The battle is underway, and Round One has already drawn to a close. Who or what has already fallen, in Middle-earth March Madness 2024: Magical Moments?

As a reminder: this year our divisions are made up of moments where magic occurs, in The Hobbit and in the three parts of The Lord of the Rings. What exactly constitutes magic in Middle-earth? And what are the best, most thrilling, or perhaps most intriguing moments when magic occurs? YOU decide!

Staffer Madeye Gamgee shared some thoughts on what we’ve seen in Round One:

Many of the Round One matchups are much tighter this year versus years past, an indicator that there’s a broader sense of passion and resonance across the fan base over these magical moments.  We’re not seeing any of those ‘Galadriel versus an Elven Loremaster’ or ‘Elendil versus a Librarian’ matchups with 95%+ victory margins like last year.

Some of the #1 and #2 seeds have not had easy matchups:

  • Disappearing Bilbo, #1 in FotR, only won with 54% against #16 Bombadil’s rescue songs
  • Bruinen Water Horses at #2 took only 60% of the vote versus #15 reforging of Narsil
  • #2 in The Two Towers, the Palantir snaring Pippin, only defeated a very well-aged Aragorn, the #15 seed, with 57% of the vote
  • And in the RotK region the #2, #3, and #4 seeds all went down to their lower-seeded opponents
    • Sam’s Galadriel Gift (#15) overcame the #2 summoning of the Dead
    • #14 Rohan arriving in the nick of time took out #3 Galadriel’s Phial in Shelob’s lair
    • Athelas at #4 lost to #13, the Discovery of a New White Tree

Interestingly, many book-only references, including the restoration of the Shire, finding a new White Tree on the slopes surrounding Minas Tirith, the two Bombadil entries (songs and Ring tricks), disappearing Elvish feasts in Mirkwood, and Beorn’s hospitable animals have all been very competitive. Of course, there are some, like William’s talking purse and Miruvor on the slopes of Caradhras, that got fairly overwhelmed.

So here are the winners who are continuing on to Round Two (with their starting seeding number):

The Hobbit Division

  • Moon Runes Appear on Thrain’s Map (1)
  • Bilbo’s Ring Turns Him Invisible (2)
  • The Last Light of Durin’s Day Reveals the Keyhole (3)
  • The Trolls Turn to Stone at Sunrise (5)
  • The Black Arrow Strikes Home/Takes Down Smaug (6)
  • Beorn Shape Shifts (7)
  • The Arkenstone Shines with a Brilliant Inner Light (9)
  • Smaug is a Good Conversationalist (13)

The only surprise in this division was seed #13, Smaug’s conversation with Bilbo, defeating the ‘orc-warning’ blue glow of Sting and Orcrist, which TORn staffers had voted to the #4 seed position. Now Smaug will have to take on the sun-struck stone trolls; will he talk his way to victory? See how the rest of the moments pair up in the coming round, in the full bracket below.

The Fellowship of the Ring Division

  • Bilbo Vanishes at His Birthday Party (1)
  • Gandalf Adds Wild Water Horses at the Flood of the Bruinen (2)
  • Galadriel Has Psychic Mind-Probing Power (3)
  • Gandalf Puts On a Spectacular Fireworks Show (4)
  • Durin’s Doors Open at the Right Password (5)
  • Gandalf Confronts the Balrog with Glamdring and the Flame of Anor (6)
  • The Mirror of Galadriel Proves Perilous (7)
  • Mithril Mail Stops a Cave Troll Spear (9)

In this bracket, two of Gandalf’s magic moments came up against each other in Round One: his confrontation with the Balrog, and his moth-whispering ability. Perhaps not surprisingly, the mighty deed of a Balrog showdown won, and goes on to face a talent of Galadriel – her mind-probing powers. Tom Bombadil, arguably one of the most magical (and mysterious) characters in all of Tolkien’s legendarium, didn’t make it past this first round, alas; once again, Tom is conspicuous by his absence…

Bombadil responds to his rescue song (Illustration by Henry Neff)

The Two Towers Division

  • Gandalf the White Returns from the Dead (1)
  • The Palantir Snares Pippin (2)
  • Gandalf Heals Theoden from Saruman’s Curse (3)
  • Hithlain Rope Comes When It’s Called (5)
  • Lembas Sustain the Fellowship on Their Quest (6)
  • Growing Hobbits Drink Ent Draught (7)
  • Shadowfax Can Run Really Really Fast (8)
  • Enraged Ents in battle (13)

An upset here was the magical camouflage of Elven cloaks (seeded #4) failing to make it past the power of the Ents. How will the shepherds of the trees fare against Hithlain rope, in Round Two? Seed #9, a surprisingly-attractive-for-an-87-year-old Aragorn, gave Pippin and the Palantir a good run for their money; but in the end, the #2 seed was the victor.

Pretty good for his age…

The Return of the King Division

  • The Witch King Is Destroyed by “No Man” (1)
  • Turns Out You Can Destroy the One Ring (aka the power of Mount Doom!) (5)
  • Elven Ships Leave Middle-earth and the Spheres of the World (6)
  • Gandalf the White Repels the Nazgul During Faramir’s Retreat (7)
  • The Dark Tower Falls (8)
  • It Turns Out a New White Tree of Gondor Has Been Growing for Years (13)
  • Rohan Arrives on the Pelennor Fields as the Rooster Crows (14)
  • Galadriel’s Gift of Soil to Sam Sees the Shire Reborn (15)

The Return of the King bracket saw the most upsets of all in this opening melee. The healing power of Athelas (seeded #4) was not strong enough to see it past this first round, being defeated by another plant – the 13th seed, the new White Tree of Gondor. Perhaps the most surprising result of this entire opening round was more plant power – Sam and his soil regenerating the Shire kicked out the #2 seed, the Army of the Dead. New life conquers death! The defeat of the phial of Galadriel (seeded #3) by the epic arrival of Rohan at dawn was also an upset; but can the Riders of Rohan overcome the Elven ships sailing into the West, next round? YOU decide – place your votes now, in Round Two!

Galadriel’s Gift, by Matěj Čadil

How does it work, you ask? Simple! Click on one of the orange division buttons below. Then click the ‘Vote Now’ option that appears above the divisional bracket. This year, as with last year, you get to vote in each divisional match-up in one convenient and visual interface. Note – you need to click each division to vote in their respective brackets. So let’s get voting!

You have until the end of the day Monday March 25th to vote in Round One; on Tuesday 26th we’ll announce winners and open voting for Round Three! Join us that night for TORn Tuesday, where we’ll have further discussion and debate on March Madness 2024. Rally the troops!