We all know how bravely Frodo treks through poisonous marshes, vast wastelands and a fire-belching mountain just to destroy the One Ring.
How Éowyn famously throws off her helmet when she confronts the Witch-King of Angmar, who mocks her how no man can kill him, with "I am no man."
How Gandalf reemerges from the brink of death in blazing white, stronger than Saruman.
How valiant and courageous Aragorn is as he rides into battle in armor emblazoned with the White Tree of Gondor.
While the legends of the Tolkienverse continue to be showered in eternal glory, some of those who dwell in their shadows are severely underrated. Sometimes the on-screen portrayal of a king shows more of the greedy glow in his eyes than the heroism he displayed in the past. It could also be that the battle tactics of a princess who has been stereotyped by fans as a Mary Sue go ignored, or an obscure Elf who is hardly mentioned by Tolkien himself is given a military promotion by Peter Jackson. Blasphemous? You decide.
Tolkien Reading Day is the best excuse ever to reread the books (and re-watch the movies), so while you're at it, be sure keep The Eye, or at least an eye, out for these nine characters who just don't get as much time to shine under the stars of Elbereth — or the fandom spotlight — as they deserve.
You might recognize Elrond most for being the librarian-esque Lord of Rivendell who headed the council that sparked a million "one does not simply" memes. Beneath that deceptive glow lies a hardened warrior. Before retreating to his cavernous library in those flowing silvery robes, Elrond kicked a scheming Sauron out of Lindon and fought the dark forces alongside valiant (and also underrated) King Gil-Galad. If the prologue of Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring is any indication, this ethereal Elf can get gritty. Watch him command an Elven army of epic proportions in the War of the Last Alliance — even if it is only for 30 seconds. Oh, and you know that whole thing about "three rings for the Elvenkings?" Elrond becomes the keeper of Vilya, the most powerful, after it is passed on to him by Gil-Galad. One does not simply provoke the bearer of such magic.
Overshadowed by his brother Kíli, the romantic hero in a romance that only ever happened on film — not to mention royally enrages Thranduil and swarms of canon devotees — Fíli seems like an afterthought until you realize he's part of the reason his entire Dwarven company lived to fight in the Battle of Five Armies. Not to mention the forbidden love affair between his brother and the (also non-canonical) Elf Tauriel probably wouldn't have happened either. When giant spiders ensnared the Dwarves in their sticky webs, Fíli was the first victim recognized and freed by Bilbo, and managed to help unstick the rest despite still feeling violently ill from the spider venom in his veins. He is one of the first to encounter Smaug after the dragon finally opens a huge fiery eyeball and sacrifices himself along with Kíli to save Thorin in battle. So much for the Elvish stereotype of Dwarves being selfish, greedy gold-hoarders.
While Haldir's most prominent moment in the books may be remarking that a certain Dwarf breathes so loud he and his fellow guardian-elves could have shot him in the dark, Peter Jackson's decision to suit him up in shining armor and send him marching to Helm's Deep with an army of Elven archers is one of the rare non-canonical movie elements that I actually approve of. Maybe Tolkien foresaw something in the name, which actually means "hidden hero" in Sindarin. Maybe I'm just biased because I had an undying crush on Haldir my freshman year of college. Supernatural infatuation aside, his character somehow manages to combine the mystical aura of an (almost) immortal being with an unrelenting warrior who hacks away at Orc flesh. Sarcasm and blindfolding Dwarves are clearly not his only talents. Also, the bromance between him and Aragorn in that scene is beyond words.
Poor, undervalued Faramir. You can't not be bitter when your father is a derisive iron-fisted sadist who constantly throws you in your elder brother's shadow. How he dealt with hearing he should have been the one to die instead of Boromir — and didn't throw something in the process — is beyond anyone. While Denethor rots away in that dark hall of Gondor, his second son is the relentless head ranger keeping evil things from infiltrating Ithilien. Anyone who gives two Hobbits the third degree is going above and beyond, though the presence of Gollum crawling right behind them might have something to do with that. What is just not emphasized enough about the younger Steward of Gondor is that there is one situation in which he actually rises above Boromir. Where Boromir falls for the lure of the Ring and ends up an Uruk-hai magnet for it, Faramir resists Isildur's Bane when faced with the temptation.
Glorfindel may have been a superstar on the fan-fiction scene (let's not get into how I would know this), but outside the whirlwind of Fabio-style romance yarns, he's just a glimpse of a fair face. Or is he? While Peter Jackson didn't give him much more than an expressionless cameo, Glorfy has some serious fighting prowess. He slashes his way out of an onslaught of Orcs, sacrifices himself to save his battalion from a Balrog, and even rises from the dead to return to Middle-earth. Forfeiting his life earns him both a shiny new existence and godlike powers that manifest upon his reanimation, which he uses to ward off the minions of Sauron. He is also supernaturally fearless, or what you would call someone who is sent to seek out the Ring-Bearer because he doesn't flinch at the sight of Nazgul. Not to mention that he does it all in a flashy gold cape.
However much she might remind you of Snow White, Lúthien isn't your typical damsel in distress. When you look beyond all the singing and dancing in the woods (which is what bewitched Beren) you'll find a courageous Elf-witch who uses both her cunning and powers to rescue her lover from the clutches of Sauron after he embarks on a perilous quest. She is no delicate flower as the translation of her name might imply. Like the Tolkienverse version of a teenager sneaking out a window, Lúthien rides out in the night with magical hound Huan bounding at her side. With her spells and an enormous, nearly immortal dog that massacres the dark lord's pack of werewolves, they manage to free Beren — and not just this time. Lúthien's proverbial sword is her own Dance of the Seven Veils that manages to enchant an especially monstrous werewolf and every other lurking beast in the shadows to sleep.
The late Prince of Rohan is hardly more than a bloodless corpse in the films (and who can forget that positively creepy funeral song), but what isn't seen on screen is how Théodred's heroism sends him to an early grave. He somehow resists the poison tongue of Wormtongue even as it seethes treasonous things that could potentially dethrone his father. After Saruman goes over to Tolkien's version of the Dark Side, Théodred establishes forces at Helm's Deep (seeing how the books have an obvious absence of Elves in shining armor) as Saruman continues gaining power and amassing an army of slimy Uruks in the bowels of the earth. He almost obliterates them until a horde of the hybrid orcs throw all their strength at him and is finally struck down by one of the beasts. The Prince deserves a medal of honor just for looking one of those things in the face, never mind actually fighting it.
For an Elvenking who is the Last High King of the Noldor and supposedly impressive enough to warrant his own song in memoriam, Gil-Galad is nothing more than a passing face with pointy ears and a sword for those familiar with only the films. Tolkien's mythos tells a different tale. Gil-Galad is one of the first to suspect the looming shadow that is Sauron and sees through the evil overlord's angelic disguise. His army, combined with a legion of men, ravages Sauron's forces from the rear and sends them howling back the fires where they came from. He and Elendil forge the Last Alliance of Elves and Men that meets Sauron with a barrage of arrows and then brazenly proceeds to break through the Black Gate and besiege Mordor. Gil-Galad's bravery is nowhere more obvious than his facing Sauron in single combat, which leads to his demise — and that is why the harpers sadly sing.
Before you hate on Isildur for refusing to listen to Elrond's insistent pleas to get rid of the Ring already, did you know he is actually pretty daring before the shadow of Sauron consumes him? When Sauron brainwashes the king into believing he should cut down the same White Tree that appears on Aragon's armor, he makes sure it stays among Gondor's seven stars and seven stones by trespassing to steal a piece of fruit — and survives horrific wounds from royal guards. He also manages to be the last man standing even after Elendil and Gil-Galad perish in the Battle of the Last Alliance. His sword slices off Sauron's finger along with the possessed piece of jewelry. Unfortunately, the movie perception of him as a catalyst of evil starts as his eyes glaze over moments later, mesmerized by the evil thing. Too bad he doesn't throw it into the fire when he has the chance.