An essay by Tyellas about the Lord of the Rings character of Haldir, as he is described in J.R.R. Tolkien's writing.
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Disclaimer: All quotes provided in this essay are provided in the context of a review of The Fellowship of the Ring book. All information provided by Tolkien's writings is referenced.
Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings often walked out of Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Two Towers saying, "What was all that with Haldir? I mean, it was good…and noble…but it wasn't like that in the books, that's for sure." There are a lot of differences between Movie Haldir and Book Haldir. This essay is an overview of Book Haldir, the character as originally written by J.R.R. Tolkien.
As you'll see, Haldir was a substantial character in the books, and many Haldir fans were very glad to see this elf in Peter Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring film.
Who is Haldir?
Haldir is an elf who appears in the Fellowship of the Ring (FOTR) book by J.R.R. Tolkien. He is both guard of the borders of Lothlórien and guide to the Fellowship within Lothlórien. Haldir is the Fellowship's guide because he speaks Westron, the common tongue, and can communicate with all of them. In the book's narrative, his role is to help both the Fellowship and the reader understand Lothlórien.
Haldir's rank among the elves of Lothlórien is interesting. He is that rarity among Tolkien's elves; the help. Most of Tolkien's elf characters in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion are nobles in some way or another. It is rare to see any of the elves in service to these nobles. In several instances, Haldir notes that his actions are in service to Galadriel and Celeborn, the rulers of Lothlórien, and that his authority is limited. Tolkien never notes Haldir as a captain or lord or designates him as a marchwarden or guardian. He's just there.
Haldir is a peripheral character. In the FOTR book, we see him in only two chapters. He does not appear in The Two Towers nor in Return of the King. Because of this, we do not get much history for Haldir. Haldir is "of the sylvan folk," a Wood-Elf. This is similar to Legolas' background, but Mirkwood (where Legolas is from) and Lothlórien are separate enough that they have different dialects.
Tolkien does not say how old Haldir is or who Haldir's parents might be, nor does he provide any specifics about his heritage. Haldir's two brothers, Orophin and Rumil, serve with him on the marches. However, they speak little Westron, so that Haldir remains the main communicator when we see him.
What is Haldir's character like in the book? He seems devoted to duty, following Lothlórien's laws, as shown in this excerpt where he is speaking to the Fellowship.
"I do not doubt you," said Haldir. "Yet this is our law. I am not the master of the law, and cannot set it aside. I have done much in letting you set foot over Celebrant." Gimli was obstinate…"You cannot go back," said Haldir sternly. "Now you have come thus far, you must be brought before the Lord and the Lady. They shall judge you, to hold you or give you leave, as they will."
However, Haldir is good-natured when duty allows, as he shows with his kindness to Sam and Frodo on Cerin Amroth. It seems a bit unusual that Haldir returns from the northern marches of Lothlórien (two days journey) to Caras Galadhon just to escort the Fellowship to their boats. Then again, it is also unusual that any of the Elves of Lothlórien speak Westron. Perhaps Haldir is unusually intelligent or adventurous.
Tolkien does not describe Haldir's appearance or hair color. However, at one point, Haldir and the Fellowship come across another elf of Lothlórien whose hair "glinted like gold in the sun." So it is at least probable that Haldir was given golden hair in the FOTR film.
Haldir is a name in Tolkien's elvish language of Sindarin. Sindarin was the most widely spoken elvish language.
The name "Haldir" means "tall one." In Sindarin, hal- means "tall." The suffix "dir" means "one who does or is." For example, Lindir = singer. Mithrandir - mith (grey) randir (wanderer, one who wanders.) Hence, the meaning of the name "Haldir." (Source for Sindarin wordlist: http://hem.passagen.se/noldo/sindarin.html)
At times, Tolkien would give a Sindarin name to an Elf character, and later or earlier in Middle-Earth's history, also give that name to a mortal character. He did this with the name Haldir, giving it to a mortal man who appeared in The Silmarillion and in the story "Narn i Hîn Húrin" in Unfinished Tales.
What Haldir Did (And Did Not Do) in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings
Those who are Haldir fans because of the Lord of the Rings movies are missing out on a great deal if they do not also read the FOTR book. Haldir has a great deal of dialogue and interaction with the Fellowship, far more than is shown in the movie. A taste of this and an overview of his role in FOTR follows. All quotes are from the FOTR chapter "Lothlórien."
As a border-guard, Haldir and his brothers meet the Fellowship at the edge of Lothlórien, beyond the Silverlode but before the Naith. He introduces himself as follows:
"We seldom use any tongue but our own; for we dwell now in the heart of the forest, and do not willingly have dealings with other folk…But there are some of us still who go abroad for the gathering of news and the watching of our enemies, and they speak the languages of other lands. I am one. Haldir is my name. My brothers, Rumil and Orophin, speak little of your tongue."
Haldir speaks to Legolas and Aragorn as the representatives of the Fellowship, and it is agreed that, though the situation is unusual, they may pass into Lothlórien the next day, with Haldir's guidance. "The four hobbits shall climb up here and stay with us - we do not fear them! There is another talan in the next tree. There the others must take refuge. You, Legolas, must answer to us for them. Call us, if anything is amiss! And have an eye on that dwarf!" Orcs follow the Fellowship into Lórien in the dead of night, and Haldir and his brothers draw them away from where the Fellowship rests.
The next morning, Haldir tells the group they must go to the Lord and Lady of Lothlórien. After the Fellowship crosses a tightrope bridge into the Naith of Lórien, there is a debate about Gimli's presence due to ancient enmity between elves and dwarves. Haldir says Gimli should walk blindfolded, presumably so he does not learn about Lothlórien's locations. The debate is resolved when Aragorn says that all the Fellowship shall proceed blindfolded.
Once this is done, Haldir talks with the hobbits as they walk, providing the perspective of the Elves of Lórien on the state of Middle-Earth. "I do not believe that the world about us will ever be as it was of old…Alas for Lothlórien that I love! It would be a poor life in a land where no mallorn grew. But if there are mallorn-trees beyond the Great Sea, none have reported it."
At noon the next day a message comes from Galadriel that the Fellowship is to walk free. Haldir frees Gimli first. "(Haldir) removed the bandage first from Gimli's eyes. 'Your pardon!; he said, bowing low. 'Look on us now with friendly eyes! Look and be glad, for you are the first dwarf to behold the trees of the Naith of Lórien since Durin's Day!'" They are at the hill of Cerin Amroth in the heart of Lothlórien, and they spend some time enjoying its beauty. Haldir encourages Frodo and Sam to climb the hill of Cerin Amroth and ascend a flet, a platform inside a tree. Further dialogue takes place.
They then proceed to the audience of Celeborn and Galadriel in the city of Caras Galadhon. Haldir is quiet during this audience. Put on the spot by Celeborn, Legolas covers for Haldir. "'We have not spoken to Haldir of our deeds or our purpose,' said Legolas." Afterwards, Haldir bids the Fellowship farewell and returns to the northern borders.
Haldir returns in the next chapter, "Farewell to Lórien", to help escort the Fellowship out of Lothlórien. This is his last appearance in the Lord of the Rings books.
It is important to note that in Tolkien's books, Haldir does not appear in The Two Towers, nor is his long-term fate mentioned at all. Tolkien filled in the fates after the War of the Ring for many characters, but not for Haldir.
What might Haldir's fate have been in the LOTR books? It is mentioned in Return of the King (Appendix A, Tale of Years) that Celeborn brought forces to Southern Mirkwood to fight against Sauron's soldiers. Haldir might have gone with these troops to fight in this battle. If he survived the war, it is very likely, given his earlier wistful comments about the Sea, that he left Lothlórien and went to the Undying Lands.
Haldir fans are often curious about Lothlórien, the realm he guards. Tolkien wrote some interesting things about Lothlórien. Unfortunately, the information does not help us determine Haldir's age or his elvish background.
It is through Haldir's descriptions that both the readers and the Fellowship learn about Lothlórien. Lothlórien was a small forest realm, ruled jointly by Celeborn and Galadriel. It has been a refuge of Elves in Middle-Earth since the Third Age of Middle-Earth began. In the books, Lothlórien was inhabited by several different kinds of elves; sylvan, Sindar, and Noldor. (History of Galadriel and Celeborn, Unfinished Tales) Lothlórien was the most southern of the elf-realms. It was geographically isolated from other areas inhabited by elves. There was communication between Lothlórien and Rivendell. Arwen spent time there; Aragorn visited; the sons of Elrond, Elladan and Elrohir, rode there with messages. (Tale of Years and the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, ROTK appendices).
Lothlórien was warded by the power of Galadriel's Ring, Nenya. The effects and passage of time were different. After their sojourn in Lothlórien, the hobbits in the Fellowship were surprised that nearly a month had passed. Arts of the Elves were preserved in this land, such as the making of lembas, and things that seemed magic but that followed the will of their creators and owners, such as elvish cloaks and ropes. (Farewell to Lórien, FOTR).
Lothlórien was the only place in Middle-Earth where mallorn-trees still grew. Mallorn-trees were brought over to Middle-Earth from Númenor, and to Númenor from Valinor. (A Description of Númenor, Unfinished Tales ).
Tolkien's backstory about Lothlórien's settlement dates back to the Second Age of Middle-Earth, when the area was inhabited by Wood-Elves and called Lórinand. Tolkien's book Unfinished Tales has more of the varied narrative options he explored for this time and place. Tolkien's books also include maps with this area.
Lothlórien, like many realms and countries, was based on some philosophical ideals. An abbreviated version of the area's name, Lórien, evokes a peaceful realm in the Undying Lands. Tolkien said that Galadriel "had endeavoured to make Lórien a refuge and an island of peace and beauty, a memorial of ancient days, but was now filled with regret and misgiving, knowing that the golden dream was hastening to a grey awakening. It may be noted that Treebeard interpreted Lothlórien as 'Dreamflower.'" (History of Galadriel and Celeborn, footnote 5, Unfinished Tales).
After the War of the Ring was concluded, Galadriel's Ring lost its power, and Lothlórien began to fade. By the time Aragorn died, Lothlórien had been abandoned by the Elves, who had moved on to other fates. (Tale of Years, ROTK)
The Fellowship of the Ring (FOTR), J.R.R. Tolkien, Ballantine Books, 1954.
The Return of the King (ROTK), J.R.R. Tolkien, Ballantine Books, 1955.
The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Christopher Tolkien, Ballantine Books, 1977.
Unfinished Tales of Numénor and Middle-Earth , J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien. Houghton Mifflin Co, 1980. Source for: "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn," "A Description of Numenor," and "Narn i Hîn Húrin."
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