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Battle of the Hornburg

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"Who told you, and who sent you?" — Gandalf
This article or section needs more/new/more-detailed sources to conform to a higher standard and to provide proof for claims made.
The name Helm's Deep refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Helm's Deep (disambiguation).
Battle of the Hornburg
The Battle at Helm's Deep by Alan Lee
Conflict: War of the Ring
Date: March 3-4, T.A. 3019
Place: Helm's Deep (especially the Hornburg)
Outcome: Victory for the Rohirrim

Rohirrim, Three Hunters, Huorns

Uruk-hai of Isengard, Dunlendings

  • Unknown

About 3000 Rohirrim, a "forest" of Huorns

10,000 at the least


Heavy, but precise numbers are unknown

The entire force of Uruk-hai; many Dunlendings slain, the rest surrendered

War of the Ring
Osgiliath (1) · Fords of Isen · Isengard · Hornburg · Osgiliath (2) · Dale · Siege of Gondor · Pelennor Fields · Black Gate · Dol Guldur · Bywater

The Battle of the Hornburg is also referred to as the Battle of Helm's Deep. The battle pitted the forces of Saruman against the warriors of Rohan under King Théoden, who had taken refuge in the mountain fortress of Helm's Deep.


The Armies


The army of Rohan consisted of 1000 cavalry forces from Edoras led by King Théoden. This force included Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, and Théoden's nephew Éomer. This army joined with Rohan's garrison of around 1000 at the Hornburg.

The army was reinforced by 1000 scattered Rohirrim troops from the Westfold rallied by Gandalf and led by Erkenbrand. A forest of Huorns entered the valley independently, seeking revenge on Saruman's orcs.


The army of Saruman consisted of his specially bred Uruk-hai orcs supported by human Dunlendings. The total size of the Isengard force isn't specified, but it was much larger than the Rohirrim army holding the fortress.


The Battle

The forces of Saruman arrived at the valley of Helm's Deep in the middle of the night and quickly scaled over the first defense, Helm's Dike, and attempted to break down the fortress's gate with a battering ram. But Aragorn, Éomer, and some other Rohirrim attacked, through a passage on the side of the Hornburg, scattering the forces threatening the doors.

The Orcs and Dunlendings then raised hundreds of ladders to scale the wall. Aragorn and Éomer had to repeatedly move the defenders, who were getting weary, to repel the Orcs coming up the ladders and crossing the wall. However, some Orcs had crept in though a culvert which let a stream out of Helm's Deep, and while the defenders were busy with the assault on the wall, they suddenly attacked, having made it past the wall. The defenders quickly reacted and drove back the Orcs, and the culvert was blocked up under supervision by Gimli.

However, the enemies reentered the culvert and caused an explosion using a device of Saruman's. This made a wide hole in the wall, and Saruman's forces could not be stopped. The defenders retreated to the Glittering Caves and to the Hornburg. Soon Saruman's forces used their blasting fire to gain entrance to the keep. At this moment, however, the horn of Helm's Deep was sounded, and after a moment a sortie led by Théoden and Aragorn rode forth, followed by men on foot from the keep, and the defenders of the caves , who made a break-out attempt and were driving the enemy out of the deep. Théoden and Aragorn cut through the Orcs and Dunlendings and arrived at Helm's Dike.

Both armies then noticed that many trees, Huorns, had moved to block a possible escape route for the Orcs. Then Gandalf, Erkenbrand, and a thousand riders from the Westfold arrived, and charged. The Dunlendings were so terrified of Gandalf that they could no longer fight. The Orcs lost control and ran into the trees, where the Huorns destroyed them. Thus, Rohan won the battle.


After the battle those Dunlendings who surrendered were given amnesty by King Théoden and allowed to return to home. The Rohirrim required that all hostilities cease, and that the Dunlendings retreat behind the Isen river again. The slain Dunlendings were buried in a mound of their own apart from the Orc carcasses.

Portrayal in Adaptations

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers:

The Battle of the Hornburg is a key part of this film. The amount of time spent around the battle in the movie was much more than in the original book. In the context of the film, it is referred to as the Battle of Helm's Deep, a title which was never used by Tolkien but which is often used by fans, probably because it occupies a chapter entitled "Helm's Deep".
One major difference in the film is that Elrond, at the prompting of Galadriel, sends a contingent of Elven archers to reinforce the defence of the keep. A similar event takes place in the novel, in which Elrond and Galadriel send a company of Aragorn's fellow Rangers, accompanied by Elrond's sons, Elladan and Elrohir, bringing the gift of a banner and the advice to take the Paths of the Dead. In the book, however, this takes place after the Battle of the Hornburg.
In the book, it is never made explicitly clear by what method the Uruk-hai cause the explosion that blasts a whole in the Deeping Wall, with Aragorn just vaguely calling it "some devilry of Orthanc". It's not clear whether this was some magical attack caused by Saruman from Orthanc (similar to the avalanche on Caradhras in the first movie), or some sort of invention of Saruman's. The movie explicitly shows that Saruman, fitting with his theme of misusing his knowledge to empower his armies with a sort of proto-Industrial Revolution, makes his own gunpowder and uses it to make blasting charges that the Uruk-hai then ignite.
In the movie, the thousands of troops of Saruman laid siege to the fortress which was defended by around 300 men (many of whom were too young or too old to fight) which the Rohirrim could muster and the aforementioned Elven Archers. When Legolas says there are "300" Rohirrim there he may have meant at that time as more were fleeing to the fortress, because visually there are more than 300 Rohirrim appearing on screen in the battle. This reference to "300 against 10,000" was probably meant as a reference to the ancient Battle of Thermopylae. These forces suffered heavy losses, but held out till dawn when Gandalf arrived with thousands of Rohirrim riders who finally turned the tide of the battle and sent Saruman's forces into retreat.