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Minor 'Lord of the Rings' And 'Hobbit' Characters With Major Backstories

Updated July 24, 2021 1.3k votes 267 voters 61.3k views12 items

List RulesVote up the minor characters with a major impact on Middle-earth in the books.

Everyone is familiar with the members of the Fellowship of the Ring, but way more characters exist in J.R.R. Tolkien's work than the hobbits and Gandalf. Numerous adaptations of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings have been made, but whenever the stories make their way to the big screen, the obscure Tolkien characters draw the short stick.

Minor LotR characters like Éomer are incredibly powerful and important to the series, but audiences who've only seen the films wouldn't know that. Then characters from The Hobbit like Radagast have completely different stories in the adaptations than they do in Tolkien's work. When you add that to the additional stories written in The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, it's impossible to get the full stories of these minor Lord of the Rings characters. 

  • 1

    Éomer Is Crowned King Of Rohan, An Honor He's More Than Worthy Of

    Photo: The Two Towers / New Line Cinema

    Who Is He In The Lord of the Rings: Peter Jackson plays fast and loose with Éomer in his adaptation, likely due to narrative reasons and time restraints. The first time the audience meets Éomer, he's been exiled by Wormtongue and is living a pretty crusty life. Gandalf senses his importance and calls him to Helm's Deep to regain his former glory. He then whomps a bunch of Orcs at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.

    What Does He Do In The Books: As far as side characters go, Éomer is pretty dang busy in The Two Towers and The Return of the King. He saves Merry and Pippin from a group of Uruk-hai before giving Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas horses and supplies to further their push towards Mordor. He's then imprisoned by King Théoden, who's under the spell of Wormtongue. After Gandalf zaps the spell away, Éomer is set free and leads his men to victory at the Battle of Helm's Deep. In The Return of the King, he's crowned king of Rohan by a dying Théoden before joining up with Aragorn to fight Sauron at the Black Gate of Mordor while Frodo destroys the One Ring.

    Bigger deal in the books?
  • Photo: The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies / Warner Bros. Pictures

    Who Is He In The Hobbit: Dáin Ironfoot has a super-cool entrance in The Battle of the Five Armies when he leads an army of Dwarves into Erebor while riding a giant, armored boar. Initially, he and his men fight with the Elves on the scene before turning to absolutely slay a bunch of Orcs that show up. The Dwarves and Elves then join forces in conflict, changing Middle-earth for the better.

    What Does He Do In The Books: Dáin's life may be the most straightforward and classic sword and sorcery tale in all of J.R.R. Tolkien's work. He slayed an Orc chieftain when he was only in his 30s (he lived into his 250s) and went on to keep his people from perishing at the hands of the Balrog lumbering around Moria. Afterwards, he led an army of Dwarves at the Battle of Five Armies before he was crowned king under the Mountain. Wise and thoughtful, he made sure to keep an alliance with the Men of Dale and the Elves living in Mirkwood. When he was paid a visit by Sauron's people asking about the One Ring, he immediately spoke with Elrond and started preparing for war. He perished at the Battle of Dale during the War of the Ring, a strong-willed warrior until the end. 

    Bigger deal in the books?
  • 3

    Glorfindel Perished And Came Back From The Dead Before Helping The Fellowship 

    Photo: The Return of the King / New Line Cinema

    Who Is He In The Lord of the Rings: Glorfindel doesn't get to do much in Peter Jackson's adaptation. He mostly just hangs out in the background of large gatherings - be it a royal get-together or a skirmish. Most of his action is handed over to Arwen.

    What Does He Do In The Books: In the First Age, Glorfindel fell in valiant battle with a Balrog, and his body was recovered by Thorondor, Lord of the Eagles. He was laid to rest in the mountains around Gondolin before his spirit traveled to the Halls of Mandos. A thousand years after his demise, Glorfindel was sent back to Middle-earth with seriously cranked-up powers. Glorfindel is pretty busy early on in the series. In The Fellowship of the Ring, he's sent by Elrond to find Frodo and his buddies, and he makes sure the hobbit crew gets to Rivendell safely after Frodo is injured by the Nazgul.

    Bigger deal in the books?
  • Photo: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug / Warner Bros. Pictures

    Who Is He In The Hobbit: In The Desolation of Smaug, Beorn is a quiet and unassuming shapeshifter who kind of looks like he's always in between transformations. During his time lodging Bilbo and Gandalf's team of Dwarves, he explains he's the last of his people. He makes a brief appearance in The Battle of the Five Armies to help take out some creepy-crawlies, then dips out. 

    What Does He Do In The Books: A boisterous "skin changer" with the power to turn into a large black bear, Beorn lives between the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood. Unlike in the films, Beorn is one of many shapeshifters who live along the Anduin Vales. It's at his home in the idyllic pasture lands where he supplies Bilbo's crew with a place to stay and plenty of supplies. During the Battle of Five Armies, Beorn shows up at a pivotal moment to take down the leader of the Goblin army, cinching the victory for our heroes.

    Bigger deal in the books?