Legolas is my oldest recurring love. I was six when my mother read the Hobbit to me – and when we were done, I asked, That’s it? Is there more?
Well, she said, well yes, there is.
And thus, she started reading the Lord of the Rings to me when I was about seven. She skipped and shortened bits, I think, but not many; it took us years before we were finished, by which time I was reading along (or ahead). Tolkien’s Fantasy has been a constant companion of my life for the last thirty-five years, and I’ve revisited it ever since, even during phases when my mind was occupied with space battles or Carthaginians. My mother started buying the Lord of the Rings calendars in the mid-eighties, which was when I fell in love with the art of John Howe, Alan Lee, Inger Edelfeldt and Ted Nasmith. Even back then, there was this little voice at the back of my head that said, One day, you’ll do this too.
Legolas had a much, much tinier role in the film that you’d assume from all the merchandise featuring him nowadays. Altogether, he has something like twenty sentences of dialogue in all three books, not counting his long tale at the Council of Elrond. But in nearly all of his few lines of text, his sense of humour and kindness just shines through. That appealed to me from the very beginning. He comes across as a very down to earth character in the book, with just a hint of the time-weary sadness that was the hallmark of Orlando Bloom’s version, with whom I often had the feeling that Peter Jackson was trying to get in as much Silmarillion Elf as the character could handle (and then some).
My own visions of the characters, thankfully, had been around so long by 2001 that the movie did nothing to challenge them. I’ve taken over a few, of whom I had just fuzzy mental images (like the Hobbits), but most of them are firmly my own. When I read “Aragorn” or “Legolas”, it’s always my versions that spring into my head, not the actors.
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