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"I am a Dwarf of many journeys..."
The son of Glóin (one of the companions of Thorin Oakenshield), he was born 2879 of the Third Age, probably in the Ered Luin, where Thorin's people then lived.
Glóin was one of the Twelve Companions of Thorin Oakenshield, and also distant kin to Thorin himself.
Glóin's brother Óin, and their cousins Balin and Dwalin, were also among Thorin's companions.
Gimli with cloak and weapon - artwork by Ro
Gimli with cloak and weapon - artwork by Ro
We know a little about Gimli's youth or upbringing. In the years preceding the events of The Hobbit , the Dwarves had undergone some hard times after the fall of Erebor, and many of the Dwarves had been lived as vagabonds, whose lives centred on on work they considered menial, such as blacksmithying and coal-mining. However, according to Thorin, by the time of The Hobbit , they had again begun to be prosperous, and to carve out fine halls for themselves in the Blue Mountains, and many of the wandering Dwarves had joined him in the Blue Mountains. It is likely, therefore, that Gimli was either brought up in prosperity in the Blue Mountains, or had a far harder travelling childhood, and only joined the community in the Blue Mountains much later.
There is a little internal detail that might suggest that Gimli's upbringing might have been a vagrant one. In The Hobbit , Glóin and Óin are the two Dwarves who have most skill in lighting fires. While all Dwarves would have occasion to light fires in their forges or homes, only those who had lived extensively out of doors would necessarily have had much practice at lighting fires in untoward weather conditions. This may have been an indication that Gimli's family had spent more time above ground than most; certainly it implies that Glóin, like his son, was 'a Dwarf of many journeys'.
Gimli was sixty-two when Thorin Oakenshield and his companions set out on their quest to the Lonely Mountain ( Unfinished Tales , Part 3 Chapter III). He was considered too young to go with them, even though Dwarves come of age (are considered 'battle-ready') at forty years, and he was already travelling by that age. He states that he was away at the time of Gandalf's first visit to Thorin, though where he was is unspecified.
His father and the rest of the Twelve Companions, were away about a year and a half, returning victorious and really rather wealthy. At some time after this, the entire population of Thorin's people must have relocated to Erebor with all their possessions - a long and arduous journey that must have taken at least a year.
Gimli probably lived in Erebor from about his mid-sixties to his hundredth and fortieth year or so. What his trade was is unspecified. Presumaby it involved travel of some kind, as he described himself as a Dwarf of many journeys. Whatever it was, it clearly involved a strong martial element, though this could merely have been because he was forced to travel through dangerous terrain (such as Mirkwood, for example) in order to perform his duties.
He was about a hundred and forty when the emissary of Sauron arrived at Erebor to enquire about the One Ring. The emissary was sent away empty-handed three times, promising the destruction of Erebor if his demands were not complied with. After the third visit, Glóin and Gimli were sent by King Dáin to Rivendell to ask Elrond's council. There Gimli was chosen as one of the Fellowship of the Ring. As one of only two Dwarves at the Council of Elrond, he was the natural choice to send, especially as Glóin was already elderly, and clearly still harboured ill-will towards the Mirkwood Elves for the time he had spent in captivity among them whilst on the quest to Erebor.
There is little point in rehashing the contents of LotR here. It was probably in Lothlórien that Gimli became close friends with Legolas Greenleaf, an Elf of Mirkwood, and for the remainder of the war they appear to have been all but inseparable. This may have been Galadriel's doing, to a greater or lesser extentWhen the fellowship was split, he, Legolas and Aragorn travelled to Edoras and took part in the Battle of Helm's Deep. Here Gimli first encountered Aglarond, the Glittering Caves, that he was later to make his home. He later travelled with them through the Paths of the Dead to Minas Tirith to take part in the Battle of the Pellenor Fields.
After the War of the Ring was finished, he returned to Erebor, visiting Aglarond and Fangorn en route with Legolas. After, he returned South to Aglarond with a party of his people to live there, and became the Lord of Aglarond. He may have worked for a time in Minas Tirith first, as was stated in the original epilogue to LotR, helpig to rebuild the city. It is known that they forged the Gates of Minas Tirith, which were made of Mithril and steel.
In the year 120 of the fourth age, King Aragorn Elessar passed on, and Legolas decided to sail West to the Undying Lands. 'It is said' that Gimli went with him. Gimli was 262 years old at the time, and the 'normal' lifespan for a Dwarf was 250 years, so he was at the end of a Dwarf's natural lifespan. It may have been that he died before Legolas departed, or he may indeed have travelled West with him. If he did travel, it was
The name 'Gimli' apparently means 'fire' (according to one of Tolkien's letters). According to The Hobbit , Glóin and his brother Óin had a particular gift for lighting fires, and this may have inspired the name.
'He was named Elf-friend because of the great love that grew between him and Legolas, son of King Thranduil, and because of his reverence for the Lady Galadriel.'
- (JRR Tolkien, Appendix A, The Lord of the Rings )
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