Legolas was an elf of the Woodland Realm of Mirkwood. He was of Sindarin heritage, being the only recorded son of King Thranduil. The most important events of his life are surrounded by the War of the Ring, during which he was the Elven representative in the Fellowship of the Ring; his Elven characteristics were a valuable asset because of his superior sight, hearing, lightness of foot, and unrivaled archery.
Legolas was also famous for his legendary friendship with Gimli the Dwarf. Not only was such a friendship among the two races rare throughout history, but it also contrasted the harsh way his own father behaved to Gimli's father and his companions.
As the son of the Elvenking Thranduil, Legolas was a prince of the Woodland Realm. Not much is known about most of his life before or during the Third Age.
During the War of the Ring, the Elves of Mirkwood were keeping Gollum captive after the creature was brought to the wood by Aragorn. However, he soon managed to escape. Legolas was sent to Rivendell with a message to Gandalf about this event.
Legolas was present at the Council of Elrond and related the news, being quick to state to Aragorn that it was not through lack of watchfulness; if anything, from over-kindness, and related the details to the council. He spoke little for the rest of the council, if at all, but later was to participate in the Quest of the Ring as the only elven member of the Fellowship of the Ring. His capabilities would be welcomed, and would be his primary claim to fame for the rest of his life.
The Fellowship of the Ring
For the early part of the quest they walked in single file, with Legolas at the back due to his keen eyes. Later, he was at the head of the company as they entered Hollin. Though all in the Company could feel the wholesomeness of the country, only Legolas could hear the stones lament the lost presence of the Elves, and his words were poignant.
As they ascended Caradhras, Legolas could walk on top of the snow, whereas the others were forced to trudge. He also attempted (unsuccessfully) to light a fire. After they were determined to retreat, Boromir and Aragorn tried to push a path through the snow to get out, while Legolas danced lightly on top, passing them easily.
Perhaps a bit grumpy with the irrepressibility of the elf, Boromir during the vote as to whether or not they should pass through Moria, asked 'What do Legolas and the little folk say?' Legolas voted against the passage with Boromir, but was overruled, especially when Warg voices were heard.During their defense against these beasts, Legolas did more than perhaps all the rest of the company except Gandalf, shooting numerous Wargs. He collected his arrows unharmed (except for one) after the fight.
The Fellowship entered Moria and Legolas, despite his ability to see well in the dark, could not in the caves. Frodo Baggins (due to his Morgul-wound) could see better than any of the company in the dark, except perhaps Gandalf. Legolas had to drag Gimli from the Chamber of Mazarbul when the dwarf almost refused to go. He was also the first of the Company to recognize Durin's Bane as a Balrog, or at least the first to express his dismay at the fact.
Legolas was most enthusiastic about coming to Lothlórien, describing it to the rest of the Company, and mourning the fact that it was winter and they could not witness it in the pinnacle of its glory. As they rested by the Nimrodel, Legolas told the company tales of Lothlórien, and sang the Song of Nimrodel to them. Upon hearing the other Elves of Lórien, Legolas listened and responded in their own tongue, and when Samwise queried as to what they were saying, Legolas slyly responded that they said he breathed so loudly that the elves claimed they could shoot him in the dark. Samwise was horrified until Legolas added that they need not fear the elves.
Legolas was called up to meet with the Galadhrim, with Frodo only (Sam following, as always). The Galadhrim had heard him singing and knew he came from Mirkwood. They would readily accept all of the fellowship, save Gimli, because of his race and the grievances between his and theirs. Legolas was forced to answer for the company, with the reminder to keep an eye on 'that dwarf'. He was forced by the others to go blindfolded into Lórien, especially at the urging of Gimli, who hated the thought of going such. Indeed, he declared he would submit himself to this restraint only if 'Legolas here shares my blindness'. In the end, Legolas had no choice but to submit.
Legolas would not translate the Elven lamentations for Gandalf, saying that he had neither the skill nor the heart. During their time in Lórien, however (with the influence of the Lady Galadriel working her magic on the dwarf), he became fast friends with Gimli, a friendship that would never be broken. He was one of those of the Company that could handle boats, and so was assigned to one with the dwarf. He received a bow and quiver such as the Galadhrim used.
After ambushed by orc-archers on the Anduin, Legolas quickly leaped out onto dry ground and searched for a mark to shoot at. As a dread fell on the Company, Legolas invoked the name of Elbereth Gilthoniel, and shot the descending Fell beast from the sky, a masterful shot in the dark.
The Three Hunters
When ambushed on Amon Hen, Legolas shot many Orcs until his arrows ran out, then used his knife. Upon the breaking of the Fellowship, he sang a lament for Boromir, who had fallen, with Aragorn, taking the part of the South Wind which came from the Sea. Legolas was of great aid to Aragorn in the days following, as he helped to track the Uruk-hai across Rohan. His eyes could see many leagues, and for a while he could see their quarry far ahead of them.
Legolas stood by his friend Gimli when confronted by the haughty Éomer, threatening him with death if he attempted to harm the dwarf. He let Gimli ride behind him on the way to Fangorn Forest. Under its eaves, Legolas noticed how the tree beneath which they sat seemed glad of the fire. He was reluctant to enter Fangorn, having no knowledge about it save for the stories of the Onodrim, and that it was very old. Though the night was very dark, he was also the first to notice the absence of the horses. Later he asserted to Aragorn that the beasts sounded joyful, confirming Aragorn’s own opinion.
Upon entering Fangorn itself, Legolas declared that he almost felt young again beside those trees. He commented that in earlier days he could have been happy there. Gimli snorted, saying 'I dare say you could. You are a Wood-elf, anyway, though Elves of any kind are strange folk.' Legolas would later reverse this declaration at the Hornburg. When the Three Hunters met with the apparition of an old man, whom they believed to be Saruman, despite Gimli’s round encouragement Legolas did not shoot him, feeling moral objections to this. The old man declared 'Put away that bow, Master Elf.' Legolas dropped his bow, but later picked it up again, and was about to shoot when it was seen that beneath the old man’s robes there was white. Yet he recognized that it was Gandalf just in time, and shot his arrow high in the air to be consumed by fire. Gandalf coolly added 'Well met, I say to you again, Legolas!'
With the Rohirrim
Legolas was a leader in the conversation with Gandalf, being the first to ask about Merry & Pippin, and Gandalf’s apparently miraculous escape. After the story, Gandalf delivered Galadriel’s messages to each of them, Legolas' being:
Legolas Greenleaf long under tree
In joy thou hast lived. Beware of the Sea!
If thou hearest the cry of the gull on the shore,
Thy heart shall then rest in the forest no more.
Legolas again used his eyes for the help of the company, as he spied both the of Isengard and Edoras from afar. At the gates of Meduseld, Legolas was the only one to lay down his weapons without hesitation. He played only a passive role in the healing of Théoden King, and later was arrayed in shining mail beside Aragorn. Gimli would not ride on Éomer's horse unless Legolas rode beside them, which he did gladly. Éomer declared 'Legolas upon my left, and Aragorn upon my right, and none will dare to stand before us!'
As Legolas stood at the Hornburg at the eve of battle, he said that though he did not like the place, Gimli comforted him, and he was glad that the dwarf stood by his side. He also wished that a hundred archers of Mirkwood were there, noting the small number of bowmen among the Rohirrim. At the opening of the battle Legolas shot twenty at least, this figure being taken as precise by Gimli. When Gimli returned to the elf for the second time to declare that he slew twenty-one, Legolas counted his kills as twenty-four. By the time the Fire of Orthanc blew out a piece of the wall, his quiver was nearly empty. With the last arrow the elf saved Aragorn’s life when he stumbled while pursued. At the end of the battle, Legolas had shot a total of forty-one, though Gimli surpassed his count by one.
Legolas showed great interest in the Huorns on the way to Isengard, discussing them with Gandalf and a less willing Gimli. Legolas promised Gimli that he would go to Aglarond after the war upon hearing the dwarf’s eloquence, if only Gimli would accompany him on a visit to Fangorn. At Isengard he enjoyed a meal in the company of Gimli, Aragorn, and the Hobbits.
The Return of the King
When Aragorn made clear his purpose as to the taking of the Paths of the Dead, Legolas and Gimli willingly volunteered to go with him. Legolas predicted, when Gimli suggested that Galadriel might have sent them soldiers from their own lands, that they need not ride away to find war.
Amidst the Paths of the Dead, riding with the Grey Company, Legolas alone (save for Elladan and Elrohir, Elrond's sons) felt no fear of the Dead Men, and it may be remembered that the High Elves had power both in the worlds of the seen and unseen. Yet his turn came to be struck to the heart in the opposite sense – when he heard the gulls at Pelargir, fulfilling Galadriel’s prediction and warning. While telling this story later, he dropped off there, while Gimli promptly said 'For my part I heeded them not'. Legolas saw as Aragorn led the Dead Men what a mighty lord he might have been if he had taken the One Ring.
Legolas came with Aragorn from the ships during the Battle of Pelennor Fields, and fought there beside his comrades. He survived the battle, and several times that day afterward commented on the longevity and eventual domination of Men to the dubious Gimli.
Battle of the Morannon and Aftermath
Legolas rode for the last time into battle beside his friends to the Battle of the Morannon. He witnessed the Fall of the Dark Tower, and after the battle attended the ceremonies of the Field of Cormallen in the honor of Frodo and Samwise and their victory. That night Legolas would not go to bed, but instead went away to walk in the woods, singing of the Sea.
After attending the Coronation of Elessar, Legolas remained (at the urging of Aragorn) in Minas Tirith for a time. During the parting of the Fellowship, Legolas went with Gimli to Aglarond. After that, he rode off with Gimli to visit Fangorn Forest.
After the War of the Ring
Legolas returned to Minas Tirith with a company of Wood-elves, and they made Ithilien a green and fair land once more. After King Aragorn died, Legolas sailed West, reportedly taking Gimli with him.
Legolas showed almost irrepressible cheerfulness throughout the journey, passing through Caradhras and even the Paths of the Dead without hesitation or complaint. His youthful nature can be seen from the mocking way he treated the 'strong men' on Caradhras, whom Boromir (excluding Legolas) had said could forge a way out through the snow. He is perhaps most remembered for his friendship with Gimli the Dwarf, and it was during this friendship that we see his faithfulness, and also his love of beauty. Gimli's words moved him when the dwarf spoke of the Glittering Caves.
Description and Equipment
At Rivendell, Legolas was dressed in green and brown garb, and he was probably dressed similarly for the duration of the quest.
He bore a bow from Mirkwood, and later a bow of the Galadhrim. He also had a long white knife.
The name Legolas is a Silvan dialect form of pure Sindarin Laegolas, which means 'Greenleaf'. At one point he is called 'Legolas Greenleaf' by Gandalf, coupling his name and its translation like an epithet.
Legolas consists of the Sindarin words laeg, a very rare, archaic word for 'green' (cf. Laegrim, Laegel(d)rim, the Green Elves), which is normally replaced by calen (cf. Calenhad, Parth Galen and Pinnath Gelin); and golas, a collection of leaves, foliage (being a prefixed collective form of las(s), 'leaf'). The Quenya cognate of Laegolas is said to be Laicolasse.
Other Versions of the Legendarium
A character 'Legolas Greenleaf' appears firstly in The Fall of Gondolin in The Book of Lost Tales (in the context of another unrelated character) who guided some survivors of the sack of the city to safety. His Qenya name is Laiqalassë.
Tolkien considered Glorfindel to be the Elven character of the Fellowship, however he dropped the idea, and Legolas was created to replace him. Perhaps this is the reason why Legolas is considered the most underdeveloped character of the Fellowship, playing only a minor role in The Lord of the Rings.