Legolas Greenleaf, son of the Elvenking of Mirkwood, was selected to represent the Elves in the Fellowship of the Ring. His endurance, keen sight and fighting skills were of great help on the quest, but his loyalty and friendship were even greater assets to his companions. Legolas grew fond of the Hobbits and he loved and supported Aragorn, but the strongest bond he formed was his unlikely friendship with Gimli the Dwarf.
Little is known about Legolas’s early life. His date of birth is not known, though he made some vague references to his age:
“It [Fangorn] is old, very old,” said the Elf. “So old that almost I feel young again, as I have not felt since I journeyed with you children.”
The Two Towers: “The White Rider,” p. 94″Five hundred times have the red leaves fallen in Mirkwood in my home since then,” said Legolas, “and but a little while does that seem to us.”
The Two Towers: “The King of the Golden Hall,” p. 111
“These are the strangest trees that ever I saw,” he said; “and I have seen many an oak grow from acorn to ruinous age.”
The Two Towers: “The Road to Isengard,” p. 152
Based on these comments it would appear that Legolas was at least several hundred years old at the time of the War of the Ring, and possibly even several thousand, but an exact age cannot be determined. The age attributed to the character of Legolas in Peter Jackson’s Movie Version of The Lord of the Rings is 2,931; however, this figure has no basis in the text.
It should also be noted that in The Book of Lost Tales II, an Elf named Legolas Greenleaf was present at the Fall of Gondolin in the First Age. But this Elf was of the Noldor and went to Tol Eressea where he remained and this was almost certainly not the same as Legolas of the Fellowship.
Legolas was a Silvan Elf of Sindarin descent. His father Thranduil was one of the Sindar who had come from Lindon sometime before the year 1000 of the Second Age. The Elves of Mirkwood were mainly Silvan or Wood-Elves, and Legolas identified himself as one of the Silvan folk. It is not known who Legolas’s mother was, and some have speculated that she may have been a Silvan Elf, but there is no textual basis for this theory.
Legolas’s father Thranduil had imprisoned Thorin Oakenshield and his Dwarf companions when they passed through Mirkwood on the way to the Lonely Mountain in 2941. Thranduil also met Bilbo Baggins, to whom he gave the name “Elf-friend,” and he fought in the Battle of the Five Armies. It is not known whether Legolas was involved in these events.
On March 21, 3017, Aragorn brought Gollum to Mirkwood to be held captive and questioned about his hunt for Bilbo and the One Ring. Gollum was guarded day and night, but the Elves took pity on him and allowed him to climb a tree that stood alone. One night in June of 3018, Gollum refused to come down. The Wood-Elves were then attacked by Orcs and Gollum escaped in the confusion.
Legolas was sent to Rivendell to inform Elrond of Gollum’s escape. On October 25, he attended the Council of Elrond, where it was decided that the One Ring had to be taken to Mordor and destroyed. Frodo Baggins volunteered for this task, and Legolas was chosen to represent the Elves in the Fellowship that was to accompany the Ring-bearer. The Fellowship left Rivendell on December 25, 3018.
The Fellowship was prevented from crossing the Misty Mountains at the Redhorn Gate by a blizzard. Legolas was able to walk upon the snow and find the edge of the storm. He reported back to his companions that they did not have much further to go to dig their way out.
Gandalf suggested an alternate route under the mountains through the Mines of Moria. Legolas was against the idea, for although the Elves of Hollin had at one time traded with the Dwarves of Khazad-dum, evil had been awoken there and Moria now had an evil reputation. But the Fellowship’s decision was forced when they were attacked by Wargs. Legolas slew many with his arrows and the Fellowship made their way quickly to the West-gate of Moria.
The West-gate had once been the site of commerce between the Elves and the Dwarves. Both Legolas and Gimli denied that their people were responsible for the rift between the two races. Gandalf urged the Elf and the Dwarf to remain, friends, for he needed their help.
The journey through Moria took several days. In the Chamber of Mazarbul on January 15, they discovered the tomb of Balin, who had led an ill-fated expedition to Moria thirty years earlier. Then the Fellowship was attacked by Orcs. Legolas shot two through the throat, and altogether his companions slew thirteen. The Orcs retreated and the Fellowship fled. Legolas had to drag Gimli away from his kinsman Balin’s tomb.
At the Bridge of Khazad-dum, Legolas saw a creature of shadow and flame approaching and realized that it was a Balrog. Gandalf told the others to flee and he fought with the Balrog until they both fell into the abyss.
The Fellowship made their way towards the woods of Lothlorien. Legolas realized that Frodo and Sam were lagging behind, and they stopped to tend the Hobbits’ injuries. At last, they came to the eaves of the Golden Wood. Legolas had never been to Lothlorien, but he had heard that Elves still dwelled there guarded by a secret power.
By the Nimrodel, Legolas sang of the Elf-maiden for whom the stream was named. He then began to climb one of the Mallory trees seeking shelter for his companions, but a voice speaking in Elvish from high in the branches stopped him. The Elves were border wardens of Lothlorien, and they had heard Legolas singing and recognized him as one of their Northern kindreds. They asked him to climb up with Frodo to their feet.
The leader introduced himself as Haldir and Legolas told him who his companions were. Haldir was not pleased to learn that one of them was a Dwarf. After questioning Legolas he agreed that Gimli could remain, but cautioned Legolas to keep an eye on him.
The next day, Gimli balked at being the only member of the Fellowship who had to wear a blindfold through the woods. The Dwarf said he would agree if Legolas wore one too, and the Elf replied, “A plague on Dwarves and their stiff necks!” (FotR, p. 362) At last Aragorn convinced them to compromise, and the entire Fellowship went blindfolded, though Legolas was unhappy.
“Alas for the folly of these days!” said Legolas. “Here all are enemies of the one Enemy, and yet I must walk blind, while the sun is merry in the woodland under leaves of gold!”
The Fellowship of the Ring: “Lothlorien,” p. 362
At Caras Galadhon on January 17, the Fellowship was brought before Celeborn and Galadriel, the Lord and Lady of the Golden Wood. The Fellowship stayed in Lothlorien for a month. The Elves of Lothlorien sang laments for Gandalf, but Legolas would not interpret them for the others for he was still grieving the Wizard’s loss. Legolas spent much time among the Elves, yet he also took Gimli with him and the two began to form a bond of friendship that surprised their companions.
The Fellowship left Lothlorien on February 16. Legolas received a bow of the Galadhrim and a quiver of arrows from the Lady Galadriel. They set out down the Anduin, and Legolas shared a boat with Gimli. The Dwarf wept at his parting from Galadriel and wondered why he had come on the quest. Legolas comforted his friend.
“Alas for us all! And for all that walk the world in these after-days. For such is the way of it: to find and lose, as it seems to those whose boat is on the running stream. But I count you blessed, Gimli son of Gloin: for your loss you suffer of your own free will, and you might have chosen otherwise. But you have not forsaken your companions, and the least reward that you shall have is that the memory of Lothlorien shall remain ever clear and unstained in your heart, and shall neither fade nor grow stale.”
The Fellowship of the Ring: “Farewell to Lorien,” p. 395
On the night of February 23, Orcs fired arrows at the Fellowship from the eastern shore. Then a great shadow passed overhead, blotting out the stars, and fear touched the hearts of the Fellowship. Legolas fired at the shadow and there was a cry as it fell out of the sky. The Elf did not know what he had hit, but Frodo sensed that the thing that had flown overhead was one of the Nazgul. As it turned out, Legolas had killed one of the Fell Beasts used by the Nazgul as mounts, though its rider had survived.
At Amon Hen on February 26, it was time to decide their next course. Frodo Bagging went off alone to decide what to do. Legolas suggested that they help Frodo by voting on the matter, saying that he would vote to go to Minas Tirith, but that in the end, he would go where Frodo chose: “It would be faithless now to say farewell.” (FotR, p. 419)
But then Boromir told them that he and Frodo had argued and that Frodo had vanished. The members of the Fellowship went off in different directions searching for him. Legolas and Gimli encountered Orcs in the woods and slew many, but then they heard Boromir sound the Great Horn. They came to his aid too late, for he had been slain defending Merry and Pippin.