Frodo had one heck of an entourage while traveling to Mordor to destroy the One Ring, including one hilarious and brave Dwarf called Gimli. The Lord of the Rings films show Gimli to be somewhat one-dimensional with his desire to kill orcs and play drinking games, but there are hidden depths to this character (and the actor who most famously played him) that are as interesting as the nooks and crannies of the caves Gimli so loves to explore.
The name "Gimli" translates to mean “fire” in one of Tolkien’s invented languages. Although Tolkien claims to have chosen this name at random, it certainly fits Gimli’s red hair and inclination to aim his ax at whoever crosses his path.
John Rhys-Davies plays Gimli in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, but also provides the voice behind another major character: the Ent Treebeard! If you listen closely, you can hear the similarities between the brutish tones of Gimli and the rumbling, slow voice of the kind Ent.
Rhys-Davies also lends his vocal talents to the show Spongebob Squarepants, for which he voices the character of Man Ray. Talk about dramatic range!
The makeup and prosthetics used to transform Rhys-Davies into Gimli took about five hours to apply, and the result was very aesthetically impressive. However, within the first week of filming, the prosthetics caused an allergic reaction for the actor and burned off the skin under his eyes! Rhys-Davies cited this as the reason for turning down an appearance in any films of The Hobbit franchise—he couldn’t face the torture of getting back into that makeup chair!
When shooting came to an end, Rhys-Davies threw the prosthetic application tool that helped turn him into Gimli into a fire (with permission from the makeup artist, of course). Unfortunately, he threw it into a normal fireplace instead of the fires of Mount Doom.
When Amazon released the news that they were going to plan a Lord of the Rings TV series, the actors from Peter Jackson’s trilogy had mixed reactions. While Ian McKellan says that he’s up for playing Gandalf once more, Rhys-Davies insinuated that the venture was a money-grab and that “Tolkien must be spinning in his grave.”
Gimli comes to bear several important titles during his travels with the Fellowship: Lockbearer (since he carries a lock of the Elf-Queen Galadriel’s hair); Lord of the Glittering Caves, and Elf-friend (for his unusual bond with Legolas and Galadriel).
Tolkien writes extensively about the friendship between Gimli and Legolas and their plans to stick together after the Fellowship comes to an end. They travel widely throughout Middle Earth with a deal that obligates them both to leave their comfort zones. Legolas will accompany Gimli deep into the beautiful caverns at Helm’s Deep to see the wonders of the world underground, and Gimli will explore Fangorn Forest with Legolas so he will lose his fear and come to see the majesty of the trees.
Rhys-Davies didn’t like to practice his combat moves before the scenes were shot because he liked the realism of not being choreographed. Before his fight scenes, says co-star Dominic Monaghan, Rhys-Davies would simply approach the stuntmen and ask “How many of you are coming at me?” and tell them where he was going to swing his ax.
History’s most fascinating stories and darkest secrets, delivered to your inbox daily. Making distraction rewarding since 2017.
After shooting completed, the nine actors who played the Fellowship got tattoos of the Elvish number 9 to commemorate their experience. However, one of the actors sent his stunt double in his place. Rhys-Davies explained that it is a stuntman’s job to step in when there’s a dangerous task at hand and that he himself is “a coward.” The stuntman in question had actually spent more time standing in for Gimli than Rhys-Davies spent acting, so it makes some sense that he should be tattooed as well.
When the Fellowship travels into the Mines of Moria, Gimli is excited to see some of his kin and show off the wonders of the mines. However, when they arrive, they find that the underground city has been taken over by dark creatures. Eventually, they even find the corpses of some of Gimli’s friends and family.
According to Christopher Tolkien's History of Middle-Earth Volume 1: Return of the Shadow, J.R.R. Tolkien also considered the names "Frar" and "Burin" for Gimli.
Dwarf women comprise around a third or less of the Dwarf population and, as Gimli remarks, the physical appearances of women and men are almost interchangeable to the eyes of outsiders—both have deep voices, beards, and similar faces, and they are clad in so many layers that the body shape is identical.
After Aragorn dies, Legolas sets sail for The Undying Lands and brings his friend Gimli with him. Also known as Valinor, the Undying Lands are what we would call heaven or the afterlife. Gimli wishes to go in order to see Lady Galadriel, and her connection with him actually helps get him into paradise.
Gimli made history in many ways. He is the only Dwarf in the Fellowship, the first Dwarf to enter Lothlorien in ages, and the only Dwarf to gain admittance to the Undying Lands.
Peter Jackson has spoken extensively about the challenges of shooting a cast whose characters are meant to be of dramatically varying heights, and the camera angles and various tricks using perspective and body doubles to achieve this illusion. Ironically, at six feet tall, Rhys-Davies is taller than both Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) and Orlando Bloom (Legolas).
In the Hobbit films, Gimli’s father Gloin is part of a band of Dwarves who aim to reclaim The Lonely Mountain and all the treasure that lies inside. In the film, he carries the same ax that his son famously wields in Lord of the Rings, implying that the weapon is passed down through the generations and is perhaps why Gimli holds onto it so tightly.
Although Legolas never makes an appearance in Tolkien’s The Hobbit, the films go a different way. Legolas’s father Thranduil is the King of Mirkwood, and throws Gimli’s dad in a tiny dungeon cell, leaving his son Legolas as one of the guards. This worked to link the film further to the successful LOTR franchise and allowed viewers the amusement of seeing Legolas lock up his future bestie’s father.
Although Dwarves and Hobbits rarely meet as they live in such wholly different environments, there are several Dwarf-Hobbit friendships in Gimli’s family. He himself befriends Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin, his father Gloin had a long-standing bond with Frodo’s cousin (once removed) Bilbo Baggins.
Many fans complained that Gimli’s character was altered too much in the films in service of portraying him as the comic relief. In fact, Gimli is a well-known and respected Dwarf in his time and is actually descended from Royalty. Gimli is of the House of Durin, a line going back to King Durin I—one of the Dwarves to originally receive a ring of power from Sauron.
The Lord of the Rings is full of characters who are much older than they look. When Gimli leaves Rivendell with the Fellowship, he is already 139 years old! He is much older than the Hobbits and the Men (although Aragorn is well into his 80s), but a child compared to Legolas and Gandalf.
In the first Hobbit film when Gloin is locked up, Legolas takes away a locket around Gloin’s neck and looks at the pictures inside. It is a likeness of Gloin’s wife and his “wee lad Gimli.”The picture shows a teenage Gimli, already fully-bearded and wielding an ax.
Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are two of the most famous English books of all time, so it’s no wonder that the UK’s finest actors showed up at both sets of auditions. Both Timothy Spall, who played Peter Pettigrew, AKA Wormtail, and Warwick Davis, who played Professor Flitwick, auditioned for the part of Gimli.
Gimli’s character was much more developed in the books, and the films leave out a crucial plot involving the dwarf, where he actually drops his tough facade in the presence of Galadriel, the Lady of the Wood. He is overwhelmed by her beauty and magnificence, and he spends the rest of the series telling others of her fair nature and is inseparable from the lock of hair that she has gifted him. This storyline serves to show the hidden depths of Gimli and his capacity for great love.
My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.
Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.
Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.
Want to tell us to write facts on a topic? We’re always looking for your input! Please reach out to us to let us know what you’re interested in reading. Your suggestions can be as general or specific as you like, from “Life” to “Compact Cars and Trucks” to “A Subspecies of Capybara Called Hydrochoerus Isthmius.” We’ll get our writers on it because we want to create articles on the topics you’re interested in. Please submit feedback to email@example.com. Thanks for your time!
Do you question the accuracy of a fact you just read? At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. We want our readers to trust us. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes miss the mark. When we do, we depend on our loyal, helpful readers to point out how we can do better. Please let us know if a fact we’ve published is inaccurate (or even if you just suspect it’s inaccurate) by reaching out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your help!
The Factinate team
If you like humaverse you may also consider subscribing to these newsletters: