What Only Book Readers Know About Legolas
The elves of Tolkien’s lore have little in common with the mythological creatures of old children’s books. Depicted as beings of beauty, knowledge, and spiritual power unknown to other races of Middle-earth, they are also the oldest race and live forever.
The lore surrounding Middle-earth life is detailed and varied, constituting some of the most fascinating and unique literature of the 20th century. The Silmarillion, which records the early years of the Elves and their heroic deeds, is written on an epic scale not seen very often in the modern era. Legolas, the Fellowship member who represents the Elves of Middle-earth, has some cool moments in the movies, but the viewer never knows much about his backstory or his story unless they read the books.
6 He is a Sindar Elf
The Elves have been separated into a number of different groups and races throughout history, but there have always been two main groups above all other regional or blood ties: the Eldar and the Avari. Early in the history of Arda, the realm that comprises Middle-earth, the Eldar were the Elves who answered Oromë’s call to join him in Valinor with the other Valar. The Avari refused and remained in the wilderness of Middle-earth.
The Eldar are also divided into three groups, the Vanyar, the Noldor and the Teleri. The largest group is the Teleri, and the Sindar are their descendants. Legolas’ father, Thranduil, hailed from a place called Doriath, a kingdom ruled by the legendary King Thingol and his wife Melian, who was of Maiar like wizards. The identity of Legolas’ mother is completely unknown, so it is possible that he is half Sindar.
5 He negotiates the passage to Lothlorien
In the movies, it’s Aragorn who does the heavy lifting here, making sure every member of the Fellowship is allowed to cross Lothlorien. It makes sense for the cinematic narrative, because Aragorn is going to be king of all Middle-earth, and part of that brings all the races together under one banner.
In the books, however, it’s Legolas who handles this, and being the son of King Thranduil, one would have expected that. It was his idea to blindfold the entire company, including himself, as they were led into Lothlorien. This agreement guaranteed passage to everyone – partly because in literature, Elves were much more concerned with the presence of a Dwarf than with the One Ring.
4 Message from Galadriel
In the books, when Gandalf was “dismissed” after defeating the Balrog, he was not sent directly to his friends in Fangorn but to Lothlorien, to recuperate under the care of Galadriel and Celeborn. While there, Galadriel gave him a personal message that was specifically intended for Legolas.
The message consisted of four lines of a song, the last two of which are: “If you hear the cry of the seagull on the shore, your heart will no longer rest in the forest.” At that time, Legolas had not yet seen the sea, still happy in his wooded house. True to Galadriel’s warning, when he heard the cry of seagulls at Pelargir where he and Aragorn took the black ships, a desire arose in his heart to sail to the Immortal Lands.
3 He speaks old English
Most readers know that Legolas has a lot more to say in literature than in the movies, with most of his poetic dialogue being lost in the adaptations. However, only truly hardcore readers know that Legolas quotes a few Old English poems. These are something like Easter eggs for book nerds who love arcane historical references and those aware of Tolkien’s distinguished history as a brilliant and accomplished linguist.
In The Fellowship of the Ring, Legolas quotes a few poetic lines as the group walks past ancient Elvish ruins, taken from an 8th or 9th century poem called The ruin. When Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn approach the capital of Rohan, only Legolas has eyes sharp enough to see Meduseld’s hall and describes it using a line of Beowulf.
2 Minas Tirith needs more landscaping
Speaking of Legolas expressing himself through poetry and music, he had something to say about Minas Tirith – and he didn’t exactly adore it like everyone else. As the community ascended to the Houses of Healing, he sang an Elvish song that suggested the city had too much stone and needed more gardens.
Once they reach the Healing Houses, Legolas hears birdsong and remembers the cries of seagulls by the sea. He continues to recite a poem about flowers and trees, but this time he mentions a place called Lebennin, a delta made up of five rivers in southern Gondor that flow into the sea.
1 He’s not even mentioned in The Hobbit
This may seem odd to fans of the show who haven’t read the books. There is a substantial part of The Hobbit novel that literally takes place in Legolas’ house, but it does not appear in the book at all. King Thranduil does not even mention his son.
People who read the books may never wonder about the absence of Legolas The Hobbit. Since Mirkwood was becoming more and more dangerous due to Sauron’s growing power at the time, he had a good reason to stick around in the wild rather than spending time at home. More speculation in The Hobbit Story by John D. Rateliff argues that if Tolkien had followed a 1960 edition of the novel, Legolas might have been included after all.
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