Friday, December 27, 2013
At first—like many people—I was weary of the idea of Tauriel. I feared that she would be a slightly shiner version of Arwen from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, who brought little to the plot outside of her love and longing for Aragorn. I anticipated Tauriel would be the same, especially after reading that she was supposed to be a love interest for Legolas. I expected a timid She-Elf, who’s only action would involve longing glances at Legolas with some occasional archery thrown into the mix.
How very wrong I was.
She bursts on screen fighting and killing very large—and rather scary-looking—spiders. The goal of the elves at this juncture is to kill the giant spiders and rid their forest of them. Saving Thorin and Company happens by accident really; even Legolas says to Thorin he would consider it a privilege to kill a dwarf. Tauriel saves Kili (for the first of many times), but she flat out refuses to give him a weapon to defend himself, seeing him as an intruder and an enemy. She then proceeds to kill two on coming spiders. She helps the rest of her group round up the dwarves (as prisoners) and escorts them back to the city.
That’s a kick-ass entrance for any character, and I was already rethinking my rashly formed opinion of her.
Throughout the movie, she is shown to be an excellent archer and fighter. When she returns to Mirkwood, she and the Elvenking, Thranduil, discuss the increased presence of the spiders. She tells him that she and her guards must kill the spiders at their source, eliminating the threat instead of simply placating it, but Thranduil has little in anything beyond their borders. He then chastises her for Legolas’ growing feelings for her. While it’s a bit unclear if she feels anything in return, she becomes clearly angry when Thranduil agrees that he wouldn’t let Legolas “pledge himself to a lowly Silvan elf.” (Jackson, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug).
When Thranduil orders his gates closed after interrogating an Orc about the dwarves (where he learns that Sauron is slowly making his return), Tauriel leaves with her weapons. Legolas goes after her and begs her to come back.
She tells him that the elves are a part of the world—of Middle Earth. How can they not care about an oncoming darkness and evil? “When did we allow evil to become stronger than us?” she says to him. (Jackson, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug).
She and Legolas travel to Lake-town to stop an onslaught of Orcs from reaching the Lonely Mountain and killing their escaped prisoners, the dwarves. They save Bard’s family, along with the four dwarves left behind from the final leg of the journey to the mountain. When the Orcs discover that Thorin isn’t among those dwarves, Bolg orders a retreat. Legolas pursues, puts in a good fight with three Orcs, kills two, and then follows Bolg out of Lake-town while Tauriel stays behind to heal Kili.
Since seeing the film, I was all onboard for the Tauriel and Kili ship. For years I have been waiting for a story (in my mind a superhero story, but this works as well) where we see the female character constantly having to rescue her beloved instead of the other way around. Though anachronistic, I was almost expecting her to say, “We have got to stop meeting like this.” Tauriel saves Kili on several occasions: from the spider, at the gate on the river, and again in Lake-town where he has taken refuge because of a wounded leg. She (and Legolas) stave off the Orcs, but only she remains to heal Kili.
There has been a lot of talk about the existence of Tauriel. Many hardcore (and not so hardcore) Tolkien fans have dismissed her, even after seeing the film. I’ve heard that she is “useless” and that she brings nothing to the plot. But the biggest complaint surrounding Tauriel, is that she has been created for the film merely to serve the purpose of being a love interest. Then there are further criticisms about the love story: that it makes Tauriel weak and dampens her importance. Even positive reviews for the film chalk her up to a common romantic counterpart. “And the risky move of inventing his own Tolkien character—the elf guard Tauriel—as a love interest for Legolas pays off.” (Gleiberman, “The Hobbit,” Entertainment Weekly.)
I was able to write three full paragraphs describing what I loved about Tauriel before mentioning her budding relationship with Kili (even though I really approve of it). Tauriel exists as a character, as a person/elf on her own accord with her own story line, without Kili. If Tauriel existed solely for the romantic subplot, then she wouldn’t have needed to do all of the righting and Orc chasing that we see. Take away the subplot completely, and she is still a driving force for the elves.
The growing rapport between Tauriel and Kili begins subtle and flirtatious and ends strong. It’s not in the audience’s face and it doesn’t detract from the overall plot at all. Their interactions are poignant and funny. After being captured by the elves, as the others are being searched, Kili asks: “Aren’t you going to search me? I could have anything hidden in my trousers.”
“Or nothing,” she replies with a sly grin as she locks the door and walks away. (Jackson, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug). They bond over starlight, memories, and promises. It’s sweet, it’s beautiful to see on screen.
Only with female characters are romances seen as a character weakness. In The Lord of the Rings trilogy, a great force behind Aragorn is his love for Arwen. After a battle, falling off a cliff, and being dragged down river, her presence and memory help him stand and make his way to Helm’s Deep. At the very end of The Return of the King, they are reunited, she becomes his queen, and he just couldn’t be happier.
Introducing a love story into a character’s arc doesn’t create weakness, and if done properly, as seen in The Desolation of Smaug, it doesn’t have to pull attention from the main plot. A female character can exist outside of any relationship she may have.
Tauriel is a joy. She kicks ass and doesn’t apologize. She cares about the livelihood of her people and the very existence of Middle Earth. She saves lives. Her relationship with Kili is fun and gentle, and doesn’t make her any less of a strong or independent character.
Gleiberman, Owen. “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” Review. Entertainment Weekly 20 Dec. 2013: 46. Print.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Dir. Peter Jackson. Perf. Martin Freeman, Ian Mckellan, Richard Armitage. Warner Brothers, 2013. Film.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Dir. Peter Jackson. Perf. Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin. New Line Home Entertainment, 2001. DVD.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Dir. Peter Jackson. Perf. Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen Sean Astin. New Line Home Entertainment, 2002. DVD.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Dir. Peter Jackson. Perf. Elijah Wood, Iam McKellen, Sean Astin. New Line Home Entertainment, 2003. DVD.