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Thranduil is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. He is a supporting character in The Hobbit, where he is called the Elvenking, and he figures briefly in The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales.
|Aliases||Elvenking of Mirkwood|
|Book(s)||The Hobbit (1937)|
Tolkien describes Thranduil as having a crown made of red leaves and berries in the autumn, and wearing a similar crown of flowers in the spring. The Hobbit describes the woodland king "with a crown of leaves upon his golden hair". Like most of the Sindar, he would have been beardless, tall, and grey-eyed. The name "Thranduil" means "vigorous spring" in Sindarin.
Thranduil was one of the Sindar, or Grey Elves. Following the end of the First Age and the destruction of much of Beleriand during the War of Wrath many Sindar migrated into the east of Middle-earth. Crossing the Misty Mountains, they found populations of Silvan Elves living in the woodlands that bordered the River Anduin. The Sindar were welcomed by these people and some were made princes over them. In Appendix B of "The Lord of the Rings" Tolkien states that Thranduil was one of the Sindar who migrated eastward early in the Second Age and established kingdoms among the Silvan Elves. Later writings, featured in "Unfinished Tales," make Thranduil's father Oropher the founder of the realm. The realm originally included the southern portions of the forest of Greenwood the Great, which was later known as Mirkwood.
At the end of the Second Age Thranduil marched with his father and a large army of their people to join the Last Alliance of Elves and Men in their war against Sauron. The Elves suffered grievous losses, including Oropher, who was slain in the Battle of Dagorlad before the Black Gate of Mordor. Following the war, Thranduil, now king of his people, led the remnants of his army, only a third of what had set out, back to their woodland home. Hearing word of the Disaster of the Gladden Fields shortly after their return, Thranduil's forces set out to aid the Dúnedain, but arrived too late to save them. However, they did finish the destruction of the orc horde and prevented the mutilation of the dead. During the Third Age, Thranduil led his people to the north-east corner of the forest and delved there a fortress and series of great halls underground. He was inspired in this enterprise by Thingol's halls of Menegroth in Doriath during the First Age, and like Thingol, he used the skill of the Dwarves to aid in making his stronghold.
Being located so far north, and on the eastern edge of an increasingly perilous Mirkwood, Thranduil's realm became somewhat isolated, but he established cordial diplomatic and trade relations with the Dwarves and Men who lived nearby in Erebor, Dale, and Esgaroth. However, the attack of the dragon Smaug in TA 2770 destroyed Erebor and Dale, and reduced Esgaroth to a shell of its former self; though there remained a healthy wine trade between the lake and the wood. This situation remained unchanged until the arrival of Bilbo Baggins and a company of Dwarves in TA 2941, on their quest to reclaim Erebor. The Dwarves were captured by Thranduil's guards and, suspicious of their intentions, he had them locked in his dungeons from which they later escaped inside barrels.
After the death of Smaug, Thranduil along with the people of Esgaroth demanded a share of the treasure of Erebor, beginning a confrontation with the Dwarves, who were reinforced by an army from the Iron Hills, that nearly led to war. War with the Dwarves was averted by the intervention of the wizard Gandalf upon the arrival of the allied forces of Orcs and wargs. The combined army of Elves, Dwarves, and Men was victorious in the ensuing Battle of the Five Armies, but at great cost of life. Following the battle, Thranduil established generally positive relations with the re-established kingdoms of Erebor and Dale, but ancient grievances and prejudices between the Dwarves and Elves continued to strain the friendship between the peoples.
Thranduil did what he could to aid his allies during the War of the Ring, including holding the creature Gollum in his dungeons for interrogation by Gandalf on the history of the One Ring. Gollum soon escaped with the aid of Orcs, and Thranduil sent his son Legolas to Rivendell to seek the counsel of Elrond and Gandalf on this and other matters. Thranduil and his people withstood attacks by Sauron's forces during northern battles of the war. Having routed their foes in the north, Thranduil's forces moved south, and joined with the armies of Lorien under Celeborn and Galadriel in destroying Dol Guldur, cleansing Mirkwood of Sauron's taint of evil, and Thranduil, along with Celeborn, renamed Mirkwood Eryn Lasgalen, The Wood of Greenleaves. After the war, Thranduil's realm was expanded to include all Mirkwood north of its central mountains, and he and his people enjoyed peace. Whether he departed Middle-earth for Valinor is unknown.
Thranduil is one of the playable Elven heroes in The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II (2006) real-time strategy game, joining Elrond, Arwen, Glorfindel, and the Dwarves in destroying Dol Guldur in the final battle of the good storyline, and falling to the Goblins mustered by the Mouth of Sauron in the alternate evil storyline.
In the film adaptation of The Hobbit Thranduil is portrayed by American actor Lee Pace. Peter Jackson announced the casting news on 30 April 2011, while simultaneously revealing that Pace had been a favorite for the part, after he saw his performance in The Fall. In the films, Thranduil rides a giant elk, similar to a Megaloceros. He mentions having encountered dragons before and reveals a massive scar on his face caused by dragonfire, which he then heals or magically conceals instantly by force of will. Legolas's mother is completely absent from Tolkien's writings, so the adaptations offer the explanation that she perished some time earlier during the war between elves and the forces of Angmar at Mount Gundabad.
Thranduil first appeared in the prologue of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, where he appears before Thrór. The extended edition also explains that the rift between the elves and the dwarves was caused when Thrór refused to hand over the White Gems of Lasgalen, which the Elvenking desired. Rewording Tolkien's explanation in the novel, Bilbo explains that the dwarves tell a different story: that Thranduil refused to pay them their full due, so they took what he had originally promised. Thranduil shows up with an Elven army on the day the dragon Smaug destroyed Dale and Erebor, but leaves the surviving dwarves to fend for themselves on seeing the might of the dragon and knowing what it could do to his army.
In The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, he appears as an anti-hero. After his elves have captured the company of Thorin, Thranduil offers to help Thorin in return for the jewels, but Thorin refuses and Thranduil decides to lock the dwarves in his dungeon. Having noticed his son's affection for Tauriel, a captain of the guard, Thranduil orders her to not pursue the relationship — because she is a "lowly Silvan Elf" (Wood Elf) while Thranduil and Legolas are Sindar (Grey Elves), a higher order of Elves. Thranduil's kingdom faces increasing attacks from the evil giant spiders pushing up from southern Mirkwood, where the Necromancer's corruption over the forest is spreading out from Dol Guldur.
In response to this growing threat, Thranduil pursues an isolationist policy, focusing his warriors on defending their own borders. When Tauriel suggests that the Necromancer's forces will simply move on to attack their weaker neighbours, Thranduil replies that he is not concerned with those outside his kingdom. After a captive orc reveals Sauron's return, Thranduil orders his kingdom to be completely sealed off from the outside world, though Legolas and Tauriel leave in pursuit of the orcs. Thranduil banishes Tauriel from his realm for her disobedience and orders Legolas to return, though his order is defied.
When news of Smaug's death is made known to him in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Thranduil leads an Elven army to claim the white jewels from the dwarves of Erebor by force. He allies himself with Bard the Bowman and refuses Gandalf's counsel regarding the approaching Orc army. Thranduil's army almost comes to blows with the forces of Dáin II Ironfoot when the Orcs reveal themselves, leading to the Battle of the Five Armies. Thranduil himself fights in the battle against the Orcs, before deciding to withdraw his forces when the defense of Dale results in many Elven casualties. This leads to a confrontation between him and Tauriel before she and Legolas go to aid Thorin at Ravenhill. The event causes a rift between Thranduil and his son, and in the aftermath of the battle Thranduil advises Legolas to seek out the Ranger known as Strider among the Dunedain. Thranduil also accepts Tauriel's love for Kili when he finds her mourning over the dwarf's death.
- The History of Middle Earth vol. 12, The Peoples of Middle Earth, II: "The Appendix on Languages", Languages at the end of the Third Age
- Unfinished Tales, 335.
- Unfinished Tales, p. 276.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", "Appendix B: The Sindarin Princes of the Silvan Elves"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Road to Isengard"
- A wife of Thranduil is neither named nor discussed in any of Tolkien's writings.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1937), Douglas A. Anderson (ed.), The Annotated Hobbit, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 2002), ISBN 0-618-13470-0
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), Appendix B, "The Tale of the Years", ISBN 0-395-08256-0
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1980), Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn," Appendix B: "The Sindarian Princes of the Silvan Elves", ISBN 0-395-29917-9