Watching and rewatching The Lord of The Rings was a formative part of my youth, largely for sexual reasons. Around the age of 12, I developed special feelings for the blond elf. I didn’t have the language to express desire, but I can recall its first physical sensations: a belly ache, low in my stomach, and a feeling like I missed someone.
Like other people who came of age in the aughts, I now recognize that LOTR — specifically Legolas, the silver-haired elf played by Orlando Bloom — was crucial to my sexual awakening. I assumed, given his beauty, that Legolas must have been the subject of other people’s fantasies, too. But as I got older, I found, with some surprise, that many preferred his opposite: a dark-haired, rather dirty fellow named Aragorn.
Twenty years later, I’ve realized that there are only two types of people in the world. They are not good or bad, glass half-full or half-empty. No, they are even more distinct — and more telling — than other, more popular dichotomies. They are: the Aragorn Girls and the Legolas Girls.
Aragorn is a man, revealed to be the somewhat reluctant heir to several important thrones, which he takes up at the end of the story. He is noble, loyal, and good with a sword; he even has a hot, elfin girlfriend whom he loves. He’s played by a young Viggo Mortensen, and I suppose he’s attractive in a rugged way, with sweaty, shoulder-length black hair, swarthy skin, and bright green eyes.
In the other corner, we have the elf, Legolas, who joins Aragorn and several other characters to form a fellowship to defeat evil in the first film. He has the inhuman speed and sight characteristic of his race, and his skill in combat — especially with a longbow — is peerless. Most importantly, he’s exquisitely, effeminately beautiful: He has long, silver-blonde hair, China-blue eyes, and a lithe, slim body.
It’s an androgynous sort of beauty that foretold my adult tastes. Indeed, my colleague, Amanda Arnold, tells me that Legolas was responsible for her own sexual awakening “and in particular, though I didn’t recognize it as such at the time, my bisexual awakening.” Another colleague, meanwhile, says that a good friend of hers realized he was gay partly due to Legolas.
“He was impeccably groomed, highly competent, and very handsome, while also retaining this safe, sexless aura,” Callie Beusman, the Cut’s news editor told me of her preteen attraction to him. Like I did at that age, she considered Legolas “the most gorgeous man on the planet,” whereas Aragorn was simply a nonentity, who seemed kind of “old and dirty.” (Beusman admits she now prefers Boromir, “because he is loud and plagued by emotional issues.”)
But Legolas’s allure doesn’t end at his beauty. It also has to do with his quality of character. He’s diligent about protecting his friends: He always has one eye on Aragorn in battle, and has saved his life more than once. He also lacks the aggressive, machismo energy of his mortal and dwarf compatriots, preferring to deliver death with an arrow to the heart rather than the bloody brutality of a sword. “I think Legolas would get me more than Aragorn would,” says Erica Smith, a beauty writer at the Cut. “He’d be down to walk around quietly, observe things, and share hair masks, probably. I’d never have to worry about beard burn, being righteous, or having to talk to a bunch of humans and what have you,” she muses.
On the other hand, Aragorn’s heroism is more familiar: He’s stoic, unsmiling, and occasionally brutal. When his brooding does give way to humor, he checks it by reminding himself of some monumental burden or another. And, of course, he’s secretly a king.
Naturally, this red-blooded hero appealed to scores of Aragorn Girls. As a preteen, a dear friend of mine even had a poster of him she used to kiss on the lips. She admired his humility, and felt compassion for his suffering: “Legolas is for women who actually kept up with their bullet journals and have 12-step skin-care routines,” she tells me. “I want a man who can carry big things, and by that, I mean the burden of ancestral inheritance.” My sister, also an Aragorn Girl, describes Legolas as “one-note,” and is attracted to Aragorn’s depth of personality. “He has a soft side, a weak side, and a mysterious side,” she argues, “you want to know more about him. You want to know more about the pain in his eyes.”
I recently rewatched the entire LOTR series, and while I still found Legolas attractive, I was forced to admit the appeal of Aragorn, too. But, to be honest with you, if I had to choose a life partner from the LOTR legendarium, Aragorn’s intensity would disturb me, and even Legolas might prove too aloof for the amount of attention I require to survive. All things considered, I would probably choose Samwise Gamgee, which you may call a copout, but I believe is a reflection of personal growth and maturity.