Character Profile: Thranduil


… from whom Legolas has learnt to be so awesome.

In The Hobbit, Thranduil is the ruler of the elves of Mirkwood. His realm encompasses the northern part of the area, making his dwelling on the borders of that large forest; a vast underground network of elf-constructed caves – better known as the Elvenking’s Halls.

It is here that Thorin and the Dwarves are taken as prisoners, after being captured from their desperate fight against giant spiders.

Elvenking's HallsThranduil comes across as a formidable warrior and a strong leader; both wise and benign, but also possessing a weakness for gems.

Yes, even though he “wrongfully” imprisoned most of the major characters in the novel, he is nonetheless a very likeable character – acting on his own highly-refined Elven instincts, proceeding with caution and with justifiable means.

What Peter Jackson has done to this character in The Hobbit Trilogy, is simply spot-on. Casting Lee Pace as the benevolent, yet highly-suspicious Elven King was probably one of the wisest decisions taken on these films.

Ever since seeing the first official photo of Pace in costume, striking a very characterful pose (this was way back early in 2012, when two films were still in development), my anticipation at seeing him performing on screen was exponentially heightened.

In An Unexpected Journey, we got a very tiny glimpse of the character (yet, two very powerful shots which continued to reaffirm that Pace had “nailed” the personality of Thranduil Feud 1Thranduil).

Come The Desolation of SmaugΒ there’s a general outburst of positive reaction towards the performance of the Elven King. This is down to one simple reason:

Lee Pace IS Thranduil. There seems to be no hint of “imitation” or “acting”.

Pace simply manages to blend his acting of the character so subtlety, that what you see on screen is not him playing the Elf King, but rather the Elf king himself – as if he was struck out of the book and magically placed within the cinematic medium.

He brings a very naturalistic element to the character – embodying all his qualities from the novel itself, with some added features constructed by the film’s writers. (Apart from the fact that his face seems to attract a large number of fan girls out there! πŸ˜‰ )

ThranduilIn the handful of scenes (alas!)Β in The Desolation of Smaug, we immediately get to know who Thranduil is – his characteristics, mannerisms, fighting abilities (oh! that quick-as-lightning, sword-sweeping-movement-into-the-scabbard moment, after beheading a particular orc) and motivations …

The highlight scene is undoubtedly his confrontation with Thorin. Pace manages to convey benevolence, greed, anger, pity, pride, compassion (and a host of other emotions) with just the slightest hint of expressions, the nimblest of gestures or the simplest sophistication of a spoken word.

Legolas may have been the “cool” elf in The Lord of the Rings, but Thranduil’s presence simply tramples all over it …

If you’ve read the book and seen some of the production videos posted online, it’s no wonder you’d be excited to see Thranduil in battle armour for There and Back Again … oh my!


28 thoughts on “Character Profile: Thranduil

  1. I haven’t seen the production photos, but please tell me that he rides into battle on his elk (who should also be wearing battle armor).

    1. Not sure about the battle itself, but it seems he DOES travel to Lake-town on the elk (according to an article on Empire Magazine – July 2012 issue) … but I agree, that would be glorious to see on screen!

  2. Reblogged this on The Leather Library and commented:
    You have to love Thranduil at least for his slender and graceful way that he presents himself. You can tell that he is noble by his presence and wise above most of those among Middle-Earth. However, his love of jewels really hearkens back to the imperfect elves that we see in The Silmarillion and unlike the elves that we are used to seeing in Peter Jackson’s LOTR.

    1. The differences between Thranduill and the Wood Elves of northern Kirkwood and Galadriel of and the Elves of Golden Forest are not hard to understand. Galdriel with her father and brothers followed the will of the Valar and crossed the sea to the undying lands but when the Silmarillions were taken by Morgoth, Galadriel’s people, the Noldor returned to Middle earth to wage a war with Morgoth they could not win. The Noldor violated the will of the Value but they were blessed by the light of the two trees and they were very powerful. Thranduil was Sindarian and the subject of Thingol. Thingol made the trip to the undying lands and saw the two trees and gained Valar wisdom, which he brought back to Belariand developing Sindarian culture. The Noldor were wiser and more powerful than Sindar of whom Thranduil was one, possibly related to Thingol. Galadriel married Celeborn a relative of Thingol and lived for a time in the Sindar Iand of Doriath and was befriended my Melina wife of Thingol and a former resident of the undying lands. When Belariand was destroyed at end of First Age the remaining Noldor except Galadriel returned to the Valar. Along with Celeborn and Thranduil, and Cirdan the shipwright they remained in Middle Earth into the Fourth Age. This is a very complex tale told in The Silmarillions.

  3. Oh, my gosh! You took my words! Great character profile. Thranduil is my favorite character. So subtle and yet powerful is Lee’s performance. Thank you so much!

  4. What about his strange face (almost “transformed) when he speak about when he fought against creatures from the North (I can’t remember his actual words). That doesn’t make great sense – he was at the War of the Last Alliance with his father (where Oropher died) but I think that we have no records of other fights!

    1. Yes Lee, you are right. Thanks for bringing it up.

      I too found it slightly odd and yes, as far as I know, it was created by the filmmakers since there’s no record of him doing so.

      “I too have felt the great wrath of the serpents of the North” … or something of the sort. I’m hoping we will get some more exposure on this issue – why would Thranduil battle dragons?

      Unless it’s a way to explain (and justify) why the Elf King didn’t go to Thorin’s aid in the AUJ prologue …

      1. Thranduil lived in Doriath before it was turned to ruin. Then he fled with Oropher. And yes, he did battle dragons because he was with Oropher and almost every other important Elf in Middle-Earth in the War of Wrath when Morgoth unleashed o’er a hundred wyrms with Ancalagon leading the charge. It is written toward the end of the annals of the War of Wrath, I can’t quote at the moment as I’m not at home. Several dragons unleashed their fury at the Elves. Oropher and Thranduil were of course amongst those battling them at the eaves of Thangorodrim.

        So, there you go πŸ™‚ ! It wasn’t made up by PJ and Co πŸ™‚ !

      2. Hey rafimrgreen1692, thanks for following! (and for your comment).

        You bring up some very interesting points about Thranduil’s supposed “involvement” with dragons and they certainly seem plausible.

        However, as far as I’m concerned, we don’t have a particular date for Thranduil’s birth – except that he seemed to be in existence early on at the beginning of the Second Age.

        And if he was born in the First Age, there’s still no confirmation that he fought with Oropher in the War of Wrath (though he certainly did fight in the War of the Last Alliance).

        Fascinating thoughts though, keep them coming! πŸ™‚

      3. Alo πŸ˜€

        Thranduil did live in Menegroth πŸ™‚ ! And he was fairly old. A young elf in the ages of the elves, but old enough to wield a sword in battle. Remember, he used Menegroth as an example to build his own kingdom in Greenwood. Hence, Thranduil was present πŸ™‚ And he was present in the War of Wrath because it took place at the end of the First Age. πŸ™‚

        And I must say I love your blog πŸ˜€ It is a delight to read hehe. πŸ™‚

      4. Hey!

        You certainly put forward some very plausible statements. Highly fascinating to say the least πŸ™‚


  5. Do you think that Oropher and Thranduil battled with the Vanyar druing the War of Wrath. I have to admit, that since that War lasted 80 years, I wish Tolkien would have extrapolated more on it.

  6. In my opinion movie only made a disservice to the character of Thranduil. In Desolation of Smaug (and An Unexpected Journey flashbacks) he is overly villainized. He shows practically no wisdom, nor any positive traits, he is one dimensional in a way, and it’s quite ironic that book Thranduil is presented with much better characterization (basically children’s book potrays this character much better!! πŸ™‚ his moves and decisions in movie are questionable at least and in some ways completely stupid, where is this really wise and strong king, powerful enough that he has influence on all local policies (in movie it is seen how elves isolate themselves which is entirely not true in the books, where he is engaged in trade with men and elves of other lands sometimes bickering over tolls and other business matters, he was resourcefull and cunning, he had spies and messanger and firendly birds to gather news beign a real power in the land and though Wilderland became more desolate with less people living close by the elves had close and friendly contacts with their neighbours profting much from it).

    Book Thranduil was quite gentle, merciful and kind, he showed more warmth and compassion than this cold movie bastard, in book he treated Bilbo with great awe and admiration, a lowly thief, a small person but of great worth. In book he treated dwarves fairly (and was just in his judgments, also though he could become angry he never let it iflunece overly his decision making, movie Thranduil was over the top in his behaviour, which even contrasts with previous PJ’s false depiciton of elves as cold and emotionless which in books is not true, according to Tolkien elves expressed deep emotions and they enjoyed life, they were not as stiff and uptight as movies showed, they were decent and pleasant folk to hang out with, merry like children feasting and drinking ehh it’s sad that it was so twisted in adaptation) noticing how miserable they were starved and exhausted so he ordered them to be unbound, and though he could be stern at times it was clear he is very strong-willed person, great warrior and genuinely he loves and protects his people (so this movie nonsense of him scorning the ,,lowly silvan elves” is complete hogwash, he actually adopted culture of Wood Elves despite being a Sindar from his descent).

    Wood Elves though less wise and more dangerous were also very kind and good folk, they treated decently and kindly even their greatest enemies if they captured them (so they would never kill captives not even orcs despite cold and bitter hatred for orc crimes against them, this like the scene of killing an emmisary in Lotr during parely is something which does not goes well with Tolkien’s values, also the elves were not in state of constant warfare with race of orcs there were times when they existed relatively close to each other with little conflict, orcs are warmongering race but they are mostly driven by Dark Lords to great campaigns, in times of peace they are content with raiding for spoils and waylaying travellers like bandits, usually fearing to interfere with elves) they had no mercy only to ONE kind of creatures GIANT SPIDERS. Also even though Elvenking Thranduil had a weakness for silver and white jewels, he was not overly greedy, he was reluctant to start a war over treasure (when he led his expeditionary force he thought dwarves of Thorin were killed and he didn’t expected battle with orcs so he took only thousand spearmen and unspecified number of archers, very small fracture of his army) he would never isolate himself so stupidly nor he would make such basic mistakes, Wood Elves were not very fond of dwarves but they did not have such toxic relation either (and they never would abandon them if they were openly allied, the whole army arriving to Erebor to retreat is idiotic invention of the movie, first no army even of beings so fast and agile like elves would arrive during unexpected attack of Smaug, which in several hours destroyed kingdom of Erebor and caused great destruction to Dale killing Girion and many of his warriors, after which for days or weeks/months he raided the city of Men, gathering it’s wealth and taking people to devour until at last the remnants of survivors escaped, it would take 5 days at least to travel from Mirkwood to Long Lake not to mention anywhere near the city of Dale or the Mountain so Elvenking could not even arrive on time, and then number of dwarven survivors were scattered refugees that did not stay behind but immediately fled to the east to Iron Hills and some were wandering south and west, no dwarf ever tried to ask Thranduil for help nor he could actually provide it due to circumstances, there was no way to do anything for them and dwarves never asks for it).

    So you see that Thranduil was much more complex character than we see in movie, he had his flaws but he wasn’t as arrogant or stern as many believe, he was skilled in managing his realm, wise and reasonable, he was powerful and gentle, decent, noble even, individual.

    1. Thanks for your feedback fantasywind! πŸ™‚

      I guess it all depends on individual opinions. I personally think that adding some of the traits of arrogance and pride in Thranduil’s character actually helped his characterisation and motives.

      I don’t think in the book he’s as three-dimensional as he could have been, though the way I saw the film, it seems they’ve captured some of what we read about in the book.

      However, in Film 3 his story arc will develop and (without wanting to provide any spoilers), we will see Thranduil in a different perspective … following along the lines of the book πŸ™‚

    2. Wow thank you for such a new way to see Thranduil. It is always so great and enlightening and open minding to see through someones perception. It is great to see Thranduil through Peter Jacksons eyes and through Lee paces performance and now you great opinion. It is truly magical to experience this diversity of visions of the same character

      1. Hey dragongirl1981!

        Lee Pace seems to have made an even greater impression of his character thanks to the brilliant performance in the third film. Simply fantastic!

  7. Good day James!
    Yes I do agree with it. He is definitely a real Thranduil through and through. He does flourish greatly in the third movie as a character and actor. Just like a beautiful butterfly showing the true greatness of this character and his true love for his elven kin as well as kindness towards others. It is a great pleasure to see him expand so greatly… I truly do enjoy this third movie on all levels, it is a great ending to this trilogy.

  8. Thank you for such an excellent analysis. It explains why I find Thranduil so compelling in the movies. With most characters in most movies I’m subconsciously aware that it’s an actor portraying the character. In this case I feel I’m actually seeing Thranduil himself. I’d seen little of Lee Pace before this role; it sounds like he worked very hard to develop the character and motivation. A brilliant performance, no matter what the opinions on character development and back story.

  9. WOW. Brilliant analysis of the character and the actor who portrayed Thranduil. He was truly the best thing in the movie Hobbit. I had no idea who he was, but when he appeared on screen it was as though the King had somehow stepped out of Tolkien’s book and onto the movie screen. He was STUNNING! The amazingly designed robes fitted his slender and tall body so well. He was so elegant that it was breath taking. He outshined Legolas’ beauty by miles, and I didn’t think any elf could..

    That said about his beauty, I really didn’t like Peter Jackson’s adaption of Thranduil. I agree with a poster above, in the book, Thranduil was described as a kind, wise, and cautious King. He would not engage the lives of his people in wars for gold. He even treated the worse of his enemies kindly, making sure they got food and water for he wasn’t barbaric…Bilbo said if it come down to battling it out, he would choose to defend the Elven-King. Another huge disappointment too was the relationship between Thranduil and Legolas. In the book, Tolkien specifically mentioned that the Elves valued kinship and the King was mentioned as a caring King to his people. There was no indication that he treated Legolas badly and so I don’t understand the distance in father and son depicted at the end of the movie which led to a lot of people saying he was an evil dad to Legolas.

    I’m thankful though that Pace somehow managed to make Thranduil sympathetic and likable even though the way Thranduil was written made him out to be a jerk. It amazed me how much Pace was able to convey through just his eyes alone. At the end when he told Legolas that Legolas’ mother loved him..he looked so sad. For a second, his eyes were full of emotions and conveyed so much sadness. I really felt for him then.

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