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 Post subject: Legolas and Aragorn
PostPosted: December 19th, 2014, 11:53 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Legolas and Aragorn
PostPosted: December 20th, 2014, 11:01 am 
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Very topical considering recent film developments (which will be referred to, so beware Bot5A spoilers)...

I love the friendship between Legolas and Aragorn, don't get me wrong, but I do feel that the films have highlighted and elevated their relationship above and beyond the book cannon. In a way, it's right that it's generally overlooked in favour of Legolas and Gimli's relationship as that is both character's greatest achievement from the quest. Legolas' devotion to Aragorn is wonderful, but doesn't necessarily explore any new thematic territory so it can afford to take the back seat.

Legolas and Aragorn's friendship was (and is) one of my favourite things in the film, and reading the book for the first time shortly after watching, I felt it affirmed what I wanted to see. I don't know what your Tolkien background so maybe it's not the case for you. Most Tolkien scholars generally agree that in the book Legolas and Aragorn weren't friends before LotR. Re-reading the books and the history of Middle Earth I have ultimately come to agree with them. I feel, I've searched for and read every little scrap on their relationship and I feel more and more that the scholars were right, that there was no previous relationship. The backstory in Bot5A makes me smile, because it's exactly what I saw in their bond in the film, but I can no longer see anything in the book to suggest that Legolas befriended Aragorn before the quest.

I don't think their conversations in FotR are strong enough proof that they've got an established friendship, it's not inconceivable they knew one another, Aragorn probably was acquainted with Thranduil in order to trust Gollum to his care. But when would Aragorn and Legolas had the opportunity to have forged such a friendship? It seems likely that Legolas has not travelled much beyond Mirkwood prior to the quest, his knowledge of "recent" history is a bit spotty, he doesn't seem to know where Galadriel and Celeborn dwell; Aragorn was busy ranging most of the time before the hunt for Gollum. I get the impression that friendships with elves are forged over a long period (Beleg and Turin) or after great events (Thranduil and Bilbo) so I don't think there was the time for the two of them to forge such a bond prior to LotR.

Aragorn being an Elf-Friend and his history with the elves does offer him a possible advantage over the others at initially interacting with Legolas, which is ultimately where some of what you've interpreted as friendly interaction may span from. The title Elf-Friend signifies someone who demands respect from the elves, irrespective of whether they know the person or not. Add this to the fact that Legolas is a fairly light and open character (his relationship with Gimli highlights this), there's no reason for Legolas not to be friendly towards Aragorn, even if he'd only known him a short while.

On the release of the films, a lot of fans also commented that it was a surprise that Legolas leapt to Aragorn's defence at the Council of Elrond, which would further suggest that it was generally felt they didn't know each other beforehand. In the film they consciously place Legolas at Aragorn's side in the hunt for Gollum to establish their close friendship. I also feel that Legolas being introduced as 'strange' in the book is further indication that he was unknown to the others but Aragorn included. Tolkien tends to introduces new characters with a chunk of backstory or a sense of importance, and I feel if he were Aragorn's friend then this may be mentioned, rather we get that he is Thranduil's son, which sets up his relationship with Gimli.

I really liked your run down of their interactions, but I don't think they prove that Legolas and Aragorn's friendship 'is just there' or 'began before the quest'. They are a wonderful exploration of their relationship. Uncertainly, a strong bond developed between the two but at the same time there's not that much that shows us how their bond grows. It just does, but Legolas, Aragorn and Gimli were together for a long period in perilous circumstances, so it's not really surprising.

Finally, in no way is this a criticism, because your essays are always a joy to read, but don't you think they would be better posted a blog? This forum is sadly not like it used to be, serious discussions about Middle Earth have fallen by the wayside somewhat. I feel if your looking for discussion or just to share your thoughts, on a more high-profile platform you may get more responses and appreciation. I'd still continue to read, and I'm sure other members here will, but so will lots more other people too! :)

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 Post subject: Re: Legolas and Aragorn
PostPosted: December 26th, 2014, 12:42 am 
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Thanks for the reply! I'm actually working on starting my first ever blog, but this site was one of the first I came across after getting into LotR, so I figured I would post it for sentimental reasons. :)

I have read a fair bit of Tolkien's works, but I haven't read any of the drafts for LotR. I also take other peoples interpretations with a grain of salt, because none of us are perfect. All we have is our own interpretation of the text/film/work.

Now, on to said text! :D The Council of Elrond is from Frodo's point of view, and the only elf he thinks is “strange” is Legolas. This actually makes quite a bit of sense to me. The only elves Frodo has talked to are Gildor, Glorfindel, and Elrond. All are not only Noldorin nobility, but First Age elves. Legolas, on the other hand, is a young, Silvan-raised elf. Also, Frodo only gives very basic details – there is no mention of Aragorn having been raised by Elrond, for example (or of his relationship with Arwen).

As for Aragorn, we know that the Rangers are wanderers. Aragorn spent 44 years in the North. I cannot imagine that he never traveled to Dale, Erebor, or Mirkwood during those years – all are important players in the North, unlike Lothlórien. 44 years traveling the same ground gives you a fair bit of time to build a friendship.

I agree that Legolas hasn't traveled much, but that doesn't mean he hasn't traveled at all. And as for Lothlórien, UT tells us that contact with Mirkwood has been nil since the Last Alliance. It would a lot easier to travel to Imladris than Lothlórien from Mirkwood.

You're right when you say we don't see their bond grow. We don't get any details of any dynamics of the Fellowship until after Moria, and then Legolas is suddenly Aragorn's number one support. That couldn't have just popped out of nowhere. There is an emotional intimacy between them from the start.


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 Post subject: Re: Legolas and Aragorn
PostPosted: December 26th, 2014, 2:12 pm 
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Excellent, I can't wait to see it!

We are all certainly entitled to our interpretation and it's definitely interesting and enjoyable to read others. There are no drafts to read, but a lot of the History of Middle Earth covers what Christopher Tolkien found in his fathers papers. JRR Tolkien sent many letters with his intentions for the story, whilst writing it so we can see how he changed his mind and things progressed, and shortly after, but the only complete draft, if it can be counted such as a published work, is the changing story of Riddles in the Dark in the Hobbit over the first ten or so print editions.

Legolas may be strange to Frodo for the reasons you've outlined, but why describe him as such? Bilbo likely would have told Frodo about the wood elves. Maybe Frodo didn't immediately recognise Legolas as a one and though him odd, but would the readers (Hobbits?) he's writing the Red Book for know the history and the differences of the elven people and understand why this one was 'strange' because of it. In a broader sense, Legolas is also not an inherently strange elf, as probably his greatest character trait is that he is an elf, surefooted, sharp sighted etc

To me, 'Strange' is used because he is unfamiliar, not unusual, it is clearly one of Tolkien's, not "Frodo's", descriptions. Glorfindel initially had Legolas' place in the Fellowship, but as he would overshadow Aragorn and Gandalf, Legolas was later conceived and given the place instead- I think this colours a lot of Aragorn and Legolas' interaction through FotR as we know Aragorn and Glorfindel have history. Legolas really comes into his own as a character in TTT because he's only speaking his own lines. If at the time of writing the Council of Elrond, Legolas was just a messenger (not inconceivable, Legolas Greenleaf of Gondolin was just a scout) then 'strange' is an ominous way to introduce a character, and foreshadow the bad news he bares. But if Legolas was a fully conceived character during the Council of Elrond, then 'strange' highlights him to the readers, as he will become a major character. Antagonists or plot devices are usually described as 'strange 'in Literature and there's so many characters present at the council Tolkien describing one as such is saying- take note, this character is new to all of us, but we will see him again.

No we don't get Aragorn's history at his introduction as on completion of Book 1 it was still a work in progress. But after deciding that "Trotter" should become Strider, Tolkien wrote in a letter that Aragorn was a 'descendant of the ancient men of the North, and one of Elrond's household' which does establish his background with the elves. It makes sense this fact isn't mentioned in the book as it creates suspense- were we to know Strider's history we wouldn't buy the Hobbits' initial suspicions of him. Legolas doesn't get the same treatment, he is woefully underdeveloped, especially for an elf, probably because of the fact he was invented to replace Glorfindel. Tolkien doesn't elaborate on him either, beyond saying he achieved little, and stating that overly waif-like representations of the character are wrong.

Imladris is not much of an easier journey, as crossing the Misty Mountains is still perilous, even with the Beornings guarding the High Pass shortly after the Battle of the Five Armies. But there is no motivation for Legolas, elven nobility, to travel there in that period. There's no record of hostility with Elrond, but there's nothing to suggest a positive relationship either. Oropher, Legolas' Grandfather, lived in Doriath, where *most* of the Noldor were forbidden to enter, and would not place himself under the control of the Gil-Galad during the Last Alliance and Thranduil later guarded his realm jealously after Sauron moved into Dol Guldor. There may be suspicion from the Wood Elves of Elrond's people, it appears there was no effort to re-build broken bridges. But most importantly, it seems to me that serious events make important elves travel, trade, or niceties is not reason enough for Legolas to leave Mirkwood in the 44 years Aragorn was ranging. The most important event in the period between LotR and the Hobbit is the hunt for Gollum, which we know Legolas had no part in until Gollum was bought to Mirkwood.
As for Aragorn- were the wood elves wary of other elves then I suspect that like in Doriath, men were treated differently. It is likely Aragorn did go to Dale and Erebor, but why would Legolas be in either of those places? Maybe Aragorn travelled to Mirkwood, but there was only a very short period of peace there after the Battle of the Five Armies before the shadow returned, and it was a very dangerous place to visit again, besides Aragorn would have been a child in Elrond's care during this time. Aragorn is not afraid of dangerous places, he went to Moria, but Gandalf, who is more powerful, would not travel back through Mirkwood on return from Erebor, which suggests it's not somewhere that would be visited needlessly. We visit so many perilous places throughout LotR and the Hobbit they don't seem that dangerous, we forget that dire circumstances are forcing the characters there. So it seems easy just to cross the Misty Mountains or visit Mirkwood, when really there are great risks in doing so.

You say that without a prior friendship Legolas is suddenly Aragorn's number one support after Moria, but it is only your interpretation that dictates this, not what we know of the characters, where they are in the story and the world they live in. Sharing interpretation is by no means wrong, but doesn't make something true. Reading their dialogue alone in abstract, Legolas doesn't appear an emotional support, no relationship pops out of nowhere or suddenly appears after Moria. Legolas and Aragorn come to the fore because of the absence of Gandalf and the approach to Lorien. Gandalf overshadowed both of their knowledge of lore and Middle Earth, but in his absence they both take over this role because they are best informed to do so, Aragorn because he has visited and Legolas because he knows the Elven culture and desires to visit, Gimli led the company across the Bridge of Khazad-Dum, effectively doing the same thing. Why would Aragorn and Legolas not talk to one another in this situation and share their thoughts, even after having known each other for a short time. Communication doesn't equate a deep friendship. Lorien is a step on the road their to great friendship rather than a revelation a bond has been there all along. I hate to use such a crude term, a better one escapes me at the minute, but a lot of your comments under quotes read like the "slash-goggles" are on. I'm not saying that's what you're reading into it at all but, please don't think that, but I see the phenomenon of Character A talks to Character B = they are best friends a lot whilst reading through this essay, especially in the dialogue from FotR, but later on in places too.

I feel if it were this great friendship then Tolkien would have made it explicit. Aragorn was a fully developed character, his life well documented, maybe meeting Legolas became overlooked as something of lesser importance, than the rest of his life story. But Legolas was not. Tolkien created him to fill Glorfindel's shoes and subsequently only conceived the most important details about him. He has no backstory, we don't know his age, we don't even know his hair colour, were they in anyway important to the plot or the grander history of Middle Earth, then we may get this information. Any previous connections he has with other characters (Bilbo, Gimli and Gollum) are laid out by the fact he lives in Mirkwood and is the son of Thranduil. Aragorn I'm sure would feature somehow were he included, because the friendship he develops is important, and we are awarded the knowledge that Legolas moves to Ithilien and waits to sail until Aragorn has passed because of it.

I do think it's possible that they met and knew one another, but I think that with the information we have, them being great friends before ventures too much into the realm of 'head cannon' for me :)

Also this is so long, sorry for sending a massive, and poorly planned, essay back :D

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 Post subject: Re: Legolas and Aragorn
PostPosted: December 27th, 2014, 3:56 pm 
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The word strange could be used to highlight Legolas, but that doesn't have anything to do with a potential friendship with Aragorn. As for Tolkien's thoughts, it doesn't matter. All we have is the text (don't get me wrong, I'd love to know more about Legolas, but there's nothing more in LotR).

I didn't mean to imply that Legolas would have often traveled to Imladris (although I loved tie-in to LotR from BoFA!). As he says, the Noldor are a “strange” breed of elves to his people (the fact that Legolas calls the Noldor strange, just as he was introduced as strange, matches).

But there's no proof that the Woodland Realm wasn't involved in the area – we know their trade goes all the way to Dorwinion by the Sea of Rhûn, and in The Hobbit it says,

“The Elvenking was very powerful in those parts” (A Warm Welcome)

“And Lake-town was refounded and was more prosperous than ever, and much wealth went up and down the Running River; and there was friendship in those parts between elves and dwarves and men.” (The Last Stage)

As for Bilbo and Gandalf, Legolas says that “the dark things that were driven out in the year of the Dragon's fall have returned in greater numbers, and Mirkwood is again an evil place, save where our realm is maintained.” So Mirkwood had a period of safety.

Even if Aragorn visited the Woodland Realm five times (let's say), that's more than enough time to develop a friendship; it's very hard to deceive an elf (they can, for lack of a better term, read another's soul), and they have a different view of time (six years may be a while to men, but it's not even a week in elf-time).

But where do you say it develops? There is no change or event noted in their friendship, like Legolas with Gimli. It's there by Helm's Deep:

“Ill enough, but not yet hopeless, while we have you with us.”
“There was grief at that parting, and I was grieved to behold it.”/“only those who knew him well and were near to him saw the pain that he bore.”
“And I for the folk of the Great Wood, and for the love of the Lord of the White Tree.”

And it's not the fact that Legolas makes Aragorn smile once, but is the only one to do so. It's not the fact that Legolas gets Aragorn back on track; but is, again, the only one to do so.


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