Disclaimer: I do not own the Hobbit or its characters; the Tolkien's do.
My Best Friend Among Friends
A private note in There and Back Again: A Hobbit's Tale
It has been an honor knowing the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain for all this time, even with all the bickering we've been doing. Dori, Nori and Ori, Bifur, Bofur and Bombur, Óin and Glóin, Dwalin and Balin, have all found a place in my heart. And the ones who have died, Fíli and Kíli, and dear Thorin, I will never forget, for Fíli and Kíli's courage in the Battle of Five Armies, and for Thorin's soft-hearted repentance after the battle and before his passing. I do not know if I will ever get over it wholly.
But among them all, I have never seen a Dwarf more good-hearted than Balin, son of Fundin, the best friend I've ever had, besides good old Gandalf and Frodo, that is. He showed me a kindness that the other Dwarves were much slower to grant me, being the first to recognize my worth after Gandalf left us, as well as when I slipped past him with the help of my ring's invisibility trick on the east side of the Misty Mountains. I cherish remembering the respect and admiration he showed me for slipping by under his nose, and for defeating the Great Spiders of Mirkwood. He was also the only Dwarf in the Company who was brave enough to come with me at least part way through the secret passage of the Lonely Mountain to burgle Smaug, and even cheered for me when I came back with something. I in turn loved the way Balin described the Ravens of Ravenhill, and their leaders, Carc and Roäc, when they delivered the news of Smaug's death. It would appear that he and they had known each other from the very beginning. And while the other Dwarves I love are content to live in Erebor with their wealth, Balin, along with Gandalf, actually paid me a second visit about seven years after the Quest for the Lonely Mountain, and we enjoyed catching up on events around our respective homes.
There is something I must conclude about Balin's nature, but first I must briefly mention something that Gandalf and the Elves of Rivendell taught me about the great Powers of the world. Gandalf once told me that there are great Powers at work in the world, for good as well as for evil. And Master Elrond and his scholars have shown me ancient Elvish stories about how mighty beings called the Valar rule across the Western Sea, and that one of them sculpted the Dwarves, and then I learned that fate or luck is actually the just but merciful providence of a Creator named Ilúvatar, who gave the Dwarves (and all other living things) true life. And as the Elves revere Varda Elbereth, the Dwarves revere their maker, Aulë. I was also educated about the virtues of redemption, love, loyalty, friendship, and courage for all the Free Peoples, and that while the Dwarves are usually attracted strongly to the things of the earth like gold and jewels, they can also live pure lives if they are virtuous enough to resist being tainted by their wealth, or by greed.
And that leads me to what sort of person I believe Balin is. By his acts of friendship above suspicion toward me, his courage in the face of Smaug, his close bond with the Ravens, and his willingness to see me again within our lifetimes, I think that Balin is, if not the noblest Dwarf ever, the friendliest, fairest, purest, and most dignified Dwarf ever. No one save Gandalf and Frodo could be more dear to me as long as I live. Balin talked about how the Dwarves of Erebor gladly gave some of their treasure to the Ravens, and how the Ravens, in turn, would serve as messengers for them, and with some prompting from Gandalf's own wisdom, he told me about how the Ravens are messengers of divine providence of both Aulë and his Creator, bringing news of both hope and warning to Balin's people and protecting them from being taken by surprise by their enemies, and how, as they pass away, those sapient birds pass on their wisdom to their next generations so they could do the same. Gandalf agreed, saying that that divine providence was much the same with the Great Eagles of the Eagles Eyrie, created by King Manwë, who also served as protectors and saviors for those who opposed evil.
We talked about these things during Gandalf and Balin's visit to the Shire way back before I left the Shire, and I've thought a lot about the notion of providence and the friendship of Balin since. Now, after learning so much more from the equally wonderful Elves of Rivendell, I think that I can say, as the Great Eagles were Gandalf's providence, due to the fact that he healed one of their greatest of an arrow wound, and Roäc and his Ravens are the providence of Balin, so Balin was part of my providence on the journey to the Lonely Mountain, for all the ways he helped and supported me when all the other Dwarves, including Thorin, were hesitant to do so. And for that, I hope we are never parted in spirit, even if our deaths cause us to be separated until the end of time. He is my best friend among friends.
I hope many readers have friends like this, and God bless them if they do. And God bless good old Balin son of Fundin, Lord of Moria, one of my favorite Tolkien characters, and my namesake! And God bless Roäc and his Ravens, too, my favorite Middle-earth creatures!