The Gaffer’s Elite: Characters

Gaffer Gamgee

Ranking all things Middle-earth

Last week we discussed some of the most remarkable sets and locations from the Middle-earth saga. This week, we’ll be looking at the characters.

This was naturally tricky, so I’ve decided not to rank these in the usual way. Rather than assigning numbers, I decided to select 3 characters from each trilogy and briefly explain the reasons why I find them appealing

As with the other posts, it does not mean that those unmentioned characters are not my favourite; but to keep this post brief and maintain the sanity of you the readers, I’ve limited by list to a total of 6.

I’ve made one exception and omitted Gandalf from both trilogies. Let’s face it. These films wouldn’t be the same without the contribution of Ian Mckellan’s stellar performance. Considering he’s in all 6 films, I’ve decided to leave him out. Nothing against Gandalf, at all. Again, it’s all about brevity (… and sanity).

The Hobbit Trilogy

Bilbo BagginsBilbo with Sting

It’s pretty obvious but Bilbo Baggins is the reason why The Hobbit is so entertaining and a one-of-a-kind experience. Martin Freeman couldn’t have given a better performance as the titular character. The mannerisms, the emotions and the capability of transforming the character into the voice of the audience is the highlight of this trilogy. It is a pity his presence was overshadowed in The Battle of the Five Armies, but ultimately, the precious few minutes he’s on screen are gold. No pun intended of course.

SmaugSmaug the Stupendous

Impressive both as a CGI-feat and as a unique personality. Peter Jackson, together with his indispensable WETA team and Benedict Cumberbatch’s sublime performance, have literally brought Smaug to life from Tolkien’s writing. The dragon was the make-or-break highlight of the trilogy. Cunning, terrifying and ─ oddly enough ─ alluring, the Professor himself would be proud of the filmmakers’ achievements at bringing one of his most popular and memorable characters to the screen.

Thorin OakenshieldTroubled Thorin (gold)

Such a fantastic transformation takes place in the mind and appearance of the dwarf king. From a humble and fearless leader, to a greed-stricken being, back to a redeemed hero; a massive part of Thorin’s charisma and charm is a result of Richard Armitage’s astounding performance. After the first two Hobbit films, I had expected him to shine in the final installment, but never could I imagine the intensity and realism brought out on screen. I’m with Dwalin on my sense of loyalty towards this character, and would follow him one last time without question.


The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Sam GamgeeSam

Personally, the primary hero of The Lord of the Rings. Samwise embodies the beautiful qualities of human beings: honest, loyal and capable of great deeds. Without him, Frodo’s quest would have failed miserably. He’s almost like a guardian angel, who’s love of the rustic and simple life makes him all the more appealing when facing insurmountable odds. He is the Brave, the Stouthearted; renowned by the Free People’s of Middle-earth, but also a gardener and the Gaffer’s son. That unlikely combination is an endearing quality of his character.


Yes, he was somewhat too proud, and he tried to forcefully take the Ring from Frodo; but Boromir was ultimately a good guy. The symbolic fall of Boromir was necessary to the story, in order to show us the corruptible qualities of the Ring – that even the most noble and powerful individuals can succumb to its evil; but, unlike the Son of Gondor, no one could come back from an overthrown mind. Sean Bean is a favourite actor of mine and Boromir’s last stand is sheer perfection. I rarely find myself in tears, but every time I watch this scene, I always keep a tissue or two within reach.


Yet another character who’s transformative experience resounds across the second half of The Lord of the Rings. For a supporting character, Théoden has quite a complex journey throughout the trilogy. He is a king who is trying to regain his subjects’ trust; he goes to great lengths to keep his people and family safe; he recognizes his own failures as a king; he performs a heroic deed that ultimately assures victory for the forces of good. Basically, he’s an all rounder with charisma and a strong emotive performance. And best of all, he’s played by Bernard Hill.

Your turn now to share with us your most beloved characters from the trilogies.

Next week will see the conclusion of The Gaffer’s Elite series, in which I tackle the impossible: ranking all 6 films … (this is truly scary business).

Copyright of images belongs to Warner Bros., MGM Studios and New Line Cinema.


27 thoughts on “The Gaffer’s Elite: Characters

  1. My favourite ‘fictional’ character from any work of literature is Mr Bilbo Baggins – he just pips Gandalf. He is middle-aged, a small fellow, one of the little people and can be rather odd and keep to himself. He can be generous. He is risk averse and does not deserve an adventure because outwardly he is not brave enough – no adventures wanted here! But an adventure comes knocking and what an adventure it is! I find that so encouraging personally for people like myself because I am not that brave either.

  2. I gained a whole new appreciation for the character Faramir when the extended release of “Return of the King” came out. His outpouring of reserved and respectful anguish towards Denethor before departing to retake Osgiliath, was nothing short of terrific, powerful acting.

    However, I can see why he didn’t make the list, as his part just wasn’t momentous or featured enough.

    1. Hey Robert, Faramir was a strong choice but I just had to limit it to 3! It was tough believe me. I also found Faramir’s character much more convincing in the extended editions – a great character arc equaling that of his brother’s.

  3. From the Hobbit, I have to say one of my favorite characters was Bard; many have said he is the “Aragorn” of the Hobbit, and he fills that role terrifically. From the Lord of the Rings…wow, so many I had to think about that for a little bit. In the end, I settled with Beregond, one of the Guards of the Citadel. He’s one of the ordinary characters, an embodiment of the common man, torn between instructions and instinct. I’d list more, but then we’d be here for a long time.

    1. Bard was is a favourite of mine and I had numerous internal debates with myself on how to include him as one of the 3; it is with a heavy heart that he is not included as he’s a fantastic character in my opinion.

      1. Bard, and how could you exclude Aragorn? Just how? Aragorn’s my favourite character in the LOTR by a long shot. All that “from the ashes a fire shall be woken” thing. But you had it tough this time round, James.

      2. Believe me Joshua, both are favourite characters. I probably felt I’d rather focus on less “expected” characters, than the mainstream 😉

  4. My favorite characters from the Hobbit movies are the same as yours, but in the book, it was definitely Beorn. It’s a shame how little we saw of him in the third movie. In the Lord of the Rings, it would be Sam, Gandalf, Aragorn, and Gollum. Thanks for keeping up these great posts. This is one of my favorite websites.

    1. Hey Evan thanks for your lovely comment about this blog! I would have put up Beorn on this list, but as you rightly point out, he has been severely underplay in the BOTFA. A massive disappointment in my opinion.

  5. And as I read, I scrolled down and saw Boromir’s name, and I clapped. Literally, actually, clapped with delight. Because he gets overlooked a lot, and whenever I find someone who appreciates him the way I do, I get a little excited 😀 Until I saw TBOTFA, he was 100% my favorite character in Middle Earth, and while Bard the Bowman has edged him out regarding the movie versions, Boromir is still my #1 book character. (And then Sam, and then Gandalf.)

    So um, anyway, thank you.

    1. Hehe, I agree. Boromir is either underrated as a character, or seen in a bad light due to his (misguided) actions. And you’re very welcome 🙂

  6. I must say Freeman’s performance as Bilbo was spot on. Just a wonderful character rendition. So he is also first on my list. For the old trilogy I think Saruman is one of the more interesting characters and obviosuly played by one of the finest actors. Gladly he got more screentime in the extended version.

    1. Oh yes, that scene with Saruman in RoTK was definitely a good choice to include. It’s great to finally see his character’s complete story which spans all 3 films (well, 5 now if you include The Hobbit). And as you rightly mention, you can’t get cooler than having Christopher Lee on screen …

  7. I have to say I find Thorin far more interesting than Aragorn. Aragorn was good, but I never got much of a kingly vibe from him. Thorin, like you said, I’d follow him. Seriously, I could see myself following him as a king, leader of a company, all of that.

    1. I don’t want to give the wrong impression. I think Aragorn is such a fantastic character (both movie and book version). There are some obvious similarities between him and Thorin; but what I like about Aragorn (most in the films) is the fact that he doesn’t immediately accept himself as a worthy King and successor. To see his journey and how he finally acknowledges his lineage, is one of the highlights of The Lord of the Rings trilogy 🙂

  8. Yes! Theoden is my favourite character from all the films. His character features so many sides of himself in such a relatively short screentime.

  9. My own list would vary massively books to films. I like a lot of the changes Jackson made in the LOTR trilogy but it does I do feel an injustice is done to both Boromir and Faramir in the films, such great characters in the books. I prefer how Aragorn shuns his kingship longer in the films, I feel it develops the character better, in the books I always got the impression Gandalf didn’t hold as much faith in him as he shows in the films and tries to lead things more himself.

    My LOTR list from the books:
    1) Boromir
    2) Theoden
    3) Faramir
    From the films:
    1) Aragorn
    2) Gandalf
    3) Sam

  10. Great list! It is so hard to choose favorites from the wonderful cast of characters Tolkien created. I think my list of three from The Lord of the Rings would read like this:
    1) Aragorn- I love his sacrificial nature in both the books and movies. His arc has really inspired me to aspire to that noble nature.
    2) Sam- I cannot do justice to his arc with so few words. I would love to have Sam as a friend.
    3) Frodo- I love the portrayal of loss and grace in Frodo’s arc. The Grey Havens scene always makes me cry. Future flowers spring up from our present pain, (to paraphrase Jon Foreman) and Frodo’s journey always reminds me to look past my struggles and ahead to the beauty that lies beyond.

  11. What a great list. I have to say I agree with your choices. As for myself, these are my two favorite characters.

    1. Boromir – I think he embodies the flawed nature of men. Men are weak, greedy, easily downhearted but these qualities are what is so remarkable about them when they rise above it. In Buddhism there are 6 realms of existence, this is known as Samsara. However, only beings of the human realm can reach nirvana or enlightenment. This is because only in the human realm there is a balance of virtue and sin, good and evil, joy and sorrow. With that in mind, I think Boromir is a great character because he was flawed and because he was human, for in the end he was able to overcome these flaws and rise above them to be a true friend and hero.

    2. Aragorn – He is sum of the sins of his forefathers. He lives with the knowledge that he is an heir of a house that has fallen so low because of the weakness of Isildur. But he also knows that his existence is not only for himself because his life is to serve. Aragorn doubts whether he can overcome the weakness in his blood and fulfill his purpose in life. His struggle to overcome this burden is so real for me and this makes him a great character.

    I hope what i wrote is understandable.

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