How quickly they fall… From 64 beginners, we’re down already to the Sweet Sixteen, aka the third round in Middle-earth March Madness 2024: Magical Moments.

As you know, our theme this year is MAGIC – where and when does it come into play in Middle-earth, and which are the most compelling moments where magic lends a hand? TORn staffers choose the starting 64, from The Hobbit and the three The Lord of the Rings books; but now the decisions are up to you!

Let’s take a look at what happened in Round Two:

The Hobbit Division

The only close contest in this division was the Black Arrow taking on the last light of Durin’s Day. Two significant moments, both with narrow shafts finding their way to a chink – a gap in armour for one, and a key hole for the other. They were neck and neck for a while, but in the end Erebor’s door was victorious -but with only about 70 votes in it. All the rest of the Hobbit pairings had margins of 200 or more – easy wins for moon runes, Smaug, and a certain ring… Here’s what remains in this division (with original seeding):

  • 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)
  • Smaug is a Good Conversationalist (13)
By Anke Katrin Eißmann

The Fellowship of the Ring Division

The closest battle of all of Round Two was in this bracket, with a margin of just 4 votes deciding it! The Mithril shirt put up an heroic fight, but though it may be able to stop a spear which would skewer a wild boar, it could not stop Bilbo’s birthday vanishing. Mr Baggins’ party trick goes through to the Sweet Sixteen.

Galadriel’s magic was entirely overcome in this round; both her mind-probing and her perilous mirror are out of the contest. Her clairvoyance was conquered by Gandalf’s epic Balrog battle – which interestingly won by taking exactly 666 votes… Here’s what remains in The Fellowship of the Ring Sweet Sixteen:

  • Bilbo Vanishes at His Birthday Party (1)
  • Gandalf Adds Wild Water Horses at the Flood of the Bruinen (2)
  • Durin’s Doors Open at the Right Password (5)
  • Gandalf Confronts the Balrog with Glamdring and the Flame of Anor (6)
Elvish mind trick…

The Two Towers Division

Those angry Ents are still marching on – Hithlain rope is no match for them! Seeded 13 originally, they have now knocked out the #4 and #5 seeds. The closest duel in this region was between two magical effects on Halfings – Ent-draught making them grow, or the Palantir overcoming Pippin. The lead went back and forth for a while, and the final margin was just 27 votes – but once again, the power of the Ents prevailed. So now enraged Ents and their drink of choice go up against two acts of Gandalf. Surely the White Wizard will not be overcome in Round 3?

Here’s how this bracket looks:

  • Gandalf the White Returns from the Dead (1)
  • Gandalf Heals Theoden from Saruman’s Curse (3)
  • Growing Hobbits Drink Ent-draught (7)
  • Enraged Ents in battle (13)

The Return of the King Division

It seems the TORn staff were not correct in their choice of seeding for this division! The 14th and 15th seeds are through to the Sweet Sixteen; could those Riders from Rohan sweep all the way to be the Champions for 2024, or will Sam and his replanting of the Shire defeat them in Round 3?

Two acts of destruction make up the other pair remaining – and facing off against each other – in this bracket. The fall of the Witch-king overcame the fall of the Dark Tower in Round 2, and the destruction of the One Ring easily defeated the White Tree rediscovered in Gondor. Is the power of Mount Doom and the melting of Sauron’s weapon of mass destruction the ultimate magical moment in Middle-earth? YOU decide – Round Three voting is now open!

  • The Witch-king Is Destroyed by “No Man” (1)
  • Turns Out You Can Destroy the One Ring (aka the power of Mount Doom!) (5)
  • Rohan Arrives on the Pelennor Fields as the Rooster Crows (14)
  • Galadriel’s Gift of Soil to Sam Sees the Shire Reborn (15)
Rohirrim Arrival, by Abe Papakhian

Place your votes! If you’re just joining us for this round, here’s how it works: 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 Friday March 29th to vote in Round Three; on Saturday 30th we’ll announce winners and open voting for the Elite Eight! Join us tonight for TORn Tuesday, to discuss the match-ups we’re considering in the Sweet Sixteen, and how the contest might progress from here. Who is your choice for ultimate Champion in 2024? Vote now!