Halls of Thranduil

by Varda-(Valar)
Nov. 30, 2004

Elves > Places > Mirkwood > Thranduil > Halls of Thranduil

Quotes are in italics.
Gates of the King
The King in court
Prison cells

    In The Hobbit, we learn of the Halls of Thranduil, the Elf-king.
    Thorin's company was captured by the elves of Mirkwood after repeatedly interrupting the night feasting of the elves in the forest. As the Elven-king put it,

    "It is a crime to wander in my realm without leave. Do you forget that you were in my kingdom, using the road that my people made? Did you not three times pursue and trouble my people in the forest and rouse the spiders with your riot and clamor? After all the disturbance you have made I have a right to know what brings you here, and if you will not tell me now, I will keep you all in prison until you have learned sense and manners!"

    The dwarves were taken into the underground part of Thranduil's kingdom.
    Autumn feast was held in both the forest and halls, and occured during the time of the captivity of Thorin's Company.

    "The subjects of the king mostly lived and hunted in the open woods, and had houses or huts on the ground and in the branches. The beeches were their favorite trees."
    "They dwelt most often by the edges of the woods, from which they could escape at times to hunt, or to ride and run over the open lands by moonlight or starlight; and after the coming of Men they took ever more and more to the gloaming and the dusk."
(Hobbit: "Flies and Spiders")

    The king's cave was his palace, treasury, and fortress against enemies. It also acted as dungeon.
    The cave was some miles from the eastern edge of Mirkwood forest. The great cave had many smaller ones opening out on every side.

        To reach the halls of Thranduil, the company was taken from the forest across a bridge over a swift, strong river. It came from the heights of the forest flowing out into the marshes at the feet of the high wooded lands.

    Gates of the King:
        In "Barrels out of Bond", the great gates of the king stood at the far end of the bridge, and closed with a clang, suggesting metal. In "Flies and Spiders", the doors are said to be "huge doors of stone", so the doors were probably of stone with metal parts. The gates stood "before the mouth of a huge cave that ran into the side of a steep slope covered with trees. There the great beeches came right down to the bank, till their feet were in the stream".
        Magic shut the gates, but sometimes Bilbo could slip out with those passing through if he was quick. The doors clashed together as soon as the last elf passed. The Wood-elves left in companies, sometimes with their king at the head to hunt, or other business in the woods, or business in the lands in the East.

    Passages to the hall:
       The passages twisted, crossed, and echoed, lit by red torch-light. The elf-guards sang as they marched. The passages were unlike those of goblins, for these "were smaller, less deep underground, and filled with a cleaner air."
    There were "many passages and wide halls, lighter and more wholesome than any goblin-dwelling, and neither so deep nor dangerous." (Hobbit: "Flies and Spiders")

    The Hall:
       "In a great hall with pillars hewn out of the living stone sat the Elvenking on a chair of carven wood."
       The king had the ropes taken off the prisoners, for they were ragged and weary. King Thranduil said: "Besides they need no ropes in here...There is no escape from my magic doors for those who are once brought inside". ("Barrels out of Bond")

    The King in court, if hastily:
       "On his head was a crown of berries and red leaves for the autumn was come again. In the spring he wore a crown of woodland flowers. In his hand he held a carven staff of oak." ("Barrels out of Bond")
    "If the elf-king had a weakness it was for treasure, especially for silver and white gems". He had great riches, yet not as great as that of elf-kings of old, for his people did not mine, nor work metal or jewels, and bothered little with trade or farming. ("Flies and Spiders")

       Bilbo managed to steal food from store and table when they were unattended. So Wood-elves used tables and had storage areas. ("Barrels out of Bond")

    Prison cells:
       The prisons were small rooms in different parts of the palace where each dwarf was kept singly. They were not in a special place all together as would be true of what is generally considered a dungeon. One wonders what those rooms were used for normally. Storage? The wall of the room was stone and the door wood.
        Thorin's cell was in an especially deep, dark place. The "elves put thongs on him and shut him in one of the inmost caves with strong wooden doors, and left him." This is referred to as being in the king's dungeon. Thorin's door had a keyhole through which Bilbo spoke to him.
    The chief guard carried the keys in a bunch. Bilbo described him: "He wasn't a bad fellow, and quite decent to the prisoners." He was well-liked by the butler of the wine cellar who invited him to enjoy the Dorwinion wine with him once off duty during the autumn feast. Other wood-elves called the chief guard the captain.
        The prisoners were given food and drink. Thorin's is described as bread, meat, and water, plenty of it, if not fine. For Wood-elves "were reasonably well-behaved even to their worst enemies, when they captured them. The giant spiders were the only living things that they had no mercy upon."

    The Water-gate:
       Beneath the caves flowed an underground stream of water. In autumn, it was cold according to Bilbo. Where the stream left the caves was a water-gate. The stream flowed out to join the Forest River further east. This joining was "beyond the steep slope out of which the main mouth opened".
    At the opening from the cave, the rock of the roof came low, and there the portcullis was placed, and could be opened and lowered by ropes in the cellar generally with the accompaniment of elf-song. The portcullis could be dropped down as far as the bed of the river to prevent entry or exit. Usually it stood open for the large amount of traffic, as wine and other goods were traded from their kinsfolk in the South and from Men.
    The stream ran underground through "a dark, rough tunnel leading deep into the heart of the hill". At one point above the underground river, "the roof had been cut away and covered with great oaken trapdoors".
    The trapdoors opened into the cellar where a great many barrels were stored.  A butler called old Galion was in charge of the cellar. No grape-vines grew in those parts so the Wood-elves traded for the wine. Other barrels held apples, butter, and many other things. Straw was in the area or near enough for Bilbo to find for packing the inside of barrels for the dwarves.
    Some of the wine was a heady vintage from Dorwinion only intended for the king's feasts served in small bowls rather than great flagons. It takes a very potent wine and a lot of it to make a Wood-elf drowsy, and Dorwinion was one of those, bringing deep and pleasant dreams.

    The River:
    Full barrels when tied together like rafts had to be poled or rowed up the stream to the caves. Other times they were loaded into flat boats to make the trip. However, the empty barrels went with the current and were tossed into the river to be stopped by a jut of the bank at the eastern edge of Mirkwood. There, raft-elves had a village of huts and gathered the barrels, tied them together, pushed them with poles out to the current taking them around the outjutting of rock, and steered them afloat to Lake-town. This was a town of Men close to the point where the Forest River flowed into the Long Lake. Ropes were cast and oars were pulled. The barrel raft was towed out of the current into the bay of Lake-town and moored near the shoreward head of the great bridge to float, waiting for the men from the South to pick them up for re-fill, taking some back with them.
After completing the mooring, the raft-elves and human boatmen went together into Lake-town to feast. Lake-town was mostly on pillars out in the lake, although some huts were on shore. On the shoreward side of the bridge, guards were stationed but not very watchful as they were little-needed. They sometimes had squabbles with the Wood-elves over river-tolls, but were otherwise friends. Other folk lived far away and the younger folk doubted the existence of a dragon in the mountain.
    The river had become the main method of trade travel as roads out of the East to Mirkwood fell into disuse and vanished; simple paths vanished. Lake-men and Wood-elves bickered over the upkeep of the Forest River and the care of the banks. The area had changed since Smaug had come. Great floods and rains had swollen the river, and earthquakes had changed the land. Marshes and bogs spread ever wider, in which horsemen sometimes were lost and even died. Only the river offered safe passage from Mirkwood to the plains south of there, and the river was guarded by the Wood-elves' king.
    Even the elf-road followed by Thorin's Company on Beorn's advice continued to the eastern edge of the forest of Mirkwood, then came to a doubtful and little-used end. The map in The Hobbit shows it no further than the bridge to the ElvenKing's Halls.

    The Hobbit: "Flies and Spiders" (mostly the end part of chapter), "Barrels out of Bond" (for most of this article), "A Warm Welcome" (mostly for the River).
    Painting by JRRT called the Huts of the Raft-elves, no longer allowed to be viewed.


Image "'Well, here is Mirkwood!' said Gandalf." From The Hobbit. Artist Alan Lee. Rolozo Tolkien page.
Image: "Mirkwood". Artist Alexandra Koskinen. Rolozo Tolkien page
Image  "Mirkwood: View of the Main Hall of Thranduil". Artist Henning Janssen. Rolozo Tolkien page
Image  "Mirkwood: Concept for the Halls of Thranduil". Artist Henning Janssen. Rolozo Tolkien page

Image: "Laketown". Artist Damien Farrell. Rolozo Tolkien page 
Image "Laketown Overview". Map. Artist Henning Janssen. Rolozo Tolkien page
Image "Laketown Market water". Artist Henning Janssen. Rolozo Tolkien page
Image "Laketown Canal". Artist Henning Janssen. Rolozo Tolkien page