. 91
  23. J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, Return to Bag-End, The Second Phase, "The Lonely Mountain"
  24. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The Story Continued: XXIII. In the House of Elrond"
  25. "The Hobbit.mp4" dated 5 January 2012, YouTube (accessed 10 January 2012)
  26. The Hobbit (1977 film), "Farewell, Thorin"
  27. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended Edition) , "Balin's Tomb"
  28. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended Edition) , "Moria"
  29. Peter Jackson, "Production begins in New Zealand on The Hobbit" dated 20 March 2011, Facebook (accessed 23 December 2011)
  30. Warner Bros., "Hobbit Movies" dated 7 September 2012, Apple iPhone/iPad App (accessed 19 September 2012)
  31. Radio Times, Volume 180, No. 1968, September 26, 1968
  32. ZX Computing, 8304 (April/May 1983), p. 76 (accessed 24 March 2011)
  33. The Hobbit (2003 video game), "Roast Mutton"
  34. The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth, "Moria"
House of Durin
Born: T.A. 2763 Died: T.A. 2995
Last held by:
Náin I, 1008 years earlier
Lord of Moria
T.A. 2989 - 2995
Durin VII, in the Fourth Age

Members of Thorin and Company
Thorin · Balin · Dwalin · Fíli · Kíli · Dori · Nori · Ori · Óin · Glóin · Bifur · Bofur · Bombur · Gandalf · Bilbo Baggins
Route of Thorin and Company
Bag End · Green Dragon · The Shire · Lone-lands · Last Bridge · Trollshaws · Trolls' cave · Rivendell · High Pass · Front Porch · Goblin-town · Goblin-gate · Eagle's Eyrie · Carrock · Beorn's Hall · Wilderland · Forest Gate · Elf-path · Mirkwood · Elvenking's Halls · Forest River · Lake-town · Long Lake · River Running · Desolation of the Dragon · Ravenhill · Back Door · Lonely Mountain · Great Hall of Thráin
The Hobbit film series
Source material: The Hobbit · The Lord of the Rings
Films An Unexpected Journey (extended editionThe Desolation of Smaug (extended edition) · The Battle of the Five Armies (extended edition)
Music An Unexpected Journey (Special Edition) · The Desolation of Smaug (Special Edition) · The Battle of the Five Armies (Special Edition) · "Song of the Lonely Mountain" · "I See Fire" · "The Last Goodbye"
Tie-in books An Unexpected Journey Official Movie Guide · Visual Companion · Movie Storybook · Annual 2013 · Chronicles: Art & Design · Chronicles: Creatures & Characters · The World of Hobbits
The Desolation of Smaug Official Movie Guide · Visual Companion · Movie Storybook · Annual 2014 · Chronicles: Art & Design · Chronicles: Cloaks & Daggers · Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon · Activity Book · Sticker Book · Ultimate Sticker Collection
The Battle of the Five Armies Official Movie Guide · Visual Companion · Movie Storybook · Annual 2015 · Chronicles: Art & Design · Chronicles: The Art of War · Activity Book
Video games Kingdoms of Middle-earth · Armies of The Third Age · Lego The Hobbit
Characters Bilbo · Thorin · Gandalf · Balin · Fíli · Kíli · Dwalin · Dori · Nori · Ori · Óin · Glóin · Bifur · Bofur · Bombur · Smaug · Radagast · Elrond · Galadriel · Saruman · Azog · Bolg · Thranduil · Legolas · Tauriel · Bard · Bain · Tilda · Sigrid · Master of Lake-town · Alfrid · Dáin Ironfoot · Necromancer · Bert · William · Tom · Beorn · Thráin · Thrór · Goblin King · Gollum · Frodo