Of all the characters that Peter Jackson changed and adapted for his Hobbit film trilogy, King Thranduil of Mirkwood was perhaps the harshest in terms of how the director portrayed him. He is a completely different character in Tolkien’s original books than the one he became known for from the big-screen versions, and the films certainly don’t show him in either a very flattering or very regal light. He is stubborn, cold, unforgiving and often cruel, especially towards his own son Legolas and Tauriel. One could argue that even in films he tries to protect his people from danger, and that he turns away from his greed and callousness only when he sees how much elven blood was shed in the battle of the River. Five Armies, but even then it doesn’t look particularly good.
However, books like The Hobbit and the later Lord of the Rings trilogy show Thranduil in a completely different light and actually proclaim him one of the best monarchs in the history of Middle-earth. There are so many nuances and motives in his character that are completely distorted from the original content in the films, and in the books he is a valiant warrior, a loyal friend, and a great king. He is not only one of the best rulers, but also one of the longest reigning monarchs of the world, which means that he must have done something right for his people to honor him for so many centuries.
One of the key things to note, which gets lost amid the chaos and noise of the dwarves traveling around the Lake City, is that Thranduil has long established trade relations with the people on the water and the dwarf kingdom since ancient times. . Unfortunately, by the time the story of The Hobbit takes place and the company of Bilbo and Thorin returns to the Misty Mountain, the once prosperous city of Dale lies in ruins, and all the dwarves who once lived in Erebor are dead.
However, before the dragon Smaug came and set the earth on fire with his destructive fire, it was Thranduil who organized a trading ship between the elves of Mirkwood, the people of Esgaroth and Dale and the dwarves of Erebor. It was a relationship built on trust that helped all nations flourish, and it was a union unlike any that had ever been seen before. In the books, Thranduil believed that it was necessary to share his home, his wealth, his wisdom and his many years of experience with others so that he could contribute to an era of peace and harmony for his people. This is an aspect that definitely didn’t affect his colleague from the film.
In fact, Thranduil in the films is a selfish and greedy king who is ready to put his own pride and disputes above his elves, above his son and above people who desperately need his help. In Tolkien’s original view, this could not be further from the truth, since it was Thranduil who voluntarily comes to the aid of the inhabitants of the Lake City after the company of Thorin angered Smaug, and he devastated the earth, killing half of their people: the king, when he received the prayers of the Bard, took pity, because he was the lord of good and kind people; having thus turned his march, which at first was straight to the mountain, he now hurried down the river to the long lake. He did not have enough boats or rafts for his troops, and they were forced to take a slower route on foot, but he sent a large number of goods forward by water.”
In addition, Thranduil is most eager to avoid bloodshed and war when negotiating with Thorin in his state of dragon sickness, as the elven king advises others: “I will delay for a long time before I start this war for gold. Dwarves can’t get past us if we don’t want to, or do something we can’t mark. Let’s hope for something else that will bring reconciliation.”
This benevolent king, motivated by doing everything possible for his elves, rushing to the aid of people in need of help and protection, and doing everything possible to avoid unnecessary war and bloodshed, is an excellent monarch and king who rules together with the kindness of others at heart. He’s not motivated by gems in the mountains or the loss of his wife, as Peter Jackson’s portrayal in the film suggests, he’s just a king trying to do the right thing in a world where everything goes wrong.