In Defense of Tauriel

This is the first (of hopefully many) post from one of our new contributing writers, Lauren. Lauren is a Young Adult author who blogs about books and her writing process at The Housework Can Wait. She lives in Nashville with her husband, two kids, and a dog named Wicket. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her on Twitter.

Every time I find myself in a discussion of the recently concluded Peter Jackson Hobbit Trilogy, a certain subject always comes up. I’m not speaking about whether it was necessary to split a 287-page book into an 8+ hour trilogy (it wasn’t), or how much Luke Evans’ Bard the Bowman resembles Orlando Bloom’s Pirates of the Caribbean character (SO MUCH), or if Thranduil is wasted on Middle Earth and really deserves to be headlining his own Las Vegas variety show (emphatic yes).

No, I’m talking about Tauriel.


You know Tauriel. She’s the feisty ginger Captain of the Mirkwood guard portrayed by Evangeline Lilly. Tauriel is a character named not by J.R.R. Tolkien, but by Peter Jackson, and most of what she does in The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of Five Armies is not in any of the Middle Earth books. She also is doted on in the movies by not one, but two warrior-suitors: Legolas Greenleaf, the Prince of Mirkwood, and Kili, nephew of Thorin Oakenshield.

Lookin' good for 77, Kili.

Lookin’ good for 77, Kili.

Most people I talk to are not fans of Tauriel. Perhaps you are not a fan of Tauriel. And that’s fine and valid – everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and if there is one thing that burns my britches (haha, just kidding, there are a LOT of things that burn my britches), it’s other people telling me what I should and should not like.

So if you don’t like Tauriel because her red hair is just way too long to be practical, or because she reminds you of your second-cousin Mildred with the strong opinions about your wardrobe choices, or because you still have not forgiven LOST for ending the way it did… more power to you. I may not agree, but I respect your right to not share in my unabashed Tauriel love.

However, most of the people who proudly proclaim their Tauriel loathing to me (unsolicited, of course, as I know better than to go around asking people what they think of Tauriel) cite the same reasons over and over, and I have a bone to pick with some of those. I don’t expect anyone in the Anti-Tauriel Camp to convert to Team Tauriel based on my arguments. I wish only to explain why I am firmly Pro-Tauriel, and why I think she has gotten a bit of a raw deal in the fandom.

So here we go with the Debunking the Top Three Arguments Against Tauriel.

1. She is not in the book.

This, for my money, is the weakest argument against Tauriel, because you know what else is not in the book? Most of these three movies. Yes, some of the added material is taken from The Silmarillion and the appendices from The Lord of the Rings, but most of the Hobbit trilogy is unapologetic fan-fiction.

The grand tree-battle that ends An Unexpected Journey? Not in the book. The dwarves flee from the goblins by climbing trees, the goblins light the trees on fire, and the dwarves are rescued by eagles. There is no swordplay, no heroic leap into a pack of goblins, no anything except cowering and fleeing.


Azog’s survival of the Battle of Azanulbizar and subsequent obsession with Thorin? Not in the book. Azog is killed by Dáin and never gets his ridiculous spear-arm – and even that brief history is not in The Hobbit, but in The Silmarillion.

The dwarves quick-melting of vats of gold so they could attempt to kill Smaug Viserys-style? Not in the book. Smaug and Bilbo exchange a few riddles, Smaug mistakenly assumes Bilbo is from Laketown, and he leaves the mountain. No giant semi-molten gold dwarf statue. Nada. Zilch.

smaug gold

Let’s be honest, if you are a Tolkien purist, you need to stay far, far away from these movies (and probably watch the 1977 animated version instead). If you decide to sit through Jackson’s entire Hobbit trilogy and want to enjoy it at all, you need to check canon at the door and settle in for an extravagant spectacle that, yes, is based more or less on Tolkien’s story, but that takes extensive liberties with the source material.

So you’re right. Tauriel is not in the book. There is a (male) chief of the Mirkwood guards, whose main role in the story is to pass out drunk, thus allowing Bilbo to steal his keys and liberate the dwarves from their prison. The chief is never named (nor are most of the elves), and doesn’t do anything particularly masculine other than exist in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, which is apparently powered by pure testosterone.

It should be noted, the chief of the Mirkwood guards is in the book more than the Prince of Mirkwood, aka Legolas, aka Orlando Bloom, aka He Who Is Also Present In These Movies And Yet Receives Far Fewer Complaints.

And maybe I’m in the minority here, but I’m very much in favor of giving the elves more to do in this story than Capturing Dwarves and Passing Out Drunk, until of course the final battle which is – shockingly – also not really in the book (okay, the fact that the battle occurs is in the book, but what happens during the battle is not, as Bilbo spends the whole thing unconscious and the story is told from Bilbo’s point of view).

I mean, let’s for a minute recall that the Lórien elves were not supposed to show up for the Battle of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers, but they did and it was awesome. (If that bothered you, you are probably a Tolkien Purist, and I have to ask again, why are you watching these movies?)

elves at helms deep

So yes, Tauriel does a lot more than her book counterpart – she kills spiders, she kills orcs, she saves dwarves, she saves children, she defies Thranduil, she gets banished. Yeah, that’s a lot of supplemental material, but even if you took all of it out, you are still left with three movies that only resemble the source material in the broadest sense.

Bottom line: the fact that the Hobbit movies are not true to the book hardly boils down to Tauriel. She is one of many characters and scenes and plot points added for the films, a fact which you need to be okay with if you’re going to have even the slimmest chance of enjoying these movies.

2. She exists solely to facilitate an unnecessary love triangle.

Setting aside the fact that Tauriel never demonstrates any romantic affection for Legolas in the movies, and therefore I don’t think that this qualifies as an actual love triangle, it’s true that there is no romance subplot at all in the book. However, referring back to point one, that these movies are essentially fanfiction and to enjoy them you must accept a myriad of non-canon events, let’s discuss Tauriel’s romance(s) and whether they are necessary for the sake of the films.

When we first meet Tauriel, she is dominating a clutter of homicidal spiders (yes, the proper term for a grouping of spiders is “clutter,” which is not nearly menacing enough). In the process, she saves the fair young Kili from being dinner. Kili, because he is not blind, notices that he has been saved by a fearsome and beautiful elf, and thus becomes smitten, which – can you blame him?


Kili then attempts to woo Tauriel by making her laugh and paying her genuine compliments, which – the scoundrel. And Tauriel, despite the fact that the elves in general, and the Mirkwood elves in particular, have been established as elitist and racist (er, speciesist? Not entirely sure what the term is for being so adamantly anti-dwarf), treats Kili kindly. Like he is a person deserving of respect.

Now let’s step back for a minute and think about this. Galadriel and Elrond aside, two characters who are so enlightened they’re practically oracles, most of the elves in The Hobbit are extremely bigoted. Yet here we have Tauriel, a female guard who has risen through the ranks despite her lowly Silvan birth, treating a dwarf with compassion and respect. When Legolas and Thranduil attempt to shame and humiliate her for her insistence on treating the dwarves as equals, she refuses to back down, defying orders and ultimately getting herself banished – which is a huge deal for her. She stands to lose everything and has no backup plan, but she stands as the lone voice of equality against a society preaching superiority. Eventually Legolas sides with her over his father, but it’s very clear that it’s only because he’s smitten with her, not because he agrees with her.

tauriel-legolas 2

Yes, The Lord of the Rings gives us hobbits and dwarves and elves and men working side by side, and yes, Legolas and Gimli’s friendship eventually helps bridge that dwarf-elf chasm, but Tauriel stands alone before any of this ever happens.

Wait, no, not alone. Because you know who stands with her? Kili. Because, oh yeah, the dwarves are just as elitist as the elves. No one else in Thorin’s company supports Kili’s affection for Tauriel, despite the fact that they’d all be dead several times over if not for her.

Yes, then they do develop romantic feelings toward one another, but to say that Tauriel exists only to be part of a love triangle cheapens what these two characters actually stand for in this story, which is demonstrating that in a pre-Fellowship Middle Earth, there were still those who could see the value in races outside their own. They sacrifice for each other and save each other in a world where anyone else – even most of our protagonists – would just stand by and let anyone who is not a member of their race die.


Aren’t these stories, at their core, about companionship and the ability to overcome differences for the greater good? Isn’t that Bilbo’s main role – to remind everyone that life would be a lot better if they could all just get along? Tauriel is able to come to that conclusion on her own, even before Bilbo’s impassioned pleas, and stays the course even when it seems the only possible outcome for her is death. She and Kili pave the way for The Lord of the Rings by showing us that some people of Middle Earth actually can see past the ends of their own noses.

And really, isn’t it more realistic that there would be at least a couple characters who would see the benefit of looking past race and seeing the good in others? Most of the characters in The Hobbit never truly are able to see the other races as equals, Bilbo and Bard being notable exceptions. Every other race has very self-centered reasons for showing up to that final battle, and even though they are forced to work together to defeat the orcs/goblins, when the dust settles, most are still only focused on their own people. The only characters to really mourn anyone of a different race are Bilbo and Tauriel. It’s not much, but from where I’m sitting, it’s more hopeful than Bilbo being the only one to have learned anything from all this.

And Legolas? Does anyone really feel like Tauriel was torn between Kili and Legolas? She did everything but roll her eyes and make a gag-face every time Legolas or Thranduil would mention his feelings about her, but he was a Prince and offered her aid and protection when the rest of her people were turning their backs on her, so obviously she accepted his help. Object of his affection, she absolutely was. A point on a love triangle, she was not.


3. She’s only there because of tokenism.

Before I make my argument, let’s look at what Peter Jackson actually has to say about why Tauriel was in the film:

“We had a very thin book that we had to create characters with some different complexity. And there aren’t that many you can do. The dwarves move from one place to the other. So the elves in the Woodland Realm were an obvious [choice]. In The Hobbit, Thranduil [an Elven king] isn’t even named. He’s just called the Woodland King. And there are no particular elf characters––you just have this one guy. And we obviously know there’s a son, because in The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien names Thranduil and reveals that he had a son [Legolas]. So that gave us a clue. Everybody thinks that Orlando [Bloom] came to these films as a sexy box-office [draw], but we actually needed characters, and he was such an obvious character, it’d be nuts if we didn’t use him. Then you’ve got the king and you’ve got a son, and stories are best told with three people, not two, because then you can create conflicts and triangles. So we wanted a third elf character. Was this a chance to put a female role in the story? Because there are so few female roles. Also you do have a lot of young girls seeing this film, and they should have somebody in there who they can empathize with. It was a very cold-blooded decision. Yes, OK, a female elf. And that was how it came about…

You have to be aware of your audience or otherwise you’re just not doing your job. I just think of all those eight-year-old, nine-year-old, 10-year-old girls who come to see these films. Who are they going to actually empathize with? At least they have Tauriel. At least they know how to kill Orcs now. So that could come in handy one day. We are teaching girls good skills!”

So yes, on the one hand, I suppose you could argue tokenism because they wanted someone girls could relate to. On the other, they were looking for more characters – any characters, from what it sounds like – and if there is one thing Middle Earth does not need more of, it is male characters. This is creating a character from scratch to fill up screen time (again – YAY FANFICTION!), so why shouldn’t she be female? We have Galadriel and Arwen as precedent to show us that female elves can hold positions of power, we already have an established awesome male elf action hero in Legolas – making the Captain of the Guard female just makes sense.

Also, on a personal note as a mother of two young girls, it gets really old listening to them argue over who gets to pretend to be the one female character in a story. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to break up arguments because one of them was hogging the role of Princess Leia, or Black Widow, or Gamora. And yes, I can suggest that they can be genderswapped Han Solo or Captain America or Rocket Raccoon until I’m blue in the face, but why should I have to? Trust me, they see that as the consolation prize it is, and then I’m consoling a weeping six-year-old who wonders, “Why do I always have to be the boy?”

I don’t have a good answer for her.

So yes, maybe there is a bit of tokenism in Tauriel’s existence. Maybe her presence in the story isn’t strictly necessary, maybe she’s there just to have “a girl.” Maybe there should be more women in Middle Earth. But we have to start somewhere, and as Peter Jackson said, at least we have Tauriel.

tauriel 2

So there you have it, folks. My defense of Tauriel, and why dismissing her at face value because of her romance subplot or because she’s not in the book or because Tolkien liked to conveniently forget that women existed is, perhaps, not giving her enough credit. If you don’t like her, I don’t expect that I changed your mind. I hope only that I made you think about why you don’t like her, and if it’s based on the character herself or on what everyone is saying about the character.

And if this essay has wooed you to the Tauriel side, or you, like me, have loved her from the first moment you saw her – welcome to Club Tauriel. It’s a fabulous place to be.

5 thoughts on “In Defense of Tauriel

  1. I love Tauriel overall though I have one MAJOR gripe about her, and that’s the fact that Peter Jackson saw fit to make it so that she can heal morgul wounds. It goes COMPLETELY AGAINST the Tolkien canon about who can/cannot heal (basically it boils down to Aragorn and Elrond alone). There’s old Middle Earth wives’ tales that basically say “the hands of the healer are the hands of a king,” and that’s how you know Aragorn is the one true king because he can heal people. So the fact that a regular ol’ Silvan elf can up and do it is really, really not cool. But I don’t pin that on Tauriel; I pin it on Peter Jackson. The man CLAIMS to be Tolkien’s biggest fan, to love this stuff inside and out, but I feel like missing that healing hands thing is a pretty jarring oversight.

    • I think this is a COMPLETELY VALID complaint – but with the adaptation, not the character herself. We are not even going to dip a toe into the MASSIVE RABBIT HOLE that is Hobbit Adaptation Problems.

      Basically PJ is a hardcore fan who — like many — expresses his admiration for the stories through fanfiction — which, NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT — except then his fanfiction is the thing everyone is supposed to accept as a direct translation and it’s like…no.

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