Are you obsessed with pictures tagged "Legolas" on Tumblr? Do you feel that Orlando is Bloomalicious? Well, you're not alone in thinking that this archer from Mirkwood Forest puts the "sin" in Sindarin Elf. Peter Jackson couldn't get enough of him either. Even though Legolas did not appear in Tolkien's book The Hobbit, he is featured prominently in the film The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. But what do we really know about this legend from Middle-earth besides his intense Elf-on-Dwarf relationship with Gimli?
1. He's A Geezer
Despite his youthful good looks Legolas is one of the most elderly characters in Tolkien's tale. The author never says how old Legolas actually is, but the immortal Elf refers to Aragorn (who is 87 at the start of the quest) and Gimli (pushing 140) as mere "children" compared to himself. And Legolas claims that he has seen "many an oak grow from acorn to ruinous age." (The English oak can live over a thousand years.) What's the Sindarin word for geezer?
2. He's A Stoner
Legolas can hear what stones are thinking. In the ruins of Hollin near the Gates of Moria, he hears the geology itself lamenting the loss of the Elves who used to live there long ago. His psychic connection to the landscape is not limited to rocks. In Fangorn Forest he senses what the trees are feeling and this awareness takes his breath away. And he does this all without the benefit of psychotropic drugs. Unless, of course, he's been smokin' those mallorn leaf lembas wrappers.
3. He Has Superpowers
Legolas has extreme hearing, telescopic vision, never gets tired or cold, and can defy gravity (see #6). And he can shoot down a flying Nazgûl steed with one shot of his longbow!
4. His Daddy Hates Dwarves
Legolas's father is Thranduil, King of the Woodland Realm of Mirkwood. And Thranduil loathes Dwarves. In The Hobbit he imprisons Thorin's company--which includes Gimli's father Glóin--locking them in his dungeon-like jail cells. This might account for some of the latent hostility between Legolas and Gimli when they first meet at Rivendell. Or it might just be the age-old Tall Guy/Short Guy thang.
5. He's Got Insomnia
Like all Elves, Legolas does not need to sleep. According to Tolkien, Elves could even dream while moving about, "blending living night and deep dream." When Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas are running across the Plains of Rohan pursuing the orcs who captured Merry and Pippin, Legolas never sleeps, and even stands watch while his wiped out Dwarf and Human companions catch some z's. Later on Legolas naps with his eyes wide open, which if you've ever seen someone do it, looks really freaky.
6. He Can Defy Gravity
Elves, for some reason, do not sink into snow, even though they weigh as much as Men. This comes in handy if you're trying to cross the Redhorn Pass under the slopes of Caradhras during an evil wizard-blizzard. Be sure and wear appropriate footwear (Elven-slippers).
7. He's Crazy For Seagulls
When Gandalf returns from the dead he brings Legolas a prophetic message from the Lady Galadriel: If the Elf from Mirkwood ever hears the cries of seagulls he will be doomed to fall in love with the sea. According to the final entry in the chronology of Middle-earth (in Appendix B of The Lord of the Rings) this prediction comes true. Cue A Flock of Seagulls on your iPod and let it rip.
8. He's A Ghostbuster
Elves, Tolkien tells us, are not afraid of the ghosts of Men. When Gimli is scared stiff to enter the Dark Door of the Haunted Mountains, Legolas cracks a joke and heads right in. What Elves do fear, however, are Balrogs--the ancient fiery monsters created by the evil demigod, Morgoth. When the Nine Companions first catch sight of the creature in the Mines of Moria, Legolas cries in terror "Ai, ai! A Balrog!" That's the sound of an Elf getting the lembas scared right out of him.
9. He Looks Great In Those Tight-ass Elf Pants
Oh, wait. You already knew that.
10. He Can Make a Magic Boat
After the One Ring is destroyed, Legolas moves to the forests of Ithilien. Following the death of Aragorn over a century later, he makes a wooden boat. Then he sails it down the river Anduin with his best friend Gimli, and thence to the sea on a final journey to the Undying Lands. One can assume that he doesn't sleep for the entire journey, interprets the song of the waves for the mystified Dwarf, and spots the coast of Valinor long before Gimli lays eyes on it. Elves are just like that.
Noble Smith is the author of The Wisdom of the Shire, now out in paperback.
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