"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 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, the most fearsome and terrifying of the whole Dead Army. Since the line of Isildur had "ended" (after a couple of hundred years), 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. It wasn't until the Third Age in the War of The Ring that Aragorn, Isildur's heir, would call upon them to fight with him against Sauron, fulfilling their oath and releasing them from their curse.
- "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
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.Aragorn led the Army of the Dead through Lamedon and Ciril. 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.
On the fifth day they reached their destination (Pelargir), where the main fleet of Umbar was assembled. Some of the ships had set sail for Minas Tirith already because rumor of the dead army had reached the havens. In spite of these rumors, however, the Haradrim whom the Company had been pursuing turned at bay and laughed, seeing only Aragorn and his host of live Dunedain 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 bloody 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.
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 headed 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 his spear, and threw it away; he bowed to Aragorn and the dead vanished at last from the world.
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.
Portrayal in adaptations
The Lord of the Rings film trilogy
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."
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.
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.
- "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 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. They can destroy vast armies alone, but last for only two minutes. 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
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King / Film / Video Game
- The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth
- The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II
- The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age
- The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game
- Middle-earth Role Playing game
- The Lord of the Rings: Conquest
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Afrikaans||Weermag van die Dood|
|Albanian||Ushtria e të Vdekurve|
|Belarusian Cyrillic||Армія мёртвых|
|Bengali||ডেড এর আর্মি|
|Bulgarian Cyrillic||Армия на мъртвите|
|Catalan||L'exèrcit dels Morts|
|Cebuano||Panon sa mga Patay|
|Chichewa||Asilikali a Akufa|
|Danish||Hær af de Døde|
|Dutch||Leger der Doden|
|Esperanto||Armeo de la Mortintoj|
|Fijian||Mataivalu i na mate|
|Filipino||Hukbo ng mga Patay|
|French||Armée des Morts|
|Frisian||Leger fan 'e Deaden|
|Galician||Exército dos Mortos|
|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|
|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|
|Kannada||ಡೆಡ್ ಮೆನ್ ಸೈನ್ಯ|
|Kazakh Cyrillic||Өлі ерлер әскері (Cyrillic) Öli erler äskeri (Latin)|
|Kurdish||Artêşa yên Mirî (Kurmanji Kurdish)|
|Kyrgyz Cyrillic||өлгөндөрдүн армия|
|Latin||Exercitus ex Mortuis|
|Luxembourgish||Arméi vun den Doudegen|
|Macedonian Cyrillic||Армијата на мртвите|
|Malagasy||Miaramilan 'ny Maty|
|Malaysian||Tentera yang Mati|
|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|
|Portuguese||Exército dos Mortos|
|Punjabi||ਮਰੇ ਦੀ ਫੌਜ|
|Romanian||Armata de Morţi|
|Samoan||Autau a le Oti|
|Scottish Gaelic||Arm nam Marbh|
|Sindhi||مئل مرد آرمي|
|Somalian||Ciidanka ee Dhimatay|
|Spanish||Ejército de los Muertos|
|Swahili||Jeshi la Wafu|
|Swedish||Armé av de Döda|
|Tajik Cyrillic||Артиши марговар ?|
|Telugu||డెడ్ మెన్ సైన్యం|
|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|