The Lord of the Rings universe was written and imagined by none other than J. R. R. Tolkien. After serving in the British Army during WWI, he began working on the novels about wizards, hobbits, elves and dwarves in the 1920’s, completing the The Hobbit and the first two books from Lord of the Rings. Two decades later, in 1948, he finished the last book of the franchise. But this was just the tip of the fantasy iceberg, as he is credited for creating the entire universe in which the events of these books take place.
He even came up with the elfish language, as well as the entire history up to the point of Frodo and his companions. The movie series, though great, does not capture the whole story behind those amazing protagonists. Here we’ll be taking a more in depth look at ten of these characters, who they were before the actions taking place during The Lord of the Rings, and what happened to them after the movies ended. We do have to warn you that, even though most of what is written here doesn’t appear in the movies and is taken from the books and other materials about the universe, some references are made.
10. Samwise Gamgee
What most of us may or may not know is that not all hobbits are the same. Like in the real world of men we live today, the Shire was comprised of different families and lineages which gave them somewhat different appearances, personalities and, let’s say, attributes. Samwise is a Harfoot. The Harfoots are among the most common of hobbits, which are described as smaller and shorter than the rest. The other hobbits from the books: Frodo, Bilbo, Merry and Pippin are considered to have a Fallohide ancestry. The Fallohide families were often times leaders among the hobbits.
When the fellowship reached Lothlórien, Sam was tempted by Galadriel by showing him his greatest desire. Unsurprisingly, his was seeing himself back in the Shire with a small garden of his own. Unlike in the movies where Frodo takes a look into the Mirror of Galadriel and sees what would happen to the world if they were to fail, in “reality” those visions belonged to Sam. Frodo could only see Sauron’s Eye. Later, when he is forced to carry the ring, after believing Frodo to be dead, he is tempted again, this time by the ring itself. He had a vision of Samwise the Strong, wielding a flaming sword and leading a great army to defeat Barad-dûr. Then the entire vale of Gorgoroth turned into a field of flowers with the sun shining above. He had only to put on the ring and all would come to pass. He nevertheless resisted and went after Frodo to save him.
After the War of the Ring, Sam and the rest of the hobbits returned to the Shire. He married his sweetheart Rosie and together had a total of 13 children. They changed their names to Gardeners and Sam became mayor of the Shire for seven consecutive, 7-year terms. After Rosie passed away, he was granted passage to the Undying Lands, since he was a temporary Ring-Bearer. Tolkien always considered Sam to be the true hero of the story, over Frodo or even Aragorn.
According to Tolkien mythology, there is a sort of Hierarchy of Spirits in terms of gods and goddesses who created and shaped the world. Ilúvatar, or Eru, was the almighty creator, while the Ainur, which comprised of the Valar and Maiar, were angel-like beings. The Valar were greater than the Maiar, but all were created by Eru before the world came into existence. Gandalf is one such Maiar. And each Maiar has a Valar as a sort of mentor or master. Gandalf, or Olórin, how he was known before coming to Middle Earth, was an apprentice of Irmo, who was the lord of visions and dreams. But he was also a disciple of Nienna, who was the goddess of sorrow, pity and courage. It is said that those who listen to her learn wisdom and endurance in grief. In the Silmarillion, it’s stated that Olórin was responsible for giving the elves fair visions and putting wisdom into their hearts.
When Gandalf was chosen by the Valar to go to Middle Earth and challenge Sauron, he said that he was too weak and frightened to challenge him. Manve, the greatest of the Valar, said to him that this is the exact reason why he was chosen and why he should go. To aid him in his task, Cirdan, lord of the Grey Havens, gives Gandalf Narya, the ring of fire, on his arrival to Middle Earth. Cirdan said to him that the ring can be used to “rekindle hearts in a world that goes chill”. Gandalf the Grey wasn’t the only wizard appointed to this task. The order was comprised of five such wizards, among which are also Saruman the White and Radagast the Brown. There were also two blue wizards, but not much is known about them. The last mention about these two is that they traveled east, never to be seen again. Nevertheless, by the end of the story, only Gandalf remained true to his original mission.
Aragorn’s father, Arathorn II, was killed by an orc arrow when Aragorn was only two years old. As a result both he and his mother sought shelter with the elves in Rivendell, where he was raised in the house of Elrond. At his mother’s wishes, his identity as heir to the throne of Gondor was kept secret and he was called Estel (Hope). When he turned 20 however, Elrond revealed his true identity to Aragorn and gave him both the Ring of Barahir and the Shards of Narsil.
The following day he met Arwen, who had returned from her mother’s homeland of Lothlorien. For the next 30 years Aragorn would become the head of the Dunedain, journeying all across Middle Earth, trying to obstruct Sauron’s plans as much as possible. At the advice of Gandalf, he and the other rangers kept the Shire safe from danger. Under the name of Thorongil (Eagle of the Star), he served in both the Rohan and Gondor armies. Like his mother and grandmother, Aragorn had the gift of foresight, but to a lesser extent.
As a gift, Galadriel gave him Elessar (Elfstone) which was a green jewel in an eagle-shaped silver brooch. It had the power of healing and it was the only thing Aragorn brought with him when he went inside Minas Tirith to heal Eowyn, Faramir and Merry. Though he didn’t want to enter the city before his coronation, he did so because his healing skills were greatly needed. He was quickly recognized however and was given the name of Elessar. His new name as king is Elessar Telcontar. He chose the royal house name of Telcontar because it translates to “Strider.”
The elves believed that with Arwen, the fairness of Luthien had returned to Middle Earth. Luthien was an Elf Maiden of Doriath, the wife of Beren Erchamion, and the most beautiful of all the Children of Ilúvatar that ever lived. She was also called Morning Star, meaning that she was the most beautiful at the height of the elves, in contrast to Arwen who was called Evenstar, or the fairest of the last generation of elves in Middle Earth. When he first saw her, Aragorn called Arwen “Tinuviel,” just like Beren used to call Luthien long ago. Arwen replies that she doesn’t share that name with Luthien, “but maybe my doom will not be unlike hers.”
Arwen’s mother was Celebrian, daughter of Galadriel and Celeborn. She sailed to the Undying Lands after she was rescued from a band of orcs who tortured and poisoned her. After the War of the Ring came to an end and Frodo was still in Gondor, Arwen was aware of the seriousness of the torments he suffered. She predicted that only by sailing west with the elves, will he truly be at peace. In the meantime however, she gave him a white gem in order to aid him in his suffering.
When Aragorn felt his end to be near, 120 years after his coronation, Arwen began to understand the sorrow of mortality. On his deathbed he told her she could still travel west in order to reunite with her people, but she replied that the choice was long gone and she must suffer the Doom of Men. After Aragorn’s death she traveled to Lothlorien, only to find it silent and abandoned. She dwelt there until winter when she finally laid herself to rest on the hill of Cerin Amroth.
6. Meriadoc Brandybuck
The Brandybucks were originally named Oldbucks after the first hobbit leader of the Shire, Bucca of the Marish. When they moved to Buckland, they built a large house called Brandy Hall and eventually changed their name. They were among the most powerful hobbit families. Merry’s name in the common tongue is Kalimac Brandagamba, but since Kali means “jolly,” the name of Meriadoc is used in its shortened form, since it has the same meaning.
Sometime between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Merry saw Bilbo vanish into thin air. Utterly intrigued by this, he somehow managed to get his hands on parts of Bilbo’s journal and became aware of the existence of a ring of power, even before his journey began. Though it does not appear in the movies, all four hobbits took a dagger from the tombs of the Borrow-downs while traveling to Rivendell. These were forged during the war against Angmar and were especially made to harm the Witch King. This is why Merry was able to cripple him in the battle for Minas Tirith.
After he was separated from Pippin, Merry formed a strong bond with King Theoden of Rohan and became his squire. After the war, the new king, Eomer, knighted him and gave him the name of Holdwine (Faithful Friend). And as a reward for his heroic deeds, Merry was presented by Eowyn and Eomer with the Horn of Rohan. This had the power to instill fear in enemies, as well as joy in friends. Merry used the horn during the scouring of the Shire. With the death of his father, Merry became the new master of Buckland and was known as “Meriadoc the Magnificent.” At the request of King Eomer, both Merry and Pippin traveled back to Rohan 63 years after Sauron was defeated, and stayed there until the king died. They then traveled to Gondor to live their final days, and after Aragorn’s death, their bodies were placed alongside his.
5. The Witch King
While his identity wasn’t truly revealed, it is believed that the Witch King was part of the royal family of the Numenoreans. This was the most advanced kingdom of men, highly skilled in arts and crafts. Whatever his true identity may be, he is responsible for establishing the kingdom of Angmar and the defeat of the Dunedainian kingdom of Arnor. People like the Lossoth, living high up in the northern reaches of the world, believed that the Witch King was capable of freezing anything at will. During the battle of Fornost, prince Earnur of Gondor together with elves from both Rivendell and Lindon, were able to defeat Angmar. During the battle, the Witch King charged at Earnur and terrified his horse so much that it began galloping in a frenzy, carrying the prince far away from the battle.
After his defeat however, the Witch King retreated to Mordor and regrouped his orcish forces, summoning the other Nazgul. He began attacking Gondor and was able to capture Minas Ithil, which then became known as Minas Morgul (tower of witchcraft). Once Earnur became ruler of Gondor, the Witch King challenged him to a duel, but Earnur refused. Seven years later he asked again, mocking the king for his cowardice. Earnur accepted and entered Minas Morgul never to be seen again. Since he had no heir, Gondor remained without a king for 969 years. At the battle of Minas Tirith during the War of the Ring, the Witch King was the only enemy to breach the gates in the city’s entire history.
Thranduil is Legolas’ father and son of Oropher. Oropher was a Sindar Elf who lived in the kingdom of Doriath during the First Age and which was later destroyed by the Dwarves of the Blue Mountains. This is possibly from where Thranduil draws his dislike for the bearded folk. His people refused to sail to the Undying Lands at the end of the First Age, opting to remain behind and return to a more natural way of life. They intermingled with the wood elves and adopted much of their language and culture.
At the battle of Dagorland of the War of the Last Alliance, during the late Second Age, Thranduil joined his father on the battlefield, alongside 100,000 elves from Mirkwood. Oropher disregarded the High-King’s commands and charged at the enemy, resulting in his death in the Dead Marshes. After his return, Thranduil was still haunted by the horrors he’d seen on the battlefield and was certain that one day Sauron would return. This fear would rule over him, governing many decisions he took as king. During the events from The Hobbit, Thranduil tried to avoid any direct conflict between the armies of elves, dwarfs and men. When Bard wanted to launch a surprise attack on Dain’s forces, Thranduil managed to change his mind.
During the War of the Ring, the elven kingdom was under attack by forces from Dol Guldur. In the Battle Under the Trees, Thranduil and his forces were able to repel the attack and defeat the enemy completely. After the war, he met with Celeborn and together renamed Mirkwood into Eryn Lasgalen (Wood of Greenleaves). While he remained the ruler of the northern part of the forest, the rest was divided between the Woodmen and Beorning.
Shelob, the giant spider guarding the secret entrance into Mordor and the one who paralyzes Frodo, is a descendant of Ungoliant. Ungoliant was an evil entity whose origins are uncertain even by the Valar. It is believed that it spawned out of pure darkness and took the form of a huge spider, probably the first one in the world. During the First Age, Ungoliant and its offspring lived in Nan Dungortheb (Valley of Dreadful Death). When Shelob left this place for Torech Ungol is unclear, but it’s fairly certain that she is the last living spawn of Ungoliant. Her offspring in turn, left for the forest of Mirkwood and are the ones Bilbo, Thorin and the rest of the dwarves have to face when traveling to the Lonely Mountain.
Nevertheless, Shelob arrived at the borders of Mordor, in the tunnel above Minas Ithil, way before Sauron and the orcs ever did. With the exception of Frodo and Sam, no other had ever managed to escape her webs. They were able to do so because of Frodo’s sword, Sting, which was made in Gondolin, a city near Nan Dungortheb. Its elvish people were accustomed to dealing with giant spiders and the sword was able to cut through Shelob’s webs with ease. Sauron was aware of the presence of Shelob at the outskirts of his domains, but he never tried to confront or subdue her. Tolkien compares their relationship to that of a man and his cat as: “his cat he calls her, but she acknowledges him not.”
During the events of The Hobbit, Gimli was eager to join Thorin Oakenshield and his company, but was refused on the account of him being too young. He was 62 years old at the time, 15 years younger than Kili, the youngest of the group. Balin and Oin, who were killed in Moria, and who also took part in recapturing the Lonely Mountain, were close relatives of Gimli. This is the reason why he is so distressed when he discovers their tomb. When Gimli and the rest of the Fellowship manage to escape Moria and reach Lothlorien, he is utterly struck by Galadriel’s beauty. After their departure from the elfish forest Gimli says: “Now I have taken my worst wound in this parting, even if I were to go this night strait to the Dark Lord.” He even challenged Eomer to a duel at some point, if he didn’t agree that Galadriel was the fairest lady living.
After the War of the Ring, Gimli was instrumental in rebuilding both Gondor and Rohan. He was the one who designed and built a brand new gate for the city of Minas Tirith, made out of mithril and steel. He was given permission to start a dwarven colony inside the caves behind Helm’s Deep and thus became Lord of Aglarond. These dwarves rebuilt the damaged fortress which became a shared stronghold between them and the Rohirrim. Gimli set the strands of hair he received from Galadriel in imperishable crystal and made them an heirloom of his house. They stood to symbolize a pledge of good will between the Mountain and the Forest until the end of days. When time came, Gimli accompanied his friend Legolas to the Undying Lands.
Sauron’s original name was Marion (Admirable). He was a Maia, just like Gandalf, and the god who ruled over the materials which made the Earth. He is also accredited for constructing a great deal of things. He later changed allegiances to Melkor, the original Dark Lord. During the First Age, Sauron ruled from an island named Tol-in-Gaurhoth (Island of Werewolves). He once even took the form of a wolf, in order to battle Huan, the Hound of Valinor. Melkor was eventually captured by the Valar and cast into the Halls of Mandos for three ages. During this time, Sauron was the leader of his forces, commanding even over the mighty Balrogs.
During the Second Age, when the Ring of Power was forged, Sauron’s power grew incrementally and he became known as the Dark Lord of Mordor. He constructed the Dark Tower and the Black Gate, and after conquering most of Middle Earth, he assumed the titles of Lord of the Earth and King of Men. Even after his defeat during the War of the Last Alliance, Gandalf was afraid that Sauron could still draw Smaug to his side, without even having the Ring in his possession. This is the main reason for why he urges Thorin to take back his homeland.
Sauron is also responsible for destroying the kingdom of Numenor. When Ar-Pharazon, the last king of Numenor, came to Middle-Earth, Sauron didn’t try to wage war with him. Instead he changed himself into a fair-looking person and allowed himself to be taken as prisoner. Over the years Sauron became a close adviser to the king. He slowly converted Numenor to worship Melkor and turned them against the Valar. As a result, they were destroyed. In order to convince the Haradrim from the South to join him, Sauron most likely turned himself into a snake and presented himself in this form. This is probably the reason why they have a black serpent on their banners. During the War of the Ring, Sauron didn’t allow for his name to be spoken or written down and claimed instead to be Melkor. His minions all believed they were serving the original and more powerful Dark Lord.