Exploring Tauriel, Legolas, and Kili by John Evans
What is the significance of their romantic entanglements? How important is their story to the great epic that is Middle earth?
Love is a very enigmatic and mysterious topic for Tolkien readers. Love of kin and country are featured heavily throughout his prose and poetry. Love between High-born Elves is referred to in The Silmarillion from time to time. The tales of Beren and Luthien as well as those of Tuor and Idril recount relationships between elves and mortal men that would later influence the story of Aragorn and Arwin. But Tolkien never envisioned a relationship between an Elf woman and a Dwarf. There is no doubt in mind the mere mention of that prospect would have enraged Tolkien to no end! Therefore, is it any surprise that many fans strongly opposed Tauriel and Kili’s implied attraction? Such sentiments are more than understandable. The Lord of the Rings film trilogy never made any deviations so obtuse and unexpected. But what many avid Tolkien fans are forgetting is the context in which Tauriel was created and the powerful perspective she lends to Middle Earth. There is more to this Elf woman than meets the eye. She is not simply a “strong female lead”, she is also a critical voice in a world set upon the brink of war.
In the published Hobbit, readers encounter a variety of strange creatures. The opening sentence of the book introduces readers to the Hobbits. Within the first few chapters one is bombarded with a sea of names and places that comprise the social landscape of Middle Earth. We meet the Goblins and the Trolls in a blinding flash of episodic adventures that all add up to a deafening climax of dragon-fire and battle. But perhaps one of the most enigmatic peoples presented in the book are the Elves. Unlike the fairies of popular legend, Thranduil’s folk are no laughing matter. They might sing as beautifully as Elrond’s folk and love the land itself, but they are far less wise and even hinder our hero’s journey. Thranduil is never referred to by name once in the book. His son Legolas was not yet invented at the time of The Hobbit’s publication. Everything was left up to the reader’s imagination. Everybody had to fill in the missing gaps and focus on the appendices to uncover how Tolkien might have expanded his world. But books do not operate like movies by any stretch.
A single glance or muffled word on camera can shape an audiences opinion of a hero or a villain. Jackson had to make the Elves of Mirkwood worth watching, and the best way to do this was to create a new love story. Love always sells, and Tauriel would become the adaptation’s greatest asset. While Thranduil represents exclusion, Tauriel stands for inclusion. Where Thranduil would see the rest of the world drown in fire and blood so long as his people were safe, Tauriel would gladly leap into battle to assist others. She didn’t have to save Kili. She didn’t have to oppose her king’s isolationist policies. In the end, everything she says and does is for love of Middle Earth, and that’s what matters most. Arwin never confronted her father regarding the foreign policy of Imladris. According to the published histories of Arda, the Elves simply do nothing while the enemy grows in the East until the White Council casts the dark lord from his abode. Nobody seems to raise any questions, and the entire problem is cast to the side as though it is merely a troubling inconvenience. With Dol Guldor so close one would think that Thranduil and Galadriel might have done something much sooner. Tauriel’s willingness to oppose her King’s isolationist tendencies make this literary grey-spot less obscure. If a director wishes to divide a single book into three distinct films, such creative license becomes more than essential, it becomes necessary.
Tauriel’s attraction to Kili must be understood within this context. Here a rebel Elf meets a free-thinking Dwarf. If Tauriel is willing to break social-conventions by defying her King, Kili is certainly no less different from the mold. Apart from being a relatively tall Dwarf, he states to Tauriel that his Mother thinks he is naturally reckless. He obviously is daring enough to join Thorin on his quest. Any soul willing to take his chances in the wilderness and potentially confront a fire-breathing dragon has guts! Therefore is it any wonder that there would be any chemistry between him and this fascinating Elf woman? Their lives mirror each other perfectly. Another key note to mention is the manner in which their relationship grows. Unlike the majority of Tolkien’s published love-stories in which the hero and heroine fall instantly for one another, Tauriel and Kili’s feelings develop naturally. There is no sudden burst of passion, only a gradual sense of mutual respect that kindles into something more. By the end of the movie, the audience is unsure how their attraction will resolve itself or what side Kili will take in the tensions leading up to The Battle of Five Armies. Will he follow his heart and side with Tauriel or join his King beneath the mountain in their senseless grudge against the Elves? We can only watch and wait.
But it seems to me that their interactions may hint at a larger symbolic significance. Beren and Luthien helped end the mistrust that stood between Elves and Men. Perhaps Kili’s feelings for Tauriel may heal the tensions between their peoples.
Legolas is a different story. Yes he has grown “very fond” of Tauriel, but what greater significance does his feelings hold? Legolas is clearly from a higher social rank than Tauriel. Both are obviously close colleagues and friends. Yet the audience knows little more and is left to wonder how much farther is Jackson willing to go to develop their story. From the minute fans heard The Hobbit was going to be adapted, I knew that Legolas would be in the movie and that he would probably be the one to apprehend the Dwarves after their battle with the spiders. The fact that Legolas would capture his future best-friend’s Father adds an extra twist of sweet irony. Yet it is impossible to say what kind of role he will play in the drama ahead. All that is certain is that much of what is speculated by fans around the world will be resolved as soon as the next and final installment of The Hobbit Trilogy is released.
I am sure I am not the only one waiting impatiently for that day. Until then we must abide the tantalizing mystery presented by Tauriel, Legolas, and Kili’s romantic entanglements.
What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments section!
John Evans is an avid student of Medieval Literature and the writings of J.R.R Tolkien. He is a member of Doctor Cory Olsen’s Silmarillion Seminar and has been a proud supporter of Legendarium and the Mythgard institute. Along with these interests, he is the founder of the folk rock band Wrecked Haven, an amateur political theorist, and life-long writer of prose and poetry.