Sunday, May 17, 2015

Tauriel of the Woodland Realm

*This essay is a part of my 'Tolkien and Gender' series. You must read my Intro before reading this essay. This essay was updated after the BotFA Extended Edition was released.*

I'm writing this essay because of all the conversations revolving around Tauriel. There have been many outraged posts about how Tauriel is sexist. Frankly, they make me feel sad. Because there is nothing sexist about Tauriel. I feel sad because people are taking all of the rage and hurt they have gotten from being mistreated by the Patriarchy, to enforce the Patriarchy.

Let me repeat, there is nothing sexist about Tauriel. Raging about her only ingrains sexism deeper into our psyche.

It's perfectly alright to not feel a character or a pairing. That doesn't make them/it badly done, or wrong in any way. A personal example is that I just don't really like Gandalf. He's a crucial, very well-written character in Tolkien's legendarium. I have nothing against him. I just, for some reason, don't like him that much. And that's okay.

But that's completely different from accusing a character of being fundamentally unhealthy and wrong.

The criticism of Tauriel can be summed up into this:

She fights like a 'she-devil.' She's 'dominated by all the male egos.' She's 'defined by her emotional state and the men in her life'. 'It's shallow and unrealistic, they haven't known each other long enough to feel real love.' Tauriel 'is too young to be the Captain, and knows nothing about strategy.' 'Dwarves and Elves would never be lovers, and it trivializes Legolas and Gimli, because their bond took time.' Tauriel 'could never use Athelas' and 'elvish warriors can't heal, it says so in LACE.'

Tauriel 'is an objectification of women, that she shows that women are only have motivation and value if a guy has the hots for her.' That 'it's a love story, because that's all there is to women.' That 'every time Tauriel is on screen is to support the love triangle; she's just there for romance.' That their love 'is not real love; it's fundamentally unrealistic.' Tauriel 'is racist against dwarves and only changes her mind because of Kili.' Tauriel is 'way too young.' Tauriel 'is a total Mary Sue.' Tauriel's line about death 'shows she has no understanding of it.' Tauriel 'looks dumb because Legolas knew some history she didn't.'

Tauriel 'couldn't fight Bolg at all; it's a betrayal to her elven nature for him to be able to sneak up on her.' It was only done 'to make her the damsel in distress for both Kili and Legolas.' 'One romantic love subplot overrides any platonic love in the plot.' Tauriel 'had so much potential, and is ruined by romantic love – otherwise her actions would have been fine.' Tauriel 'has to be saved by a man three times. Legolas 'has to save her from Thranduil.' Tauriel 'goes from an amazing character to a helpless, lovelorn female puppet' because 'she has the least amount of fighting time.' Tauriel 'asks Thranduil to kill her because she can't live without Kili.' Tauriel 'went from being a strong, independent female character to an incompetent, weak mess all because of love.' Tauriel 'should have killed Bolg to avenge Kili; why couldn't she kill and be the hero?' Tauriel 'crumpled up not only in strength, but in her importance and her worth to the story.'

Tauriel 'has no reaction to being banished because she's thinking about Kili.' She 'threatens Thranduil because of Kili, not because of moral objections.' Tauriel 'is a racist, and only makes an exception for Kili.' She 'abandons Legolas time after time, to cry over a dead body.' Tauriel and Kili's relationship 'starts because of a crude sexual comment, and that's a huge problem.' Their love 'is completely unrealistic; it's horribly written.' Tauriel 'forgets she has weapons' and 'doesn't use them' when she fights Bolg. Bolg 'took his sweet time killing Kili, and Tauriel did nothing.' Tauriel 'is an incompetent moron who gets Kili killed.' Tauriel 'ruin's Kili's character, making him desperate and obsessed.'

Tauriel's characterization is only 'kill things and be a love interest.' Tauriel 'never interacts with Sigrid and Tilda.' She 'looks right through them, treating them badly, never even looking Tilda in the eye.' Tauriel 'barely spares them a look, much less any comfort.' 'Kili is the only one she cares about.' The 'conversation between Thranduil and Tauriel is DoS is only about the love triangle – the rest is an afterthought.' We 'never see Tauriel act like a captain – she doesn't take charge or lead the people of Laketown. She actively ignores them.' Tauriel 'is no better than the Master, getting out and not helping the people of Laketown.' Tauriel 'sees Bard and doesn't go to help. Bain should tell her where the Black Arrow is, and Tauriel should actually do something good.' She 'runs away to save her own hide, and Kili's; coldly abandoning a child without regret; in pure selfishness.'

'Tauriel and the dwarves ditch Bard's daughters to have A Moment; ignoring the suffering of the people around them.' Tauriel 'richly deserves to be punished for running off, disobeying orders, and helping their enemies just because she didn't agree with Thranduil.' Tauriel 'is the Captain of the guard, she should have some loyalty!' Tauriel 'is the Captain of the Guard, and she just runs off! It's a betrayal to her position.' Tauriel 'has no right to defy Thranduil or lecture Legolas. They are her prince and king!' It is 'totally unacceptable for her to lead her prince into danger.' Tauriel 'puts Thranduil in danger by leaving.' Tauriel knowing that Legolas would follow her 'is her willing to have Legolas die for Kili.' Tauriel 'choosing to save Kili instead of following Legolas is treason. She has a duty to protect him.' Tauriel's relationship with Legolas 'demeans LotR Legolas.' Legolas and Tauriel 'barely seem to know each other.' He 'disobeys orders for a girl he has no relationship with.' The Gundabad scene 'is pointless.' Tauriel 'doesn't contribute at all; or comfort Legolas, she clearly doesn't care about him at all.' Tauriel 'has achieved nothing so far.'

Tauriel 'threatens to kill Thranduil to force him to help Kili.' She 'turns on him in a heartbeat' and 'commits high-treason' 'for his enemies.' Thranduil 'would be entirely justified in killing Tauriel.' Tauriel's presence 'continues to be pointless.' Tauriel 'knows Thranduil's grieving for his wife, and verbally slaps him in the face.' Tauriel 'shows that she doesn't care about her people at all because she wants Thranduil to save the dwarves that just killed some of them.' Tauriel 'shouts Kili's name and that proves she's inept and knows nothing about strategy.' Tauriel 'doesn't even try to fight back against Bolg until Kili joins, and she's terrible at it.' Tauriel 'is completely pathetic. Her boyfriend dies and she just crumbles, instead of avenging his death and killing Bolg.' This 'is sexism because the warrior becomes a damsel in distress and spends the rest of the time crying.'

Tauriel's final scene 'is shallow.' She 'was meant to be more than a love interest.'


So... yeah. There's a lot here, and most of it is sexism. It's very interesting to me that people first make it all about Tauriel's romantic love, and then damn her for it. She is most assuredly not there 'just for romance.' And even if she was, there would be nothing sexist about it. There is nothing wrong with romantic love.

First, let's get one thing out of the way: Tauriel is not a Mary Sue, and calling her so is incredibly sexist.

If you regularly read book (or film or TV or other media - but most especially book) reviews of any kind, whether in magazines or on Amazon and Goodreads or on book review blogs, you will more than likely (more than likely) have come across the term Mary-Sue. If you don't already know what the term means, you might have tried to work out the meaning using the context in which the term was used. But, because hardly any of the people throwing this term around themselves understand what it means, you'll have a tough time of it. Even if you've read a hundred reviews talking about Mary-Sue characters, you probably still don't know for sure, although you'll have gotten the idea that Mary-Sue = bad news. Bad character. Bad writing. BAD WRITER, NO COOKIE! 
When I read reviews, I see the term Mary-Sue used to mean: 
1) A female character who is too perfect 
2) A female character who kicks too much butt 
3) A female character who gets her way too easily 
4) A female character who is too powerful 
5) A female character who has too many flaws 
6) A female character who has the wrong flaws 
7) A female character who has no flaws 
8) A female character who is annoying or obnoxious 
9) A female character who is one dimensional or badly written 
10) A female character who is too passive or boring 
Do you see, Dear Readers, how many of these aspects of the commonly used term Mary-Sue are...umm...just a teeny bit contradictory? How can Mary-Sue mean 'a female character who is too perfect' when it is also used to mean a female character who is 'annoying or obnoxious'? How can it mean that a character has 'too many flaws' and also 'no flaws'? How can these people have anything in common? It's all so confusing! 
Except that it isn't. 
Take another look at the list of complaints against so-called Mary-Sues and you will see one thing all of them have in common. 
'A female character.' 
What many (though not all!) of the people merrily throwing this phrase around actually mean when they say 'Mary-Sue' is: 'Female character I don't like'. 
That's it. That's all. 
So why don't they just say 'I didn't like the female character' and explain why? I mean, there's no problem with a reviewer not liking a female character, is there? Everyone is entitled to like or dislike a character according to their own lights. A character that one person loves may seem utterly vile to another reader, and that is a wonderful thing we should all be very happy about as individuals. How did this strange, contradictory, badly defined term come into such common use in the first place? Clearly it doesn't mean what people think it means - so why not just honestly lay out the reasons you didn't like the female character, the same way you would any other character (by which we mean, a male one) instead of throwing the term Mary-Sue like a mud-pie? 
Maybe it's because the reviewers in question, the reviewers who keep saying 'Mary-Sue' as if it was all that needed to be said, don't want to have to explain the reasons why a particular character didn't work for them. Maybe it's because their reasons for finding these female characters just too obnoxious, unrealistic, stupid, passive, badass or talented are just as contradictory and badly defined as the term itself. Maybe it's because the reason they don't like the female characters isn't that they're just too...anything. Except just too... female. 
For the record, at this point let's see if we can't dig out the actual meaning of the term Mary-Sue. Because it did have a useful definition once, before it was co-opted and turned into a two-word mud-pie to diminish female characters. And that definition was this: 
AMary Sue (sometimes just Sue), in literary criticism and particularly in fanfiction, is a fictional character with overly idealized and hackneyed mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as a wish-fulfillment fantasy for the author or reader. It is generally accepted as a character whose positive aspects overwhelm their other traits until they become one-dimensional.” 
The term was made up by people writing StarTrek fanfiction, to describe the author-insert characters (often given names like Mary Sue) who would show up in pieces of fanfiction as a new ensign or science officer and immediately prove to be the best looking, most intelligent, spunkiest, wittiest and most perfect StarFleet officer ever recruited. All the other characters would immediately realize this and hail Ensign Mary-Sue as a genius. If they did not, they were very obviously motivated by spite and jealousy, since Mary-Sue was so clearly perfect (and modest! And humble! And unaware of how beautiful she was!) that no one who wasn't wicked could do anything but embrace her. 
She would not only miraculously solve every problem that the Enterprise faced and make instant friends of all the crew, but all the significant male (and maybe female) characters would fall in love with her.Usually Mary-Sue would bravely die at the end of the piece of fanfiction, because the established characters and setting would have become so warped around her utter perfection by then that if she had lived she would have gotten married to either James T Kirk or Spock (or both) and become Captain of the ship, and no one would ever have had to have any adventures again. 
In short, Mary-Sue is a wish fulfillment fantasy. And I'm not saying characters like this don't exist. I'm not even saying they are *bad*. 
So this is what a Mary-Sue is: 
1) A character who is based, at least partly, on the author 
2) A character whom has no significant flaws (except possibly ones the other characters find cute) 
3) A character to whom everyone within the story reacts as if they were beautiful and wonderful except characters who are clearly evil and/or motivated by jealousy 
4) A character with whom, during the course of the story, every available character of the opposite (and occasionally the same) sex will fall in love given any contact whatsoever 
5) A character who undergoes no significant growth, change or development throughout the story 
And then I saw a review calling this character - this amazing, flawed, revolting, inspiring, broken, beautiful, ugly character - a Mary-Sue. Dear Readers, my head nearly exploded. 
I'm sick of it, Dear Readers. I'm sick of seeing people condemn any female character with a significant role in a book as a Mary-Sue. I'm sick of people talking about how the female characters were too perfect or not perfect enough, too passive or too badass, too talented or too useless, when what they really mean - but don't even KNOW they mean - is that the characters were too much in possession of lady parts. 
I beg, I implore, I get down on bended knee and grovel: next time you're about to use the term Mary-Sue, stop and look at my little checklist above. And if the character you are about to describe does not hit all the points on the checklist? DON'T. 
And if you're going to ask how on earth you're supposed to know, without photos of the author, if the character is partly based on them? You've just proved my point. YOU CAN'T. Therefore, you shouldn't be using the term Mary-Sue, because you are making a claim about the character/author relationship which you cannot substantiate. Simple as that. 
Instead of slapping 'Mary-Sue' in your review and leaving it at that, make a list of four or five traits or decisions or actions that you think were bad, or unrealistic, or obnoxious, about the character. Perhaps you should discuss those points, and why they bothered you, in the review instead. 
But before you do, take a moment to imagine that the character you are thinking about was a boy or a man. And don't say 'Well, that's different' or 'But I just can't see a girl behaving this way' or 'It's not about their gender!' or any other excuse. Look at your list again, really look at it. See if, suddenly, magically, all those traits, decisions or actions don't seem bad, unrealistic or obnoxious anymore but like perfectly normal, perfectly acceptable traits or decisions or actions...for a boy. 
By attempting this exercise, you might come to realize that you (like every other human being ever born on this planet, except maybe Jesus) have an unconscious prejudice, an unexamined blind spot. And it doesn't mean you are A Sexist Pig, or A Bad Person, or that I Don't Like You. It means you're human. And humans, oh glory, humans can change. 
If you can change enough to realize how damaging and unfair the term Mary-Sue is when used indiscriminately and incorrectly to denigrate female characters, you might start to notice some of the damaging and unfair assumptions which are generally made about ACTUAL FEMALES in this messed up sexist world of ours. You might change enough to start dealing with that and make this world a better place in the process. I believe you can. I believe in you. 
But only if you shove the term Mary-Sue into a deep dark closet somewhere and leave it there except for very, very special occasions. (source)
I am going to script the scenes from the films, and we will discuss them and what they mean as we go along. Also, for us to truly understand the effect Tauriel has, we have to look at Thranduil and Legolas as well.

But first, we need to understand Tolkien's canon – because there's a lot of misunderstanding in these comments.

Let's start with Legolas and Gimli. Their friendship happens suddenly, and only after Gimli's deep love for Galadriel starts: “Often he took Gimli with him when he went abroad in the land, and the others wondered at this change.” Gimli's sailing is only rationalized in the Red Book because of his relationship with Galadriel. I'm not saying they don't have a great friendship, because they do. But not like it's usually portrayed in the fandom. And theirs is not the first friendship between elves and dwarves (for more on Legolas, Gimli, and Galadriel; and the relationships between elves and dwarves, see here).

The Morgul arrow and athelas. Morgul is Sindarin for “(dark) sorcery.” It does not necessarily mean the Nine. Also, it's Bolg that fires the arrow. If any orc is going to have special weapons, it's Bolg and Azog. Elves are able to use athelas, and the comment in LACE about how elven warriors have little healing power is contradicted by... pretty much everyone (Glorfindel, Elrond, Elladan, Elrohir, Beleg, Mablung).

Elvish nature. This part is super important, because elves are not human. We cannot understand them if we don't understand their nature. The foundation of elven-kind is memory and emotion. Their mind/will/soul controls their body, because their souls are bound to the Unseen Plane.

This means so many things. They feel bodily desires, but the desires have no control over them. Let me give an example. If we touch a hot surface our body responds immediately, jerking back. Our body is in control, we don't consciously decide to move back. That's not true for elves. Their body never overrides their mind.

Elvish memories remain crystal clear, no matter how many decades or centuries pass. They never fade, even the slightest bit. Connected to memory is emotion. Elves feel things in a clearer way. They are ruled by emotion. They can literally just lie down and kill themselves with their mind, if they wish. Also, because of this clarity, they know from the beginning if they are feeling romantic-love or friendship-love for someone. There is nothing more important to an elf than their relationships, of any kind.

This leads to a paradox that confuses most people. The mastery of their body means that they don't instinctively have a physical reaction. Their every movement and expression is controlled. This leads some to believe they are cold and unfeeling, which couldn't be further from the truth. The power of their mind makes both their emotions clearer, and their physical actions controlled. Also, no elf hides their facial expressions – over half the story is told in their body language. These are beings ruled by emotion.

Another key trait of elves is their eyes. For elves, the eyes are truly the window to the soul. They have the ability to read the hearts and souls of others. One look into another's eyes, and they can perceive all of them. It's definitely love at sight for elves. They can only be deceived by beings with greater power (like Sauron or Morgoth). They also have super-sight (not super-senses, just super-sight).

There is one last thing I need to mention before we turn to the films. I am a firm believer in The Death of the Author concept and you can find my reasoning for it here. This means I do not look at or count supplemental materials or interviews as canon. All that matters when interpreting a work is the work itself. I am mentioning this because there are two concepts commonly mentioned with Tauriel. The first is that Legolas is in love with her, the second is that she is a lower class of elf. Not only are these concepts absent from the films, they are explicitly disproven by the films; as I will show you.

There are also several concepts about Thranduil that are explicitly disproven by the films – that he commissioned the dwarves to create jewelry for his wife with the gems of starlight, she then died, and Thror refused to give them to Thranduil. Thranduil became hellbent on reclaiming them because he wrongly viewed them as all he had left of her, and ignored/was a bad parent to Legolas. Another concept about Thranduil and Mirkwood is that he is classist and that Silvan elves are seen as lowly (I mentioned this a moment ago with Tauriel). All of this is explicitly disproven by the films, as I will show you.

Let's now turn to the films.

The dwarves are fleeing and fighting the spiders. The elves arrive. Legolas lands in front of Thorin, drawing his bow. The rest of the elves surround the dwarves with their bows drawn. Legolas says, “Do not think I won't kill you, dwarf. It would be my pleasure.” They get interrupted by Kili getting attacked by a spider.

Tauriel arrives on the scene, jumping from the trees and killing spiders as she goes. She kills the spider holding onto Kili with an arrow, before turning around and fighting another one. Another comes at Kili and he says, looking between the spider and Tauriel twice, “Throw me a dagger! Quick!” Without turning around, and killing her spider, Tauriel retorts, “If you think I am giving you a weapon, dwarf, you're mistaken!” She impressively turns and throws her dagger, killing the spider. Tauriel releases a sigh, straightening up, and you can see the satisfaction and passion in her face, smiling as she glances at the spider and then at Kili (he is still looking at the spider). Kili then turns and looks at her in amazement. Tauriel has turned away, leaving Kili and issuing a command to the other elves.

It is important that when she glances at him, he is turned away. Their eyes don't meet, and so she does not take notice of him. (For Kili's side of their relationship, see my Fili and Kili essay)

Tauriel's actions here doesn't mean she's racist, they mean she's logical. Her realm is not on good terms with dwarves at the moment, and she has no idea who he is or what he is like. That is why she calls him “dwarf” - because she doesn't know his name. She is merely doing her job. As we will see, Tauriel and Kili are the two most open minded characters in the films.

Legolas has just commanded them to search the dwarves. He comes across Gloin's locket, “Who is this? Your brother?” Gloin responds that it's his wife. “And what is this horrid creature, a goblin mutant?” Gloin retorts that it's his son, Gimli. Legolas merely raises an eyebrow.

It is Tauriel who realizes the change in the spiders. Legolas asks her, “Are the spiders dead?” Knowing and grim, Tauriel responds, “Yes, but more will come.” Tauriel looks at Legolas, who looks back at her in confusion. Her voice is fierce, “They're growing bolder.”

This is significant, because it shows the Captain Tauriel is. She has the insight into the situation, not Legolas. We saw her satisfaction and passion when killing the spiders, and now her voice is fierce. This is part of her fundamental self.

One of the other elves calls, “My lord Legolas,” and gives him Orcrist. He inspects it and says, “This sword was made in Gondolin. Forged by the Noldor.” He lowers it and says, “Where did you get this?” Thorin responds that it was given to him. Legolas points the sword at Thorin, “Not just a thief, but a liar as well.” He orders the other elves to take them.

Tauriel and Legolas walk side by side, at the head of the group. They then stand in front of the two pillars, before the gate. The dwarves and the other elves go in, then Tauriel, then Legolas begins to. He orders the gate to be closed. Legolas stops and turns around, sensing Bilbo, before entering. It is clear that Tauriel is second only to Legolas.

Legolas is watching as the dwarves are pushed into their cells. Tauriel is guiding Kili. Kili watches Fili lose his last knife before being pushed and locked in a cell, before saying, “Aren't you going to search me?” He then looks at Tauriel, and she him. He says innocently, “I could have anything down my trousers.” Tauriel raises her eyebrows and says, “Or nothing,” before closing the cell door. Yet, she doesn't look away from Kili until she turns around, and he watches her walk off, before looking down and smiling softly.

Kili certainly has taken notice of Tauriel. He is clearly awed by her in the forest, and we saw him appreciate elven beauty in Rivendell. Here is a beautiful female who is an amazing warrior, and who just saved his life twice. When he sees Fili lose his last knife, he takes his chance to flirt with Tauriel.

If you have a problem with the sexuality of it, first that does not make it unhealthy; and second, don't use Tolkien as your excuse. It's untrue. Go read Unfinished Tales, The History of Middle-earth series, and The Children of Hurin. Just because it isn't in LotR, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Tauriel's elvish nature now comes into play. For the first time, she meets Kili's eyes, and reads his soul. She perceives all of him, and she feels romantic love for him. She responds to him with a quip of her own, and keeps his gaze. Happy with their flirting, Kili watches her walk off, before looking down and smiling softly.

This is such a wonderful moment and I love it so much. Their flirtatious humor is explicitly mocking toxic masculinity and it's obsession with phalluses (someone with toxic power/masculinity would see Tauriel's response as emasculating them and would react with anger and aggression, not a soft smile).

Tauriel walks to where Legolas is. Completely befuddled and slightly upset, he looks at her and snaps, “Why does the dwarf stare at you, Tauriel?” “Who can say?” she snaps back, looking at him. Looking away, she says wonderingly and with a small smile, “He's quite tall for a dwarf.” She realizes what she said, shoots Legolas a glance, and awkwardly says, “Do you not think?” walking off before Legolas can answer. Sill completely befuddled, he says mildly after her, “Taller than some, but no less ugly.” There is no hint of jealousy here, just him questioning the sanity of his best friend (Legolas's comment about Gimli being a “goblin mutant” proves that this was already his belief). After all, they're talking about a dwarf. In fact, it's notable that Legolas's much more mild comment comes after Tauriel's dreamy complement.

Kili shifts in his cell and glares at Legolas, because of his closeness to Tauriel. Legolas then narrows his eyes in dislike and irritation. This creature he believes is beneath him is making him very, very confused. He does not like it.

It may seem like Tauriel's actions here contradict what I said before about elvish nature, but they don't. She is taken over completely by her feelings for Kili, and she expresses them. She just forgets that Legolas is right there. Then she's completely taken over by awkwardness, and makes a hasty exit.

Thranduil is walking around, and looks towards the staircase, “I know you're there. Why do you linger in the shadows?” Tauriel moves down the last few steps, “I was coming to report to you.” She is nervous, she knows Thranduil likely won't listen. She walks into the room, faces Thranduil, and bows her head briefly in an official gesture of respect. Thranduil accepts her statement of reporting and questions, “I thought I ordered that nest to be destroyed not two moons past.” Tauriel starts pacing with the controlled fierceness of elven emotion, “We cleared the forest as ordered, my lord, but more spiders keep coming up from the south. They are spawning in the ruins of Dol Guldur.” She stops pacing and moves closer to Thranduil, looking at him, “If we could kill them at their source -” The most logical and efficient thing to do is kill the source. If she could just get to him listen -

Thranduil interrupts her, “That fortress lies beyond our borders. Keep our lands clear of those foul creatures, that is your task.” Tauriel starts pacing again, clearly having heard this before, “And when we drive them off, what then? Will they not spread to other lands?” Everything in her is urging them to act, to destroy the evil for good. Thranduil responds, “Other lands are not my concern.” Tauriel pauses, staring at him. She cannot believe he just said that. He looks away, “The fortunes of the world will rise and fall, but here in this kingdom, we will endure.” Tauriel continues to stare at him. Thranduil looks to the other staircase, hearing Bilbo's slip.

Tauriel lowers her head, turns around, and starts to walk away. He has shut her down. Looking back at Tauriel, Thranduil says, “Legolas said you fought well today.” This tells us that Legolas has already talked to Thranduil about the day's events, and that he is comfortable sharing things with his father.

Tauriel turns around, lifts her head, and smiles at him. She is happy to be complimented, both from her Prince and King. Thranduil continues, “He has grown very fond of you.” The implication is clear. Tauriel looks away in shock and disbelief, gaping. She cannot believe this is happening. After a moment she says, “I assure you, my lord, Legolas thinks of me as no more than a captain of the guard.” She then lowers her eyes because this is a lie, she and Legolas are best friends. But there certainly isn't anything romantic between them!

Thranduil walks towards her, “Perhaps he did once. Now, I'm not so sure.” He walks past her, emotionally cutting her off. Turned away from him, Tauriel gapes again in disbelief, still unable to believe this conversation is happening. She remains silent for a moment, trying to formulate a response. She finally says, “I do not think you would allow your son to pledge himself to a lowly Silvan elf.” Thranduil pours himself a drink, “No, you are right, I would not.” Tauriel cannot help but glance at him,
before looking down, hurt. “Still, he cares about you.” Thranduil glances at her, seeking her response (he sees her head bowed), and orders, “Do not give him hope where there is none.” Tauriel looks back up, disturbed and pained.

Tauriel's smile here does not in any way imply she has romantic feelings for Legolas. She is happy to be complimented, especially after just being rebuked. Tauriel's obvious shock and disbelief counteracts Thranduil's statements; she clearly has not seen or felt anything romantic in her relationship with Legolas. Her actions show that she is hurt by Thranduil's slighting of her.

Tauriel does not call him 'lord' when she arrives, she questions him, and she starts to leave without saying anything. That is on top of the fact that this is clearly a private room, and Thranduil is not wearing any type of crown. They clearly have a closer relationship than that of just subject and King. When he continues to go on and imply her good friend has romantic feelings for her, and that she's not good enough for said son, Tauriel becomes formal. In one conversation she is shut down, disturbed by the implication of something she doesn't see, and slighted by someone she cares about.

As for the “lowly Silvan elf” comment, classism is not Thranduil's reason, because his love and concern for his people is crucial to the plot. Note that he refers to “our” lands – not just his, but hers as well (his usage of “our” does not meet the qualifications needed to be 'the royal we' (see here)). Also, Tauriel said it. It says more about her mental state than his. She is being slighted by someone she cares about, and is feeling inadequate. They both know they're talking about her specifically – and Thranduil won't let Legolas be with her.

Back to elvish nature for a moment – I said above how elves can tell from the beginning of a relationship if it's romantic-love or friendship-love. That is not contradicted here, because Tauriel's reaction and subsequent events will show no romantic feelings between her and Legolas. As for Thranduil, he woul
d have the ability to read both Legolas and Tauriel's hearts and souls; and yet he not only uses very vague wording (“has grown very fond of you”, “perhaps”, and “not so sure”), he completely ignores the fact that Tauriel has fallen in love with Kili (which he most certainly would have read in her soul when their eyes met). Something else is going on here.

Also, another important fact is that the camera closes in and stays on Tauriel's face for almost the entire time after Thranduil's “very fond” comment. This makes it clear that Tauriel's reaction and feelings are the important part.

I did not understand this scene before BotFA came out, because it requires a broader understanding of the situation. I have only just started explaining it, so please stick with me, as we'll definitely be coming back to this.

Tauriel is doing a routine check of all the cell doors. Even when there's a party going on, she is still working to make sure nothing (or no one, in this case) is out of place. Kili glances at her and stops throwing his rune stone, right before she reaches him. In love with Kili, and curious as to what he has, Tauriel stops outside his cell. With a neutral tone and look, she says, “The stone in your hand, what is it?” Because he's Kili and he wants Tauriel's attention, he decides to tease her. He looks from her to his hand, grim, before saying, “It is a talisman.” He looks at her. Tauriel looks at him strangely, tilting her head to the side slightly in a silent question. He looks back at his hand, “A powerful spell lies upon it. If any but a dwarf reads the runes on this stone, they will be forever cursed.” Kili thrusts the stone out at her. Tauriel's eyes widen, and she takes a small step back, giving him a disturbed look. Kili holds her gaze as he moves the rune stone back to himself. With a look of slight alarm, Tauriel turns to leave.

Or not,” Kili says conversationally, abruptly switching gears. What? Tauriel stops, looks back at him strangely, and starts moving back to where she was. “Depending on whether you believe in that kind of thing. It’s just a token.” Kili continues conversationally, smiling at the end. He doesn't want her to leave. Tauriel is still staring at him strangely, but she slowly smiles; not only understanding that Kili just played a joke on her, but also finding it funny. Her smile encourages Kili, and he continues, looking down at his hand. “A rune stone. My mother gave it to me so I’d remember my promise.” He looks back at Tauriel to gauge her reaction.

Intrigued, Tauriel moves closer, “What promise?” Kili responds, “That I will come back to her.” Tauriel smiles and looks down, moved by his admission and the love he shares with his mother. Lightening the mood, Kili says, “She worries.” He tosses the stone and looks at Tauriel, smiling slightly, “She thinks I’m reckless.” Tauriel smiles back, looking at him, “Are you?” “Nah,” says Kili, smiling and waving it off. However the rune stone slips from his grip, and almost falls off the edge. And, oh, the symbolism! Because we know his fate. We know the tragedy in how this will end.

Tauriel stops the rune stone with her foot, and Kili gets up and comes to the cell door. She picks it up, and curiously inspects it. Kili is distracted by the noise coming from above. “Sounds like quite a party you’re having up there.” While Tauriel is fascinated by an aspect of Kili's culture, he's distracted by an aspect of hers.

Tauriel smiles in happiness at his mention of the party, eager to share this fundamental part of her self and culture. She says, “It is Mereth-en-Gilith,” before stepping away and looking up, “the Feast of Starlight. All light is sacred to the Eldar, but Wood Elves love best the light of the stars.” Kili says, “I always thought it is a cold light.” Tauriel turns and looks at him. “Remote and far away.” She moves closer, and says earnestly, “It is memory. Precious and pure.” She then smiles in pure delight of the stars, and Kili looks at her with wonder.

After holding Kili's gaze for a moment, Tauriel looks down at the rune stone in her hand, recognizing the same love and purity in it's meaning. She smiles and tells him, “Like your promise,” before offering it back to him. He looks at her, takes it back, and looks at her again, before looking down. Filled with happiness, Tauriel turns around to look at the light shining down, before looking back at Kili and confiding with a smile, “I have walked there sometimes.” Kili looks back up at her, and Tauriel looks back up at the light, entranced by her memory, “Beyond the forest and up into the night.” She steps away, “I have seen the world fall away and the white light forever fill the air.”

Entranced by Tauriel, Kili confides a similar experience, “I saw a fire moon once.” Tauriel turns to look at him, walking back over. “It rose over the pass near Dunland. Huge. Red and gold, it was. It filled the sky.” Tauriel sits down, entranced by Kili. “We were an escort for some merchants from Ered Luin, they were trading in silverwork for furs. We took the Greenway south, keeping the mountain to our left. And then it appeared. This huge fire moon lighting our path.” Tauriel smiles, still entranced. “I wish I could show you the caverns [something].” Both are entranced, connected, and joyful. There is nothing to ruin this precious and perfect moment for them.

These two... this is the second time we have seen Tauriel have a moment of social awkwardness. Kili, bless his heart, is not at all smooth in any way. His way to get Tauriel's attention is to prank her by pretending he's cursing her. Tauriel's initial reaction is to look alarmed and leave – just like her awkwardness and hasty exit when she realized what she had said to Legolas. Tauriel then understands that Kili was playing a prank, and she finds it funny because she is an equally big dork and shares his sense of humor.

This conversation also shows that Kili has thought about nature before, and the crucial word “always” makes it clear that he has been doing so for his entire life. He had pondered and formed an opinion about the stars, and reveled in the beauty of a fire moon. This is not natural for a dwarf, and it is one of the many things that show us how perfectly matched he and Tauriel are.

We see Legolas, completely unnoticed, watching them impassively from the shadows. As he doesn't move, he has obviously been there for a while. Curiously, he does not look angry, nor does he interrupt them. He just watches. I think Legolas doesn't know what to think, watching his best friend connect and open up to someone he believes is beneath them. However, he respects and loves Tauriel, and will not interfere.

Bilbo happens and the dwarves escape. An unnamed elf finds the cells empty, and sounds the alarm. We see Tauriel striding past the empty cells, elves following her. “Where is the keeper of the keys?” she demands. She strides quickly towards the cellar, commanding the others, “Come now!” Tauriel gets there just in time to see the trap door re-close. First and foremost, she is the Captain of the Guard, and we see that here. Her feelings for Kili have no sway over her actions, and I am certain that she would have recaptured the dwarves, if she had arrived in time.

The dwarves start going down the river. Legolas runs outside and orders, “Shut the gate!” Feren raises the alarm, and the sentries hear it. The gate shuts, right before the dwarves.

The orcs arrive and kill the elven guards, before attacking the dwarves. Kili sees the lever, realizing if he opens it, they will get out. He climbs up, fighting orcs to get to it (Dwalin and Fili help him from their barrels). Note that neither Tauriel or Kili change their actions because of their feelings towards each other – both focus on helping their people.

Bolg shoots Kili in the upper leg, just before he tries to grab the lever. He falls down on the ground in pain. Another orc is coming towards him; an orc that falls with an arrow. Kili whips his head around, and sees Tauriel running onto the scene. She's saved him for a third time, and he's amazed. He watches her, panting; his head turns, following her arrow, as she kills the new orc trying to sneak up on him (fourth time!). She then kills one by her. Bolg orders the orcs to kill her. Legolas and the rest of the elves arrive – this shows us that Tauriel ran ahead, trying to get to the gate as quickly as possible; nothing is more important to her than doing her job (she couldn't know about the orcs until getting near). Kili looks back at Tauriel once more, before trying to get the lever.

He does, and falls into his barrel with a grunt of pain. For a moment, Tauriel's fear for Kili overwhelms all else, and she looks after him fearfully. Remember, Tauriel's an elf, she knows her heart. Like when they captured the dwarves in the forest, she would have saved his life again, even if she didn't love him. But she does, and that adds a whole new layer to her mental state. Because of this, she doesn't see the orc sneaking up on her. She throws it off with a yell.

Yes, her fear for Kili distracts her momentarily. That's not a bad thing. It doesn't make her weak. She's an elf, she's ruled by emotion – and emotions aren't bad things. So she's distracted for a moment, she still skillfully throws the orc off and kills it. Remember, elven eyes are their only super-senses; they aren't infallible. So far, she missed both Bilbo and Legolas's presences, Thranduil picked up something but didn't realize it what it was (Bilbo), as did Legolas right before the gate closed (when they captured the dwarves), and Legolas is about to be completely oblivious to two separate orcs trying to kill him. Elves are just as fallible as the other races.

Tauriel is a moment behind Legolas, as they follow the orcs and dwarves (the other elves are following them). Legolas's head-hopping is extremely important, because it shows his complete disregard of the dwarves. They're just convenient stepping stones. After which, Thorin still saves a completely oblivious Legolas from being killed. Some more orcs die, the dwarves continue down the river, and Legolas stops, watching them.

Tauriel arrives, and deflects the arrow about to kill her prince with one of her own. She fights the orc, pinning it with her knife to it's throat. Legolas stops her from killing it, “Tauriel, wait! This one we keep alive.” He knows that they need answers. A switch from the spiders, this time Legolas is the one with the insight. As the orcs leave them alone and continue after the dwarves, Legolas turns back; they were off elven territory and weren't attacking the elves. Tauriel however looks after the orcs fearfully, fearing for Kili and the others.

To understand the next scene (the orc interrogation), we need to talk about both Thranduil and Legolas, and their histories (for full quotes on their family history, and a deeper analysis, see here). Tolkien never gives us a birthdate for either, but we can make some educated guesses.

Thranduil lived in Doriath before its fall, and he was old enough to co-lead with his father Oropher their migration (with a handful o
f other Sindar) to the Greenwood in the early Second Age. Thranduil would have survived the first sack of Doriath (done by dwarves), and the second sack (which was also the second kinslaying between elves). Thranduil and his father, being two of the few who survived, fled to the secret haven in the mouths of Sirion. However there was once again a massacre, when the sons of Fëanor did their third kinslaying. The few who survived that (Oropher and Thranduil included) fled to the isle of Balar, which became a refugee camp. They stayed there while the host of Valinor defeated Morgoth, and then briefly lived in Lindon, before traveling to the Greenwood.

All of this caused Oropher and Thranduil to have a great dislike for both dwarves and the Noldor (for more on the first sack of Doriath, and the relationships between elves and dwarves, see here). Oropher and his followers wanted to return to a more simple 'Silvan' way of life. They originally lived in the southern part of Greenwood, at Amon Lanc (which will become Dol Guldur). Later, Oropher moved them northwards, beyond the Gladden Fields. He did this for two reasons – the “power and encroachments” of the dwarves of Moria and the “intrusions” of Galadriel and Celeborn into Lórien; ie dwarves and Noldor. However, regardless of their opinions, their Silvan subjects kept up “constant intercourse” with their kin in Lórien, as there was no danger in their land. Oropher and Thranduil kept out of the conflicts and wars until the War of the Last Alliance.

As Tolkien writes, “Oropher had the wisdom to foresee that peace would not return unless Sauron was overcome.” Therefore, he and Thranduil “assembled a great army” and joined Gil-galad and Elendil (and their warriors) in their march to Mordor. Their people were strong and brave, but were ill-equipped, compared to the Noldor. Oropher also refused to be under the command of Gil-galad. When it came time for the first assault on Mordor, Oropher rushed forward with his best warriors (including Thranduil), before Gil-galad gave the signal. Oropher and most of their warriors were slain; Thranduil lived and became King. After seven years of war, Thranduil lead barely a third of their warriors back home.

They had peace for about a thousand years, but the Silvan elves “were unquiet and anxious, feeling the change of the world that the Third Age would bring.” They had no more contact with Lórien. The realms of Men expanded, both good and evil, and had many wars. Tolkien writes,

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 for ever: it would arise again.”

Around TA 1050, a dark power (called the “Necromancer”) arrives and makes a stronghold (Dol Guldur). Some think it to be one of the Nine, and the Greenwood becomes Mirkwood (giant spiders and orcs included). As the shadow grew, Thranduil continued to retreat northward, finally enlisting the help of dwarves to make his fortress underground (remembering Doriath).

In TA 2063, Sauron fled from Dol Guldur, to keep his identity hidden from the Wise. This started the Watchful Peace. Sauron, stronger, returned to Dol Guldur in TA 2460; thus ending the Watchful Peace.

The Watchful Peace is a very interesting time. All the signs point to Legolas and Tauriel being born during it. The essay Laws and Customs Among the Eldar tells us that elves control when they procreate, and that they try to only do so during peaceful times.

This is where things get really interesting. What is so striking is Legolas's personality. He sounds like a captain at times and is capable of leading, but he prefers to follow and be the support. He is loyal. He is humble, never mentioning his heritage, and introducing himself as merely one of the Fellowship. He is generally light-hearted, yet serious when he needs to be, and quick to defend and forgive. He is open-hearted, selfless, and kind. He expresses sadness and fear, but never lets it control him. He is sassy, fanciful, and dramatic; and yet realistic about the situations he is in. His curiosity is insatiable. Throughout all of his words and actions, there is an undercurrent of steadiness.

Legolas is an elf, so he of co
urse has the power of the elves – some measure of foresight, some wisdom (especially compared to Gimli and the hobbits), and some insight into the Unseen forces at work (see here). But he is also ignorant to much of the world, knowing little of Hollin, Lothlórien, and Fangorn; only the basics and the tales turned to song. It is very telling that Legolas only knows tales and legends of the Balrog's awakening, in TA 1981. Also, Legolas continually refers to himself as a Silvan elf (Tolkien writes that Legolas was from an “originally Sindarin line”, thus implying his mother was not).

All we know of Legolas shows him to be a young, generally open-minded (he's only iffy on dwarves), humble, curious, loyal, and sassy yet easygoing, elf. While Legolas's most humorous moments were not in the films, his sassiness is still there:

Gandalf: “Yes Gimli, their own masters cannot find them, if their secrets are forgotten.”
Legolas: “Why doesn't that surprise me?”
and: [to Aragorn] “You're late.”
and: “Shall I describe it to you? Or would you like me to find you a box?”
and: [Gimli passes out drunk] Legolas: “Game over.”

We see very little sassiness from Legolas in The Hobbit, because every scene we see him in, he's experiencing something serious. The closest he comes is his, “Taller than some, but no less ugly” comment about Kili.

All of this is the complete opposite of Thranduil. Tolkien paints us a portrait of a tormented king, traumatized by life. He’s been forced to watch helplessly as his kin are slaughtered, several times. His forest is being taken over by darkness. He’s isolated and withdrawn.

The films gave Thranduil life, as a fully-fleshed character. I have not been going over his scenes because this is a Tauriel essay, and there are so many. However, I am going to summarize them now.

All would pay homage to him, even the great Elvenking, Thranduil.” Thror expected Thranduil to “pay homage” to him. To pay homage means “a public show of respect or honor towards someone or something.” Thranduil arrives, and they both tilt their heads in respect. Thror then has the box containing the gems opened. Thranduil glances at Thror, before looking back at the gems, as he starts walking forward. “As the great wealth of the dwarves grew, their store of goodwill ran thin.” Thranduil pauses before the box, his eyes and mouth widening slightly as he is greatly moved by the sight of the gems. He continues to stare at them for a few moments. “No one knows exactly what began the rift.” Thranduil slowly reaches forward. As soon as Thranduil's hand gets close to the box, it is slammed shut. “The elves say the dwarves stole their treasure.” Thranduil's eyes widen in shock and disbelief; and Thorin looks at his grandfather, confused and surprised. “The dwarves tell another tale.” Thror just looks at Thranduil, who looks up. “They say the elf king refused to give them their rightful pay.” Thror and Thranduil stare at each other, and then Thranduil's mouth tightens into a slight smile, understanding the game Thror has played. He turns around and leaves.

No matter what Bilbo says, it’s actually quite clear – in a genius move, the scene disproves the narration. If it was a matter of payment, Thorin wouldn’t have been surprised. Nor would there have been any need to bait and toy with Thranduil. Thranduil's reaction to the gems shows that he cares greatly about them, something Thror had to be aware of. To be mocked and humiliated so publicly…

I don't understand how people miss how huge this is. It's practically a declaration of war!

Imagine if the situation was reversed. Thranduil had the Arkenstone, and was supposed to give it back to Thror. The meeting starts with him having his two heirs there, and requiring Thror to make a gesture of respect. Thranduil then has the Arkenstone brought forward. When Thror is about to touch it, he has it snapped back and taken away. Thror meets his gaze, and realizes Thranduil set this all up to humiliate him, and to prove his own superiority.

Does anyone honestly think the dwarves wouldn't go to war because of this? They would. They would not let such a slight pass unpunished.

Thranduil does. He doesn't start a conflict, but just walks away. Bilbo merely says “it is sad how old alliances can be broken;” and the film continues to show events in Erebor before Smaug came.

Thranduil arrives with his army at the edge of the cliff, holding his hand up to halt his warriors. They take in the destruction, the fleeing dwarves, and the missing dragon. Thranduil turns away, Bilbo's narration saying, “Thranduil would not risk the lives of his kin against the wrath of the dragon. No help came from the elves that day, or any day since.”

Why did Thranduil come with an army? Probably to protect their home, should Smaug turn towards them. He turned his back not only because of his enmity with Thror, but also because he cares for and values his people.

Our next scene with Thranduil is after they capture the dwarves, and Thorin is brought to him. Thranduil says, “Some may imagine that a noble quest is at hand. A Quest to reclaim a homeland and slay a dragon.” He turns towards Thorin, walking closer, “I myself, suspect a more prosaic motive. Attempted burglary, or something of that ilk.” Thranduil looks closely at Thorin, “You have found a way in.” He starts backing away, “You seek that which would bestow upon you the right to rule. A King's jewel. The Arkenstone.”

Standing against the base of his throne, Thranduil says, “It is precious to you beyond measure,” he smiles, “I understand that. There are gems in the mountain that I too desire. White gems of pure starlight.” He tilts his head towards Thorin respectfully, “I offer you my help.” Thorin, “I am listening.” Thranduil, serious, “I will let you go, if you but return what is mine.” Thorin turns and starts walking away, “A favor for a favor.” Thranduil, “You have my word. One king to another.”

Thorin turns around, swearing at him, “I would not trust Thranduil, the great king, to honor his word should the end of all days be upon us! You lack all honor! I’ve seen how you treat your friends. We came to you once, starving, homeless, seeking your help, but you turned your back. You turned away from the suffering of my people and the inferno that destroyed us!”

During this tirade Thranduil's eyes widen, and his mouth slackens. When Thorin curses him in Khuzdul, he snaps, lunging forward and putting his face only centimeters in front of Thorin's. “Do not talk to me of dragon fire! I know it's wrath and ruin.” He closes his eyes and breathes deeply, his face starting to transform, before looking back at Thorin. “I have faced the great serpents of the North,” the entire left side of his face is scarred and burned. He backs away, his face returning to normal.

Coldly, he states, “I warned your grandfather of what his greed would summon, but he would not listen.” He turns away from Thorin, ascending to his throne. “You are just like him.” He gestures and the guards grab Thorin, dragging him away. “Stay here if you will, and rot. A hundred years is a mere blink in the life of an elf. I'm patient. I can wait.”

It is clear during both scenes that Thranduil has a strong emotional connection to the gems. He puts the past to the side, being professional and offering to make a deal as two kings. So not only does he give Thorin a chance for them both to get what they want, at this point Thranduil is the only one who will acknowledge Thorin as a King.

Some people think Thorin's tirade means that the dwarves asked for help, and Thranduil turned them away, after Smaug's attack/what we saw. I don't believe that, because Thorin lumps them both together in his last sentence. Nor does Thorin mention such an event in his tirade to Gandalf about elves (before Rivendell). Also, Thror was far past the point of asking for help, and no one would disobey their king.

Thorin's tirade not only shocked Thranduil, it also caused him to have a traumatic flashback about dragon fire. Also note that he said serpents, as in more than one dragon. The scars have been controversial, but I loved them the moment I saw them, because I love visual representations of things. I saw them as Thranduil showing a physical representation of the state of his soul.

We talked earlier about how elvish souls are in control, how they can kill themselves with their minds. This is not an unreasonable power for them to have. Because of copyright issues, the filmmakers couldn't touch most of what I told above. Therefore, they had to find different ways to reason and express Thranduil's trauma. While it is never mentioned that Thranduil meets a dragon, there were multiple dragons in the War of Wrath. Though none of the Sindar fought with the host of Valinor, it is highly probable that Morgoth sent a few dragons to destroy and terrorize the refugees on Balar.

Next we get the crucial detail that Thranduil had warned Thror. He knows the consequences of greed, and he tried to be a good ally. He got ignored, and now Thorin’s showing the same arrogance and personality. So, Thorin gets thrown in a cell. Thranduil can be patient, he has literally the rest of time to live and reclaim the gems. He doesn't need Thorin, or his quest.

Really Thorin? How on earth could Thranduil break his word? Not let you go? You're arguing from nothing. In fact, it is far more likely that you would not uphold your end of the deal. And you don't even know that Bilbo's in the Woodland Realm! All you know is that he didn't get captured with the rest of you. He could be injured in the forest!

Also, Thranduil has no reason to think the dwarves will wake Smaug and cause destruction. He guesses rightly that they have a way to sneak in and get the Arkenstone. Indeed, Gandalf's (and thus Thorin's) original plan was to get the Arkenstone so the other dwarf lords have to obey, and then march with an army to take on Smaug.

Some people have damned Thranduil for Legolas and Tauriel arresting the dwarves and throwing them in jail. However, that comes from a misunderstanding of the situation. Not only did Thranduil have his childhood home destroyed and many of his people killed by dwarves, but also at least one member of his family was killed. Then, in this Age, Thror tries to bait Thranduil into war. Then Thorin shows up unannounced and with a group of armed dwarves. It is a precautionary safety measure. It does not mean that Thranduil wasn't sincere in his offer to Thorin.

In fact, this explains Legolas's extremely negative reaction to Thorin and Orcrist. Orcrist is a legendary elven sword from the First Age. It is highly unlikely that an elf would just give it to a dwarf, and Thorin offers no further explanation (which would really help; some people have said he was protecting the quest but all he needs to say is he found it in a troll hoard and that Elrond gave it to him when he was in Rivendell). “Not just a thief” - Legolas would know that Thorin was there when Thror pulled his trick with the white gems – which was thievery (and not the first theft done by dwarves – remember Doriath).

For all of Thranduil's coldness, he truly does give Thorin a chance, like he tried to give Thror. I believe he learned, after his father's unnecessary death, the price of absolute pride. We will continue to see that instead of passing down his burdens and grudges (most of them, anyway; Legolas would have been present for everything with Thror) to Legolas, he has sheltered him, keeping him protected and safe, ignorant of the world's cruelties.

Of course, haters disagree with me. They say that Thranduil was coming anyway to invade Erebor, and that him not providing aid to the dwarves after Smaug came proves that he wanted the dwarves wiped out. They also say that this explains why he never tried to get his gems through peace in BotFA.

There is no basis for any of this hate. Thranduil is not coming to invade Erebor. The prologue shows a fairly substantial amount of time passing between Thranduil's scene in Erebor and Smaug's attack. To make this explicit, Bilbo says “Slowly the days turned sour” right after Thranduil leaves Erebor. If Thranduil truly wanted to attack Erebor he would have done it immediately.

Instead, at least several months pass. Thranduil has faced dragons before, he knows Thror has fallen, and he knows a dragon is inevitable. So the logical answer is that he posts scouts and communicates with the animals to give a warning if a dragon starts coming their way from the Withered Heath.

As I went over above, Thror still had the dragon sickness. He did not ask Thranduil for help and no dwarf could have accepted it without Thror's permission. Thranduil knows that Thror has dragon sickness and would rather have his people die than get help from the elves. Thror was the one to destroy the alliance between them. Also, Thranduil does try to get his gems through peace. That's what this scene is about!

Without further ado, lets go back to the scenes.

Thranduil, Legolas, and Tauriel are interrogating the captured orc. I find the set up very interesting – Thranduil is circling Legolas and the orc, Legolas is pinning the orc, and Tauriel is standing opposite them, staring intently at the orc. Thranduil is the king, he's not holding the orc. However, since Tauriel is technically the one of lowest rank, she should be the one holding the orc and asking the questions. Instead, Legolas is.

Once again, Thranduil is not wearing any type of crown. While it happens in a public place (by the throne), it is a private moment.

Thranduil says as he circles, Such is the nature of evil. Out there in the vast ignorance of the world it festers and spreads, a shadow that grows in the dark. A sleepless malice as black as the oncoming wall of night.” He looks at Tauriel, “So it ever was;” he looks back at Legolas and the orc, “so will it always be. In time, all foul things come forth.” He stops and crosses his arms, directly parallel from Tauriel. This is Legolas's cue to start interrogating this particular piece of evil.

It is extremely interesting that Thranduil looks at Tauriel when he says it was always that way – there is nothing new about dark creatures and the evil behind them.

Legolas starts the interrogation, “You were tracking a company of thirteen dwarves.” “Why?” he demands. “Not thirteen, not any more,” the orc leans forward. “The young one,” At some point Tauriel has started slowly pacing. She stops, looking at the orc. “the black-haired archer, we stuck him with a Morgul shaft.” Tauriel just stares the orc, grim. “The poison's in his blood.” Her face doesn't change and she has no outward reaction; even though we know this is affecting her greatly. “He'll be choking on it soon.” Still looking grim and not reacting, Tauriel says, “Answer the question, filth.” The orc swears at her in Black Speech, and tries to lunge forward. Tauriel whips out her knife, her face still grim. Legolas warns the orc, “I would not antagonize her.” He knows she's lethal.

Grim and angry, Tauriel finally reacts. “You like killing things orc?” she says, “You like death?” she narrows her eyes. Pausing, Tauriel just stares at the orc for a moment. “Then let me give it to you!” she lunges forward. “Enough!” Thranduil commands at the last moment. Being an elf, Tauriel freezes perfectly. “Tauriel, leave!” Thranduil commands. Furious and defiant, she meets Thranduil's gaze. Her love for Kili has combined with her anger, making her lose control and almost kill their only source of information. “Go now,” Thranduil repeats (he does not look surprised, nor does he punish Tauriel for defying him). She straightens up, not breaking eye contact. Legolas glances at her, confused by what's happening.

This is a crucial moment for her. Looking down, she clears her face. Thranduil has confirmed, beyond all doubt, that he does not care. He will not do anything. Her decision is made. Lives are on the line, and she cannot stand back and let evil win. The orc growls, and she glances to the side, before leaving. As she walks away, Thranduil states, “I do not care about one dead dwarf. Answer the question.” Tauriel's face and stride does not change, she already knows Thranduil's opinion.

It is just Thranduil and Legolas. Thranduil still has not moved, “You have nothing to fear. Tell us what you know, and I will set you free.” Legolas takes over, “You had orders to kill them. Why?” he tilts his head in genuine confusion, “What is Thorin Oakenshield to you?” The orc responds, “The dwarf runt will never be king.” Thranduil starts his slow circling again, already knowing Thorin's purpose. Legolas, however, does not. He is visibly taken aback, “King? There is no king under the mountain nor will there ever be. None would dare enter Erebor, whilst the dragon lives.” He shakes the orc slightly. “You know nothing. Your world will burn.” Now alarmed, Legolas shakes it again, saying, “What are you talking about? Speak!”

Our time has come again. My master serves the One.” Thranduil pauses in his pacing, turned away from the orc and Legolas. The only 'one' to orcs is Sauron. It couldn't be confirming that the dark power in Dol Guldur is indeed him. “Do you understand now, elfling?” Thranduil's eyes widen in alarm, because he understands. “Death is upon you. The flames of war are upon you -” Still turned away, Thranduil loses it; whipping out his sword, and beheading the orc. He cannot take it. He cannot bear to hear his son being threatened by his greatest fear.

Legolas has no understanding, no knowledge of the pure fear and trauma his father is dealing with. As this conversation has shown, he is ignorant. The orc is right to call him an elfling – there is a very childlike element in his certainty that no one would dare rouse Smaug, because he is Dangerous. Legolas hasn't the faintest idea what it's saying.

Suddenly Legolas has a severed head in his hand, and he looks at it in bemused disgust. Turning to his father in both annoyance and puzzlement, he demands, “Why did you do that?” He drops the head, “You promised to set him free.” Since when did his father not honor his word? This is not the father Legolas knows.

And I did,” Thranduil coldly responds, before turning towards Legolas. He starts walking around the orc's convulsing body. “I freed his wretched head from his miserable shoulders.” Thranduil stomps on it's leg, twisting his foot to still it. He will bash it into the ground, if he must.

Legolas looks down, “There was more the orc could tell us.” Legolas says, still annoyed and puzzled. He looks back up at Thranduil. There is a pause, as Thranduil makes his decision. “There is nothing more he could tell me,” Thranduil replies, looking at Legolas. Thranduil turns, sheathing his sword and walking away.

Being the curious elfling he is, Legolas is not going to let it go. He walks after Thranduil, questioning, “What did he mean by 'the flames of war'?” Still walking away, Thranduil gives a vague reply, “It means they intend to unleash a weapon so great it will destroy all before it.” (ie Smaug). He has not spent all of Legolas's life protecting him, to give him true answers now. He continues before Legolas can say anything, “I want the watch doubled at our borders! All roads, all rivers.” Once again, Thranduil uses the word “our”, in exactly the same way he did with Tauriel. He stops and turns around, looking at Legolas and stressing his point, “Nothing moves but I hear of it. No one enters this kingdom, and no one leaves it.” After making this explicitly clear, Thranduil turns around and leaves.

Haters damn Thranduil for not sending soldiers to protect and defend Laketown, claiming that this proves that Thranduil doesn't care about anyone else. Of course, these are the haters who also damn Thranduil for not fighting Smaug the first time.

What they seem to forget is that it's explicitly stated that dragons are almost impossible to kill. Thranduil knows how powerful Smaug is. He knows that no one has weapons strong enough to defeat Smaug. He has incredibly deep trauma because of his past experiences with dragons. 

Thranduil does not know that Smaug is missing a scale and that a black arrow still exists. Bard would not have been able to kill Smaug if that scale was still in place. Thranduil orders the gates to be closed because hiding in the caves is the elves' only possible hope of surviving a dragon attack.

The scene changes to Legolas approaching the gate, ordering, “Close the gate! Keep it sealed by order of the King.” He doesn't completely understand, but he trusts his father, and he has been given an order. The gate is to be kept closed. Legolas turns and starts walking away, but one of the guards speaks, “What about Tauriel?” Legolas stops, worried, “What about her?” The guard replies, “She went into the forest” Legolas turns back to the gate. “armed with her bow and blade.” Legolas continues walking towards them. “She has not returned.” He stops just outside the door, staring into the woods, worried for her.

Tauriel stops at the edge of the lake, looking towards Laketown. Hearing something, she spins around and draws her bow. It's Legolas, with his own bow drawn (which is a move of defense – if Tauriel accidentally shoots before realizing it's him, he needs some way neutralize it). Tauriel says, “I thought you were an orc!” Legolas replies, “If I were an orc, you would be dead.” Tauriel's skills are great, but she is not infallible.

They both put their weapons away, and he moves towards her. “Tauriel, you cannot hunt thirty orcs on your own.” But Tauriel is a step ahead of him, and she looks at him knowingly, saying, “But I'm not on my own.” Legolas says warmly, “You knew I would come.” Tauriel smiles knowingly, and looks back across the river. She is glad to have him with her.

Legolas moves closer. “The king is angry, Tauriel. For 600 years, my father has protected you,” Tauriel looks at Legolas, frowning. She knows where this is going. “favored you. You defied his orders, you betrayed his trust.” There is a pause, and Tauriel's mouth tightens as they look at each other. Legolas continues, “Come back with me... he will forgive you.”

This tells us a lot of things. Protect means “to defend from trouble, harm, attack, etc.” Favored means “treated or thought of with great kindness or partiality.” For 600 years, Thranduil has protected and cared for Tauriel. This confirms what I said earlier, about her and Thranduil having a closer relationship than he has with his other subjects. It also raises a very important question – why, if he has and does care for her, did he shut her down and slight her? The idea of Legolas being with her should please him! But it doesn't.

As for Legolas, he is clearly here to bring Tauriel back, telling her of his father's reaction to her disappearance. He certainly would not have come without permission – indeed, he could not have known any of this if he left immediately; instead of going straight to Thranduil, and telling him about Tauriel's disappearance. He is Thranduil's messenger as well – you have defied me and betrayed me, but come back and repent, and I will forgive you.

Tauriel is quick and fierce in her reply, “But I will not. If I go back, I will not forgive myself.” She will not turn away from everything she stands for. She looks back across the lake, walking closer to the edge. “The king has never let orc-filth roam our lands, yet he would let this orc-pack cross our borders and kill our prisoners.” She turns back to Legolas, who responds, “It it not our fight.” She moves closer to him, determined to make him see, saying, “It is our fight. It will not end here. With every victory, this evil will grow.” Legolas starts to look away, uncomfortable. Tauriel continues, “If your father has his way, we will do nothing. We will hide within our walls, live our lives away from the light, and let darkness descend.” Legolas looks back at her, frowning. Tauriel presses on, “Are we not part of this world?” Legolas looks disturbed. Fiercely, Tauriel finishes, “Tell me, mellon, when did we let evil become stronger than us?” Legolas looks away, conflicted.

It is clear Legolas has never seriously questioned his father. Tauriel is making him question his basic beliefs. She also calls him “friend,” further cementing our knowledge of their bond (even though their entire dynamic is that of two close friends).

Some people have wondered if Tauriel believes Kili is dead, because of Thranduil's “one dead dwarf” comment, and her “kill our prisoners” statement. I do not believe so, because obviously the orcs are trying to kill the dwarves. She is certainly worried and wondering if he is, but she has no way of knowing for sure.

Let's talk about some of those Tauriel-hating statements above. First is the idea that she shouldn't ever question or call out her prince and king. She's their captain, not their yes man. It is her duty to their people to talk to them, and share her opinions. Also, every single scene has shown her to be close to both of them.

All of the criticisms come down to the fact that Tauriel disobeyed orders. Yes, she did. I just want to ask everyone one question: If we are going to trash Tauriel, why not trash Faramir? Both are captains. Both have clear orders. Both disobey said orders to do what they feel is right. In fact, many of Tolkien's hero's do this:

This basic decision - leaving home and previous responsibilities in order to try and defeat some larger evil and save the world - is one that we see many people make in Tolkien’s writings. Even if we limit ourselves to Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Tauriel would be joined by Legolas (who not only did the exact same thing as Tauriel in The Hobbit, but also does it again by joining the Fellowship when he was only meant to be delivering a message), Merry, Sam, and Pippin (all three left their families without warning in order to join Frodo - Merry and Pippin are even the heirs with political positions awaiting them), Eowyn (who’s meant to be leading her people, but instead sneaks into the army traveling to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields), Frodo (whose friends would never have joined the Fellowship if he hadn’t offered to take the Ring at the Council of Elrond), and Aragorn (who’s the last heir of a line of kings spanning about six thousand years, but instead decides to join the Fellowship, probably the most dangerous thing he could have done), just to name a few. Generally speaking, these are all considered to be noble decisions, and hardly whimsical. 
On a side note: I think it’s interesting that I’m spending so much time on this blog defending Tauriel’s behavior, since she really isn’t all that different from the vast majority of the other characters we meet in Tolkien’s stories… (source)
Also, don't even start with the 'she only did it because of Kili' nonsense. That is completely disproven by the film.

Morally, Tauriel had to do what s
he did. She chose to do what was right, instead of easy. As I said earlier, everything in her being calls for her to act. It is why she is the Captain of the Guard. Her fierceness and desire to combat evil is what made her climb up the ranks. The dwarves aren't their enemies, the orcs are. And their enemies just killed several of her soldiers. They are trying to kill her prisoners, who were under her charge.

None of her people die because she leaves. She didn't hear the orc say war was coming. Thranduil can easily appoint a new Captain of the Guard. She disobeyed, but she did not commit some great and inexcusable moral crime. We will see if she is punished for disobeying.

As for leading Legolas into danger – first, it's his decision if he goes with her. Second, they can easily beat the orcs. 
He's an adult with his own agency. They do easily beat the orcs (except for Bolg, but he's literally the only exception in all six films). Also, Legolas's love for Tauriel does not in any way degrade his character. Love is not bad.

As for putting Thranduil in danger – how? He's the only one with all of the information, is over six thousand years old, and has an entire army at his beck and call!

Scene jumping to Laketown, Tauriel and Legolas arrive, killing orcs. Legolas does
go with her. He's decided that Tauriel was right, that they should go after the orcs.

One tries to grab Kili's foot on the bed, and Tauriel throws one of her knives and kills it; saving his life for a fifth time. A few minutes later, after more orc killing, Tauriel turns and catches an orc by the wrist. At the same time, Kili moves behind it and kills it (with Tauriel's knife), before falling to the floor, screaming in pain. Tauriel looks at him in shock and horror.

The orcs realize that Thorin has left, and Bolg calls for them to fall back. Legolas follows them outside, kills an orc, and then watches the rest retreat. He has not paid any attention to the dwarves. He goes back inside, where Bain says, “You killed them all.” Legolas responds seriously, “There are others.” While striding to the door, he says urgently, “Tauriel, come!” She looks up from Kili's side, wide eyed and hesitating. They cannot leave! After a moment of staring at Legolas, her mouth tightens. We see Kili lying on the ground, Oin bent over him, and Fili looking over Oin's shoulder (with Tauriel over his). Oin says to Fili, “We're losing him.” Tauriel grimly looks back at Legolas, catching his eyes. “Tauriel,” he says, disappearing out the door. Legolas does not care that Kili is dying. He has decided that Tauriel was right about the orcs, and chases after them without hesitation.

Tauriel hesitates again, and then she moves after him. Tauriel starts to follow Legolas. Her love and loyalty for Legolas is as strong as her love for Kili. This disproves all the comments about how she only cares about Kili. Tauriel gets to the door and stops, as Kili cries out in pain again. Torn in two, she looks between him and the outside, where Legolas disappeared. Tauriel looks down, takes a deep breath, and looks back at Kili. She
has a decision to make, and she has to make it now. Follow Legolas, or stay with Kili?

Before she can make her decision, she hears someone approaching. She moves outside, resting her hands on her daggers, and sees Bofur holding athelas. Her eyes widen in shock, breathing “Athelas,” and grabbing it out of his hands. She looks at it, touching it, amazed, breathing “Athelas.” She holds it to her heart, and looks inside. She can save him. Bofur, “What are you doing?” She looks at him, whispering, “I'm going to save him.”

The scene changes to Tauriel preparing the athelas, as the others putting Kili on the table, while he writhes and screams in agony. “Hold him down,” she commands, moving closer with the bowl. Tauriel grabs Kili's leg, forces it down, and looks at the wound. It looks horrible. She looks at Kili in fear, before beginning chanting, kneading the athelas, and pressing it into Kili's wound. Kili continues to thrash and scream, and Tauriel continues to chant, putting all of herself into it. This must work.

Kili starts to calm down, and vaguely sees Tauriel, his brow furrowing. We see Tauriel through his eyes; her voice echoing, her gaze meeting his, and her body shining with light. Kili stares at her in complete wonderment. His savior (for the sixth time).

I know some people have been confused about Tauriel shining with light. Kili's morgul wound is making him see Tauriel as she is on the Unseen Plane – just like Frodo sees Arwen in FotR.

Scene switch, and Tauriel is binding Kili's leg with a cloth. His head turns slightly, and Tauriel glances at him, before continuing to clean up. “Tauriel.” She turns and looks at Kili, staring at him for a moment, before gently saying, “Lie still.” She looks at him for another moment, before turning back around. Dazed, Kili continues, “You cannot be her.” Tauriel pauses, and looks up, faced away from Kili. He continues, “She is far away. Sh- She is far, far away from me. She walks in starlight in another world.” Tauriel finally turns and looks at Kili. “It was just a dream.” Tauriel looks like she has a revelation, and Kili, in his daze, entwines their fingers. “Do you think she could of loved me?” Tauriel continues to look at him, and opens her mouth to say something. The scene ends there.

Still dazed, Kili speaks from the heart. He cannot believe that it is really her. She is a breathtaking and awe-inspiring elf-maiden who walks in divine light, far above a lowly dwarf-prince. He just dreamed that she saved him, because he wishes that it was true. But it can't be. He can't help but ask – do you think she could have found me good enough to love?

Tauriel. Oh, Tauriel. She has managed to save him, this dwarf who makes her feel things she has never felt before. She cannot help but look at him. He talks, and she realizes. He loves her. She is stunned, and doesn't know what to do. He entwines their fingers, asking about her love. She just looks at him, lips parting to say something.

And Peter Jackson ends it there, ignoring my cries and threats. All joking aside, this is done brilliantly. It is important to remember that it's elvish nature to perceive and know. Knowing doesn't mean accepting. It will become quite clear – Tauriel is absolutely terrified.

From the very beginning, she has been fierce about fighting back. That has been separate from her bond with Kili. When she lost her composure and chased after the orcs, both parts of her were in agreement. We saw her inner turmoil when she was forced to choose between Legolas and Kili, and even then she didn't decide; Bofur's arrival with medicine meant that, morally, she had to stay. Before, it was follow her best friend and prince, or stay by Kili's side as he dies. Then, it was follow Legolas, or save a life. Even if she wasn't in love with him, her strong ethics would not allow her to condemn an innocent to death.

So now? She realizes he loves her too, and she hasn't the faintest idea what to do.

Tremors come from Erebor, and Smaug emerges. Tauriel and the others look around fear, like everyone else in Laketown.

BotFA starts with Tauriel standing outside, watching Smaug's approach. She looks very disturbed, and rightly so – she knows the damage a dragon can cause. Striding inside, she commands, “We have no time, we must leave.” She is in charge, and she will do her best to get them all out. Tauriel picks up Tilda's jacket and walks over to her and Sigrid (Sigrid is standing behind Tilda). A moment later we see Sigrid straightening out the jacket and Tauriel holding a cloth doll. “As fast as you can,” Tauriel says to Sigrid, over Tilda's head. She then looks at Tilda, holding her shoulders and meeting her gaze reassuringly before softly touching her cheek. Bain comes over, “We're not leaving. Not without our father.” “If you stay here, your sisters will die,” Tauriel responds, helping Sigrid get Tilda in the jacket and then handing Tilda the doll. She turns to Bain and meets his gaze, “Is that what your father would want?” She knows it is not.

Tauriel gets in the front of the boat, standing and saying, “Quickly now. Hurry.” as the others board. Tauriel kneels in the front of the boat, watching Smaug pass overhead. Then, Smaug sets a stream of fire behind them, and Tauriel whips her head around. Then, Bofur cries, “Look out!” Tauriel whips her head around, and the Master's boat runs into theirs. Tauriel looks shocked. Their boat starts to tip over, and Tauriel reaches her arm in front of Sigrid and Tilda in order to protect them from the Master's boat. Sigrid grabs Tauriel's arm for support (Oin holds on to Tilda); and Tauriel stares at the Master, her mouth falling open slightly in shock and dismay. She cannot believe this.

Tauriel continues to guide, looking back and holding her hand up, signaling for them to wait as Smaug scorches the area in front of them. She lowers her hand, looking forward. Shortly after, the children see their father shooting at Smaug, and start screaming “Da!” Kili looks at him, and then looks between Tauriel and Bard, screaming, “He hit it! He hit the dragon!” Tauriel looks at where Bard is, and gravely responds, “No.” Kili protests, looking at her, “He did! He hit his mark! I saw!” Tauriel knows better. Desolate, she says, “His arrows cannot pierce it's hide. I fear nothing will.” She knows there is no end to dragonfire. Bain remembers the black arrow, and leaves. Tauriel looks after him, and then at the others, “Leave him! We cannot go back.” She knows it would be the death of them all, if they did.

Our next sight is of Tauriel scanning the shoreline, with Tilda and Sigrid. She puts her hand on Tilda's arm for a long moment, silently giving her support.

Let's go over some more of those Tauriel-hating statements. Contrary to what the haters' say, when could we have seen Tauriel give them attention in DoS? The only times the three of them are in the scenes together is when we see Tauriel fight the orcs, and then when she finishes preparing the athelas and heals Kili. That's it. Tauriel can't take her focus off the enemy and she can't take her focus away from the life she's saving.

In BotFA, Tauriel does not go to Kili, or even look at him. She focuses almost entirely on Tilda and Sigrid, offering them comfort several times. These are two girls she doesn't even know, but she knows they are the ones who need the most support, and so she protects them while giving them kindness.

As for Tauriel being 'no better than the Master' – what can she do? She's a foreign elf, no one's going to listen to her. She has no supplies. She does what any good captain would – focuses on getting her charges out. As for Bard and the Black Arrow, she knows nothing. She doesn't even know one still exists, much less the whole plot between Bard and Bain. Tauriel has no choice but to leave Bain. Throughout the entire scene, she has been grave and desolate. She has no hope, for she knows Smaug is far too mighty to be killed by any weapon of Man. As a Captain in the field, sometimes you have to make hard choices. This is one of those times. Bain knowingly abandons the group. To go after him would be condemning six other innocent lives to death. Arriving on shore, she stays with Tilda and Sigrid, not the dwarves.

We then go to Legolas, standing by Bard, and looking worried. “Where will you go?” he asks, looking at Bard. Bard glances at the mountain and responds, “There is only one place,” before walking off. Legolas looks at the mountain. Bard walks by him again. Legolas looks after him, “News of the death of Smaug will have spread through the lands.” Bard stops, looking at the mountain, “Aye.” Legolas moves to Bard's side, “Others will now look to the mountain.” he looks at the mountain, as Bard looks at him. “For it's wealth,” Legolas looks back at Bard, “For it's position.” Worried, Bard responds, “What is it you know?” Legolas looks at him for a moment, before looking back at the mountain, “Nothing for certain. It's what I fear may come.”

Legolas is clearly worried, and having an internal debate. We will soon find out why.

Fili, Bofur, and Oin are readying a boat. Kili turns to Tauriel, who is standing on the shore. She came back to them, after finding Bard. She turns to look at him as he approaches. “Tauriel.” Fili calls for him to come, that they're leaving. Tauriel looks down, steeling herself, before glancing at him and starting to walk away, “They are your people. You must go.” She is now aware that Kili returns her love. However, she also knows how things stand between their peoples; and honor and duty cannot be abandoned. They cannot, logically, be together.

Kili hesitates for a moment, before moving after her, “Come with me.” He 'woke up', and she was there. She had
saved him. It was all the confirmation he needed. Tauriel stops and faces him. “I know how I feel. I'm not afraid. You make me feel alive.” He's not ashamed, he's not scared. He knows they love each other, and that together, they can get through whatever obstacles are in front of them. She's worth it. They're worth it.

Tauriel looks away, “I can't,” she starts to turn. The gulf between their peoples is too big, and she cannot abandon her own. “Tauriel,” Kili grabs her arm. She turns towards him slightly, eyes down, with a small smile. The small smile gives her love away – just like when she looked towards him fearfully, and when she held the athelas to her heart (and all the other small moments). Her love shines through her denial.

Kili says lovingly, “Amrâlimê.” Tauriel looks at Kili sharply, and stares. After a few moments and still meeting his gaze, she draws back slightly; scared by his confession, and reacting with denial, “I do not know what that means.” Kili doesn't say anything, not breaking their gaze, for a few moments as he reads her love and fear. He then smiles, saying, “I think you do.” He's not going to let her deny it. They still have not broken eye contact. Tauriel moves closer to him, about to respond; but stops, stiffening, and anxiously says, “My lord Legolas,” in elvish. He has appeared behind her. Tauriel turns her head towards him slightly, acknowledging him. The formality is unusual for them; but not only is she in close contact to a dwarf, she also disobeyed and abandoned him. He has every right to be furious, and she's scared he is.

Face grim, Kili looks from Tauriel to Legolas. He had to interrupt! In elvish, Legolas says, his face neutral and his voice grave, “Say goodbye to the dwarf. You are needed elsewhere.” Having finished his internal debate, he's sought out Tauriel, telling her to say goodbye, because he needs her. He has no reaction to her being with “the dwarf;” only the seriousness he has had since he returned.

Tauriel looks at Kili, her expression saying, 'I have to go.' She takes a step back, turning away slightly. In direct contradiction to all those hater comments, Tauriel refuses to abandon Legolas for Kili. Kili looks at her for a moment, his face still grim, before turning and walking towards his kin. He does not like it, but he respects her choice. Tauriel watches him, unable to look away, or leave. He stops suddenly, and turns back.
They may have to part, but he will do so only after giving his all.

When Kili reaches her, he looks away from her eyes and down towards her hand. Tauriel raises her hand slightly and a moment later Kili takes it. Tauriel gasps in surprise, looking down as Kili closes her fingers around something. They move even closer and Kili brings their hands to his heart. Loving and serious, he says, “Keep it.” His eyes flicker to her lips for a moment. “As a promise.” Kili's eyes again leave hers and flicker to her lips for a moment. Tauriel smiles, in love. Kili reluctantly pulls away and gives her a slight nod in respect, before looking away and going to his kin.

Legolas merely watches this, as he did their talk. He has not changed his opinion on dwarves (calling Kili “the
dwarf”), but Tauriel's feelings are clear. He loves her, and so will not interfere.

Tauriel looks down at the rune stone, gasps, and starts sniffling, overwhelmed with emotion. This is the perfect time to talk about the sheer significance of Kili's actions, and the rune stone. I did not talk about dwarvish nature at the beginning, only elvish. The only thing we need to know is that dwarves only fall in love once. The rune stone itself symbolizes a promise to return.

Kili has fallen in love with Tauriel. No matter what, it will always be her. Knowing they have to part, he gives her an important symbolical object, telling her to keep it as a promise of his love. He is promising himself to her, starting an informal betrothal. He is also giving her the freedom to choose otherwise, not expecting a reciprocal gesture (though he knows she returns his love).

He leaves, and Tauriel realizes he gave her the rune stone. The rune stone they had talked about, the one symbolizing his promise to his mother. She starts sniffling, overcome with emotion, recognizing the significance of his actions. He turns around in the boat to look back at her, before continuing to paddle.

To negate some more hater statements: Having a romance does not detract from Kili's character. He never acts desperate or obsessed. It doesn't stop him from fighting for and going with his kin – in DoS he says to Thorin, “What are you talking about? I’m coming with you. I’m going to be there when that door is opened, when we first look upon the halls of our fathers, Thorin.” In BotFA, nothing stops him from saying things like, “The people of Laketown have nothing. They came to us in need. They have lost everything.” and “Thieves! How come you by the heirloom of our house?!” and “I will not hide, behind a wall of stone, while others fight our battles, for us! It is not in my blood, Thorin.” He is Tauriel's equal, her perfect match, her dwarven counterpart.

Next, we see Tauriel questioning Legolas, “You saw something out there.” She's realized that Legolas is not angry with her, and they are back to their normal dynamic. Legolas fills her in, his voice grim, “The orc I pursued out of Laketown, I know who he is. Bolg, spawn of Azog the Defiler. A warg pack was waiting for him at the outskirts of Esgaroth, they fled into the north. These orcs were different from the others, they bore a mark I have not seen for a long time. The mark of Gundabad.” Legolas stops walking. “Gundabad?” Tauriel questions. Legolas answers, “An orc stronghold in the far north of the Misty Mountains.”

Now we know why Legolas was having an internal debate. He followed Tauriel to Laketown because he thought she was right about the orc-pack. Then he saw the mark of Gundabad, and realized this was much bigger than just them, much bigger than just an orc-pack. Legolas went back to Laketown, worried and internally debating what to do. After talking to Bard, he made up his mind. There was clearly a plot afoot, and the enemy needed to be assessed. His first move is to find Tauriel, so they can investigate together.

Before Tauriel can reply, Feren arrives, “My lord Legolas. I bring word from your father. You are to return to him immediately.” Legolas nods and starts walking forward, “Come, Tauriel.” The thought that there might be a problem hasn't even crossed his mind. He and Tauriel have been summoned, so they will go tell Thranduil the information, and then they will all decide what the next step should be.

Tauriel hasn't moved. Unlike Legolas, she's well aware that there will be consequences for her disobedience. With a resigned look, Feren says, “My lord, Tauriel is banished.” Shocked, Legolas says, “Banished?” He cannot believe it. Tauriel looks both grieved and unsurprised. She knew this was a likely outcome.

Legolas continues, angry and grim, “You may tell my father if there is no place for Tauriel, there is no place for me.” Tauriel disobeyed because it was the right thing to do! If Thranduil's going to punish her and be closed minded, then Legolas is just not coming home.

myrkvidrs' reaction to this scene is both hilarious and insightful:
First of all, despite the shit they’ve just pulled (especially going against Thranduil’s direct orders), Legolas seems to just naturally assume that they’re both going back, he does not seem hesitant or nervous about this in the least. 
But then there’s the messenger’s face. That is the face of someone who knows what news he has to deliver and just exactly how Legolas is going to react to it. That is the face of someone who is thinking, "DON’T YOU F*****G MAKE MY DAY HARDER, YOU SPOILED LITTLE SHIT, DON’T YOU F*****G DO IT, JUST BE GOOD FOR FIVE MINUTES” and knowing that it is an extremely lost cause. Of course Legolas is going to make his day harder. 
Then there’s Legolas’ face. That is not the face of an elf who is used to not getting his way. That is instead the cranky face of an elf who is very used to getting his way, because you will pry him being a spoiled rotten little shit out of my cold, dead hands, okay.
Honestly, Legolas's face gets me every time. He looks like such a cranky baby! Anyway, back to the scene.

Tauriel walks up behind him, trying to make him see reason, “Legolas, it is your king's command.” She doesn't want him to get into trouble for her. Legolas turns to her, “Yes, he is my king, but he does not command my heart.” He walks past her, “I ride north. Will you come with me?” “To where?” Tauriel asks. With a grim fierceness, Legolas says, “To Gundabad.” They ride away.

Legolas's response to Tauriel is that Thranduil may be his king, but he doesn't control Legolas's heart. Some have taken this to mean he has romantic feelings for Tauriel. I disagree, since not only have we seen no signs of that so far, he immediately jumps to going to Gundabad. His heart is saying that the right thing to do is to investigate the enemy, so that's what he's going to do.

Legolas and Tauriel arrive at Gundabad. They climb up to the edge of a rocky hill, hiding behind the boulders. “Gundabad,” says Tauriel, “What lies beyond?” She turns and looks at Legolas. Legolas answers, “An old enemy.” Legolas glances at her, and then looks back at Gundabad. “The ancient kingdom of Angmar. This fortress was once it's stronghold. It is where they kept their great armories, forged their weapons of war.” Tauriel notices something in a window, “A light. I saw movement.” They crouch down a little more. After a moment, Legolas speaks, “We wait for the cover of night.” He continues, “It is a fell place Tauriel. In another age our people waged war on those lands.”

Now we get into something a bit complicated, because this is something the filmmakers changed from the texts. Angmar was founded by the Witch-king in TA 1300 and fell in TA 1975, and the elves of Mirkwood were never involved in the war.

However, the filmmakers changed this (and the history of the Ringwraiths) for the films:
Galadriel: “A relic of Mordor.” 
Elrond: “A Morgul blade.” 
Galadriel: “Made for the Witch-king of Angmar, and buried with him. When Angmar fell, men of the North took his body and all that he possessed and sealed it within the High Fells of Rhudaur. Deep within the rock they buried them, in a tomb so dark it would never come to light.” 
Elrond: “This is not possible. A powerful spells lies upon those tombs; they cannot be opened.” 
Saruman: “What proof do we have this weapon came from Angmar’s grave?” 
Gandalf: “I have none.” 
Saruman: “Because there is none. Let us examine what we know. A single Orc pack has dared to cross the Bruinen. A dagger from a bygone age has been found. And a human sorcerer, who calls himself the Necromancer, has taken up residence in a ruined fortress.” (An Unexpected Journey) 
Beorn: “There is more. Not long past word had spread that the dead had been seen walking near the high fells of Rhudaur.” 
Gandalf: “The dead?” 
Beorn: “Is it true? Are there tombs in those mountains?” 
Galadriel (voiceover): “When Angmar fell, the men of the north took his body and all that he possessed, and sealed it in the high fells of Rhudaur. Deep within the rock, they buried him in a tomb so dark, it would never come to light.” 
Gandalf: “Yes, there are tombs there.” 
Beorn: “I remember a time when a great evil ruled these lands. One powerful enough to raise the dead. If that enemy has returned to Middle-earth, I would have you tell me.”Gandalf: “Saruman the White says it’s not possible. The enemy was destroyed and will never return.” 
Beorn: “And what does Gandalf the Grey say?” 
Radagast: “These are dark spells, Gandalf. Old, and full of hate. Who was buried here?” 
Gandalf: “If he had a name, it’s long since been lost. He would have been known only as a servant of evil. One of a number. One of nine.” (Desolation of Smaug) 
Elrond: “You should've stayed dead.” (Battle of the Five Armies)
Angmar existed during the Second Age, when Sauron gave him and eight other men nine Rings of Power. They were then entombed with magic, until Sauron freed them and gained the name 'the Necromancer'. The Mirkwood elves fought in the war against Angmar in the Second Age.

Before the filmmakers get any hate for this drastic change, Tolkien never actually gives us a reason why Sauron is called 'the Necromancer'. The filmmakers had to explain why he got that specific title, or there would have been mass confusion in the general audiences.

Something else I want to talk about is several of those hater comments about how Tauriel is stupid and dumb because she doesn't know everything. This is back to the toxic view of power I talked about in F&M. Tauriel is young, younger than Legolas. Neither of them were alive for those events. Tauriel is precocious and mature, knowing battle strategy and how to fight. Her fierceness and desire to combat evil is what has made her Captain of the Guard. None of that is negated by her not knowing much history, in fact it says a great deal about her personality. Like Legolas, she is not a scholar.

Tauriel looks from him to Gundabad. Legolas looks away, and she looks at him. He looks at her and confesses, “My mother died there.” Tauriel's brow furrows. She did not know this. “My father does not speak of it. There is no grave, no memory... nothing.” Before she can say anything, Legolas turns back to look at Gundabad. Tauriel doesn't move, processing the information. They continue to sit there silently, after Legolas's confession.

The fact that Legolas has no memory of his mother means he would have been a baby. Also, he only says his mother died in Gundabad, and we know that ever since the fall of Angmar it has been an orc stronghold. There is no implication that it was during Angmar's reign, and Legolas definitely wasn't alive in the Second Age.

Legolas does not give Tauriel the opportunity to say anything, by turning away. Her silence does not maker her cruel, or a bad friend. He wants her to know, but it is still a painful subject. The information is clearly shocking to Tauriel. She knew that the Queen was dead, but she didn't know that she died in Gundabad, or that Thranduil never
shared information with Legolas.

Legolas clearly knows little about his mother and only the very basics about Gundabad. Tauriel knows nothing about Gundabad. This fits the pattern of Thranduil concealing the past.

Tauriel finally says fiercely, “If we are going to go in, we should move now.” She wants to act. Before they can move, bats appear and start swarming. They hide, watching the bats. Tauriel grimly says, “They are swarming.” Legolas replies, “These bats are bred for one purpose.” “For what?” Tauriel asks alarmed, turning to look at Legolas. “For war.” They see Bolg call out his army, and start marching. “We must warn the others!” Tauriel states. Her immediate thought is of the humans and dwarves. They turn around, and Legolas goes first, “We might be too late... come!” He too is worried – how will they make it in time to prepare?

They arrive to find Dale and Erebor in the midst of battle. Battling their way into Dale, they see Gandalf. Legolas shouts, “Gandalf!” Gandalf comes towards them, “Legolas. Legolas Greenleaf!” Legolas dismounts and strides forward, “There is a second army. Bolg leads a force of Gundabad orcs. They are almost upon us.” Tauriel looks around, Gandalf realizes what Azog's plan was from the beginning, and Bilbo protests, “Thorin's up there! And Fili and Kili! They're all up there!” Realization and alarm cross Tauriel's face. She looks towards Ravenhill, terrified.

This next scene is the one that fundamentally shifted my understanding of Tauriel and Thranduil, and their plot. Here I realized why Thranduil doesn't want Legolas with Tauriel. But first, we have to summarize Thranduil's scenes again. We finished with DoS, so now we're on to BotFA.

Our first scene is not with him present, but with his messenger. Let's go back for a moment. Legolas leaves to bring Tauriel back, with a message that all will be forgiven if she returns. Instead, neither return. So, Thranduil sends a messenger saying Legolas is to return to him immediately, and Tauriel is banished. We'll talk more about the banishment and his feelings towards Tauriel in a little bit.

Bard gets up and finds an army of elves has arrived in Dale over the night. The elves' moves are perfectly synchronized, because they're elves. Thranduil trots in on his elk, with guards following. Shocked, Bard says, “My lord Thranduil! We did not look to see you here.” Thranduil stops and turns, “I heard you needed aid.” He looks towards the entrance, signaling, and wagons filled with food and drink enter Dale. These elves are all in civilian clothes. The humans start shouting out and cheering. Thranduil watches them excitedly unload the wagons. Bard look with amazement first at the wagons, and then at Thranduil, “You have saved us. I do not know how to thank you.” Thranduil responds cooly, “Your gratitude is misplaced. I did not come on your behalf.” His voice cool and angry, “I came to reclaim something of mine.”

The scene switches to Thorin in Erebor. He slowly picks up a fancy and delicate necklace with a giant heart. Voiceover is Thranduil from DoS saying, “There are gems in the mountain that I too desire. White gems of pure starlight.” Thorin is smirking. “The white gems of Lasgalen,” he says smugly. He looks off camera, “I know an elf-lord who will pay a pretty price for these.” He tosses the necklace back into the box, scattering the loose gems.

The scene switches back to Thranduil in Dale. He watches his army march out of Dale. Bard runs up to him, “Wait! Please, wait!” He stops behind Thranduil, “You would go to war over a handful of gems?” Thranduil does not turn around, saying coldly, “The heirlooms of my people are not lightly forsaken.” Bard continues, “We are allies in this. My people also have a claim upon the riches in that mountain. Let me speak with Thorin.” Thranduil looks at him, “You would try to reason with the dwarf?” Bard responds, “To avoid war? Yes.”

Let's start with this part. The first thing we see is Bard finding an elven army on his doorstep. Then Thranduil rides in, saying, “I heard you needed aid.” He gives the signal, and the wagons come in. He watches his elves help the humans. Elves that are in civilian clothing. Bard thanks him, and Thranduil responds, “Your gratitude is misplaced. I did not come on your behalf. I came to reclaim something of mine.”

My response? Uh huh. Sure you did. That's why you brought at least four wagons filled to the brim, with civilians handling them. You then start to leave with your army, leaving the wagons and civilians. These are not the actions of someone who doesn't care. You care plenty – you just have been far too traumatized by life to admit it (a theme we'll continue to talk about). Think about it. He heard about the destruction of Laketown, and Legolas's refusal to come back, from Feren. So he plans to march on the mountain to deal with the dwarves; but first slows himself and his army down with wagons and civilians, just so the humans get their much-needed supplies.

I have to rebuttal something quickly – haters condemn Thranduil for trading with Laketown and thus making the Master wealthy. That is nonsensical. Thranduil has likely been trading with the leader of Laketown for centuries. He didn't put the Master in power, and given that the humans live for only about half an elven year (144 years), I highly doubt he is even aware who the leader of Laketown is personally. Thranduil does not care about the internal workings of other realms, and honestly, he has no reason to know or care about the leader of Laketown. He cannot be blamed for the Master's crimes.

Haters also state that Thranduil only brought supplies for the humans so he could buy their loyalty. I honestly don't know what films they were watching, because Thranduil refuses to accept Bard's thanks and starts to leave immediately. This is the complete opposite of what the haters say.

When Thranduil says “something of mine,” the scene switches to Thorin in Erebor. We finally get a good look at the “gems of Lasgalen,” the gems he has a deep emotional connection to. More specifically, we see a delicate yet fancy necklace with a giant heart. “Lasgalen” means “greenleaves”, and after LotR Thranduil will rename his realm “Eryn Lasgalen/Wood of Greenleaves”. “Legolas” means “greenleaf”, and he is referred to (in both the books and films) as “Legolas Greenleaf”. Now we have Thranduil saying that the gems are heirlooms of his people. The gems of Lasgalen are Thranduil's crown jewels. This cannot be overstated.

So how did Thranduil's crown jewels end up in Erebor? Let's look at some dates. Thror was born in TA 2542 (82 years after the end of the Watchful Peace), Smaug attacked in TA 2770. Tauriel and Legolas are likely only a little over 600 years old in TA 2941; 600 years before was 2341. Legolas was a baby when his mother died.

Obviously the jewelry couldn't have been created for Thranduil's wife by the dwarves of Erebor, she had been dead for at least 429 years when Smaug attacked. Also, if Thror was still expected to give them to Thranduil in TA 2770 (as the prologue shows), the dwarves couldn't have had them any longer than a few years. Another question is why the dwarves had to do work on them, and not Thranduil's own people. The films don't give us an answer, but I have a headcanon that works with all the facts we are given:

The White Gems of Lasgalen are family heirlooms of Thranduil's and came from Doriath. He gave them to his wife as a gift; and he then found the necklace on the ground, broken, near a few dead orcs, at the spot where she was taken captive (she and Legolas had been out in the woods). A few years before TA 2770, before the Arkenstone is found and Thror succumbs to dragon sickness, Thranduil gives them to Thror to have the necklace fixed because his people didn't have skill to fix such craftsmanship from First Age dwarves.

Back to the film. Thranduil is surprised by Bard's comment – he would try to reason with “the dwarf”? The scene switches to...

Thorin and the others are looking at an elven army of thousands that has filled Dale, and is faced towards them. Bard rides towards them on a white horse. He tries to talk to Thorin, and has absolutely no luck. He rides back to Dale, where Thranduil is just outside the entrance, sitting still on his elk. Bard says, “He will give us nothing.” Knowingly, Thranduil responds, “Such a pity. Still, you tried.” Genuinely confused, Bard says, “I do not understand. Why?” He turns his head, looking at Erebor, “Why would he risk war?”

The dwarves break the bridge to the gate. Thranduil explains, “It is fruitless to reason with them. They understand only one thing.” He draws out his sword and looks at it, holding it up close. He lowers it slightly, looking at Bard again, “We attack at dawn.” He turns his elk around, “Are you with us?” Bard looks back at Erebor, and then the scene changes to him helping others to prepare for battle.

Bard is genuinely surprised at Thorin's behavior. Thranduil is not. That is why he has his army positioned so Thorin and the others can see that they are surrounded. And yet, he lets Bard try to talk it out anyway. When Bard comes back, Thranduil tells him it's not his fault. Bard asks why, and they both watch the dwarves prepare for war.

Thranduil says it's useless to reason and talk to the dwarves, that they only understand war. He draws out his sword and looks at it, probably remembering every time he tried to talk, first with Thror and then with Thorin. And he's right. Thorin will gladly make them all go to war. He's caught in dragon sickness, yes, but his actions in Mirkwood made it quite clear he wouldn't talk things out anyway.

Thranduil lowers his sword, looks at Bard, stating that he will attack at dawn, and asking if Bard and the humans will join them. He doesn't pressure Bard into saying yes, but gives him space to make his own decision. So far, all of Thranduil's actions have been caring towards Bard and the humans. He doesn't owe them anything, and yet he helps them. He treats Bard like an equal and ally.

It's evening, and Gandalf arrives. He, Bard, and Thranduil are in Thranduil's tent in Dale. “You must set aside your petty grievances with the dwarves. War is coming!” Bard looks at Thranduil, alarmed. “The cesspits of Dol Guldur have been emptied.” Thranduil rolls his eyes at Bard, looking extremely fed up. “You’re all in mortal danger!” Thranduil looks at Gandalf, pretending to have been listening.

Bard moves closer to Gandalf, “What are you talking about?” Gandalf opens his mouth to answer, but Thranduil interrupts, getting out of his chair, “I can see you know nothing of wizards. They are like winter thunder on a wild wind rolling in from a distance, breaking hard in alarm,” Thranduil pours two glasses of wine and hands one to Bard. Not giving Gandalf a chance to speak, he walks past, stopping by a table, and looking at Gandalf, “But sometimes a storm is just a storm.”

Affronted, Gandalf, responds, “Not this time.” Thranduil looks away, still fed up. Gandalf continues, “Armies of orcs are on the move. And these are fighters! They have been bred for war. Our enemy has summoned his full strength.” Thranduil looks back at Gandalf, still not believing, “Why show his hand now?”

Gandalf says, “Because we forced him,” he points at himself. “We forced him when the company of Thorin Oakenshield set out to reclaim their homeland.” Gandalf breaks his eye contact with Thranduil, and starts walking outside. Thranduil sets down his wine, and he and Bard follow. “The dwarves were never meant to reach Erebor. Azog the Defiler was sent to kill them. His master seeks control of the mountain. Not just for the treasure within, but for where it lies, its strategic position. This is the gateway to reclaiming the lands of Angmar in the north. If that fell kingdom should rise again, Rivendell, Lórien, the Shire, even Gondor itself will fall!” Thranduil says, “These orc armies you speak of, Mithrandir... Where are they?” Gandalf has no answer.

Gandalf arrives and calls both of their issues with Thorin “petty” grievances. Petty means “of little importance; trivial.” There is nothing petty about the humans having their home destroyed, and the Line of Durin continually antagonizing Thranduil when they were the one's in the wrong. It is important to note that Bard looks to Thranduil in his alarm. He trusts him. Thranduil, in return, rolls his eyes at Bard, before looking back at Gandalf and pretending to listen.

It is clear that Thranduil is extremely fed up with Gandalf from the very beginning. Gandalf, on the other hand, is dismissing their very valid issues with the dwarves.

Bard doesn't understand, and Gandalf opens his mouth to continue, but Thranduil interrupts. Gandalf has had enough speech time. Thranduil says that wizards come in out of nowhere, shouting about great doom. This is very, very interesting. We know that Gandalf and Legolas are somewhat familiar with each other, as Legolas tells Gandalf about Bolg's army. Just what chaos has Gandalf brought to the Woodland Realm in the past?

Thranduil gives Bard a glass of wine, slighting Gandalf. All of his actions show that Bard is his ally, not Gandalf's, so Gandalf better not be getting ideas. Thranduil continues, saying that sometimes, there is no great doom. Gandalf, affronted by Thranduil's behavior, rejects that. He talks more about orcs, and says, “our enemy has summoned his full strength.” Oh! Our enemy? The same one Thranduil had to get confirmation of by an orc? An orc that stated that Sauron's plan was to use Smaug? Dragon's dead, Gandalf.

Thranduil rightly asks why Sauron would play his hand now, when he hasn't before – and now he's short one dragon, too. Gandalf readily admits to setting up the dwarves' quest and challenging Sauron. Just keep digging yourself a hole, Gandalf. Admitting you're the reason the dwarves riled Smaug and he burned down Laketown is not going to help you. And now you're saying Sauron's trying to rebuild Angmar!

Alright Gandalf, we'll go along with you for a moment. Please, tell us where this giant army of orcs is. Oh, you can't? You don't know? How funny, since Thranduil's scouts haven't seen a single orc either.

As you can see, Gandalf has no evidence, and Thranduil has every reason not to believe him.

It's nighttime, and Gandalf and Thranduil are back in his tent, with Thranduil once again sitting in his chair. Still surprised and indignant at not getting listened to, Gandalf exclaims, “Since when has my council counted for so little? What do you think I’m trying to do?!” Very very interesting – so Thranduil's listened to Gandalf in the past? And it caused chaos?

Thranduil responds, “I think you’re trying to save your dwarvish friends. And I admire your loyalty to them, but it does not dissuade me from my course.” Thranduil understands and acknowledges Gandalf's bond with the dwarves, but they still pushed Thranduil and Bard to this point. Thranduil gets out of this chair, moving closer to Gandalf, “You started this, Mithrandir. You will forgive me if I finish it.” Thranduil's done. Gandalf's caused enough damage, and it's past time to end it. Thranduil goes to the opening of the tent, “Are the archers in position?” one of the guards answers yes. “Give the order. If anything moves on that mountain, kill it.” Thranduil's not going to take the chance of a sneak attack. The guard leaves. Thranduil continues, not turning back around, “The dwarves are out of time.”

Now, before I get any complaints about being unfair to Gandalf, I understand him. We know that he's right about the orcs. But we're outside the story, we have outside information. The characters don't. All they know is that Gandalf has created this mess.

Gandalf corners Bard. “You, Bowman! Do you agree with this? Is gold so important to you? Would you buy it with the blood of dwarves?” If he can't get Thranduil to listen, he's going to try and guilt trip Bard into standing down. Bard responds, “It will not come to that. This is a fight they cannot win.” He still believes Thorin will see sense. Bilbo arrives, and says, “That won't stop them! You think the dwarves will surrender? They won’t. They will fight to the death to defend their own.” Bilbo and Gandalf then greet each other.

Bard still doesn't fully understand. Both Thranduil and Bilbo know the dwarves will choose war, no matter what. The scene changes to all of them in Thranduil's tent.

Thranduil, walking to his chair and sitting down, says, “If I’m not mistaken, this is the halfling who stole the keys to my dungeons from under the nose of my guards.” He's not amused. Bilbo replies, “Yesh. Sorry about that.” Thranduil and Bard just stare at him. Bilbo moves forward, and unwraps the Arkenstone on the table.

Thranduil rises in shock, breathing, “The heart of the Mountain! The King's jewel.” He stands by the table, just starting to reach for it with his fingers, before curling them back. It's not his, he won't touch. Bard has also moved forward, saying, “And worth a king’s ransom. How is this yours to give?” They both stare at Bilbo. He responds, “I took it as my fourteenth share of the treasure.” Gandalf smiles. Bard asks, “Why would you do this? You owe us no loyalty.” Thranduil continues to look at Bilbo silently.

Bilbo says, “I'm not doing it for you. I know that dwarves can be obstinate and pigheaded and difficult, suspicious and secretive… with the worst manners you can possibly imagine, but they also brave and kind... and loyal to a fault. I’ve grown very fond of them, and I would save them if I can.” Bard looks down at the table, uncomfortable. Thranduil continues to look at Bilbo. Bilbo continues, pointing at the Arkenstone, “Now Thorin, values this stone above all else. In exchange for it's return, I believe he will give you what you are owed. There will be no need for war.” Bard looks at Thranduil. His eyes linger on Bilbo, before meeting Bard's look with a matching one.

Thranduil never looks away from Bilbo, unlike Bard. He will not shy away from Bilbo's emotions. He meets Bard's look, knowing that they might have a way to get Thorin to listen.

It's morning, and the army is in front of Erebor. Thranduil and Bard ride up through the ranks to the front. The elves' moves stay synchronized, because hello, they're elves. The dwarves watch from the top of the barricade. Thorin shoots an arrow at the ground in front of Thranduil. Bard looks over in surprise, both stopping, and Thranduil looks from the spot back to Thorin, who yells, “I will put the next one between your eyes!” The dwarves cheer. Thranduil smirks, before looking serious. He nods his head down, his elves drawing their bows. The dwarves panic and hide, but Thorin does not. Bard looks at Thranduil, who raises his hand, signaling his soldiers to stand down.

Thorin stands there, still pointing an arrow at Thranduil. Thranduil says, “We have come to tell you, payment of your debt has been offered. And accepted.” “What payment? I gave you nothing! You have nothing!” Thranduil gives a look of, oh really?, before looking at Bard. He starts pulling out the Arkenstone, and Thranduil looks back at Thorin. Bard says, “We have this.” Thorin lowers his bow, and the dwarves react. Bard responds, “The king may have it – and our good will.” he puts the Arkenstone away, “But first, he must honor his word.” Thorin reacts, Bilbo steps out, scene happens. Thranduil watches intently, looking worried and stunned when Thorin says to throw Bilbo over; his mouth even opens slightly in shock. Gandalf interrupts, “You're not making a very splendid figure as King Under the Mountain, are you, Thorin, son of Thrain?” Bilbo makes it down, and Bard yells, “Are we resolved? The return of the Arkenstone for what was promised.”

Thorin manages to surprise even Thranduil with his cruelty towards Bilbo. And shooting an arrow? Really Thorin? You are in no position to be antagonistic!

Thorin hesitates, looking east. There is nothing. He starts to pace, shouting, “Why should I buy back that which is rightfully mine?” Thranduil looks over at Bard, and says conversationally, “Keep the stone. Sell it. Ecthelion of Gondor will give you a good price for it.” Furious, Thorin screams over the wall, “I will kill you! By my oath, I will kill you all!” Thranduil whips his head around to look at Thorin. He forcefully snaps, “Your oath means nothing!”

This moment was significant to me. Thranduil is right, Thorin has proved that his oaths and promises will never be fulfilled – just like Thror's.

Thorin continues to pace, again looking east; saying nothing. Thranduil says, “I've heard enough.” He signals his archers into position. They do not shoot yet, and Gandalf tries to reason again with Thorin, “Thorin, lay down your arms! Open these doors! This treasure will be your death.” Thorin does not reply, desperately looking east. Balin moves to speak with him, “Thorin, we cannot win this fight!” Thorin looks conflicted. “Give us your answer,” calls Bard. Thranduil watches Thorin, suspenseful. Bard continues gravely, “Will you have peace, or war?” Thorin looks like he is about to give in.

Now the plan is clear to me. Thranduil, you genius.

It has been much debated whether Thranduil was ever really going to start a war. Remember Legolas's greeting to Thorin? There is a long history of bad blood between their races. They do see the dwarves as beneath them. Thranduil brings an army of thousands, to fight thirteen. That's not a war. The dwarves would be dead in a moment. He positions his soldiers to make a statement, so the dwarves know that they are surrounded. He lets Bard try to reason with Thorin, though he knows it won't work. He agrees to use the Arkenstone.

All along, Thranduil's plan was to make a great enough show of power that Thorin would yield to. He is not surprised when Thorin shouts about the Arkenstone (in fact, that line just highlights how ridiculous Thorin is being. The portion of the gold and the gems rightfully belong to the men and elves), and moves forward with twisting Thorin's arm. It is crucial that he moves his archers into position, but does not shoot. He watches Thorin suspensefully, knowing he has no more tricks up his sleeve. He has pressed Thorin in every way possible.

Thranduil's plan works. Thorin is about to give in.

Dain arrives, and Thorin declares war. Dain's army continues to march, the Erebor dwarves cheer. Thranduil gallops through his soldiers, commanding, “Rush the shield-fence!” (translation) The elven army moves forward, getting into a defensive position. Dain comes forward, “Good morning! How are we all? I have a wee proposition, if you wouldn’t mind giving me a few moments of your time. Would you consider...just sodding off! All of you! Right now!”

Bard orders the humans to stand their ground. Gandalf tries to reason with Dain, telling him about the orcs (you haven't learned yet that no one's going to listen?).

Dain replies, “I will not stand down before any elf! Not least this faithless woodland sprite!” He gestures to Thranduil, who watches him, angry. “He wishes nothing but ill upon my people! If he chooses to stand between me and my kin, I’ll split his pretty head open!” Thranduil has started smirking. “See if he’s still smirking then!”

Dain turns his war pig around, riding back to his army. Gandalf shouts, “Wait!” and the Erebor dwarves cheer. Furious, Thranduil says, “Let them advance. See how far they get.” Not turning around, Dain shouts, “You think I give a give a dog for your threats, you pointy eared princess?” Thranduil stares after him, even more furious. Dain continues, “Hear that lads! We're on! Let's give these bastards a good hammering!” The dwarves give a war cry.

Ouch. Dain has very specific insults for Thranduil. Woodland sprite. Pretty. Princess. Sprite means “a small or elusive supernatural being; an elf or pixie.” Dain is not calling Thranduil small in a physical sense, but a metaphorical one: he is saying Thranduil is unimportant and not a threat. 'Pretty' and 'princess' are both feminine terms. Dwarves as a race are fundamentally masculine and have a very sexist culture. On the other hand, elves as a race are fundamentally feminine, and have an egalitarian culture. Dain is speaking from his sexist culture.

Like Thorin, Dain is itching for a battle. He throws insult after insult at Thranduil, infuriating him. He does not believe the dwarven army is a match for his people. Battle between them and the dwarves has come again.

Thranduil rides toward Bard, “Stand your men down. I'll deal with Ironfoot and his rabble.” Thranduil and the elven army march forward. Bard keeps the humans back. Dain starts sending his forces forward, and Thranduil orders the archers into position. The archers move; and Gandalf comes forward, exclaiming, “Thranduil! This is madness!”

Thranduil goes out of his way to protect Bard and the humans, telling him to stay out of this ages-old feud. Even though he is furious at the dwarves and battle is inevitable, Thranduil's first thought is to protect his allies.

Thranduil does not listen, ordering the archers to release at the oncoming dwarves. Dain orders loose arrow-destroying contraptions, and the dwarves of Erebor cheer. The contraptions land among the elves, killing many. Thranduil looks from his people to the dwarves, shocked and horrified. He did not know dwarves had such weapons.

Hey! How do you like that, the old twiddly widdlies!” Dain calls, before laughing. “You buggers.”

Thranduil orders another round of arrows released, and the contraptions destroy them, killing more elves. The Elves form a defensive wall and huddle, as the dwarven army makes contact. The elves and dwarves start killing each other. The dwarves of Erebor look shocked. The elves and dwarves stop fighting as the wereworms and orcs arrive. Thranduil watches in shock. The dwarves race towards the orcs. The elves move into formation, but do not move forward.

Bilbo says, “The elves. Will they not fight?” Thranduil looks over his shoulder, at the orcs and dwarves, his face vulnerable and fearful. The dwarves form a wall, and the elves jump over them as they join the fight.

Remember that trauma we talked about? Thranduil's greatest fear is happening. Sauron's forces are attacking. His first reaction is to turn and run. And yet, his sense reaches through his terror, reminding him that it is madness to run. The enemy has already arrived, and he cannot abandon his allies. He orders his soldiers to join the fight.

Battle starts and continues. Thranduil has some amazing moments. Thranduil gallops through some of his elves, commanding, “Protect the valley and city!” (translation) Azog orders Dale attacked. Bard and the humans fall back to Dale. Battle continues. Thranduil gallops into Dale, continuing to slice through orcs. His elk is killed just after he makes it in, and he gets up, his face filled with his rage and hate, as he continues to attack. Some of his army catches up and enters Dale. Thranduil continues attacking.

Later, in a moment of peace, Thranduil is walking through Dale, looking at his dead soldiers. His eyes are wide with grief. Feren approaches, and Thranduil says, “Recall your company.” He continues to just stand there, grief-stricken. Gandalf hears the elven horn, and approaches Thranduil, “My lord! Disperse this force to Ravenhill. The dwarves are about to be overrun. Thorin must be warned.” Thranduil responds, “By all means, warn him.” He walks past Gandalf, “I have spent enough elvish blood in defense of this accursed land. No more!” Gandalf looks after him, exclaiming, “Thranduil!”

No more. No more of his people are going to die. Too many already have, in defense of this horrible land. He's done.

I want to talk about the crucial theme of greed for a moment. It is one of the main themes in the films. Greed means “an excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth.”

While Thranduil's reasoning is more legitimate than Thorin's in these particular instances, Thranduil still parallels Thorin. Because of the great trauma in his past, Thranduil is stuck in his backward thinking. This leads to his deep desire to reclaim his crown jewels, because they hold sentimental meaning and symbolize better days in his past – just like the Arkenstone does for Thorin. Unlike Thorin, however, Thranduil tries several times to solve the matter through peace and now chooses once again to put his people first. But he did fall a little, by coming with his army to force Thorin's hand.

Thranduil comes around the corner, kills an orc, and stops in shock. Tauriel is standing in front of the exit.

This is crucial to understand. Kili's life is in danger, and yet Tauriel doesn't go after him. She goes to confront Thranduil.

By now, Tauriel has become disillusioned with Thranduil. She was shocked when he stated outright that he didn't care about other lands or other people. He warned her off Legolas, and slighted her. He confirmed beyond all doubt, with the orcs, that he will not do anything. He would have them locked up, never truly living, and allow evil to win. He has not told Legolas a single thing about his mother.

Forcefully, Tauriel says, “You will go no further! You will not turn away. Not this time.” She will not let him. She will not.

Furious, Thranduil responds, “Get out of my way.” She dares to do this? She betrayed him. She refused to listen. She dismissed everything he has done for her. She led Legolas into danger. And now, she dares to lecture him?

Tauriel responds, “The dwarves will be slaughtered.” How can he condemn innocents to death?

Yes, they will die,” Thranduil says, tilting his head as if it's obvious. Tauriel stares at him. “Today, tomorrow, one year hence,” he moves closer, “a hundred years from now,” and closer, “what does it matter?” even closer, “they are mortal.” What does it matter, if they die now, instead of later? Death is inevitable for them. Not for his people.

Tauriel whips out her bow, and Thranduil moves back slightly, shocked (the elves behind him draw their weapons but do not move). “You think your life is worth more than theirs,” she says, lashing out with an angry forcefulness, “when there is no lo
ve in it. There's no love in you.”

Thranduil glances to the side, before slashing her bow apart, furious. How dare she? How dare she accuse him of not loving? She knows nothing!

Tauriel is shocked, her bow falling out of her hands. (the elves behind Thranduil lower their weapons)

Angrily and forcefully, Thranduil says, “What do you know of love?” He points his sword at Tauriel's throat.

She looks down at it with a small gasp, surprised.

Nothing! What you feel for that dwarf, is not real.” Thranduil shakes his head slightly when saying “is not real.”

Tauriel looks at Thranduil fearfully, gasping and crying.

You think it is love? Are you ready to die for it?”

They stand there and look at each other, Thranduil furious, Tauriel heartbroken.

Okay, time to talk about the whole bunch of realizations I had because of this scene. Both Tauriel and Thranduil react like they've been betrayed by a loved one; their reactions are so great, they want to make the other hurt, and they lash out. Thranduil's verbal attack makes Tauriel crumble. This scene is very, very personal.

To understand why, we need to go back. Remember that for the last 600 years, Thranduil has protected and cared for Tauriel. He took her under his wing, essentially raising her.

The next realization I had was that I was looking at the same character. Now, stay with me. Obviously, that is not technically true. But they have the exact same personality. Think about it. They are both analytical. They both have an innate fierceness. They are both blunt. They both believe they are right, and don't care about the other side's viewpoint. They are both muleheaded. They both react to things by lashing out. They are both rebellious. They are both hotheaded. They both have an innate drive to lead. They are both confrontational. All of this is the complete opposite of Legolas, who has been torn between the two of them.

Looking back, I don't know why I didn't see it before. The orc interrogation is another perfect example: Both of them start out the scene pacing. Tauriel reacts to the orc by trying to kill it, and when Thranduil stops her, she doesn't hesitate to give him a look of fury and defiance. Thranduil won't budge either, ordering her to leave again. They have a stare off, until Tauriel finally gives in, stalking away. Thranduil then reacts to the orc by lashing out and killing it. He stomps on its leg, ready to bash it into the ground. He doesn't give Legolas answers, but stalks away.

Tauriel is not going to kill Thranduil. She makes no movement to loose the arrow, but keeps lashing out verbally. Thranduil is not going to kill Tauriel. He makes no movement to do so, and there is more than enough time in that pause. He's thinking about his past, a past that is filled with loved ones dying.

Legolas appears out of nowhere, pushing Thranduil's sword away with Orcrist. Tauriel closes her eyes, letting out a relieved gasp and slumping slightly. She knows Legolas is there for her. Thranduil looks at Legolas, who says angrily, “If you harm her,” Thranduil looks shocked, “you will have to kill me.” Thranduil looks down, heartbroken. Legolas turns to Tauriel, “I will go with you.” They leave for Ravenhill. Thranduil has not looked back up.

My last realization about this scene. Of course Thranduil tried to drive a wedge between Legolas and Tauriel. Because of his elven ability (along with his closeness to both of them), Thranduil would have known there was nothing romantic between Legolas and Tauriel. However, it was an excellent way to disturb and slight Tauriel. And now it is clear why he did so - they have been at odds for a while (it was clear that was not their first conversation on the subject of going beyond their borders), she is far too much like himself, and she yearns to go out and bring the fight to the enemy. He fears that she will take Legolas away – and she does.

Now, is either of them morally right? Tauriel's point is, even though she isn't. Thranduil is not just turning his back on the dwarves, he's also abandoning the humans. They do not truly live, locked inside the Woodland Realm. Yes, evil has always been present; but it will continue to grow, and to come after them. There is no way to truly lock the rest of the world out. Is a life that's hiding, and not truly lived, worth others dying? Is it worth letting evil win?

I am reminded of when Aragorn says to Éowyn, “A time may come soon when none will return. Then there will be need of valour without renown, for none shall remember the deeds that are done in the last defense of your homes. Yet the deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.” And Legolas later says, “Follow what may, great deeds are not lessened in worth. Great deed was the riding of the Paths of the Dead, and great it shall remain, though none be left in Gondor to sing of it in the days that are to come.”

Good deeds are good deeds. It does not matter what comes after. We are all a part of this world, and we all have an obligation to stand and fight for what is right. To quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

So while Thranduil's isolation is understandable, it isn't morally right.

Legolas, for his part, has realized that Tauriel is right about it being their fight too. He catches up to find Thranduil pointing his sword at Tauriel – Legolas wasn't there for anything else. Angry, he says his father will have to kill him, before any harm comes to Tauriel. He then tells her he will come with her, and they leave. Legolas is a child, he doesn't understand what his father is going through. All he knows is that his father is threatening his sister (because that's how he treats Tauriel – like a much-loved sister).

On that note, Tauriel doesn't know that the dwarves killed some of her people. She wasn't there. The obvious assumption is that the orcs and other evil creatures killed them – and indeed, most of them were killed by the evil creatures. Certainly all of the bodies Tauriel sees were. Also, it does not invalidate her point; because it is bigger than just this moment, as I already went over.

The position Tauriel holds is truly fascinating. We see over and over that the only people of higher rank are Thranduil and Legolas. However, we only see Legolas co-lead a patrol, give a few small and isolated orders (“Shut the gate!”), hold and interrogate the orc at Thranduil's cue, and convey Thranduil's orders to their people. It is Tauriel who has to give Thranduil the report on the spiders and is immediately given charge when the dwarves escape (“Where is the keeper of the keys?” “Come now!”). She is the Captain General (Captain of the Guard), Thranduil's second hand in matters of security (I'm sure he has a steward as well). As I said above, Legolas is more of a follower than a leader, and he has been torn between the two of them. That explains why he does not seem to have any other role than that of Prince.

It is a testament to the depth of their relationship that Thranduil's words break Tauriel. From the very beginning, she has been scared of her feelings for Kili; hiding behind her sense of justice and her loyalty to her kin. Now, her love for Kili is out in the open, there is no more pretending. It is the only thing Thranduil leaves her with.

Tauriel and Legolas are clearly contrasted in the subsequent events. Legolas uses his ingenuity to help sway the tide of the battle. He is torn, but finally throws Thorin Orcrist; saving Thorin's life (just like Thorin did in DoS). Tauriel's entire focus is on Kili. Both of their reasoning has changed, and both of their reasoning is morally sound. Fighting for the sake of a loved one is just as moral as fighting because of a cause.

Legolas and Tauriel reach the bridge, and see the bats flying overhead. Tauriel gasps and says, “No!” The second army cannot have already arrived! Legolas grabs a bat and flies off. Tauriel watches him before turning around again, and then sees Kili fighting on a ledge. Fearfully, she whispers, “Kili!” Tauriel tries to get to Kili, killing five orcs along the way. After the last orc is killed, she comes out onto a ledge. Tauriel turns around, screaming, “Kili!” He has to be alive still! Kili hears her and turns his head, before going back to fighting. Still looking around on the ledge, Tauriel screams, “Kili!” again. Disabling the orc, Kili screams back, “Tauriel!” She hears and gives a small gasp, and breathes, “Kili,” still looking around.

This is not bad strategy. The second army has already arrived and everyone is already fighting. She needs to find Kili quickly so she can protect him, before he gets killed by one of the hundreds of new orcs surrounding them. It's not a stealth mission, it doesn't effect anyone negatively, and no one other than Kili – not even an orc – reacts to her shouts.

Bolg sneaks up on Tauriel, she turns but is not quick enough; he kicks her into the stairs, holding her from behind, and tosses her. Kili continues to fight through orcs, trying to get to where Tauriel's voice came from. Bolg grabs one of Tauriel's arms, and she slashes at his middle with her knife, but it has no effect. He grabs her other arm, and Tauriel yanks it free, hitting him with her knives again, and spins around so she's facing his back. Tauriel ducks his blow, and slashes at him with her knives. Bolg tries to punch her, and she smacks his hand away. He grabs it, and her other wrist (which was raised to give a blow) and twists them, making Tauriel cry out in pain. He hits her on the head with his fist and she falls. Bolg holds Tauriel up into the air by her neck, choking her. Bolg holds Tauriel up into the air by her neck, choking her. She cries out in pain, and Kili hears it. He pauses (having just killed another orc), his eyes widen in shock, and he runs forward; towards her voice. Tauriel kicks Bolg by his privates and he falls to his knee, still holding her neck. She hits him twice, but he grabs her arm, twists her, and throws her across the ledge, into the tower wall. Tauriel cries out in pain, and Bolg advances on her.

She looks up as he raises his weapon; but Kili arrives, jumping on him with a shout from the ledge above. He tries to choke Bolg and stab him with his sword. Tauriel sits up, with a long gasp. Bolg throws Kili off, onto the staircase. Kili gets up and charges, Bard knocks his arm away, Kili ducks and then swipes at Bolg's middle. Kili swings again, and Bolg grabs his upper arm, punching him in the face. Bolg holds Kili by the front of his clothing. Tauriel jumps on him from behind, screaming “No-aah!”, trying to grab his weapon. Bolg throws her off, and she roles to the edge of the ledge, crying out in pain.

We're going to stop for a moment. Remember those hater comments? We've already gone over how elven senses aren't infallible. Tauriel is no different from Legolas. Tauriel uses her knives multiple times. While we're back to that toxic view of power, remember that Bolg only fights four times. Legolas loses, Tauriel loses, Kili loses, Legolas wins. That's it. While Legolas wins the second round, he still gets beaten up and thrown around. Neither Legolas, Tauriel, nor Kili ever have any problems with any other orc. On top of that, Tauriel fights Bolg much better and longer than Kili does. Also, Ask Callie makes a great observation:
The two lock blades, and Legolas promptly gets his pretty elven ass handed to him. Yes, there are some other orcs to help Bolg, but they’re hardly more than a distraction and Legolas dispatches them almost immediately. Bolg is the real opponent, and he’s not even trying. Legolas lands a few blows, Bolg draws blood, and then the orc simply walks away. This is the last we see of him for a while. 
When Tauriel goes up against this particular orc, keep in mind that it’s after Bolg has already had his run-in with Legolas. Why is this important? 
Because he already knows all of the prince’s moves. And here’s the part where being raised by the king bites Tauriel in the backside. 
She learned how to fight under the same tutors as Legolas. She sparred with the prince while she was growing up. Most of what she knows about fighting, she learned/picked up from Legolas. We see them basically running mimic of one another in the forest and the barrel escape. 
This comes in very handy for an orc that remembers what his last elven opponent fought like. 
You can see in the scene that every time she uses one of the same moves Legolas did in his fight, Bolg blocks her (Ex - she deflects his punch and immediately follows with a slice at his head, but he knows this move so he catches her arm and twists it) and whenever she uses something new, she takes him by surprise, but he learns from it (Ex. he grabs her by the throat, she kicks his knee out and gets away, but he never holds her suspended again - he throws her against the wall instead.) Even in his second fight against Legolas, Bolg never falls for a move that he’s seen before - from either of the elves that he fought.
Seeing Fili's dead body, Kili reacts by attacking. He throws himself forward, like always; only this time, in a state of rage and grief. But then, hearing Tauriel's voice, he tries to get to her. Kili lets go of his need to avenge his brother so he can aid another loved one. That is a selfless act. He doesn't rush in to take what he knows will be a killing blow, to save Tauriel. He saves her life - but that specific act does not kill him. He goes down, fighting beside one of his loved ones.

Tauriel looks up and Bolg spears Kili before she can do anything. She cries out, “No-aah,” her heart in agony. Kili looks at her, mouthing Amrâlimê. Tauriel is gasping and crying, her eyes never leaving his, unable to look away as life fades from him. She knows what he is saying. Kili gasps his last breaths, tears falling from one of his eyes, as they close. His brother is dead, and he failed to save his loved ones. Tauriel cries out again, her face contorting with agony, as she reaches towards him.

Bolg throws Kili's body down, and turns towards Tauriel. She looks at him, agony turning to hatred. He advances on her, and Tauriel pushes herself up, her face contorted with hatred. Bolg holds his weapon up, and Tauriel jumps on him, grabbing his neck and twisting her body, trying to throw them over the edge. Kili is dead, and she doesn't care if she dies, all she cares about is taking Bolg out. Bolg turns to face the edge and tries
to throw Tauriel off, but she refuses to let go, twisting herself so her feet land on a rock, before pushing off. They both scream as they are thrown over the side of the ledge.

Legolas sees them falling down the side, and looks fearful. Tauriel lands on one ledge, Bolg on another. Tauriel doesn't move, repeatedly gasping out in pain. The fall hurt her badly. Bolg is already up and coming towards her. Legolas reaches for an arrow. Realizing he's out, Legolas gets alarmed. He uses his ingenuity and creates a bridge. We see Tauriel turn her head, eyes closed and still otherwise motionless; practically unconscious. Bolg comes to challenge him, and Legolas wins the fight. He goes to Tauriel's ledge, but she's gone. He looks around, crying out, “Tauriel!”

Everyone seems to think that Tauriel having a moment of 'powerlessness and helplessness' is a bad thing. However that thought is sexist (and toxic power, hello again), as we went over in F&M. Everyone has moments of vulnerability, and true strength comes from it. Vulnerability doesn't make one bad. It's okay to be vulnerable and need help. Vulnerability is not weakness. Not one single person in the world can honestly say they have never been vulnerable.

No, she doesn't go help Legolas. We're back to elves aren't people. They are ruled by their memory and emotions. She comes to and is filled with Kili and grief, just like Thranduil, forgetting about everything else. Also, Legolas and Bolg are in a narrow, confined area. Legolas is holding his own. Anything Tauriel does to interfere would make the situation worse – there is no room for three.

Why? Why is the idea of Tauriel getting up and killing in hatred and revenge seen as strength? I don't know how many times I have to stress this, before people believe it. It is a very unhealthy world where killing and violence are praised and seen as strength; and vulnerability and any other emotion (especially love) are seen as weakness. This is, in fact, Tolkien's (and my) entire point.

Once Kili was speared, there was nothing Tauriel could have done to save him. Bolg had complete control, and he ran Kili through quickly, he just didn't pull out right away. Could you honestly break eye contact, break your connection to your loved one, as they died? Would you let them die emotionally alone?

Tauriel is sitting next to Kili's body, crying. She holds the rune stone to her heart, before lowering it next to Kili's face, caressing it with her fingers. Legolas is standing by the archway, and he turns his head towards her, looking sad. His heart is breaking for her, and he knows there is nothing he can do to help. Still crying, Tauriel slips the rune stone into Kili's hand and brings both up to her heart, lowering her head and kissing Kili's hand; metaphorically saying that he will always have her love. She rocks in that position, crying. Tauriel had finally accepted her feelings, accepted them, and she never gets the chance to tell him. So many words, forever unspoken. A future, forever gone.

Thranduil arrives on Ravenhill, looking around fearfully at the dead bodies. Tauriel and Legolas had left him shocked and heartbroken in Dale, with the realization that he had gone too far and lost both of his children. Are they alive? Legolas appears, stopping right in front of Thranduil, and Thranduil looks at him with concern and relief. His son is alive. Is he alright? Legolas looks at his father, “I... cannot go back.” He cannot go back to how he was, how they were. He is no longer ignorant to the world around them. He walks past Thranduil. “Where will you go?” Thranduil asks softly, watching him. He too has changed, and will not stop Legolas. Legolas stops and turns around, emotionally saying, “I do not know.” His world is in turmoil. He is in turmoil. Understanding that, Thranduil says, “Go north. Find the Dúnedain. There's a young ranger amongst them. You should meet him. His father Arathorn was a good man, his son might grow to be a great one.” As you are. Thranduil has realized his failings, and knows all he can do now is advise and offer his support. Legolas looks away, nodding slightly, “What is his name?” He trusts his father. “He's known in the wild as Strider. His true name, you must discover for yourself.”

Legolas has looked back at Thranduil; after a moment he turns and starts walking away. “Legolas,” Thranduil says softly. He has to say it. He has to at least give his son this. Legolas stops immediately, tilting his head back slightly. “Your mother loved you.” Legolas doesn't move. “More than anyone. More than life.” Oh, she died for him. Captured by orcs? Almost definitely. Legolas looks grieved. After a moment he turns partly, bowing his head and putting his right hand over his heart. He looks at his father as he extends his hand towards him, letting his gesture trail off. Goodbye. I love you. Thranduil started the gesture when Legolas did, bowing his head deeply and only slightly extending his hand. Goodbye. I love you too. Legolas leaves. Thranduil shakes his head slightly, anguished; before closing his eyes, looking down, and breathing deeply. He looks back up again, still anguished, before turning around and walking to the ledge. To where Legolas had come from.

We're going to talk about that farewell gesture for a moment. It is a gesture we see many times throughout the films, and is used as both a greeting and as a farewell. It is a gesture full of meaning. The head is bowed and the right hand is put over the heart and then extended outward. Lindir does it when greeting Gandalf; Elrond does it after his speech when the Fellowship departs, and Legolas and Aragorn do it in return to him; Haldir does it twice, when greeting Legolas and Aragorn, and they do it in return (the three of them barely bow their heads, unlike the other times); Legolas does it when thinking Merry and Pippin are dead (his head does not move because it is already bowed); Haldir does it when greeting Theoden (with a deep head bow), and he and Aragorn do it to each other (with only slight head bows) right before Aragorn hugs him.

myrkvidrs and magicbunni both analyze it perfectly. myrkvidrs says:
This one moment, right here, is what sells me on their good relationship most of all. Thranduil touches his hand to his heart (which is a movieverse Elven gesture of significance) and Legolas reaches a hand out to his father, the gesture trailing away indicates this depth of feeling that I have trouble articulating. 
This is something Legolas needs to do, but it’s not an easy thing for him, that gesture, the way he holds a hand out to his father, it says so much about how he loves Thranduil, how incredibly difficult this is for both of them. 
Legolas knows that was next to impossible for his father to say, to talk of his mother that way, and he stops again when he hears his father’s words, he takes them to heart (that hand out to Thranduil reads to me as both acknowledging the pain of that statement, as well as Legolas’ own love for his father in that painful moment) and carries them with him.
magicbunni says:
I find this really revealing. What we seem to have here is Thranduil saying ‘I love you’ and 'Goodbye’ to the little child Legolas that still exists in his heart. The motion is slow, almost a scoop motion like taking something out of himself and offering it to Legolas. 
Legolas is really heartbreaking. His 'I love you’ gesture to his father loses all formality. In other words, his hand just begins to go slack and reach out the way it would if he were going to take his father’s hand. To me this is a very deep revelation of love, in a way, it becomes a 'Don’t leave me’, or 'Will you come take my hand’. It truly seems to be the son in him reaching to his dad, while his father struggles with letting him go.
Tauriel is sitting there, caressing Kíli's cheek. She doesn't look up, saying, “They want to bury him.” They want to take him away. Thranduil watches her, quietly saying, “Yes.” Tauriel looks up slightly, “If this is love, I do not want it,” she says, shaking her head slightly. She looks at him and pleads, “Take it from me. Please.” Take this pain away. Thranduil moves closer slightly, but does not say anything. Tauriel's eyes close, and she turns her head away, crying in agony, while holding Kíli's hand, “Why does it hurt so much?” She glances at Thranduil and looks away again, lowering her head. Thranduil moves closer, and softly says, tilting his head slightly, “Because it was real.”

Tauriel looks up at him, and realizes what he's saying. Realizes that this anguish is what he experiences every day; and the reason why he has made the decisions he has. It’s not about letting evil become strong, evil is strong. And it will hurt you without mercy. Tauriel finally understands this, and Thranduil.

Tauriel cries, looks down, and puts Kili's hand on her neck, as she leans down to kiss him (their only kiss), before sniffling and caressing his hand. She holds his hand to her shoulder, and turns her face into it.

I just... this last scene... just thinking about it is making me cry. It's so true. Anyone who has lost a loved one has experienced this. And having Thranduil's and Tauriel's arcs end like this... She is young, and heartbroken, and doesn't understand why. She just wants it to stop. If I had any doubts about their relationship, this scene erased them. Tauriel cries out to him, confiding in him, pleading for him to save her and make it all go away. She is, in essence, a young child seeking her fathers comfort.

And Thranduil? He finally understands, validating her and giving his support; just like he did with Legolas. Only what she needs is the opposite of Legolas, and Thranduil knows that. Their arcs end with them finally understanding each other. There is no doubt in my mind that Tauriel returns to the Woodland Realm.

A quick note on elvish nature – I said above that elves can read the hearts and souls of others, and we see Tauriel read Kili's while Thranduil reads both Tauriel's and Legolas's. So why is Tauriel unable to read Thranduil, until he opens up to her? It's simply because he is much older and more powerful than she is.

As a side note, ishkaqwiaidurugnul made a wonderful post on the universal meaning of Tauriel's line:
in botfa, when tauriel said “why does it hurt so much?” 
because i have sobbed in my bedroom dark and alone at night with that thought running through my head 
and i’m not the only one 
Tauriel’s situation is so very relevant to EVERYONE. 
and when Thranduil said, “because it was real” 
I just found it so comforting to know that i have a right to be sad, a right to feel things, that it’s not my own fault that i’m alone and crying. “It was real,” my problems are real, it’s not just me overreacting or being dramatic. my feelings are valid, and yours are, too. 
i just felt in that moment in the theatre like thranduil was speaking directly to me and i feel like those lines are SO SO SO important to overcoming sadness, loneliness, and depression. 
please have a lovely day and remember that your feelings are real, valuable, and important <3
I agree completely. This line is so trueAnd not only does this line validate both our feelings and Tauriel's, it comes from a character who's entire character arc revolves around his strong PTSD. The significance of this cannot be overstated.

In fact, that haters completely ignore the fact that a major part of Tolkien's works is the loss of innocence. In book!LotR it is Frodo and the entire Shire; in the films it's Frodo in LotR and Bilbo, Tauriel, and Legolas here. Not only that, but the plot is mostly driven by two characters who had previously lost their innocence and gained severe PTSD – Thorin and Thranduil.

We have to understand Thranduil and Legolas to realize just how much of an effect Tauriel has. No, we don't see Thranduil rejoin the battle. That does not mean Tauriel had no effect on him. We see the large effect she had in his subsequent interactions with her and Legolas. I don't understand it when people say she wasn't needed, or that her role was superficial. The dynamic in Mirkwood is one of the biggest things driving the plot - Thranduil and Legolas needed to have a backstory/reasons for doing what they do. And Tauriel is that driving force.

Remember, one of the centr
al themes of Tolkien's legendarium is that isolationism is bad and that good comes from seeing the good in others and banding together. Only then can evil be defeated. Haldir summarizes it perfectly: “Indeed i
n nothing is the power of the Dark Lord more clearly shown than in the estrangement that divides all those who still oppose him.”

Lauren says,
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.

Legolas and Gimli only become friends because of Gimli's relationship with Galadriel (see here). Bard, while not greatly prejudiced, is still focused only on his family and their people. Bilbo starts out being prejudiced, and has to be forced into things by Gandalf. Tauriel and Kili are the only characters in The Hobbit who are naturally open-minded.

Speaking of that open-mindedness, I want to quote Evangeline Lilly:
That’s a great question, “What does she want?”, because that’s what drives every story. And for me, that was the most exciting thing about playing this character, was that in a film that was male-driven, and driven by people with selfish aims, that want things for themselves, whether that be their title or their crown or their jewel, or whatever else… Tauriel is one of the few characters in the film who is purely fighting for truth and for justice. And she cares more about those two things than she does about any private, and personal, gain. 
You mentioned something that sort of triggered something in my mind, which is ‘Tell me something about her past’ and a lot of people won’t know because it doesn’t have a place in the film anymore. At one point it kind of did, but a part of Tauriel’s backstory is that she is an orphan. Her parents were killed by orcs. When you understand that, you suddenly understand how and why this girl became the lethal killing machine that she is, how she became the head of the elven guard, how she got taken under Thranduil’s wings, and why she’s so passionate about fighting the evil that is in Middle Earth. (source)
And I think Tauriel is very passionate about justice, and in that passion for justice is where she finds the opening to fall in love with a Dwarf. If she didn’t care so much about justice, she would’ve never put herself in a position to even get to know him in the first place. 
Because when I signed on, I knew what I was signing on for. She was the warrior elf. And I was excited to play the warrior elf because I knew it would be fun, I knew it would be cool. And one of the cool things about being an elf is that I never ever would kill a human being, I would never kill a dwarf. I would never– No matter how much I don’t like them. I would never kill another elf, I would never kill anything that had goodness in it. We only kill evil incarnate. 
And so it is a distinction from what you see in human violence, which is humans killing other humans when all of us know that every human being has shreds of good in them, no matter what they’re doing, no matter how bad it is. An orc doesn’t have a shred of good in it. It is evil incarnate. And so killing evil incarnate feels somehow more justified. (source)
Evangeline is right. Tauriel's passion for justice is what fundamentally drives her, as I've gone over in detail above. No matter how much she disliked them, she would never kill a dwarf. She would never kill any being not created by evil for evil (Morgoth created the orcs and the giant spiders of Mirkwood are descendants of Ungoliant, who was an evil spirit that took the form of a giant spider).

Tauriel believes in this goodness, and so she is open to the possibility of a good dwarf. If she didn't, if she had closed off her heart and mind, she wouldn't have touched souls with Kili and realized that he is her soulmate.

Tauriel is not a typical action hero, but she is the hero of the elves. The effect she has on those around her long-term is much more important than killing an orc (again, back to Tolkien's, and my, entire point).

If we're talking about a female character who fights, and there are male characters doing the exact same thing, she is not the psycho and out-of-control one. Why are we deriding her and not him? Because she's female, and not meant to fight bac

If she actually shows emotion, and is more than just a stoic killing machine? Then she's no good either, because she's letting those evil things called emotions and relationships affect her. As F&M shows, human beings are fundamentally made by their relationships. We are emotional creatures.

In short, she can't have any feminine traits, care about anyone, or be vulnerable in any way, because all of that is bad – but she can't be stoic, aggressive, or masculine either, because that's not her place. No matter what, she'll never be acceptable. And that, everyone, is deeply rooted sexism.


I hope this essay has helped you see and understand not only Tauriel, but also Thranduil and Legolas. All three are amazing characters who add a phenomenal amount of depth and nuance to the films.


  1. This was such a lovely read. Can't wait to have time to read the others you've written later.

    1. Thank you so much! I just reformatted this one by combining the scripting and the analysis, but 99% of the content is still the same. :) I just made a few minor edits/changes.

      I don't know if you saw it, but I have all of my essays listed under the "My Musings" tab for sake of convenience.

      Thank you again for the comment, and have a great day!

  2. this was so beautiful and well written! I wish every Tauriel hater would read this.