Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oaken's Twelve: Bombur

At last – finished!

As the fattest Dwarf (Tolkien pulls no punches), Bombur cuts quite the figure, but is largely (oops) taken to be something of a figure of fun by all and sundry. I’ve found, though, as I’ve worked on the character, that far from being a cut-out stereotype ‘Billy Bunter’ figure, there’s a lot going on with this member of the team. True, some of it was edited out of the final draft – chiefly, Bombur’s own membership of what Rateliff assumes was a sort of ‘hearth guard’ of Thorin’s, along with his brother Bofur and cousin Bifur. And then there’s the small matter of Bombur post-Quest, as described in The Council of Elrond in The Fellowship of the Ring; not only does Bombur survive the battle of Five Armies, but grows in esteem and size in the years that pass, to the point that by the time Gimli and Gloin relate his status to Bilbo at Rivendell we learn that Bombur requires the strength of six stout Dwarves to carry him everywhere, due no doubt to both his age and his increased girth. And yet, like Ori (much abused by the new movie trilogy so far, as I argued earlier), he’s chosen by Thorin as a representative and compatriot in the Quest for Erebor. Why?

Well, it’s evidently not for comic relief. Nor for brains (Bombur is outwitted by Bilbo on the slopes of the Lonely Mountain – an easy feat given the Hobbit’s appealing to the Dwarf’s base desire for sleep), nor does it appear to be for his cooking skills – which are given no description of any kind in the book. The movie adaptation has a go at two of these three reasons, mind, with the main character beats of Stephen Hunter’s Obelix-like Bombur so far given to food and size-based visual slapstick (he’s yet to speak, although we can be sure he’s likely to before long in the movies), and of course afforded a giant ladle as a weapon because... well, because ladles = food! It’s funny, right?!

It’s more than a tad obvious is what I think, as is the early design notion of the movie to have Bombur’s various beard-jewelry contain morsels and snacks for the journey, the Dwarf being his own private quartermaster. I think it’s a lazy fall-back on characterisation, and the only thing I liked about the early Bombur concept sketches was one showing a drum (his musical instrument at Bag End) secured on his backpack, back in the days when the Company was conceived to be more of a band of travelers.  To be fair, even Tolkien abandons that notion early on in his story, and Bombur seems to be one of the least-likely to adapt to life on the road going by the blundering way he journeys through Mirkwood.

And yet, as we hear, Bombur survives. We also read in Roast Mutton that he is a pretty ferocious fighter, so it’s fitting that he should have a weapon more befitting a Dwarven warrior than a big spoon. Because of this, and to fit the earlier hearth-guard idea, I decided mid-conversion to remove the branch prop and waterskin I’d made and give Bombur his own Dwarven quarterstaff, which he might use as a walking stick on his journey as well. I think it also puts him in the company of some pretty fine stout fellows as well, notably Friar Tuck, and why not?The whole figure is almost 50:50 (if not more) green stuff and original plastic figure, the original of which is the same as Nori. If I perspired over giving Nori a bespoke hood to distinguish him from the then-similarly posed Bombur then I had no idea of the lengths I’d go to with the latter figure to further distinguish their silhouettes. Part of the story you can no doubt infer from my work in progress pics; the rest is some rather tentative explorations of how to realise in three dimensions the anatomy of fuller-figured people (and I should really acknowledge the movie as a positive influence here). It’s not just size and shape, but weight, gravity, movement and locomotion, and the dynamics of clothing and physique. Bombur’s a hefty boy, there’s no other way to address this than to do him justice, so I’m glad I did my best and took the time on him. I think I learned a lot.

For the record Bombur has green-stuff assistance with his belly, thighs and outer clothing, his left arm and right hand, his extra hair braid and beard (of course – bifurcated to improve from front-on the impression of his protruding abdomen), and I redid his satchel and gave him a small purse, and made an extension of his cloak because I reckoned that at the size I’d made him, his earlier cloak would have given him scant covering indeed. His staff is the same toothpick and green stuff creation as done for Bifur and Bofur, his knife is from scrap plastic, and his left hand is from a plastic Travelling Uruk-Hai. And so, with a new pose wiping some sweat from his brow as he joins his fellow Company, here’s Bombur.

Colour-wise I’ve found it hard to move away from the red hair of the movie Bombur – it just seems to fit, even if it owes a little to the aforementioned cartoon Obelix. In keeping I gave him a mix of warm ochre and browns to tie him in with Bifur and Bofur, and greys to allow a transition with another tricky cloak colour – Tolkien describes it as “pale green”, which is to say not light green, but something more washed out and less vivid. I have a straight bottle green in GW’s old Snot Green acrylic, but couldn’t make it work alongside the other colours, nor could find some appealing colours to coordinate it with, and so a mix of Fortress Grey with Catachan Green was the answer.

1 comment:

  1. Bomburisawesome14 June, 2014 09:54

    Correction: A stag knocked him into the river. He didn't "blunder" in. I really hate it when people forget that and instead attribute the incident it to his clumsiness.

    And if you think Bombur is stupid for letting Mr. Baggins take his watch, then I suppose that everybody else is stupid too!
    I had to say that. Bombur is my absolute 1000% favorite character in the hobbit.