Frodo. Gandalf. Sam. Boromir. Merry. Pippin. Aragorn. Gimli. Legolas. AKA some of the most iconic and well-loved Lord of the Rings characters of all time. (And often the most talked about.) Well, today I’m looking away from the fellowship (#sadness) to focus on some of my other favorite LOTR characters. This post will encompass both the book and the movies (though mostly the book).
He was as noble and fair as an elf-lord, as strong as a warrior, as wise as a wizard, as venerable as a king of dwarves, and as kind as summer.
(‘A Short Rest’, The Hobbit)
I feel like Elrond might get a liiiittle bit of a bad rap because of the movies–he’s quite stern and kind of angry at times. But honestly? I feel so much for him (even in the movies). In the book and beyond, you learn that Elrond has lost pretty much everyone: his parents, his brother, his wife (SO SAD), his commander (Gil-galad), his daughter, and possibly his sons as well. But does Elrond become bitter and isolated? No! He opens up his home to all people, treats Aragorn with great kindness (even once he knows that Aragorn will quite possibly take Arwen away from him), and is generally the most gracious, helpful host imaginable.
Re the movies: while Elrond could have been portrayed a little more book-accurately, I totally get where Movie Elrond’s characterization is coming from. To never see your beloved daughter again? To watch her trade immortality and the bliss of Valinor for a mortal life (and all the pain that accompanies it)? It’s hard! So when Elrond whispers “Go to him” to Arwen at Aragorn’s coronation and looks both sad and proud…I Feel Things. :*)
Out of doubt, out of dark to the day’s rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope’s end I rode and to heart’s breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
(‘The Battle of the Pelennor Fields’, ROTK)
In the Unfinished Tales (‘Battle of the Fords of Isen’ chapter), Tolkien writes that it was impossible for Wormtongue to set Éomer and Théoden and Théodred against each other because the two cousins loved each other and their uncle/father as well–and because Éomer was not an ambitious man (in the sense of wanting to wrest Rohan from its rightful ruler). However, even all of Éomer’s love and loyalty could not save him from being wrongfully imprisoned by his uncle (thanks to Saruman’s influence). But what does Éomer do after Théoden shakes off Saruman’s poison? Does he retaliate because of the unjust treatment he’s received? Let’s see…
‘Your fingers would remember their old strength better, if they grasped a sword-hilt,’ said Gandalf.
Théoden rose and put his hand to his side; but no sword hung at his belt. ‘Where has Gríma stowed it?’ he muttered under his breath.
‘Take this, dear lord!’ said a clear voice. ‘It was ever at your service.’ Two men had come softly up the stair and stood now a few steps from the top. Éomer was there. No helm was on his head, no mail was on his breast, but in his hand he held a drawn sword; and as he knelt he offered the hilt to his master.
‘How comes this?’ said Théoden sternly. He turned towards Éomer and the men looked in wonder at him, standing now proud and erect. Where was the old man whom they had left crouching in his chair or leaning on his stick?
‘It is my doing, lord,’ said Háma, trembling. I understood that Éomer was to be set free. Such joy was in my heart that maybe I have erred. Yet, since he was free again, and he a Marshal of the Mark, I brought him his sword as he bade me.’
‘To lay at your feet, my lord,’ said Éomer.‘The King of the Golden Hall’, The Two Towers
Throughout the rest of the book, Éomer shows great courage and eventually becomes the king of Rohan (and bffs with Aragorn). I also have to mention Movie Éomer because, although a few details are changed (such as his banishment from Rohan), he remains much the same character–and Karl Urban portrays him WONDERFULLY. Éomer comes to Théoden’s rescue in the nick of time (in the movie), mourns his sister on the battlefield in such a heartbreaking way, watches over her as she heals, and rides to the Black Gate even though there’s basically zero chance of success (because he’ll follow Aragorn anywhere, no questions asked). He’s just so awesome!!!
‘For he was a gentle heart and a great king and kept his oaths; and he rose out of the shadows to a last fair morning. Though your service to him was brief, it should be a memory glad and honourable to the end of your days.’
(‘The Houses of Healing, ROTK)
Okay, so I usually prefer the book version of LOTR characters, but Théoden is one of the rare occasions where I just might prefer the movie version. He’s obviously great in the book, no doubt about it. But Bernard Hill’s fantastic performance + some of the writers’ changes in his characterization make Théoden that much more amazing in the movies, imo. Mainly because of the whole ‘lighting of the beacons’ thing. In the book, the beacons have already been lit by the time Gandalf and Pippin arrive in Minas Tirith (and they’re not for summoning Rohan anyway). But, as you all know, the movies do things a liiiittle differently. This allows Howard Shore to show off his INCREDIBLE SKILLZ and for Théoden to be amazing x10000.
Aragorn bursts into Meduseld. “The beacons are lit! Gondor calls for aid!”
A beat. Everyone looks to Théoden, anxious to hear his next words.
“And Rohan will answer!” *epic music kicks in*
I just love it. Théoden has already made clear what he thinks of Gondor & their (supposed) abandonment of Rohan. (I don’t know if it’s ever explained in the movies, but I’m pretty sure that Gondor was really busy with their own problems when the Westfold fell and couldn’t come to Rohan’s aid even if Théoden had asked.) Théoden feels as though Gondor has broken faith with Rohan. Why should he help them? But when the moment of decision comes, Théoden barely hesitates. He rides out to meet the enemy and dies with honor.
Yes, he did fall prey to Saruman’s influence. But he was able to free himself (with Gandalf’s help) and made a great comeback. He doesn’t fall for Saruman’s treachery again (even when facing Saruman/his voice directly, which has to be even harder to resist). He shows tremendous bravery. He takes Éomer and Éowyn under his protective care, treating them as if they were his own children. I never get tired of his character arc.
“I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun; and behold! the Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren. No longer do I desire to be a queen.”
(‘The Steward and the King’, ROTK)
It’s a bit difficult for me to write about Éowyn because I relate to her so, so much. But I’ll try. She cares for Théoden as he continues to decay and darken before her eyes. She dearly loves her brother. She grasps at the first bit of hope that appears, only to find that that the person who represents that hope (Aragorn) is unavailable to her. She rides into battle, grim, determined, even suicidal. She helps Merry find a place in battle. She bravely defends her beloved uncle from the Witch King’s terrifying presence and power. And, after a long, dim sadness, she allows herself to drawn back toward the light by Faramir’s gentle words. She comes to the realization that seeking glory in battle isn’t the right thing to do, and turns from that pursuit to begin healing a wounded land, helping it to flourish once again.
And don’t get me started on how people say that Éowyn is a feminist failure for giving up her pursuit of battle renown for hope and Ithilien and healing and gardening and Faramir. #notimpressed (Read this post for some excellent thoughts on the subject!)
(If anyone has any good Beregond fanart, I’d love to see it. :P)
‘Beregond, by your sword blood was spilled in the Hallows, where that is forbidden. Also you left your post without leave of Lord or of Captain. For these things, of old, death was the penalty. Now therefore I must pronounce your doom. All penalty is remitted for your valour in battle, and still more because all that you did was for the love of the Lord Faramir.’
(‘The Steward and the King’, ROTK)
Beregond is quite a minor character in The Lord of the Rings, but that doesn’t stop him from being one hundred percent awesome! While Pippin often gets the credit for saving Faramir’s life (when Denethor tries to burn Faramir alive), Beregond also plays an essential role. His defence of Faramir through delaying action provides Gandalf the time he needs to arrive on the scene and stop Denethor from killing his own son. Sadly, Beregond does end up killing at least one of the door guards while defending Faramir. Gandalf, ever wise, has this to say of the matter:
“Ill deeds have been done here; but let now all enmity that lies between you be put away, for it was contrived by the Enemy and works his will. You have been caught in a net of warring duties that you did not weave. But think, you servants of the Lord, blind in your obedience, that but for the treason of Beregond Faramir, Captain of the White Tower, would now also be burned.”‘The Pyre of Denethor’, Return of the King
The loyalty and love that Beregond shows for Faramir is amply rewarded when Aragorn decrees that the former captain/guard of the Citadel will accompany Faramir to Ithilien–and remain there with him as he seeks to restore the land formerly in Sauron’s grip. I’m so happy for Beregond! ❤
Suddenly Faramir stirred, and he opened his eyes, and he looked on Aragorn who bent over him; and a light of knowledge and love was kindled in his eyes, and he spoke softly. ‘My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?’
‘Walk no more in the shadows, but awake!’ said Aragorn. ‘You are weary. Rest a while, and take food, and be ready when I return.’
‘I will, lord,’ said Faramir. ‘For who would lie idle when the king has returned?’
(The Houses of Healing, ROTK)
I may or may not have saved the best for last.
Because Faramir is rather perfect. I’m not sure what I can say about him that hasn’t already been said (especially as I’m relatively new to the fandom). I will say that it’s in his relationships with the people around him that Faramir’s quality really shines through. How he esteems and loves Boromir, even though it would have been so easy to resent his older brother. How he still does (I believe) respect and love his father, despite everything. His teacher/pupil relationship with ‘Mithrandir’ too! (Though they are also good friends.) His respect for Frodo and the quick friendship that springs up between them, despite the hurried circumstances and surrounding danger, is one of my favorite aspects of the book. *narrowly eyes at the movie*
And, of course, there’s Faramir’s wooing of Éowyn. That part of the story makes me cry, just from the sheer, aching beauty of it all, and his gentleness and kindness. *happy sigh*
Besides all of that, Faramir is a great captain (his men obviously admire, love, and respect him). He’s intelligent and wise and brave. Basically, like I said, he’s perfect. But not in an annoying, unrealistic, goody-goody-two-shoes way. In a…perfectly perfect way? 😅 Evidently, words fail me. Although I believe that Boromir is still my favorite of the two brothers, Faramir is an incredible character–and I’d marry him in a heartbeat (if he wasn’t, y’know, already married and fictional *wink*).
Do you spot any of your favorite characters on this list? Who do you think I should have included? (Some other options: Gandalf the White [if I’d wanted to get technical], Bilbo, Farmer Maggot, Rose Cotton, Lobelia, and Háma.) Let me know what you think of my list in the comments!