Returned to Stone

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Tropes and genres
Synonym(s)Returned to the Stone, Mountainsleep
Related tropes/genresEveryone Lives (The Hobbit), Canon Divergence AU (The Hobbit)
See alsoAlternate Universe, Canon Divergence AU
Related articles on Fanlore.

Returned to Stone is a concept from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion, referring to what elves thought happened to dwarves after death.[1] Originally, its use in fanworks was almost always as a poetic device to refer to the death of a dwarf, especially Thorin Oakenshield and/or his nephews Fíli and Kíli. It is also sometimes used in contrast to what happened at the battle of Azanulbizar, where the dwarven dead had to be burned instead.

Subversion in Fanworks

Over time, the line went from a poetic funeral reference in canon-compliant mourning works to an everyone lives trope by way of the canon concept that the first dwarves were carved from stone by Aulë.[1] Some fans took this to mean dwarves are still made partly from stone, and that "returning" a dwarf to stone was a final, desperate effort to save their life (or a prayer to Mahal to save them).

One of the first examples of subversion was in Gardening by The Feels Whale, which explained the process:

“You’ll forgive me, please, Gandalf, but… I was told Thorin died.” Bilbo coughs and reaches for his own glass. “He, Fili, and Kili; all dead after the battle.”

“How can you say that?” Gandalf wondered aloud. “You spoke to him yourself.”

“I did and he was grievously wounded. He said his goodbyes and asked my pardon for… things that no longer matter if, indeed, they ever did.” Bilbo’s heart is thumping in his chest, although whether from fear or some kind of desperate joy even he can’t quite say. “Then later Balin came to tell me that they’d sent him to sleep amongst the stones. I thought… I thought he was being gentle with me. Tell me, Gandalf, did I misunderstand?”

“Yes, my dear fellow.” Gandalf doesn’t quite laugh. It’s more of a carefully timed cough, which Bilbo appreciates. “Although, I can see where the misapprehension would lay. What Balin meant, Bilbo, was that Dain’s healers felt it was safe to move Thorin into the deepest caverns of the mountain where Aulë’s influence is the greatest. There they put him into a deep slumber and tended to his wounds. It was a desperate gambit, I think, and not one anyone expected to succeed.”

Subversion Examples


  1. ^ a b "Aforetime it was held among the Elves in Middle-Earth that dying the Dwarves returned to the earth and the stone of which they were made; yet that is not their own belief." Quenta Silmarillion, chapter 2, "Of Aulë and Yavanna".