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From Warhammers to Sting: Middle-earth Weaponry

The aim with the creation of every tool and weapon in THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY was to make pieces that would help define the essence of the character who bears them. Weta Workshop was responsible for the design, development and production of a huge number and variety of weapons for the film. Approximately 800 weapons were made for the Dwarves, including actors and their various doubles.

Weta Workshop engaged in significant research to make the weaponry as authentic as possible, but because the film takes place in Middle-earth's alternate history, they could be uniquely stylized. Taylor explains, "If the axes we made for the Dwarves had been made of iron or steel, they could never have been wielded by a human. But Dwarf strength means that they could conceivably carry and use these massive hunks of weaponry."

The actors were invited to give their input so that their own physical abilities, as well as the nature of their Dwarf characters, could be embodied in the design. Each Dwarf has a distinctive weapon or two within his impressive personal arsenal. "The Dwarves' weaponry is stoic -- hard lines and very architectural -- and, obviously, function plays a huge part in their design," Taylor says. "So we also created lighter aluminum and urethane versions to help with weight issues."

Graham McTavish, who plays the muscled warrior Dwalin, proved to have incredible ambidexterity in his arms and hands, which allowed for the creation of two enormous axes, which he nicknamed 'Grasper' and 'Keeper,' and wore strapped to his back, to be drawn over his shoulders. He also carried a very mean warhammer.

The weapons of young Dwarves Fili and Kili reflect their very specifically honed skills with throwing knives for Fili and a bow and arrows for Kili. Some experimentation took place with Dean O'Gorman, who played Fili. And Fili's throwing knives evolved until they eventually ended up attached to his boots at the ankle.

There were certain practical challenges that had to be ironed out during preparation. The large, hairy hands that gave the Dwarves the proper dimensions on camera ended up creating a problem when it came to holding a weapon. But the stunt team and prosthetics team came up with a solution: adapting the prosthetic hands with fabric webbed palms to allow some feeling and grip.

Another challenge came from the prospect of using weapons in 3D. Because some of the usual stunt tricks wouldn't work; green weapons and pads were developed, to be replaced later by Weta Digital.

The Dwarves' arsenal also includes a beautifully crafted mace for Balin, a boar spear for Bifur, Bofur's cross between an axe and a mattock, Oin's fighting stick, Dori's bolos, Ori's slingshot, Nori's fleshing knives, and Gloin's two axes, which will be familiar because they will be passed on to his son Gimli, as seen in THE LORD OF THE RINGS Trilogy.

Other weapons familiar from the earlier films are those salvaged from the Trolls' cave by Bilbo, Gandalf, and the Company of Dwarves. Master swordsmith Peter Lyons recreated the legendary Elven swords Glamdring, or Foehammer, which Gandalf acquires, and Sting, the first sword Bilbo has ever carried. Lyons and Weta Workshop took pride in the creation of Orcrist, or Goblin Cleaver, a new sword claimed from the Trolls' cave by Thorin. An elegant weapon, Orcrist features a dragon's tooth handle anchoring a gnarly blade.

Another of Thorin Oakenshield's weapons is perhaps less showy, though no less legendary -- the bulky oak shield from which he takes his name. Taylor credits senior model maker Paul Van Ommen with developing ideas over a period of seven weeks that ultimately yielded the piece seen in the film. "It's easy when you read it in the book, but when you actually try and build it, what does the Oakenshield actually look like?" Taylor muses. "It was a chunk of wood broken off a tree to protect Thorin from a vicious enemy blow. It's the mythology of his character. And because it saved his life, he has carried it at his side for years, adapting it, and tending it to stop the wood from cracking. So it needed to look fashioned but still like a piece of wood."

Far more graceful are the weapons and body armor of the Elves, as worn by Elrond and his soldiers. As with all things Elven, they harken back to art nouveau forms connected to nature, complete with elegant curves and intricate engraving. In stark contrast, the Orcs in the film are armed with stabbing and slashing weapons made of carved and sharpened bone-homemade, unsophisticated, and deadly.

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