Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Top 10 Intriguing Characters

There's a lot left unsaid in The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion.  After all, there are upwards of 500 characters mentioned by name and there just isn't enough time to go into the backstory of all those characters.  That's not going to stop fans, however, from wondering just who--or what--they really are.

This list is based of my personal interest as well as the collective discussion surrounding the characters from the whole LOTR fan community.

10. Feanor

This one may be a bit obvious.  There is not much mystery surrounding Feanor--there is, after all, an entire chapter devoted to his backstory in The Silmarillion--but what makes him so intriguing is the controversy.  There is a lot of debate among fans about Feanor; some think that he was in the right since he was the only one brave enough to take on Morgoth, others think he is a complete madman who threw himself and the other Elves into a horrible place which and swore a terrible Oath which caused thousands of deaths.

And still there are others, like me, who are on both sides, but the balance is a teetery one.  What makes him so intriguing is that every time you read about him, there is a danger of slipping into thinking he is a complete menace but an equally real danger of being too easy on him.

Ultimately, Feanor's story is a tragic and complex one of misunderstanding, jealousy, and greed.  There is much discussion revolving around his childhood (see number 8) and whether or not Feanor himself is to blame for his actions.

9. Gollum
There is really no literary character like Gollum.  Tolkien invents so many original characters, but Gollum seems like he was pulled out of the blue.  Gollum is both mysterious and intriguing.  We know little enough about his bringing up, but I am almost sure that he was one of the Riverfolk.  Tolkien, however, leaves enough ambiguity so that you're never really sure where he's exactly from.  Gandalf does go into quite a lengthy discussion about Gollum in The Fellowship about Gollum which, when combined with the information about the Riverfolk in the prologue makes it seem like Gollum was one of the Riverfolk.  But, in classic Tolkien style, you can never know for sure.

So Gollum is mysterious--a constant source of tension throughout The Lord of the Rings--but he is also intriguing.  Constant studies have been done and multitudes of essays written all about Gollum and his dynamism.  Even characters within The Lord of the Rings find him both mysterious and controversial--Sam and Frodo certainly have distinct opinions about the character.

8. Finwe

Speaking of characters who are controversial in their own world, Finwe generated a lot of talk in his own time.  First things first; Finwe is a very intriguing character because he was one of the original Elves to wake alongside Cuivienen.  But the Elves around him even debate some of his decisions, namely his choice to remarry after Miriel departed in spirit from her body.  Feanor was very upset that he would do that, and other Elves think that that decision possibly affected Feanor in  a bad way causing him to be overly possessive and jealous.  Others, however, praise the decision because without it Fingolfin and Finarfin as well as all of their noble kin would never have been.

7. Maedhros/Maglor

Of all the Sons of Feanor, Maedhros and Maglor are my hands-down favorites.  If anyone ever says Tolkien writes black-and-white characters, please direct them to these two who are anything but black and white.  They are two people who are good deep down but who are caught in terrible circumstances and forced to do things they don't want to do. 

I've always wondered what they were like outside of their Oath--what were their personalities like?  Did they really like all the war or were they more of a Faramir-type-sensitive person?  What was going through their heads as they held the Silmarils?  Did they make it to the Halls of Mandos?  Were they forgiven?
Maglor and Maedhros with Elrond and Elros

6. Maeglin

Maeglin is another example of a non-black-and-white character.  He had a rough childhood--his father held him and his mother prisoner, practically, by forbidding them to go anywhere.  His father then tried to kill him but accidentally killed Maeglin's mother instead.  He also had a strange attraction to his cousin (who thought he was twisted and sick) which could not have been easy to handle.  Eventually, it led him to the most infamous betrayal in all the Eldar Days.

One feels badly for Maeglin because most everyone can feel some sympathy towards him--a victim of circumstances, set up to fail.  Most people feel for him or can relate to his unrequited love and the pain it must have caused him.  But, on the flip side, by the end of the story you can't feel too bad for him.  After all, he did cause the downfall of Gondolin out of his greed and lust.  There is still that conflict of feelings, however, which makes him an interesting character to read about.

5. Turin

Speaking of conflicted feelings, Turin is maybe the character who frustrates me the most.  He does countless proud and stupid things, but I  have high hopes for him.  He could have been so successful and done so many good things if he hadn't made such bad choices.  He had high potential, but he threw it all away.  There is also the added question of whether it was mostly Turin's fault or if fate was more to blame.  This makes examining his story very interesting and Turin himself one of the most intriguing characters.  When I read the story of Turin, I laugh, I cry, I throw my book at the wall in anger, but most of all, I try to learn more about one of Middle-earth's most compelling characters.

4. Eol

There is barely any origin story for this mysterious Elf who goes along, doing his own his own thing.  His character is very mysterious because we don't know much about him.  But he is also interesting in general because he diverges so much from the Elven norm.  Not many other Elves shun the light like he does--actually none, as far as I know--and no one does evil things like him unprovoked by Morgoth.  How did he get this way?  The world might never know, which makes him even more intriguing.

3. Beorn

What is Beorn?  Gandalf gives a feeble attempt to explain that Beorn is one of the bears of the north--a skin changer--but because The Hobbit did not have the developed backstory like The Silmarillion or The Lord of the Rings, he is really ambiguous.  In addition to the fact we only vaguely only know what Beorn is, he also does some pretty intriguing things.  He actually delights in killing things and is a pretty vicious fellow.  It would be interesting to examine further whether Beorn is in the right with his violent lifestyle.

2. The Blue Wizards

There are millions of fan theories surrounding the Blue Wizards.  I've often wondered why Tolkien would even include them if they turn out to be irrelevant in the long run.  We know they went into the East and possibly that they turned to evil and started cults of magic on their own.  Did Tolkien mean for this to link up with real world history and somehow be a sort of origin story for some Eastern Astrology or other practices?  That is very unclear, and there is little--if any--evidence to support this.  It looks like the Blue Wizards will remain undefined and open to interpretations and fan theories.

1. Tom Bombadil

This is the crème de la crème when it comes to ambiguous and mysterious.  What in Arda is Tom?  A Vala?  Eru himself?  A random Man gone strange?  There is literally no background provided for this mysterious character or why he has any of the strange powers he has.  Why is he so able to resist the lure of the Ring?  Why can he command nature?  Why?  Who?  What?  None of these questions are answered save by some fan theories.

The bottom line?  Tolkien is a master of giving us little tastes but leaving the rest up to us.  Just like you can never know everything there is to know in real history and how there are always going to be some mysteries and things lost in translation, Tolkien leaves a few things up to  us to make the story that much more intriguing.  What character do you have a fan theory about?  What character do you find most interesting?


  1. All of these characters are wonderful examples! Thanks for this post. :D

    I've always thought privately that Tom Bombadil is a Maia. I doubt that he is Eru himself. But that's an interesting thought, nonetheless!

    I find Thingol an intriguing character as well, which is why I did a character study on him. I should do a new study soon, though I have to decide whether to do another from Tolkien's work, or if I should branch out into other literature.

    1. Of course!

      Ah, that makes sense. I used to think he was Eru, but now I'm not sure anymore.

      Oh, true, I didn't think of Thingol right away, but you're right. That would certainly be an interesting study...if you do end up writing it, please send it to me! I'd love to read it :)

      Oh, by the way, I just watched the episode of Robin Hood when Marian dies (which is coincidentally called "The Return of the King") and...it was rough. She's my second favorite character, so I was flipping out a bit. But, today I'm watching the season finale of the first season and she's back! So happy! Is this the "punch in the gut" you were warning me for or are worse things coming? I'm nervous for the fate of my precious merry men!

  2. No... that's not the punch in the gut. Wait for the end of season 2, which might as well be titled: "Tear My Heart Out, Chew It Up, and Spit It Out". I won't say any more because... *weeps*

    On a happier subject, here's the link to my character study of Thingol, which I actually published a while ago. For some reason, I thought you had read it, but I think I must be remembering a different post. :)

    1. Oh no! Now I'm slightly alarmed :0
      Goodie; I'd love to read it!

    2. By the way, I love the pictures you used in this post. I recognize several of the artists. :D I especially like the ones of Maeglin and of Beleg.

  3. Interesting post! I get being frustrated about Turin's story, there's so much to it! And Tom Bombadil...so great but so mysterious.

    1. Thanks! Yeah, Turin's is definitely one of the more complex tales. Tom Bombadil is honestly so random my brain just doesn't know where to place him XD