|This article relies on references to primary sources. (August 2014)|
|Tolkien's legendarium character|
|Aliases||Greenleaf (Legolas translated
Legolas was the son of Thranduil, King of the Woodland Realm of Northern Mirkwood, who appears as "the Elvenking" in The Hobbit. Thranduil ruled over the Silvan Elves or "Wood-elves" of Mirkwood.
Although he lived among the Silvan Elves, Legolas was not one himself. His father Thranduil had originally come from Lindon; he and his son were actually Sindar, or "Grey Elves", called in the singular Sinda; "Sindarin" was their language. A small minority of Sindar (headed by Thranduil by the time of The Hobbit) ruled the predominantly Silvan Woodland Realm. Thranduil himself was the son of Oropher. Legolas' mother is never mentioned; the Elves of Mirkwood have no Queen at the time of The Hobbit. It is also unknown whether or not he had any siblings.
The realm's Sindar minority, who should have been more noble and wise than the Silvan Elves, went "native" at the end of the First Age. After Melkor was defeated and all of the grand Elf-kingdoms of Beleriand were destroyed, the Sindar returned to "a simpler time" in their culture. The realm of Lothlórien was similar to the Woodland Realm in that a community of Silvan Elves was ruled by a non-Silvan minority, namely Galadriel and Celeborn.
Legolas was introduced in The Fellowship of the Ring, at the council of Elrond of Rivendell, where he came as a messenger from his father to discuss Gollum's escape from their guard. Legolas was chosen to be a member of the Fellowship that intended to destroy the One Ring. He accompanied the other members in their travels from Rivendell to Amon Hen, serving as the group's archer.
When the Fellowship is trapped by a snowstorm while crossing the dangerous mountain Caradhras, Legolas provides a bit of comic relief as he scouted ahead, claiming he was "off to find the Sun"; at the same time his scouting efforts proved invaluable to both Aragorn and Boromir, who were disheartened by a seemingly impassable wall of snow until Legolas informed them that they were nearly through. Since the attempt to cross Caradhras failed, Gandalf took the Fellowship on an underground journey through Moria, an ancient Dwarf-kingdom, though some (including Legolas) did not wish to travel there. Before they reached Moria, Legolas helped fend off an attack by Sauron's wolves in Hollin. Once in Moria, he helped fight off Orcs and recognized "Durin's Bane" as a Balrog of Morgoth. After Gandalf was lost while facing the Balrog, Aragorn took charge of the Fellowship and led them to the Elven realm of Lothlórien, the Golden Wood. Legolas served as the initial spokesperson for the company, speaking with the inhabitants, the Galadhrim, whom he considered close kin.
Within the Fellowship, there was initially friction between Legolas and the Dwarf Gimli, because of the ancient quarrel between Elves and Dwarves after the destruction of Doriath in the First Age; and also because Thranduil once threw Gimli's father, Glóin, in prison. In addition Thranduil had been disliked by dwarves ever since he refused to pay them for crafting his raw metals. Legolas and Gimli became friends when Gimli greeted the Elven queen Galadriel with gentle words. The Fellowship left Lothlórien after receiving several gifts. Legolas was given a new longbow, along with other gifts that Galadriel and Celeborn gave him and the rest of the Fellowship, such as Elven cloaks and lembas bread. While the Fellowship was travelling over the River Anduin, Legolas used his new bow to shoot down a nearby "fell beast" in the dark with one shot.
After Boromir was killed and Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took were captured by Orcs and Uruk-Hai in The Two Towers, Legolas, Aragorn, and Gimli set forth in pursuit of the two captured hobbits. Legolas and his companions met a resurrected Gandalf renamed "Gandalf the White" in Rohan, who passed on a message from Galadriel - which he interprets as foretelling his death:
- "Legolas Greenleaf long under the tree,
- In joy thou hast lived, Beware the Sea!
- If thou hearest the cry of the gull on the shore,
- Thy heart shall then rest in the forest no more."
The three met with the Rohirrim, fought in the Battle of the Hornburg, and witnessed Saruman's downfall at Isengard together with Gandalf, where they were reunited with Merry and Pippin. In the Battle of the Hornburg, Legolas and Gimli engaged in an Orc-slaying contest, which Gimli won by one, killing forty-two to Legolas's forty-one, but the real result was stronger mutual respect.
In The Return of the King, Legolas and Gimli accompanied Aragorn on the Paths of the Dead, along with the Grey Company. After Aragorn summoned the Dead Men of Dunharrow to fight for him, Legolas saw them frighten away the Corsairs of Umbar from their ships at Pelargir. Galadriel's prophecy was fulfilled: as Legolas heard the cries of seagulls, he began to experience the Sea-longing — the desire to sail west to Valinor the "Blessed Realm" which was latent among the Sindar. He fought in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields and of the Morannon and watched as Sauron was defeated and Barad-dûr collapsed.
After the destruction of the One Ring, Legolas remained in Minas Tirith for Aragorn's crowning and marriage to Arwen. Later, Legolas and Gimli went travelling together through Fangorn forest and to visit the Glittering Caves of Helm's Deep, as Legolas had promised Gimli. Eventually, Legolas founded an Elf-colony in Ithilien and spent his remaining time helping to restore its devastated forests. It was told in the Red Book of Westmarch (first written by Bilbo Baggins, continued by Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee and finally passed down through his heirs), that after Aragorn's death in the year 120 of the Fourth Age, Legolas built a grey ship and left Middle-earth to go over the Sea to Valinor, and that Gimli went with him.
Tolkien first describes Legolas in The Fellowship of the Ring as "a strange Elf, clad in green and brown".
As part of the Fellowship of the Ring, Legolas is armed with a bow and arrows and one "long white knife" which hangs by his side. While the Fellowship attempts to cross Caradhras, Legolas alone remains light-hearted. He is little affected by the blowing winds and snow; he does not even wear boots, only light shoes, and his feet scarcely make imprints on the snow - illustrating the Elves' otherworldliness. As Legolas, Aragorn and Gimli chase after Merry and Pippin in The Two Towers, Legolas is the only one of the threesome who does not become tired after days of constant running, and does not sleep when Aragorn and Gimli have to stop for a night. When the Company journey through the Paths of the Dead, all are chilled by the murmurs and whispers of the dead save Legolas, who states, "the shades of Men hold no terror for Elves". Legolas can see and hear from great distances, attributes constantly referred to throughout the story even if Legolas is not present with the narrating party. He is also lithe and slender with bright, keen eyes and ears and is fair of face as all Elves are. He is an unrivalled archer and Gandalf calls him a dangerous warrior. His keen eyes, ears and fighting skills are of immense use to the Fellowship but his friendship and loyalty to Aragorn, Gimli and Frodo make him an even more important member.
Legolas' hair colour is not definitively stated. Some argue that he is dark, referring to a passage in The Fellowship of the Ring where Frodo looks up at the Elf and sees that "His head was dark, crowned with sharp white stars." This could simply be that Legolas was in silhouette. Both Ralph Bakshi and Peter Jackson make him blond in their respective film adaptations (see below). This is supported by the fact that Thranduil, Legolas's father and a Sindarin elf, is described in The Hobbit as having golden hair, in spite of most Sindarin elves having dark hair. In a musical version of The Lord of the Rings, Legolas is dark-haired. In the real-time strategy game The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring, his hair is white or silver.
Though neither Legolas' age nor his birthdate are directly given in Tolkien's writings, some passages indicate he is far older than Aragorn and Gimli. For instance, he calls them "children" and says he has seen "many an oak grow from acorn to ruinous age". The Appendices to The Lord of the Rings do reveal Gimli's and Aragorn's birthdates: at the time of the War of the Ring, they are 139 and 87 respectively.
Though his father and his kingdom appear in The Hobbit, Legolas does not appear himself, as his character had yet not been created (though his name had). Since he is over 139 years old, being older than Gimli, he must have been alive during the events of The Hobbit, which take place less than a century before the Quest of Mount Doom.
Concept and creation
The name Legolas Greenleaf first appeared in the book "The Fall of Gondolin", one of the "Lost Tales", circa 1917. The character, who guides some survivors of the sack of the city to safety, is mentioned only once and is likely unrelated to the character discussed above. As the Lost Tales were the first versions of what would become Tolkien's "Middle-earth" writings, and by the time The Lord of the Rings was written much had changed, this in all likelihood is not the same elf, and he was not included in the published Silmarillion.
The Legolas of Gondolin, whom Tolkien would likely have renamed, has a different etymology. His name (Laiqalassë in its pure form) comes from the primitive Quenya (Qenya) words laica, green, and lassë, leaf. The names are very similar, but the characters were different: Legolas of Gondolin was possibly a Noldorin Exile, of the House (kindred) of the Tree. However, the published Silmarillion, in describing Turgon's founding of Gondolin, states that Turgon took with him up to a third of the people under Fingolfin, but an even larger number of the Sindar. Thus, whether Legolas of Gondolin was of Noldorin or Sindarin descent is debatable.
Legolas was voiced by Anthony Daniels 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 Aragorn 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. Here, he answers to Elrond and is not explicitly identified as a Wood-elf.
Legolas is absent from the 1980 animated version of The Return of the King, but was voiced by David Collings in the 1981 BBC Radio 4 adaptation. In the 1993 Finnish miniseries Hobitit he was portrayed by Ville Virtanen.
In Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movie trilogy (2001–2003), Legolas was portrayed by Orlando Bloom. He is presented as an unstoppable fighter, performing various feats or stunts in battle scenes; in the book Legolas' exploits in battle are not presented in great detail. The character's relationship with Gimli is shown to have moved from brief hostility as seen in The Fellowship of the Ring to respect and friendship in The Two Towers. This is first seen when Éomer makes a remark towards Gimli that he wished to cut off the dwarf's head "if it but stood a little higher off the ground". Legolas drew an arrow on Éomer immediately afterwards, claiming, "You would die before your stroke fell." The two also engage in a drinking contest which Gimli loses due to Legolas' much higher metabolism which gives him a far greater resistance to the effects of alcohol. During the battle of Helm's Deep, the two engage in a contest to see who can slay the most enemies, as they do in the novel, though the films depict Legolas constantly being at least one kill ahead of Gimli. In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Legolas and Gimli continue their friendly competition that started in The Two Towers, which usually (and comically) leaves Gimli on the losing side. Due to technical mishaps involving Bloom's contact lenses, in the films Legolas' eye colour sometimes changes between brown, purple, and blue (In the director's commentary of the Extended Edition, Peter Jackson admitted that they forget to put Bloom's contacts in several times).
Merchandise for the live-action film trilogy includes two non-canonical figures for the character's age. In one of the official film guidebooks, 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. Coincidentally or not, the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings give Aragorn's year of birth as T.A. 2931. Another invented figure appears in Top Trumps cards for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, with the card for Legolas stating his age at 7000.
Bloom reprised his role as Legolas in Jackson's 2013 release The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Legolas is here seen interacting with his father, King Thranduil. He figures prominently in many of the fight sequences, displaying his superhuman agility as an Elf. In addition, he is shown to be attracted to his fellow Elf Tauriel (an original character created for the film trilogy), but their relationship is troubled by Thranduil's apparent disapproval of her as a proper match for his son and Tauriel's budding romance with the young dwarf Kíli. Following the capture of Thorin's band in Mirkwood, Legolas gains possession of Thorin's Elven-forged sword Orcrist, which he continues to wield for the rest of the film.
In the West End musical, The Lord of the Rings: The Musical, Legolas was portrayed by Michael Rouse.
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- Legolas Greenleaf at the Encyclopedia of Arda
- Legolas at The Thain's Book
- Legolas at the Internet Movie Database