Most of us Tolkien fans have seen the movies and may recall that in the first the Hobbit movie Balin and Dwalin head-butt each other when meeting at Bilbo's. Ofcourse, this does not seem too strange a thing for Dwarves. I did not recall Tolkien ever mentioning this though. Which reminded me of some behind the scenes clips I had come across earlier. Take a look at this one.

Apparently Viggo Mortensen and others had grown the habbit to head-butt each other when meeting one another. Is it, therefore, possible that PJ imported this silly characteristic into the Hobbit?

  • 1
    Voted to close. I doubt anyone can tell if the viggo head butts are why it was included in the movie, so it will all be conjecture.
    – JohnP
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 22:11
  • @JohnP: Unless it is mentioned in Tolkien’s work.
    – unor
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 23:13
  • @JohnP As unor says, unless it is mentioned in the Hobbit itself or in behind the scenes of the Hobbit. Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 8:23
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    It's an interesting question - I'm not sure it's answerable unless it was mentioned in an interview somewhere...
    – Liath
    Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 8:26
  • Wow that is quite a leap of imagination. I am pretty sure there is no way to answer this. Plus this will lead to more questions like was XXXX inspired from completely unrelated movie/scene YYY?
    – bobbyalex
    Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 6:48

1 Answer 1


Disappointingly there doesn't appear to be an interview anywhere that confirms or denies this. The nearest I've seen is an interview with Graham McTavish (Dwalin) which discussed whose idea it was (not why):

Whose idea was to greet Balin with a headbutt?
I’m afraid that was me!…..

That’s the only way you have to communicate with people?
Sometimes a handshake just takes way too long!

Did you actually headbutt Ken Stott when filming the scene at Bag End?
If I did he took it very well!!

Nevertheless, it appears most unofficial forums have gone with your theory and accepted it is an homage to Viggo Mortensen and his antics in the Lord of the Rings.

I don't normally quote from blogs, as opposed to wiki or film/tv website articles, but this particular blog has a rather nice description of a possible reason for the headbutt:

DWALIN AND BALIN’S HEADBUTT - A neat moment which fits in with the proud, machismo nature of dwarven culture but also instantly reminds one of the behind-the-scenes footage from Lord of the Rings where it became something of a ritual between some of the cast (particularly Viggo Mortensen, Bernard Hill and Orlando Bloom) to perform a headbutt with the stunt teams as a mark of honour and respect. There are some great stories of how Mortensen went around the entire stunt team at the end of his principal photography for Rings and gave every single one of them a hit such as this. It became such a talking point and fan favourite by the time Return of the King was released (with the cast even doing it at premieres and the like) that it’s difficult to not imagine Jackson and team being reminded of and inspired by this when coming up with moments of camaraderie and the like to show the bond between the dwarves, particularly these brothers.

Other fan sites, in particular the One Ring Forums (an unofficial Tolkien fan club forum) have countless threads discussing the movie, many of which reference the headbutt and acknowledge it as a homage to Viggo, e.g.:

The head-butt greeting Balin and Dwalin share is an homage to Viggo Mortensen who would greet his friends by saying something endearing and then slam them in the forehead with his own (talks about in eedvd commentaries). White light! White light!

So it's certainly possible that Peter Jackson had the idea to bring this silly bit of fun into the Hobbit films, but it appears the idea itself came from Graham McTavish. Whether or not he intended to be a homage, or just a fun thing to do, is unknown.

Alternatively, you might like Empire Online's tongue-in-cheek reasoning behind the headbutt:

In the book, these two are the first to arrive at Bilbo’s house (Dwalin, then Balin separately). Here, they greet each other with a head-butt, leading us to instantly assume they’re Glaswegian.

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