Helm's Dike

From Tolkien Gateway
Helm's Dike
A cropped section of J.R.R. Tolkien's aerial view of Helm's Deep
General Information
DescriptionEarthen wall and ditch
EventsBattle of the Hornburg

Helm's Dike was an earth wall that protected the upland of the Deeping-coomb before Helm's Deep.[1]


Helm's Dike was a quarter of a mile in front of the Hornburg and the Deeping Wall. It was an ancient high rampart made from earth behind a trench that stretched across the Deeping-coomb for a mile or more from one side of the valley to the other side. The Deeping-stream beside the Deeping-road ran from Helm's Deep through a wide breach in the rampart further down the Deeping-coomb.[2]


On 3 March T.A. 3019[3] King Théoden with Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Éomer, and other riders hurried to reach Helm's Deep before the army of Saruman could overtake them. When they came to the rampart the defenders of the dike were greatly cheered to learn of the arrival of the king, who stopped to learn of news.[2]

In the early stages of the Battle of the Hornburg, Orcs attacked the reargard[2] of the Rohirrim at the dike during the night. Gamling commanded the defence of the dike during which the archers of the rearguard used all their arrows and filled the dike with downed Orcs, but the defenders soon had to retreat on horses back to the Hornburg.[4]

The next morning, the defenders counter-attacked the orcs and Dunlendings and drove them over the Dike. Then, the king and his company stopped in amazement, for a quarter mile beyond the Dike was a new, nameless wood. In the space between the host of Saruman was caught in panic until, with the arrival of Gandalf and Erkenbrand, the orcs fled into the forest.[5]

As the victors rested, those who had been driven back into the caves (Gamling, Éomer, and Gimli among them) came over the wall to greet their friends.[6] In the middle of the field between the Hornburg and Helm's Dike two burial mounds, one for the men from the Westfold and one for the men from the East Dales were raised while a mound for the men from Dunland was erected below the dike.[7] Later, near sunset, Théoden, Gandalf, and the others left the Dike on their way to Isengard.[8] In the middle of the night between 3 March and 4 March T.A. 3019[9]men in the Hornburg heard a great noise in the valley and the ground trembled. In the next morning they discovered that the new wood had disappeared and that someone, probably the Huorns[10], had dug a huge pit below the dike and had piled up stones into a hill over it, which was called the Death Down, because it was believed that the dead Orcs had been buried there.[11]


The element Helm in the name Helm's Dike refers to the name of a man called Helm.[12] The gorge behind the Hornburg was called Helm's Deep after King Helm of Rohan sought refuge in the Hornburg when his realm was invaded by the ursurper Wulf and the Dunlendings.[13] As a consequence, it is probable that the element Helm in the name Helm's Dike also refers to King Helm of Rohan.