We come to it at last – the great battle of our time… Well, at least of this year’s Middle-earth March Madness 2024: Magical Moments. TORn staffers picked 64 happenings from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which could be considered magical events. (Though what exactly counts as ‘magic’ in Middle-earth is, of course, up for debate!) These moments were seeded based on staffer’s votes, divided into four bracket (one for each book), and so it began. Now, three weeks later and with thousands of votes cast, we are down to the final two. Let’s see how the Semi-finals played out:

The Hobbit Division vs The Two Towers Division

The first time Bilbo experiences the power of the Ring, becoming invisible when seeking to escape Gollum, deep under the Misty Mountains, was the winning moment of The Hobbit bracket. It faced the victor from The Two Towers region, no less a moment than the return from the dead of Mithrandir, coming back to Middle-earth as Gandalf the White. Two absolutely iconic moments – and you might have expected a tight battle. In fact, the power of the Ring was no match for the wizard; The Two Towers contestant took 70% more votes than its opponent. So Gandalf the White strides into the final. Who or what will be his adversary?

The Fellowship of the Ring Division vs The Return of the King Division

This showdown was a much tighter contest then the other Semi-final. Just SIX votes made the difference between the contenders during much of this round – even as the numbers rose, that margin stayed more or less the same. It’s a duel between the defeat of the Witch-king by ‘No Man’ and Gandalf’s overthrowing of the Balrog. Will we have an all Gandalf championship battle?

The answer is … yes! At the last moment, coming in just under the wire, and having been trailing for most of this round, the wizard won by ONE VOTE. Eowyn overcame the Lord of the Nazgul, but could not defeat the Maiar. And so an event which started off seeded all the way down at #6 in its bracket confronts a #1 seeded event in the Final. It’s The Fellowship of the Ring vs The Two Towers, a kind of ‘before and after’ – the battle against the Balrog, and the return thereafter:

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


  • Gandalf the White Returns from the Dead (1)
Staffer Madeye Gamgee was excited by this nail-biting thriller of a Semi-final:

What a magical finish for our penultimate round! I cannot recall ever having such a tight matchup in the history of Middle-earth March Madness. The Witch-king’s Fall to “No Man” had led during the entirety of its Final Four Round, but the lead was always “walking on the edge of a knife”, hardly ever more than 10 votes. And in perhaps the upset of the tournament, the FotR champion, only the number six seed in its own region, pulls off the last second victory, squeaking by the iconic moment on the Pelennor Field by a single vote. Sadly perhaps for Éowyn and Merry fans (and possibly a ‘crushing blow’ for Witch-king fans…), our March Madness tournament officials have yet to figure out instant replay technology. What a Balrog Burner of a match!

The return of Gandalf the White from his journeys beyond thought and time easily handled the contest with Bilbo’s Ring of Invisibility, despite its darker Power lurking in the background. At least for this tournament, the One Ring will not rule them all.

Which leads us to a dream matchup between two versions of possibly the most magical icon of the Third Age: Gandalf. Can Gandalf the Grey keep his momentum going? Slaying a Balrog is no small thing. Or will Gandalf’s resurrection as an Istari more evenly matched against Sauron prove that he has brought more than just a fool’s hope to this magical tournament?

It should be very clear by now that the ultimate tournament outcome lies in the hands of the fans. And even the smallest single vote can change the course of the future.

Place your votes! As with the Semi-final, we 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!

Which Magical Moment will be the Champion for Middle-earth March Madness 2024? You decide! Would you like to see the wielding of Glamdring and the flame of Anor sweep to victory? Or is Gandalf’s return from the dead unbeatable magic? Rally the troops and place your votes! Voting will be open until the start of TORn Tuesday on Tuesday April 9th; we’ll take a look back over the contest and reveal this year’s Grand Winner during the show. But which moment will it be? That’s up to YOU – vote now!