1. A Case of Mistaken Identity
Many bear a grudge against him for his conduct in The Hobbit, which was really his only dominant moment within canon, calling him indiscriminate, tactless, unjustified, harsh, and even cruel, but there is less incrimination to be found between the lines there than is plainly stacked against such infamous figures as Túrin Turambar or Fëanor and his sons, Eöl or Maeglin. Thranduil in no way deserves the slander he suffers in being portrayed as a domineering and grasping tyrant, an abusive husband and father, and a carousing libertine.
Personally, I think he is one of the coolest elvenlords ever to romp the woods; Celeborn-unleashed, as it were.
Many, many thanks to Sarcastic Elf and to Karri for fletching my shafts.
(Most quotes from The Hobbit unless otherwise indicated.)
Fatherhood ~ First and Foremost
First of all, I treat the role I think nearest his heart. With the publication of Morgoth’s Ring we were given many gems of canon passages regarding elvish families. Nothing is more detrimental to domestic peace than antagonism between the parents and their children, and it would seem that the Elves either went out of their way to avoid it, or simply never gave themselves cause. (A notable exception would be the rift between Eöl and Aredhel with Maeglin in the middle; but that was a poorly planned marriage to begin with, and another debate entirely.)
"They had few children, but these were very dear to them. Their families, or houses, were held together by love and a deep feeling for kinship in mind and body; and the children needed little governing or teaching." (Laws and Customs among the Eldar, M’sR)
For all his faults, even Fëanor seemed a good father if all seven of his sons were so gung-ho to follow him to the bitter end and beyond in ultimate peril of their immortal lives. In that light, I cannot honestly believe Thranduil was darker at heart than a marked Rebel, Traitor, and Kinslayer. Surely there would have been more outcry from someone.
Not only that, but Master Tolkien lay down unequivocal norms regarding elvish libido as well. So, all those slash, smut, and incest writers are just out of luck; as a rule, the Eldar stand far above such unworthy and hideous perversions as those. They do not make light of what is sacred. If natural moral law is not enough to justify their discretion, I feel inclined to say here that I approach this from the same Catholic foundation as did Tolkien. I will let him speak for himself before I pass over this darkest corner of scurrility, as I find the whole sordid subject distasteful.
"The Eldar wedded only once in life . . . . Even when in after days, as many of the histories reveal, many of the Eldar in Middle-earth became corrupted, . . . seldom is any tale told of deeds of lust among them." (Laws and Customs among the Eldar, M’sR)
"They are not easily deceived by their own kind; and their spirits being masters of their bodies, they are seldom swayed by the desires of the body only, but are by nature continent and steadfast." (Laws and Customs among the Eldar, M’sR) emphasis mine
"Some fell into pride, and self-will, and could be guilty of deeds of malice, enmity, greed and jealousy. But among all these evils there is no record of any among the Elves that took another’s spouse by force; for this was wholly against their nature . . . . Guile or trickery in this matter was scarcely possible (even if it could be thought that any Elf would purpose to use it); for the Eldar can read at once in the eyes and voice of another whether they be wed or unwed." (Laws and Customs among the Eldar, footnote, M’sR) emphasis mine
Maeglin in Gondolin seems a glaring exception to this rule, but his inclinations to incest and spouse-snatching were not dismissed among his own people, who deplored them.
"The Eldar wedded not with kin so near, nor ever before had any desired to do so. And however that might be, Idril loved Maeglin not at all; and knowing his thought of her she loved him the less. For it seemed to her a thing strange and crooked in him, as indeed the Eldar have ever since deemed it: an evil fruit of the Kinslaying, whereby the shadow of the curse of Mandos fell upon the last hope of the Noldor." (Of Maeglin, The Silmarillion)
". . . [A]nd to Maeglin [Morgoth] promised the lordship of Gondolin as his vassal, and the possession of Idril Celebrindal, when the city should be taken; and indeed desire for Idril and hatred for Tuor led Maeglin the easier into his treachery, most infamous in all the histories of the Elder Days." (Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin, The Silmarillion) emphasis mine
And even wedded Elves lived lives of chastity for the greater part, which really is not so difficult, regardless of what the decadent world today will tell you.
"Doubtless they would retain for many ages the power of generation, if the will and desire were not satisfied; but with the exercise of the power the desire soon ceases, and the mind turns to other things. The union of love is indeed to them a great delight and joy, and the ‘days of children’, as they call them, remain in their memory as the most merry in life; but they have many other powers of body and of mind which their nature urges them to fulfil." (Laws and Customs among the Eldar, M’sR)
Legolas ~ A Dutiful Son
Unfortunately, Tolkien seems to have neglected Thranduil and Greenwood somewhat, so we have very little canon knowledge of his familial background or progeny. We know only one canon son, and he very little. But several conclusions can be drawn, if only of the common-sense variety.
It will be readily obvious to any follower of Legolas through canon that he never once explicitly mentions Thranduil as his father. When he spoke of him at all, he was "my Elven-lord". This does not have to connote a son beaten into cold and impersonal submission; often royal heirs – eldest or not – addressed their fathers as "my Lord," or "my Lord Father" if they did not care to be quite so formal. Such families differ in that the father is not only the lord of their household, but also the Liege-lord of their nation, to whom they doubly owe their allegiance and deference. In a more intimate setting, I do not doubt he was simply "Father" to Legolas, but amid foreign company was not the place for such familiarity. Furthermore, in the given circumstances it could be construed as an attempt on Legolas’ part to quiet his own lineage lest he steal the spotlight from Aragorn and his claim.
Even through his sparse description and showing in-text, Legolas comes across as a bright-hearted individual. It is my humble opinion that his cheer would have been dampened somewhat if he had come from a disruptive and nigh-broken home, if he had lived beneath the volatile shadow of an abusive and detrimental father for all the several centuries previous that had been his life. And as said Lady Galadriel, who read hearts, "Legolas Greenleaf, long under tree; in joy thou hast lived . . ." (TTT, LotR) I have never been in a position to deal with it myself, but I cannot imagine that a hectoring parent provides a very joyful existence for his son. "Long under tree;" no, he didn’t live in Rivendell for the greater part of his adult life, no matter how deep you may want his friendship with Aragorn to be.
The fact that Legolas was sent to Elrond with the tidings of Gollum’s escape does not imply that Thranduil carelessly thrust his son onto the perilous roads of Mirkwood and Rhovanion, deeming him of no more importance than a common messenger. Aragorn brought Gollum "to Thranduil in Mirkwood," where his people kept him "with such kindness as they can find in their wise hearts." (FotR, LotR) (Would Thranduil torment his own son, and yet be kind to Gollum?! Now, really . . .) Thus did Thranduil accept Gollum’s keeping as his responsibility; it was an affair of honor. When the little cretin escaped in spite of them, the formal blame fell upon Thranduil’s shoulders regardless of who was literally more or less at fault. Ideally, he would have gone himself to admit their failure, but since a conflict of duty required that he remain at the home-front and drum up an army, the next best thing would be to send his son as a personal representative of the royal family to explain matters as they stood and to recite the mea culpa in his stead. But leave it to Legolas to go above and beyond the call of duty. . .
And by the way, Legolas’ "Elven-lord" did allow him to bring some of their people south to Ithilien, showing him not unreasonable in granting the requests of his son.
King of the Wood ~ Thranduil the Great
Thranduil has taken quite a beating in this regard, mostly at the hands of those who will not acknowledge his side of the controversy within the scope of The Hobbit. I maintain that as King he acted well within his rights, for as Maedhros astutely observed, "A king is he that can hold his own, or else his title is vain." (Silmarillion)
Thranduil was plainly and readily named by the silvan elves as "their greatest king." In this they set him above even his father Oropher who had founded their realm, a remarkable fact considering that it was during Thranduil’s reign that Greenwood was darkened, perpetual war – both overt and covert – brought to their borders, and they themselves driven underground in the far eastern corner of a sadly diminished domain beset with peril. Obviously, Thranduil’s claim to greatness rested upon something other than overall national prosperity. Otherwise he would have to be the worst of the lot.
Indeed, he seems to have even eclipsed Oropher’s memory in the histories, whether it be an editing glitch or whatever: "Most of [the High Elves] dwelt in Lindon west of the Ered Luin; but before the building of Barad-dur many of the Sindar passed eastward, and some established realms in the forests far away, where their people were mostly Silvan Elves. Thranduil, king in the north of Greenwood the Great, was one of these." (Appendix B, LotR, RotK)
His people loved him, as can be subtly observed throughout, but explicitly at the Battle of Five Armies, when "the elf-lords were at bay about their king," defending him with their lives. Even Bilbo then "preferred on the whole to defend the Elvenking," for by that time the hobbit knew him well, having haunted his halls unseen for some weeks before.
All should remember that Thranduil alone survived into the Third Age with never a Ring of Power. While Lindon, Rivendell, and Lothlórien were at least at one time maintained by a ring and its bearer, Thranduil maintained his foothold in the north by the seat of his pants, and likely a good bit of blood, sweat, and tears. It takes an uncommon king to hold his own together throughout centuries of siege and sacrifice, while at the same time maintaining them as "a merry folk," and only that stripe of indomitable charisma can truly be called great.
"Silver and White Gems"
Perhaps Thranduil was indeed partial to treasure, but who in his position would not be? To read royal European history is to see a labyrinth of monarchies dominated and trammeled by banks, debt, and usurers. One of a king’s cardinal worries is always the state of his finances, and the rule of an entire realm requires high maintenance. To his credit, Thranduil seemed to be solvent in the late years of the Third Age, with even a surplus. (Here is manifest some fiscal responsibility.) Crushing taxes? I don’t think so. Thus did he maintain his independence on another front, and it could be considered simple prudence that he constantly looked for new sources of income. I would imagine that emergencies were prone to befall the Mirkwood Elves, namely invasions or famine or some such thing, and recovery is always costly. Buffers of one kind or another could mean life or death for his people, renown or ruin, and he did not bear that responsibility lightly.
As financially possessive as he is rumored to be, Thranduil is NOT the greedy grasping miser some portray. He may have been frugal, certainly, but not cheap. For crying out loud, they were living at the edge of a war-zone! Even so, his people knew how to be showy when the occasion permitted, and Bilbo noted that "green and white gems glinted on their collars and belts." Again, prudence on the behalf of their King shines through; not inordinate greed.
"Long will I tarry, ere I begin this war for gold. . . . Let us hope still for something that will bring reconciliation." (Elvenking Thranduil, The Hobbit)
A Dwarf’s-Eye View?
Here is an interesting thought: Just how accurate are our sources? The whole of The Hobbit was (supposedly) written from Bilbo’s own experience, and it is a fact that he endured more dwarvish company than elvish at the time. I would hazard to guess that Bilbo never ran his descriptions and explanations of the Elvenking past one of Thranduil’s own Elves. (Legolas really should have had more of a hand in the editing of the Red Book.) Elrond might have seen it, and probably had a good laugh at his kinsman’s expense.
Namely, I refer to the charge that Thranduil was unjust in his dealings with the dwarves. "In ancient days, [the elves] had had wars with some of the dwarves, whom they accused of stealing their treasure. It is only fair to say that the dwarves gave a different account, and said that they only took what was their due, for the elf-king had bargained with them to shape his raw gold and silver, and had afterwards refused to give them their pay." This would seem a reprehensible blot on his escutcheon, if one takes this only at face value and does not consider the historical implications behind it, together with the plausible distortions of time.
This whole account does suspiciously sound like echoes of the enmity between Doriath and Nogrod in the First Age. King Thingol did indeed hire dwarves to reshape the Nauglamír and set in it the Silmaril. They did threaten to steal it, he did refuse them their reward, and the rest is history.
". . . [B]ut the Dwarves in that moment withheld [the Nauglamír] from him, and demanded that he yield it up to them. . . . But Thingol perceived their hearts, and saw well that desiring the Silmaril they sought but a pretext and fair cloak for their true intent; and in his wrath and pride he gave no heed to his peril, but spoke to them in scorn . . . [and] bade them with shameful words be gone unrequited out of Doriath." (Of the Ruin of Doriath, The Silmarillion)
To their own shame, the Dwarves of Nogrod murdered King Thingol in his own halls, then fled with the Silmaril like the red-handed thieves they were. The Elves, of course, cannot have been expected to endure assassination and larceny, and so they pursued their king’s murderers to the death, missing only two to limp back home. "[A]nd there in Nogrod they told somewhat of all that had befallen, saying that the Dwarves were slain in Doriath by command of the Elvenking, who would thus cheat them of their reward." (Silmarillion)
"Somewhat", hm? "By command of the Elvenking" who happened to be dead at the time? Clearly, defensive dwarves cannot always be taken literally at their word, being liable to bend the truth to their liking. Thranduil was himself out of Doriath, a Sinda of noble birth, even of Thingol’s kin by some accounts, but whether Thorin’s dwarves knew that or not, it is possible that one Elvenking was alike to another in their eyes. And if this is indeed the origin of this particular tale, it has had the leisure of six-thousand years to become the rumor of legend, in which many pertinent details are prone to suffer.
Laying the blame on alike but innocent shoulders in not unknown in history, and this could well be as flagrant an example as the accusation that Queen Marie Antoinette (later beheaded unjustly) quipped "let them eat cake," in regard to her starving citizenry, when in truth it was the shameful utterance of a previous queen, her husband’s great-great-grandmother. So perhaps Thranduil inherited the historical grievances against "Elvenking" Thingol, his predecessor.
And with the same passages quoted above, it is said of Thranduil that "His people neither mined nor worked metals or jewels, nor did they bother much with trade or with tilling the earth. All this was well known to every dwarf, though Thorin’s family had nothing to do with the old quarrel I have spoken of." Well, what is "well known to every dwarf" may not be exactly what is known or held by every elf, or by anyone else for that matter. (And if they did not work jewels, why were they on their collars and belts before?)
In My Realm Without Leave
Another charge Thranduil must face is that of his allegedly harsh and cruel treatment of the innocent dwarves of Thorin’s Company, taking advantage of them while they were lost and starving. Closer inspection will reveal nothing terribly harsh about it, but only old-fashioned justice. Both sides held legitimate grievances, which might have been addressed more agreeably if tempers had not been deliberately flared, and had the dwarves harbored more respect for he who held legitimate authority over them at the time. ("A king will have his way in his own hall, be it folly or wisdom." ~ Gandalf, LotR, TTT) Even then, they were treated uncommonly well for the suspicious trespassers they seemed to be, offering no explanation to the contrary.
First of all, the dwarves left the path, thus entering and tramping through Thranduil’s domain without given permission. Three times the elves endured their interruptions before they finally bothered to capture the intruders, perforce saving their lives from both giant spiders and starvation (for which they had small thanks). Thorin stubbornly refused to answer Thranduil’s rightful inquires of their purpose within his borders, revealing his own cupidity. ("[H]e was determined that no word of gold or jewels should be dragged out of him.")
Thranduil was understandably miffed by this, and recognizing the hopelessness of the endeavor, gave orders to "Take him away and keep him safe, until he feels inclined to tell the truth, even if he waits a hundred years." "Keep him safe"; he did NOT say, "Take him away and beat the snot out of the little dastard." "[F]or Wood-elves were not goblins, and were reasonably well-behaved even to their worst enemies, when they captured them."
Also, one might have advised Thorin against trying his own fortitude against that of an Elf. Those guys have the time, and "a hundred years" was no figure of speech.
The rest of them could easily have been a different matter, for Balin was not only stubborn and impudent, but crass and offensive, "and did not even pretend to be polite." This was doubly insulting, if only Thranduil knew, since Thorin and the rest of them had gone out of their way to be excessively flattering and courteous to the Great Goblin beneath the mountains, yet had only scorn for a King of Elves. If nothing else, their attitude bears unwitting witness in favor of Thranduil’s character, for they obviously had no fear of any great harm or deadly force at the hands of the Elvenking, whereas the Great Goblin would have taken their heads off without a qualm and put them on that night’s menu. As it was, they found relief (of a sort) in his custody, a roof over their heads, protection from the evil of the wood, and "food and drink, plenty of both, if not very fine. . ."
"Do you forget that you were in my kingdom, using the road that my people made? Did you not three times pursue and trouble my people in the forest and rouse the spiders with your riot and clamour? After all the disturbance you have made I have a right to know what brings you here, and if you will not tell me now, I will keep you all in prison until you have learned sense and manners!" (Elvenking Thranduil, The Hobbit)
No Claim But Friendship
Many also accuse Thranduil of leading an army of his elves like a flock of buzzards to take their pick of a horde they had no rightful part in, once the dragon Smaug and (supposedly) Thorin were safely dead. "That will be the last we shall hear of Thorin Oakenshield, I fear. . . . He would have done better to remain my guest. It is an ill wind, all the same . . . that blows no one any good." Already he was making his way toward the Mountain, but considering that last bit, it would seem that while he was indeed looking forward to securing something for himself out of the deal, he was also concerned with maintaining the peace and protecting his interests abroad, for an unguarded and unclaimed treasure does not bode well for the surrounding countryside should the bandits swoop down on it like flies to honey. (Compare Thranduil to a bear if you must, but if so, he is a bear with a keen sense of the legalities of the situation.)
Of the men of ravaged Laketown, it is said that "most of them would have perished in the winter that now hurried after autumn, if help had not been to hand. But help came swiftly; for Bard at once had speedy messengers sent up the river to the Forest to ask the aid of the King of the Elves of the Wood . . ." And what did Thranduil say? "Forget it, buddy; I’m on my way to the Mountain"? "[T]he king, when he received the prayers of Bard, had pity, for he was the lord of a good and kindly people; so turning his march, which had at first been direct towards the Mountain, he hastened now down the river to the Long Lake." No ifs, ands, or buts about it. "Their welcome was good, as may be expected, and the men and their Master were ready to make any bargain for the future in return for the Elvenking’s aid." Apparently his terms were not too crushing, perhaps even forgiven, considering how the spoils were divided in the end.
Once Thranduil and Bard did reach the Lonely Mountain, Thorin certainly made of himself a stick in the mud. Bard had a legitimate claim, asking a share of the treasure in recompense for that stolen from Dale by Smaug, and in return for the aid the dwarves found earlier in Laketown. "I would speak for him and ask whether you have no thought for the sorrow and misery of his people. They aided you in your distress, and in recompense you have thus far brought ruin only, though doubtless undesigned." Thranduil, as of yet, made no claim of his own, but Thorin reviled him and his host nonetheless. "The Elvenking is my friend," Bard shot back, "and he has succoured the people of the Lake in their need, though they had no claim but friendship on him." Such a gesture of magnanimity would not be expected of the penny-pinching cad many write-off as the Elvenking. In his position, he was fully empowered to set his own demands beside those of Bard, but when the final ultimatum was given, there is still no word of him. "At least [Thorin Thrain’s son Oakenshield] shall deliver one twelfth portion of the treasure unto Bard, as the dragon-slayer, and as the heir of Girion . . . but if Thorin would have the friendship and honour of the lands about, as his sires had of old, then he will give also somewhat of his own for the comfort of the men of the Lake."
Thorin did not simply refuse the (very reasonable) peace plan, but he shot at the herald, thus instigating the first violence. Even then, "We will bear no weapons against you, but we leave you to your gold. You may eat that, if you will!"
In parley with Bilbo later, Thranduil is revealed as more patient than Bard, who seems still very ruffled by Thorin’s impudence. Bilbo gave the Arkenstone to the man, not to the Elf, and Thranduil had nothing but praise for him. (He was NOT pestering Bard, "Here, let me hold it for a minute, you ingrate.") "Bilbo Baggins! . . . You are more worthy to wear the armour of elf-princes than many that have looked more comely in it. But I wonder if Thorin Oakenshield will see it so. I have more knowledge of dwarves in general than you have perhaps. I advise you to remain with us, and here you shall be honoured and thrice welcome." (And no, he was not after Bilbo’s mithril.)
After the battle, when enemies became allies, and "all other quarrels were forgotten," we may only hope that Thorin and Thranduil came to terms before the dwarf-lord died. While there is no canon indication one way or the other, they seemed to have the time, and Thorin was much more forgiving of Bilbo at least. "Upon his tomb the Elvenking then laid Orcrist, the elvish sword that had been taken from him in captivity." Not only was it a respectful gesture, but Thranduil thus emplaced one of Erebor’s more valuable defenses. "It is said in songs that it gleamed ever in the dark if foes approached, and the fortress of the dwarves could not be taken by surprise." He could have made good use of it himself, but would not keep what had been confiscated from another.
"Farewell! O Elvenking!" Gandalf said as they parted. "Merry be the greenwood, while the world is yet young! And merry be all your folk!" Rarely was he so courteous to monarchs he believed guilty of such abominations as attributed to Evil!Thranduil. No, Gandalf found no fault with Thranduil as he was. And nor did Bilbo, who rather endearingly offered to make restitution for his ‘keeping’ in the Elvenking’s halls:
"I beg of you," said Bilbo stammering and standing on one foot, "to accept this gift!" and he brought out a necklace of silver and pearls that Dain had given him at their parting.
"In what way have I earned such a gift, O hobbit?" said the king.
"Well, er, I thought, don’t you know," said Bilbo rather confused, "that, er, some little return should be made for your, er, hospitality. I mean even a burglar has his feelings. I have drunk much of your wine and eaten much of your bread."
"I will take your gift, O Bilbo the Magnificent!" said the king gravely. "And I name you elf-friend and blessed. May your shadow grow never less (or stealing would be too easy)! Farewell!" (Chapter XVIII, The Hobbit)
So, not only has Thranduil a keen sense of honesty and duty and even gratitude, but a sense of humor as well! Come on, does this sound like a jerk to you?
Cuss or Champion?
Even beyond the scope of The Hobbit we are dropped clues here and there that attest to Thranduil’s good character, and others that at least provide good reason for such faults as he has. I make no claim that Thranduil is a perfect saint (far from it), but he is certainly no devil.
In an initial comparison, readers of The Silmarillion will note that the abode of Eöl, an admitted nasty, was not an inviting place:
"But now the trees of Nan Elmoth were the tallest and darkest in all Beleriand, and there the sun never came; and there Eöl dwelt, who was named the Dark Elf. . . . There he lived in deep shadow, loving the night and the twilight under the stars." (Of Maeglin, The Silmarillion)
Apparently, the atmosphere of an Elf’s realm reflects the general disposition of its ruler. In stark contrast:
"Now of old the name of that forest was Greenwood the Great, and its wide halls and aisles were the haunt of many beasts and of birds of bright song; and there was the realm of King Thranduil under the oak and the beech. . . . Then the name of the forest was changed and Mirkwood it was called, for the nightshade lay deep there, and few dared to pass through, save only in the north where Thranduil’s people still held the evil at bay." (Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age, The Silmarillion)
Thranduil did not entertain the evil darkness, he opposed it. "The dark things that were driven out in the year of the Dragon’s fall have returned in greater numbers, and Mirkwood is again an evil place, save where our realm is maintained." (Legolas, The Council of Elrond, LotR, FotR) emphasis mine
Besides that, let’s compare households now, perhaps more relevant and to-the-point:
Of Eöl: "There were his smithy, and his dim halls, and such servants as he had, silent and secret as their master." (Of Maeglin, The Silmarillion)
Of Thranduil: "Inside the passages were lit with red torch-light, and the elf-guards sang as they marched along the twisting, crossing, and echoing paths. These were not like those of the goblin-cities; they were smaller, less deep underground, and filled with cleaner air." (Chapter IX, The Hobbit)
I think the contrast speaks eloquently for itself.
The resurgence of the dark powers was not unexpected to Thranduil, and even during the long peace in the first years of his reign after his father’s death, he knew they were still in for more than they had bargained for.
"But there was in Thranduil’s heart a still deeper shadow. He had seen the horror of Mordor and could not forget it. If ever he looked south its memory dimmed the light of the Sun, and though he knew that it was now broken and deserted and under the vigilance of the Kings of Men, fear spoke in his heart that it was not conquered forever: it would rise again." (Unfinished Tales)
In this, I think he can hardly be blamed for keeping a tight watch on the traffic through his realm; one in his position cannot afford to take chances with anyone, and it was said of Thorin that "they believed him to be an enemy."
And, though Oropher his father "resented the intrusions of Celeborn and Galadriel into Lórien," (Unfinished Tales), and deliberately moved north to be rid of them, when the War of the Ring had been won, Thranduil seemed to bear no such ill-will toward Celeborn his kinsman: "And on the day of the New Year of the Elves, Celeborn and Thranduil met in the midst of the forest; and they renamed Mirkwood Eryn Lasgalen, The Wood of Greenleaves. Thranduil took all the northern region as far as the mountains that rise in the forest for his realm; and Celeborn took all the southern wood below the Narrows, and named it East Lórien; all the wide forest between was given to the Beornings and the Woodmen." (Appendix B, LotR, RotK)
Not only did Thranduil share the spoils equitably with him, but he freely welcomed Celeborn into the neighborhood, into the very region that had once been Oropher’s! No grudges borne here.
It Has Not Been Forgotten
Thranduil has been lambasted for his national and racial prejudices, which have often been exaggerated ad nauseam, making his hatred of Dwarves and Noldorin Elves almost psychopathic. Certainly, he may bristle a bit, but he is not unreasonable, or else Thorin and friends would never have seen the light of day again, unable to survive long enough to escape. There were probably many other torments the Elvenking had ready to hand besides mere solitary confinement. "Put ‘em on the rack and shave their beards off!"
Even so, his grievances were not without cause. It may be pure speculation, but based upon canon references it would seem reasonable to assume Thranduil was old enough to have been born in Doriath and witness its fall. His king (and perhaps kinsman) was murdered by Dwarves, and his home (probably Menegroth) was sacked and plundered by Dwarves:
"But the Dwarves held their way, and passed over the great bridge, and entered into Menegroth; and there befell a thing most grievous among the sorrowful deeds of the Elder Days. For there was battle in the Thousand Caves, and many Elves and Dwarves were slain; and it has not been forgotten. But the Dwarves were victorious, and the halls of Thingol were ransacked and plundered. . . . and the Silmaril was taken." (Of the Ruin of Doriath, The Silmarillion)
That would amply account for his resentment toward dwarves, an instance of what would today be called "terrorist violence." It could not have been a pleasant memory. But the Dwarves were not the half of it:
"But Dior returned no answer to the sons of Fëanor; and Celegorm stirred up his brothers to prepare an assault upon Doriath. . . . and so befell the second slaying of Elf by Elf. . . . Thus Doriath was destroyed, and never rose again." (Of the Ruin of Doriath, The Silmarillion)
With Elwing Dior’s daughter, the survivors fled to the coast of Sirion with the Silmaril, "And so there came to pass the last and cruellest slayings of Elf by Elf . . . . For the sons of Fëanor that yet lived came down suddenly upon the exiles of Gondolin and the remnant of Doriath, and destroyed them. . . . Then such few of that people as did not perish in the assault joined themselves to Gil-galad, and went with him to Balar. . ." (Of the Voyage of Eärendil, The Silmarillion)
Now, I think it is plain that the Sindar, or rather what was left of them, have been hounded quite a bit in the course of their purgatorial via dolorosa, and thus can be excused for acquiring a defensive frame of mind as a consequence. Thranduil would remember being violently ousted from no less than two homes, freely leaving two more to finally settle in Greenwood with his father, only to move again at the advent of Celeborn and Galadriel, and AGAIN in flight from the Shadow. By the Valar, NO ONE would move him then. He had played the pushover long enough!
At the End of All Things
In the end, Thranduil’s single-handed stand paid off for his people. "In Greenwood the Silvan Elves remained untroubled," while the other realms of the Rings faded fast (Appendix B, LotR, RotK). Legolas carried a bit of Greenwood south with him, and Ithilien "became once again the fairest country in all the westlands," (Appendix A). If the Silvan elves were "more dangerous and less wise," they also seemed to be handier in the mundane affairs of the time, such as homeland defense and recovery.
In conclusion, I cannot see where Evil!Thranduil comes from, except perhaps from ignorance or willful distortion. While the former is perhaps excusable, the latter has no place in Tolkien fanfiction. Expanding upon the work of another carries with it a responsibility to keep faith with the original, lest the tribute of a "fan" becomes an insult to the author.
And if one can still argue against everything cited above,
I rest my case.
The Silmarillion, JRR Tolkien
Morgoth’s Ring, JRR Tolkien
Unfinished Tales, JRR Tolkien
The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, JRR Tolkien
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, JRR Tolkien
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, JRR Tolkien
The Anti-Evil!Thranduil Campaign, by Sarcastic Elf
In Defense of the Elvenking, by Karri
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.