Most Interesting Men in Middle-earth

Tolkien often gets a bad rap for writing one-dimensional characters, but it simply isn’t true. He wrote about many fascinating individuals–here are a few of the male persuasion.

10. Denethor

Denethor is a contradiction. He takes great pride in his ancestry–yet he refused to accept much of its wisdom. He wanted to continue his lineage and yet he shamelessly favored one of his sons. His pride blinded him so that he committed suicide. A tragedy, but an interesting one.

9. Figwit

Okay, so Tolkien didn’t actually write Figwit. I’ve still found the whole Figwit phenomenon endlessly fascinating. For those who don’t know the story, a random fangirl spotted Figwit in the Council of Elrond scene, fell in love with him, named him, made a website about him (which still exists!!!) and the rest is history. Figwit is, of course, played by Bret McKenzie, one-half of Flight of the Conchords.

8. Aegnor

Aegnor won’t be familiar to a lot of people. He only appears in The Silmarillion but what makes him interesting isn’t even in there. It isn’t until Morgoth’s Ring (323-5) that we learn Aegnor loved a mortal woman, Andreth. He is the only male Elf recorded to have fallen in love with a mortal. He and Andreth were never married because Elves do not marry in a time of war. Instead, he held her memory in his heart until his death and took it with him even into the Halls of Mandos. Aegnor stands alone, without his beloved, until Arda is broken.

7. Glorfindel

I’ve already written about how important Glorfindel is to LotR. Even apart from his contribution to the story, he stands as an intriguing character. Going back to The Silmarillion, he is one of the only individuals to have killed a Balrog. He had golden hair, which was rare among Elves (except the Vanyar). He is also the only Elf we know what reincarnated after death–it’s quite possible he’s the only reincarnate Elf in Middle-earth (as opposed to in Valinor).

6. Curufin

Caranthir is often considered the evilest of the Fëanorians, but Curufin’s craftiness far outweighs Caranthir’s quick temper. When Celegorm fell in love with Lúthien, Curufin was perfectly happy to manipulate her into a marriage with his brother. His goal was power (Silm, 173). When Lúthien escaped and rescued Beren, Curufin tried twice to kill her. The only other Elf who attempted murder (Kin-slaying aside, which was mass killing) was Eöl, the Dark Elf. Curufin was definitely twisted.

5. Celeborn

Celeborn is called “the Wise” and yet most readers overlook him in favor of his wife, Galadriel. Indeed, Galadriel is one of the most powerful Elves in Middle-earth. In human terms, at least, many men would be intimidated by such a powerful wife, but Celeborn seems completely unphased by it. Those who have read The Silmarillion will remember the uproar caused in Doriath when news about the Kin-slaying got out. Thingol almost kicked Galadriel and her brothers out of his kingdom, despite their close familial relationship. Celeborn surely would have been greatly disturbed by the Kin-slaying, but he married Galadriel nonetheless, showing his great love for her. Despite his love for his wife, when she departed into the West at the end of the Third Age, he remained behind. We don’t know if Celeborn ever set sail or if he remained sundered from his wife of millennia.

4. Tuor

Okay, Tuor is one of my favorites, both in and of himself and because of his connection to Gondolin. He was indeed a mortal but he was certainly unique. His father died before he was born and his mother died of grief shortly after his birth. He was raised by Grey-elves of Mithrim, lived alone in the wild, lived in Gondolin for fifteen years, and then among the survivors of Gondolin and Doriath until he disappeared. In fact, the only time he lived among mortals was when he was a slave to the Easterlings! He was held in such high regard that when he wanted to marry Idril Celebrindal, Turgon‘s only child, the king apparently had no problem with it. Some even believe that he was counted among Elves and shares their immortality (Silm, 245).

3. Bilbo Baggins

Weren’t expecting this one, were you? Bilbo is fascinating. He’s a lazy, well-off hobbit with no interest in adventure who goes off with a bunch of dwarves to take back a kingdom from a dragon. Basically the definition of the most interesting hobbit in the world. He comes back a changed hobbit–he never gets the taste for adventure out of his mouth. He embodies C.S. Lewis’s idea of doing only what one ought to do or what one wants to do, not what others think one should like. (I can’t find the exact quote; this is the closest I could get.) He even manages to accomplish this without hating other people!

2. Beorn

What even is he???

1. Beren

This one is pretty obvious. He got the most beautiful Elf to fall in love with him. That alone puts him on this list. But he also got her parents on his side eventually, was the only mortal to ever touch a silmaril, and he died and came back to life. He wins.

Photo Credit: Susanne Feldt

  2 comments for “Most Interesting Men in Middle-earth

  1. June 20, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    I was disappointed that Peter Jackson’s films did not make clear how the flaws in Denethor’s character had been exacerbated by the prolonged strain of using the palantír and having to fight constantly against the baleful influence of Sauron, firstly because I think the palantíri in general should have been better explained (as a network of remote viewing and communication devices vulnerable to being dominated by single user with extraordinary strength of will), and secondly because it would have made Denethor a more tragic figure, a great and noble man driven gradually to despair.

    • Emily
      June 25, 2016 at 3:48 pm

      What, a complaint about Jackson over-simplifying a character? Not sure if you’re really making sense here…

      In all seriousness, I completely agree. It would have been fascinating to delve more into the influence of the palantír. Clearly, Jackson had some idea of it, since Pippin seemed drawn to it similarly how other characters are drawn to the Ring. Who knows? Maybe someday we’ll see footage that gives Denethor a little more depth. Unlikely, though.

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