Gimli is a fictional character from J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium, featured in The Lord of the Rings. A Dwarf warrior, he is the son of Glóin (a character from Tolkien's earlier novel, The Hobbit).
Gimli is chosen to represent the race of Dwarves in the Fellowship of the Ring. As such, he is one of the primary characters of the novel. In the course of the adventure, Gimli aids the Ring-bearer, participates in the War of the Ring, and becomes close friends with Legolas, overcoming an ancient enmity of Dwarves and Elves.
Gimli was a member of Durin's Folk who volunteered to accompany Frodo Baggins as a member of the Fellowship of the Ring on the quest to destroy the One Ring. He was an honourable, wise, and stalwart warrior.
Gimli became deeply enamoured upon meeting the Elf-lady Galadriel, and forged a friendship with the Elf Legolas despite his original hostility (due to the fact that Legolas' father had once incarcerated his father); these relationships aided greatly in the rehabilitation of the long-troubled relationship between the Elves and the Dwarves of Middle-earth.
He was a remote descendant of Durin the Deathless, chief of the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves and ancestor to the Dwarven people to which Gimli belonged, the Longbeards. Gimli was of the royal line, but not close to the succession; he was the third cousin once removed of Dáin II Ironfoot, king of Durin's Folk, and the first cousin once removed of Balin, also one of Bilbo's former companions, and later Lord of Moria for a short time.
Gimli was introduced in the first volume of The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, at the Council of Elrond Half-elven, which he attended together with his father to bring news of his home, Erebor (the Lonely Mountain). There they learned that Bilbo's kinsman Frodo now owned the One Ring, a Ring of Power forged and then lost by the Dark Lord Sauron. The Council decided to have it destroyed by casting it into the volcanic Mount Doom in Sauron's domain of Mordor. Frodo volunteered for the task, and Elrond chose eight people of varying races to aid him in his task — including Gimli. Thus, the Fellowship of the Ring was formed.
Within the Fellowship there was initially friction between Gimli and the Elf Legolas, for various reasons: their races bore an old grudge against each other over the ancient matter of the Necklace of the Dwarves and the destruction of Doriath, and more recently Thranduil, Legolas' father, once imprisoned Gimli's father Glóin (as described in The Hobbit).
When the company was forced to enter an ancient underground Dwarf-realm, the Mines of Moria, Gimli was at first enthusiastic and hoped to find a recently established colony of his people there, led by Balin. However, Moria was still inhabited by a huge number of Orcs and several Cave Trolls, as well as a Balrog, and Balin and his folk were all dead. The Fellowship found his tomb in the Chamber of Records, together with a chronicle of events, but Orcs had discovered their presence and they had to fight their way out.
After their leader Gandalf the Wizard fell into a chasm during a heated battle with the Balrog, the Fellowship finally escaped the Mines. Aragorn, a Man and a Ranger, then led them to the forest of Lothlórien, populated by Elves who were not friendly to Dwarves. Gimli was told he had to be blindfolded if he was to enter the forest, and his refusal nearly led to a violent situation, which was defused only when Aragorn proposed that the entire Fellowship be blindfolded, which was done.
Gimli's opinion of Elves drastically changed when he met Galadriel, co-ruler of Lothlórien: her beauty, kindness, and understanding impressed Gimli so much that, when given the opportunity to ask for whatever he wished, he responded that being able to see her and hear her gentle words was a gift enough. When pressured further, he admits that he desires a single strand of her golden hair, so that he might treasure it and preserve it as an heirloom of his house, but that he does not ask for such a gift. Galadriel is so moved by his bold-yet-courteous request that she gave him not one, but three of her hairs. She also subsequently gave Gimli the name "Lockbearer" as a result. By the end of the sojourn in Lothlórien, Gimli had formed his unlikely friendship with Legolas.
At Amon Hen, the company was sundered, for the Man Boromir, son of the Steward of Gondor, tried to take the Ring from Frodo and use it for Gondor and his own gain in their ongoing war against Sauron. Frodo fled at this and went ahead, accompanied only by his gardener Samwise Gamgee.
In the second volume, The Two Towers, the other members of the Fellowship were scattered while looking for Frodo, and by ill-chance the two other hobbits of the party, Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took, were captured by Orcs who were stalking them. Boromir was mortally wounded defending them, and it fell to Gimli, Aragorn and Legolas to set him on a funeral boat. They decided to go after Merry and Pippin, for Frodo's mission was out of their hands.
After running a great distance in a few days and thus entering the land of Rohan, they met the Marshal Éomer and his riders, who had slain the Orc-band. When Éomer spoke ill of the name Galadriel, having been told false rumours about her, Gimli responded with overtly harsh words, leading to a hostile situation that again had to be defused by Aragorn. Continuing their search for the hobbits, they came across a resurrected Gandalf in Fangorn Forest, who assured them that the hobbits were now safe. Gandalf led them to Rohan's capital, Edoras, where he roused King Théoden, Éomer's uncle, out of inaction and exposed his counsellor Gríma as a spy.
Gimli proved his valour in combat in the ensuing Battle of the Hornburg against the forces of Saruman. In that battle, he and Legolas engaged in an Orc-slaying contest (Gimli won by one; he killed 42 to Legolas' 41), although he received a minor head injury and his axe was notched on the iron collar of the forty-first Orc or Uruk. During the battle, Gimli saved Éomer's life by slaying two orcs and driving off two others that had ambushed the Marshal. Later, Gimli's vivid description of the Glittering Caves of Aglarond moved Legolas to promise to come back and visit when the War was over. (They eventually fulfilled this promise, with Gimli also consenting to visit Fangorn Forest.) Their friendship was a model for overcoming prejudice; they even rode together on the same horse. After their victory, Gimli and the others went to Saruman's stronghold of Isengard, where Gandalf cast Saruman out of the Order of Wizards and broke his staff. During this conversation, Gimli sees through Saruman's lies with the memorable quote 'This wizard's words stand on their heads' although Saruman does manage to grip the listeners one more time before Théoden finally enrages him enough to fully break the hold his voice has on them.
In the third volume, The Return of the King, Gimli accompanied Aragorn, Legolas, a company of Rangers of the North, along with Elrond's sons on the Paths of the Dead, where at the stone of Erech Aragorn summoned the Dead Men of Dunharrow, shades bound to fight for the king of Gondor, which Aragorn rightfully was. Gimli witnessed the Dead Men rout enemy invaders at Pelargir in south Gondor by the power of fear alone. After Aragorn dismissed the shades, the menfolk of south Gondor gathered to his banner, and they all sailed in the enemy's abandoned ships to Gondor's capital Minas Tirith, which was then under siege. Their arrival eventually led to victory in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Gimli alone represented the Dwarves in the final battle against Sauron at the Black Gate of Mordor. He also recognized Peregrin Took's feet underneath a troll and saved the young hobbit's life. Before the host of Gondor could be overwhelmed, the Ring was destroyed, and Sauron was defeated.
After the War, Gimli led a large number of Durin's folk south to establish a new Dwarf-realm at Aglarond, and he became the first Lord of the Glittering Caves. The Dwarves of the Glittering Caves, led by their lord, repaired much of the physical damage incurred during the War. Most notably, they replaced the ruined Great Gate of Minas Tirith with a new one made of mithril and steel, as well as improving upon the existing layout of the entire city.
According to the Red Book of Westmarch, after Aragorn's death as King of the Reunited Kingdom in Fourth Age 120, Gimli (then very old) travelled with Legolas into the West, becoming the first Dwarf to visit the Undying Lands. This stemmed from his love for both Legolas and Lady Galadriel.
In Peter Jackson's movie trilogy (2001–2003) Gimli is played by John Rhys-Davies, who affected a Scottish accent in his portrayal. Rhys-Davies happened to be taller than the actors playing the Hobbits, who were only 1.67 m (5 ft 6 in) and 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in) while Rhys-Davies is 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in). Thus in scenes where Gimli and the Hobbits appear together, their respective sizes remain in proportion, whereas in scenes where they have to interact with human-sized characters, tricks of scale had to be employed, especially since John Rhys-Davies is also taller than Viggo Mortensen and Orlando Bloom (who played Aragorn and Legolas respectively), both of whom are 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in). Gimli wears a heavy helmet at the outset instead of getting one in Rohan as in the book, as well as wielding various axes of different shapes and uses (ex. small throwing axes, a walking axe, and a double-headed axe he obtains in Moria). In the book, he bears only one axe throughout.
In the movies, Gimli's more prosaic and blunt style contrasted to Aragorn and Legolas is somewhat exaggerated, and he often provides the defusing comic relief, with much of the humor based on heightism. Another major source of comic relief is his competitive, if friendly, feud with Legolas beginning in the course of The Two Towers, which is well continued into Return of the King where Gimli constantly finds himself out-achieved, especially when Legolas slays an Oliphaunt by himself. In the Hobbit movie series, Gimli is mentioned in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug when Legolas sees a locket with pictures of Glóin's family and believes the image of young Gimli to be a goblin which infuriates the dwarf.
On stage, in the United States, Gimli was portrayed by Elizabeth Harris in the Cincinnati stage productions of The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), and The Return of the King (2003) for Clear Stage Cincinnati. At Chicago's Lifeline Theatre, Gimli was played on-stage by Brooks Darrah in The Two Towers (1999). In Canada, Gimli was portrayed by Ross Williams in the 3-hour Toronto stage production of The Lord of the Rings, which opened in 2006. In The Lord of the Rings: The Musical he was played by Sévan Stephan throughout its London run.
Concept and creation
The name Gimli first appeared in Tolkien's works in The Tale of Tinúviel, the earliest version of the story of Beren and Lúthien Tinúviel, found in the second volume of The Book of Lost Tales. Here, the name belongs to an aged Elf, a prisoner along with Beren in the kitchens of Tevildo, Prince of Cats (forerunner of Sauron).
During the writing of The Lord of the Rings, as told in The Return of the Shadow, Gimli's character was first named Frar, then Burin, and he was the son of Balin.
Notes and references
- According to "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn" in Unfinished Tales, this same request was made, thousands of years previously, by Galadriel's uncle Fëanor, greatest of the Noldorin Elves (whose creation of the Silmarils may have been inspired by that same silver-gold hair). Galadriel refused Fëanor's request, but she granted Gimli's, perhaps because of his humility.
- Brennan Croft, Janet (February 2003). "The Mines of Moria: ‘Anticipation’ and ‘Flattening’ in Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring". Southwest/Texas Popular Culture Association Conference, Albuquerque. University of Oklahoma.