Description of Legolas

by Varda-(Valar)
October 30, 2004
(in progress, latest update August 1, 2009)

Elves  Legolas of the Fellowship 
Lived during the Third and Fourth Ages

Place in Society
Equipment, Clothing
Hearing natural things
Making fire
Snow, cold, running lightly

    Place in Society:
    Legolas is a prince of Mirkwood. He is also expected to act as a messenger (diplomat?) and guard (leader?).
    "There was also a strange Elf clad in green and brown. Legolas, a messenger from his father, Thranduil, the King of the Elves of Northern Mirkwood."
    At the Council, Legolas describes the guarding of Gollum and reports the escape.
     At the Council, he is chosen to represent the Elves in the Fellowship, although many powerful Rivendell elves are available.
     (Fellowship, "Council of Elrond")
    After the War of the Ring, Legolas "brought south Elves out of Greenwood, and they dwelt in Ithilien, and it became once again the fairest country in all the westlands."
    (Return of the King, Appendix A)

    Equipment, Clothing:
    Legolas enters Rivendell clad in green and brown.  (Fellowship: "Council of Elrond")
    He leaves Rivendell equipped with a bow and quiver, a long white knife at his belt. As were all the Fellowship, Elrond supplied him with thick, warm clothes, jacket and cloak lined with fur, plus spare food, clothes, blankets and other needs. Sam's pony, Bill, carried everyone's spare supplies. Later, Frodo notices that Legolas always wears light shoes, even in snow, and leaves little imprint. (Fellowship: "The Ring Goes South")

    His face is fairer than that of Men.

    Contrast with Gimli the Dwarf in Gondor:
    Together the Elf and the Dwarf entered Minas Tirith, and folk that saw them pass marveled to see such companions; for Legolas was fair of face beyond the measure of Men, and he sang an elven-song in a clear voice as he walked in the morning; but Gimli stalked beside him, stroking his beard and staring about him.
- Return of the King, "The Last Debate"
    His date of birth is never stated. His approximate age may only be worked out through clues in the text, but we know he is considered young for an elf of his time.

    The three hunters arrive at Fangorn Forest and Legolas senses much about it, including its age leading him to comment on how old it is next to them.
       "It is old, very old," said the Elf. "So old that almost I feel young again, as I have not felt since I journeyed with you children."
       -Two Towers, "The White Rider", p. 480
    This suggests that Legolas was considered young, at least among the elves, when he joined the Fellowship.

    Gandalf and the three hunters arrive at the barrows of the deceased kings of Rohan, the sires of Theoden, with seven mounds on the left and nine on the right. Aragorn says,
        "Many long lives of men it is since the golden hall was built."
        "Five-hundred times have the red leaves of Mirkwood fallen in Mirkwood in my home since then," said Legolas, "and but a little while does that seem to us."
        -Two Towers, "The King of the Golden Hall", p. 496

    Legolas has keen eyesight.

    As they set out, "Legolas whose eyes were keen was the rearguard". (Fellowship: "The Ring Goes South")

    As the Lords of the West ride to the Black Gate, they are watched after the failure of the Enemy's feint with an ambush:

    And from that evening onward the Nazgul came and followed every move of the army. They still flew high and out of sight of all save Legolas, and yet their presence could be felt, as a deepening of shadow and a dimming of the sun; ...."
    -Return of the King, "The Black Gate Opens"

    Hearing and understanding natural things:
    He can hear the speech of such things as trees, grass, and stones.

    In Hollin/Eregion, Legolas says the Elves of the land "were of a race strange to us of the Silvan folk, and the trees and grass do not now remember them. Only I hear the stones lament them." And Legolas speaks the words the stones use. (Fellowship: "The Ring Goes South")

    On the ships taken from the Corsairs, the folk were fearful that they would not reach the Harlond in time to aid Minas Tirith, as they struggled that day against the current with no help from the wind, and Gimli said he would have felt miserable, "if Legolas had not laughed suddenly. "Up with your beard, Durin's son!" he said. "For thus it is spoken: Oft hope is born, when all is forlorn." But what hope he saw from afar he would not tell. " By midnight, sailors of Ethir gazing southward said a fresh wind would be coming. Long before daybreak, they had a fair wind, and in the new day the sun unveiled. (Return of the King, "The Last Debate")

    He uses Westron; Sindarin (Grey-elven) Eastern and Western dialects.
    Since he is a prince  and is known in Rivendell, he is probably well enough educated to at least read the elven equivalent of Latin, which is Quenya.

    With the Fellowship, Legolas speaks educated Westron which is the Common Speech, shown as English. (Lord of the Rings)
    In Lothlorien, Legolas answers the Lorien guards in their own language. Frodo could understand little of it "for the speech that the Silvan folk east of the mountains used among themselves was unlike that of the West." (Fellowship, "Lothlorien"). A note below "Of the Elves" referring to this incident says:

     In Lorien at this period Sindarin was spoken, though with an 'accent', since most of its folk were of Silvan origin. This 'accent' and his own limited acquaintance with Sindarin misled Frodo (as is pointed out in The Thain's Book by a commentator of Gondor. )  All the Elvish words cited in Book I, ii, chs 6, 7, and 8 are in fact Sindarin, and so are most of the names of places and persons. But Lorien, Caras Galadhon, Amroth, Nimrodel are probably of Silvan origin, adapted to Sindarin.
    -(Return of the King, "Appendix F").

    Making fire:
    Legolas is skilled at making fire.

    "It passed the skill of Elf or even Dwarf to strike a flame that would hold amid the swirling wind or catch in the wet fuel." This implies that the Elf had notable skill with fire beyond Hobbit or Man, although not as great as the Dwarf's or Wizard's, since Gandalf was successful by using his power. (Fellowship: "The Ring Goes South")

    Snow, cold, running lightly:
    Cold troubles him little.
    He can run on top of snow in which humans and even hobbits sink.
    He can run lightly over grass and leaf, much as he can snow.

    After the blizzard on Caradhras: "The storm had troubled him little, and he alone of the Company remained still light at heart.Fellowship: "The Ring Goes South".
    He smiles watching the Men struggle through snow up to their chests, then light-heartedly does reconnaissance for them as only an Elf can.

    Legolas watched them for a while with a smile upon his lips, and then turned to the others. "The strongest must seek a way, say you? But I say: let a ploughman plough, but choose an otter for swimming, and for running light over grass and leaf, or over snow - an Elf."
    With that he sprang forth nimbly, and then Frodo noticed as if for the first time, though he had long known it, that the Elf had no boots, but wore only light shoes, as he always did, and his feet made little imprint in the snow.
    "Farewell!" he said to Gandalf. "I go to find the Sun!" Then swift as a runner over firm sand he shot away, and quickly overtaking the toiling men, with a wave of his hand he passed them, and sped into the distance, and vanished around the rocky turn.
    Fellowship: "The Ring Goes South"

     Legolas is an excellent archer.

    Just before Moria, wargs howl near the Fellowship which makes a stand on a hill. The warg that seems to be the captain calls the others and Gandalf speaks defiantly to it, calling it Hound of Sauron.
    "The wolf snarled and sprang towards them with a great leap. At that moment there was a sharp twang. Legolas had loosed his bow. There was a hideous yell, and the leaping shape thudded to the ground; the elvish arrow had pierced its throat." 
    The wolves immediately retreat out of sight and make no more howls.  They attack again later suddenly as a group, and the whole Fellowship fights. The archery is referred to in beautiful imagery: "The bow of Legolas was singing." "The last arrow of Legolas kindled in the air as it flew, and plunged burning into the heart of a great wolf-chieftain." The next day, the Fellowship finds no bodies; all Legolas' arrows are undamaged save one of which only the point is left. 
: "A Journey in the Dark".)

    In Moria in the Chamber of Mazarbul, Legolas shot two orcs, each through the throat. The Fellowship's fierce defense made the Orcs retreat, and the group ran before the next attack came with many more Orcs and with cave trolls.
(Fellowship: "The Bridge of Khazad-dum")

    Although Legolas is of the ruling Sindarin race in Mirkwood and son of the king, his grandfather King Oropher wanted to return to the ways of the Silvan wood elves, so Legolas is very accomplished in tree-climbing.

    Just inside Lothlorien, Aragorn says he wants to move the Fellowship into the trees for the night.

    "I will climb up," said Legolas. "I am at home among trees, by root or bough, though these trees are of a kind strange to me, save as a name in song. Mellyrn they are called, and are those that bear the yellow blossom, but I have never climbed in one. I will see now what is their shape and way of growth." (...)
    He sprang lightly up from the ground and caught a branch that grew from the trunk high above his head. But even as he swung there for a moment, a voice spoke suddenly from the tree-shadows above him.
-Fellowship of the Ring, "Lothlorien"

    He "ran lightly up" the slender rope ladder sent down by the Lorien elves, contrasted with Frodo's and Sam's slow going. (Fellowship, "Lotholorien")

     Legolas and Dwarves did not get along well before the Fellowship.
     Legolas began to show signs of fellowship with Gimli even before Lothlorien, such as in the Chamber of Mazarbul.

    At the Council of Elrond, Legolas tried to tell about Gollum, but the Dwarf Gloin interrupts:

    "You were less tender to me," said Gloin with a flash of his eyes, as old memories were stirred of his imprisonment in the deep places of the Elven-king's halls..
    "Now come!" said Gandalf "Pray do not interrupt, my good Gloin. That was a regrettable misunderstanding, long set right. If all the grievances that stand between Elves and Dwarves are to be brought up here, we may as well abandon this Council."
    Gimli rose and bowed, and Legolas continued.
    Fellowship: "Council of Elrond

    Before the closed West-door of Moria, Gandalf says,
    "Those were happier days, when there was still close friendship at times between folk of different race, even between Dwarves and Elves."
    "It was not the fault of the Dwarves that the friendship waned," said Gimli.
    "I have not heard that it was the fault of the Elves," said Legolas.
    "I have heard both," said Gandalf, "and I will not give judgement now. But I beg you two, Legolas and Gimli, at least to be friends, and to help me. I need you both...."
    Fellowship: "A Journey in the Dark"

    The Dwarf and Elf then try to help Gandalf find the door, Gimli tapping the stone with his axe; Legolas pressed against the rock as if listening.  (Fellowship: "A Journey in the Dark")

    In the Chamber of Mazarbul, when the Fellowship needs to run from the Chamber of Mazarbul, Gimli does not want to leave Balin's tomb, but Legolas dragged him away.  (Fellowship: "The Bridge of Khazad-dum")  

    On the ships taken from the Corsairs, the folk were fearful that they would not reach the Harlond in time to aid Minas Tirith, as they struggled that day against the current with no help from the wind, and Gimli said he would have felt miserable, "if Legolas had not laughed suddenly. "Up with your beard, Durin's son!" he said. "For thus it is spoken: Oft hope is born, when all is forlorn." But what hope he saw from afar he would not tell. " By midnight, sailors of Ethir gazing southward said a fresh wind would be coming. Long before daybreak, they had a fair wind, and in the new day the sun unveiled. (Return of the King, "The Last Debate")

    Gimli "was named Elf-friend because of the great love that grew between him and Legolas, son of King Thranduil, and because of his reverence for the Lady Galadriel."
    Return of the King, "Appendix A"

    Legolas is hit by sea-longing, but holds back from it until the death of Aragorn.

    In the hearts of the Exiles the yearning for the Sea was an unquiet never to be stilled; in the hearts of the Grey-elves it slumbered, but once awakened it could not be appeased.
    -Return of the King, "Appendix F"
    Galadriel sends a note to Legolas warning him to beware of the Sea. She is referring to the sea-longing, although he thinks the warning is of his 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 then rest in the forest no more.
-(Two Towers, "The White Rider".)

    After the great battle in Minas Tirith while looking out over the Anduin River, Legolas warns his friends that he is under the sea-longing and we are shown a little of why he remains from the dwarf's and the hobbit's words.

    And now Legolas fell silent, while the others talked, and he looked out against the sun, and as he gazed he saw white sea-birds beating up the River.
    "Look!" he cried. "Gulls! They are flying far inland. A wonder they are to me and a trouble to my heart. Never in all my life had I met them, until we came to Pelargir, and there I heard them crying in the air as we rode to the battle of the ships. Then I stood still, forgetting war in Middle-earth; for their wailing voices spoke to me of the Sea. The Sea! Alas! I have not yet beheld it. But deep in the hearts of all my kindred lies the sea-longing, which it is perilous to stir. Alas! for the gulls. No peace shall I have again under beech or under elm."
    "Say not so!" said Gimli. "There are countless things still to see in Middle-earth, and great works to do. But if all the fair folk take to the Havens, it will be a duller world for those who are doomed to stay."
    "Dull and dreary indeed!" said Merry. "You must not go to the Havens, Legolas. There will always be some folk big or little, and even a few wise dwarves like Gimli, who need you."
    -Return of the King, "The Last Debate"

    Again as he and Gimli tell the tale of the Paths of the Dead and Pelargir, Legolas refers to the sea-longing:

    "Then I thought in my heart that we drew near to the Sea; for wide was the water in the darkness, and sea-birds innumerable cried on its shores. Alas for the wailing of the gulls! Did not the Lady tell me to beware of them? And now I cannot forget them."
    -Return of the King, "The Last Debate"

    Legolas finally succumbs to the call of the sea, and we find what held him to the last.

But when King Elessar gave up his life Legolas followed at last the desire of his heart and sailed over the Sea.
Return of the King, "Appendix A"

    This is a quoted comparison of the sea-longing of the Noldor and the Sindar:

    In the hearts of the Exiles the yearning for the Sea was an unquiet never to be stilled; in the hearts of the Grey-elves it slumbered, but once awakened it could not be appeased.
Return of the King "Appendix F" I "Of the Elves"

    The first mention and description of Legolas comes as Elrond points him out to Frodo in Fellowship "Council of Elrond", after introducing Frodo to a large group. Even though other elves included in this large group are unknown to Frodo, the word "strange" is added to the description, as Legolas is not like the Rivendell Elves or any Frodo has seen before. It also tells us his station in life as a prince.:
    "There was also a strange Elf clad in green and brown. Legolas, a messenger from his father, Thranduil, the King of the Elves of Northern Mirkwood."

    In the "Council of Elrond", Aragorn refers to the Mirkwood Elves as "watchful".
    Legolas agrees that they are watchful, but over-kind. They guarded their prisoner, Gollum, night and day, though wearied of it, but took him outside on days of fair weather since Gandalf bade them hope for a cure. This set them up for a trap from outside help during which Gollum escaped. The way he tells the story does not specifically say he is present, something he does even when we are sure he is speaking of himself, but his knowledge of details and feelings strongly suggests he may have been involved in the guarding.
    In "The Ring Goes South", both Legolas and Gimli are willing to go at least to the passes of the mountains and maybe beyond. Remember, they had not come to Rivendell set for any such journey or with permission from home, an especially serious matter for the prince of Mirkwood. Gimli at least had his father present who agreed to it. In the Fellowship, Legolas represents all Elves and Gimli all Dwarves.

    Only Gimli is pleased by going into Moria; Legolas is not.
    Legolas is "troubled by the mere darkness in itself".
    Legolas is willing to set his small bow against orcs or even cave trolls.
     He knows very well what a Balrog is and that they are overmatched. This is the scarier later version of the Balrog, not the early version that can be dispatched by a powerful sword. Even so, he is unwilling to leave Gandalf, same as the others who do not know better.

    "On all the others a dread fell at the mention of the name [Moria]. Even to the hobbits it was a legend of vague fear."
    Only when asked directly by Boromir does Legolas say his opinion, and states it clearly: "I do not wish to go to Moria." Fellowship: "A Journey in the Dark".
    Inside Moria, while in single file, Legolas is in the center of the line. The line is: Gandalf, Gimli, Frodo, Sam, Legolas, the young hobbits, Boromir, and Aragorn. Bill is lost by then.
    "Gimli aided Gandalf very little, except by his stout courage. At least he was not, as were most of the others, troubled by the mere darkness in itself." Who else is not afraid? In the next paragraph, Aragorn tells the others not to be afraid as they can trust Gandalf. Frodo discovers that thanks to the morgul-knife wound and the Ring, he can see better in the dark than anyone other than Gandalf.
    Everyone takes watch in Moria, including Legolas.
: "A Journey in the Dark".)

    Orcs shoot arrows at the Fellowship as the group starts to cross the bridge, 50 feet long curving over fire and very narrow with no railings. An arrow bounces off Frodo's mithril coat and another sticks in Gandalf's hat. Gandalf and the two Men have not yet crossed.

    "Legolas turned and set an arrow to the string, though it was a long shot for his small bow. He drew, but his hand fell, and the arrow slipped to the ground. He gave a cry of dismay and fear....But it was not the trolls that had filled the Elf with terror.... "Ai, ai!" wailed Legolas. "A Balrog! A Balrog is come!"
    Gimli stared with wide eyes. "Durin's Bane!" he cried, and letting his axe fall he covered his face.
    "A Balrog," muttered Gandalf. "Now I understand." He faltered and leaned heavily on his staff. "What an evil fortune! And I am already weary....Fly! This is a foe beyond any of you...."
    Aragorn and Boromir did not heed the command, but still held their ground, side by side, behind Gandalf at the far end of the bridge. The others halted just within the doorway at the hall's end, and turned, unable to leave their leader to face their enemy alone.
    Fellowship: "The Bridge of Khazad-dum"

    The Fellowship escaped out of bowshot.
    "Grief at last wholly overcame them, and they wept long: some standing and silent, some cast upon the ground." 
: "The Bridge of Khazad-dum".)

    Legolas has never been to Lothlorien before joining the Fellowship.
    He can sing.
    He has an accent noticeably different from a Lorien elf's, but he can speak their language.
    Rope-bridge use.

    Legolas saw Lothlorien from a distance and told of some things he knew from songs in Mirkwood, not personal experience.
    Just outside the forest of Lothlorien, Legolas said:
    "It is long since any of my own folk journeyed hither back to the land whence we wandered in ages long ago," said Legolas, "but we hear that Lorien is not yet deserted, for there is a secret power here that holds evil from the land. Nevertheless its folk are seldom seen, and maybe they dwell now deep in the woods and far from the northern border."
    "Indeed deep in the wood they dwell," said Aragorn, and sighed as if some memory stirred in him.
    Fellowship: "Lothlorien"

    The Fellowship comes to the Nimrodel, a stream, but the bridge is broken. Legolas tells them that the water is not deep and heals weariness. He asks them to follow as he wades across. It is clear and cold, cleaning and removing weariness as he said. They camp and eat, and Legolas sings them a part of the song of the elf-maiden, Nimrodel, whose voice they seem to hear in the waterfall.
    The company continues a little farther into the woods and Aragorn wants to take refuge in the trees. Legolas leaps up and catches a branch high above his head, but is warned off by Lorien elves and drops back and warns the Fellowship. The border guards had let the group cross the river because they heard Legolas' voice and song and recognized it as a Northern Elf's. He speaks to them in their language, a dialect of Sindarin, which Frodo cannot follow. Traveled Haldir speaks Westron slowly, and his brothers, Rumil and Orophin, can speak a few words.
    Haldir tells why Lorien and Mirkwood elves are strangers to each other, while explaining why the Common Speech is not better known: "We seldom use any tongue but our own; for we dwell now in the heart of the forest, and do not willingly have dealings with any other folk. Even our own kindred in the North are sundered from us. But there are some of us who still go abroad for the gathering of news and the watching of our enemies, and they speak the languages of other lands. I am one."
        Haldir seems to trust Legolas the most, questioning him in his own language, rather than asking the others.

    Since it is time to sleep and because the guards expect orcs to follow the Fellowship, Haldir puts the responsibility for the non-hobbits of the Fellowship's behavior on Legolas and is not giving Legolas a chance to sleep:

    "There is another talan in the next tree. 'There the others must take refuge. You, Legolas, must answer to us for them. Call us, if anything is amiss! And have an eye on that dwarf!"
-Fellowship, "Lothlorien"

    The following orcs, about a hundred, are killed by reinforcements from Lothlorien, Gollum is frightened away by Haldir's touch on the tree-trunk.

    The next morning Haldir leads the Fellowship to a stream called the Celebrant, where they meet a young elf with hair that "glinted like gold in the morning sun". Haldir tosses one end of his rope to the elf who caught it. Both ends are tied to trees, and this is how they make bridges because these are "days of watchfulness". He runs lightly over and back as if he is on a road. Legolas could do that too, but feels concern for the others who can not and asks if they are expected to swim. Haldir rigs two more ropes for handholds.
    Crossing the Celebrant brings them to the Naith, or Gore, where Galadriel's ring begins its effect becoming stronger the deeper they go. But they can go no further until the Dwarf is blindfolded, but Gimli objects unless Legolas is blindfolded too. When Legolas objects, being a kinsman and because he very much wants to see the new mallorn wood, Aragorn has the entire Fellowship blindfolded. They walk all day and into noon of the next, when a group of elf warriors pass, stopping to speak wth Haldir. They bring news that most of the orcs are dead, the rest are being pursued and will be dead soon, and news of a creature (what the Fellowship knew was Gollum) fleeing down the Silverlode southward. Also they bring news from the Lord and Lady to take off the blindfolds. Their first view is Cerin Amroth and the mound of Amroth.