J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth is a rich cosmography of cultures, languages, and peoples. His masterwork, The Lord of the Rings, is organized around the Fellowship of the Ring, a company of nine characters with a noble mission. Middle-earth is further divided between friends and foes of the Fellowship.
The cast of characters listed below offers a brief introduction to the people of Tolkien's imaginative world; fans who want more details will enjoy exploring further in the reference books and reading group guides.
Aragorn (aka Strider) Representing the race of men in the Fellowship, Aragorn is heir to the Kingdom of Gondor. As a Ranger, he is a warrior who is well equipped to serve and protect his countrymen and Frodo.
Boromir A man of noble background fighting to protect his people from the Dark Lord, Sauron. Boromir sees his appointment to the Fellowship as a way to do this, but he is tempted by the power of the Ring.
Frodo Baggins The bearer of the Ring. After receiving the Ring from his cousin, Bilbo Baggins, this brave hobbit must travel far from home to the Crack of Doom in order to destroy it.
Gandalf the Grey This wise and powerful wizard knows the history and power of the One Ring and plays a crucial role in the struggle against the Lord of the Rings. Gandalf guides Frodo and the rest of the Fellowship on their perilous quest.
Gimli The council of Elrond chooses Gimli, an energetic, axe-wielding warrior, to represent the dwarves in the Fellowship.
Legolas Legolas's archery skills and physical prowess make this elf a worthy asset to the Fellowship.
Meriadoc Brandybuck (aka Merry) Not one to be left out, the hobbit Merry finagles a spot as a member of the Fellowship. Like Pippin, he adds a touch of merriment to their serious mission while at the same time aiding his friend Frodo.
Peregrin Took (aka Pippin) A hobbit who is a family friend of Frodo's, the fun-loving Pippin helps keep the Fellowship in high spirits on their long journey.
Samwise Gamgee Sam, a gardener by profession, grows from a simple-minded hobbit into Frodo's most trusted and loyal companion and friend as he accompanies the Ringbearer on his quest.
Bilbo Baggins As told in The Hobbit, Bilbo obtained the Ring from Gollum and kept it in his possession for a number of years before passing it on his young cousin Frodo.
Denethor II The father of Faramir and Boromir, Denethor is the last Ruling Steward of Gondor. Deeply depressed after Boromir's death, he attempts to burn both himself and Faramir in a pyre; Faramir is saved by Pippin, Gandalf, and Beregond.
Elrond Father of Arwen, son-in-law of Galadriel and Celeborn, and founder and master of Rivendell, which becomes one of the greatest elven refuges during the time of the War of the Ring, this wise elf holds the greatest of the Three Elven Rings, Vilya.
Éomer The nephew of King Théoden and brother of Éowyn, Éomer is an accomplished and loyal captain of Rohan.
Éowyn is shieldmaiden of Rohan, niece of Théoden, and sister of Éomer. Her love for Aragorn is unrequited, but she plays a pivotal role in the Battle of Pelennor Fields.
Ents The Ents, among the original inhabitants of Middle-earth, are essentially spirits inhabiting trees. They look like a cross between men and the trees they reside in. Their personalities also reflect the nature of their trees. Ents are slow-thinking and slow to act, but they are powerful beings capable of cracking rocks and moving huge quantities of earth quickly and easily.
Faramir Brother of Boromir, less favored son of Denethor II, and captain of the Rangers of Ithilien, Faramir is healed by Aragorn after his father nearly cremates him. He later falls in love with Éowyn.
Galadriel (aka the Lady of Lórien) The majestic elf queen of Lothlórien, wife of Celeborn, rules with benevolence and grace. She aids the Fellowship with special gifts and sound counsel, products of her power and wisdom.
Théoden The seventeenth King of Rohan, uncle of Éowyn and Éomer, Théoden falls under the spell of his counselor Gríma, an agent of Saruman, but is healed by Gandalf.
Treebeard (aka Fangorn) The guardian of Fangorn Forest, Treebeard is the oldest surviving Ent and the oldest living being in Middle-earth. He is responsible for leading the other Ents to fight Saruman in the War of the Ring.
Balrog of Khazad-dûm Balrogs are spirits of fire who bear whips of flame and are cloaked in darkness. Many died long ago in the Great Battle; the few that survived hid underground, including one in the depths of the dwarf-dwelling of Khazad-dûm. When the dwarves fled, Sauron filled Khazad-dûm with orcs and trolls. The Balrog rules over these creatures in a reign of terror.
Gollum Originally called Sméagol, this hobbit became an unrecognizable and disfigured creature under the power of the One Ring. Many years after the War of the Ring, Sméagol murdered his cousin Déagol to gain possession of the Ring, then retreated from the world with it. When he lost the Ring under the Misty Mountains, Bilbo Baggins recovered it. Since that time, Gollum has followed the Ring, trying to win it back.
Gríma (aka Wormtongue) A man of Rohan, chief counselor to King Théoden, and agent of Saruman. Gríma enfeebles the king and passes information about Rohan on to Saruman; Éowyn was to have been his prize. Gríma flees to Isengard when Gandalf revives Théoden and is eventually killed by hobbits.
Nazgûl (aka the Ringwraiths or the Dark Riders) These nine were once powerful kings of men, but they became Sauron's principal servants of evil when he gave each of them a ring that he controls. They are strongest at night, when their power nearly exceeds Gandalf's.
Orcs These fierce warriors dwell in lands controlled by Sauron and are involved in many conflicts with the inhabitants of Middle-earth. Orcs are adept with many weapons, including bows, spears, and swords. Weakened by the sun, they live mainly underground. With an affinity for blood and raw flesh, orcs often eat men, ponies, and their own kind.
Saruman the White Once a great and powerful wizard, the secretive Saruman may have been corrupted by the Dark Lord, Sauron.
Sauron The Dark Lord and maker of the One Ring that holds power over all the others, Sauron is the most powerful being in Middle-earth. The evil lord has put much of his own strength into the One Ring, and as long as it still exists, Sauron cannot be fully destroyed.
Shelob Shelob is a great spider who guards an entrance to Mordor and lives on men, elves, and orcs trapped in her lair. When Gollum guides Frodo and Sam to her, she paralyzes Frodo and is stabbed by Sam.
Trolls Trolls are very large, strong, thick-skinned creatures who hoard treasure, kill for pleasure, and eat all types of raw flesh. As Sauron gains control over them, the trolls become increasingly dangerous, and Sauron enhances their senses with wickedness. Trolls turn to stone when exposed to sunlight.
Uruk-Hai A strain of orcs bred by Sauron, Uruk-Hai are almost as tall as men and are not weakened by sunlight. They are preferred in battle by Sauron and Saruman.