Played by Viggo Mortensen
The heir to the throne of Gondor. Though Aragorn is the rightful king of Gondor, he travels under an assumed identity at the beginning of the trilogy: he is a ranger, known as Strider. The fact that he is not upon the throne reveals the weak state of the kingdoms of men. As the trilogy proceeds, Aragorn shows himself to be a noble leader with a pure heart. He is relatively unaffected by desire for the ring and routinely throws himself in harm’s way to ensure the fellowship’s survival. In love with the elf princess Arwen, he fights for her survival and for the successful return of the ring to Mordor. He becomes increasingly comfortable asserting his royal identity, but only when he addresses the men of the mountain in The Return of the King does he actually declare himself king of Gondor. By the time he is crowned king at the end of the final film, he has proven himself to be a worthy leader.
Read an in-depth analysis of Aragorn .
Played by Liv Tyler
An elf princess and Aragorn’s future queen. Like many characters in the trilogy, Arwen must make a sacrifice. She must choose between the immortal life of the elves and a mortal life with Aragorn, whom she loves. Not only does she choose the latter path, which goes against her father’s wishes, but she also encourages Elrond to stay in Middle-earth until its future is secure. At the end of the trilogy, she marries Aragorn and becomes queen of Middle-earth. Based on a vision Arwen has of the future, we know the couple will eventually have a child.
Played by Ian Holm
Frodo’s uncle, who possesses the ring at the beginning of the trilogy. Bilbo is a playful old hobbit, but he is restless and covetous of his ring. His unsettled feelings suggest how great a burden it is to carry the ring and foreshadow the great travails that await Frodo. Bilbo never realizes that his ring is the one ring of power. Like Gandalf and Frodo, he is invited to depart with the elves at the end of The Return of the King.
Played by Sean Bean
The heir to the steward of Gondor. More than any other member of the fellowship of the ring, Boromir is the victim of desire for the ring. At the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, he attacks Frodo to try to take it from him. Later, Boromir attempts to make up for this slip by fighting the oncoming army of Uruk-hai. He is killed in battle, but his bravery allows the other members of the fellowship to survive.
Played by John Noble
The steward of Gondor. The ruler of Gondor in the absence of the proper king, Denethor has grown corrupt and weak-minded. He is reluctant to give up power should the real king return. Lamenting the death of his oldest and most beloved son, Boromir, he is cruel to his second son, Faramir, and sends him off into an unwinnable battle. When Faramir returns unconscious but alive, Denethor insists that his son is dead and builds a funeral pyre. Gandalf and Pippin save Faramir, and only Denethor burns.
Played by Hugo Weaving
Ruler of the Rivendell elves and Arwen’s father. Though Elrond is sympathetic to the goals of the fellowship, his primary concern is the safety of his elf subjects. The elves face a choice: they can leave Middle-earth for immortal life, or they can delay their departure and contribute to the fight against Sauron. Elrond has a low opinion of men, as he was with Isildur when the king failed to destroy the ring of power. For this reason and because of his concerns about Arwen’s life, he is reluctant to aid in the fight against Sauron. Eventually, he commits himself to the ancient alliance of men and elves, sends an army to defend Rohan, and reforges Isildur’s sword for Aragorn.
Played by Karl Urban
Théoden’s nephew and the leader of the riders of Rohan.
Played by Miranda Otto
Théoden’s niece. Éowyn falls in love with Aragorn, but he cannot return her love. Though Théoden has commanded her not to, she rides into battle with Merry and kills the witch-king.
Played by David Wenham
Younger son of Denethor, the steward of Gondor. Faramir is forever living in the shadow of Boromir, his older brother and Denethor’s favorite. When he learns that Sam and Frodo have the ring, he wants to bring them to Gondor, thinking the ring will help protect the kingdom. Eventually, he reconsiders his plan and sets the two hobbits free. Faramir fights bravely against Sauron’s army, even riding into an impossible battle in order to impress Denethor. He manages to survive, but only barely, and Denethor comes close to burning him alive on a funeral pyre.
Played by Elijah Wood
The ring-bearer and protagonist of the trilogy. A young hobbit, Frodo is chosen by the wizard Gandalf to return the ring to Mordor. The ring offers terrible temptation to anyone who comes near it, and though Frodo on occasion succumbs to its power, he generally shows remarkable strength before its siren call. However, when it comes time to drop the ring into Mount Doom, he is unable to simply let the ring go. Only because the ring is torn loose in Frodo’s struggle with Gollum does it fall into the fiery pit of lava below, which suggests that Frodo is a very fallible hero. Unlike the three other hobbits, Sam, Merry, and Pippin, Frodo is unable to readjust to life in the Shire upon his return. In this way, he resembles his uncle Bilbo, a former owner of the ring who is forever restless. The ring has a great effect on Frodo, changing him from an ordinary hobbit of exceptional qualities into someone extraordinary. He becomes a legend and eventually leaves the land of living mortals for immortal life with the elves. Despite Frodo’s success in returning the ring to Mordor, in some ways he is the least memorable character in the trilogy. In three epic films full of battles, he is a reserved, physically small, and ineffective fighter.
Read an in-depth analysis of Frodo .
Played by Cate Blanchett
An elf queen known as the Lady of the Woods. Galadriel is the leader of the Sylvan elves. She offers spiritual aid to Frodo, giving counsel and encouraging him during the dark moments of his quest. She gives him a star of light that proves essential to Frodo when he is betrayed by Gollum and trapped in the spider Shelob’s webs.
Played by Ian McKellen
A grandfatherly wizard. Gandalf is the first to understand the dangers that Bilbo’s ring poses, and his knowledge sets the whole trilogy in motion. Gandalf selects quiet Frodo to carry the ring and the bumbling Sam to be Frodo’s protector, and these hobbits seem unlikely choices for such a dangerous mission. Here and elsewhere, Gandalf exhibits a remarkable wisdom and insight into hobbits and men alike, and he seems to see potential and ability where others do not. Gandalf is affable, slow, and deliberate, but he is also a skilled fighter. His battles with Saruman and in the mines of Moria are heroic, and the Moria fight in particular provides the others in the fellowship with a model for the sacrifice their quest may require of them. The others assume Gandalf has died in this battle, but he returns, transformed from a gray wizard into a white one. Gandalf is often playful, but he is also deeply concerned about the fate of Middle-earth and always prepared to fight for its safety. At the end of the trilogy, he leaves with Bilbo, Frodo, and the elves for immortal life. Though this wizard seems human, he has always been a little different and a little better than any man could possibly be.
Played by John Rhys-Davies
A bearded, ax-wielding warrior dwarf. Gimli is a brave and loyal member of the fellowship of the ring.
Played by Andy Serkis
A wretched swamp creature who covets the ring. Before becoming obsessed with the ring, Gollum was a hobbit named Sméagol. His transformation into the disgusting, raw-fish-eating Gollum serves as a cautionary tale about the evil effects of the ring. Both Gollum and Sméagol are vastly different from Frodo. Gollum is a living reminder of a possible alternate life for Frodo, and, while Frodo is incorruptible, Sméagol is weak-willed and criminal. From the moment he first laid eyes on the ring, Sméagol was obsessed with it, and years later it is still Gollum’s sole reason for living. Gollum leads Frodo and Sam to Mordor, and his intentions are constantly suspect. Usually he seems to be waiting for an opportunity to steal the ring, but at times he appears to be a faithful servant, won over by Frodo’s generous spirit. His desire for the ring eventually wins out, and this desire ultimately leads to the destruction of the ring and his own death at Mount Doom. As is Sauron’s, Gollum’s identity is tied up with the ring. Whereas Sauron is pure evil, however, Gollum is pure weakness. He is always the ring’s victim.
Read an in-depth analysis of Gollum .
Played by Craig Parker
An elf leader. Haldir is killed defending Rohan, which suggests the larger sacrifice the elves have made by choosing to defend the human kingdom.
Played by Harry Sinclair
The former king of Gondor. Isildur once defeated the forces of Sauron and came to possess the ring of power. He went to Mount Doom to destroy the ring, but at the last moment decided to keep it, a fateful decision that breathed new life into Sauron, allowing him to wage war on Middle-earth a second time.
Played by Paul Norell
The ruler of the men of the mountain. The men of the mountain reneged on a pledge to the king of Gondor and were cursed to suffer eternal servitude for their transgression. The King of the Dead listens to Aragorn when he requests their help. Aragorn succeeds in enlisting the ghostly army for his battle and says they will be free of their pledge when the battle for Middle-earth is over. When the forces of Sauron are defeated, the men of the mountain simply disappear.
Played by Orlando Bloom
A boyish elf. Thanks to Legolas’s skill with a bow and arrow, his kill number is consistently higher than Gimli’s. Like his dwarf friend, he is a brave and loyal member of the fellowship of the ring.
Played by Dominic Monaghan
A mischievous and courageous hobbit. Like Pippin, his best friend, Merry is a rabble-rouser and troublemaker. However, he proves himself to be a fearless fighter at the great battle of Minas Tirith, when he helps Éowyn slay the witch-king.
Played by Billy Boyd
A mischievous hobbit. If Sam and Frodo are necessary members of the fellowship, chosen to carry the ring because of their essentially incorruptible spirits, Pippin and Merry are the accidental fellowship members, who come on the journey because they happen to bump into the other two. Pippin is playful and enjoys a good party, but his carelessness also causes many problems. When he steals the seeing stone from Gandalf, he alerts Sauron to the party’s whereabouts. He tries to atone for this error by pledging fealty to Denethor.
Played by Sean Astin
Frodo’s best friend and constant companion. If Frodo’s burden is to carry the ring, Sam’s is to carry Frodo, which he literally does as the two finally struggle up Mount Doom. Sam is Frodo’s loyal friend, as committed as Frodo is to returning the ring and keeping the Shire safe. Considering his proximity to the ring, Sam is remarkably immune to its call. Sam himself carries the ring for a short time, and, if necessary, could probably have completed the mission on his own. When the four hobbits return to the Shire at the end of The Return of the King, Sam emerges from Frodo’s shadow. He approaches the woman he’s been dreaming about, and soon they are married. Within little time he is a father of two, with a nice house and garden. Back in the Shire, Frodo suffers, but Sam thrives. Sam is no less pure a soul than Frodo, but his purity is one rooted in his own world, not in a world beyond. His life represents the mortal life lived to the fullest. Immortality holds no charm for him, and he wants nothing more than to thrive in the present.
Read an in-depth analysis of Sam .
Played by Christopher Lee
A wizard who joins forces with Sauron. A former friend of Gandalf, Saruman has been tempted by evil and has allied with Sauron. At his mighty tower, Orthanc, he creates countless Uruk-hai, monsters that terrorize Middle-earth.
Played by Bernard Hill
The king of Rohan. Initially, Théoden is an elderly, decrepit king nearly out of his mind, doing the bidding of his evil advisor, Wormtongue. His insanity and decrepitude, however, are both symptoms of his being under the spell of Saruman. When Saruman’s spell is overthrown and Wormtongue, Saruman’s disciple, is banished, Théoden becomes a strong, gray-bearded leader. He bravely leads his people in defense of Helm’s Deep and shows his true mettle when he answers Gondor’s call for help, despite the bad feeling between the two kingdoms of men. Théoden dies in battle but proves himself a worthy king.
Voiced by John Rhys-Davies
A friendly Ent who becomes Merry and Pippin’s protector. Ents are walking, talking trees who are well intentioned but generally pacifist. The Ents decide to join the battle against Sauron’s forces when they come upon a patch of scorched forest, which they blame on the orcs. The Ents defeat Saruman and flood the fields around his tower, Orthanc.
Played by Lawrence Makoare
One of Sauron’s most feared warriors. Unable to be killed by men, the witch-king is eventually felled by Éowyn, a woman, with the help of Merry, a hobbit.
Played by Brad Dourif
A disciple of Saruman. The frightfully pale Wormtongue is evil but weak. He serves as advisor to the ailing Théoden and uses the king’s weakened state to advance his own agenda. When he wields power in Rohan, he banishes Théoden’s nephew, Éomer. Soon thereafter, he himself is banished when Saruman’s spell on Théoden is broken and Théoden sees Wormtongue’s true evil.