Friday, February 23, 2007

Legolas Son of King Thranduil

Legolas [LEEG-oh-lahs] is the son of King Thranduil of the Woodland Realm of Northern
Mirkwood, who appears as "the Elvenking" in The Hobbit; his father rules over the Silvan Elves who dwell there. Although he lived among them, was exposed to their customs, and it is inferred that he considered himself one of them, Legolas was strictly not one of the Silvan Elves (Wood-elves). His father Thranduil had originally come from Doriath; he and his son were actually Sindar ("Grey Elves", singular Sinda - "Sindarin" is their language). A small minority of Sindar ruled the predominantly Silvan Woodland Realm, a minority which Thranduil headed. The Sindarin minority in that realm, who should have been more noble and wise than the Silvan Elves, can be seen as having "gone native" at the end of the First Age: after Melkor was defeated and all of the grand Elf-kingdoms of Beleriand were destroyed, they can be seen as going back to "a simpler time" in their culture. The realm of Lothlórien is similar to the Woodland Realm in that a community of Silvan Elves is ruled by non-Silvan ones, i.e. Galadriel and Celeborn.

Though his father and his kingdom appear in The Hobbit, Legolas does not appear himself. Of course, his character had not been made yet (though his name had; see below). However, some have theorized that he may well have fought in the Battle of the Five Armies at Erebor. The events in The Hobbit take place less than a century before the Quest of Mount Doom. Unlike Men, the Eldar (which included the Sindar) reached adulthood on or before they reached a century of age.

Not until the fiftieth year did the Eldar attain the stature and shape in which their lives would afterwards endure, and for some a hundred years would pass before they were full-grown. — from the essay Laws and Customs Among the Eldar, found in Morgoth's Ring, part of The History of Middle-earth.

Legolas is older than Aragorn and Gimli, who are, according to their birth-dates in the Appendices, eighty-seven and one hundred thirty-nine respectively at the time of the War of the Ring; he even calls them "children" (see Age discussion below). Thus, he must have been alive during the events of The Hobbit. Logically, as a retcon he could quite conceivably have been present in his father's halls at the time, and thus may have even fought at Erebor.

He is introduced in The Fellowship of the Ring, at the council of Elrond of Rivendell, where he comes as a messenger from his father to discuss the escape of Gollum from their guard. Tolkien describes him as "a strange Elf, clad in green and brown". Legolas is chosen or volunteers to be one of the members of the Fellowship that sets out to destroy the One Ring. He accompanies the others in their travels from Rivendell to Amon Hen.

When the Fellowship is snowed down while crossing Caradhras, he scouts ahead to find the Sun, while Aragorn and Boromir drive a path through the snow. Unlike them, 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.

After their attempt to cross Caradhras is foiled, their leader Gandalf takes them on an underground journey through Moria, an ancient Dwarf-kingdom, though some (including Legolas) do not wish to go there. Before they reach Moria, however, Legolas helps fend off an attack of Sauron's wolves in Hollin. Once in Moria, he helps fight off the Orcs whom they encounter there, and recognizes Durin's Bane as a Balrog of Morgoth.

After Gandalf is lost while facing the Balrog, Aragorn takes charge of the Fellowship and leads them to the Elven realm of Lothlórien, the Golden Wood. Legolas serves as the initial spokesperson for the company, speaking with the inhabitants, the Galadhrim, whom he considers close kin.

In Lothlórien, Legolas got his elven bow. He used this bow in many great battles.

Within the Fellowship, there is 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 his father, Thranduil, once threw Gimli's father, Glóin, in prison (as described in The Hobbit). Legolas and Gimli become friends, however, when Gimli greets the Elven queen Galadriel with gentle words.

They take leave of Lothlórien, but not before receiving several gifts. There, he receives a new longbow from the Galadhrim, along with the other gifts that Galadriel and Celeborn give him and the rest of the Fellowship, such as special cloaks and lembas. Legolas later receives a warning from Galadriel (through Gandalf, who returns from death), which he interprets as a sign of his impending death:

"Legolas Greenleaf long under tree
In joy thou hast lived. Beware of the Sea!
If thou hearest the cry of the gull on the shore,
Thy heart shall rest in the forest no more."

While the Fellowship is travelling over the River Anduin, he shoots down a nearby fell beast with one shot.

After Boromir is killed and Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took are captured by Orcs in The Two Towers, he, Aragorn and Gimli set forth in pursuit of the two (Frodo Baggins, the Ring-bearer, and his friend Samwise Gamgee had gone ahead on the road to Mordor). They meet the revived Gandalf and the Rohirrim, fight in the Battle of the Hornburg, and witness Saruman's downfall at Isengard, where they are reunited with the two abducted hobbits. In the Battle of the Hornburg, he and Gimli engage in an Orc-slaying contest (Gimli wins by one, killing forty-two to Legolas's forty-one, but the real result is stronger mutual respect).

In The Return of the King, he and Gimli accompany Aragorn on the Paths of the Dead, along with the Grey Company. After Aragorn summons the Dead Men of Dunharrow to fight for him, he watches them scare away the Corsairs of Umbar from their ships at Pelargir. Galadriel's prophecy comes true; as Legolas hears the cries of seagulls, he begins to experience the Sea-longing — the desire to sail west to Valinor, the Blessed Realm, which was latent among the Eldar. He fights in the Battles of the Pelennor Fields and the Morannon, and watches as Sauron is defeated and Barad-dûr collapses.

After the destruction of the One Ring, he stays in Minas Tirith for some time, as Aragorn is crowned King of the Reunited Kingdom as King Elessar and marries his love Arwen. Later, Legolas and Gimli go off travelling together through Fangorn Forest. Eventually, Legolas comes to Ithilien with some of his people, with his father's leave, to spend his remaining time in Middle-earth helping to restore the devastated forests of that war-ravaged land. He founds an Elf-colony in the fair forest of Ithilien in Gondor and becomes its lord.

It is told in the Red Book of Westmarch (first written by Bilbo Baggins, continued by Frodo Baggins and supposedly finished by Samwise Gamgee) that after Aragorn's death in Fourth Age one hundred and twenty, Legolas builds a grey ship in Ithilien, and leaves Middle-earth to go over the Sea to Valinor and Gimli the Dwarf goes with him.

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