In the movie The Martian (2015), there is a really cool nod to the Lord of The Rings where they refer to one of their projects as Project Elrond - because it is a Top Secret meeting where a momentous decision will be made; mirroring that of The Council of Elrond

Now in this scene, some of the characters pick a corresponding character from The Council of Elrond and Jeff Daniels' character - Teddy Sanders - picks the character Glorfindel1.

Why does Teddy Sanders pick Glorfindel as his Council of Elrond counterpart?

Glorfindel was famously not present at the film version of the Council of Elrond. If they wanted to make a pop-culture reference, why did Teddy choose a character who only appears in the books?

Could it be:

  • Jeff Daniels chose Glorfindel because he personally likes the character?
  • Due to copyright reasons, they couldn't choose another character?
  • Glorfindel isn't at the Council, and Teddy clearly doesn't want to be there2?
  • Other3?

1. I was so excited about this scene and him picking Glorfindel (my favourite character from LotR) that I nearly had a nerd-gasm!
2. http://www.techinsider.io/the-martian-lord-of-the-rings-council-of-elrond-2015-10
3. I haven't read the book, so I don't know if this is the same in the Book vs Movie versions.

  • "Nerd-gasm"? What? Commented May 6, 2017 at 19:29
  • Because the books will always be superior to the movies....
    – Spencer
    Commented Feb 1 at 22:36

3 Answers 3


It was probably deliberate that the Project Elrond reference was to the books instead of the films.

  • If you're going to make such a nice homage to Lord of the Rings, why not do it to the proper Lord of the Rings, namely the books and not the Hollywood film adaptations?

  • If you want to make the point that NASA is full of Tolkien nerds, why not make them real Tolkien nerds, ones who've read the books and not just seen the films?

The LotR films are more mass-market, so making references to them doesn't say as much. Everyone knows the "One does not simply ..." meme, for instance; but it takes a more knowledgeable Tolkien fan to be able to refer to Glorfindel at the Council of Elrond.

I mean, which one gives the "the head of NASA is a Tolkien nerd" impression better?

I would like my code name to be Glorfindel. You know, the name which appears in both the Silmarillion and LotR, even though it's only in The Peoples of Middle-Earth that Tolkien confirmed they're the same guy.

or something like

I would like my code name to be Gandalf, because Ian McKellen is cool.

This article entitled "The Martian is Cinema's Love Letter to Being a Nerd" agrees with my interpretation:

Watney’s excitement about the intricacies of maritime law and how it applies to Mars means he’s a space pirate because he’s a big ol’ nerd. Vincent Kapoor instantly gets why Watney wants to be called Captain Blondebeard because he already knows the intricacies of maritime law and how it applies to Mars, because he’s a big ol’ nerd. Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) is a big ol’ disco nerd. Rich Purnell (Donald Glover) is a big ol’ math nerd. Johanssen (Kate Mara) is a big ol’ computer nerd. Zhu Tao and Guo Ming, of China’s space exploration program, are the nerdiest nerds of all: Their “Screw the politicians, scientists need to stick together” moment legitimately had me tearing up.

The beating, nerdy soul of The Martian, for me, can be found in a single line uttered by Jeff Daniels’ character, Teddy Sanders, during a Certain Scene that will go down in nerd lore. (If you’ve seen it, you know the one.) If he’s going to take part in a secret meeting, Teddy says, “I would like my code name to be Glorfindel.”

The head of NASA, up until this point Teddy was the bureaucrat, the guy more concerned with public relations and funding than the science part of scientific exploration. With his suit and tie and his officious-seeming manner, he’s the square in the den of nerds. And then he drops a Lord of the Rings reference like it’s nothing. Because this man is the head of NASA. Of course he’s a nerd. He is the Lord of nerds. He is the nerd King. As a kid, he got teased for making intricate, cross-referenced charts about the grammatical rules of Tolkien’s fictional languages, and you know it.


I've been looking, but have been unable to find official word from anyone involved in the film; the best I've been able to find is a Buzzfeed interview with screenwriter Drew Goddard, where he says he was proud of the line:

Although the Council of Elrond scene comes from Weir's novel, Goddard did add the joke in which Teddy asks that his code name be the Elven warrior Glorfindel. "That might be the thing I'm most proud of in the movie."

Having said that, there are a number of reasons he might have been named:

  • This line doesn't appear in the book, and Glorfindel doesn't appear in the movie. Humour.

  • As suggested by rand al'thor, Glorfindel is a fairly obscure reference, at least as far as the general public is concerned; having the big important NASA scientists make one Lord of the Rings reference is pretty nerdy already, so dropping a Glorfindel reference just underscores the point

  • One Tumblr user notes a narrative similarity between the two characters' roles, although personally I think it's stretching a bit:

    If you’ve read Fellowship, you’ll know it was GLORFINDEL who rescued Frodo from the Nazgul and brought him to safety. MUCH THE WAY TEDDY SANDERS OVERSEES THE RETURN OF MARK WATNEY.

  • A comment on a Tech Insider article about the movie notes another narrative similarity:

    In the movie, Teddy says he gets to be Glorifindel. Which is clever because Teddy clearly doesn't want to be in this meeting and Glorifindel wasn't present in the LOTR movie Council of Elrond. However, he is in the books.

  • A final narrative similarity, from Reddit user mjacksongt:

    Glorfindel is one of the book characters present at the council of Elrond that is not there in the movie. He's also a total badass...but does not participate in the final decision. I saw it as a nod to the LOTR books, as well as a notification that he isn't going to have anything to do with the decision in the end (the way the Rich Parnell maneuver was done without his consent).


The question contains the answer. Any Tolkien FAN will have a lot to say about the absence of Glorfindel in the movies. As the rider who raced ahead of the Nazgul to reach Rivendell with Frodo dying, his absence was hard to justify. THAT is what this character is saying. “Remember Glorfindel! The great high elven lord.”

  • 2
    It sounds like you're just guessing here. This answer would carry a lot more weight if you backed it up with a sourced quote from someone involved with the making of The Martian. Commented Feb 1 at 7:56

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