The Lord of the Rings-- and its world of Middle-earth-- is one of the most magical places in literature that many of us are content to submerge ourselves into, whether through film or the books, on a regular basis. While romance isn't a major focus of most of the story, fans can't help but pick their favorites and root for certain couples to get together-- or stay far apart.
There are obvious issues with J.R.R. Tolkien's world, as there are few women who have a purpose and no people of color on the side of good. People can argue whether the works are intentionally racist or not until the end of time, but today we do know that representations matters, and the lack of it is glaring enough to cause problems. There are many marriages in Middle-earth between different species, however, that are encouraging and offer the most inclusive moments that we can see.
There are also lots of couples who simply represent strength, faith in one another and the epitome of the greater good, spreading the hope that is so central in the theme of the works. Other couples, on the other hand, ruin the works in ways that often make no sense, either breaking the series' own rules or creating new issues that really don't matter in the greater scheme of things. When a relationship belongs, it simply feels right and adds to the ambiance of Middle-earth; when it's forced or awkward, it can spoil a scene pretty quickly.
Here are 11 Couples That Hurt Lord of the Rings (And 9 That Saved It).
20 Hurt: Celeborn And Galadriel
Celeborn and Galadriel may have been married, they don't exactly have a strong love story. As depicted in the movies, Martin Csokas' Celeborn comes off more as a close co-worker of Galadriel's than the Elf who has been married to her for ages. His scenes from Fellowship of the Ring were cut, and then he appears alongside Galadriel on the boat to the Valinor at the end of Return of the King. The absence of Celeborn from the first two films allowed fans to come up with their own stories about Galadriel's personal life.
His sudden appearance at the end of the trilogy only confused things.
In the books, Celeborn does not join Galadriel in the journey to Valinor. He stayed in Rivendell instead.
19 Saved: Elrond And Celebrian
Elrond has a pretty tragic backstory with his wife, Celebrían, that almost makes up for him trying to convince Arwen to leave Aragorn behind.
Celebríon, the daughter of Galadriel and Celebron, went to visit her parents one day only to be captured by Orcs. The villains gave her a poisonous wound she could not heal from, prompting her to retire early to the Undying Lands of the West. This really helps explain why Elrond wants Arwen to do the same so badly: so she can see her mother again. Also, if not for Celebrían and Elron's union, we also simply wouldn't have Arwen Evenstar.
18 Hurt: Aragorn And Eowyn
Not only were Aragorn II, son of Arathorn, and Eowyn, the shieldmaiden of Rohan, part of a limp and unnecessary love triangle, but Eowyn was originally meant to be Aragorn's love who perishes in battle, leaving him to rule alone. As it is, Aragorn shows no romantic interest in Eowyn, as Arwen is the only one in his mind, and Eowyn likely admires Aragorn as a leader and warrior more than she actually wants to be with him.
There's really no need for an unrequited love story at all.
It just makes Eowyn seem forlorn and mopey until she comes into her full strength.
17 Saved: Eowyn And Faramir
The relationship between Eowyn and Faramir, son of Denethor II and constant second fiddle to his elder brother, Boromir, is a celebration of two people who defied the odds stacked against them and found one another. Both characters were completely underestimated by their peers and leaders, then did what others could not on the field: she took out the Witch-king when no man could and he allowed Frodo and Sam safe passage without taking the Ring for himself.
We may lament that Eowyn, so bent on pursuing the honor of battle, would choose a life of peace and marriage, but this was a time when all of Middle-earth is trying to do the same, so we can't begrudge the woman her happiness.
16 Hurt: Legolas And Tauriel
Tauriel is a character who was created just for The Hobbit films. The painful thing is that she could have been an incredible inclusion, particularly given her rebellious nature and care for people other than her own kin, but the writers just didn't take her story beyond being a love interest that didn't even pan out. Legolas's haughty father, Thandruil, makes it clear that she's nothing to him due to her lowly status and she doesn't deserve Legolas, who harbors unrequited feelings for her, but nothing comes from it all.
She's banished and Legolas is encouraged to go find Aragorn, and that's pretty much it.
Neither of them are even in the book and it's a useless plot included to help extend the films.
15 Saved: Beren And Lúthien
Long before there was Aragorn and Arwen, there were Beren and Lúthien, Elrond's grandparents. Beren, a mortal man (written as a Noldorin elf in some versions, which is confusing), embarked on a quest to prove his love for Lúthien to her father, who disapproved.
Tokien's Beren and Lúthien wasn't published until 2017. It's an exciting tale of vampires, werewolves, and daring rescues where both characters perform heroic deeds as one cool couple. Yes, eagles sweep in to the rescue once again, but it's still a great addition to the history of Middle-earth. Elrond surely knew this story and it likely informed his opinion on Aragorn and Arwen's relationship.
14 Hurt: Merry Brandybuck And Estella Bolger
We just can't take Merry's marriage seriously. Sure, the hobbit deserves some happiness and marriage, but Estella Bolger doesn't even feel like a real character.
Merry didn't even choose to be buried with her.
Yes, Sam did choose to enter the Undying Lands with Frodo after he lost Rosie, but he was still very much alive and wanted to see his best friend again. Why not return Merry's body to his wife to be laid to rest with her rather than with King Elessar? Traveling there with Pippin was one thing, but ultimately his honor in battle apparently proved to be more impressive than his marriage.
13 Saved: Thranduil And Legolas' Mother
While Legolas's mother remains a nameless character, which is a disservice to the queen of the Woodland Realm, she's still his mother, and likely where the Elf's goodness comes from. It would also seem that, prior to her passing, she may have brought out more good in her husband, as well-matched couples are wont to do.
Prior to watching his son leave to find Strider, Thranduil remarked that his mother loved him more than life itself, which are his only tender words spoken in the series. Despite her no-name status, the mother of Legolas was obviously a brave warrior. She produced a brave son who helped to save Middle-earth. Legolas' mother perished in battle with the Orcs, which is why she has no tombstone.
12 Hurt: Pippin Took And Diamond Of Long Cleave
Pippin never seemed one for romance, but we should celebrate that he found love with Diamond of Long Cleave. Just how everlasting was that love, though? Not only does Diamond have no story of her own, but Pippin had no desire to be buried next to her once their time on Middle-earth was through.
Like Merry, Pip traveled back to Rohan and Gondor in his late days, perishing and being buried with their old friend Aragorn rather than with their families. We get that your glory days were pretty epic, Pip, but do the 50 years you spent as Thain of the Shire, where you spent the majority of your life, count for nothing?
11 Hurt: Denethor II And Finduilas Of Dol
We can all agree that Denethor II did his wife an extreme disservice in by dismissing youngest son, Faramir, while hailing his older son, Boromir, as the greatest hero of all time. Who tries to burn their own kid alive?
It's easy to despise Denethor and not empathize with his loss of wife and child.
Finduilas, a kind woman who raised Faramir on her own, really deserved better, and the city perished without her presence. The match between Denethor II and Finduilas of Dol also gave us Boromir. The supposed great man and warrior nearly cost the Fellowship the ring, causing them to separate and engage in a much more perilous journey.
10 Saved: Elu Thingol And Melian The Maia
While Elu Thingol didn't care for Beren's feelings for his daughter Lúthien, his love story with his wife, Lúthien's mother, Melian The Maia, is one for the record books. They fell in love with one another so hard at first sight that they could not move or speak for years, merely staring at one another while the forest grew around them. That's real immortal love right there; no wonder her dad thought a mortal wouldn't be good enough for his daughter.
The Elf and Maiar, as pictured here in Elena Kukanova's art, were a gorgeous couple, but also great warriors who took care of their people. They faced great tragedy in the end; Thingol's own arrogance cost him his life and Melian retreated to Valinor in her grief.
9 Hurt: Theoden And Elfhild
As much as King Theoden is hailed as a brave and worthy warrior, he did allow Grima Wormtongue to cloud his mind, rebuked his niece for wanting to serve in battle, and made plenty of errors on the throne.
His wife, Elfhild, at least had a name, but that's all: she perished in childbirth.
Their son, Théodred, was pointless, only perishing himself from an Orc attack, leaving his cousin in command. Why not just make Eomer Theoden's son, and why do so many women of Middle-earth have to be extinguished during childbirth? We get that it's supposed to be "realistic," but there are dragons, werewolves, and hobbits who still manage to survive it all, so that's a pretty weak explanation.
8 Saved: Gilraen And Arathorn II
Aragorn is the most important Man in Middle-earth, so it goes without saying that his parents, Gilraen and Arathorn II, are pretty important, too. Had they not wed despite Gilraen's father's disapproval, we would not have had the Strider or the King of Gondor.
Gilraen, who was clairvoyant, knew that their marriage would somehow bring hope to the people, and that was enough for her. The marriage indeed ended in tragedy when Arathorn was slain when Aragorn was only two years old. That is why Gilraen, a Dúnedain who lived to be 100, took him to be fostered by Elrond.
7 Hurt: Finwë, High King Of The Noldor And His First Wife, Míriel
Another character who annoyingly passed on after childbirth (she's an Elf, for Pete's sake), after bearing their son, Fëanor, Míriel, pictured here in Netmors' fanart, gave up living in the Undying Lands. The Undying Lands are the place that all Elves are meant to go and retire in peace and comfort. How is that even possible?
Her passing was blamed for the rift between the Elves-- we call foul.
Then, since her husband Finwë remarried and she felt out of place, she decided to help the Vaire weave tapestries forever instead of returning to life. It's all kinds of wrong.
6 Saved: Aragorn And Arwen
Even if their love weren't a cool story, Aragorn and Arwen Undómiel have made the trilogy enough sales in sword and necklace replicas to count for something, right? All joking aside, the couple gives the saga the classic, age-old lovers split due to war who come together again at the end story, and who doesn't love that?
Arwen defies her father and gives up her immortality to marry Aragorn, who in turn remains faithful to her even when he believes her to be leaving him. The joy that registers on his face at seeing her after everything, even after becoming King Elessar, and the shock on her face upon seeing the vision of their future son, were goosebump-inducing moments that simply made for good storytelling. Their lines are some of the most beautiful in the series, too.
5 Hurt: Sauron And Shelob In The Shadows Of War Game
The Shadows of War game did a complete disservice to Middle-earth by pairing Sauron and Shelob up as a couple; turning the fearsome spider creature into a beautiful humanoid. It's terrible for so many reasons. Not only is it stupid to glam up a spider, but it also romantically pairs Shelob with Sauron, who was supposedly the one to betray her, which is all kinds of wrong. Shelob is not one of the Maiar, as she's portrayed in the game, either.
She's clearly the spawn of Ungoliant and has zero romantic feelings toward Sauron, or anybody else.
She exists to feed. Giving her a pretty face and a lovelorn backstory just takes away from the fact that one of the cool monsters was female.
4 Saved: Finwe And Indis The Fair
Finwe had issues. The fact that he named all of his sons and one of daughters after himself is a bit much, and he could have helped Fëanor mourn his mother rather than use his rage to fuel the rebellion of the Elves against the Valar.
It's almost unheard of for an elf to remarry following the loss of a partner, which is why the marriage between Finwë, one of the first-born elves, and his second wife, Indis (depicter here by shyangell), is so important. Elves marry for life and while the loss of Míriel was pure rubbish, Finwe's second marriage was a rare one that illustrated how it was okay to move on and remarry, Elf or not.
3 Hurt: Bard And His Nameless Wife
It's one of those back stories that make us wince, as it seems to point toward modern writers' continuing reluctance to give female characters much importance in works where there are already few.
Bard's deceased wife has no name, but she actually did have a name in the original Hobbit script.
Her name, Sigrid, was simply given to his daughter instead, and his wife was offed because we apparently can't have an interesting story about two women in the same family. Most of the major women in LOTR are motherless, which makes it feel like the Disney syndrome where you can't have a pretty pretty princess without her mom kicking the bucket first.
2 Saved: Samwise Gamgee And Rosie Cotton
Part of what kept Samwise Gamgee going in his quest to get his friend Frodo to Mount Doom was his deep love of the Shire and one special person in it--Rosie Cotton.
While Sam and Rosie's love wasn't a crucial plot point, the two represent what it means to be hobbits as well as just what is so worth fighting for in the first place. You can't have a battle of good versus evil without characters you care about or in a world that's not worth saving, and that's exactly what Sam and Rosie give us. Their wedding and offspring gives the end of the Lord of the Rings a sense of new life.
1 Hurt: Kili And Tauriel
Not only does Tauriel not really accomplish much as a character, but her forced relationship with Kili, which could have been a cool unification between elves and dwarves long before Legolas and Gimli exchanged friendship bracelets, was meaningless once he passed on during the Battle of Five Armies.
His exit did nothing to make the world, or her life any more meaningful, as a well-written tragedy is meant to do.
Actress Evangeline Lily, who played Tauriel, says that she believes her character returned to Mirkwood following her banishment, which is only more unfortunate. Why not set up some cool adventure for the Elf, particularly given her deep feelings for other races?
What's your favorite couple in The Lord of the Rings? Let us know in the comments!