The Unofficial JRR Tolkien Minor Character Quiz

“It’s not always a misfortune to be overlooked.”  -Merry Brandybuck

They say the easiest story to produce is one about a set of people trapped in an elevator:  a limited cast, few sets, and limited action.  At the other end of the spectrum is the work of Professor Tolkien, who created a whole world and populated it accordingly.  While all of these characters add color and depth to the story, it presents a challenge to his readers who, as the story progresses and bifurcates, must keep track of who (and what) the different characters are and where they belong.  It also presents a no-win scenario to the people who try to dramatize it, since due to production constraints there is simply no way to avoid dropping somebody‘s favorite character.

Defining a “minor character” for this quiz presents something of a challenge:  there are so many characters in Tolkien’s world that even the major ones must fight for recognition.   For example, there’s Lotho Sackville-Baggins, who creates a sizable plot turn without ever stepping in front of the camera.  Even Sauron, the central villain of the piece, only gets about three lines of attributed dialogue.  Generally I have aimed for characters who are below the first tier of characters (and the second tier, for that matter) but who still do something reasonably significant, or at least who do more than step up, say one line, and disappear back into obscurity.

So your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to match the following names with the descriptions below.  If you haven’t read the book but saw the movie…good luck.  For the record, I have not included any names from The Hobbit or The Silmarillion (in which practically everyone is a minor character):  these all appear somewhere in the Lord of the Rings.

Just for the record, I have no affiliation with the Tolkien estate.  This is merely a bit of appreciation from a fan.  So, thanks, Prof.

  1. Beregond
  2. Bregalad
  3. Fredegar Bolger
  4. Ghan-buri-Ghan
  5. Gildor Inglorion
  6. Glorfindel
  7. Grishnakh
  8. Halbarad
  9. Imrahil
  10. Ioreth
  11. Mablung
  12. Nob
  13. Radagast
  14. Shagrat
  15. Tom Bombadil

a)  The Prince of Dol Amroth in Gondor
b)  One of the orcs that kidnap Merry and Pippin
c)  An inhabitant of the Old Forest
d)  The Chieftain of the Druadan Forest
e)  A hobbit from Bree.
f)  A caretaker in the Houses of Healing
g)  A resident of Minas Tirith who befriends Pippin
h)  A wizard with an interest in birds.
i)  An Ent.
j)  A wandering Elf who meets Frodo in the Shire.
k)  A Ranger and relative of Aragorn.
l)  A soldier in the Company of Ithilien
m)  An Elf from Rivendell
n)  A friend of Frodo in the Shire
o)  An orc in charge of the Tower of Cirith Ungol

And in order to provide a bit of visual separation between the quiz and the answers, this is as good a time as any to mention my Middle-earth Real Estate quiz.  Meanwhile, here’s a score table to see how you did.

1-3: At least you saw the movie, right?
4-6: Time to “brush up our toes,” isn’t it?
7-9: Either you read the books, or you’re a really good guesser.
10-12: “Does it guess easy?”…oh, that’s from The Hobbit, isn’t it? Never mind….
13-15: Lord of The Lord of the Rings

Answers:  1) g; 2) i; 3) n; 4) d; 5) j; 6) m; 7) b; 8) k; 9) a; 10) f; 11) l; 12) e; 13) h; 14) o; 15) c.


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4 Responses to “The Unofficial JRR Tolkien Minor Character Quiz”

  1. Mark Coggins Says:

    Based on the score scale, I expected five more minor characters!

  2. thepunnery Says:

    Whoops! Well, that ought to teach me not to post late in the evening…. Sorry about that.

  3. Wil Maddeaux Says:

    And of course, some of the major characters have 2 or 3 names. And who would name two of the major characters ‘Sauron’ and ‘Saruman’?

    Great book, though.
    The Silmarillion isn’t the same, at all; it’s seems to be the story of people trying to get revenge over centuries, and it’s sad / depressing. LOTR is about what happens when people commit to doing a good things.

    Perhaps only Walt Kelly, in Pogo, has as many named characters – perhaps 150. Not the same class of literature, but still very important in American history!

    • thepunnery Says:

      The similarity between the names “Sauron” and “Saruman” is awkward. I assume the names were driven by his linguistics more than anything else, but I haven’t done any research on when in the writing process he finally settled on those names. Perhaps he had grown so accustomed to the names over the course of writing the book it no longer occurred to him they might be confusing to new readers.

      The Silmarillion is, as you say, very different. Some of the difference perhaps comes from its roots: its style sort of derives from things like Beowulf and the Mabinogion and lacks the moderating (and modernizing) voice of the hobbits. Also, it’s the same sort of set-up as Star Wars Episodes 1-3: the whole point is to explain how the characters got into the mess that they spend the other episodes trying to resolve; so it’s bound to be a bit depressing. At any rate, it’s certainly not the place to start reading Tolkien.

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