And then there were four… It is semi-final time in Middle-earth March Madness 2024: Magical Moments – from 64 starters, we’re down to just our bracket winners remaining. Which magical happening has emerged triumphant from each division? Let’s take a look:

The Hobbit Division

Alas! Speaking personally, I (staffer greendragon) was really hoping the Moon Runes would win this bracket. TORn staffers had voted those glowing, secret runes the #1 seed in this group; but the power of the Ring is of course not easily overcome, and the #2 seed took the lead and held on to it. The margin wasn’t huge – this was the closest contest across all the brackets this round, and only a little over 50 votes came between them – but Bilbo’s disappearing act is the winner here.

  • Bilbo’s Ring Turns Him Invisible (2)

The Fellowship of the Ring Division

We saw the widest margin of the Elite Eight in this bracket; no amount of saying ‘Mellon’ could overcome Gandalf’s epic conquest of the Balrog. The last act of Gandalf the Grey (seeded #6) garnered twice as many votes as Durin’s magical doors (which were actually seeded higher, at #5), so the wizard goes through to the Final Four.

  • Gandalf Confronts the Balrog with Glamdring and the Flame of Anor (6)

The Two Towers Division

Gandalf on Gandalf action was the order of the day in this regional final! These moments are two kinds of resurrections – Mithrandir’s own, returning as Gandalf the White; and the rediscovery of his strength by Theoden, as Gandalf releases him from Saruman’s spell. The choice was pretty clear right from the start of voting, with the wizard’s return from the dead taking the lead and keeping it. Gandalf the White goes through to face an invisible Bilbo.

  • Gandalf the White Returns from the Dead (1)

The Return of the King Division

It looked like those Riders of Rohan might sweep all the way to ultimate victory, repeating their 2020 glory, when they were Champions in the battle amongst scenes from Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth movies. But it was not to be. By a larger margin than might have been expected, taking 1.5 times as many votes, the triumph of ‘No man’ over the Witch-king won this regional final.

  • The Witch-king Is Destroyed by “No Man” (1)
Eowyn slays the Witch-king, by Stephen Walsh
Staffer Madeye Gamgee had these thoughts on what we’ve seen so far – and what is to come!
  • Other than the FotR region, the OneRing staff ended up forecasting our final seeds fairly well, with two # 1 seeds (the Resurrection of Gandalf the White and the Death of the Witch King), and one #2 (Bilbo’s Discovery of the One Ring). The lowest seed left in the tournament comes from the FotR Region, the epic battle between the Flame of Udûn and the Flame of Anor wielded by Gandalf.
  • We’re left with some truly epic magic in the Final Four, and it’s really anybody’s tournament to win:
    • The first appearance of the One Ring, its true power still largely veiled
    • One of the most epic Maiar battles in the entire legendarium, as Gandalf and the Balrog face off on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm
    • The return from death by the super-charged Gandalf the White as he replaces Saruman as the true leader of powerful resistance against the reign of Sauron
    • The fulfillment of long prophecy of the fall of the Witch King of Angmar, a combination of a humble hobbit wielding a spell-lace Númenórean blade, and desperate Dernhelm revealed to deliver her final coup de grâce to destroy Sauron’s chief lieutenant
  • Will it be a Gandalf vs. Gandalf finale? Only if his White-robed persona can overcome the Power of the Ring, and his Balrog-battered bridge match can move past the crowd favorite, a climactic contest between Éowyn and the Lord of the Nazgûl.  Could we see Gandalf the White versus Gandalf the Grey in the championship match?
  • Will the One Ring prove its Power at last, with the Black Speech echoing across Middle-earth? Ash nazg durbatulûk indeed!
  • Will we see one of Tolkien’s most beloved scenes and themes, the triumph of the weak over seemingly insurmountable strength, embodied by a Shieldmaiden of Rohan, resound in victory even as her opponent wails and fades, powerless before her?

Only the magical Tolkien fandom can tell.

Place your votes! Now that we are down to the Final Four, we’ll just have one bracket to vote. Use the embedded experience below, or click here. Then click the ‘Vote Now’ option that appears at the top left of the page. Let’s get voting!

You have until the end of the day Saturday April 6th to vote in Round Five; Sunday 7th we’ll open voting for the Championship round. And then join us for TORn Tuesday on April 9th, when we’ll reveal this year’s Grand Winner! But which moment will it be? That’s up to YOU – vote now!