Helm's Deep (chapter)

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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).
Helm's Deep
Chapter of The Two Towers
Information
Number7
Synopsis
EventThe Battle of the Hornburg is won by Théoden; Saruman's forces are defeated.
Date3 March 3019
LocationHelm's Deep
Map
DunlandFangorn ForestRohanEastemnetWestemnetHelm's DeepGap of RohanFords of IsenEdorasIsengardNan CurunírMisty MountainsWhite Mountains
Navigation
Preceded byThe King of the Golden Hall
Followed byThe Road to Isengard

Helm's Deep is the seventh chapter of the first book in The Two Towers.

Summary

The host of Théoden rides from Edoras and are heading north-west towards Isengard, with them goes Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli. They are planning to meet up with the king's men holding the Fords of Isen against the forces of Saruman.

As they ride towards the Wizard’s Vale a shadow creeps down from the feet of the Misty Mountains, whilst from behind them comes a storm of Mordor. On the second day the dark clouds have overtaken them when a rider approaches seeking Éomer and warning the host to retreat back to Edoras. The forces of Saruman; Orcs, wild hillmen and Dunlanders, have driven back the Rohirrim guarding the crossing and have slain the kings son Théodred. Erkenbrand of Westfold has pulled the remaining men back to Helm's Deep.

Gandalf counsels King Théoden to go to Helm's Deep now, before saying he must leave on a swift errand, promising to return and he will meet them there.

The host now turns south and rides towards the refuge of the Hornburg, a great keep originally built by Gondor before Rohan was ceded the land of Calenardhon. The fortress is built upon a heel of rock thrust outward by a cliff from the mountain Thrihyrne, beneath it there was a wide culvert from which the Deeping-stream flowed and behind it there were a great many caves leading into the heart of the White Mountains.

Upon arriving at Helm's Deep they find it in good repair and well manned, though many of those men were old or very young. They do not have long to prepare their defenses before the first assault by the enemy. They come in far greater numbers and bring ladders and battering rams; they are repelled time and again from the walls. Just as the enemy appears to be breaking through the main gates Aragorn and Éomer attack the orcs through a hidden gate, yelling the name of their swords Andúril and Gúthwinë as they repel the attackers, in the aftermath Éomer is almost killed by a pair of hidden orcs but he is unexpectedly saved by Gimli who had been watching the pair fight.

The night wears on and the defenders weary as the forces of Saurman continue to pour into the valley and assault the Hornburg. Some broke through the culvert in the wall and attacked from behind, but they were quickly slain or driven into the chasm of the Deep by Gimli, Gamling and the men of Westfold. Gimli then directs the men to block up the culvert with small boulders and broken stones.

However that would not hold off the enemy for long, for Saruman had devised some devilry that blasted the culvert open with fire and at the same time the forces attacked anew. Aragorn and Legoals led what men they could back to the main fortress of the Hornburg, whilst many more were driven back into the caves behind the Deep, along with Gimli, Éomer and Gamling.

Théoden then begins to doubt the strength of his men and the fastness of the Hornburg but he is determined to go out at sunrise, ride into the enemy with his guard and make an end for themselves worthy of song. At dawn Aragorn rides out with Théoden and the lords of the House of Eorl the Young to the sound of trumpets echoing in the hillsides, they drove through the hosts of Isengard and pushed the enemy from the gates. The enemy who had started to fall back found themselves in fear and confusion as where before there had been a green dale, there was now a great dark forest. They tried to scramble up the hillsides to escape both men and the trees, but their final doom arrived in the form of Erkenbrand and Gandalf leading a thousand men on foot down the slopes from the west. The men broke, the orcs fled and after the battle the enemy were either captured, slain or disappeared into the forest, never to be seen again.

Composition

See also: Helm's Deep (The War of the Ring)
Description text and sketch of an aerial view of Helm's Deep by J.R.R. Tolkien, c. 1942

This chapter, along with the five final chapters of Book III were writen as a whole (not in consequence) during his spare time in summer and autumn 1942. In successive drafts of the chapter, the Deep's fortifications, and the battle, became increasingly more elaborate and complex.[1]

The chapter includes the infamous Gimli's line "Till now I have hewn naught but wood since I left Moria", as if "forgetting" the Orcs he killed in the Breaking of the Fellowship. The apparent inconsistency was known to Hammond and Scull, but decided not to deal with it while editing the 50th Anniversary Edition as it would require rewriting to emend.[2]

References

  1. Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond (2006), The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, p. xxiv
  2. Note on the 50th Anniversary Edition, p. xvii