of the Rings: Book 3, Chapter 7
A Discussion Led by glaze
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- Book III, Chapter VII:
1. almost cinematic - Gorel
Now that the upcoming movies are often on my mind, I was struck by how
cinematically visual this chapter is. Tolkien moves the reader's point of
view precisely from the coomb up to the fortress, where the scene of the
coming action is described so we can later orient ourselves. He then
builds the tension by revealing the hordes of orcs only by their torches in
the night, and the fall of the dike only by sound, carefully concealing the
true size and nature of their army to let our imaginations run wild. And
then he unleashes the full horror of the situation with a lightning strike
which suddenly makes the monster visible.
And my memories of this chapter are always full of powerful imagery.
There's the rain and lightning, and Theoden in his doubt silhouetted against
the tower window, the white fire of Anduril, and the blasting fire of
Saruman, and Gandalf shining as he appears over the hill. And probably my
favorite image: "and the men of the Mark amazed looked out, as it seemed to
them, upon a great field of dark corn, tossed by a tempest of war, and every
ear glinted with barbed light."
All in all I'd say this scene was almost written to be adapted to film.
- Yes and No - specific and vague - Banizar
Yes, he has very specific imagery that does seem like the way a movie
would show things. But he also is vague about the exact layout, and the
specifics of all the "extras". But in many of these kinds of things he
is vague on purpose I believe so that the reader may paint in their own
geography. This is one of the things I find most impressive about the
books on a whole. So many times in later life have I gone back to the
text and realized just how little he does say and how much of my oh, so
very specific images of Lorien or Moria or Helm's Deep, etc. was
actually invented in my own head. He gave me just enough to spark my
own brain into inventing my own Middle Earth. Somehow the author used
just the right amount of hints and partially filling in the scenic stuff
to ultimately join with the reader's own noggin in making it much more
detailed and expansive than one person could have come up with on their
own. This to me is the genius of Tolkien in action.
- For me, he did what he needed to - Gorel
I think it's possible Tolkien didn't even have as good a map of
Helm's Deep as we do. He linked the pieces of his stage together
well enough to understand and enjoy the action. I certainly didn't
waste any time the first few times I read it wondering where that
postern door was! It was too exciting. But I understood there was
a rock with a tower at the entrance to a gorge, and a wall extending
from it across the gorge, with a stream flowing under it at one
point, etc. It's not enough information to draw a map, but it's
enough to paint your own picture of the action (as you pointed out).
But when I said cinematic I didn't mean that Tolkien provided all
the details necessary for a film maker to construct a set. I meant
the way he establishes the scene and moves the reader's point of
view, and the emphasis on visual techniques to add drama to the
scene. For instance, an unseen menace in the dark, revealed
suddenly by a lightning strike. It just seems like a director could
make storyboards very easily from the text.
- For the spatially challenged: - GaladrielTX
Interesting that Gorel comments on the wealth of visual description in
this chapter. Tolkien does spend a lot of time with description. Yet
I've read it many times, and I don't think I've ever figured out exactly
where everything lies in relation to everything else. I've had this
problem with other Tolkien battles, too, like the Pelennor. Perhaps
it's because I'm not fond of battle scenes and don't concentrate enough,
or perhaps there's just something about the way he presents it verbally
that I can't relate to. Does anyone else have this problem?
- GTX, I have the same problem. - Elemmírë
and I, too, think it might be because I am seriously spatially
challenged and probably don't concentrate hard enough on where
everything is. Helm's Deep's layout has always confused me, so I
read for the descriptions of what the characters are doing and how
they interact. The one-upmanship of Gimli and Legolas delights me,
and I worry over the safety of the other main characters. Where
they are is somewhat beyond me, lest I had a map, which I don't.
I'll be curious to see it in the films - and how much this section
of the film colors my later readings of the chapter.
- Same problem here. - septembrist
I still have a hard time figuring out the layout at Helm's Deep.
And I have not seen any maps to help me out.
I have no problem with Pelennor though.
- I agree with both of you: - Rhudainor
It is a stunning chapter and one of my favorites, but the geography
of the Deeping Coomb and the layout of Hornburg can be a bit hard to
visualize. Until I succeeded in finding a very detailed strategic
map of the battle, both in regards to the fortress, the wall, and so
forth. Unfortunately I don't know how to enclose a file from my
harddisk to these messages. I mean, there is no URL-link to write.
- Yes, me too, GTX. - Kimi
I never really got a clear picture of how Helm's Deep "works" until
I got the Karen Wynn Fonstad "Atlas of Middle-earth". It also gave
me a clear picture of where Cirith Ungol and Minas Morgul are in
relation to each other. Mr Kimi, on the other hand, had no trouble
envisaging Helm's Deep etc. And yes, I can read maps very well.
- Extra credit Helm's Deep question - Gorel
How do you get horses up into the Deep behind the wall? Do they
take the stairs?
- Panto horses? - Kimi
A la Ian McKellen's latest report. "In a long file they led
their horses up the ramp and passed within the gates of the
Hornburg." So there's a ramp as well as stairs. I do have
trouble picturing all this, though. I need that Atlas.
- Hahahaha! - GaladrielTX
Maybe I should look into buying that atlas. Pictures
would help. (I feel the need to save face here: I,
too, can read maps.)
- That's the ramp to the gates from the
outside - Gorel
The Gates open on the outer court. But then there are
stairs from the outer court down to the Deeping Wall,
and another set down from the outer court to the floor
of the Deep behind the wall (where Aragorn trips before
a mysterious boulder chucker saves him). "The horses
were led far up the Deep under such guard as could be
spared." These are the guards and horses later menaced
by the first orcs to crawl through the culvert.
It's hard to imagine they would want to lead the horses
down the stairs, so I think Tolkien overlooked this.
It's not important, just a curiousity.
- Horses can do stairs - Kimi As
long as they're fairly broad and shallow. But you're
right, it might just have been an oversight.
Return to Book III Discussion Index
- Book III, Chapter VII;
Starting some discussions, and a response to Ron Austin. - glaze
I hope to post some provacative threads in the next few days regarding the
"Helm's Deep" Chapter. But regarding the correction that Ron gave me
regarding the Huorns, where he stated that they "camr on their own", I
cannot agree. In Chapter IX, "Flotsam and Jetsam", Pippin describes how
Gandalf came to Isengard after the Ents had taken it over. Gandalf asks for
Treebeard's help and says how he has "ten thousand Orcs to manage"
Treebeard, later in the Chapter, says how, "Huorns will help." I can't help
but assume that Gandalf asked Treebeard for help at the Deep, and that
Treebeard sent the Huorns. What does everyone else think?
- Gandalf showed up at Isengard after the Ents had
destroyed it ... - Ron
The Hurons had already split off and headed after the Orc Army before
Gandalf showed up.
- Yes, that is true, but... - glaze
What is the motivation for the Huorns to do that before Gandalf
showed up? Yes, they hated the Orcs, and Saruman, for what had been
done to Fangorn, but how would they even know where the Orcs were?
And why would Gandalf show up, practically beg Treebeard for help,
and act happy afterward, if Treebeard did not do anything to help?
In my opinion, The Huorns were in the reargaurd of the attack on
Isengard, ready for use if the Ents had failed. Since the Ents did
not have to actually fight against the Orcs, evil Men, etc. who were
housed in Isengard, but rather flooded the place, the Huorns were
not needed. So when Gandalf showed up asking for assisyance at
Helm's Deep, Treebeard sent the Huorns to aid the cause of the
Rohirrim. That explains Treebeards rather cryptic comment, "Huorns
will help." that he made to Merry and Pippin after Gandalf had left
- the Ents decide to attack Saruman during the
Ent Moot - Ron
Treebeard and the Ents are at the gates of Isengard when
Saruman's Army leaves to attack Helm's Deep and some of the Ents
and the forest of Hurons follow the Orc Army. Gandalf shows up
at Isengard after the Ents have cornered Saruman in the Tower of
Orthanc. Gandalf fills in Treebeard on what is happening and
they decide to flood Isengard to keep Saruman from escaping then
Gandalf is off to gather the scattered remnants of the army of
- I can tell that we disagree about the
timing of this issue. - glaze
But my belief is that the Ents decide to flood Isengard well
before Gandalf shows up, and that the Huorn (and Ent) force
goes after the Orcs at Gandalfs' urging, and not on their
own. This can be backed up by a careful reading of Book III,
Chapter IX (Flotsam and Jetsam) where Pippin describes the
activities of the Ents in the floding of Isengard,
especially the "...rending, tearing noise of work going on
inside. Ents and Huorns were digging great pits and
trenches, making great pools and dams, gathering all the
waters of the Isen and every other spring and steam that
they could find." This all occurs BEFORE Gandalf shows up
(which would lead you to the belief that the flloding was in
no way precipitated by Gandalf). And when Gandalf does show
up, he speaks of having, "...ten thousand Orcs to handle." I
doubt that he would have said this if the Huorns were
already on their way to Helm's Deep. It is my opinion that
he knew that the Ents were going to go to Isengard and whale
on Saruman (see Chapter 5) and went there to ask for help. I
agree tht the Ents decide to go after Saruman at Entmoot,
and that Gandalf helps regroup the army of Westfold and
brings Erkenbrand to the Deep in the nick of time (to coin
an original phrase). However, to suggest that the Huorns and
the Ents went after the Orc army independently is to turn a
blind eye to the way the story is written.
I am in no way intending to be insulting, but merely reading
the work as written. If you can find backup for your
opinions in the written material, I will shut up.
- I will try again - Ron
In next weeks chapter " The Road to Isengard"
Chapter 8 pages 148 and 149:
Then they all gazed at Gandalf with still greater
glanced darkly at the wood, and passed their hands over
as if they thought their eyes saw otherwise than his.
Gandalf laughed long and merrily. "The trees?" he
I see the wood as plainly as do you. But that is no
deed of mine.
It is a thing beyond the council of the wise. Better
than my design,
and better even than my hope the event has proved" I
propose that we put off this question till next week
when we actually discus chapter 8.
- I think that it's pretty clear... - Eomund's
...as we find out after the fact, that the Huorns arrived (a) in
Treebeard's following when the Ents first marched, and (b) that they
assisted the Rohirrim (and really themselves) as a result of Gandalf's
visit to Treebeard. I think it's right there in the text, as you noted.
- Yes, I doubt that they just decided to go on
their own. - Annael
But I need to check the later chapters to see what Merry & Pippin
said about it. As I recall they said that the Huorns followed them
to Isengard, but didn't participate in the attack, instead moved off
somewhere else. I can't remember if the Huorns left before Gandalf
came to Isengard the first time, though.
- I think you're right, Glaze - Kimi
That exchange in "Flotsam and Jetsam" does seem to imply that Treebeard
sent the Huorns in response to Gandalf's request for help in "managing"
ten thousand orcs.
Return to Book III Discussion Index
- Book III, Chapter VII:
3. Gimli and Legolas - glaze
I do not know how many of you managed to slog your way all the way through
my mammoth post of last night, where I brought up several points regarding
this chapter. On the advice on Annael, I am trying to break it down into
several digestible bits. One of the favorite parts, for all posters it
seems, is the interplay between Gimli and Legolas in this chapter. It is my
opinion that the difference in the attitudes between the two are indicitive
of the differences between the two races, Elf and Dwarf. Gimli seems to
enjoy the battle. At one point he states how, "This is more to my liking."
He is speaking about drawing near to the White Mountains as they ride from
Edoras, but in my opinion, he could be speaking about the battle as well.
Apart from his affection for Galadriel, Gimli is a simple sort, and his zest
for life and living is nowhere more evident in this chapter, where at one
point he shouts the number of his casualties BEFORE he kills the Orc who
completes his tally. Legolas, on the other hand, is more depressed about the
whole thing. He is unhappy about being near the mountains, and decries the
lack of archers. he plays his part valiantly, and takes part in the game
with Gimli, but one senses that he is rather remote from the entire
situation, as most Elves have been remote from Middle-Earth in the Third
Age. He shows little of the zeal that Gimli does in the battle. Comments
like "that is but a few leaves in a forest" do little to dispel this
feeling. What do you think?
- Legolas seems lonely & homesick here. - Annael
I think he feels more isolated and far from home than Gimli does. Also -
this is a new thought - perhaps the reason why he began to spend more
time with Gimli at Lothlorien was because he didn't feel all that at
home with the High-Elves of Lorien either. He and Gimli were both
strangers in a strange land. At Helm's Deep he was even farther out of
his element, while Gimli at least felt at home in the mountains. Legolas
perks up when he gets to be under trees again and meets Treebeard. I
assume he does go home again after the war is over and Aragorn is
crowned & married, and he and Gimli visit the Caves and Fangorn as they
promised each other. He would want to report to his father what's
happened, and Gimli must have gone back to the Lonely Mountain. But I
suspect they both found that "you can't go home again" and returned to
Minas Tirith as soon as they could.
- Good observation :)> - Steve
- You're mostly on target... - Eomund's
...it's shown throughout the text up to this point that Legolas is, by
virtue of being an Elf, slightly removed from the proceedings even as he
participates in them. (The nature of Elvish sleep and dreams even
illustrates this.) He's clearly more in love with the woodlands and
finds dwellings of dwarves and men in stone uncomfortable. That being
said...I think that he does get a little "into" the competition with
Gimli, and that it serves as a (further) bonding element between these
two very different characters.
- bonding - Gorel
We get to see lots of bonding in this chapter, between Legolas and
Gimli and between Aragorn and Eomer. In both cases it's the shared
experience of battle that brings them closer.
Return to Book III Discussion Index
- Book III, Chapter VII,
4. Helms Deep Battle and layout. - glaze
One thing that I have always found confusing in this chapter is the actual
geography of Helm's Deep. The White Mountains run East-West. To my
understanding, the Deep is a bay or gorge in the mountains. To my mind, this
gorge shoud run North-South. However, Tolkien speaks of the Deeping Wall
running North-South ACROSS the gorge. If that is true, then the gorge itself
runs East-West. But that in itself seems to fly in the face of the geography
of the White Mountains. The only answer, to my mind, is that the gorge turns
as it goes deeper into the mountain range. Or am I just nuts?
- The layout of Helm's Deep - Banizar
First of all, I never saw the dyke and/or wall at Helm's Deep being a
circle, as depicted on that map website (cool site though it is). That
makes it look like a miniature Minas Tirith. This is not at all the
image I got from the books and do not think there is anything that
implies it is on the side of the gorge and not the end, or that their is
anything ring like about the set up of Helm's Deep. I saw the dyke and
wall running ACROSS the width of the whole gorge, which by the time you
got to the deepest part would not be all that wide. The entrance to the
caves would be at the direct end of the gorge, not off to one side
before you got to the end. Of course the wall might turn or veer here
and there, which would allow Aragorn to see the gate from the wall more
easily etc. It is also possible that he did not have to see the actual
gate to know there was a large press of foes their just from the din of
battle coming from the gate and the large number of foes massing in that
I did not quite see it laid out like the depiction in the Atlas, or the
painting by the Hilderbrandts, though I think they got it closer to my
personal vision than any other view.
- The Atlas can't be quite right - Gorel
I just wanted to be point out that the Atlas by Fonstad can't be quite
right, in case anyone is using it as a reference. Fonstad depicts the
outer court as having a circular wall which is interrupted by the cliffs
from about the 10 o'clock to 11 o'clock positions. She places the
postern door at about 12 (north), the Great Gate at about 2, and the
Deeping Wall extends south from about the 6 o'clock position. However,
Eomer and Aragorn notice the gates are in danger from the Deeping Wall.
In Fonstad's arrangement their view would have been blocked by almost
the whole burg.
- Some very helpful maps - Blue
are at this
- Thanks, for giving us that link again. - GaladrielTX
My befuddled self has bookmarked it this time.
- Those maps are really, really cool! - Elemmírë
And very helpful, too. They're so detailed! - do you know, Blue, who
drew them up? Christopher Tolkien, or the website's designer?
- Thanks, Blue! - septembrist
I was hoping someone might have a site with maps. It is quite
helpful and duly bookmarked for future reference.
- That's a cool site, Blue! - Eomund's
...and very helpful! I just bookmarked it for future use. :-)
- In the Altas of Middle Earth - Bard
The mountains run from NW to SE. The gorge starts of running SW and then
bends south. I think this is what it is. I'll check it up when I am at
home. "Bard is not lost!" he cried. "He dived from Esgaroth, when the
enemy was slain. I am Bard, of the line of Girion; I am the slayer of
- The White Mountains. - Rhudainor
A mountain range isn't a straight line, but full of twists and tweaks
and juts (if that's English words!) and The White Mountains could very
well run North-South for a while, so that the gorge runs East-West. And
I agree with Kimi on the overall geography.
- I haven't got my "Atlas of Middle-earth" here - Kimi
But judging by the map at the end of LOTR, the White Mountains curve
towards their western end, running North-West to South-East. So the
Deeping Wall could indeed run North-South. I think the gorge probably
does change direction slightly as it goes deeper into the mountains,
curving from SE-NW towards West-East.
Return to Book III Discussion Index
- Book III, Chapter VII:
5. Doubt - glaze
Hello All and welcome: I have just returned from St. Louis, where I saw my
beloved Cardinals put the hurt on the Atlanta Braves by a score of 10-4.
Driving back from St. Louis to Chicago last night, I had some thoughts on
the makeup in the characters in these books. Specifically, the difference
between the attitudes of the most accessible characters (the Hobbits) and
the more remote characters, especially Aragorn. I am not faulting Aragorn,
he is a richly drawn character, especially considering some of the
monstrosities we have had to endure from hacks such as Jordan and Brooks.
However, the man never seems to have had a moment of self-doubt in his life.
Even at moments such as at Helm's Deep or at the Morannon, where he and his
allies are outnumbered terribly, he never seems to have the fears that
plague others. This makes him a very hard character to identify with,
especially compared with people such as Frodo, Merry, Sam, Pippin, even
Gimli and Legolas. They all have their moments of fear, of resignation of
defeat. But Aragorn goes along. He is not blithe to the danger he is in, but
it seems that he never doubts that he will win. Everyone else, even Gandalf,
has moments where he is terribly nervous. What does this say about Aragorn
or conversely, about Tolkien and his style? I welcome your comments.
- Aragorn is a perfect knight - Mirven
Honestly, I didn't like Aragorn, when I read LOTR for the first time...I
found him a bit unrealistic, just like a machine, with its only target
in beating the enemies and becoming a king...Now, he became one of my
favorite characters, but I still find him too strong for living is such
hard times. Aragorn is a hero taken straight from epic stories about
King Arthur, Beowulf, etc, just a perfect knight, that appeared in
almost every legend, to show that courage, honesty and other values did
still exist and the evil wouldn't ever be glorified...
- While I have always liked Aragorn a lot, - Hmpf
I've never identified with anyone but the hobbits. Most of the other
characters are just a little bit too noble to identify with.
- Hobbits are the real heroes - Mirven
You're right, hobbits are down-to-earth, but strong just like we,
humans , are! Who did manage to destroy the ring and finish the
quest? Not the fearless Aragorn, or the proud Boromir, but two plain
hobbits, who loved to eat and had never seen an armoured knight
before their journey.
It's interesting, that none of the great and noble warriors , even
not Gandalf, decided to bring the Ring to Mt Doom and destroy it. I
think Tolkien wants to say , that it doesn't really matter, who are
we, when it comes to heroism - the situation makes us able to do
things we've never imagined before. It doesn't also mean, that only
the noble and strong ones are determined to be real heroes, for
there's even more strenght in an honest , kind heart....
- What about on Amon hen - Adaneth
Just before the death of Boromir when he says "Everything I do goes
amiss."? He seemed rather doubtful there. And when he has to decide
during the chase after Merry and Pippin whether or not to run at night,
he seems uncertain as to which is the right choice. Or after Gandalf's
death when he realizes that he must lead the fellowship, which tears him
because he wants to go to Minas Tirith, and also because he doesn't know
what road Gandalf wanted to take. Or how about when he was afraid to
enter Moria? I think you are mistaken in saying that he had no
self-doubt. But he was also raised among elves and as a fighting man.
there is very little that he hasn't succeeded at, so why shouldn't he
feel confident. The best example of his self-doubt is after he becomes
king and before he finds the white tree. He asks Gandalf how he can be
sure of everything coming to fulfilment. Even after he had done
everything required of him, he was still doubtful as to whether or not
he would get Arwen.
Just my thoughts.
- Exactly! - Nienor
The scenes at Parth Galen, at the end of Fellowship and beginning of
The Two Towers, are a turning point for Aragorn. He has tried to
lead the Company but it's too much even for him, and here it breaks
up around him. "I am not Gandalf..." I always feel extrememly sorry
for him at this point, one of his most approachable moments, as you
can tell from the large number of his lines I can remember without
looking them up! "Vain was Gandalf's trust in me" "It is I that have
failed" "What is to be done now?" and especially "An ill fate is on
me this day and all that I do goes amiss!" "And now may I make a
right choice and change the evil fate of this unhappy day." In
choosing to follow the Orcs and being convinced that this IS the
right choice (and his reasoning makes sense) he is to some extent
freed from the burden of anxiety about the Company, which is now
finished, and about Frodo and Sam. "The fate of the Bearer is in my
hands no longer." Aragorn, like Frodo, had a choice to make at
Parth Galen: the Company was always going to split basically between
Mordor and Minas Tirith and it was right for both Frodo and Aragorn
to go the ways they did. After this Aragorn has renewed and
increasing confidence, but only because he got through this real
crisis of self-doubt... I think so, anyway. I have found the
computer room at university, as you notice, though work hasn't
started properly yet so I may not have any MORE time... Thanks so
much to everyone who wished me well!
- It says that Aragorn is a crusader - Daddy
He believes he is right and the idea that he will fail is simply
impossible. I have met real people like this (Navy Seals) and they are
terrifying to be around. I suspect that JRR met a few along the way and
modeled Aragorn after them. "Only fools go where angels fear to tread"
Cool and calm on the surface, kicking like hell underneath
- Possibly. - glaze
I know that I would be scared to death to be around Aragorn. Either
you are an enemy and he is attempting to turn you into a shish-kebab
on the end of Anduril, or he is your buddy and he is convincing you
that it isn't that bad of an idea to go and attack Mordor with seven
thousand men. Whatever. Give me Sam anyday. At least he has the
concept of his own mortality, and if he knows the quest is hopeless,
he is honest about it.
- Shish-kabobs on Anduril? My word, that's
funny... *giggle* - Elemmírë
- LOL - Hmpf
>>or he is your buddy and he is convincing you that it isn't
that bad of an idea to go and attack Mordor with seven thousand
men. Poor Aragorn. He's not *that* bad, is he??? ;-)
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