When I was a kid, my dad was the one in charge of storytime. He didn’t read me Cinderella or Snow White. I grew up on a steady diet of J. K. Rowling and J. R. R. Tolkien. He freely admits that one of his less-than-stellar parenting moments is taking me to The Fellowship of the Ring when it was in theaters and I was six years old. (I wouldn’t call it a bad parenting moment; it was an awesome movie.) This led me to dressing up as Éowyn for Halloween when I was seven. Of course, nobody else knew what my costume was, not even the teachers, until The Two Towers came out. Ignorant fools.
Luckily, such times have passed. We now have regular cosplayers and Lord of the Rings costume designers, and everyone who hasn’t been living under a rock knows exactly who and what they are. These 15 are the absolute best of the best.
15. Pee-Wee Prisoners Of The Uruk-hai
I. Can’t. Take. The cuteness!!! It warms my heart to pudding to see other kids growing up with Tolkien’s stories. And these two are so young that they’re half the size of the adults. They’re literally Halflings!
The website doesn’t give any background on these cosplayers. My theory is that the Uruk-hai adults are babysitters, or adult relatives who’ve been suckered into looking after the kids while the parents take a vacation. And they’ve come up with a genius plan. If you’re spending an extended period of time with little kids, chances are they’re going to want to dress up at some point and play something like cowboys or princesses. These guy decide to play Lord of the Rings, and now the adults can do whatever they want while the kids stay in the cage, which they’ll do willingly because they’re the prisoners in this game. Fool-proof.
Boy, did Frodo get the rotten end of the deal. He goes to his uncle’s house, all psyched up about Bilbo’s 111th birthday party, only to get abandoned and left with a magic ring that every single villain in the world – and quite a few good guys turned villains – are after. Then he has to go on a road trip that goes thousands of miles and lasts months with no warning and no car. He gets stabbed, one of his oldest friends essentially dies in front of him, and he’s almost eaten alive by a spider. And at the very end, as the cherry atop of this crap-sundae, he gets his finger bitten off.
The movie lets him off there, deciding he’s had enough. Tolkien thought otherwise. After all of that happens, Frodo and the other hobbits return to a Shire that’s been taken over by Saruman. All the hobbits have been demoralized and/or imprisoned. But then we reveal the secret BAMFness of hobbits when Frodo & Co. gather up the troops and fight back. In the last battle, 19 hobbits are killed compared to 100 orcs/misc. bad guys. That’s half of the Isengard force. Go halflings!
13. The Witch-King Of Angmar
Well. Uh…I guess even Nazgûl need to take a break and release the child within every once and a while.
Fun fact: the Witch-King of Angmar was played by eight different actors in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Brent McIntyre is officially credited in Fellowship, and is the one who stabbed Frodo. In the opening of Fellowship, an unknown extra played the Witch-King, chosen because he was the smallest of the nine. Shane Rangi did the horse chase (going after Arwen and Frodo to Rivendell), while Fran Walsh did the “Ringwraith scream” and Andy Serkis did the voice. An effects technician named Ben Price played the wraith in “many scenes.” Lawrence Makoare was under the helmet in The Return of the King.
12. Grima Wormtongue
Brownie points for the scroll! I don’t know if you can read it, but it’s Éomer’s sentence of exile, as signed by King Theoden and carried out by Grima Wormtongue. And can I just say what a weird name that is? What were his parents thinking? “Darling, would you marry me and become Mrs. Wormtongue? We can have a son who’s a traitor!”
Fun fact: Grima played a major role in The Lord of the Rings saga before The Two Towers. In Unfinished Tales (a collection of stories and essays that were never finished by Tolkien, but were edited and published by his son Christopher in 1980) we learn that Grima was captured by the Nazgûl in Rohan. The Nazgûl were thinking that Gandalf was their best shot at finding the ring, and he was in Rohan at the time. But when they interrogated Grima, they learned about the location of the Shire, which had been unknown to the Nazgûl until then (they only knew that it was the home of “Baggins,” the name Gollum had given them when asked about the Ring). Grima was set free, because the Lord of the Nazgûl knew that he was a coward, probably by the name Wormtongue, and wouldn’t tell anyone about their little chat.
11. Thorin Oakenshield
Every little detail that went into this is impeccable. From the map, to the key, to the rings on his fingers. The cloak was not in the movie but in the book, so it’s a mesh of movie and literature.
Balin: It appears we have lost our burglar. Probably for the best. The odds were always against us. After all, what are we? Merchants, miners, tinkerers, toy-makers. Hardly the stuff of legend.
Thorin Oakenshield: There are a few warriors amongst us.
Balin: Old warriors.
Thorin Oakenshield: I would take each and every one of these Dwarves over an army from the Iron Hills. For when I called upon them, they answered. Loyalty. Honor. A willing heart… I can ask no more than that.
Balin: You don’t have to do this. You have a choice. You’ve done honorably by our people. You have built a new life for us in the Blue Mountains, a life of peace, and plenty. A life that is worth more than all the gold in Erebor.
Thorin Oakenshield: [He holds up the key Gandalf has given him] From my grandfather to my father, this has come to me. They dreamt of the day when the Dwarves of Erebor would reclaim their homeland. There is no choice Balin. Not for me.
Balin: Then we are with you, laddie. We will see it done.
Boromir has a great, messed-up story. He’s the firstborn son and the golden child of the family (poor Faramir), but that comes with a ton of pressure. He’s charged with the protection of an entire country, which he’ll soon rule (assuming the king doesn’t show up anywhere…oh, hey Aragorn). They’re running out of soldiers, supplies, and time, while Mordor only gets stronger. Of course he’s going to want to use the all-powerful weapons rather than just throw it away. It’s easier, (supposedly) less risky, and doesn’t end with him getting four arrows in the chest. That makes him the perfect target for the ring. It helps that Gondor and Mordor are so close. If the ring had managed to hitch a ride to Gondor via Boromir, Sauron would’ve been only a quick jog away.
“If you want him, come and claim him!” -Arwen, the Fellowship of the Ring (movie)
The chase scene in The Fellowship of the Ring where the Nazgûl are going after Arwen and Frodo on horseback is one of the best. In the book, the flood that washes the Nazgûl away at the end was caused by Elrond and Gandalf. In the movie, Arwen’s the one who summons the flood.
So, to recap: we have a woman who’s essentially elven nobility. Her father’s the Lord of Rivendell and her maternal grandmother is Galadriel. So, she probably has quite a bit political power who is willing to risk life and limb for her human lover and a hobbit. She knows how to use a sword, she challenges Nazgûl, and she has enough magic to call on floods. But the only thing she does after her amazing intro is sit and look pretty for Aragorn? I’m not saying Tolkien and Jackson are the paragon of feminism, but I find it hard to believe that a woman like that would just sit back and not pitch in the war effort.
The detailed work that went into this is insane. Scruffy almost-beard and wavy hair: check. Pipe: check. Sword and bow: check. Arwen’s necklace: check. No visible denim, nylon, plastic, or any other modern materials: check. And he gets bonus points for the hair. It takes a very secure man to grow out his hair like that and make it wavy to the point of curly.
Of the original nine Fellowship, Aragorn’s always been my favorite. Gandalf’s cool and all, but too old for me to fangirl over. Boromir’s a creep. Sorry to say I prefer men who are taller than my boobs, so the hobbits and Gimli are simply too short. And Legolas, while a heck of an archer, is way too weird and vain. I’ll talk a little more about that later. Aragorn, however, is BA (see: every fight scene he’s in), romantic (see: Arwen), and extremely hot.
7. Éowyn and Theoden
“I am no man.” – Éowyn, The Return of the King (movie)
There are plenty of very good cosplays of Éowyn in her armor, as she looked when she was facing off against the Witch-King. Let’s face it, that was her best scene. Every moment she’s on screen in both movies builds up to that fight. I get chills every time I watch it. But while her defeat of the Witch-King is defining and impressive, it’s not all that she is. While Theoden and Éomer were out fighting Uruk-hai during The Two Towers, she was left in charge. Not any of the male advisers or soldiers. Her. In the books, Theoden asked one of his advisers whom he should leave in charge, and Háma recommended Éowyn, who, though a woman, was “fearless” and “all love[d] her.” After the Battle of Helms Deep, we see that she managed to keep everything perfectly under control during the panic of the invasion, which is insane. She’s not just a warrior. She’s a friggin’ princess, whom people obey. #Goals
I think we can all agree that Gollum is not the most likable character of the series. But some people take that too far. Apparently, in some parts of the world, you can be sued over it. In 2014, a Turkish physician named Bilgin Çiftçi shared some pictures that compared the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to Gollum. It got Çiftçi expelled from service, and in 2015 Erdoğan sued him for the insult, demanding that he be sentenced to two years in prison. It launched an entire investigation to determine whether or not comparing someone to Gollum is offensive. Peter Jackson had to step in and defend the pictures Çiftçi shared. He said the images actually portrayed Sméagol, Gollum’s split personality, not Gollum himself. According to Jackson (and all die-hard LOTR fans), there is a critical difference: “Sméagol is a joyful, sweet character. Sméagol does not lie, deceive, or attempt to manipulate others. He is not evil, conniving, or malicious – these personality traits belong to Gollum, who should never be confused with Sméagol. Sméagol would never dream of wielding power over those weaker than himself. He is not a bully. In fact he’s very loveable.” And he is, but unfortunately he loses to Gollum, and the precious ring.
Tauriel’s character annoys me. Greatly. It’s not that she doesn’t exist in the books. She was created by Peter Jackson for the movies and isn’t once mentioned by Tolkien, but that’s fine. 21st-Century movie adaptations of books written in 1937 should absolutely add more diversity to an otherwise white male-dominated cast. But that doesn’t work if the character’s sole purpose is to be the love interest. Think about it, the only reason Tauriel exists in the movies is to cause romantic drama with Kíli and Legolas. If you replace her with nothing but a sexy lamp, it causes no significant change to the story, which is Thorin’s quest and Bilbo’s adventure.
It’s disappointing because her character is awesome. She’s a young, rebellious elf who, unlike all the other elves we meet, isn’t some kind of royalty/nobility. She has no problem disobeying her king if she thinks he’s doing something wrong. She’s the only female soldier and captain of the guard. There’s gotta be a story in there. Too bad we never heard it.
Gandalf’s history has always fascinated me. It’s never talked about in the movies; how he got his powers or what the heck he’s doing in Middle Earth in the first place. We know he’s old, even by Elven standards (which is saying something), and that before he was Gandalf the White – he liked smoking and drinking, which makes him the cool wizard. Which is weird, considering that he’s this world’s equivalent to a guardian angel. He and four other wizards (including Saruman) were sent to Middle Earth by Manwë, one of the Ainur, or “Holy Ones,” which are immortal, primordial beings that make the Wizards’ powers look like kids at the kitty pool. This happened several hundred years before the events of The Lord of the Rings, when Sauron was first causing trouble (he’s pretty freaking old, too; apparently the only characters less than a few centuries in age are the humans and the hobbits). After Sauron was put down the first time, Gandalf spent his time wandering around Middle Earth, trying to keep everything from blowing up. At the very end, he hops on the boat with the elves and Frodo to the Undying Lands, a kingdom only inhabited by immortals and ring-bearers.
Legolas is an awesome adventurer and a crack shot. That scene with the oliphant was amazing. And he’s the biggest troll; even after he and Gimli become BFFs he could never resist getting that last word in. He’s also, I’m convinced, extremely vain. Throughout the movies all the other characters get progressively bloodier, sweatier, and dirtier, as they should. They’re traveling on foot and hacking their way through armies of orcs. No one’s going to be able to do that without getting a few hairs out of place…except, strangely enough, for Legolas. The only conclusion I can draw is that he spends hours every day on his skin and hair. His pack must be loaded with conditioners and lotions. Self-care is great and all, and princes have to look their best, but there’s a limit.
This guy gets all the nerd points. The Silmarillion hasn’t even been made into a movie yet! For those who don’t know, The Silmarillion is essentially Tolkien’s guide to the world of Eä, with the mythology and history of Middle Earth. Finrod was an elf from the First Age, and actually Galadriel’s older brother (that’s how old she is: she’s literally been around since the beginning of time). Finrod’s known for his Quest of the Silmarils (essentially super-powerful magic stones) and being the first elf to discover Man. He made friends with a prince named Beren and they, with a bunch of bodyguards, continued their quest, but were captured by Sauron. One of Sauron’s interrogation techniques was to chain them all up and sic a werewolf on them. It killed and ate them one by one, saving Finrod for last. But when the werewolf got to Beren, Finrod was able to use magic to bust his chains and kill the wolf. Unfortunately, he was mortally wounded. But fortunately, he was reincarnated in the Undying Lands, the first elf to pull that off.
I normally don’t write about gender-swapped cosplay. They can be really good – just Google “female [character] cosplay” and you’ll see some pretty BAMF outfits. A woman Thorin Oakenshield almost got on this list. But most of the time, the best cosplayers tend to stay with the characters who identify as the same gender they do. A fan’s favorite character (and the one they’re most likely to go through all the effort to dress up as and take pictures of) also tends to be of the same gender. But this time, it’s different. This one’s too good. The Eye symbols, the makeup, the attitude, all of it. If Sauron had been a woman, she would’ve looked something like this. Just add a mace and an army and watch her cleave her way through the battlefield.