LotRFI Pt. 24–Legolas

I always found Legolas’s character arc to be one that begins in haughtiness and becomes more approachable as he engages in the hardships of the Fellowship. Looking back with a wider literary reference frame than I had in my first reading, I would almost say that my first interpretation of his transformation would not raise any eyebrows if it were set in a Jane Austen novel, though his bow skills might.

Image copyright Alan Lee

He is always quick-witted, especially when engaging in repartee with Gimli; however, this arguing transforms into a light-hearted badinage by the end of their time together in Rohan. I always enjoyed watching these two become friends over the course of the tale and appreciated the note about their friendship in the appendices.

As an individual, Legolas is a formidable bowman, he does not defy the law of gravity mind you. He is always a reliable aid to his companions and he shows up when he is needed. For all of these elements, though, I never really felt drawn to Legolas as a character. I think his oft-mentioned ethereal nature made him seem remote from me as a young reader. He was a character to be marveled at, when he walks on the snow of Caradhras, for instance, but not related to.

I think this was underscored for me in Lothlórien when the elves are grieving for Gandalf. Legolas refuses to translate their song for the Fellowship and, by extension, the reader. This always made me feel as though Legolas wanted to be an outsider in some ways. Surely my interpretation of Legolas was, and is, a projection of a part of myself, in that I am reading what I would desire if I were to act as Legolas. To me, though, it is not until later when he volunteers to follow Aragorn on the Paths of the Dead that his desire for attachment is demonstrated.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I suppose we should talk about being ‘Orc dragged’ across Rohan.

What Do You Think?

What was your initial reaction to Legolas?
Did you like Jackson’s super-elf?
​Have I missed anything? Let me know!

3 thoughts on “LotRFI Pt. 24–Legolas

  1. Tolkienfan

    I think he was not used to spending so much concentrated time with non-Elves. He mentions that he is not well-traveled. I think Lake-town, Dale and Erebor were perhaps the extent of his travels (maybe Dorwinion too) but he was likely in the company of his fellow Elves and only had short social interactions with the inhabitants of those places he visited. As he spent time with the members of the Fellowship he grew more comfortable–as he showed with his witty, playful banter at Caradhras. The hunt for Merry and Pippin really bonded him with Gimli and Aragorn–he was changed by that and I see his affection for them and investment in their lives growing exponentially from there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mike P.

    I find it a little bit humorous that you mention that he “doesn’t defy the law of gravity” but that the single most explicit feat ascribed to him is in fact, walking on top of snow into which other people sink, which sounds an awful lot like defying gravity, even if it isn’t Gandalf’s mocking “if elves could fly over mountains”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks, Luke, for sharing your reflections and for starting this discussion. I actually liked Legolas’ character a lot on my first reading of LOTR, and still do. Book Legolas is thankfully nothing like Jackson’s/ Bloom’s Legolas of the films. If I had watched the films first, seeing Legolas rolling his eyes at Gimli right at the start at the Council of Elrond, I might have got the impression he was haughty.
    But from the books I got the impression he was a bit aloof (as opposed to haughty) simply because he was different, a little bit in ‘his own world’. People like that aren’t always understood, and in turn, they might share less, or interact less. It is no coincidence that when he saw Gimli respect and appreciate Galadriel and Lothlorien, he was willing to open up to him and struck a close friendship. Knowing that you won’t be misunderstood or judged is key to trust. And some people are just introverts or observers.
    I would agree, though, that we don’t see any stand-out moments in which Legolas connects much with any of the hobbits, unlike Gimli who demonstrates his fondness and loyalty towards them on several occasions, which certainly makes him the more relatable of the two.

    Liked by 1 person

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