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Gimli, son of "the" Glóin, one of the dwarves who reclaimed the Lonely Mountain from Smaug together with Bilbo Baggins, first comes into the history of the Ring War when he and his father went to Rivendell as the emissaries of the dwarves of Erebor. When the Fellowship of the Ring was put together, Gimli was to go as its dwarven representative.
The necessity to go through Moria was less hard on Gimli than on his companions: he was eager to find out the fate of Balin's expedition, of which news had ceased long ago. As a dwarf, he was not only used to such underground places, he also kept in his heart the tradition of Khazad-Dűm as the fairest of the cities of the dwarves, an image which the dark, orc-filled ruins of the mines could scarcely convey anymore. Gimli's song of Durin the Deathless and the founding of Moria was more able to convince the Fellowship of its glorious past. The discovery that Balin's colony failed and the dwarves perished which the company made when they found the Book of Mazarbűl was therefore only the sadder.
Having reached the borders of Lórien after the fall of Gandalf, the old mistrust between the dwarves and Elves surfaced: the guards would have Gimli alone of the Fellowship blindfolded when entering Lórien, but out of solidarity, the other seven shared his fate. The Lady of the Wood, Galadriel, was more enlightened. She perceived the honest spirit of Gimli, and the situation they all were in, and so received him as a guest. To Gimli, meeting Galadriel, a noble Noldo who had seen the light of Aman, was an eye opener, and he came to revere her greatly at once. At the same time, during their stay in Lórien, he also started to develop a close friendship with Legolas in spite of the differences of their races.
Gimli's reverence of Galadriel made him ask for a strand of her hair to enclose in a jewel as the only parting gift from her; and unlike Feanor, she granted him this wish.
After the Fellowship was shattered at Parth Galen, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli pursued the Uruks who captured Merry and Pippin across Rohan, and because of his natural endurance, the dwarf was able to keep up even with the Man and the Elf in their hunt. The Three Hunters eventually came upon the Rohirrim, who lended them horses, one of which Gimli shared with Legolas. Eventually, they rode to defend Rohan at Helm's Deep, together with the returned Gandalf the White, whom the Three Hunters encountered at the borders of Fangorn.
At the defense of the fortress of Helm's Deep against the army of Saruman, Gimli put his battle prowess to best use. He even had a private contest with Legolas, comparing who slew more enemies. Gimli was trapped along with a few other warriors in a cavern, but his expert axe work led them out of there through a strong unit of Uruks. Having to fight his way out, he was able to pass Legolas's score of 41 by one, contributing greatly to the Free Peoples' success in the battle. At Isengard, they met the two hobbits again, much to the joy of Gimli.
Gimli further accompanied Aragorn and Legolas together with the Grey Company on their dreadful passage through the Paths of the Dead, and from there to the havens of Pelargir, where they took over the Umbarian fleet and continued to sail north to the aid of Minas Tirith. He stayed at the front of battle on the Pelennor as well as in front of the Black Gate, at the final defeat of the forces of Mordor.
After the Ring War, Gimli fulfilled his promise to Legolas which they made on their way to Isengard and visited Fangorn Forest, and in turn, Legolas accompanied him to the Glittering Caves of Aglarond. At Helm's Deep, Gimli came upon these caverns behind the Hornburg, and his dwarven heart was immediately moved by their beauty. He even took some dwarves there to make them habitable. Apart from other journeys with his now close friend Legolas, Gimli also led the dwarves from Erebor who greatly helped in the rebuilding of the gate and city of Minas Tirith, incidentally using a lot of mithril in the process.
In the year 120 of the Fourth Age, after the passing of King Elessar, Gimli and Legolas set sail from Ithilien and were said to have reached the Blessed Realm; Gimli being the only dwarf ever admitted to Tol Eressea and Aman. As Tolkien explained, this was because of his close friendship to Legolas and according to Galadriel's wish, in whose service he held himself to be (cf. Letter 154). On this point, cf. our FAQ entry Mortals in Valinor. Most of the knowledge about dwarves in Middle-earth which remained had its source in Gimli, and his close relations to members of the other races.
See also: Aglarond, Aragorn, Dwarves, Durin, Erebor, Galadriel, Helm's Deep, Hornburg, Legolas, Moria
(References: LR II; III; V; VI passim; App. A, III; App. B; Letters, #154)
b. = born d. = died F.A = Fourth Age fl. = flourished
T.A. = Third Age WoR = War of the Ring S. = Sindarin C.S. = Common Speech
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