At the end of Battle of the Five Armies, Legolas told his father he could not return to Mirkwood. Why so?
Is it because he has feelings for Tauriel but she doesn't for him?
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I think this answer is more of a combination of various interpretations. However, the main three reasons that I have found that resulted in Legolas's departure from Mirkwood in BOTFA are these:
I personally think that it was implied that Thranduil lifted Tauriel's banishment after the events of The Battle of the Five Armies after their encounter at the end of the film. This was brought up and answered by the actress Evangeline Lilly herself in an interview about the character's fate after The Battle of the Five Armies:
You know, it’s going to sound very mundane, but I think she goes back to Greenwood — which would hopefully now be Greenwood; slowly but surely it would evolve out of Mirkwood and return to Greenwood — and she goes back to work. It sounds so boring, but ultimately, she has a job. She has a responsibility. She’s the head of the Elven Guard. She’s not head of the Elven army — that is Prince Legolas and King Thranduil — but she’s the head of the Elven Guard, and they protect their realm. And maybe she doesn’t go back to being head of guard, maybe she’s been softened and wouldn’t resume her old position, but in a way I feel like maybe she would be even more impassioned to protect what she loves, to protect her home, to protect what’s important to her, but maybe she’ll do it now with more compassion and a little bit of softness.
However, Legolas had departed before Thranduil's meeting with Tauriel and probably never heard of it until later. What we do know is that he does return to Mirkwood as his father sends him to the Council of Elrond during the events of Fellowship of the Ring. Although Tauriel isn't canon to Tolkien's work, it is possible that within Peter Jackson's films, Legolas's return to Mirkwood could possibly have been associated with Tauriel returning to Thranduil's realm after the events of The Hobbit.
Within the actual film, Battle of the Five Armies, we are given a scene where Legolas tells his father's messenger that if Tauriel is banished, he will not return.
Legolas: You may tell my father that if there is no place for Tauriel, there is no place for me.
So when Legolas informs his father he will not be returning to Mirkwood at the end of the film, I do believe that it is in co-relation to his previous statement.
Legolas: I cannot go back.
So, his main reason for leaving within the film is not so much on Tauriel not returning his feelings, but rather of her banishment from their home. He does not forgive Thranduil for this action and thus, reacts this way, leading to the second reason for his departure.
Legolas doesn't exactly have a close relationship with his father and this goes into the demise of his mother. Thranduil has closed himself off from the world and also from his own son, more focused on retrieving his late wife's jewelry: The White Gems of Lasgalen. This is the primary reason why Thranduil marches off to war against the dwarves in The Hobbit (though this was mostly cut from the final version of the film). It is directly implied that Legolas's mother died defending him and complicates matters entirely when it comes to Thranduil and Legolas's relationship.
Legolas: My mother died there. My father does not speak of it. There is no grave, no memory. Nothing.
Thranduil: Legolas...your mother loved you. More than anyone, more than life.
While there are scenes throughout the final cut that imply how the death of Mrs. Thranduil affected both father and son, a cut scene firmly establishes the flaw of Thranduil's original motives in BOTFA.
Gandalf: Those gems weren't all your wife left you, my friend. She left you a son. Tell me, which would she have you value more?
It also shows that the death of the late Queen of Mirkwood ultimately was what caused the two to become distant with each other. This strain ends up finally cracking when Thranduil banishes Tauriel, whom Legolas cares for and has a strong friendship/relationship with. The Battle of the Five Armies only shows the beginnings of a reconciliation between father and son, not the full resolution. But from where they leave each other in the film, I can easily believe that by the time the events of Fellowship of the Ring occur, the two have a much better relationship than in The Desolation of Smaug. Moreover, the scene between Legolas and Thranduil at the end was meant to invoke Thranduil seeing greatness within Legolas by using Aragorn and his own father, Arathorn as a parallel:
Thranduil: His father, Arathorn was a good man. His son might grow to be a great one.
One of the main complaints I have heard from LOTR book fans was how Aragorn's actual age doesn't match with the events of The Hobbit film trilogy. I can understand how much confusion one might feel when Thranduil sends his son to find "a ranger" when in reality, Aragorn is only ten years old at the time of The Hobbit and not the older character we meet in the LOTR trilogy. (On a side note,The Hobbit films follows a shorter and more condensed timeline which actually makes Aragorn older than in the books. In The Two Towers, Aragorn tells Eowyn that he is 87 years old and The Hobbit trilogy occurred 60 years prior. So during the events of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit, Aragorn is actually around the age of 27).
However, by Thranduil sending Legolas to find Aragorn, Peter Jackson explains how the elf knew of Aragorn's identity during the Council of Elrond when he defends him in front of Boromir:
Legolas: This is no mere ranger! He is Aragorn, son of Arathorn. You owe him your allegiance.
Although in the books, there is already a good explanation for how Legolas previously met Aragorn. However, this was dropped or not mentioned during the whole run of the LOTR trilogy. In the books, Gandalf sent Aragorn to track down Gollum and hand him over to the elves of Thranduil. Aragorn eventually found him and Mirkwood was given the responsibility to watch over Gollum; however, he escaped and it is for that reason Legolas was sent to Rivendell by Thranduil himself. This could perfectly explain how Aragorn could have previously met Legolas, who was probably one of the elves who watched over Gollum. But this is not mentioned within Fellowship of the Ring, and thus, Jackson had to create a new reason for how Legolas knew of Aragorn's identity as the rightful king of Gondor.
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien Pages 332
"... All sat silent for a while, until at length, Boromir spoke. 'He is a small thing, you say, this Gollum? Small, but great in mischief. What became of him? To what doom did you put him?'
'He is in prison, but no worse,' said Aragorn. 'He had suffered much. There is no doubt that he was tormented, and the fear of Sauron lies black on his heart. Still, I for one am glad that he is safely kept by the watchful Elves of Mirkwood. His malice is great and gives him strength hardly to be believed in one so lean and withered. He could work much mischief still, if he were free. And I do not doubt that he was allowed to leave Mordor on some evil errand.'
'Alas! Alas!' cried Legolas, and in his fair Elvish face there was great distress. 'The tidings that I was sent to bring must now be told. They are not good, but only here have I learned how evil they may seem to this company. Smeagol, who is now called Gollum, has escaped.'
'Escaped?' cried Aragorn. 'That is ill news indeed. We shall all rue it bitterly, I fear. How came the folk of Thranduil to fail in their trust?'
'Not through lack of watchfulness,' said Legolas; 'but perhaps through over-kindliness. And we fear that the prisoner had aid from others, and that more is known of our doings than we could wish. We guarded this creature day and night, at Gandalf's bidding, much though we wearied of the task. But Gandalf bade us hope still for his cure, and we had not the heart to keep him ever in dungeons under the earth, where he would fall back into his old black thoughts.'..."
Personally, this is up for interpretation but I feel that these were the main three reasons for Legolas deciding not to return to Mirkwood at the end of BOTFA (based on what was said within the film). The ending scene between Legolas and Thranduil establishes the beginning of a reconciliation between father and son, Legolas's devotion to Tauriel (regardless of whether she accepted his feelings or not), and the establishment of Legolas's friendship with Aragorn.
Things between Thranduil and Legolas have changed. The king lied to Legolas about the dragon and acted like a butt with his attempt to leave the battle to the mortals. Legolas shut him down when he threatened Tauriel. You can literally see Thranduil shrink 2 feet. Legolas does not have the same respect for his father anymore. On top of that, Legolas' love interest does not love him back and there is no future for them. Beyond that, Legolas has seen more of the world than his father intended. Now he's had a taste so he can't go back to his old self.
As you can probably guess from the many similarities between the Hobbit trilogy and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Legolas and Aragorn are friends between that time. Legolas leaves the Mirkwood elves when he realizes that Tauriel will never love him back the way that he loves her (they don't directly address it, but in multiple points in the second and third movie you can see Legolas looking jealously at Kili).
This is what happens between the end of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings (book and movie):
Strider (Aragorn & a Ranger) sets out to find Gollum because the old hobbit is the only other character to know that Bilbo Baggins has the Ring in the Shire. On that mission, he comes across Legolas.
Legolas eventually goes home to Mirkwood after wandering around with the Ranger. The elf takes Gollum with him to return and keep safe from the Orcs, but the Hobbit escapes at one point and ends up in the enemy's hands.
One of the main things in the Lord of the Rings is Legolas devotion to Aragorn. This comes from finding Gollum together.
In the movie Legolas openly challenged his father when Tauriel tried to stop him from leaving. Even if he is his son, anyone that defies the king would have to face some discipline whether it is banishment from the kingdom or something worse. we know from our own history that kings have no problem killing their offspring to maintain their rule. I don't see Thranduil going to that extreme so banishment would be the best possible option.
Legolas still respects his father, and Thranduil loves his son but Legolas keeps the each and every word of Tauriel in his heart. In Desolation of Smaug, Tauriel said, “We will hide within our walls, live our lives away from the light,and let darkness descend. Are we not part of this world?” Not everything is told sometimes the eyes says everything.