This was inspired by my recent re-read of the Hobbit (well, almost re-read; I still have a few chapters to go!), seeing the movie, and reading the influx of fan-fiction out there inspired by the movie:
The only things I know about dwarven culture are what I can glean from what reputable sites I can find and the appendices to ROTK. I know that the female population was around 1/3 and that really only about 1/4 ever married, given that some didn't want to marry and others couldn't have who they wanted and would have no other. And that Tolkien said that dwarven women were just as courageous as the menfolk and could fight just as well but didn't because they understood their pivotal role in their society in ensuring the population would continue.
But I don't know anything else about the culture of Tolkien's dwarves, and especially the question of adoption and succession. My thoughts on the whole subject have come up because of the fan fiction I've been reading lately that have been exploring the what ifs--mainly, what if Thorin, Fili, and Kili, or at least the boys didn't die at the end of the Hobbit?
Most of the fan-fic writers automatically assume that because Thorin had no heirs, his brother was dead with no heirs, and Fili and Kili were the sons of his sister, that Fili would be Thorin's heir and crown prince to the throne of Erebor. But I'm not so sure this is true; however, I can't find anything on dwarven culture to answer the question as to whether or not Fili could inherit!
I know that the idea of a sister-son inheriting the throne was acceptable to the Rohirrim, and that the Rohirrim's ancestors had originally come from Rhovanion and were kinsmen to the people of Esgaroth and Dale, meaning they most likely shared many similar cultural patterns. However, it had been centuries since the Rohirrim's ancestors had crossed Mirkwood and later settled near Gondor, and thus they had plenty enough time separated from their kin east of the forest to begin developing separate cultural patterns, a process that I'm sure was accelerated once they became neighbors of Gondor and under its influence, not to mention the influence of Dunland and Eriador.
What I'm saying is, I'm not sure if the idea of a sister-son being able to inherit the crown was something that the Rohirrim would have developed later or if it was a much more ancient pattern from their Rhovanion ancestors. Now, I know the Rhovanion peoples aren't dwarves, but this whole side trail is relevant because of the influence the dwarves had upon the peoples of the east, especially upon the people of Dale.
So, to try to sum it all up: If the pattern of allowing sister-sons to inherit the throne came from Rhovanion, was it something that came from the dwarvish influence upon society and thus was also a custom of the dwarves themselves, or would it have been solely something that men allowed only?
I know Tolkien says in the Hobbit that Dain was Thorin's heir, but that makes sense because at the end of the Hobbit, Fili and Kili both die, and being that there were no other living descendents of Thror save possibly Dis, and it seemed that the dwarves did not allow women to inherit the throne, the next in line would have been a living descendant of Gror, Thror's younger brother, hence Dain.
However, if Fili or Kili were still alive, would this have still been true? Would Thorin have been able to adopt them and call them his legal heirs or would the throne still have gone to Dain? I read somewhere that it said that a female dwarf, when she married, became part of the people and family of her husband, so if that's the case, then Fili and Kili couldn't have been considered children of Durin and in line for the throne, unless dwarves had some sort of adoption process as mentioned before.
I know an adoption process was in place for political inheritance in Roman society because many of the Roman emperors were adopted sons and not blood heirs. But many societies disallowed inheritance by adoption and still considered a child the heir and family of his birth parents, no matter who raised him--the research I did today indicated that this was the custom in ancient China and Japan, and the custom in some of the European and Slavic cultures as well.
However, if I remember correctly, the son of a sister can inherit the throne in England--correct? After all, they even went for distant cousins in some cases, hence George I......
I only say this because I know how proud the longbeards were that they had always been ruled by a direct male descendant (as far as we know) from Durin the Deathless; if the sons of a sister were considered to be of the kin of their father, meaning a strictly paternal descent, then this would probably make Fili and Kili ineligible for the throne of Erebor, unless, of course, their father was a direct descendant from Durin the deathless through a son not mentioned in the genealogy given in the appendices (something which I suppose was possible, as Tolkien's family tree there was certainly not exhaustive and could easily have omitted younger sons as it did all daughters; after all, I sincerely doubt the line from Durin all the way down to Nain II consisted solely of one son and perhaps daughters!)
Sorry for the rambling! It's been something that's been on my mind for a couple of weeks now, so I thought I'd see what other people thought!
Oh, and another question: I know Tolkien got the dwarves' names from a list in a Norse Edda, but he also mentioned that the dwarves were similar to medieval Jews in their views of their heritage, their diaspora, and their abilities with money and crafting. So having that said, which cultural influence was more prevalent in Tolkien's dwarves-the ideas and customs of the Norse, or the ideas and customs of the Semetic peoples of the Middle East? I ask this only because it does have a direct bearing on my earlier question as to inheritance rights!