MOON LETTERS : TOOKISH TICKLERS
The Great Imp Strike of 2987 - 1kalliance
Even experienced fans of the Lord of the Rings saga were pleasantly surprised by their first "look" at Legolas Greenleaf, described in Prof. Tolkien's writings as "fair" and "slim" and with other adjectives that bely his skill with weapons. But where does an Elf -- the noblest and wisest of all of Middle-Earth's inhabitants -- find the internal flame to be such a great warrior?
It all dates back to the Great Imp Strike of 2987.
Did you ever wonder who does the Elves' laundry? Who cleans up? Who takes care of all that long, lustrous hair? It's the Imps, Middle-Earth's underclass.
It's not Galadriel dry-cleaning all those long gowns. It's not Glorfindel with a jumpsuit and earmuffs, chainsmoking and blowing leaves out of the Council chambers with a gas-powered blower ("Where do you want these?" "Just put them in the Mortals Landfill again." "Gilraen's grave it is."). It's not Arwen disinfecting the toilets. It's not Elrond on his hands and knees scrubbing birdsh*t off his library floor. It's the Imps.
Why do you think the Elves didn't just up and leave en masse when the Valar welcomed them back to Valinor? It's because they know a good thing when they see one, that's why.
So after eons of cooking Elf meals, doing Elf chores, picking up Elf underwear off the floor, and putting up with the catty taunts and insults of spoiled Elf maidens during the nightly hair maintenance, the Imps decided that they weren't being given commensurate compensation, and filed a grievance with the ... well, Tolkien is unclear on the issue of exactly with WHOM the grievance was filed (see The Book of Lost Class Action Suits, Vol. 3), but the case was left in the hands of an "independent" Dwarven arbitrator who considered both sides "very carefully" and ruled in favor of the Imps after an astonishingly quick deliberation.
The result was the Elf-Imp Collective Bargaining Agreement -- negotiated through the same Dwarven arbitrator -- which created a detailed wage structure, dental benefits (not an insignificant item, considering the size of Imp tusks) and family leave among many other concessions. It also stipulated, in its most hotly-disputed clause, that the Imps were entitled to compensation back-dated to the middle of the Second Age.
Well, the Elves were in a bind. With most of their efforts traditionally put towards learning, lore, merrymaking and occasional warfare, with very little invested in manufacturing and virtually no service-sector jobs, they found themselves ill prepared to cover the costs of Imp compensation. Some Elven kingdoms -- like Thranduil's realm in Northern Mirkwood -- cut back on Imp services, switching from flowing gowns and intricate hairstyles to more form-fitting, durable clothing and sensible braids. But other communities, such as Rivendell, chose instead to play hardball, getting legal to uncover cunning new interpretations of the Agreement.
Negotiations grew more and more acrimonious as the centuries passed. Matters came to a head late in the Third Age, and finally, in 2987, the Imps went on strike.
Though neither Tolkien nor Jackson dwells on the strike, some of its effects are visible in both works. Note how the Rivendell Elves of The Hobbit seem very happy and care-free. "Tra-la-la-lalley come down to the Valley?" The Elves of Lord of the Rings are much more grave, more like Elves dealing with labor problems and having to either find scabs or (gasp) clean up after themselves. Notice how wasted Celeborn seems to be when he greets the Fellowship in Lorien? He's just cleaned up the banquet hall after a particularly rowdy bachelor party.
And here we find a real bone of contention in the Elven world. Some powerful Elves (I won't mention any names, but here's a hint: one starts with "E" and ends in "d" and the middle part commonly comes before "Hubbard"), anticipating the work stoppage and looking for leverage, managed to secure personal-services contracts with their own coterie of Imps. Thus the Elves in Rivendell still have that perfectly manicured appearance with the flowing gowns and the hair. This practice was generally kept secret, but rumors abounded and it caused a lot of dissention between Elven kingdoms.
Now we come to Legolas, son of Thranduil, who has his OWN problems with his father, many of which are still being dealt with by Elven social workers. Thranduil was a member and treasurer of the local Elf Moose Lodge, and was in favor of a hard-line stance against the Imps and forcing them back to work. Legolas, on the other hand, was an Imps-rights activist, and president of the North Mirkwood chapter of GELDING ("Get Elves to Legitimize the Dreams that Imps should Never Give up").
The two had constant arguments, until finally Legolas stormed out of the halls of his family ("You never listen to me! You treat me like a f*cking 823-year-old! I hate you!") and went to confront Elrond himself.
Of course, other matters were pressing in Rivendell, and Legolas prudently decided to put his attention to the issues of the Ring. But you can be sure he did not miss the significance of the difference between the simple smock he wore at the Council and the finery of Elrond's staff, nor did he wonder who was keeping Elrond's headband so shiny with daily polishings.
All of these heavy issues weighing down upon him created a boiling, seething anger at the world, and something inside of Legolas Greenleaf snapped. On the outside, perhaps, he was still the same noble Elf that the mortals were used to seeing. But inside, he turned from a peace-loving activist into a vicious (by Elf standards) killing machine, as is well documented in Jackson's film documentary.
With these events as a backdrop, it's small wonder that Legolas occasionally lashes out. It also provides better insight into the events of the third book, including the famous "Legolas the Moyel" dream.