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"The Dead are following," said Legolas. "I see shapes of Men and of horses, and pale banners like shreds of cloud, and spears like winter-thickets on a misty night. The Dead are following."

"Yes, the Dead ride behind. They have been summoned," said Elladan.
- The Return of the King, "The Passing of the Grey Company"

The Army of the Dead, also known as the Dead Men of Dunharrow or Oathbreakers, were Men of the White Mountains, cursed to remain in Middle-earth by Isildur after they abandoned their oath to aid him in the War of the Last Alliance. They haunted the caverns beneath the Dwimorberg, and the valley of Harrowdale that lay in its shadow, though they were said to appear in the valley only in times of trouble or death. They were led by the King of the Dead. Since the line of Isildur was thought to have ended, no one could call upon the Dead Army to aid them in their hours of need, as they would only answer to an Heir of Isildur.


"Over the land there lies a long shadow, westward-reaching wings of darkness. The Tower trembles; to the tomb of kings doom approaches. The Dead awaken; for the hour is come for the Oathbreakers: at the Stone of Erech, they shall stand again and hear there a horn in the hills ringing. Whose shall the horn be? Who shall call them from the grey twilight, the forgotten people? The heir of him to whom the oath they swore. From the North shall he come, need shall drive him: he shall pass the Door to the Paths of the Dead."
Malbeth the Seer

They were once Men of the White Mountains, but at the founding of Gondor, they swore an oath to Isildur that they would fight for him. However, during the dark years, they had worshiped Sauron, and so when the time came and Isildur asked for their aid, they refused. And so Isildur cursed them, saying: Thou shalt be the last king, and if the west prove mightier than thy Black Master, this curse I lay upon thee and thy folk; to rest never until your oath is fulfilled. For this war will last through years uncounted, and you shall be summoned once again ere the end. Therefore, they fled from the wrath of Isildur and dared not go forth to war for Sauron, and they hid in secret places in the mountains and had no dealings with other men. They slowly started to dwindle and the terror of the Sleepless Dead came about to all the places where they lingered.[citation needed] Malbeth the Seer prophesied that a day would come when need and haste would drive one of Isildur's heirs to take The Road under the Mountain, and that the dead would answer to his call. The Prophecy came true. In the War of the Ring, Isildur's Heir, Aragorn, called on the Dead Men. Summoning them to the Stone of Erech, Aragorn commanded them to fulfill their oath and be free.[citation needed]

Aragorn led the Army of the Dead through Lamedon. As they went through the lands of Gondor, they found them deserted, since everyone who hadn't gone to war fled the approach of the dreaded "King of the Dead". Even the Men of Umbar and Harad, who had been attacking the fords at Linhir above the mouth of the river Gilrain, stopped fighting and ran off in terror. The only person who had the courage to stay was Angbor, the Lord of Lamedon, and Aragorn told him to gather his men and follow the Grey Company to Pelargir. For four days and nights after Aragorn first summoned the dead to the Stone of Erech, they rode.[citation needed]

The city of the dead

On the fifth day they reached their destination (Pelargir), where the main fleet of Umbar was assembled. Rumors of the Army of the Dead had already reached the city but the Corsairs whom the Company had been pursuing turned at bay and laughed, seeing only Aragorn and his host of live Dúnedain warriors, as the dead were hanging back behind them to surprise their foes. Aragorn then called to the Army of the Dead to fight, which resulted in a short battle. Legolas later, after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, described the scene he witnessed to Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took: Faint cries I heard, and dim horns blowing, and a murmur as of countless far voices: it was like the echo of some forgotten battle in the Dark Years long ago. Pale swords were drawn; but I know not whether their blades would still bite, for the Dead needed no longer any weapon but fear. Despite not needing weapons, the weapons of the Enemy could not harm them.[citation needed]

The Corsairs were overwhelmed with terror at the sight of the Dead Men

The Army of the Dead attacked first the ships that were still anchored, and then walked over the water to the ones that had set sail. The terrified Corsairs abandoned their ships and jumped overboard; all either drowned or fled south back to their homelands. Once the Haradrim and Corsairs were defeated, Aragorn had trumpets sounded and the dead withdrew to the shore. As they had at last fulfilled their oath, Aragorn granted the Dead Army their freedom. The King of the Dead stepped forward, broke and discarded his spear; he bowed to Aragorn, and with the Army vanished at last from the world.[citation needed]


Northern European folklore tells of 'the restless dead' as fell riders bursting upon unwary travellers in lonely places. Horses, knights, hounds are among the restless spirits in the "Wild Hunt". Hans Sachs' poem, "Das wütend Heer der kleinen Dieb" (1539) describes the furious host in gruesome detail, accompanied by ravens who plucked out the eyes of the roving dead: "there came one behind, who had been hanged the same day, had still his eyes and saw me."

It is an indication of Aragorn's heroic nature and lineage that he dares summon the dead to fulfill their oath in this manner, and a sign that the rightful king has indeed returned.[citation needed]

Portrayal in adaptations

The Lord of the Rings film trilogy

Aragorn and the dead army rushing towards besieged Minas Tirith

In the Peter Jackson movie adaptation of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the battle with the Corsairs occurrs off-screen (part of it is shown in the extended edition) and the Army of the Dead accompany Aragorn to Minas Tirith, replacing the Grey Company, to defeat Sauron's Orcs, after which Aragorn declares their curse lifted. Legolas correctly states that it was Isildur who cursed them, but incorrectly states that he was "the last king of Gondor". (Isildur was the last high king of Gondor and Arnor, after which the two kingdoms divided and would both eventually be left kingless until Aragorn took the throne.)

"There are those who dwell in the mountain."
"Murderers, traitors, you would call upon them to fight? They believe in nothing, they answer to no-one."
"They will answer to the King of Gondor."
- Elrond and Aragorn talking of the army of the dead.

Also in the film, the dead army does not go to the Stone of Erech but instead Aragorn confronts them in front of what appears to be the city of the dead men. The men of the dead army appear as green and glowing, and are more reluctant to fulfill their oath, with the dead king even trying to attack Aragorn.

While the books make no mention of anything being able to harm the dead men, in the film the dead king appears to be able to be harmed by Aragorn’s sword Andúril (Narsil reforged), which in the books was never the sword of Isildur.

According to a magazine article, Peter Jackson hated the Army of the Dead; he thought it was "too unbelievable". He kept it in the script, however, so as to not disappoint large fans of the books.[1]

Video games

"For in our plans, the living cannot defend Minas Tirith without the fury of those long dead."

The Return of the King video game

In the Return of the King video game, the dead army glows a more blue color, and Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are all able to harm them. Two levels feature the dead army, one the Paths of the dead where Aragorn and his companions fight their way through the paths of the dead, and the other the King of the dead where Aragorn fights the dead king. After the Dead king is defeated by Aragorn, he and his friends must escape from the paths of the dead. The dead army appears one more time in the game at the end of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields to help save Minas Tirith from Sauron's army. In addition to the Return of the King video game storyline, soldiers of the dead army also appear in the Palantir of Saruman bonus level, in which the player must defeat 20 waves of enemies in an arena; about half of those enemies are dead soldiers.

The Battle for Middle-earth I and II

The icon for summoning the Oathbreakers in the BFME games

The Army of the Dead is summonable in all The Battle for Middle-earth games, as the most expensive Power for Gondor and Rohan in the first game. The Army of the Dead fullfilled the role of the superweapon for the force of Man, they can destroy vast armies alone, gliding through any types of units while seemingly sap the life of them at a rapid rate while being nigh-invincible against retaliatory attack. However they lasts for only two minutes and deals little to no damage to buildings. Certain entity of vast magical power such as Sauron, Summoned Dragon or similar can actually hurt them. In The Battle for Middle-earth II, they are only available in Skirmishes and the Evil Campaign, in which the player must move the forces of Evil to destroy all the Dead soldiers and the Fellowship at Rivendell. Apart from being a 25-point faction power, Aragorn, when at level 10, can summon one temporary horde of Oathbreakers.

The Third Age

In The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, the player has the opportunity to summon the Army of the Dead through Aragorn in the later stages of the final Map location, Pelennor Fields. This skill costs 255 AP to use, but with Aragorn's abundant supply of 3000 Max AP, it is definitely worth it. When this power is activated, the Dead mobilize behind Aragorn and charge forth at the enemy. Led by the King of the Dead, the Dead army can do any range of extreme damage from 25000 (Nazgûl) to 50000, and they usually kill any unit apart from Nazgûl and Trolls. This is arguably the best move in the entire game, including Perfect Mode moves.


In The Lord of the Rings: Conquest, Aragorn's special heavy attack is "Wave of Undead", with which he summons several Dead Men to attack an enemy for a very brief time.

Appearances in adaptations

See also



Foreign Language Translated name
Afrikaans Weermag van die Dood
Albanian Ushtria e të Vdekurve
Amharic ሙታን ሰራዊት
Arabic جيش الموتى
Armenian Բանակը մեռելներուն
Assamese মৃত‌‌ৰ সৈন্য
Azerbaijani Ölü Ordu
Basque Hildakoen Armada
Belarusian Cyrillic Армія мёртвых
Bengali ডেড এর আর্মি
Bosnian Vojska Mrtvih
Bulgarian Cyrillic Армия на мъртвите
Burmese လူသေ၏ကြည်းတပ်
Cambodian កងទ័ពនៃការស្លាប់
Catalan L'exèrcit dels Morts
Cebuano Panon sa mga Patay
Chichewa Asilikali a Akufa
Chinese 死亡的軍隊 (Army of the Dead)

登哈洛的亡者 (Dead Men of Dunharrow)

Croatian Vojska Mrtvih
Czech Armáda Mrtvých
Danish Hær af de Døde
Dutch Leger der Doden
Esperanto Armeo de la Mortintoj
Estonian Armee Surnud
Fijian Mataivalu i na mate
Filipino Hukbo ng mga Patay
Finnish Kuolleiden armeija (Army of the Dead)

Dunhargin vainajat (Dead Men of Dunharrow)

French Armée des Morts
Frisian Leger fan 'e Deaden
Galician Exército dos Mortos
Georgian მკვდართა არმია
German Schattenheer
Greek Στρατού των νεκρών
Gujarati ડેડ ઓફ આર્મી
Haitian Creole Lame moun ki Mouri
Hawaiian Poe koa o ka Make
Hebrew צבא המתים (Army of the Dead)

אנשים המתים מדונהארו (Dead men of Dunharrow)

Hindi मृत सैनिकों की सेना
Hungarian Holtak serege
Hmong Pab tub rog cov neeg tuag
Icelandic Her af sem Dauður
Igbo Agha nke ndị nwụrụ anwụ
Indonesian Tentara yang Mati
Irish Gaelic Arm na Marbh
Italian Esercito dei Morti (Army of the Dead)

Uomini morti di Dunclivo (Dead Men of Dunharrow)

Japanese 死者の軍隊
Kannada ಡೆಡ್ ಮೆನ್ ಸೈನ್ಯ
Kazakh Cyrillic Өлі ерлер әскері (Cyrillic) Öli erler äskeri (Latin)
Korean 죽음의 육군
Kurdish Artêşa yên Mirî (Kurmanji Kurdish)
Kyrgyz Cyrillic өлгөндөрдүн армия
Latin Exercitus ex Mortuis
Latvian Mirušo Armija
Laotian ກອງທັບຂອງການຕາຍ
Lithuanian Kariuomenė Mirusiųjų
Luxembourgish Arméi vun den Doudegen
Macedonian Cyrillic Армијата на мртвите
Malagasy Miaramilan 'ny Maty
Malaysian Tentera yang Mati
Maltese L-armata tal-mejjet
Maori Ope o te hunga Mate
Marathi मृत माणसं सैन्य
Mongolian Cyrillic үхэгсдийн армийн
Nepalese मृत पुरुष सेना
Norwegian Hær av Døde
Pashto د وژل پوځ
Persian ارتش مردگان
Polish Armia Umarłych
Portuguese Exército dos Mortos
Punjabi ਮਰੇ ਦੀ ਫੌਜ
Romanian Armata de Morţi
Russian Армия Мёртвых (Army of the Dead)

Мертвецы Дунхарроу (Dead Men of Dunharrow)

Samoan Autau a le Oti
Scottish Gaelic Arm nam Marbh
Sindhi مئل مرد آرمي
Sinhalese මළවුන්ගේ හමුදාව
Slovak Armáda Mŕtvych
Slovenian Vojska Mrtvih
Somalian Ciidanka ee Dhimatay
Spanish Ejército de los Muertos
Swahili Jeshi la Wafu
Swedish Armé av de Döda
Tajik Cyrillic Артиши марговар ?
Tamil இராணுவம் டெட்
Telugu డెడ్ మెన్ సైన్యం
Thai กองทัพแห่งความตาย
Turkish Ölüler Ordusu
Ukrainian Cyrillic Армія мертвих
Urdu مردوں کی فوج
Uzbek Ўлик одам қўшини (Cyrillic) O'lik odam qo'shini (Latin)
Vietnamese Quân đội của người Chết
Welsh Byddin y Meirw
Yiddish אַרמיי פון די טויטע
Yoruba Ologun ti awọn Okú ?
Yucatec Maya Ejército le Pixan