Title: Of Ears and Beards, A Legolas/Gimli Slash Essay
Author: Jas Masson
Elves and dwarves. They just don't get along. Except for the UST. And the games. And the sailing into the sunset together...
Icon courtesy of __kali__
“This is a Strange Friendship” Treebeard, The Two Towers, Book Three, Chapter X
In Fair Middle Earth, where we set our scene, the enmity between Elves and Dwarves is legend. The Montagues and Capulets have nothing on them.
The origins of their dispute are lost in antiquity:
“It was not the fault of the Dwarves that the friendship waned,” said Gimli.
“I have not heard that it was the fault of the Elves,” said Legolas.
“I have heard both,” said Gandalf. (The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Chapter IV)
and this distrust and dislike between elves and dwarves is the setting in which our two protagonists meet. Legolas is a wood-elf of indeterminate (but old) age, and Gimli is a dwarf.
Not only is there general dislike between elves and dwarves, but there is personal history between the two families. Legolas’s father Thranduil treated Gimli’s father Gloin somewhat, ah, shabbily in The Hobbit.
Elves and dwarves are as disparate in appearance and temperament as it is possible to be. Elves are calm and graceful, dwarves aggressive and stout. Elves delight in forests and flora, dwarves in caves and rocks. Elves are tall and beautiful, dwarves are short and... not beautiful.
So there are a myriad of reasons why Legolas and Gimli should not be friends let alone soulmates; racial prejudice, family history, likes and dislikes, temperament and appearance. And yet they become the closest of companions. A quote in Entertainment Weekly (2004):
"As the Fellowship's most agile warrior, Bloom brings a stoic bravery to his elven bowman. And his thawing relationship with John Rhys-Davies' Gimli gives Arwen and Aragorn a run for Most Touching Couple." (Courtesy of yav_14 )
The relationship is there in spite of their differences and it is a beautifully slow and genuine relationship in both the pages of the book and the scenes of the film. If love can blossom, and it does, between these most unlikely two, then surely romance exists!
For this essay’s purposes I will use both the Jackson films and the books as canon. There is nothing in the movies that is contradictory to the books for this relationship, although it is expressed in a more contemporary manner. The one difference is the most superficial – Legolas of the books has dark hair, but I must confess that on this, Orlando Bloom and Peter Jackson have completely persuaded me!
2. Rocky Beginnings
“Never trust an Elf” (Gimli, The Fellowship of the Ring, Movie Version)
The start is less than promising. Open hostility in the movie and distrust in the books. The differences between them are plain to see, the enmity between elves and dwarves is stressed, particularly when entering Lothlorien, where the company are obliged to be blindfolded because of the Elves’ distrust of Gimli (The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Chapter VI). However, these differences, in actual fact do not last long.
Instead of hostility and distrust, the relationship moves more into a competition. A game of one-upmanship.
Gimli is pleased at the opportunity to show off Moria to Legolas:
“And now, Master Elf you will enjoy the fabled hospitality of the dwarves” (The Fellowship of the Ring, movie version)
In The Two Towers, in both film and book, they have a competition as to who can kill the most orcs, (won by Gimli), a competition continued in the films to The Return of the King.
Gimli is evidently sensitive to Legolas’s opinion. In The Two Towers, Aragorn ‘tosses’ Gimli into a hoard of orcs, but only after Gimli makes him promise, “Don’t tell the Elf.”
In the extended edition of Return of the King, they also indulge in that most primitive of masculine competitions, a drinking game (won by Legolas).
And yet, while the edge to their relationship is in evidence, so is the humor and respect.
3. Growing Respect
“You comfort me” (Gimli to Legolas, The Two Towers, Book Three, Chapter V and Legolas to Gimli, The Two Towers, Book Three, Chapter VII)
That the competition between them has no malice, and is rooted in affection, is clearly evident.
In The Two Towers movie, a fan favorite scene occurs at Helm’s Deep, while waiting for the battle, Gimli (a little on the short side) cannot see the approaching army, and Legolas asks:
”Shall I describe it to you... Or would you like me to find you a box?” (Legolas to Gimli, The Two Towers, Movie version)
Gimli laughs at this instead of taking offence. From The Two Towers onwards, there are many examples of their budding relationship.
They ride together where possible and comfort the other’s fears. They worry over the other’s well being and there are countless examples of where they consider themselves as one. They become LegolasandGimli:
“Where you go, I will go” (Gimli to Legolas, The Two Towers, Book Three, Chapter V)
“You speak for me, Gimli” (Legolas, The Two Towers, Book Three, Chapter VIII)
“I will gladly go with you, if Legolas, my comrade, may ride beside us.” (Gimli to Eomer, The Two Towers, Book Three, Chapter VI)
“Legolas and I...” (The Two Towers, Book Three, Chapter X)
In the extended version of Return of the King, Gimli nudges Legolas to shoot Saruman, and Legolas goes instantly to obey.
“I for one!” cried Legolas. “And Gimli with him!” said the dwarf. (The Return of the King, Book Five, Chapter II)
And in the same chapter Gimli is only persuaded into the Halls of the Dead because Legolas goes; because “An Elf will go underground when a dwarf dare not. Oh. I’d never hear the end of it.” (Movie version.)
Their concern and caring for each other is much in evidence:
“Where is Gimli?” (Legolas to Aragorn, at Helm’s Deep, The Two Towers, Book Three, Chapter VII)
“I would cut off your head, beard and all, Master Dwarf, if it stood but a little higher from the ground,” said Eomer.
“He stands not alone,” said Legolas, bending his bow and fitting an arrow with hands that moved quicker than sight. “You would die before your stroke fell.” (The Two Towers, Book Three, Chapter II and movie version)
And while their differences remain, they are prepared to overcome them for each other:
“[I] would pay pure gold for a brief glance [of the Glittering Caves]!” [said Gimli]
“And I would give gold to be excused,” said Legolas; “And double to be let out if I strayed in!”... “Let us make this bargain – if we both return safe out of the perils that await us, we will journey for a while together. You shall visit Fangorn with me, and then I will come with you to see Helm’s Deep.”
“That would not be the way of return that I should choose,” said Gimli. “But I will endure Fangorn, if I have your promise to come back to the caves and share their wonder with me.” (The Two Towers, Book Three, Chapter VIII).
This promise is fulfilled in The Return of the King, Book Six, Chapter VI. To be with each other they are prepared to put all other differences aside.
4. Eternal Love
“You must not go to the Havens, Legolas. There will always be some folk, big or little and even a few wise dwarves like Gimli, who need you.” (Merry to Legolas, The Return of the King, Book Five, Chapter IX)
The pact they make to visit Fangorn and Helm’s Deep together is only the start of their journey. Together they move South while Aragorn lives and then:
“[Gimli] was named Elf-friend because of the great love that grew between him and Legolas, son of King Thranduil, and because of his reverence for the Lady Galadriel...when King Elessar (Aragorn) gave up his life Legolas followed the last desire of his heart and sailed over the sea. We have heard tell that Legolas took Gimli Gloin’s son with him because of their great friendship, greater than any that has been between Elf and Dwarf.” (Appendix A, III Durin’s Folk)
Legolas and Gimli are the eternal couple. 122 years after the fall of Sauron they are still together and sail off to the Grey Havens, and theirs is chronologically the last action of the book (Appendix B).
LegolasandGimli are Tolkien’s OTP; so unlike in all the trivial, unimportant ways, and yet intrinsically and inescapably bound together in friendship and love.
So. You’ve seen just some of the canon evidence that LegolasandGimli are meant to be. But why slash them?
Well, a brief survey so L/G fans provokes a number of responses. I suppose, however, before this, I should deal with the visuals. This is no ‘ship where pictures of the characters will make your argument for you. They do look a little odd together as Tolkien admits:
Together the Elf and Dwarf entered Minas Tirith, and folk that saw them pass marvelled to see such companions; for Legolas was fair of face beyond the measure of men, and he sang an elven-song in a clear voice as he walked in the morning, but Gimli stalked behind him, stroking his beard and staring about him. (The Return of the King, Book Five, Chapter IX)
Some fans may have kinks for very physically different lovers. Some fans may enjoy the insecurity and angst opportunity such differences may cause, usually in Gimli, but not always. After all, beautiful though he may be, Legolas is not a ‘short hairy woman’ (Return of the King Extended Edition) which is a dwarf’s usual taste.
Many fans, however, simply enjoy exploring a relationship strong enough to survive such differences.
Many fanfics focus on the movement from hostility to love, many on how they overcome their differences, and the complexity of the relationship make Legolas and Gimli excellent slash fodder.
To get you started, the main Legolas/Gimli site is Axe and Bow:
This contains the long list of Legolas and Gimli fics from which you can take your pick, but is not often updated.
For a steady stream of L/G, the Axe and Bow yahoogroup is, however, active. Sarah has just finished the excellent 38 chapter ‘Return to Mirkwood’.
Also updated, at varying frequency, is the Legolas/Gimli page of The Library of Moria, the main LoTR slash archive:
where there is a frequently updated WIP, For Continuing Strange, by Annie Harris. Nicely done if a little clichéd in character.
On these archives, here are some prime stories. Some are favorites of mine and some others recs to try and ensure they are not all one type of fic:
I cannot not rec this trilogy, as it is my favorite. However, you will note I only attach two links, as the third part is a long time in coming. It is well worth reading anyway, and perhaps some additional begging will speed the process along: