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The Stubbornness of Gimli: Why He Is Not Just Comic Relief in the Movies

Jamal is a graduate of Northeastern Seminary and writes on a broad range of topics. His writings are based on other points of view.

Why is Gimli my favorite character in the movie adaptation of Lord of the Rings? When most people think of the franchise and their favorite characters, I usually hear something like Aragorn or Legolas. In part because the actors who played them were attractive and made to be that way. Legolas in particular was made to do cool stunts that made him memorable. Others have thrown shade at the films for their portrayal of real Dwarves and their short statures.

But for me, other than Boromir, my favorite character has always been Gimli. He's much more than the group jester and certainly is not condescending towards short people. These are my reasons why I feel he is an underestimated and underrated character even amongst many fans who do not like the movie portrayal of him.

From New Line Cinema. Gimli launches himself into a horde of Uruk-Kai that breach Helms Deep.

From New Line Cinema. Gimli launches himself into a horde of Uruk-Kai that breach Helms Deep.

Loyal to a Fault

For starters, the first reason that I like Gimli is because of his loyalty. All of the Fellowship are loyal to each other. However, I would argue that Gimli is probably the most loyal. The prime example that I point to is in the Battle of Helm's Deep during the second movie, when Aragorn is out of commission for a bit after the wall is detonated. Gimli is not only the first to recover, but he is also the only one who jumps into the horde of Orcs and Uruk- kai without a second thought. The scene of his small body jumping into that mess with a Dwarvish war cry for me is one of the most badass scenes in the entire trilogy.

Gimli gives zero fucks when it comes to his friends and protecting them. Also, Gimli is one of the first to explicitly defy Aragorn's wishes to stay behind in the third movie when he requests that his friends remain at the camp. With ironically Legolas quoting a Dwarvish saying about the “stubbornness of Dwarves.” For me who values a band of brothers, that is very powerful and speaks to me very much of people who have your back no matter what.

From New Line Cinema.

From New Line Cinema.

Tip of the Spear

My second reason for admiring Gimli is that he is usually the first one into a fight. Like most Dwarves, he seems to be prone to either start a fight or jump in the middle of one. And this is shown on several occasions where he either is put in against all odds and doesn't care, or that someone has pissed them off and he's ready to go. Gimli is not easily intimidated unless you happen to be a ghost….or an extremely old but gorgeous Elf-woman. And even then the intimidation does not last very long.

The best example of this attitude is in his confrontation with Eomer in the second movie. He gets into an argument with him when Eomer demands to know who they are. Gimli, proudly as if he is not the shortest person amongst them, demands in kind to know Eomer’s identity first. This in turn pisses Eomer off who, and props to the actors for doing this scene, promptly drops off his horse and insults Gimli for his size. At that point Gimli’s ready to exchange hands, or axes as the case were, and probably would have had if Legolas had not beat him to it.

The other moment I can think of is during the skirmish in Moria. He has just found out the distressing news of his people's death decades ago and was in despair at their fate being killed by Orcs. However, when the Orcs come rushing at the door and everyone is bracing for battle either with hesitation or with fear, Gimli grabs two axes, jumps on the tomb of Balin, and says bring it on. To me, that's pretty incredible for someone to get over extreme despair and be ready to take on overwhelming odds.

From New Line Cinema.

From New Line Cinema.

Disguised Wisdom

The other reason why Gimli is my favorite is something that I feel a lot of people miss very easily. And that is his wisdom. As I said before, the Lord of the Rings adaptation version of Gimli is criticized by some as being a comedic joke. And for sure there are some scenes where that is understandable, such as the “tossing the dwarf” moment in the first and second movie.

However, there are also several points where Gimli displays a level of maturity where his comrades are at a point of weakness and do not. In this case, again going to the second movie when Aragorn and Legolas get into a verbal dispute over whether they should leave a besieged Helms Deep or stay, with Legolas believing that the fellowship should leave and leave the people of Rohan to their doom. The argument is not even being discussed in a language everyone else knows, but all clearly understand what's going on.

Aragorn leaves in a huff, firmly declaring that he is not going to leave the people to die and that he will die with them. That in itself is a moment for the character, but Legolas wants to try to convince him to change his mind. At which point Gimli, who people just got done laughing at because he had a hard time putting on some armor, grabs him gently but firmly, telling him to leave him be and let him sort things out for himself.

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Then there's the scene in Return of the King where he already knew Aragorn as going to try and sneak away and he and Legolas intercept him. The way he speaks to the future king sounds a lot like an uncle. To me, these moments stand out as a remarkable sign of wisdom that to be sure isn't as forward and obvious as say Elrond or Galadriel, yet it is still there.

From New Line Cinema.

From New Line Cinema.

The Real Dwarf

My final reason for liking the Dwarf is his authenticity to who he is. Gimli is the most forward of the entire fellowship. He speaks his mind with little thought for consequence and leaves no confusion as to what exactly he is thinking and what he wants. And to be sure, this goes both good and bad. Perhaps the most obvious ones are his interaction with other Elves.

During Fellowship of the Ring in Lothlorien, he chastises the Elves who just captured them for choosing to speak in Elvish with Aragorn and Legolas, while leaving the others out of the loop.

Now speaking in common language, the leader, Haldir says that it has been a long time since they've had to speak in any other language other than Elvish. Gimli, again giving zero fucks, returns the favor cursing the Elves out in Dwarvish saying, "Ishkhaqwi ai durugnul!"

That supposedly translates to "I spit on your grave." While Aragorn gets pissed that he is antagonizing an already tense situation, Gimli makes it clear to everyone that he considers himself an equal and is not to be disrespected by anybody. He is not impressed by the mystique of the Elves until he meets Galadriel, but even then never sells out who he is. Which is probably why he liked Galadriel. Other than Legolas later on, she is the only other Elf to respect him as an equal. Gimli is proud of who he is and his culture, and he will gladly represent that if he feels that it is being looked down upon by others.

Another example is during the council in the first movie. Gimli not only takes the direct approach to the One Ring problem by trying to smash it, but steadfastly refuses the idea of simply giving it over to the Elves. He makes it clear what his exact feelings are on the matter when it comes to who, or in this case who should not, be handling this great weapon.

The Trials of Gimli

You get the impression that he is the underdog of the group because he's a Dwarf. In the trilogy, we see little to nothing of Dwarven culture except in the flashbacks and the few minutes of the first council of Elrond in the first movie. Contrast this to the other races, the movie accentuates their cultures, while the Dwarves are almost left to be somewhat pitiful, thanks to the events in Moria, which in and of itself is a good scene. This is also by the way one of the reasons why I do like the Hobbit movies so much, because of how it is allowed to expound more upon Dwarven culture.

Gimli is the sole representative of his people and I think is indirectly made to be an underdog of the movie. Yet despite this, he is one of the main driving forces of the movies as well, showing major character growth overcoming his prejudices and supporting his friends at their lowest. He expresses his thoughts sometimes, breaking a fourth wall with the audience in terms of how they're feeling about the scene, and carries himself proud among anyone who would think less of him.

I feel he is rewarded in that he wins the first contest of body counts with Legolas at Helm's Deep and is Aragorn's chosen crown bearer at his coronation. I think that is a high honor for someone who is supposed to be from a race of what according to some people feel is an afterthought of creation.

For many fans the importance of Gimli is often named in his relationship with Legolas, given that he begins with a major dislike if not hatred for Elves. This later turns into a strong brotherhood between them and the rest of the fellowship. And while I don't make light of that, especially given the literature behind the two races, at the same time for me it is not one of the highest points because it is still in relation to others.

It's not as distinct as an individual for Gimli and I wonder if he is inadvertently defined by Elves because he befriends one Elf and falls in love with another. Any of the other characteristics are either not mentioned, glanced over, or not seen. So the characteristics that I named above represent the characters personal agency. Yes, how he relates to others is important, but it stems from who the character is as an individual that makes it important and impactful.

So while Gimli may not be the king or surfing down stairs or for that matter even being among avatars chosen, the character still makes a strong impact and I think that isn't worthy of respect and not secondary to the rest of his peers.

© 2021 Jamal Smith

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