Gimli (Middle-earth)

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Tolkien character
Portrayed byJohn Rhys-Davies
Lord of the Glittering Caves
Book(s)The Lord of the Rings,
Unfinished Tales

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 Frodo Baggins, participates in the War of the Ring, and becomes close friends with Legolas, overcoming an ancient enmity of Dwarves and Elves.

Character overview[edit]

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 he forged a friendship with the elf Legolas despite his original hostility (due to the fact that Thranduil, Legolas's father, had once incarcerated Glóin, Gimli's father, one of the company of Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit). These relationships helped rehabilitate the long-troubled relationship between Elves and Dwarves of Middle-earth.

Fictional biography[edit]

Gimli was born in the Ered Luin (Blue Mountains) in the Third Age. His father was Glóin, one of the former companions of the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. Gimli had wanted to accompany his father and the others in the company of Thorin Oakenshield on their quest to reclaim Erebor (the Lonely Mountain), but at age 62 he was deemed too young.[1]

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 briefly Lord of Moria.

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. Gimli and his father were attending the Council (which was held in T.A. 3018) to bring news of their home, Erebor, and to warn that the Dark Lord Sauron was searching for Bilbo. There they learned that Bilbo's kinsman Frodo now owned the One Ring, the greatest of the Ring of Power, forged 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 Gimli and seven others of varying races to aid him in his task. Thus, the Fellowship of the Ring was formed.

Within the Fellowship there was initially friction between Gimli and the elf Legolas: their races bore an old grudge against each other over the Necklace of the Dwarves and the destruction of Doriath, and more recently Thranduil, Legolas' father, had once imprisoned Gimli's father Glóin (as described in The Hobbit).

When the company was forced to enter the ancient underground Dwarf-realm, the Mines of Moria, Gimli was at first enthusiastic and hoped to find Balin's recently established colony of his people there. However, Moria was still inhabited by Orcs, Cave Trolls, and a Balrog: Balin and his folk had all been killed. The Fellowship found his tomb and a chronicle of events in the Chamber of Mazarbul; Orcs discovered their presence, and they had to fight their way out.

The Fellowship's leader, the Wizard Gandalf, died fighting the Balrog, but the rest of the Fellowship escaped the Mines. Aragorn, a Ranger, then led them to the forest of Lothlórien, populated by Elves hostile 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, defused only when Aragorn arranged for the entire Fellowship to be blindfolded.

Gimli's opinion of Elves 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 gift enough. When pressed further, he admitted that he desired a single strand of her golden hair, to be an heirloom of his house, but that he could not ask for such a gift. Galadriel was 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.[2] By the end of the sojourn in Lothlórien, Gimli had formed his unlikely friendship with Legolas.

At Amon Hen, the company was sundered, for Boromir, son of the Steward of Gondor, tried to take the Ring 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 the two other hobbits of the party, Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took, were captured by Orcs. 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 to the land of Rohan, they met Éomer, nephew of Rohan's King Théoden, with a troop of cavalry. They had killed all the Orcs the Three Hunters were pursuing. When Éomer spoke ill of the name Galadriel, having been told false rumours about her, Gimli responded harshly: Aragorn calmed the quarrel. After being informed about the situation in Rohan, Gimli and the others continued their search for the hobbits, and they came across a resurrected Gandalf, now Gandalf the White, in Fangorn Forest. He assured them that the hobbits were now safe. Gandalf led them to Rohan's capital, Edoras, where he roused King Théoden out of inaction and exposed his counsellor, Gríma Wormtongue, as a spy for Sauron's ally Saruman.

Gimli proved his valour in combat in the ensuing Battle of Helm's Deep against Saruman's forces. He and Legolas engaged in an Orc-slaying contest (Gimli won by one; he killed 42 to Legolas's 41); he received a minor head injury and his axe was notched on the iron collar of the forty-first Orc. During the battle, Gimli saved Éomer's life by killing two orcs and driving off two others. Later, Gimli's vivid description of the Glittering Caves of Aglarond moved Legolas to promise to visit the caves when the War was over. 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 saw through Saruman's lies with the memorable quote “This wizard's words stand on their heads”.

In the third volume, The Return of the King, Gimli accompanied Aragorn, Legolas, a company of Rangers of the North, and Elrond's sons Elladan and Elrohir on the Paths of the Dead, where at the stone of Erech Aragorn summoned the Dead Men of Dunharrow, spirits bound by oath to fight for the king of Gondor, which Aragorn rightfully was. Gimli witnessed the Dead rout invaders at Pelargir in south Gondor by the power of fear alone. After Aragorn declared the spirits' oath fulfilled, the men of south Gondor gathered to his banner, and they sailed in the enemy's abandoned ships to relieve the siege of Gondor's capital Minas Tirith. Their arrival led to victory in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.

Gimli alone represented the Dwarves in the final battle against Sauron, the Battle of the Morannon in front of the Black Gate of Mordor. There he recognized Pippin 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 built "great works" in Rohan and Gondor, and replaced the ruined gate of Minas Tirith with a new one made of mithril and steel.[3]

According to the Red Book of Westmarch, after Aragorn's death in the Fourth Age, Gimli (then 262 years old, past mid-life for a Dwarf) sailed with Legolas into the West, becoming the first dwarf in the Undying Lands.


Gimli in Ralph Bakshi's animated version of The Lord of the Rings.

Gimli was voiced by David Buck in Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated version of The Lord of the Rings. Here he is drawn as being almost as tall as the rest of the non-hobbit members of the Fellowship.

Gimli does not appear in the 1980 animated version of The Return of the King. He is portrayed by Tomi Salmela in the 1993 Finnish miniseries Hobitit.

In Peter Jackson's film trilogy (20012003) Gimli is played by John Rhys-Davies, who portrayed the character as having a Scottish accent.[4] Rhys-Davies happened to be taller than the actors playing the Hobbits, who were only 1.67 m (5 ft 6 in) (actor Elijah Wood, playing Frodo Baggins) and 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in) (actors Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, and Dominic Monaghan, playing Sam Gamgee, Pippin Took, and Merry Brandybuck) 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).[citation needed] 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 humour based on heightism.[5] 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 consistently 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 inspects a locket containing pictures of Glóin's family and believes the image of young Gimli to be a goblin, infuriating Glóin.

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[edit]

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.

Family tree[edit]

Durin's Folk[6][a]
Durin IDwarves of Moria
Durin II
Durin III
Durin IV
Durin V
Durin VI
Náin I
Thráin I
Thorin I
Náin II
Dáin IBorin
Thráin IINáinFundinGróin
Thorin II OakenshieldDáin II IronfootDwalinBalinGlóinÓinOri, Dori, NoriBifur, Bofur, Bombur
Fili, KiliThorin III StonehelmGimli
Durin VII


  1. ^ Names in italics in the family tree are Thorin and his company from The Hobbit.


  1. ^ Unfinished Tales, p. 336.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, part III.
  4. ^ Sibley, Brian (2013). The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Official Movie Guide. Harper Collins. p. 27. ISBN 9780007498079.
  5. ^ 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. Archived from the original on 2011-10-31.
  6. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien. The Return of the King, Appendix A, Part III, "Durin's Folk"

External links[edit]