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Three specific examples from the movie adaption of The Two Towers come to mind.

  1. When Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli chase the Uruk-hai to rescue Merry and Pippin, Gimli is constantly out of breath and falling behind the others.

  2. At the battle of Helm's Deep, Aragorn has to toss Gimli onto the walkway because he can't jump far enough.

  3. When talking to Eowyn about dwarf women, Gimli loses control of his horse and simply falls off.

These scenes have always made me cringe and just feel out-of-place to me somehow.

How are Gimli's athletic abilities portrayed in the books? Are there similar scenes to the ones above, or is he shown as more of an equal to Aragorn and Legolas?

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    Those scenes are not in the book.
    – ibid
    Commented Apr 26 at 20:07
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    Remember the part in the film: Dwarves are deadly over short distances, we're natural sprinters, wasted on cross-country - to paraphrase. That also wasn't in the book. Commented Apr 26 at 20:13
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    Nice to hear from more who don't like those easy, vulgarizing jokes.
    – Joachim
    Commented Apr 26 at 22:47
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    Please, OP, read the book. At the time the movie was made, dwarf-tossing (using actual people) was a game played in some Australian bars. I think it has been banned. The movie has many stupid jokes and many of the characters, not only Gimli, are portrayed poorly for the sake of bad comedy or fake drama.
    – Wastrel
    Commented Apr 27 at 13:54
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    I cope with those parts by telling myself that Gimli is intentionally playing the buffoon as a way of bolstering his companions' morale. Probably not how it was intended, but it makes them slightly less irritating.
    – G_B
    Commented Apr 28 at 16:01

1 Answer 1

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None of those three scenes are in the book

Gimli doesn't fall behind the other runners, he never gets tossed, and he never is shown falling of his horse. Those movie scenes simply aren't in the book in any form.

And the line Gimli says in the movie about Dwarves being "natural sprinters" is in fact pretty much the opposite of what he says in the book.

The main athletic attribute Tolkien notes about Dwarves is their endurance

‘But they go with a great speed for all that,’ said Aragorn, ‘and they do not tire. And later we may have to search for our path in hard bare lands.’
‘Well, after them!’ said Gimli. ‘Dwarves too can go swiftly, and they do not tire sooner than Orcs. But it will be a long chase: they have a long start.’
‘Yes,’ said Aragorn, ‘we shall all need the endurance of Dwarves. But come! With hope or without hope we will follow the trail of our enemies. And woe to them, if we prove the swifter! We will make such a chase as shall be accounted a marvel among the Three Kindreds: Elves, Dwarves, and Men. Forth the Three Hunters!’
The Lord of the Rings - Book 3, Chapter 1 - "The Departure of Boromir"

‘And yet even I, Dwarf of many journeys, and not the least hardy of my folk, cannot run all the way to Isengard without any pause,’ said Gimli. ‘My heart burns me too, and I would have started sooner; but now I must rest a little to run the better. And if we rest, then the blind night is the time to do so.’
The Lord of the Rings - Book 3, Chapter 2 - "The Riders of Rohan"

For many hours they had marched without rest. They were going slowly now, and Gimli’s back was bent. Stone-hard are the Dwarves in labour or journey, but this endless chase began to tell on him, as all hope failed in his heart.
The Lord of the Rings - Book 3, Chapter 2 - "The Riders of Rohan"

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    RE: "he never is shown falling [off] his horse": it is true that Gimli is no great horseman, and in fact he flat-out refuses to ride a full-sized horse by himself (I don't recall if he ever rides a pony). Leafing through The Two Towers, it seems he always rides on a horse with someone else when the party goes by horseback: with Legolas on the last leg to Fangorn, with Gandalf from Fangorn to Edoras, with Éomer from Edoras to Helm's Deep, with Legolas again from Helm's Deep to Isengard, etc.
    – MJ713
    Commented Apr 28 at 22:50
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    Endurance does not necessarily come with great speed, however. A cheetah is faster than a human in short bursts but it cannot travel the same distance in the long term, meaning that the human will close the distance to a cheetah in the long run. Dwarven endurance does not inherently mean dwarven endurance at this travel pace. In your quotes, Gimli only compares his speed to that of an Orc. Arguably, Aragorn calling it a "marvel" implies they'll need to travel faster than they're used to, which can significantly impact one's endurance during said journey.
    – Flater
    Commented Apr 28 at 23:20
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    Gimli's movie-quote of being natural sprinters does not contradict this. It can easily be interpreted as "Dwarves can only keep [our current travel speed] up for short distances", which isn't saying anything about a Dwarf's endurance at a slower travel speed. Sure, his statement about "being sprinters" is imprecise, but in the context of a given travel speed (which is very much precisely what's happening while the others tell Gimli to keep up with them) it's not wrong, just oversimplified. Compared to Aragorn and Legolas, at this speed, Gimli is clearly more of a shorter-distance runner.
    – Flater
    Commented Apr 28 at 23:21
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    Speaking of dwarf endurance... In The Hobbit, before the battle of five armies (IIRC), it's mentioned that when a dwarf army marches they can carry substantial weight in their packs.
    – PM 2Ring
    Commented Apr 29 at 17:20

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