Legolas of Mirkwood
|Other names||Greenleaf (translation of his name)|
|Titles||Prince of Mirkwood, member of the Fellowship of the Ring|
|Birth||Unknown; c. Third Age 2400* |
|Death||Went west Fourth Age 120 (aged 600-800?*)|
|Parentage||Thranduil + ?|
|Hair color||Presumably dark; traditionally/possibly blond*|
Legolas (S. for Greenleaf) was a Sindarin prince of the Silvan realm of Mirkwood, the only recorded son of King Thranduil. He became famous because of his membership in the Fellowship of the Ring, in which he served as one of their most valuable assets because of his superior sight, hearing, lightness of foot, and unrivaled archery. Despite this, however, he played only a minor role in The Lord of the Rings, and the least is known about him, perhaps, than all other members of the company.
In The Fall of Gondolin, there is found a mention to a Legolas Greenleaf, who guided the exiles forth from the destruction to safety. However, much doubt has been cast as to whether these two were one and the same (see Legolas disputes).
Legolas was alive during the Battle of Five Armies, and it is possible, even probable, that he took place in
Fellowship of the Ring
His first real mention was at the Council of Elrond, as a messenger from his father Thranduil. He was dressed in green and brown, and his eyes were keen. His message was specifically to Gandalf – namely, that Gollum had escaped. Aragorn immediately wondered out loud how Thranduil’s people could permit this. Legolas was quick to state that it was not through lack of watchfulness; if anything, from over-kindness, and related the details to the council. He spoke little for the rest of the council, if at all, but later volunteered (or was chosen by Elrond) to participate in the Quest of the Ring as the only elven member of the Fellowship of the Ring. His capabilities would be welcomed, and would be his primary claim to fame for the rest of his life.
For the early part of the quest they went in single file, with Legolas at the back. Later, however, we appear to find him at the head of the company as they entered Hollin, for The Lord of the Rings states “Gimli… had come up with Legolas, and was gazing out before him…”. Though all in the Company could feel the wholesomeness of the country, only Legolas could here the stones lament the lost presence of the Elves, and his words were poignant.
As they ascended Caradhras, Legolas could walk on top of the snow, whereas the others were forced to trudge. He also attempted (unsuccessfully) to light a fire. The storm troubled him least of all the company, and it is written “he alone of the Company remained still light of heart”. After they were determined to retreat, Boromir and Aragorn tried to push a path through the snow to get out, while Legolas danced lightly on top, passing them easily. He soon spotted the way out for the rest of the company, and a bit of sarcasm edged his speech at Boromir’s words that they (the “strongest”) must seek a way out, when he said “There is the greatest wind-drift of all just beyond the turn, and there our Strong Men were almost buried”. The paragraphs in this section suggest the attributes of youth and unquenchable gaiety.
Perhaps a bit grumpy with the irrepressibility of the elf, Boromir during the vote as to whether or not they should pass through Moria, asked “What do Legolas and the little folk say?” Legolas voted against the passage with Boromir, but was overruled, especially when Warg voices were heard. During their defense against these beasts, Legolas did more than perhaps all the rest of the company except Gandalf, shooting numerous wargs. Legolas collected his arrows unharmed (except for one) after the fight.
Legolas played only the minorest of parts in Moria. Though it is said that he had eyes that could see well in the dark, strangely, he seems not to possess this quality in the caves. For it is written that Frodo (due to his Morgul-knife wound) could see better than any of the company in the dark, except perhaps Gandalf. Legolas had to drag Gimli from the Chamber of Mazarbul when the dwarf almost refused to go. Legolas was the first of the Company to recognize Durin's Bane as a balrog, or at least the first to express his dismay at the fact.
Legolas was most enthusiastic about coming to Lothlórien, describing it to the rest of the Company, and mourning the fact that it was winter and they could not witness it in the pinnacle of its glory. As they rested by the Nimrodel, Legolas told them tales of Lothlórien, and sang the Song of Nimrodel to them. Upon hearing the other Elves of Lórien, Legolas listened and responded in their own tongue. When Samwise queried as to what they were saying, Legolas slyly responded that they said he breathed so loud they could shoot him in the dark, horrifying Samwise until Legolas added that they need not fear them.
Legolas was called up to meet with the Galadhrim, with Frodo only (Sam following, as always). The Galadhrim had heard him singing and knew he came from Mirkwood. They would readily accept all of the fellowship, save Gimli, because of his race and the grievances between his and theirs. Legolas was forced to answer for the company, with the reminder to keep an eye on "that dwarf". Legolas was forced by the others to go blindfolded into Lórien, especially at the urging of Gimli, who hated the thought of going such. Indeed, he declared he would submit himself to this restraint only if "Legolas here shares my blindness". In the end, Legolas had no choice but to submit.
Legolas would not translate the Elven lamentations for Gandalf, saying that he had neither the skill nor the heart. During their time in Lórien, however (with the influence of the Lady Galadriel working its magic on the dwarf), he became fast friends with Gimli, a friendship never broken. He was one of those of the Company that could handle boats, and so was assigned to one with the dwarf. He received a bow and quiver such as the Galadhrim used.Anduin, quickly leaped out onto dry ground and searched for a mark to shoot at. As a dread fell on the Company, Legolas invoked the name of Elbereth Gilthoniel, and shot the descending Fell beast from the sky, a masterful shot in the dark.
The Three Hunters
When ambushed on Amon Hen, Legolas shot many orcs until his arrows ran out, then used his knife. Upon the breaking of the Fellowship, he sang a lament for Boromir, who had fallen, with Aragorn, taking the part of the South Wind which came from the Sea. Legolas was of great aid to Aragorn in the days following, as he helped to track the Uruk-hai across Rohan. His eyes could see many leagues, and for a while he could see their quarry far ahead of them.
Legolas stood by his friend Gimli when confronted by the haughty Éomer, threatening him with death if he attempted to harm the dwarf. He let Gimli ride behind him on the way to Fangorn. Under its eaves, Legolas noticed how the tree beneath which they sat seemed glad of the fire. He was reluctant to enter Fangorn, having no knowledge about it save for the stories of the Onodrim, and that it was very old. Though the night was very dark, he was also the first to notice the absence of the horses. Later he asserted to Aragorn that the beasts sounded joyful, confirming Aragorn’s own opinion.
Upon entering Fangorn itself, Legolas declared that he almost felt young again beside those trees. He commented that in earlier days he could have been happy there. Gimli snorted, saying “I dare say you could. You are a Wood-elf, anyway, though Elves of any kind are strange folk.” Legolas would later reverse this declaration at the Hornburg. When the Three Hunters met with the apparition of an old man, whom they believed to be Saruman, despite Gimli’s round encouragement Legolas did not shoot him, feeling moral objections to this. The old man declared “Put away that bow, Master Elf.” Legolas dropped his bow, but later picked it up again, and was about to shoot when it was seen that beneath the old man’s robes there was white. Yet he recognized that it was Gandalf just in time, and shot his arrow high in the air to be consumed by fire. Gandalf coolly added “Well met, I say to you again, Legolas!”
With the Rohirrim
Legolas was a leader in the conversation with Gandalf, being the first to ask about Merry & Pippin, and Gandalf’s apparently miraculous escape. After the story, Gandalf delivered Galadriel’s messages to each of them, Legolas’s being:
Legolas Greenleaf long under tree
In joy thou hast lived. Beware of the Sea!
If thou hearest the cry of the gull on the shore,
Thy heart shall then rest in the forest no more.
Legolas again used his eyes for the help of the company, as he spied both the smoke of Isengard and Edoras from afar. At the gates of Meduseld, Legolas was the only one to lay down his weapons without hesitation. He played only a passive role in the healing of Théoden King, and later was arrayed in shining mail beside Aragorn. Gimli would not ride on Éomer’s horse unless Legolas rode beside them, which he did gladly. Éomer declared “Legolas upon my left, and Aragorn upon my right, and none will dare to stand before us!”Hornburg at the eve of battle, he said that though he did not like the place, Gimli comforted him, and he was glad that the dwarf stood by his side. He also wished that a hundred archers of Mirkwood were there, noting the small number of bowmen among the Rohirrim. At the opening of the battle Legolas shot twenty at least, this figure being taken as precise by Gimli. When Gimli returned to the elf for the second time to declare that he slew twenty-one, Legolas counted his kills as twenty-four. By the time the Fire of Orthanc blew out a piece of the wall, his quiver was nearly empty. With the last arrow the elf saved Aragorn’s life when he stumbled while pursued. At the end of the battle, Legolas had shot a total of forty-one, though Gimli surpassed his count by one.
Legolas showed great interest in the Huorns on the way to Isengard, discussing them with Gandalf and a less willing Gimli. Legolas promised Gimli that he would go to Aglarond after the war upon hearing the dwarf’s eloquence, if only Gimli would accompany him on a visit to Fangorn. At Isengard he enjoyed a meal in the company of the Gimli, Aragorn, and the Hobbits.
The Return of the KingPaths of the Dead, Legolas and Gimli willingly volunteered to go with him. Legolas predicted, when Gimli suggested that Galadriel might have sent them soldiers from their own lands, that they need not ride away to find war.
Amidst the paths of the dead, riding with the Grey Company, Legolas alone (save for Elladan and Elrohir, Elrond’s sons) felt no fear of the Dead Men, and it may be remembered that the High Elves had power both in the worlds of the seen and unseen. Yet his turn came to be struck to the heart in the opposite sense – when he heard the gulls at Pelargir, fulfilling Galadriel’s prediction and warning. While telling this story later, he dropped off there, while Gimli promptly said “For my part I heeded them not”. Legolas saw as Aragorn led the Dead Men what a mighty lord he might have been if he had taken the One Ring.
Legolas came with Aragorn from the ships during the Battle of Pelennor Fields, and fought there beside his comrades. He survived the battle, and several times that day afterward commented on the longevity and eventual domination of Men to the dubious Gimli.
Battle of the Morannon and Aftermath
Legolas rode for the last time into battle beside his friends to the Battle of the Morannon. He witnessed the Fall of the Dark Tower, and after the battle attended the ceremonies of the Field of Cormallen in the honor of Frodo and Samwise and their victory. That night Legolas would not go to bed, but instead went away to walk in the woods, singing of the Sea.
After attending the Coronation of Elessar, Legolas remained (at the urging of Aragorn) in Minas Tirith for a time. During the parting of the Fellowship, Legolas went with Gimli to Aglarond. The last sight of Legolas in The Lord of the Rings is as he rode off with Gimli to visit Fangorn Forest.
After the War of the Ring
As noted in Appendix A: Of Durin's Folk, Legolas returned to Minas Tirith with a company of Wood-elves, and they made Ithilien a green and fair land once more. After King Aragorn died, Legolas sailed West. Traditionally, he took Gimli with him.
Legolas showed almost irrepressible cheerfulness throughout the journey, passing through Caradhras and even the Paths of the Dead without hesitation or complaint. His youthful nature can be seen from the mocking way he treated the "strong men" on Caradhras, whom Boromir (excluding Legolas) had said could forge a way out through the snow. He is perhaps most remembered for his friendship with Gimli the Dwarf, and it was during this friendship that we see his faithfulness, and also his love of beauty. Gimli’s words moved him when the dwarf spoke of the Glittering Caverns. It can be assumed despite his suggested age of 500-700 that he had never before come near to the Sea, for his heart became suddenly torn when he heard the Gulls at Pelargir, and could never remove their mewing from his mind. His naivete is demonstrated again when Legolas comments that Aragorn has journeyed further than he has.
Portrayal in Adaptations
Legolas was voiced by Anthony Daniels (who had played the droid C-3PO of Star Wars fame) in Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated version of The Lord of the Rings. In the film, he takes Glorfindel's place in the Flight to the Ford sequence; he meets Strider and the hobbits on their way to Rivendell, and sets Frodo on his horse before he is chased by the Nazgûl to the ford of Bruinen (In Peter Jackson's version, Arwen takes Glorfindel's place and rides to the Ford herself with Frodo). Here, he is apparently from Rivendell, because he answers to Elrond; he is not identified as a Wood-elf.
In the "official movie guide" for The Lord of the Rings, a birthdate for Legolas is set to 87 of the Third Age. This would make him 2931 years old at the time of the War of the Ring. This date for Legolas' birth was made up by the movie writers, as in the books there are no known dates concerning Legolas before Third Age 3018. Curiously, the year 2931 was the year Aragorn was born; the writers may have picked the number at random from the Tale of Years in the Appendices.
He is presented as an unstoppable fighter, arguably to the point of stealing the show; he performs show-stopping yet implausible stunts in battle scenes. For example, in the Battle of the Hornburg, he slides down a staircase using a shield, shooting arrows all the while, and in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, he takes down an Oliphaunt all by himself. However, in the books Legolas's exploits in battle are not presented in great detail. Aside from shooting the fell beast, he undertakes no major actions other than to make peace with Gimli, overcoming their longstanding mutual racial animosity — he and Gimli are followers, rather than leaders. The film-makers later stated that the entire scene of Legolas killing the Oliphaunt and its entire crew was filmed during pick-ups (months after original filming) to insert a major action scene showcasing him, because at that point they realized that he simply doesn't get to do much in the third part of the trilogy.
He wears green and grey clothes and uses boots, in contrast to Tolkien's green and "brown" clothes and "light shoes". It is notable that in the extended DVD edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, a scene in Lothlorien is included in which Legolas is wearing a different costume than his normal. This was in fact his original costume, which was later changed due to the filmmaker's dissatisfaction with it. Fans have come up with several explanations for this seeming inconsistency. Two possibilities stand above the rest as the most likely: (1) Legolas brought an extra tunic and jerkin from Mirkwood and decided to wear it at this moment, (2) The Elves of Lothlorien, under the leadership of Haldir, gave Legolas a new tunic of their own make (or one they had traded with other Elves) for him to wear. The most common explanation for why he would change his tunic is that his other one was dirty from the long trek up to that point and he wanted to have it washed in the clean waters of the Nimrodel.
Legolas bears two long knives, while in the book he bears only one. Another, more trivial change, was the number of Orcs he and Gimli kill at Helm's Deep: 42 and 43, respectively. This brings up an interesting possibility that could further illuminate the playful antagonism between the two characters. Legolas might give his count as "42" but secretly tells an untruth and really has only killed 41 Uruk-hai, but wants to make sure he has more than Gimli. Gimli, who has only killed 42 gives his answer as "43", to make sure he bests the Elf. It is not clear, however, whether this was an intentional change on the part of the filmmakers, though it seems likely that it was, since the original numbers were so clear in Tolkien's own text.
Due to technical mishaps involving Orlando Bloom's contact lenses, in the films Legolas' eye colour sometimes changes between brown, purple, and blue. This was justified by the notion that Elves' eyes change colour with their mood. This idea subsequently spread to fanfiction; however, it is pure fanon, and is nowhere to be found in Tolkien's writings, and is often simply meant as a joke; in any case, his eye color was probably grey; see here for more details. Another common explanation for Legolas' changing eye color is the obvious fact that light reflects off objects differently in different conditions and that, therefore, the Elf's eyes "seem" to change color in different lighting environments.
Playing Legolas in the trilogy was Orlando Bloom's breakout route to superstardom. His handsome features and Legolas' "coolness", so to speak, as depicted in the film, have led to the character becoming a unprecedented fan favorite with both fangirls and fanboys, not to mention other Tolkien fans. Although the disproportionate popular reaction to Legolas met with mixed reactions from fans, many debaters on the Internet during earlier stages of production were worried, that a film portrayal of Legolas might render him as far too effeminate for popular consumption, but later many felt that Bloom was able to avoid this entirely. Christopher Tolkien recounts that his father wrote the following "wrathful" comment protesting against a "pretty" or "ladylike" depiction of Legolas:
- "He was tall as a young tree, lithe, immensely strong, able swiftly to draw a great war-bow and shoot down a Nazgûl, endowed with the tremendous vitality of Elvish bodies, so hard and resistant to hurt that he went only in light shoes over rock or through snow, the most tireless of all the Fellowship."
- ― The Book of Lost Tales Part 2
Despite Bloom's popularity, many viewers have found his performance wooden, in agreement with his status as a "Wood"-elf.
Legolas is absent from the 1980 animated version of The Return of the King.
See Legolas disputes
The name Legolas is a Silvan dialect form of pure Sindarin Laegolas, which means Greenleaf. This shows that Greenleaf is not his surname, as is sometimes erroneously believed; nor is it an epithet (like Oakenshield), but a translation of his name. It consists of the Sindarin words laeg, green; and golas, a collection of leaves, foliage (being a prefixed collective form of las(s), "leaf"). The Quenya form (mentioned in the Book of Lost Tales in the context of another character of that name) is Laiqualassë.
There might, however, be a certain meaning to his name: laeg is a very rare, archaic word for green, which is normally replaced by calen (cf. Calenhad, mutated Parth Galen and plural Pinnath Gelin) and is otherwise almost only preserved in Laegrim, Laegel(d)rim (Sindarin form of Quenya Laiquendi), the Green Elves of the First Age. It may be that Thranduil named his son Legolas to at least in part refer to this people, who were remote kin and ancestors of the later Silvan Elves, the people Thranduil ruled and to whom—very likely—Thranduil's wife belonged.
Apparently, only Hobbits (and the Men of Bree) used surnames (like Baggins or Gamgee), as recorded in the Red Book. Men and Elves alike used the patronymic (son of) formula. In English, therefore, a fuller name would be "Legolas son of Thranduil" or "Legolas Thranduil's son". In Sindarin, that would be Legolas Thranduilion, -ion meaning "scion of".
- Legolas of Mirkwood: Prince Among Equals - An Essay by Ellen Brundige
- "Speaking of Legolas..." by Michael Martinez, Suite101.com, 2004
- Discussion on Legolas' age, from the theonering.com messageboards
|Members of the Fellowship of the Ring|
|Frodo · Sam · Merry · Pippin · Gandalf · Aragorn · Legolas · Gimli · Boromir|