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Tolkien character
In-universe information
Race Elf (Sindar)
TitleElvenking of Mirkwood
Book(s) The Hobbit (1937)
The Lord of the Rings (1954 - 1955)
The Silmarillion (1977)
Unfinished Tales (1980)

Thranduil is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. He first appears as a supporting character in The Hobbit , where he is simply known as the Elvenking, who ruled the Elves who lived in the woodland realm of Mirkwood. . The character is properly named in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings , and appears briefly in The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales .


The character has appeared in adaptations of The Hobbit in other media. The 2010's film adaptations of The Hobbit expands the character's role within the narrative, using information from Tolkien's later works about the character and original material by the filmmakers. Thranduil is portrayed by the American actor Lee Pace; he has been well received by fans and critics.


Thranduil is one of the Sindar or Grey Elves who speak Sindarin as opposed to Quenya, the language spoken by Noldorin Elves like Galadriel. [1] The name "Thranduil" means "vigorous spring" in Sindarin. [T 1] Following the end of the First Age and the destruction of much of Beleriand during the War of Wrath, many Sindar migrate 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 leaders and rulers 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. [T 2] Later writings in Unfinished Tales make Thranduil's father Oropher the founder of the realm, which originally included the southern portions of the forest of Greenwood the Great, later known as Mirkwood. Tolkien described him in The Hobbit as having "golden hair" with a crown made of red leaves and berries in the autumn, and wearing a similar crown of flowers in the spring. [T 3]


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 at the end of the Second Age. The Elves suffered serious losses, including Oropher, who was killed in the Battle of Dagorlad before the Black Gate of Mordor. [T 4] 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 in Mirkwood. [T 5] Hearing word of the Disaster of the Gladden Fields shortly after their return, Thranduil set out to aid the Dúnedain; he arrived too late to save them, but was able to finish the destruction of the Orc horde and prevent the mutilation of the dead. [T 6]

Sketch map of Northeast Mirkwood, showing the Elvenking's Halls, Erebor, and Esgaroth upon the Long Lake Elvenking, Erebor, Esgaroth.svg
Sketch map of Northeast Mirkwood, showing the Elvenking's Halls, Erebor, and Esgaroth upon the Long Lake

During the Third Age, Thranduil led his people to the north-east corner of the forest and there created an underground fortress and series of great halls. He was inspired in this enterprise by Thingol's halls of Menegroth in Doriath during the First Age, [T 4] and like Thingol, he used the skill of the Dwarves to aid in making his stronghold. [T 7]

Being far in the north, and on the eastern edge of an increasingly perilous Mirkwood, Thranduil's realm was somewhat isolated, but he traded with the Dwarves and Men who lived nearby in Erebor, Dale, and Esgaroth. [2] An attack by the dragon Smaug destroyed Erebor and Dale, and reduced Esgaroth to a shell of its former self, [T 8] though there remained a healthy wine trade between the lake and the wood. [T 9] This situation changed with the arrival of Bilbo Baggins and a company of Dwarves, on their quest to reclaim Erebor. [T 3] 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. [T 9]

After the death of Smaug, Thranduil along with the people of Esgaroth demanded a share of the treasure of Erebor, beginning a confrontation with Thorin's company, 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. [T 10]

During the events of the War of the Ring as depicted in the Lord of the Rings, Thranduil does what he can to aid his allies, including holding the creature Gollum in his dungeons for interrogation by Gandalf on the history of the One Ring. Gollum later escapes with the aid of Orcs who attack Thranduil's realm, and Legolas is sent to Rivendell to seek the counsel of Elrond and Gandalf. [T 11] 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. In the aftermath, Thranduil, along with Celeborn, renamed Mirkwood Eryn Lasgalen, The Wood of Greenleaves. Thranduil's realm expands after the wars, and he and his people enjoyed peace. [T 2]


The Hobbit film series

Thranduil first appears in the prologue of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey , where he comes before the Dwarf-King Thrór. The extended edition of An Unexpected Journey explains that the rift between the Elves of Mirkwood and the Dwarves of Erebor began when Thrór refused to return the White Gems of Lasgalen, which was originally given to Dwarves of Erebor so that they would make a necklace for Thranduil's wife. Thranduil arrives with an 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 forces. Thranduil's realm later face increasing attacks from the evil giant spiders from southern Mirkwood. In response to this growing threat, Thranduil adopts an isolationist policy and his territory is heavily defended.

After Thorin and his company are captured by his forces in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug , Thranduil offers to his aid in return for the White Gems of Lasgalen. Thorin insults Thranduil for not aiding in the defense of Erebor against Smaug, to which the latter responds by revealing his scarred face to Thorin and claimed he had already cautioned Thrór about his greed. Having noticed Legolas' affection for Tauriel, a captain of the guard, Thranduil confronts her about a potential relationship between her and his son, which Tauriel presumes is due to the fact that they are Sindar, a higher caste of Elves. When 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 son defies him.

When news of Smaug's death is made known to him during the events of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies , Thranduil leads an army to confront Thorin's company and reclaim the White Gems of Lasgalen from Erebor. He allies himself with Bard the Bowman and refuses to heed Gandalf's warning regarding an approaching army of Orcs, which eventually arrive as Thranduil's army began fighting the Dwarven forces of Thorin's cousin Dáin II Ironfoot. Thranduil later considers withdrawing his forces from the defense of Dale as Elven casualties mount, which leads to a confrontation with Tauriel as well as a rift between him and Legolas. In the aftermath of the battle, Thranduil advises his estranged son to seek out a Ranger known as Strider among the Dúnedain. Thranduil also acknowledges Tauriel's love for Kili when he finds her mourning over the Dwarf's death.


Lee Pace gave a critically acclaimed performance as Thranduil in The Hobbit film trilogy. Lee Pace as Thranduil.jpg
Lee Pace gave a critically acclaimed performance as Thranduil in The Hobbit film trilogy.
With those little clues, we kind of fleshed out the character, and I'm really excited with what we've come up with. He's complicated. Tolkien’s elves are such fascinating creatures; I've always thought they were less like humans than they are forces of nature, like a blizzard or a dangerous big cat in the jungle. — Lee Pace [3]

Peter Jackson announced the casting of Lee Pace for The Hobbit trilogy film series on 30 April 2011, stating that Pace had been the filmmakers' favorite for the part upon consideration of his performance in the 2006 film The Fall . [4]

The New Zealand screenwriter and film producer Philippa Boyens, a co-writer of the screenplay for The Hobbit film series, noted that Tolkien only revealed further detailed information about the character, including his name and backstory, in its sequel. [3] Boyens was of the view that there was "a lot more story" behind Thranduil, and that he was an interesting character in terms of what they had to make up or expand as part of the films' storytelling as there is not a lot of information present in the original source material. [3] [5] The Elves of Mirkwood are a minor element in the novel and Thranduil in particular has no quarrel with Thorin or his company of Dwarves, who are only imprisoned because they are trespassing on the Elvenking's territory and refuse to tell him why. [6] The existing story narrative of Thranduil as an isolationist leader was identified by the writers, who worked with Pace to figure out some of the character's backstory. [5]

Pace called Thranduil the "Elvenking" instead of his actual name during interviews, following Tolkien's usage in The Hobbit, which Pace read as a high school student. [3] In an interview with The Georgia Straight , Pace explained that Thranduil, unlike other villanous characters he had played like Ronan the Accuser, is morally ambiguous, as he is only at odds with the Dwarves. Pace felt that it was important for him to find enjoyment in playing characters who are larger-than-life, and that it was on him to try to figure out who his character was with what little that he knew. [3] Pace praised the rest of the cast and crew members of The Hobbit film project as inspirational, noting that they were collectively telling a big story which was intended to be fully fleshed out on the green screen and which they had no idea how it would ultimately turn out. [5]

In the film series, Thranduil rides a giant elk resembling a Megaloceros ; [7] the "elk" was a horse named Moose, made up to look like a deer. [8] This version of the character is depicted as somewhat unhinged, [6] and is severely scarred in the left side of his face as the result of an unspecified earlier encounter with a dragon's fire breath which he magically conceals.

In other media

In the 1977 animated version of The Hobbit, Thranduil is voiced by Otto Preminger. [9]

Thranduil is one of the playable 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. [10]


In 2020, Weta Workshop released a limited edition of a statue featuring The Hobbit film series iteration of Thranduil, depicted seated on his throne with a guard standing in attention before him. The statue recreates Pace's likeness for the character and is designed at 1:6 scale, measuring 41.33 inches in width and 39.37 inches in height. [11]

Reception and analysis

Battle Under the Trees: Tom Loback's depiction of Dol Guldur's attack on Thranduil's wood-elves in Mirkwood Battle Under the Trees.jpg
Battle Under the Trees: Tom Loback's depiction of Dol Guldur's attack on Thranduil's wood-elves in Mirkwood


In an article published by as part of a bi-weekly series titled "Exploring the People of Middle-earth", Megan N. Fontenot found it surprising that in The Fellowship of the Ring , none of the attendees at the Council of Elrond pays much attention to Legolas' status as Thranduil's heir. Fontenot found the lore behind Thranduil to be underdeveloped, as his name appeared more often in the Appendices than in the main narrative. [12]

Tom Loback, writing in Mythlore , attempts to evaluate the strength of the orc forces that attacked Thranduil in the battle under Mirkwood's dark trees (Dagor Dauroth). He estimated, on the basis of the standard words that Tolkien uses for military forces, and the need for the forces to be superior to Thranduil's, that the Witch-king used a "legion" of around 10,000 orcs for the initial reconnaissance, and an "army" of 2 or 3 legions of orcs, for the main attack. [13]

The Hobbit film trilogy

Fan art of Thranduil, the Elvenking Elvenking by Nolwyn.jpg
Fan art of Thranduil, the Elvenking

Lee Pace's portrayal of the Elvenking in Jackson's film trilogy was received warmly. Dennis Perkins from The A.V. Club found that Pace's "eerie intensity" made him a "fine elf king". [1] Alisha Coelho from India Times described Pace's Thranduil as "a cold, calculative and condescending king" who is prettier than Galadriel but has less heart than Elrond. [14] Business Review praised Pace's "aggressive" Thranduil as one of the better performances of The Battle of the Five Armies, and said that the movie gives audiences a better insight into the Elvenking's motivations as well as the reasons behind his isolationist outlook. [15]

Nathan Caddell from The Georgia Straight observed that Pace "tried to stay as loyal as he could to the source material that he loved, using any small crumbs to try to gain more information about his role", and noted that while it is debatable as to whether Thranduil is an evil character, the "vindictive elf" is a departure from Pace's previous roles, which reflected his warm personality. [3] In a review of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray edition of The Desolation Of Smaug, M. Enois Duarte from High-Def Digest wrote that the confrontation between Thorin and Thranduil was one of the more interesting aspects of the expanded material introduced by Jackson's vision of Tolkien's original narrative for The Hobbit. [16]

Conversely, Kirsten Acuna from Business Insider found the depiction of Thranduil's motivations in the film series contradictory; she observed that he repeatedly stresses the prioritization of his people's lives to justify his unwillingness to help other communities in The Desolation of Smaug, and yet in the sequel is willing to risk the same over a war for the White Gems. Nevertheless, she found Thranduil to be much more likeable by the end of The Battle of the Five Armies. [17]

Tanja Välisalo, in an empirical study of the audience reception of The Hobbit films, found that Thranduil was mentioned by just under 5% of respondents, placing him 7th in the list of people's favourites among the films' cast of characters. [18] They found the character sexually attractive, along with Thorin (played by the "handsome" Richard Armitage). [18] In addition, the audience had an "allegiance" to the character; Välisalo cites as illustration comments like "Thranduil truly captured me" [18] and "this character's make-up and character design ... were a perfect success." [18]

Related Research Articles

Gandalf is a protagonist in J. R. R. Tolkien's novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. He is a wizard, one of the Istari order, and the leader and mentor of the Fellowship of the Ring. Tolkien took the name "Gandalf" from the Old Norse "Catalogue of Dwarves" (Dvergatal) in the Völuspá.

Thorin Oakenshield is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's 1937 novel The Hobbit. Thorin is the leader of the Company of Dwarves who aim to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from Smaug the dragon. He is the son of Thráin II, grandson of Thrór, and becomes King of Durin's Folk during their exile from Erebor. Thorin's background is further elaborated in Appendix A of Tolkien's 1955 novel The Return of the King, and in Unfinished Tales.

Lonely Mountain

In J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium, the Lonely Mountain is a mountain northeast of Mirkwood. It is the location of the Dwarvish Kingdom under the Mountain. The town of Dale lies in a vale on its southern slopes. In The Lord of the Rings, the mountain is called by the Sindarin name Erebor. The Lonely Mountain is the goal of the protagonists in The Hobbit, and the scene of the climax.

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Dol Guldur was Sauron's stronghold in Mirkwood in the fictional world of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth, before he moves to Barad-dûr in Mordor. It is first mentioned in The Hobbit. The hill itself, rocky and barren, was the highest point in the southwestern part of the forest. Before Sauron's occupation, it was called Amon Lanc. It lay near the western edge of the forest, across the Anduin from Lothlórien. In a passage that appears to apply the name Dol Guldur principally to the fortress rather than the barren hill it rose from, the company of the Ring first catch sight of it from Cerin Amroth in Lórien.

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Weapons and armour of Middle-earth are those of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth fantasy writings, such as The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.

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Mirkwood is a name used for a great dark fictional forest in novels by Sir Walter Scott and William Morris in the 19th century, and by J. R. R. Tolkien in the 20th century. The critic Tom Shippey explains that the name evoked the excitement of the wildness of Europe's ancient North.

Legolas is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. He is a Sindar Elf of the Woodland Realm and one of the nine members of the Fellowship who set out to destroy the One Ring. He and the Dwarf Gimli are close friends.

Tauriel Fictional character added to the movie adaptation of The Hobbit

Tauriel is a fictional character from Peter Jackson's feature film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. The character does not appear in the original book, but was created by Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh as an expansion of material adapted from the book. She first appears in the second and third films in that trilogy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

<i>The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug</i>

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a 2013 epic high-fantasy adventure film directed by Peter Jackson and produced by WingNut Films in collaboration with New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures and is the second installment in the three-part film series based on the novel The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. The film was preceded by An Unexpected Journey (2012) and followed by The Battle of the Five Armies (2014); together they operate as a prequel to Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

The music of The Hobbit film series is composed and produced by Howard Shore, who scored all three The Lord of the Rings films, to which The Hobbit trilogy is a prequel. The score continues the style of The Lord of the Rings score, and utilizes a vast ensemble, multiple musical forms and styles, a large number of leitmotives and various unusual instruments, adding to Shore's overarching music of the Middle-earth films.

<i>The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies</i> 2014 fantasy film directed by Peter Jackson

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a 2014 epic high fantasy film directed by Peter Jackson and written by Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro. It is the third and final installment in Peter Jackson's three-part film adaptation based on the novel The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, following An Unexpected Journey (2012) and The Desolation of Smaug (2013), and together, they act as a prequel to Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

Lego The Lord of the Rings Lego theme

Lego The Lord of the Rings is a Lego theme based on The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. It is licensed from Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema. The theme was first introduced in 2012. The first sets appeared in 2012, to coincide with the release of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Subsequent sets based on The Hobbit film trilogy would also be released. The theme was later discontinued in 2014.



This list identifies each item's location in Tolkien's writings.
  1. 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
  2. 1 2 The Return of the King , Appendix B
  3. 1 2 The Hobbit , ch. 8 "Flies and Spiders"
  4. 1 2 Unfinished Tales , "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", "Appendix B: The Sindarin Princes of the Silvan Elves"
  5. Unfinished Tales , p. 335.
  6. Unfinished Tales , p. 276.
  7. The Two Towers , Book 1, ch. 8 "The Road to Isengard"
  8. The Hobbit , ch. 1 "An Unexpected Party"
  9. 1 2 The Hobbit , ch. 9 "Barrels out of Bond"
  10. The Hobbit , ch. 17 "The Clouds Burst"
  11. The Fellowship of the Ring , book 2, ch. 2 "The Council of Elrond"


  1. 1 2 3 Perkins, Dennis; Colbert, Stephen (16 August 2019). "Even elf king Lee Pace can't stump Tolkien expert Stephen Colbert". AV Club. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  2. Tally, Robert J., Jr. (2013). "Review: The International Relations of Middle-earth: Learning from THE LORD OF THE Rings. Abigail E. Ruane and Patrick James. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012". Mythlore . 32 (1): 147–153.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Caddell, Nathan (17 December 2014). "The Hobbit's Lee Pace relishes playing Elvenking". The Georgia Straight . Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  4. Chitwood, Adam (30 April 2011). "Lee Pace and Dean O'Gorman Join Peter Jackson's THE HOBBIT". Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  5. 1 2 3 Wilner, Norman (10 December 2014). "Q&A: Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens & Lee Pace". Now Toronto. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  6. 1 2 Cunningham, Andrew (December 18, 2013). "On The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and weaknesses in the source material". Ars Technica.
  7. Barnett, Ross (2019). The Missing Lynx: The Past and Future of Britain's Lost Mammals. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 56. ISBN   978-1-4729-5733-7.
  8. Afrisia, Rizky Sekar. "5 Fakta Lucu The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies". CNN Indonesia (in Indonesian).
  9. "Elvenking". Behind the Voice Actors. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  10. Rorie, Matthew (17 July 2006). "The Lord of the Rings, The Battle for Middle-earth II Walkthrough". Gamespot. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  11. "The Hobbit: This King Thranduil Statue Is Fit for a Woodland King". IGN Southeast Asia. 18 September 2020. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  12. Fontenot, Megan N. (27 June 2019). "Exploring the People of Middle-earth: Legolas, a Radical Warrior". . Retrieved 20 January 2020.
  13. Loback, Tom (1990). "Orc Hosts, Armies and Legions: A Demographic Study". Mythlore. 16 (4): 10–16.
  14. "5 Reasons To Watch The New Hobbit Film". India Times . 16 December 2013. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  15. Anon (17 December 2014). "Movie review – The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies". Business Review. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  16. Duarte, M. Enois (14 December 2020). "The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug- 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray". High-Def Digest. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  17. "The New 'Hobbit' Movie Is Basically A Toned-Down Version Of The Final 'Lord Of The Rings'". Business Insider . 16 December 2014. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  18. 1 2 3 4 Välisalo, Tanja Välialo (2017). "Engaging with film characters : Empirical study on the reception of characters in The Hobbit films". Fafnir : Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research. 4 (3–4): 12–30.