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Archive for the ‘7 – Helm’s Deep’ Category

Quick hit to end the battle of Helm’s Deep. So, Gandalf is leading the charge down the valley-side, and the orcs (and wild men, lest we forget them) have nowhere to go but into the trees.

No! Not the trees!

No! Not the trees!

Bad things happen in there. The orcs don’t come back.

And that’s the end of the battle, and the chapter! That was easy.

It is hard to get the scale of the battle right when reading it. Did you? I mean, I have so many images in my head that it might not matter anyway, but I wonder if the casual, non-educated reader would have troubled imagining the pure size of this battle. It’s big, mostly only on the orc side, but still.

Orc side.

Orc side.

We’ll return tomorrow with the aftermath, in addition to getting to move on from this death trap of a gorge.

“Wailing they passed under the waiting shadow of the trees; and from that shadow none ever came again.”

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They rode out. They met them. Good things happened.

Théoden’s charge has worked out pretty well, scattering the enemy into the forest. Wait…forest?

Surprise forest!

Surprise forest!

A forest has suddenly appeared at the opening of Helm’s Deep, and the orcs are trapped between it and Théoden’s army. They try to scramble up the walls of the gorge, to no avail. The western side might be gradually sloped enough to climb, but a white rider appears at its top. Men march behind him. It’s Gandalf! He’s found Erkenbrand, and together they charge down to flank the orcs. They’re gonna have a bad time.

By the way, the sounds of more men charging from the caves can be heard by the cavalry. They seem to have escaped the press of the orcs deep in the valley. And who are they led by? My money’s on Gimli and Éomer, of course.

The biggest surprise here, other than Gandalf arriving with Erkenbrand instead of Éomer, like the movie shows, is that Théoden’s plan actually deals quite a blow to the orcs. It’s not just cleaving a wedge into the mass of bodies, but actually driving the whole of the army backwards. Don’t ever deny the strength of a cavalry charge.

Basically...RUN!

Basically…RUN!

And the forest? No one knows. Legolas wants to go look at it. Did someone here order a forest? There’s going to be quite the delivery charge on that.

Except, this forest came on its own. It’s too bad no one thinks of taking this opportunity to use a new ally. Well, not that the trees would willingly participate in the various other battles of the moment.

New mercenary class: trees.

“Down from the hills leaped Erkenbrand, lord of Westfold. Down leaped…”

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And lo, the dawn is breaking.

"I can fix it!"

“I can fix it!”

Is that why Aragorn went to talk to the orcs, hm? Well, I don’t think they’re buying it, even with his veiled threats to their lives if they don’t turn around and leave right this minute. Aragorn looks kingly for a moment, but nothing really happens. Nothing, that is, until he jumps down and the orcs blow the gate to smithereens. A feeling comes over the orcs, strange and disheartening. Suddenly, the horn of Helm blows in the Deep, echoing, and yet…not echoing. It’s just plain loud. Théoden, Aragorn, and selected lords ride forth with the dawn.

A stall tactic? Maybe, but I don’t think Théoden knew about it. At least, it doesn’t sound like he did. It’s more likely in my mind that Aragorn just happened to come down off the wall right before the dawn, and, luckily, right before the orcs blew it up. I guess his horse was nearby?

Whatever, I’m right about the morale boost here. The horn probably does the trick, regardless of Théoden’s heroism. I have to admit, a canyon has to be one of the better places to sound a battle horn – it can echo for days.

Oh, sadness.

Oh, sadness.

But…is it just the one horn? Something about the noise seems to imply that there’s another horn sounding, stronger than just a returning echo. “Nearer now and louder they answered one to another,” the text says. Really good horn, or more than one?

Help is on the way? Only in Rohan can you definitively say that the cavalry is coming.

“Down from the gates they roared, over the causeway they swept, and they…”

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Things are looking bad, and Théoden is running out of options. Pretty much the only thing saving hope is that the Hornburg is nearly impervious to attack. If that was 100% sure, everything would be just fine.

Sometimes the hardest part is understanding the fortress in the first place.

Sometimes the hardest part is understanding the fortress in the first place.

Sadly, that’s not true. With orcs crawling everywhere, the caves have been nearly sealed up, and Théoden has nothing to do but wait until the end. But the end can be grand! He wants to ride out at dawn, and cut his way through as far as he can go. Perhaps that will be a death worthy of song. Aragorn agrees to go with him, but spends the next bit of time moving around the walls, giving aid to the men fighting. Grappling hooks and ladders are constantly thrown back time and time again.

Finally, Aragorn reaches the gate, where he holds up his hand in parley. The orcs laugh at him, wanting Théoden to come out.

Agree with him or not, but Théoden’s idea isn’t the worst thing that could happen. At worst, he dies, but the morale boost would be huge, right? Maybe even send everybody they can out. Cavalry riding at full speed has to make a significant dent in the orc army at least.

Ride out and meet them!

Ride, Snowmane!

Ride, Snowmane!

Now, what is Aragorn doing? Does he have a plan for this little chat? Good question. Let’s see how this plays out tomorrow. The battle of Helm’s Deep is extremely different in the text than in the film.

Words My Computer Didn’t Like:

-enheartening

The lack of respect for “enheartening” is hardly…enheartening.

YEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!

“‘We are the fighting Uruk-hai.'”

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Let’s split up gang!

It would normally be a terrible idea, but I have a feeling that everything is going to work out okay. We do have some 500 more pages left in this book.

Elephant size!

Elephant size!

So, with Legolas giving him an arrow of covering fire, Aragorn works his way into the Hornburg, finding Théoden and Gamling. Théoden isn’t too happy about recent events. To add to that, Gimli and Éomer are missing. Most people believe that they probably fought their way back to the caves, though Legolas isn’t too happy because Gimli’s kill count is just getting higher.

Competition drives war. Both literally and comically. I mean, would Legolas and Gimli be killing so many orcs if they weren’t keeping track against each other? Well, probably. But, we don’t care about the lives of the orcs. Kill them all you want! We’ll only get upset if one of our heroes goes down. For the moment, they seem to be just fine.

Meanwhile, has Théoden even seen battle? He seems like he’s only been standing in the Hornburg, looking out of a window dramatically.

I must defend my homeland.

I must defend my homeland.

I personally would prefer a king who rode out to battle with his men. Is that too much to ask? However, I think we might be driving towards that. The movie does, anyway, even though he does fight a little bit before then.

Don’t forget, before leaving Edoras, Théoden did appoint Éomer as his heir, so he wasn’t entirely expecting to return alive. What’s wrong with putting it all on the line right now? Is he getting cold feet?

Nevertheless, the battle rages on today, even though the page is mostly talking and taking stock of the situation. Hey, we can only describe hewing, leaping, bow-bending, and assaulting for so long.

“‘But the Orcs have brought a devilry from Orthanc,’ said Aragorn.”

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The wild men of the hills are nasty, and Gamling’s going to tell us all about it. You see, when Eorl brought the Rohirrim down from the north, they settled in this area after it was granted to them by Gondor in thanks for their aid. However, this land wasn’t unpopulated. These hill men lived here. The Rohirrim took the lands right out from under them.

Oh, that sounds familiar.

Oh, that sounds familiar.

There you have all the reason for the hill men to rate Rohan, and that’s why they won’t let up in the assault on Helm’s Deep. Good luck trying to tell them and the stronger-than-average orcs otherwise.

However, as Aragorn preaches the history of the Hornburg being untaken by any enemies, an explosion rips through the air. The attackers have bombed the Deeping Wall at the drainage point, and the hordes are flowing in. Aragorn valiantly tries to hold the stairway into the Hornburg, with Legolas watching with one arrow left, as the men file into safety. Turning to get to safety himself, Aragorn bites it hard and falls down.

No, there isn’t an epic slow-motion here-comes-the-boom moment of a suicide orc running with the explosives. That’s not to say it didn’t happen, but it’s unlikely.

He's just trying to put a really big candle in a really big cake.

He’s just trying to put a really big candle in a really big cake.

There’s no denying that the attack is focused on this weak point, even though it hasn’t been defined as such yet in the text. Whether it’s crawling through or just blowing the whole thing up, these orcs (and hill men) knew to target this point in the wall. Again, they’re not just stronger, but also smarter-than-average orcs.

Words My Computer Didn’t Like:

-Forgoil

-Strawheads

These are insults that the hill men throw at the Rohirrim. I don’t know what “Forgoil” means, but “Strawheads” is a reference to the dominance of blonde hair among these people. You know the hill tribes have got to have the best blonde jokes in Middle-earth.

“Up came the Orcs, yelling, with their long arms stretched out to seize him. The…”

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Now is the sad part where I have to come down off of how great yesterday was. Please bear with me in this troubling time.

It’s just another day of battle. Ho hum.

With their victory over the sneaky orcs, Gamling asks Gimli if he can help stop up the hole in the wall through which the orcs got in. Sadly, dwarves don’t do their best stonework with axes and hands, but Gimli at least helps all the men pile up rocks to mostly block the drain. The Deeping-stream pools behind it in the valley, nearly dammed. Afterwards, Gimli returns again to Legolas, touting his 21 kills. Legolas smugly admits his 24 or so.

He didn't choose the smug life.

He didn’t choose the smug life.

Meanwhile, the battle has lulled a bit, as the orcs have realized their brief failure. Dawn can’t be too far away, though that hope is probably all for naught. These orcs, Gamling reports, have no fear of sunlight. Neither do the hill men, of course.

Um…so I don’t have another movie review today. I’m really sorry. What else can I say?

Is this where we learn about the Uruk-hai, and their strength under the sun? That is, of course, the reason why they were made: to be stronger than the average orc. These very orcs were the ones able to carry Merry and Pippin across long stretches of the Rohan plain in daytime. Saruman has bred them to his purposes.

Just like the best purebred Rottweilers.

Just like the best purebred Rottweilers.

However, it is nice to see a break in the action. Why not give everyone a minute to rest? With the dawn just breaking, the momentum could swing our heroes’ way. Not that they have much of an advantage anyway, but at least they can gain some hope. Gamling apparently doesn’t like hope, so he shoots that down.

Gosh…no more countdown! I guess I stopped yesterday, but I was too busy thinking about other things to care. Now, I care.

“‘Yet there are many that cry in the Dunland tongue,’ said Gamling.”

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