The fantasy classic Lord of the Rings trilogy is an epic telling of a hero's journey that boasts complex world-building and a rich cast of characters while remaining simple at its core. Frodo Baggins is regarded as the central focus and hero of this tale from which everything else revolves around.
Yet, countless others played a role in saving Middle-earth from destruction and dropping the Ring of Power into Mount Doom. This is part of what makes this saga so enduring and inspirational; that so many can make a positive impact in society, from humble Hobbits to warrior kings, and everything in between.
The Lord of the Rings contains such a large world full of influential characters, it goes without saying that many of Frodo's supporting cast members have been overlooked and underappreciated. This isn't just true within the Fellowship, but even beyond it. Without the efforts and deeds of these characters - whether big or small - the Ring may have never found its way to the Chambers of Fire.
So let's venture to Middle-earth as we explore the 10 most underrated characters of The Lord of the Rings that quietly saved the day in their own way.
It would stand to reason that one of the three bearers of the Elven rings would know a thing or two of the burdens of wielding a Ring of Power. This is certainly the case for Galadriel, who, despite being one of the greatest Eldars in Middle-earth, is tempted by the One Ring. She also consults Frodo when he feels alone and powerless, informing him in The Fellowship of the Ring, "to bear a Ring of Power is to be alone," but that "even the smallest person can change the course of the future."
After withstanding the test of being tempted by the ring, Galadriel becomes one of the unsung heroes of Frodo's odyssey by granting him the light of Eärendil star. This light helps fend off Shelob's attack in the darkness of her lair, coaxing him back to his feet after collapsing, and ultimately escaping almost certain death. In the films, she also convinces Elrond to aid the Rohan army in the pivotal Battle for Helms Deep.
9 Haldir of Lorien
On the night of the Helms Deep battle, all appears lost for one of the last bastions of free humanity, as King Théoden and several Rohan citizens find themselves holed up with few soldiers and little chance of survival. They are vastly outnumbered and outmatched as Saruman's army of 10,000 well-equipped Uruk-hai march to the fortress.
Just when all hope seems lost, Haldir answers the call to aid his Middle-earth neighbors, leading a band of sharp-shooting elves to thin the numbers of the Uruk-hai onslaught. This may not seem too significant, especially since this event does not even occur in the books.
Yet, in the films, this alliance of Elves and Rohan soldiers proves significant. This isn't just because of the sacrifice Haldir makes, but because his added firepower is a key reason Théoden and those in the fortress manage to survive the night. While Gandalf, Eomer, and company ultimately wipe out the Isengard threat, Haldir helped carry them to this triumphant moment.
This scorned son of Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, always seemed to be overlooked due to the looming shadow of his favored older brother, even after Boromir perished. Although Boromir had fought for Gondor and helped fight off an Orc skirmish to provide cover for Merry and Pippin, Faramir had done much to help his kingdom when it was in its most dire state.
Faramir proved a vital component in the resistance to Mordor during the War of the Ring, defending Osgiliath to the bitter end. He also refused to succumb to the temptations of the One Ring, despite the request of his father to claim it. Even after essentially disowning him, Faramir refuses to bend; letting Frodo, Sam, and Gollum free to head to Mordor while he continued to fight for Gondor. Just like Boromir said of Aragorn, Faramir "did what he could not," which was to resist the Ring.
While she wasn't a prominent figure in the books, Arwen, the daughter of Lord Elrond, ends up being one of the more significant but most overlooked saviors of The Lord of the Rings, especially during The Fellowship of the Ring. When Frodo gets stabbed by a Morgul-blade at Weathertop, neither Sam or Aragon can help him, as he begins a rapid descent towards death and turning into the same type of ghoulish Ring Wraith that punctured him.
It is Arwen who delivers Frodo the rest of the way to Rivendell while being hunted down by several Nazgûl. This rescue effort essentially saves Frodo's life, as he was running out of time and required Elvish medicine. Without Arwen's swift escape and water spell, there likely would be no Ring Bearer for the rest of the trilogy. Of course, Arwen is also the love interest of Aragorn, but more than that; she provides both emotional and literal healing for him.
Was there anything more epic than witnessing Gandalf and Éomer storming down the hill of Helms Deep to trample the Uruk-Hai? Ok, maybe there were just a few more grandiose moments in this trilogy, but that pivotal moment of victory truly left an impression on many. Éomer doesn't get too much credit, being a rider of Rohan rather than a soldier of the more esteemed kingdom of Gondor.
Yet, outside of King Théoden, Éomer is probably most responsible for Rohan's victories during the events of the LOTR. His cunning in battle and contributions in sniffing out the treasonous Grima Wormtongue during The Two Towers helped Rohan achieve their former strength. This, in turn, allowed the kingdom to come to Gondor's aid and effectively help save the city of Minas Tirith from destruction.
Sure, the deceitful and menacing cave-dwelling creature almost ruined the entire ques with his self-destructive obsession with the Ring of Power. Yet, Frodo and Sam's "frenemy" was ultimately the one responsible for helping to guide the two Hobbits to Mount Doom.
With the breaking of the Fellowship after the first film, aimlessly navigating the 100s miles of terrain would probably have been an exercise in futility. It was Gollum who led the two Shire-folk to the secret hidden entrance of Mordor - even if he coaxed them into Shelob the Spider's web-laden trap in the process...Thankfully, another unsung hero would step to the forefront to save Frodo here.
Many remember the scenes with Merry, Pippin, and Treebeard as "the boring part of The Two Towers." And sure, the pacing does slow down to a crawl - though such is the nature of the Treefolk. Their slow and methodical ways were a result of their solemn and stagnant environment. After all, they are among the oldest creatures of all of Middle-earth, and they never say anything "unless it is worth taking a long time to say."
This makes the climax of The Two Towers all the more powerful and exciting when Treebeard and company finally decide to lay waste to Isengard after finding his old friends cut down. As with many of the characters mentioned, Treebeard and the Ents' devastating blow to Saruman helps our heroes live on to fight another day and ultimately overcome Mordor.
Elrond wasn't part of the Fellowship in a direct capacity - but he may as well have been. Ok, so he may have failed to convince Aragorn's heir and Gondor King Isildur to cast the Ring into the Fire ages ago. Yet, he makes up for it during the events of the Third Age. Throughout the film trilogy, the Elf Lord was pulling strings to aid in the efforts to deliver the Ring of Power to Mount Doom, and ultimately defeat Sauron.
Elrond is the one to send aid to Théoden and Helms Deep, in addition to reuniting the line of Gondor kings with a key relic; the Sword of Elendil. He also points Aragorn and the remainder of the Fellowship in the direction of the Dead Men of Dunharrow, who were cursed to linger as spirits after abandoning an oath to Isildur. This untapped resource, the Army of the Dead, effectively won the Battle of the Pelennor Fields with one fell swoop.
The daughter of King Théoden is often relegated to the role of tending to the people of Rohan, but as she poetically states to Aragorn, "those without swords can still die upon them." It is only a restrictive cage which she fears. Éowyn soon breaks from this metaphorical jail and helps prevent Middle-earth's cage of enslavement and destruction threatened by the forces of Mordor.
During The Return of the King, the Rohan heroine finally does wield a sword and plays a prominent role during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Éowyn protects and consuls Merry and singlehandedly takes down a Mûmakil. Not only this, but Éowyn also intervenes when the Witch King is about to execute her father, before defeating the menacing lord of Sauron herself, an evil lord that "no man can kill." No man, indeed.
1 Samwise Gamgee
While this list has mainly focused on characters outside the bond of the Fellowship - Samwise Gamgee still stands as a criminally underrated and undervalued hero despite being of this group. Not only is he an overlooked hero of the saga - he arguably achieves and overcomes more than Frodo himself!
Sure, Frodo had to bear the Ring, and all the distressing burdens that came with it, but Sam was the support pillar that propped up our main hero and kept him going throughout the trilogy. Even when Gollum has brainwashed Frodo to turn against Sam, the latter still returns and eventually rescues Frodo from the clutches of Shelob. Near the end of the final film, when both are on the brink, Sam literally carries Frodo upwards to the entrance of Mount Doom. This sidekick to Frodo has become an iconic unsung hero that's essentially reached meme-levels of recognition by many.