The Thing About Thranduil’s Face

And no, I am not going to praise the beauty of his elven face – which, in fact, I might spend volumes writing, given the chance, since Lee Pace looks absolutely spectacular as an elf. But I’m referring to the scene in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug where Thorin and company are captured by the wood-elves in Mirkwood, and Thranduil and Thorin have a verbal duel.

This image might be too graphic.

The flesh burnt off his cheeks.

And yep, for all those who have seen the film, you’d remember Thranduil’s hideously scarred face (Apologies for the screenshot.) which struck me the most puzzling and left me infinitely curious at the end of the film. Why was his face burnt? Why did he show it to Thorin? How did he manage to conceal it before? How did his face get burned in the first place?

For starters, here’s how their discussion went:

Thorin: I would not trust Thranduil, The Great King, to all his words, should the end of our days be upon us! You lack all honour! I’ve seen how you treat your friends. We came to you once. Starving, homeless. Seeking your help. You turned your back. You turned away from the suffering of my people. And the inferno that destroyed us! May you die in dragon fire!

Thranduil: Do not talk to me of dragon fire. I know it’s wrath and ruin. I have faced the great serpents of the north. I warned your grandfather of what his greed would summon. But he would not listen. You are just like him. Stay here, if you will, and rot. A hundred years is a mere blink in the life of an elf. I’m patient. I can wait.

His dialogue only leads us to believe that Thranduil, in fact, had battled dragons in his time and suffered injuries, for instance, the face scar. There are records from the Book of Lost Tales which show that Thranduil was alive in Doriath, an Elven realm, at a time where dragons were abound and the people of Middle-Earth were constantly in conflict with them. 

So how does Thranduil manage to conceal it? I’d place my bets on Elvish magic and its wonders.

That face really justifies many things, for example, why Thranduil did not come to the dwarves’ aid when Smaug was destroying Dale and driving the dwarves out of Erebor. We cannot really see Thranduil as a powerful elf who is capable of tackling Balrogs and dragons. In fact, Thranduil is the only Elvenking in Third Age Middle-Earth who does not have the Ring of Power. Elrond has Vilya, Cirdan has the Narya (later given to Gandalf), and Galadriel has Nenya. In addition to that, Sauron’s spiders and orcs had been continually infesting themselves in his lands, and his kingdom had ultimately retreated in the recesses of the north.

Thranduil with his troops when Smaug attacked Erebor

Thranduil with his troops when Smaug attacked Erebor

Thranduil had been protecting his realm from orcs, giant spiders and Sauron’s other minions for hundreds of years without any outside assistance, and knowing how deadly a combat with Smaug can be, I think he just places the safety of his people and his land over anything else, which is just his decision, really.

We know of his persistence to keep his kingdom separate and unattached from the world, as written in book sources. And as a king, he’d rather not lead his army to vicious death by following his father’s footsteps. That had produced disastrous results, with more than two thirds of their army being slain in battle, including his father himself.

Which is why, he’d rather stay closed shut and safe than let more of Sauron’s big spiders have picnics in his forest.

As for the book, nothing of such a nature has been given. Nevertheless, Peter Jackson managed to keep me awake for hours about this.

So what did you think of the scene in The Hobbit? And what are your opinions on Thranduil? Share your thoughts below!


7 thoughts on “The Thing About Thranduil’s Face

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  2. The term “glamorous’ is derived from the fae’s ability to ‘don the glamour’, which means to project an enhanced or idealized perspective of the self to the perceiver.
    When Human women are described as ‘glamorous’, it means that they are presenting an embellished (via cosmetics, hair colorants/style, attire etc.) version of themselves to the audience. In the case of elves, or fairies, it means that they are presenting an idealized version of themselves to the onlooker.
    In this case, I think that Thranduil is “donning the glamour’ and presenting his original (unscarred) face to the world, but to impress upon Thorin that he knows the power of the dragons of the North, he relaxes the ‘glamour’ and lets his real – disfigured – face show.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think he got the scars during the battle where his father, Oropher, died. There was a dragon in there somewhere that they were fighting where glorfindel saved thranduil and buried Oropher


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