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"I should like to save the Shire, if I could - though there have been times when I thought the inhabitants too stupid and dull for words, and have felt that an earthquake or an invasion of dragons might be good for them. But I don't feel like that now. I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again."
Frodo Baggins is an adventurous hobbit of the Shire who inherits a seemingly-harmless magic ring from his eccentric cousin Bilbo after the latter's disappearance, only discovering what it actually is many years later. Despite his lack of experience and the dangers ahead, Frodo volunteers to carry the Ring to Mount Doom and there destroy it.
Achey Scars: Frodo's tend to ache on the anniversary of their infliction.
Anti-Hero: Heavily Type I as Return of the King progresses, as he fails to destroy the Ring, is tormented by his physical and emotional scars, and drifts into a more and more passive role, especially in "The Scouring of the Shire."
Asleep for Days: Frodo does this in Rivendell after being near-fatally wounded by the Nazgûl. It happens again to both him and Sam after getting rescued from Mount Doom, due to their near starving, wounded state.
Badass/Badass Normal: Usually overshadowed by the other hobbits, but Frodo has quite a few badass moments earlier on in the book. None of these survived the transition to film.
The Corruption: One of the major themes of the story. He ultimately succumbs to the One Ring's power and claims it as his own, but is returned to his normal self after Gollum bites it off his hand.
The Determinator: Despite the increasingly horrible things that happen to him, Frodo never stops trying to reach Mount Doom, and never gives in to the Ring's temptation until the very end.
Disney Death: He survives being bitten by Shelob. Of course, in this case, they actually give an explanation for why he survived via the Orcs when they discover him.note To put it bluntly, biting him and thus injecting him with her venom was only the first part of the process of ingestion, and the venom acted more as a paralyzing agent than an actual fatal substance.
Gentleman Adventurer: Despite enjoying a rather comfortable lifestyle in the Shire, he inherited from his uncle Bilbo a thirst for adventures.
Good Is Not Soft: Frodo tells Gollum that he must obey him, because if not, Frodo will put on the Ring, and order Gollum to jump off a cliff or the like. This astounds Sam, who had always assumed that Frodo's goodness made him soft, and reduces Gollum to whimpering terror.
Frodo: "In the last need, Sméagol, I should put on the Precious; and the Precious mastered you long ago. If I, wearing it, were to command you, you would obey, even if it were to leap from a precipice or to cast yourself into the fire. And such would be my command."
The Hero or Supporting Protagonist: Frodo is technically 'the hero' of the story as the story does centre around him, even though the Word of God has favored Sam as the more conventional hero of the story.
Tolkien has said that he cannot be called The Hero, as he failed and that he was doomed to fail from the start. Part of this is because he wanted to be a hero.
Hidden Depths: His willingness to sacrifice himself for his country (see the folder quote above) surprises even Gandalf.
‘My dear Frodo!’ exclaimed Gandalf. ‘Hobbits really are amazing creatures, as I have said before. You can learn all that there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you at a pinch.…’
I Should Write a Book About This: Frodo is the in-universe author of The Lord of the Rings (though based on recountings from his friends and comrades, and the final chapter is hinted to have been written by Sam.)
The Load: A tragic and completely justified example. By the time the time he and Sam reach Mordor, the poor guy is just so beaten down from all the injuries he's taken and from carrying the ring that he begins to rely more and more on Sam just to get around.
Older Than They Look: Due to the Ring’s power, Frodo looks like a thirty-three-year-old Hobbit (which is what he was when he initially received the Ring) until at least his fiftieth birthday.
The Appendices reveal that he’s actually ten years older than Boromir. Thus, in terms of age, he’s exactly in the middle of the Fellowship (Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn are older; Boromir, Sam, Merry, and Pippin are younger).
Parental Abandonment: His parents drowned in the Brandywine River, leaving him to be raised by Bilbo.
The Power of Friendship: Sam's unwavering commitment to helping him is ultimately what sees the quest through to Mount Doom.
"'Don't you leave him!' they said to me. 'Leave him!' I said. 'I never mean to. I am going with him, if he climbs to the Moon, and if any of those Black Riders try to stop him, they'll have Sam Gamgee to reckon with.'"
Sam is Frodo's gardener and loyal friend, and the only working-class hobbit in the Fellowship. Even when uninvited, Sam is determined to follow his master wherever he goes and make sure he's taken care of, no matter how dark the situation. His practicality, devotion, and culinary skills make him a very big help as the quest goes on.
All There in the Manual: You may know that Sam eventually built a ship and headed to the Undying Lands, but did you know that he changed his family name to Gardner? Or that he was elected Mayor of the Shire for seven consecutive terms? Or that he, his wife, and his oldest daughter lived in Gondor for a year?
Call to Agriculture: After the War of the Ring Sam returns to his old gardener's life, also helping restore the Shire's trees, and marries a farmer's daughter. But he prospers enough to become Mayor.
Cool Sword: When he wields Sting in Frodo's defence.
Deadpan Snarker: Usually he's rather polite, but when he gets angry, annoyed or impatient with someone, he displays a surprising creativity in thinking up biting comments. Unsurprisingly, he's at his snarkiest when dealing with Gollum.
Determinator: By the time they reach Mount Doom, Frodo is too weak to climb. Sam is little better, but he still carries Frodo up the punishing slopes on his shoulders.
The Hero: There are many debates as to who, Frodo or Sam, is the real hero of the story; most people agree that they are equally deserving of the title. Word of God favored Sam as the story's "Chief Hero" (In his Letters #131). Of course, just because most stories don't have a Hero and a tragic Anti-Hero doesn't mean this one can't.
As far as he could remember, Sam slept through the night in deep content, if logs are contented.
Hidden Depths: Starts off as a Book Dumb gardener but shows signs of this just four chapters later when he starts philosophizing about Elves and the the future of the quest. Even Frodo is surprised.
Hot-Blooded: More so in the movies, but the contrast between Sam and his more reserved master is pretty clear, especially during the talk with Faramir.
I Just Want to Be Normal: The Ring tries tempts him by showing him a vision of Mordor as a garden. It doesn't work because Sam only wants his own, small garden that he can tend by himself. This trope is also the reason that a giant garden is the only straw the Ring can grasp at in the first place.
Incorruptible Pure Pureness: He's tempted by the Ring to become a great lord, but he rejects it since he doesn't want to boss others around - even when the Ring plays on his love for gardening by telling him he could transform Mordor into a giant beautiful flower bed if he so wished.
Meaningful Name: As Tolkien states in the Appendices, it's Old English (Anglo-Saxon) for "some-wise", that is "halfwit", given ironically because he appears to be Book Dumb but is full of Hidden Depths.
Odd Name Out: "Sam" is a normal name in our world, so it stands out a little among Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn, etc... (even if it is short for "Samwise").
The Power of Friendship: Sam loves Frodo somewhat like a brother, and his unwavering commitment to that friendship is ultimately what gets Frodo through all the horrors of Mordor to the Cracks of Doom.
Spanner in the Works: Sam's presence averts the failure of the quest. Yet he was not part of anybody's plan. Even Frodo had no intention of taking Sam with him.
Supreme Chef: All hobbits can cook, and they're such gourmands one imagines that most hobbits are good cooks, but Sam is a good cook even by hobbit-reckoning — able to whip up a good meal with just a brace of coneys (that is, a couple of rabbits) and herbs of Ithilien.
Team Chef: It's genuinely sad when he finally has to abandon his cooking equipment in Mordor.
The Mole: Frodo, already astonished to learn that his friends have been spying on him, is even more bewildered to learn that his gardener has been feeding them information all along.
Took a Level in Badass: Went from a timid gardener who had never wandered further than a few miles from home to outfighting giant demon-spiders and beating orcs in a fight.
Undying Loyalty: Sam almost defines this trope. He will follows and serve Frodo into Hell or to the ends of the Earth. His loyalty is his motivation more than a desire to save the world (though that's part of it).
What a Senseless Waste of Human Life: Sam feels this way when he sees Men killing Men (Rangers of Ithilien vs. the Haradrim) for the first time. He wonders about a dead Southron's name and family, and whether he was really an evil man or if Sauron tricked him or drafted him against his will.
Working Class Hero: Out of the four main hobbits, two are the sons of chieftains (Merry and Pippin) and the other is a very wealthy heir (Frodo); Sam is the only one who is not a "gentlehobbit." He treats the others with deference, but he is still shown one of the most heroic characters in the book.
Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck
"You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin - to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours - closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo."
Meriadoc Brandybuck is a sensible, take-charge hobbit and one of Frodo's closest friends. Concerned about Frodo's safety, he joins the quest early on and organizes some conspiracies and shortcuts, some of which go better than others. Plagued by feelings of self-doubt, he nevertheless goes on to become a knight of Rohan and participates in the War of the Ring.
Badass Bookworm: Authored a variety of books, including a history of pipe-weed (Herblore of the Shire). In one version of the posthumously published epilogue, Sam remarks that he needs Merry’s help to finish writing the Red Book.
Badass Normal: Merry, just a normal hobbit, is the one who defeats the Witch-King along Éowyn, out of all the trained soldiers, Proud Warrior Race Guys and other larger-than-life figures present at the Battle.
I Just Want to Be Badass: He feels left out and useless when the Grey Company and the Riders of Rohan leave him behind because of his physical weakness, until Éowyn sneaks him into the cavalry with her.
"You must go - and therefore we must too. Merry and I are coming with you. Sam is an excellent fellow, and would jump down a dragon's throat to save you, if he did not trip over his own feet; but you will need more than one companion in your dangerous adventure."
Pippin, the youngest of the hobbits, is a cheerful tweenager and a bit of a rascal. His curiosity gets him into trouble at times, but his buoyant spirit helps carry him and his companions through the darkest parts of the War. He grows up quickly during the quest and later becomes a knight of Gondor.
Badass Boast: When Saruman's lackeys mock Frodo and company when they return to the Shire, Pippin lets them know who they're dealing with.
"I am a messenger of the King. You are speaking to the King's friend, and one of the most renowned in all the lands of the West. You are a ruffian and a fool. Down on your knees in the road and ask pardon, or I'll set this troll's bane in you!"
Badass Normal: He takes down a troll in the final battle, and he's just a hobbit.
Constantly Curious: Pippin is the one who insists on dropping a rock down a well in Moria, just because he felt like it. He's also the one first drawn to the Palantír of Orthanc, although to be fair Sauron had made it almost irresistible to anyone who looked at it or handled it for too long.
Deadpan Snarker: Not to the extent of Merry, or even Sam, but he can snark with the best of them when the mood takes him.
Disney Death: A troll falls on him in the battle at the Black Gates, and the narration from his POV has him thinking about the fact that he is dying. Gimli finds him and gets him out in time, but after Pippin has blacked out.
The Fool: Being the youngest and most impressionable of the bunch, he is more prone to foolishness than his companions. See Constantly Curious.
Jumped at the Call: Pippin is naively eager to follow Frodo's quest, and very unhappy at the thought that he won't "get" to follow him to Mordor.
Let's Get Dangerous: Like Merry, Pippin discovers his inner courage when he saves Beregond by killing a massive troll at the Battle of the Black Gates.
Odd Friendship: He seems to have a particular gift for entering these. He develops a very close friendship with Gandalf, and once he's brought to Gondor, he befriends both Faramir, Beregond and Bergil, a child of the city.
The modern archetypal wizard in appearance and style, he also is the Ur Example of the Magic Knight. In the Third Age, the Valar (basically greater angels) sent five Maiar (basically lesser angels) to Middle-Earth to aid the struggle against Sauron, clothed in the forms of men and forbidden from using their power directly or trying to rule over humans and elves. Of these, two did their work in the East and were never heard from again. Of the remainder, Gandalf embodied wisdom, Saruman knowledge, and Radagast nature. Though Saruman is the head of the Council of the Wise, Gandalf was a wiser and greater Maia, but declined the position of leadership. The wise elf Círdan entrusted him with Narya, the Ring of Fire (one of the three mightiest Rings of Power created by the elves).Known as the Grey Pilgrim, throughout both The Hobbit and this book (along with the prior thousand years), Gandalf went from place to place in the world, giving counsel and guidance, but never calling one place home. He ends up being a chessmaster of sorts, motivating many of the key players to their purposes while keeping his plays close to hand. This also serves as a justification for separating Gandalf from the other heroes time and again so that they don't have access to his storybreaking abilities.
"I have written Gandalf is here in signs that all can read from Rivendell to the mouths of Anduin."note He is actually annoyed when he says this, because he's giving away the Fellowship's position when he uses his powers to create a fire so they don't freeze to death, as they are menaced by a blizzard in the Misty Mountains.
"You cannot pass. I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass."
"I am dangerous...far more dangerous than anyone you are likely to meet, unless you are brought before the feet of the Dark Lord himself."
Big Good: Gandalf is the main "power behind the scenes" manipulating and directing events to help people resist Sauron, and make sure that they have the information and allies they need, as much as he can.
Big Ol' Eyebrows: That stick out past the wide brim of his hat, somehow. It's like a superpower.
But Now I Must Go: In The Hobbit he leaves the dwarves and Bilbo to try to persuade the White Council to attack Dol Guldur and destroy Sauron while he was still weak. He does this in the Fellowship of the Ring, not that he planned to be missing for so many chapters — that was Saruman's fault.
Cool Sword: Glamdring, which he found in a troll-cave during The Hobbit. This is the sword that once belonged to the king of Gondolin, one of the famous Hidden Elf Villages of the First Age. How the trolls got it isn't explained.
Deadpan Snarker: Gandalf's temper is usually expressed through fairly harmless but snappy lines, such as telling Pippin to knock the Gate of Moria open with his head if he can't shut up long enough for Gandalf to figure out the password.
Determinator: He fought the Balrog for ten days straight. Ten days.
Freudian Trio: With Saruman and Radagast; is the Ego in the group.
Good Is Not Nice: He's described as cantankerous and grouchy, is a Manipulative Bastard and whilst his bark is worse than his bite he is not above emitting a few growls from time to time and letting his reputation do the rest.
Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Definitely Good Smoking. When he's relaxing he'll usually get out his pipe and start making smoke rings.
Guile Hero: He's expressely forbidden from using his own raw power against Sauron, or to dominate the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth. Everything that he accomplishes is done via wits and persuasion.
Harbinger of Impending Doom: Implied by his critics to be this, hence the unflattering epithets "Láthspell" and "Stormcrow". It really isn't fair, though — he just wants to warn people when something bad is coming their way!
…[Gandalf’s] fame in the Shire was due mainly to his skill with fires, smokes, and lights. His real business was far more difficult and dangerous, but the Shire-folk knew nothing about it. To them he was just one of the ‘attractions’ at [Bilbo Baggins’s 111th birthday] Party.
I Have Many Names: "Many are my names in many countries. Mithrandir among the Elves, Tharkûn to the Dwarves; Olórin I was in my youth in the West that is forgotten, in the South Incánus, in the North Gandalf; to the east I go not." Then there's these names too, Gandalf Greyhame, Gandalf the Gray, Gandalf the White, Gray Pilgrim, Gray Wanderer, Greybeard, White Rider, and The Enemy of Sauron. Plus the insults Gray Fool, Láthspell, and Stormcrow.
Jerkass Façade: Even at best of times, Gandalf tends to be a grumpy old man, but he likes to encourage people's perception of him as unpredictable and even dangerous person. Frodo, who has known him for decades and considers him a friend is at one point briefly convinced that he burned poor Barliman Butterbur alive for failing to deliver (a vitally important) letter.
He also clearly enjoys scaring the crap out of Sam (who's afraid Gandalf will turn him into something "unnatural") when he catches him eavesdropping on his conversation with Frodo about the Ring.
Nice Hat: His wide-brimmed, conical hat is iconic to the character and appears in virtually all artwork and, of course, the films.
The Obi-Wan: He serves as a mentor figure for Frodo - and Bilbo before him - and is killed by the Balrog.
Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Gandalf is always taking care of far and away threats which are usually given indirect or passing mentions. His incursions against the Necromancer of Dol Guldur and his fending off of the Nazgul at Weathertop are prominent examples.
Older Than They Look: He looks like he's about 80, but he's been in Middle-Earth for upwards of 2000 years and is in fact older than the universe.
The Plan: He and Aragorn (and sometimes Frodo) are the chief planners of the Fellowship’s route. Subverted when Aragorn suggests that even Gandalf wasn’t sure of what path the Fellowship should take after Lothlórien.
Psychic Powers: He communicates without speaking with Galadriel, Celeborn and Elrond using Telepathy at the end of the book.
Rasputinian Death: Like the Balrog with whom he struggled, it took a lot to kill Gandalf. And even then, he came back.
Ring of Power: He reveals he wields the elven Ring of Fire, explaining his proficiency with flame magic. It was given to him by Círdan the Shipwright when the Wizards first came to Middle Earth, and one of the reasons Saruman was jealous of him.
Story-Breaker Power: He's a Maia, an angelic being of the same order as Sauron, but he's actually forbidden from using his full power by the Valar. The victory over Sauron must come from ordinary people; Gandalf and the other Istari are only permitted to act as their guides and advisors.
This isn't because of a Jerkass God or Obstructive Bureaucrat: the Appendices and The Silmarillion make it clear that in the last war where the Valar and Maiar simply cut loose against the forces of evil, they shattered the subcontinent of Beleriand and it sank into the sea. (See Pyrrhic Victory.)
The Strategist: He's not allowed to use his powers (the last time the Maia did so, they broke a continent), so instead he's been carefully searching and manipulating for... ever.
Team Dad: He's the leader of the Fellowship (until he dies and Aragorn takes over) and the oldest member, and despite his gruffness, he cares deeply for the others and has a particular soft spot for the hobbits.
The Three Faces of Adam: Aragorn is The Hunter, seeking a place for himself in this world and to prove himself worthy to get what he wants, Elrond is The Lord, well-established, striving to maintain a balance and preserve what he has, Gandalf is The Prophet, the guide who tries to impress his wisdom on the young ones.
Too Clever by Half: It took him longer than one might expect to figure out how to open the Doors of Durin. "I had only to speak the Elvish word for friend and the doors opened. Quite simple. Too simple for a learned loremaster in these suspicious days."
Took a Level in Kindness: Again, after becoming Gandalf the White, most evident in his interactions with Pippin, who remarks that Gandalf laughs more often and is more willing to indulge his curiosity.
Walking the Earth: He's not called "The Grey Wanderer" for nothing, being possibly even more well-traveled than Aragorn is.
Aragorn is the chief of the Dúnedain, Rangers of the North. One of the dying breed of Númenóreans, Aragorn is raised in secret by Elrond in Rivendell, unaware of his true identity as the Heir of Isildur. When he comes of age Elrond reveals all to him, and he meets and falls in love with Elrond's daughter Arwen. After she reciprocates, some 30 years later, Elrond tells Aragorn that he can only have her hand in marriage if he becomes the King of Gondor and Arnor. Aragorn spends the next few decades battling orcs and aiding Gandalf in tracking and opposing the agents of Sauron, particularly Gollum. In his youth he also travels far and wide, notably as a captain of Gondor and Rohan (under a pseudonym, Thorongil), to be the best he can in order to pursue his destiny.As a ranger, Aragorn takes the alias of "Strider" and seems a rough, coarse man but can shed this facade to unleash a great lordly presence which is part of his heritage as the last heir to the Númenórean kingdoms, and that stems in part from his people's trace of Elvish blood. As is mentioned elsewhere, in a normal epic, Aragorn would be The Hero and would defeat Sauron himself; Tolkien's decision to focus on the lowly and boot Aragorn to a supporting role was a conscious and deliberate subversion of that longstanding trope.
Authority Equals Asskicking: He's the Heir of Isildur and rightful King of the Dúnedain. He's a better tracker and woodsman than the Wood-elf Legolas, a deadly warrior, a skilled battlefield medic, strong-willed enough to use a Palantír and even wrench it out of Sauron's control, and wise enough to know he can't and must not use the One Ring.
Badass Boast: "I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, and am called Elessar, Dúnadan, the heir of Isildur Elendil's son of Gondor. Here is the Sword that was Broken and is forged again! Will you aid me or thwart me? Choose swiftly!"
Aragorn said naught in answer, but he took the other’s eye and held it, and for a moment they strove thus; but soon, though Aragorn did not stir nor move hand to weapon, the other quailed and gave back as if menaced with a blow.
Engagement Challenge: To win Elrond's permission to marry Arwen, he first needs to help make sure Middle-Earth is a safe place for her to stay after her father leaves.
Fisher King: His return to Gondor is supposed to bring healing to land, as symbolized by the old dead White Tree of Minas Tirith being replaced by a young sapling that will grow and bloom.
The Gadfly: His sense of humor takes the form of screwing around with his friends. Like the time when he agrees with Sam's continuing suspicions (even after getting Gandalf's letter that says "trust Strider") and then jumps at the hobbits. Or, when Merry asks for a pipe in the Houses of Healing, telling him all the learned things the herbmaster would say about pipeweed and that there is not any in keeping. (The pipeweed is in Merry's own pack at the foot of his bed.)
Healing Hands: As Ioreth, a wise-woman of Gondor says, "The hands of the King are the hands of a healer and so shall the rightful king be found."
Heroic Lineage: Going back though umpteen heroic Rangers of Arnor, Kings of Arnor, Isildur, Elendil, the Lords of Andúnië, the early (good) kings of Númenor, Elrond's brother Elros, Eärendil the Morning Star, Dior, Beren and Lúthien, Tuor and Idril, Turgon, Fingolfin, and Thingol and Melian, and to generations of heroic Edain of the Houses of Bëor, Hador, and Haleth.
I Have Many Names: Aragorn has been called the Dúnadan ("Man of the West/Númenórean"), Longshanks, Strider, Wingfoot, Elessar Telcontar ("Elfstone Strider"), Envinyatar ("the renewer"), Estel (Hope), and Thorongil ("Eagle of the Star"), among other things.
The Medic: He has Healing Hands and other special healing abilities due to his lineage and training by Elrond.
Memento MacGuffin: The Ring of Barahir, over six thousand years old, originally given to Aragorn's very distant ancestor by FinrodFelagund, Elvenking of Nargothrond; it had many bearers, always leaders of the Dúnedain, and of the 'faithful' factions who never listened to Sauron (like Ar-Pharazôn did), and it was given to Aragorn by Elrond when the former was told his real name and ancestry.
Manly Tears: He weeps openly whenever there's something to justify it. He was crying so hard over Boromir's death that Legolas thought he was mortally wounded himself.
Royal Blood: The purest now left, at least for the Dúnedain. Frequently, the narration points out Aragorn's kingly bearing that makes him seem taller and the other man smaller, along with something like a "white flame" appearing over his brow (i.e. the shadow of a crown).
Supporting Leader: Former Trope Namer. Aragorn may be more impressive than the Hobbits, but he's really mostly there to back up the human kingdoms and distract Sauron long enough for Frodo to destroy the Ring.
The Three Faces of Adam: Aragorn is The Hunter, seeking a place for himself in this world and to prove himself worthy to get what he wants, Elrond is The Lord, well-established, striving to maintain a balance and preserve what he has, Gandalf is The Prophet, the guide who tries to impress his wisdom on the young ones.
Uneven Hybrid: Aragorn has some elven ancestry a few thousand years prior to the events in the story due to him being the last heir of Gondor. He's also part-Maiar via Luthien's mother.
Walking the Earth: As a Ranger he's patrolled the old regions of Arnor with the purpose of staying hidden until the right time and protecting their inhabitants, including those in Bree and the Shire. He's also served in Gondor and Rohan under an alias and journeyed as far as Harad, the south lands controlled by Sauron.
Legolas is the son of King Thranduil of Mirkwood, and is sent by his father to Rivendell to deliver news of Gollum's escape. There he becomes one of the Nine Walkers of the Fellowship. Compared to the rest of the Fellowship, he is rather lighthearted as is shown by his dialogue. He and Gimli do not get along well due to the longstanding animosity between dwarves and elves, but before the War of the Ring is over, they have become friends. After the breakup of the Fellowship, Legolas is warned by Galadriel that if he hears the cry of a gull, he will be drawn to the sea. True to Galadriel's prediction, he hears the cry of a gull and becomes overwhelmed with a desire to sail West. It is not until many years after the War of the Ring ends, however, that Legolas builds a ship and sails to Valinor.
Annoying Arrows: Subverted: in general the enemies Legolas shoots fall down and stay down.
Archer Archetype: He uses a bow almost exclusively — the only other weapon he ever carries is a knife. Like most Elves he's elegant and graceful with his chosen weapon. He also comes across as somewhat haughty.
Elves VS Dwarves: To start with, but subverted as he and Gimli become close friends.
The Empath: Sort of. Not for people, but for plants and animals and the land in general. He can hear the "thoughts" of stones and trees and grass. He can talk to horses and can understand how they feel from their neighs. And a few days in to the chase in Rohan when Aragorn comments that it is almost as thought there is some power working against them in the land, Legolas tells him that there is in fact, and he noticed it the very moment they set foot on the plains.
Exposed to the Elements: The Fellowship has been crossing miles of wild terrain, as well as climbing a mountain, and instead of wearing boots like a normal person Legolas only has light shoes, and is just fine. And that snow storm that nearly killed everyone else? It "troubled him little".
"A smaller and lighter horse, but restive and fiery, was brought to Legolas. Arod was his name. But Legolas asked them to take off saddle and rein. 'I need them not,' he said, and he leaped lightly up, and to their wonder Arod was tame and willing beneath him, moving here and there with but a spoken word: such was the elvish way with all good beasts."
This seems to apply more to Wood-elves than High Elves. Glorfindel shortened the stirrups on his horse for Frodo, so presumably he had a saddle.
Out of Focus: This tends to happen to him most among the Fellowship, especially during the first part of their journey. From the time they see crows in Hollin until the end of the storm on Caradhras he is not mentioned once. Partly justified as Legolas walked behind everyone else as the rearguard, so Frodo, the viewpoint character, would be much less likely to notice what he's doing.
Pretty Boy: "Legolas was fair of face beyond the measure of Men."
Super Senses: This is common with elves. They have better sight and possibly hearing than mortals. Legolas can see much farther than anyone else in the fellowship. He can also hear the thoughts of trees and grass and stones... possibly. It might be figurative.
"But the Elves of this land were of a race strange to us of the silvan folk, and the trees and the grass do not now remember them. Only I hear the stones lament them: deep they delved us, fair they wrought us, high they builded us, but they are gone. They are gone."
He can also walk on top of snow drifts leaving hardly an imprint in the snow, and walk on grass without bending the blades.
Vitriolic Best Buds: With Gimli. The fact that Legolas' father kept Gimli's father captive in The Hobbit doesn't help.
The token dwarf. Gimli son of Glóin attends the council at Rivendell and is chosen as the representative for his race within the Fellowship. After that he primarily runs around as a Boisterous Bruiser, forming an Odd Friendship with Legolas. Legolas even took him with him across the sea to Eressëa near the end of his life, making Gimli the only Dwarf to dwell in that land.
Duel to the Death: Challenges Éomer to a duel during their first meeting when the latter disses Galadriel. Said duel is postponed due to a pesky little War of the Ring, and Gimli winds up saving Éomer’s life at least once over the course of the war (directly during the Battle of the Hornburg, and indirectly if you count Gimli’s arrival with Aragorn and co. to relieve Éomer’sLast Stand). Ironically, Éomer’s the one who reminds Gimli of this duel after the war, and Gimli calls it off.
The Dulcinea Effect: Galadriel has this impact on him, despite her being a completely different species.
Elves VS Dwarves: Initially, but subverted when he becomes friendly with Legolas and admires Galadriel's beauty.
Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Legolas, as they travel Middle Earth together after Aragorn becomes king. Gimli even accompanies Legolas to the Isles of the Blessed.
Odd Friendship: With Legolas. Considering what went on between their fathers in The Hobbit, one wonders how Glóin's going to feel about this.
Ancestral Weapon: Rather, item - as Heir of the Steward, he carries the Horn of Gondor at all times. Becomes a Tragic Keepsake for his father after he dies.
Annoying Arrows: Subverted. It takes a hell of a lot, but they do eventually kill him.
Anti-Hero: Type III. The reason he tries to claim the One Ring is to bring glory to Gondor.
Big Brother Instinct: Loves his younger brother deeply, and tries to protect him from the harsh treatment of their father.
The Big Guy: He's tall and broad enough to serve as a human snowplow when trying to cross Caradhas.
Blue Blood: The Stewards have always been very powerful Blue Bloods in Gondor (which is why they managed to keep the title in the family at all, until it eventually became hereditary), without ever being "royalty".
Broken Ace: He was a proud, gallant warrior but the pressure put on him as the Steward's heir to protect his people and his despair of winning without using the power of the Ring eroded his common sense. This made him a perfect target for the One Ring.
When he is right though (regarding firewood in the mountains), he probably saves the Fellowship's lives.
The Determinator: You could pretty much rename this trope 'The Boromir' and it would still be accurate.
Dying as Yourself: As soon as Frodo flees and takes the Ring with him, its effect on him wears off and he instantly repents his attempt to steal it. His Heroic Sacrifice trying to save Merry and Pippin is his atonement.
Half-Human Hybrid: Several (dozen) generations removed. He and Faramir (as well as their maternal uncle, Prince Imrahil) actually are descended from elf maiden Mithrellas, the legendary handmaiden of Nimrodel who married a Prince of Dol Amroth. May explain why many characters think they appear noble and regal like the ancient Dúnadan kings.
Shout-Out: His great horn is a homage to the medieval French epic The Song of Roland, where the paladin Roland bears the horn Olifant. Like Boromir, Roland blows his horn to summon help when surrounded by enemies, but still dies.
Sibling Yin-Yang: He's the opposite of his brother Faramir, though that doesn't spoil their close friendship.
The Three Faces of Adam: The Hunter in the Steward family (Denethor and his sons). He used to dream of being King despite it not being an option. Now he is trying to find his place in the world and is ready to take risks to further his goals.
Tragic Hero: He is desperate to save his homeland, but cannot see how it can be done. Until the One Ring practically falls into their hands, that is.
Warrior Prince: Unlike his brother he's particularly enamoured of the warrior ethos and the "glory" of warfare, as he sees it. The Rohirrim, who knew him well, thought he was more like themselves than a man of Gondor.
King of Rohan, uncle of Éowyn and Éomer. Théoden is betrayed by his servant Gríma who enfeebled and confused him. While Gandalf helped him come to his senses, the damage has already been done: his armies are in disarray, bands of wild men have ransacked the countryside and his only son and heir is dead. Théoden faces the challenge of standing amongst legends in the midst of his failure trying to find his own strength again which he eventually does in the Battle of Pelennor Fields.
Big Damn Heroes: Just after the door of Minas Tirith was broken and with the Witch-King seemingly about to be victorious, he arrives with his Rohirrim army and gives hope back to the good guys.
Expy: Has many similarities to Beowulf, being an old but still strong warrior and much-beloved king who dies in his final battle and is buried with honour. Note that Tolkien was a well-known scholar of Old English and based the Rohirrim on the Anglo-Saxons.
Foil: To Denethor. Where Denethor went mad from grief from Boromir's death, Faramir's seemingly mortal wound and the seemingly unavoidable fall of his city, Théoden managed to pull himself out of his despair and find the courage to save the day.
The Last of His Kind: He's of the second male line of the Kings of Rohan. With the death of his only son at the Battle of the Fords of Isen and later his own death at Pelennor Fields, the second line died out.
Locked Out of the Loop: According to Gandalf, Théoden was the only person in the Kingdom of Rohan who referred to Wormtongue as Gríma.
Meaningful Name: "People-king" in Anglo-Saxon, and presumably his real (untranslated) name meant something similar.
Modest Royalty: He considers his position a grave responsibility and a burden, and is haunted by his failures. In speaking with Saruman he refers to himself as 'a lesser son of greater sires'; even after the heroic deeds he performs on his dying day, he mentions that he 'need not now be ashamed' to join the Kings of Rohan who died before him.
Redemption Equals Death: He seems to think so. He's very hard on himself about his failures until he finds the courage to come to Gondor's aid. As he's dying, he smiles knowing that he's earned his place in the halls of his fathers.
Rousing Speech: To the Rohirrim before the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: He adamantly refuses to stay behind or go to hide in safety when the rest of his people ride to the Battle of Helm's Deep, despite being 71 years old.
Théoden's nephew, and leader of a substantial cavalry unit, Éomer does not approve of the advice Gríma has been offering, and the orders Théoden has issued on the basis of it. He is on an unauthorised mission when the three hunters first meets him, and in prison on charges of mutiny and assault when they reach Edoras. As Théoden's nearest male blood relative, the role of heir-apparent devolves onto him.
Hot-Blooded: In the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, his fury nearly cost him and his men their life, as his reckless charge lead to them being surrounded on all front by enemies.
The Juggernaut: One of the other two in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields who was unstoppable.
Last Stand: He is ready to make one when he is caught in a seemingly hopeless situation during the Battle, right before Aragorn comes to save the day.
He let blow the horns to rally all men to his banner that could come thither; for he thought to make a great shield-wall at the last, and stand, and fight there on foot till all fell, and do deeds of song on the fields of Pelennor, though no man should be left in the West to remember the last King of the Mark.
Leeroy Jenkins: His reaction to seeing his sister apparently dead was to charge at the enemy, resulting in the above mentioned Last Stand.
Meaningful Name: "Horse-famous" in Anglo-saxon. Presumably his real (untranslated) name had the same meaning.
Not So Stoic: When he finds Théoden dead, and believes Éowyn to be dead as well.
These staves he spoke, yet he laughed as he said them. For once more lust of battle was on him; and he was still unscathed, and he was young, and he was king: the lord of a fell people.
Reasonable Authority Figure: He listen to what Aragorn has to say when he catches him with Legolas and Gimli in Rohan, and helps them by giving them mounts.
Red Oni, Blue Oni: His sister is the blue and he is the red. He's also the Red to Aragorn's Blue.
Rousing Speech: he gives one of these twice in a row to the Rohirrim: right after finding the bodies of his uncle and sister on the battlefield, and again when he realizes they're surrounded and probably going to die.
Warrior Poet: He improvises some rather dark verses when he sees the carnage of the Pelennor Fields.
Will Not Tell a Lie: his words: "the Men of the Mark do not lie, and therefore they are not easily deceived".
Éomer's sister, and much beloved of Théoden... as well as Gríma. Éowyn yearns to fight for her country and win honor like her brother and uncle, and falls in love with Aragorn. When both desires are rejected and the victory of Mordor seems inevitable, she becomes a Death Seeker, hoping to fall valiantly in battle before Sauron conquers everything.
Badass Normal: Compared with all the elves, dwarves, wizards or other super-powered men of exalted lineage in this book, Éowyn was just a normal woman. It didn't keep her from taking down the Witch-King with the help of Merry, an even more "normal" badass.
Badass Princess: She fights for her country and takes down the leader of the Ringwraiths himself.
Berserker Tears: There were tears on her cheek when she was facing the Witch-King of Angmar.
Call to Agriculture: After Sauron is defeated, Éowyn no longer desires to be a slayer and even possibly a queen, instead resolving to be a healer who loves "all things that grow". Faramir proposes that they start a garden somewhere.
Don't You Dare Pity Me!: She says this to Faramir with the line, "I desire no man's pity." (Faramir responds with a rare defense of pity: "Do not scorn pity that is the gift of a gentle heart.")
Emotionless Girl: She seemed very cold and dispassionate to the other characters before she went to battle, and she stays cool and collected even while facing the Witch-King.
Glory Seeker: Since she's from a Proud Warrior Race, she frets at missing out on all the great deeds in battle because she's a woman. Amplified by becoming a Death Seeker, since death in battle is most glorious for the Rohirrim. Even after she's injured killing the Witch-king, she doesn't like being stuck with the medics while the army of Rohan confronts Sauron.
The Good Chancellor: Théoden left her in charge of the kingdom in his absence, possibly leaving her the throne if he and Éomer didn't return. However subverted as she followed him to war in disguise.
Go Through Me: She stood before the Lord of the Nazgûl to protect her uncle.
A cold voice answered: ‘Come not between the Nazgûl and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.’
A sword rang as it was drawn. ‘Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may.’
Lady of War: She manages to keep an air of grace and beauty usually associated with Proper Ladies while still being a very capable warrior.
Still she did not blench: maiden of the Rohirrim, child of kings, slender but as a steel-blade, fair yet terrible.
Loving a Shadow: This is how Aragorn describes her attachment to him to her brother, comparing it to a soldier's love for a valiant captain.
Mama Bear: Inverted. When Théoden is attacked and defeated by the Witch-King, she steps between them and says that she'll kill the Nazgûl if he gets close to her uncle, and demonstrates the credibility of her threat by effortlessly decapitating his mount when he mocks her.
Meaningful Name: "Horse-joy" in Anglo-Saxon. Presumably her "real" (untranslated) name meant something similar.
My Girl Back Home: She was this for her father, brother and uncle until she got fed up.
Nerves of Steel: The Nazgûl's main ability is the power to inspire fear in the heart of the bravest of men: their cry and shadow can reduce experienced soldiers to a broken crying mess, trained warriors flee before them. The Witch-King is the worst of them. But when he threatens Éowyn, standing alone before him, to an eternity of torture in the houses of lamentation beyond all darkness, she doesn't even flinch. And then she laughs at his face.
No Man of Woman Born: Aside from Macbeth, probably the most famous example of this trope. The Witch-King is quite smug, quoting that prophecy in 'Dernhelm's' face...
Not So Stoic: She breaks for a moment when she falls on her knees and begs Aragorn to take her with him on the Path of Death, in desperation. She also has a little moment of weakness when she is asking Faramir to order the healers to let her go.
Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: "But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund's daughter, and you stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you if you touch him."
Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Rohirrim are a proud, fierce and war-loving people, who value courage, loyalty and truthfulness above all and hold warriors in the greatest of honor. Éowyn shares this worldview (at least at first), which is why it is even more unbearable for her to just sit and wait as others do all the fighting.
Rebellious Princess: Although she doesn't carry the title of "princess", her uncle the King raised her as his daughter. When he leaves for war, she chooses to disobey him and follow him into battle.
Stay in the Kitchen: For years she is relegated to tending Théoden while the men ride off to war. When Théoden himself finally rides off to war she wants to go too, but she's left in charge in his absence. Later she wants to follow Aragorn, but is rejected. She goes in disguise to the Battle of Pelennor Fields anyway where she kills the Witch-king. But played straight as Sauron is defeated, as she and Faramir fall in love and she stops seeking glory and death in battle, instead resolving to be a healer and nurturer. They eventually settle down as lord and lady of Ithilien.
A man of Rohan who was seduced by Saruman's promises of power, Wormtongue was King Théoden's adviser. He used clever words and "leechcraft" to wear down the aging king's mind, weakening the kingdom and allowing Saruman's armies to run rampant.
Dirty Coward: Despite repeated offers of forgiveness from the good guys, he is too spineless to leave Saruman — especially when proving his loyalty to Rohan requires saddling up and joining the army at Helm's Deep.
Heel Face Door Slam: Frodo offers him a very-undeserved chance to turn his life around, and he seems to want to accept it; then, Saruman reveals what Gríma did to Lotho Sackville-Baggins, and everything just goes to hell.
Humiliation Conga: The way Saruman treats him, especially after the fall of Isengard.
Obviously Evil: Everyone in Rohan is blond, tall, and broad. Gríma is described as dark-haired and generally... slimy-looking.
Oh, Crap: Realizing that his men failed to confiscate Gandalf's staff. In The Unfinished Tales, Tolkien's notes reveal he had a run in with the Nazgul while he was on his way to see Saruman - who they had just been interrogating on the whereabouts of the Shire - and was so terrified that he revealed Saruman had lied to them.
The Quisling: He turned traitor on Rohan after Saruman promised him money and/or power.
Smug Snake: He loses control as soon as Gandalf enters the scene and flies back to hide behind his master.
Treacherous Advisor: Saruman planted him in Rohan solely to weaken the king so the country could be easily conquered.
Men of Gondor
See also Boromir above.
Boromir's younger brother, but the two are quite different; while Boromir is constantly tempted by the Ring and succumbs to it, Faramir rejects it on principle without even seeing it. (This was changed for dramatic reasons in the films.) He becomes even more central in the third novel, as the action moves to his homeland of Gondor.
Always Second Best: Men have deemed him second to his brother Boromir all his life, being more gentle and scholarly, less flamboyant than his brother in times of war when warriors were honored above all (even his father loved Boromir most). And after the War, he became second best to King Elessar. Note that he never grew bitter about his eternal second place (quite the opposite really).
Author Avatar: Tolkien has stated that Faramir is the character the closest to his personality except in courage. This was shaped by Tolkien's experiences in World War I.
Badass Bookworm: Far more scholarly than his brother Boromir, and far more interested in the history and lore of Gondor, but a very capable soldier and commander as well.
Blue Blood: The Stewards have always been very powerful Blue Bloods in Gondor (which is why they managed to keep the title in the family at all, until it eventually became hereditary), without ever being "royalty".
The Captain: Of the Rangers of Ithilien, played straight.
Call to Agriculture: Sounds like he's having such a call when he and Éowyn confess to each other. At that point, his demotion from "Ruling" Steward was imminent. But later the newly-crowned king Aragorn makes him Prince of the province of Ithilien.
The Creon: Unlike his brother Boromir, Faramir seems to have no intentions of grabbing any power - rejecting an overwhelming opportunity and motive to become the Ruling Steward of Gondor or even the King.
Cultured Warrior: Offers a history lesson to the Hobbits after having taken them prisoners in the aftermath of a bloody battle with the Haradrim.
Dreaming of Times Gone By: He often dreams of the Downfall of Númenor, the isle that sank under the sea a thousand years ago. It is based on Tolkien's own of a land being drowned beneath a rushing wave.
Earn Your Happy Ending: The Unfavorite son who lost his beloved older brother, fighting a doomed war against the Dark Lord, and nearly becoming the victim in a murder-suicide by his own dad. Gets better, gets a princedom, gets true love.
Half-Human Hybrid: Several (dozen) generations removed. He and Boromir (as well as their maternal uncle, Prince Imrahil) actually are descended from elf maiden Mithrellas, the legendary Nimrodel's handmaiden who married a Prince of Dol Amroth. May explain why many characters think they appear noble and regal like the ancient Dúnadan kings.
Word of God also has it that the Steward family is somehow descended from Anárion (Elendil's second son and Isildur's brother) - probably through a daughter since they have no claim to the throne. That would make them far far away descendant of Elros Half-Elven and ultimately Lúthien, like Aragorn.
A Father to His Men: His men are extremely loyal to him because they know he cares for them and puts their welfare ahead of his own and will not waste their lives seeking for glory.
Foil: to his brother Boromir. They have very different ideologies in the book and make very different choices, most notably with the Ring. Although the brothers loved each other dearly, Faramir knew Boromir well enough to guess that the Ring found him easy prey.
"[Boromir] was a man after the sort of King Eärnur of old, taking no wife and delighting chiefly in arms; fearless and strong, but caring little for lore, save the tales of old battles. Faramir the younger was like him in looks but otherwise in mind. He read the hearts of men as shrewdly as his father, but what he read moved him sooner to pity than to scorn. He was gentle in bearing, and a lover of lore and of music, and therefore by many in those days his courage was judged less than his brother’s. But it was not so, except that he did not seek glory in danger without a purpose."
Also to his father, Denethor. Both are noble and powerful pure-blooded Númenóreans with the abilities to read the hearts of other men and to command over them, who share a love for ancient lore and other scholarly pursuits over feats of arm. Yet all these similarities only highlight their differences: the son is warm, gentle and understanding where the father is cold, harsh and scornful. Faramir chooses to keep on fighting despite having lost all hope, Denethor succumb to despair. Faramir demonstrates humility and open-mindedness, Denethor displays arrogance and stubbornness, etc...
Genre Savvy: He's wise enough to understand that it's probably better to have as little as possible to do with a weapon designed by the Enemy.
Gentleman and a Scholar: Highly intelligent and scholarly, he is also a gracious host and very pleasant individual, able to have a good and friendly conversation with various people from very different cultures and background (Frodo, Sam, Éowyn, Merry, etc...).
The Good Chancellor: He comes from a whole line of those: despite being actually better rulers than their royal predecessors, none of the Ruling Steward ever tried to take the throne for themselves, and instead they did everything they could to preserve the realm against the growing threat in Mordor in the Name of the King. Faramir went on to be Aragorn's loyal Steward, his First Adviser and Head of the Council of Gondor.
I Gave My Word: In The Two Towers, he rejects the temptation of the Ring in part because of this: "Not if I found it on the highway would I take it, I said. Even if I were such a man as to desire this thing, and even though I knew not clearly what this thing was when I spoke, still I should take these words as a vow, and be held by them."
Martial Pacifist: Violence is a last resort for him, which is why he spares even Gollum and treats him as well as he can while he is his prisoner. His men are also forbidden to harm animals.
Meaningful Name: "Faramir" is Quenya for "jewel of the seashore", from "fára" (seashore) and "mírë" (jewel) - his mother was fond of the sea. Mardil Voronwë, the last Steward to a King and first Ruling Steward, was also the last of the stewards to have a Quenya name until Faramir, the last Ruling Steward and first Steward to a King since Mardil.
The Men First: The first time we saw him in The Return of the King, he was ready to face five Nazgûl riding their fell beasts, alone on horseback, to protect three of his men who had fallen to the ground. Later, while holding the outer defenses against the armies of Mordor, he wouldn't leave his men behind and return to the safety of Minas Tirith, arranging instead for Gandalf himself to escort the wounded back. In the end, as captain, he was the last one to enter the city (or be carried in as it happens).
Missing Mom: His mother Finduilas died five years after his birth.
Nice Guy: He treats Frodo and Sam very well, in the circumstances, and is kind to Éowyn in the Houses of Healing.
Officer and a Gentleman: Extremely honorable (to the point he wouldn't lie even to an orc) and impeccably courteous (even toward his war prisoners).
Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Has these sometimes. His repeated dream about seeking the Sword That was Broken was what impelled Boromir to seek out Rivendell. His repeated dreams of the Downfall of Númenor was based on Tolkien's own dreams of a land being drowned beneath a rushing wave.
Psychic Powers: Like his father, he is repeatedly said to be able to "read the heart of men", and demonstrates this ability when he sees in Gollum's mind (which apparently has a lot of "locked doors and closed windows, and dark rooms behind them").
Rage Breaking Point: He breaks for a second after his father admits to him he wishes Boromir - his most loyal son - had lived in his stead, resulting in Tranquil Fury: "For a moment Faramir’s restraint gave way. ‘I would ask you, my father, to remember why it was that I, not he, was in Ithilien. On one occasion at least your counsel has prevailed, not long ago. It was the Lord of the City that gave the errand to him.’" Precise and chillingly polite, yet adorned with that ironic my father to maximize impact. He goes straight for the jugular, blaming his father for his brother's death (and in the end it was one of those things that made Denethor snaps - guilt over his sons' deaths).
Reasonable Authority Figure: He provides assistance to Frodo and Sam once he learns of their quest (after making them sweat a bit) and shows mercy to Gollum when Frodo vouches for him (though Gollum doesn't realize it).
Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Faramir is the sensitive one in this pair. And being the sensitive one of the pair he is shown leading a commando team well behind enemy lines, holding troops together with nothing but charisma while the Nazgûl are hovering above him, and defeating a great warrior in single combat. From all of which you will infer, he is part of a Badass Family.
The Three Faces of Adam: He is the Prophet in the Denethor-Boromir-Faramir trio, the wise one despite being also the youngest.
The Unfavorite: Note that his brother Boromir (who was the favorite) deeply loves him, and there was never any sort of jealousy between them.
Warrior Poet: Despite being a more than competent warrior, Faramir is first a scholar and devotes a lot of time to philosophy, lore and music.
‘War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the Men of Númenor; and I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom.’
Warrior Prince: Though not technically royalty, he's the son of the Ruling Steward and de facto king of Gondor.
He becomes a real Prince after the war when King Elessar offers him Ithilien as a Princedom.
"Well Done, Son!" Guy: Subverted in that, while Denethor makes it clear he is a disappointment to him, Faramir doesn't compromise himself in trying to get his father's approval. Which actually is one of Denethor's major complaints about him.
"Your bearing is lowly in my presence, yet it is long now since you turned from your own way at my counsel."
Denethor is the Steward of Gondor, ruling the nation from Minas Tirith in the absence of the King. He is used to being in charge, and does not like the idea of having to give up power to the (possibly) rightful claimant to the throne. Denethor denies Aragorn's kingship on the basis that he is not Anárion's heir, whom the council of Gondorian nobles has always held the be only proper holder of the title 'King of Gondor.' Aragorn does descent from Anárion through Fíriel, daughter of King Ondoher of Gondor, but he is not a direct male-line descendant.
Always Second Best: Despite being very competent himself, in his youth Denethor was always placed second to captain Thorongil not only in the hearts of men but also in his father's love and esteem. He grew really bitter about this and rather insecure. By the time of the War of the Ring, he couldn't bear the thought of being second best to Gandalf in his son's heart and respect (whether this was true or not), nor second to Aragorn in honor and glory, which ended rather tragically for him.
Armchair Military: He is the supreme commander of Gondor's troops but never steps on the battlefield himself.
Denethor laughed bitterly. ‘Nay, not yet, Master Peregrin! [Sauron] will not come save only to triumph over me when all is won. He uses others as his weapons. So do all great lords, if they are wise, Master Halfling. Or why should I sit here in my tower and think, and watch, and wait, spending even my sons? For I can still wield a brand.’
Blue Blood: The Stewards have always been very powerful Blue Bloods in Gondor (which is why they managed to keep the title in the family at all, until it eventually became hereditary), without ever being "royalty".
Break the Haughty: He loses his wife, both his sons, his city and people, and ends up lighting his own pyre in madness and despair.
The Caligula: Gradually devolves into this. Although he starts out as tough but reasonable — lighting the beacons, sharing in the rationing — his slide into despair erodes his sanity, and he starts becoming more paranoid and unreasonable.
The Chessmaster: He thinks of the war as a duel between him, Gandalf and Sauron, and the participants as his pawns or theirs. He has been setting up his pieces into place for years, waiting for Sauron to finally strike. According to Unfinished Tales, he did a rather good job.
Thus Sauron tested the strength and preparedness of Denethor, and found them more than he had hoped.
Despair Event Horizon: Faramir's apparent death and an extremely large invasion force at his doorstep, along with visions in the palantír which caused him to believe that Sauron had captured Frodo and thus obtained the ring:
"[Gandalf's] hope has failed. The Enemy has found it [the Ring], and now his power waxes; he sees our very thoughts, and all we do is ruinous."
The Eeyore: The man lives on Sauron's doorstep... and his main information source is being manipulated by Sauron. Is it any wonder he's a pessimist?
Fallen Hero: The tragedy of his fall lies in how great he could have been, had he been a little less proud and a little less desperate.
Family Theme Naming: Most of the names in the family tree of the Stewards of Gondor belonged to First Age heroes (Húrin, Túrin, Echtelion...). Denethor was named after the leader of the Laiquendi (the Green-elves) in Ossiriand during the Years of the Trees, and he married Finduilas of Dol Amroth, who was named after the daughter of King Orodreth of Nargothrond (another first-age elf).
To Théoden. While Théoden managed to pull himself out of his despair and find the courage to save the day, Denethor went mad from grief after having seemingly lost both his sons and Gondor. He's also a whole lot more haughty and unforgiving (and from a much greater lineage) than the noble but kindly Théoden.
To Gandalf. They represent two different ideologies and two different images of "stewardship". In particular, Denethor is The Chessmaster moving his pawns and watching over the board from his tower, while Gandalf is The Strategist fighting on the field and personally overseeing the realization of his plans. Both are terrible and powerful old men with a short temper (Pippin even thinks Denethor looks more like a wizard than Gandalf).
To Faramir. Both are nearly pure-blooded Númenóreans, windows on ancient Númenor, but Denethor represents its fallen glory, the pride and envy that led to its downfall, whereas Faramir stands for its greatness and wisdom. While Denethor ends his life in fire and despair, Faramir embraces hope, love and life, and dies at the advanced age of 120 years old.
Insufferable Genius: He is after all a great lore-master and a competent ruler, though not a very charming or nice one.
Jerkass: To a degree, but he's given enough positive traits to balance him out to Good Is Not Nice, such as knighting Pippin and being overall a strong-willed and forceful leader.
Just the First Citizen: Although he has nearly as much authority as a king, and he begrudges the little authority he doesn't have...
Living Lie Detector: Gandalf mentions it is difficult to deceive him, as he can perceive much of what is in the mind of men, and dangerous to try. His son Faramir seems to have inherited this ability, as he is able to immediately detect when Gollum lies to him.
My Country, Right or Wrong: In one of his letters J. R. R. Tolkien points out that Denethor thought of Sauron primarily as a threat to Gondor rather than as evil, and if he had won by force of arms he would have tried to become an imperialistic conqueror over Sauron's former empire. And in Unfinished Tales it is said that Denethor loved Gondor too much to be pushed into treachery in the manner of Saruman; he could only be pushed over the Despair Event Horizon by becoming convinced that Gondor was doomed. This is precisely what Sauron does.
The Three Faces of Adam: The Lord in the Denethor-Boromir-Faramir trio. He struggles to maintain his position when it is threatened (by Sauron or by Aragorn), to find a balance between risking too much and not enough.
24-Hour Armor: Seen as a symbol of his stubbornness and pride, but also redeeming values thereof.
[Denethor] stood up and cast open his long black cloak, and behold! he was clad in mail beneath, and girt with a long sword, great-hilted in a sheath of black and silver. ‘Thus have I walked, and thus now for many years have I slept,’ he said, ‘lest with age the body should grow soft and timid.’
Denethor's brother-in-law and the Prince of Dol Amroth, a fiefdom of Gondor. Imrahil is a noble man with a bit of elven blood who leads the knights of his city to the defense of Minas Tirith. He becomes the acting ruler of Gondor after Denethor's suicide but promptly recognizes Aragorn to be his king. After the War of the Ring, Éomer marries his daughter Lothíriel.
Blue Blood: The Princes of Dol Amroth are a very important family in Gondor, and the rulers of their own fiefdom in Belfalas.
Combat Medic: While nowhere near as good a healer as Aragorn, Imrahil was the one who removed the arrow that felled Faramir. (He also cleaned the wound.) Notably, he was also the one who discovered that Éowyn was Not Quite Dead.
Half-Human Hybrid: Many generations removed. One of his distant ancestors married Mithrellas, an elf-woman. Legolas bows to him on sight.
Humble Hero: Unlike Denethor, he immediately recognizes Aragorn as the Heir of Isildur and the legitimate ruler of Gondor.
The Juggernaut / Warrior Prince: Along with Aragorn and Éomer, he emerges from the Battle of the Pelennor Fields without a scratch despite being in the thick of the fighting. Later, when the army of the West is surrounded at the Black Gate, Imrahil and his men are stationed facing Mordor and the heaviest part of the assault.
The Remnant: Imrahil and his people are actually a unique case among the fiefdoms that make up Gondor. Dol Amroth is one of precisely two still-extant mainland kingdoms of Numenorean origin that pre-date the Fall of Numenor and the founding of Arnor and Gondor (the other being Umbar). When Gondor was established, Dol Amroth willingly became part of the larger kingdom. As such, the Princes of Dol Amroth are afforded a special degree of respect among Gondorian nobililty.
Reasonable Authority Figure: During the Last Debate with Gandalf and company, he raises some very important questions regarding the defense of Minas Tirith.
Reluctant Ruler: While not strictly reluctant to rule, he’s quick to recognize Aragorn as his king and shows no hesitation about returning the Stewardship of Gondor to Faramir.
Supporting Leader: To Aragorn, although Imrahil appears relatively little: even while officially remaining interim Steward of Gondor, he insists that Aragorn’s his king (despite the latter’s deliberate refusal to claim the title until after Sauron’s defeat) and takes his suggestion of marching on Mordor as a direct order.
The Wise Prince: Plays this trope completely straight. He even offers to personally escort Legolas and Gimli to the Houses of Healing to visit Merry, although Legolas politely declines and sends him to participate in the Last Debate instead.
You Are in Command Now: Gandalf places him in command “in the Lord’s [Denethor’s] absence,” and once he learns that said absence is in fact suicide due to Sanity Slippage (and that Faramir is also in no shape to rule), he assumes the role of interim Steward of Gondor.
A common man of Gondor who serves as a soldier in Minas Tirith. Beregond is appointed Pippin's guide to the city and quickly becomes close friends with the hobbit, as does his son Bergil.
Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving: During the siege of Minas Tirith, he deserted his post and killed the porter with the keys to the Silent Street, as well as two members of the Guard. However, he only did this to protect Faramir from a premature funeral pyre, and only slew the others because they would not listen to him and attempted to kill him first. After the crowning of King Elessar, Beregond is brought before the new King. King Elessar spares him from execution because of the circumstances, but discharges Beregond from the Guard and orders him out of Minas Tirith... so that he may be reassigned to Faramir's newly formed personal Guard in Ithilien as its captain.
The Everyman: Beregond represents the average citizen of Gondor.
To Be Lawful or Good: Stay at his post knowing what's going on, or ditch it (and risk the death penalty) to go save Faramir from a premature cremation? Not that it's much of a question in the moment, it just comes back later.
Undying Loyalty: To Faramir. Even though Beregond isn't under his actual command, he still admires him greatly and considers him to be the best Minas Tirith has to offer.
You Shall Not Pass: He leaves his post in order to pull one of these to stop Denethor from succeeding in lighting Faramir's pyre.
See also Legolas above.
The Half-Elven, Master of Rivendell, father of Arwen, and bearer of one of the three elven Rings, Vilya the Ring of Air, given to him by Gil-galad before the latter's death at the end of the Second Age. He was a great warrior during the Second Age, and is a great healer and scholar as well as a cunning strategist; however, he also acts as opposition to Aragorn from a much less lofty post: that of Overprotective Dad.
Theme Twin Naming: Theme Twin Naming is a thing with Half-Elven twin boys, one he kept up with his own sons.
Bittersweet Ending: The Fellowship defeated Sauron, restored the kingdom of Gondor and Arnor, and saved Middle-Earth. But Elrond had to part with his daughter Arwen forever, even beyond the end of the world. His sons may have become mortal as well, which would leave him with no surviving children.
It's said in the Appendices that for Elrond, "all chances of the War of the Ring were fraught with sorrow." Either Sauron prevailed, or Aragorn became king and he lost Arwen.
Read his backstory in The Silmarillion and the Appendix to The Lord of the Rings. Elrond was separated from his parents, his brother chose to be human, and his wife was so thoroughly traumatized by being tortured by Orcs she had to leave for Valinor. Even his foster-father Maglor, whom he seems to have been happy with despite the way they met, eventually vanished when Elrond was a young adult. Elrond's experiences with his family is nothing but this trope.
Cultured Badass: A renowned loremaster, he also led Gil-galad's army against Sauron in the Second Age.
Elemental Powers: The Ring of Air presumably gives him these, though his main demonstration is in making the river Bruinen flood.
Happily Adopted: By Maglor. Rather remarkable, considering that Maglor took him and his brother prisoner (when they were about five years old), and was among the people who tried to kill his mother and successfully killed his grandparents. See Stockholm Syndrome below.
Healing Hands: Though a capable commander in wartime, his skills and inclinations run mostly towards medicine. He's good enough to prevent the Morgul-knife wound from turning Frodo into a wraith.
Heinz Hybrid: Hence Elrond the Half-Elven. (Technically he's 9/16 elven, 3/8 human, and 1/16 angelic, but that was too long for a nickname.)
Heroic Lineage: His ancestors were mostly famous heroes in Beleriand in the war against Morgoth. His brother Elros became the first King of Numenor, so he's also closely related to the Heroic Lineage that produced Aragorn.
Parental Substitute: For Aragorn, whom "he came to love as a son." He also fostered several of Aragorn's ancestors.
The Philosopher King: People of all races and from all around Middle-Earth will go to Rivendell to seek his counsel.
Psychic Powers: He communicates without speaking with Galadriel, Celeborn and Gandalf using Telepathy at the end of the book.
Overprotective Dad: Demanded that Aragorn become king of both Arnor and Gondor before marrying Arwen. At the time the books take place, Gondor hadn't had a king for almost a thousand years, and Arnor hadn't even existed for more than a thousand years.
Stockholm Syndrome: In The Silmarillion he and his brother Elros were taken in by Maglor, one of the Sons of Fëanor, who led the invasion that killed their grandfather and raided their home in pursuit of a Silmaril. Maglor was kind to them, and only he and Maedhros showed remorse for the actions they took in pursuit of their Oath.
The Three Faces of Adam: Aragorn is The Hunter, seeking a place for himself in this world and to prove himself worthy to get what he wants, Elrond is The Lord, well-established, striving to maintain a balance and preserve what he has, Gandalf is The Prophet, the guide who tries to impress his wisdom on the young ones.
Arwen Undómiel, the Evenstar, is a half-elven woman of great beauty whom Aragorn hopes to marry. Unfortunately, she shows up in only three chapters of the story, the second one being her wedding to the King of Gondor. Tolkien rectified by including more about her romance with Aragorn in the appendices.
Author Appeal: Of the Raven Hair, Ivory Skin variety. She's the second-most beautiful woman ever born (after her ancestor Lúthien, whom she greatly resembles) and like Lúthien, her hair is very black and her skin very white.
Beauty Is Never Tarnished: While Aragorn aged fairly normally (for a 200-year-old guy), Arwen remained youthful right up until her death. She still hadn't become weary of Middle-Earth by the time Aragorn died.
Bittersweet Ending: She gives up her immortality to stay with Aragorn, but it's indicated that he eventually dies, and she follows him not long afterward.
Really 700 Years Old: Twenty-seven hundred years, to be precise. And like an elf, she looks eternally youthful.
Who Wants to Live Forever?: When Aragorn decided to die of old age 120 years after the War of the Ring, she finally understood how unpleasant dying of old age can be. But by then it was too late to change her mind.
Action Girl: In her youth. According to one version in Unfinished Tales, she fought for the Teleri in the first Kinslaying. And that she was an Action Girl actually means a lot more than it sounds like — the elves believed women had a special role as healers, a task no less critical than that of warriors, most of whom were men. Women could fight (and certainly trained to know how), but it was believed that the act of fighting endangered their abilities as healers. And it's hinted in the novels that she still is an Action Girl, if single-handedly destroying Dol Guldur in the War of the Ring is anything to go by.
Big Good: Frodo even offers her the Ring because of this, although this turns out not to be a good idea.
Dream Weaver: Owns a magic pool that shows the person who looks into it visions of the past, present, and possible futures.
Not to mention that she was single-handedly responsible for the transformation of a fairly ordinary woodland realm into the Golden Wood of Lothlorien (a name that even means "Dream Blossom" or "Land of Dreaming Blossoms") a living memory of old Eldamar in which the effects and even perception of time are neigh nonexistent.
Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Like all the House of Finarfin. They were the wisest and kindest of the Noldorin royal houses (though Galadriel is still badly tempted by the One Ring), the most friendly to mortals, and the ones least guilty of wrongdoing in the rebellion. None of them took part in the Kinslaying even by accident. In his last writings Tolkien even decided that Galadriel didn't participate in the rebellion at all, but left Valinor separately.
Hidden Depths: She too lusts after the Ring, but overcomes its temptation.
Artanis, "noble woman," was her father-name, or the name given to her by her father Finarfin.
Nerwen, "man-maiden," was her mother-name, or the name given to her by her mother Eärwen. This was in reference to her unusual tall height and strength for a woman.
Alatárielle, "maiden crowned with a radiant garland," was given to her back in Aman by her Telerin lover Teleporno, in reference to her silver-gold hair.
Altáriel was the Quenya semi-calque of Alatárielle. The full calque would have been Ñaltáriel, but this was not used as her Quenya form.
Galadriel was the Sindarin calque of Alatárielle, after she and her husband went to Middle-Earth. Teleporno took the name Celeborn, the Sindarin calque of his own name, presumably to stop everyone from snickering. If your name was Teleporno, you too would want to change it to anything else.
Her titles include Lady of the Golden Wood.
Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Played with. Galadriel seems so perfectly good that Frodo offers her the Ring (apparently forgetting Gandalf's reaction to the same offer). She reveals that she is not incorruptible - that Frodo has unthinkingly presented her with a terrible temptation. She overcomes that temptation long enough to send the Ring away.
It May Help You on Your Quest: She gives each of the Fellowship a gift at their parting, and specifically hints that the Phial of Light she gave to Frodo may be much more useful than it looks. It is.
Subverted with her gift to Sam (a box of soil from her garden “For [the] little gardener and lover of trees”). She even lampshades that, saying that it is a gift that will only ever be useful if he completes the quest.
Light Is Not Good: She's referred to as the Lady of the Golden Wood or Lady of Light, and while firmly on the side of good for the purposes of the story, has serious implicit (and in The Silmarillion explicit) power trip tendencies.
Psychic Powers: She greets each of the Fellowship with a searching telepathic question, which greatly unnerves some of them. She also communicates without speaking with Gandalf, Celeborn and Elrond using Telepathy at the end of the final book.
The Final Temptation: When Frodo offers her the Ring, she speculates what she could become if she took it.
Time Abyss: Definitely qualifies, being older than the sun and the entire human race. She was born in the Year of the Trees 1362, before the First Age of the Sun and the awakening of mortal humans. When the Fellowship meet her, she's about 8377 years old (give or take ~5).
An Elf-Lord of Rivendell.
Back from the Dead: Tolkien's letters stated that Glorfindel from Gondolin and Glorfindel from the Lord of the Rings was the same elf, just reincarnated.
Badass: Elrond sends him out alone against the Ringwraiths to escort Frodo, Aragorn and the other Hobbits. He succeeds and drives the Ringwraiths into the Bruinen, where their horses are killed and they are forced to retreat back to Sauron.
He defeated the Witch-King previously as well. He commanded Rivendell's forces in the Battle of Fornost and drove the Witch-King away where he didn't trouble Middle-Earth for another 1000 years.
Hyper Competent Sidekick: Dialog states that he was possibly the most powerful elf in Rivendell at the time the fellowship was there. Elrond implies that for the Fellowship's mission of stealth, his degree of power would have been a case of Cursed with Awesome: too obvious to avoid attention from Sauron and not powerful enough to overcome him.
You Shall Not Pass: When the refugees of Gondolin were escaping, he barred the way to the group of orcs and the Balrog that were chasing them. He killed most of the orcs and killed the Balrog as well, at the cost of his own life.
The leader of a band of wandering Elves of Eriador.
Big Damn Heroes: The probably calmest example of this trope who have ever run across happens when Gildor and his companions save Frodo and the other Hobbits from a Ringwraith simply by wandering by and and singing.
Forest Ranger: He and his companions have the trappings of Woodelves; they know the secret paths of the forest, have contact with nature spirits like Tom Bombadil and seemingly transform a clearing into something like a hall for feastin g by their mere presence. However, they are in fact Noldor(or at least Gildor is)
Magic Music: Uses Elven song and the invoking of the Name of what amounts to the Patron Saint of the Elves to chase away a Ringwraith. This is not surprising considering his possible lineage (see below.)
Multiple-Choice Past: Introduces himself as "Gildor Inglorion of the House of Finrod", which depending on where in Tolkien's notes you look could make him the son of the legendary King of Nargothrond and brother to Galadriel and/or Gil-Galad or Galadriel's (great-)nephew, or the son of a servant of the King of Nargothrond. Cue much fan speculation and fan fiction concerned with his identity.
Mysterious Informant: In the typical elvish way he seems to have knowledge about what is going on in the Shire, despite never being seen. He also spreads information about Frodo's journey as far as Rivendell and Tom Bombadil.
Our Elves Are Better: Serves as a new reader's first introduction to the charm, magic and wistfulness of Tolkien's Elves.
Time Abyss: A standard trope with Elves in the Lord of the Rings, but Gildor spells it out to Fordo and the other Hobbits when he reminds them "But it is not your own Shire, others dwelt here before hobbits were; and others will dwell here again when hobbits are no more."
The Endis Nigh: Continues the above quote with: "The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out.” thus somewhat foreshadowing Saruman's takeover of the Shire. It could also be a read as a simple warning, but Tolkinian Elves often have a knack for prophecy.
Wacky Wayside Tribe: One of many in this early part of the story. The Hobbits spend an evening with Gildor and his Elves and never see them again until the end of the story, though they are mentioned a couple of times.
The main character of The Hobbit, who inadvertently sets The Lord of the Rings in motion with his discovery of the Ring. Frodo's "uncle" (really his older cousin) and father-figure, Bilbo's 111th (and Frodo's 33rd) birthday opens the story; Bilbo, feeling the Ring's effects on him, leaves the Ring to Frodo and sets out on his last adventure. Years later, Frodo meets Bilbo again in Rivendell, where he has retired.See The Hobbit character sheet for tropes that apply to him in that work.
Cool Old Guy: He's 110 years old at the beginning of Fellowship, and fond of entertaining young hobbits with tales of his adventures and giving out gold as a party favor.
Decoy Protagonist: Going solely by the first chapter, one could easily assume that Bilbo was the central character, until the focus shifts to Frodo in the second.
Eccentric Mentor: He is this to his nephew Frodo, much to the despair of the majority of the respectable hobbits of the Shire.
Gentleman Adventurer: In contrast to his attitude in The Hobbit. He's a scion of the upper-class Took family, and by the time he retires from "adventures" he's had several.
Hidden Depths: During Frodo’s first meeting with Aragorn, Frodo receives a letter from Gandalf that mentions Aragorn and contains a few lines from a poem. (Aragorn’s referring to this poem, without seeing the letter, is a strong hint that he really is who he says he is.) Later, during the Council of Elrond, Bilbo reveals to Frodo (and the reader) that he wrote the poem — about Aragorn.
Older Than They Look: At the beginning of the story, he is 110 years old but looks only 50 due to the Ring's influence. After he gives up the Ring, age begins to rapidly catch up to him, until he looks his age (131) at the end.
Shrouded in Myth: After he came back from his journey to Erebor (and more so after vanishing from his birthday party), hobbits started telling tales of "Mad Baggins" who would "vanish with a bang and a flash and reappear with bags of jewels and gold."
This Is Your Brain on Evil: Due to the Ring's influence he became Gollum-like in his mannerisms, as pointed out by Gandalf. No, he has not begun to look Gollum-like just yet ( well, if you've read the books, he thankfully never does reach that stage), but his hunger and his growing obsession over the Ring is certainly a stepping stone towards reaching the Gollum stage. When he sees the One Ring in Frodo's possession in Rivendell, he briefly falls under its power again, causing Frodo to perceive him as “a little wrinkled creature with a hungry face and bony groping hands.” However, Bilbo quickly comes to his senses again, and he immediately apologizes and requests that Frodo never show him the Ring again.
The Power of Friendship: Gandalf's friendship and concern is what ultimately helps him give up the Ring of his own free will.
Uncle Pennybags: His share of the treasure from The Hobbit (as well as coming from a wealthy family) kept him very well-off for the rest of his life, and he was very generous toward poorer hobbits.
A seemingly minor character from The Hobbit who played a key role in the series. Sméagol, once a member of a clan of Stoor Hobbits that lived alongside the Anduin river, was fishing with his cousin Déagol when they encountered the One Ring. They both immediately coveted it and Sméagol murdered Déagol for it. Eventually banished, he retreated for over 600 years deep into the mountains and became a degenerate creature named Gollum (after a throat noise he makes), feared by the goblins and driven insane due to solitude and the Ring's influence over him. The Ring, having a mind of its own, slipped from Gollum's fingers intending to be found by a goblin, but it was instead found by Bilbo, who used it to confound Sméagol and escape his current danger. When Bilbo had the chance to strike down Gollum, he pitied him and let him live.In the time since then, Gollum has been hunting for the Ring, travelling to his old home on the Anduin and then to Mordor, where he was captured and personally interrogated by Sauron himself, who released him. Gollum eventually catches up with the Fellowship in Moria, stalking them until Frodo left most of his companions behind. At this point, Gollum attempts to reacquire the Ring, but failing and being taken prisoner, he serves as a guide for Frodo and Sam, earning the fleeting hope of redemption before ultimately betraying his new masters. He nevertheless plays a key role in the completion of the quest.
Accidental Hero: Stealing the One Ring from Frodo was for his own selfishness and corruption, but then he slipped and fell into the lava, fulfilling the Quest that Frodo could not.
Word of God, however, states that Gollum was a rather nasty character even before he fell under the influence of the Ring: "Gollum was pitiable but ended in persistent wickedness. His last act worked good but of no credit to him... The Ring was too strong for Sméagol but he would never have had to endure it if he had not already been a mean sort of thief. His dawning love for Frodo was too easily withered by jealousy of Sam before Shelob's lair and he was lost."
Ascended Extra: In the first edition of The Hobbit, he was a pretty unimportant side-character. Then Tolkien realized that Ring was much more than it seemed, and his role expanded hugely.
Cain and Abel: Murders his friend Déagol to steal the Ring from him.
invokedCargo Ship: Canon in-universe with the One Ring. Though seeing as how the Ring is the ultimate corrupter and Really Gets Around, it's not really his fault.
Can't Live Without You: Without the One Ring, Gollum's five-ish centuries of existence would catch up to him and he'd age into dust.
Day Hurts Dark-Adjusted Eyes: He got that way thanks to living for centuries underground (probably exacerbated by the Ring to give him glowing eyes). And apparently can't adjust back.
The Determinator: Drawn irresistably to the Ring, he follows Frodo from Moria to the Cracks of Doom. He will climb up and down cliffs (head first!), wade through the Dead Marshes, whatever it takes to get the thing back.
Taken Up to Eleven by Gandalf’s exposition, Unfinished Tales, and a bit of Fridge Logic. Gollum has racked up an incredibletravel log: sneaked through Mirkwood and back without getting caught by the Wood-elves? Check. Tracked Bilbo to Esgaroth (Lake-town), and then to Dale (at the feet of the Lonely Mountain)? Check. Discovered a way through the supposedly impassable Dead Marshes? Check. Went to Mordor and discovered the secret stairs to Cirith Ungol? Check (although that didn’t go so well for him). Entered Moria through the East-gate, managed to survive the Orcs infesting the eastern area, and somehow made it all the way through to the West-gate? Yup, check that too.
Ironically, his escapades come to a complete halt when he can’t figure out how to open the West-gate of Moria (although, given that this is the same gate that defeated Sauron himself millennia before, this is more a testament to the badassery of the gate than anything else). In fact, he’s said to be starving, as all the food (along with all of the aforementioned Orcs) is in east Moria — and then a certain Fellowship comes blundering in…
Eats Babies: In Fellowship he's accused of this during his period of wandering between leaving Mordor and following Frodo. Don't put it past him.
The Exile: Was cast out of his community for his trickery and murdering his cousin.
Hidden Depths: Arguably, all Hobbits possess (to some extent) an extraordinary resilience to the evil of the Ring, but it’s particularly notable in Gollum: Gandalf notes that, even after 500 years of mental enslavement, Gollum still controls a tiny portion of his mind. Unfinished Tales takes it Up to Eleven by revealing that, while personally torturing Gollum, Sauron himself noticed this trait.
Man Bites Man: Chomps off Frodo's finger to get the One Ring back.
I'm a Humanitarian: Intended to eat Bilbo if he won (and even if he lost) the riddle game in The Hobbit.
Split Personality: Less so than in the movie, where the Sméagol/Gollum schism is greatly played up, but still present. Sam even names the “duo” Slinker and Stinker.
Sympathetic Murderer: He murdered his best friend, but only because of the Ring. Its corrupting effect on him was terribly swift, but maybe after five hundred years corrupting nothing more than fish, it seized hard on the first two people it found.
Sympathy for the Devil: Everyone who says that it would have been better to kill him from the start ends up sparing his life when it's in their hands.
Torture Always Works: When Sauron realized the "Precious" Gollum was talking about was the One Ring, he interrogated Sméagol personally, learning of the existence of Hobbits and the Shire in the process.
Subverted in Unfinished Tales: Gollum doesn’t know where the Shire is, but he pretends that it’s near the Gladden Fields where he grew up, causing Sauron to send the Nazgûl on a wild Baggins chase.
Tragic Villain: For all that he started out as a murderer, it was the Ring that made him the horrible person he became, while mentally torturing him and destroying his identity. His near-repentence in The Two Towers is particularly tragic.
Wall Crawl: He climbs head-first down a sheer cliff face, though exactly how isn't addressed.
Was Once a Man: Smeagol was once a Hobbit before the One Ring corrupted him.
Who Wants to Live Forever?: Although there are manyTime Abyss characters who are older than Sméagol, he's not meant to be immortal. Though his relentless addiction drives him onward, there are signs that the 'real' Sméagol is weary beyond imagination.
Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: After centuries of misery and torment, he nearly destroys the quest (dooming Middle Earth to tyranny) because of a Heel Face Door Slam. Ironically, Frodoknowingly claims the ring after suffering months of psychological torment because of it. Fortunately, the quest would have failed without his attempt to prevent it. Bilbo, Frodo, and Sam taking pity on Gollum was necessary for the Ring's destruction; and expressly choosing not to attack and kill him on four separate occasions, even on the slopes of Mount Doom...
Frodo: But do you remember Gandalf's words: "Even Gollum may have something yet to do?" But for him, Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring. The Quest would have been in vain, even at the bitter end. So let us forgive him! For the Quest is achieved and now all is over. I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.
A strange... person who lives in the Old Forest just outside the Shire. Tom is the forest's "Master" and nothing can harm him within its borders. His nature is a mystery — he was old even when the first Elves entered his part of the world. He lives in a little house with his wife, the river-spirit Goldberry. Tom was the first person the hobbits met after leaving the Shire and he provided them safe passage along the early part of their journey. He also gave them their swords after he rescued them in the Barrow-downs. He refuses to get involved in the War of the Ring and sits the whole thing out.Tom was originally Tolkien's doll, and later became the star of a humorous poem Tolkien wrote in 1934 that had no connection to Middle-Earth. He only appeared in The Lord of the Rings as a sort of guest-star. He later got his own spinoff in 1962, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, a book of poems presented as in-universe poems from the Shire.
Ambiguously Human: He looks sort of like a Man, and sort of like a Dwarf. Whatever he is, he isn't either of those.
Arcadian Interlude: The time the hobbits spend with him is a light-hearted happy sequence full of singing and eating in his idyllic patch of country.
Call On Me: He instructs the Hobbits to call upon him with a silly rhyme if they need his help, which they most definitely do when confronted by the Barrow-Wights. He shows up almost immediately to save them.
The Cameo: As mentioned above, Tom's presence in the book is a nod to one of Tolkien's older poems.
Great Gazoo: A silly, oddly-dressed fellow who goes around singing nonsense...who can cow Old Man Willow and barrow-wights just by said singing, and can put on The One Ring as if it was just any piece of jewelry. Even Gandalf speculates that, were Sauron to triumph over the forces of good, Bombadil's territory would be the last place to fall.
I Have Many Names: "Tom Bombadil" is just what the Hobbits and the Men of Bree call him. He has many other names, including Iarwain Ben-Adar ("Oldest and Fatherless") to the Elves, Orald ("very ancient") to the Northmen, and Forn to the Dwarves. If he has a real name that he calls himself, we never get to see it.
Incorruptible Pure Pureness: More like Incorruptible Pure Neutrality. The Ring has no power over him — possibly because he has no ambition to speak of, even less than the Hobbits.
Just Eat Gilligan: Subverted. Someone does suggest giving the Ring to Bombadil since it has no effect on him whatsoever, but Gandalf shoots him down because Tom would probably lose the damn thing specifically because it's no big deal to him. (Also, even Tom's power couldn't keep out the entire host of Mordor indefinitely once Sauron learned its location.)
Wacky Wayside Tribe: The time with Bombadil is an interesting and amusing interlude, and the possibility of leaving the Ring with him is discussed later at the Council of Elrond, but it doesn't really contribute much to the story besides world-building and giving the hobbits barrow-blades, and the tone is much lighter than the rest of the narrative.
Radagast the Brown
The third wizard mentioned in The Lord of the Rings, though he only appears second-hand, through Gandalf's account. Radagast is of the same order as Gandalf and Saruman, though he has mostly retreated from the world of Men and Elves to look after the birds and beasts of Middle-Earth. He lives in Mirkwood, in a dwelling called Rhosgobel. Saruman uses him as an unwitting dupe to lure Gandalf to Isengard, but Radagast also unwittingly rescues him by sending an eagle to report news to Saruman.
What Happened to the Mouse?: The last we hear of him was that he wasn't at home. Tolkien's answer seems to be that he went native among the flora and fauna and neglected the affairs of the Free People, but changed his mind over whether this was a failure of his missionnote in the Istari mission to defeat Sauron or fulfillment of itnote Yavanna picked him specifically to guard the wildlife.
An old Ent, and master (and namesake) of Fangorn Forest.
Badass Grandpa: One of the oldest living beings in Middle-earth, Treebeard is still more powerful than most of them.
Overly Long Name: His real name is the story of his life, according to him. Like most Ents, he is therefore Only Known By His Nickname. One of which is his Sindarin name, Fangorn. Yes, the whole forest is named after one guy.
Time Abyss: Perhaps the third-oldest physical creature (Maiar don't count) in Middle-Earth. Círdan, having awoken with the first generation of Elves at Cuivienen way back in the Years of the Trees, is older still, and Tom Bombadil is older than the world.
A Ranger of the North and kinsman of Aragorn. At the urging of Elrond, Halbarad leads the Grey Company, a squad of thirty Rangers (plus Elrond's sons, Elladan and Elrohir) to bring Aragorn the standard Arwen made for him and urges him to enter the Paths of the Dead. Halbarad becomes Aragorn's standard-bearer and follows Aragorn until the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, where he dies, never to see Eriador again.
Prophecy Twist: Upon arriving at the door to the Paths of the Dead, Halbarad declares that “[his] death lies beyond it.” While technically true (he does indeed die some time after entering the Paths), he survives the Paths of the Dead and seems to be doing perfectly fine until the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
We Hardly Knew Ye: He shows up for the first time shortly before the Paths of the Dead and dies on Pelennor Fields just a few chapters later.
The Forces of Evil
The eponymous Lord of the Rings. The lieutenant of Morgoth, the original Dark Lord, Sauron was responsible for much suffering of Elves and Men in the Elder Days. When Morgoth was banished, Sauron ultimately picked up in his place. His first gambit was to teach the Elves to craft magic rings (ultimately the three for the Elves, seven for the Dwarves, and nine for Men). He then crafted his own One Ring as an extension of his being through which he meant to dominate each race. However, the elves were on guard against this evil and the dwarves were too focused on material wealth. Sauron made his first bid through force but was routed and his body destroyed. However, his ring anchored him to our realm and would allow him to return.In the narrative, he is simply the Big Bad, an ominous evil presence that grows stronger as the heroes near his realm. If he reclaimed the One Ring, the doom of Middle-Earth would be swift and final. Even without it, he seems poised to win, leaving the destruction of his Ring as the only means of defeating him.See the character sheet for The Silmarillion for tropes that apply to him in that work.
Ambition Is Evil: He represents ambition, and his ambition lead to his corruption.
Authority Equals Asskicking: Actually something of a subversion in the original book. Sauron's greatest strengths were his strategic mind and his magical abilities. His physical strength is about average; he could just about hold his own against Elendil and Gil-Galad at the Siege of Barad-dûr. It's a common theme throughout all his appearances in Tolkien's works: Sauron will only engage in combat himself when all other options have been exhausted... and he will always lose.
Big Bad: The moving force behind nearly all evil in The Lord of the Rings.
Black Speech: Sauron at one time made an artificial language as a way to communicate across his empire and his allies earlier in the backstory. Thousands of years after being killed in the final battle of the Last Alliance and getting a new form, the Nazgûl, Olog-hai, and many Orcs still use it.
The Chessmaster: Used disguises and clever tactical planning to make the Elves create the Rings, and to later undermine Númenor until its downfall.
Cold-Blooded Torture: Inflicted on several unfortunates who have information he wants. Unlike Morgoth, it isn't made clear whether he also tortures people for fun in his spare time, but don't put it past him.
Dark Is Evil: Darkness is his big visual motif, as with Morgoth before him. Black are his flags, darkness is what he spreads from Mordor to shield his sun-phobic armies, and of course he's the Dark Lord.
Emperor Scientist: As Morgoth's servant he was engaged in many "scientific experiment", most notably, he had a heavy hand in the creation of orcs. And of course after Morgoth's downfall he created the Rings with the help of the elves.
One of the reasons the whole gambit to destroy the Ring works. Sauron believes that anyone who possesses the ring would use it for themselves, leaving them susceptible to its corruption. Only when it's too late does he realize that his enemies wish to destroy it. But...he turns out correct in the end, as nobody actually has the resolve to destroy it willingly. Instead, it gets undone as an unforeseen consequence of Bilbo and Frodo's act of pity, something else his evil could not comprehend.
More generally, Sauron in his fall utterly lost the ability to comprehend or empathise with anyone who wasn't as evil and selfish as him, and couldn't imagine any non-selfish motivation. He convinced Denethor that Gandalf wanted to take over Middle-Earth for himself because that's what Sauron genuinely believed.
Evil Genius: He's one of the smartest beings in Middle-Earth from the very beginning.
Gandalf: Let folly be our cloak, a veil before the eyes of the Enemy! For he is very wise, and weighs all things to a nicety in the scales of his malice.
Evil Is Burning Hot: Literally, as his physical form emanates enough heat to kill anyone just by touching. In general, he is associated with fire as well.
Evil Mentor: To Celebrimbor in Eregion, tricking him into forging the Rings of Power.
Evil Sorcerer: As the Necromancer, people mistakenly thought he was one of these.
Face-Heel Turn: Originally, Sauron was an angelic being and servant of Aulë, the godlike patron of craftsmen and maker of the physical aspect of the Earth; this is how he became such a master at creating items of power. However, he was corrupted by the first Dark Lord, Morgoth, with promises of power.
Fallen Angel: He once was a good Maia, though that was tens of thousands of years ago.
Faceless Eye: He appears as a great eye of fire in the minds of those who perceive him. Unlike in the Jackson movies, in the books this is not his actual physical form — which is hideous but humanoid, complete with a missing ring finger.
Fantastic Racism: Sauron has made destroying the Númenóreans one of his major goals.
Irony: As chancellor to Ar-Pharazôn, he was known as Tar-Mairon. In other words, the entity that was responsible for taking the corruption of Númenor to its logical conclusion rendered his name in Quenya, the language of the Faithful.
The Magnificent: Referred to as Sauron the Great by his followers. Also, before he turned evil, he was called Mairon ("Admirable").
Mind Rape: His specialty. "Thy flesh shall be devoured and thy shriveled mind left naked to the Lidless Eye." Brrrrr.
Motive Decay: Justified in-universe: his original motivation was to give order and peace to the world. As his evil grew, he lost sight of this goal - a desire for order became a desire to dominate everything, and a desire for peace became a lust for revenge against those who resisted him - the Eldar, the Numenoreans, and lastly the men of Gondor. His goal remains 'order' but his motivations change.
The Necromancer: It's one of his titles and the alias he used while recuperating at Dol Guldur, and his specialty as a Maia was in manipulating the connection between minds and physical bodies/objects. However, he does not seem to have the 'stereotypical' Necromancer's entourage of rotting animated corpses.
Not Quite Dead: Gandalf notes that, even with the destruction of the Ring, Sauron isn't actually dead as he is a Maia whose essence cannot truly perish. Instead, he's just reduced to an impotent "spirit of malice" that can never again grow or take form.
Obviously Evil: After the Downfall of Númenor, he can only take shape as something hideous that wears all his hate and corruption on the outside, where everybody can see it plainly.
Oh, Crap: Understandably, he freaks the hell out when he realizes that his ring is in the very place it can be destroyed.
Orcus on His Throne: He never engages anyone in physical battle after his previous defeat by the Last Alliance. Though this isn't to say that he's inactive. His Eye is always on the move, as are his servants, propelled by his malevolent will. Justified in that, while he is immensely powerful, physical strength is not his forte. If Sauron is personally coming out to fight, like he did at the end of the Second Age, it generally means he's on the brink of defeat and getting rather desperate.
Our Angels Are Different: Sauron, like the Wizards, is an angel in humanoid form. Unlike them, however, he possesses his full power and knowledge.
The Paranoiac: Both he and his master Morgoth fit this disorder, particularly as they got progressively weaker over the Ages and increasingly spiteful, envious, controlling, petty and grandiose as a direct result of that. Sauron especially, as by the end he simply wants to control absolutely everything and is completely enraged by any challenge to his authority.
It also causes Sauron to have a cautious streak, both personally and as a strategist. Like his master, he generally does not attack unless assured of success, and heavily hedges his bets; his assault on Minas Tirith, for instance, only involves a fraction of his forces, with the bulk remaining in Mordor. His defeat there causes Sauron to fall back and regroup, when a second assault would likely have conquered the city easily.
Playing with Fire: His Dark Lord form is described as looking very dark, like it is blackened from the immense heat of his body, and anybody who gets too close is burned by him.
Present Absence: Sauron is never present in a scene, and very few of the characters have actually been in his presence. His only lines are spoken to Pippin when he looks into the palantír, and we only know them because the incident actually happens off-page, with Pippin telling the rest of the characters about it after the fact.
Ultimate Blacksmith: Sauron is one of the most skilled craftsmen in all of existence, which is one reason the Ring is so incredibly hard to destroy. While there are smiths of similar or greater skill, most of them live in Valinor, outside the reach of Middle-Earth.
Ultimate Evil: In the book itself, he's a quintessential go-to example of Ultimate Evil. The fact that there's a Bigger Bad in the Back Story is therefore Up to Eleven. Then again, Tolkien states that Sauron at the height of his power was more powerful than Morgoth during the War of the Jewels when compared to their respective opposition. Interestingly enough, he's not motiveless Evil Incarnate: his Start of Darkness was motivated by a desire for order and control. This helps explain the reactions of Gandalf and Galadriel when Frodo offers them the ring.
The Unfought: Due to Present Absence. Sauron always sends his minions to do the fighting for him. This may be justified as he usually gets the worst of any fight he actually takes part in.
Unwitting Pawn: Marching most of his army up to the Black Gate was a trap and he walked right into it.
Voluntary Shapeshifting: Before his physical body was destroyed in the fall of Númenor. Even afterwards he's implied to still possess the ability, though he never really gets a chance to use it — he just can't conceal his evil nature any more, meaning it's no longer useful as a disguise.
Yes, the One Ring is a character: the one around whom everyone in the series bases their actions. Sauron made it, lost it, and wants it back. Gollum is addicted to its presence. The White Council want to destroy the Ring, Frodo volunteers, and the Fellowship of the Ring protect him on his quest. The thing is animated from afar by Sauron's will and malice, and seeks constantly to tempt its bearer to do evil and/or get itself back to Barad-dûr.
All Your Powers Combined: To the other Rings, though it doles out power based on its wielder's native abilities and strength of will.
Affectionate Nickname: It likes being called "precious", as evidenced by both Gollum and Bilbo calling it that.
Amplifier Artifact: It will increase the native power of whoever wields it, in proportion to what they had before. A mere Hobbit like Gollum or Frodo gets invisibility, a certain sharpness of hearing, and not much else, but somebody like Galadriel or Gandalf would be terrifyingly dangerous wielding it.
Invisibility Cloak: Wearing the Ring makes you invisible in the normal world, but you become visible in the Wraith-World, where you can be seen by Sauron and his Ringwraiths. Like the Nine Rings, this also has the effect of corroding non-immortal wielders until they fade from the world and become wraiths themselves - a process that Hobbits (and Dwarves, according to the Appendices) are partially resistant to.
Loyal Phlebotinum: To Sauron, and Sauron only. It allows its current bearer to access some powers, but only Sauron can make it work to its full strength. And if it is ever separated from its master, it does everything in its power to return. Nevertheless, according to Elrond at the Council of Elrond if one of the Wise, someone with great native power, were to wield the ring and use it to successfully overthrow Sauron, they would then set themselves on Sauron's throne and a new Dark Lord or Queen would appear; the implication here is that the Ring's loyalty would also change to the new Dark Lord or Queen, but they would be thoroughly corrupted and end up just as bad as Sauron, or even worse, because unlike Sauron previously they would have the Ring in their possession and could wield it at will. Because of this, it's dangerous even to the Wise as Elrond said.
Lust Object: Once you've had it, you will lust after it forever.
Nigh-Invulnerability: It can only be destroyed in the same furnace where it was made — the volcanic depths of Orodruin.
Soul Jar: The better part of Sauron's power is sealed in it.
This Is Your Brain on Evil: A very good person who has possession of the Ring will gradually succumb to restless paranoia. An evil person will grow much worse.
Unholy Holy Sword: In The Hobbit, it's a seemingly innocuous magic ring Bilbo finds that makes him invisible and proves to be useful on his journey. Imagine the surprise when it's revealed later that it's the Dark Lord's Soul Jar.
The leader of the Wizards and the White Council, Saruman the White possessed great knowledge and skill at crafting, but was proud and haughty. He dwelt in the tower of Orthanc at Isengard. Saruman was originally a steadfast enemy of Sauron, but in time came to envy Sauron and began searching for the One Ring. At first he steered the White Council away from opposing Sauron, hoping that the Dark Lord's rise would bring the Ring back into the open, but Sauron ensnared him through his use of the Seeing-stone of Orthanc and Saruman became his servant. Saruman raised an army of Orcs and subverted the land of Rohan through his minion Wormtongue, but still searched for the Ring in hopes of betraying Sauron and claiming his power.Saruman was the foremost of the Wizards, but his greatest power was not magic, but his sheer charisma and compelling voice. With these he subverted the White Council and brought Rohan to its knees.
All Your Colors Combined: He tries to claim the name 'Saruman of the Many Colors.' Subverted when Gandalf points out that this is in fact inferior to being 'Saruman the White,' since multiple colors are what come of white light being broken.
The Archmage: Chief of the Istari and head of the Council of the Wise.
Big Bad Wannabe: He wants to replace Sauron as the Dark Lord of Middle-Earth.
Break the Haughty: The ruin of Isengard by the Ents, people he had completely written off. And then getting a big Shut Up, Hannibal! from Theoden King, and then having Gandalf command him and break his staff. And, finally, to be killed by Wormtongue. He brings all of it on himself.
Compelling Voice: Even when you bring an army to his ruined doorstep after his thorough defeat, he can make you doubt your self-worth.
Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: After Frodo spares him following his overthrow at the Shire, Saruman assumes that Frodo did it to force him to live knowing that he's only alive because of his enemy's mercy. This is despite Frodo stating, while standing right next to Saruman, that he (Frodo) would rather not have a Maia killed, even a fallen one.
Evil Counterpart: To Gandalf. He even says that he is what Saruman should have been.
Evil Is Petty: When he takes over the Shire, he orders trees cut down and rivers despoiled solely to spite Frodo and company.
Evil Old Folks: Like the other Istari, he has the appearance of an elderly man.
In his speech to the Council of Elrond, Gandalf reveals that Saruman provided the weapons and/or strategy that evicted Sauron from Dol Guldur (an incident that is briefly alluded to in The Hobbit). In fact, Gandalf initially went to Isengard hoping that Saruman had discovered an anti-Nazgûl contingency.
He intends to bring about a one-man industrial revolution to Middle-earth, and he fills the caverns under his tower with gears, pulleys, cogs, and flamethrowers. Treebeard notes that “he has a mind of metal and wheels,” and the narration strongly disapproves of these “improvements.”
Green-Eyed Monster: He's jealous of Gandalf, and has been secretly having agents follow him, and imitating him — smoking pipe-weed, for instance. Unfinished Tales reveals that he's been jealous of Gandalf at least since they set sail from Valinor for Middle-Earth, probably even before that.
In Unfinished Tales, he realizes he's in over his head with Sauron and considers asking Gandalf to let him rejoin the good guys. Unfortunately, this comes right after Gandalf escapes Isengard and Saruman's fury at being beaten like that drives the thought of redemption from his mind.
I Want Them Alive: And as captured, with no spoiling, to make sure that they still have the item of great value that he wants.
Karmic Death: He was killed by Gríma, who he had constantly berated and abused.
Not So Different: Upon Gandalf’s return as Gandalf the White, he informs Gimli and co. that he is Saruman — or, rather, Saruman as he should have been. Unfinished Tales reveals that, even while publicly denouncing Gandalf’s idiosyncrasies (most notably pipe-weed smoking), Saruman secretly picked up several of them in imitation of him — thus, in this case, he wasn’t so different from Gandalf.
Treacherous Advisor: To Théoden, usually via Wormtongue but also directly. His goal is to weaken Rohan so he can conquer it.
Unwitting Pawn: Sauron knew all along that Saruman wanted the One Ring for himself and would betray him.
Villain Decay: While he's still a threat to the characters by the Scouring, this is mainly because they are a lot weaker than his former enemies. Overall, he goes from a wizarding lord of an ancient fortress with an army strong enough to almost conquer one of Middle Earth's more warlike kingdoms to bullying around a group of hobbits — and, even then, his hold on the Shire falls apart rather quickly.
The nine Nazgûl were kings of Men to whom Sauron gave nine Rings of Power in the Second Age. Seduced by power, they fell into evil, and eventually passed into a state of undeath. The Nazgûl, or Ringwraiths, are extensions of Sauron's will who exist only to do his bidding. They are his most terrible servants, and the greatest among them — known variously as the Black Captain, the Lord of the Nazgûl, and many other names rules Minas Morgul as the Dark Lord's right hand.Roughly two-thousand years before the War of the Ring, when Sauron was in hiding, the Lord of the Nazgûl was sent into the north to found the kingdom of Angmar under the identity of the Witch-king. There, he undermined and ultimately destroyed the North-kingdom of Arnor in a series of wars. At that time, it was foretold that no man could slay him. When Sauron declared himself openly, the Witch-king returned to Mordor, conquered Minas Ithil, and slew the last king of Gondor. When the War of the Ring began, he led the hunt for Frodo and the Ring, going so far as to corner him on Weathertop and stab him near-fatally with a Morgul-blade.
Badass Boast: Delivers one to Gandalf during their standoff at the ruined gate of Minas Tirith, and backs it up with a Flaming Sword as well. However, the Rohirrim arrive before he can follow through on it.
Old fool! This is my hour. Do you not know Death when you see it? Die now and curse in vain!
Black Cloak: Like the other Nazgûl, he wears one while passing himself off as a "rider in black." Apparently this is their idea of looking more normal: Gandalf claims that they use the garments to "give shape to their shapelessness."
Carry a Big Stick: Wields a mace against Éowyn in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. The movie changes it to a truly epicflail.
The Determinator: Unfinished Tales mentions that the Nazgûl are weakened and distracted by sunlight and dislike crossing running water, to the point that Sauron launched an attack on Osgiliath to get them across the Anduin. The Witch King, however, is largely unfazed by both of these and can even keep his fellows from succumbing to them.
The Dragon: Sauron's right hand man, and greatest servant.
Dragon Ascendant: After Sauron fell, the Witch-king basically became the interim Dark Lord and launched a brutal (and centuries-long) campaign against the northern kingdom of Arnor that played such a large part in Sauron's downfall. Afterwards, he gathered the other Nazgûl, captured the city of Minas Ithil (along with its palantír), ended the line of Gondor’s kings, and participated in the rebuilding of Mordor in preparation for Sauron’s return.
The Dreaded: The Nazgûl all have the ability to inspire terror in others, particularly with their voices, and the Witch-king was particularly good at it. Even Saruman was terrified of him, as revealed in one of Tolkien's drafts.
Hero Killer: He killed Théoden, as well as Eärnur, the last king of Gondor before Aragorn. On that note, he also destroyed the kingdom of Arnor and conquered Minas Ithil, both of which made the War of the Ring much more difficult.
Implacable Man: He and the other Nazgûl can't be truly killed while the One Ring exists.
Mysterious Past: His past was never fully revealed. We only get hints of who he used to be. Which is a lot more than we get of his lieutenant, Khamûl the Black Easterling, and the rest of the Nazgûl.
The Nameless: he doesn't have an actual name, since he's not truly a person anymore, just an undead finger-puppet of Sauron's mind. Instead he's called Witch-king of Angmar (his alias, used only in the Appendix but remembered by everyone because of how cool it sounds), Lord of the Nazgûl, High Nazgûl, Black Captain, Captain of Despair, Morgul-lord, etc.
The Necrocracy: Founded two, the country of Angmar and the city of Minas Morgul.
Poisoned Weapons: Stabs Frodo with a Morgul blade, which would have turned him into a lesser wraith if it killed him.
Prophecy Twist: When you're prophesied to be killed by "no man," it's generally a good idea to notice that the world is full of people who aren't men.
The Undead: Wraiths are the remains of humans who have been forced to remain in Middle-Earth long, long past their time, past Age Without Youth, to the point that their bodies don't really exist anymore. They're kept "alive" (and indeed, impossible to permanently destroy) by the One Ring, via their Nine Rings. And their existences are apparently perpetual agony.
Weakened by the Light: Gandalf drives him away (and even keeps him away again later) by shooting a bright white light into his face.
Weaksauce Weakness: As with the other Ringwraiths, sunlight reduces his 'vision' and the scope of his powers; fire can frighten and injure (but not destroy) him.
Was Once a Man: He used to be human, before his ring twisted him into an undead wraith and wiped out his free will.
The Mouth of Sauron
The Lieutenant of Barad-dûr, an evil Man of the same high race as Aragorn who serves as Sauron's herald. The Mouth meets the forces of Rohan and Gondor before the final battle of the War of the Ring and tries to convince the remaining Fellowship that Frodo is dead.
Ass in Ambassador: He spends the entire "negotiation" insulting Aragorn and Gandalf, implying the torture of Frodo, and demanding that all of the West immediately surrender to Sauron.
Cold-Blooded Torture: From his dialogue, one gets the impression that he's the one in charge of actually doing this to people who have offended Sauron in some manner.
Wizards Live Longer: He's really old, old enough to have completely forgotten his original name. Whether his own Black Arts or Sauron's are responsible, he's way past his time.
A monstrous demonic thing in spider shape, the mother of the Spiders of Mirkwood featured in The Hobbit, and the last surviving offspring of Ungoliant from The Silmarillion, who spins her deadly webs in a dark cave in the mountains of Mordor. Shelob is Sauron's "cat" — he doesn't control her, but lets her prey on would-be intruders (and many unlucky Orcs). Gollum leads Frodo and Sam into her lair.
Achilles' Heel: Subverted. Her underside is just as tough as the rest of her body. The book emphasizes that unlike dragons, Shelob has no weak spots save for her eyes. Sam is only able to pierce her skin and tissue because she unwittingly slams on his blade with her own, massive strength.
Casting a Shadow: Like her mother, she weaves webs of darkness that, while not as powerful as her mother's Unlight, are perceptible to the Hobbits, as well as the other creatures that intrude upon her lair.
Dragon with an Agenda: Sauron treats her as his pet. Shelob doesn't care. He actually compares her to a pet cat, as she was a pet that rejected his authority.
Eye Scream: Sam stabs her in one eye with Sting during their fight, and then blinded her other eyes with the Phial of Galadriel.
Giant Spider: Really just a spider-like monster, described to have pincers in her feet and great insect-like eyes, among other taxonomical oddities.
Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Of the "pureevil" variety. She was stated to be immune to the ring's temptations because power holds no interest for something that just wants to eat everything. And similar to what happened between Sauron's boss and Shelob's mom, the spider's spirit is so purely evil that Sauron has no control over her whatsoever. Doesn't stop him from amusingly considering Shelob as some sort of pet, though.
Meaningful Name: "Lob" is an archaic English word for "spider." She's female. "She-Lob."
Time Abyss: Although not to the same extent as her mother, Ungoliant, Shelob is still very ancient. She was born (spawned?) in the First Age, and came to Mordor before even Sauron did. Thus, she would be nearly seven thousand years old at the time of the War of the Ring.
The Voiceless: The fact that she was able to work out a deal with Gollum implies she can speak, but she never does during her appearance in the text. Or just that she understands speech, and relented her attack when Gollum begged for his life and promised to bring her tasty things to eat.
Her mother Ungoliant in The Silmarillion could talk, as could her descendants in The Hobbit. All told, Shelob herself being able to talk seems pretty likely — she probably just didn't have anything to say to 'food'.
An ancient and terrible demon who fled deep underground after the Wars of Beleriand in the First Age, the unnamed Balrog was awakened from its torpor in the Third Age when the dwarves of Moria Dug Too Deep for mithril. The monster killed the dwarves' king and drove them out of their halls into exile. Centuries later, the Balrog, now known as Durin's Bane, was encountered by the Fellowship as they traveled through Moria. Gandalf held off the Balrog on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm.
Casting a Shadow: Though it is a fire-demon at its core, it's surrounded by a vast and terrifying shadow that it can stretch out around it "like wings." When its flames are temporarily extinguished, it becomes a creature of pure darkness.
The Dreaded: Overawes the fellowship with its mere appearance. Even Legolas, who casually regards an army of ghosts as harmless, runs away yelling in terror. Gandalf can't bring himself to say the word Balrog after their encounter.
Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Presumably this particular Balrog has a name, but he's not on a first-name basis with anybody in the story. He's known merely by his (sub)species or by the nickname the Dwarves gave him.
Fallen Angel: The Silmarillion and assorted other backstory reveal that the Balrog is just one of a race of formerly-angelic creatures that made the Ringwraiths look like pansies. The Balrogath are Maiar, of the same lesser angelic order as Sauron, the five Wizards, and Dragons.
Hero Killer: He's not called Durin's note Durin was a name handed down among the dwarf-kings, and Durin VI was ruler of Moria when the Balrog woke up. Bane for nothing. Since Gandalf died killing him, he's also responsible for his death as well.
Knight of Cerebus: The story was already serious, but he upped the ante and paved the way for the Fellowship's breaking by bringing down Gandalf. (Of course, Gandalf got better.) It also introduced the epic one-on-one fights that would occur later in the story.
Large And In Charge: Much larger than the orcs and trolls in Moria, and they seem to be almost as afraid of him as the Fellowship is.
Last of His Kind: Possibly. He's the only known Balrog to have survived the First Age, but it is possible that more of them did.
Playing with Fire: The flames are hidden, but he (it?) is still a fire-demon who wields a flaming weapon.
Rasputinian Death: Falls down a deep pit along with Gandalf, as they try to stab one another as they plummet down to the bottom. Once they land, they are immediately submerged, carried down the stream presumably, race through natural caverns, and climb the Endless Stair to the peak of Celebdil, where they fought until Gandalf manages to pierce its heart, causing it to fall down to its death.
The Remnant: He, like the other Balrogs, was a servant of Melkor, the first Dark Lord, until the latter was captured by the Valar at the end of the First Age. This Balrog was one of the few that survived the War of Wrath, and he becomes the de facto ruler and deity of Moria's population of Orcs and Trolls, which are also (at least partially) derived from Melkor's defunct armies.
Wacky Wayside Tribe: Though he is unquestionably a terrible threat, the Balrog has nothing to do with Sauron (aside from the two of them serving the same master thousands of years previously). The Fellowship could have avoided him entirely if not for being forced to enter Moria... with Peregrin Took.