War of the Ring

Attack on the Woodland RealmWeathertopBalin's TombDurin's TowerAmon HenFords of IsenAttack of the RohirrimBattle of the HornburgIsengardIthilienBattle of OsgiliathSiege of GondorBattle of the Pelennor FieldsDaleBattles of LórienMirkwoodCirith UngolBlack GateDol GuldurBattle of Bywater

The Battle of the Hornburg, known in various adaptations as the Battle of Helm's Deep, was the first grand-scale battle of the War of the Ring, where the Rohirrim under King Théoden defended the Hornburg from Saruman's army of Men and Uruk-hai.


Before the battle

After being freed by Gandalf from Gríma Wormtongue's influence, Théoden went to the Fords of Isen where Erkenbrand was battling Saruman's orcs. When Théoden got there, he realized that the army was scattered, so Gandalf told Théoden to help the refugees and send them to the Hornburg where many people from Westfold were also taking refuge. Soon Gandalf brought the Rohirrim to defend Helm's Deep from Saruman's attacking forces. A local captain called Gamling the Old led the soldiers.

The Battle

The army of Saruman, ultimately consisting of of Uruk-hai, Wild Men of Dunland, Orcs, and Half-orcs, was reinforced on the way to the Hornburg, due to casualties in the Battles of the Fords of Isen. The army would arrive at the fortress at midnight on March 3.

The Orcs quickly overran the first defence of Helm's Dike, but sustained many losses in it "filling up the dike to the top". After moving past the dike the orcs approached the fortress of the Hornburg they sent arrows into the fortress. However, they did not get any response. But when they got closer they were met with a volley of arrows and rocks which made them break ranks. The Orcs soon got close enough to Hornburg and attempted to break the gate down with tree trunks, but were scattered by a small attack team led by Aragorn and Éomer from a postern-door that ran between the brink of the cliff and the wall of the Hornburg. After the team had driven back the Orcs with the ram, the team retreated from the new assault upon the gate. While running back, two Orcs who had faked their deaths knocked Éomer to the ground. As Aragorn ran back to save him, a hidden Gimli hewed the Orcs' heads, saving Éomer and giving Gimli his first two kills to Legolas' twenty.

The attackers then raised hundreds of ladders to scale the Deeping Wall; the worn-out defenders threw down the ladders, but were attacked from behind by Orcs who had crawled through the culvert at the base of the Deeping Wall. Gimli and Gamling the Old with a unit of men from the Westfold attacked the orcs who got through the hole. Gimli, after getting twenty-one kills to Legolas' twenty-four, helped block the culvert with stones flooding the stream. Unfortunately, this blockage was destroyed along with a good portion of the Deeping Wall by Saruman's devilry; the fire of Orthanc.


Explosion caused by the Fire of Orthanc at the Deeping Wall

Out from the new larger hole a huge host of Orcs poured in, and after a desperate battle in the Deep, the defenders led by Éomer, Gimli and Gamling retreated into the Glittering Caves while Aragorn and Legolas fought their way into the keep via a large stairway from the Deep to the citadel. During the retreat, Aragorn was overcome by Orcs; but was saved by Legolas and a boulder that was cast down upon the Orcs from the wall. Aragorn called for a parley and told the orcs that they would die if they didn't surrender, but the Uruk-hai laughed at his threat and attempted to shoot Aragorn down, almost killing him. The Orcs then made it to the gate and destroyed the arch with the 'blasting-fire'. Suddenly, Théoden and Aragorn led a vicious cavalry charge out of the keep to the blasts of the great horn of Helm, followed by the defenders of the Hornburg, driving the Uruks away from the remains of the gate. At the same time, Éomer and Gimli with the men from the caves pushed the orcs out of the Deep. The army of the Mark drove the enemy behind the Dike into the Deeping-coomb. 

Just then, Gandalf on his horse Shadowfax arrived with Erkenbrand and a thousand swordsmen on foot. They charged the Orcs, trapping them between Erkenbrand's army, Theoden's army, and the Huorns from Fangorn - and Saruman's army was defeated. The orcs and Uruks were driven into the forest of Huorns, where they were consumed, and the Dunlendings surrendered and were spared, but were forced to swear never to attack Rohan again.

Immediate aftermath

Less than half of the 10,000 Uruk-hai survived the main battle, after being driven into Huorns at most one fourth managed to escape into the plains of Rohan. The surviving Dunlendings were sent home and their slain were buried in a communal mound. The orc carcasses were simply piled off to the side of the battlefield and left to rot. One of the Rohirrim dead was Háma, a captain of Théoden's personal guard and doorman of Meduseld. Gimli had lost his helmet in the battle and was wounded badly on the head, but he had killed forty-two orcs to Legolas' forty-one.[1]

Later aftermath

The battle was critical to the survival of Rohan and their participation in the War of the Ring as a whole; had the Rohirrim lost the Battle of the Hornburg, their nation as a whole would have been obliterated by the rampaging legions of Saruman's livid Uruk-hai. Merry and Pippin's persuasion of Treebeard to attack Isengard was critical as well, and guaranteed Rohan's survival for a time.

Portrayal in adaptations

"A new power is rising, its victory is at hand. This night the land will be stained with the blood of Rohan. March to Helm's deep, leave none alive. TO WAR! There will be no dawn for Men."
Saruman's speech to the Uruk-hai before their march

In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the city of Edoras was evacuated to Helm's Deep. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli accompanied King Théoden and his people there. Along the way they were attacked by Saruman's Warg-Riders. During this fight, Éowyn led the evacuees on to Helm's Deep while the Riders of Rohan fought off the attack. Aragorn became entangled with the harness of a Warg and was dragged off the side of a cliff.

After reaching Helm's Deep, the Rohirrim began to prepare for a siege. During these preparations, Aragorn, who had been found by the horse Brego, arrived with news of 10,000 Uruk-hai coming from Isengard. In response to this, Théoden ordered every male able to bear arms, including some of the mature children and old men, to be armed and ready to fight. Aragorn suggested calling for aid but Théoden didn't believe anyone would come. Aragorn also tried lifting the morale of Haleth, one of the boy soldiers.

The Rohirrim were surprised by the arrival of Haldir from Lórien and his archers. They were sent by Elrond to support the Rohirrim, in honor of the ancient treaty with the king of Gondor, represented by Aragorn. Aragorn, Legolas, and Haldir's Elves were stationed on the Deeping Wall, which ensured that every fortification of the Hornburg was manned.

"I bring word from Elrond of Rivendell. An alliance once existed between Elves and Men. Long ago we fought and died together. We come to honor that allegiance. We are proud to fight alongside men once more."
Haldir speaking to Théoden and Aragorn

The battle began when an older man accidentally fired an arrow at the Uruk-hai, killing one by hitting him in the neck. At first it consisted primarily of volleys of arrows. The Elven Archers demonstrated their unmatched proficiency of archery, as they loosened devastating hails of arrows in seconds, felling many Uruk-hai. Despite their fine bowmanship, and the weight of fire being put out by the human and elf defenders, the Uruk hordes moved steadily closer to the walls. At short range, the Uruk crossbowmen could finally hit back with their slow-loading, yet hard-hitting crossbows, killing several, one falling horribly into the mass of Uruks below. Then the Uruk-hai began raising ladders, each with a berserker on top. Many elves were killed during this stage of the battle as the pressure increased. Despite that, they and the Rohirrim had managed to keep the Uruk-hai from getting a foothold on the wall. While the elves were sword-fighting with the Uruk-hai on the wall, the sappers, a group of four Uruk-hai, laid the charges that were prepared by Saruman in the culvert under the wall. A berserker lit the blasting powder despite Legolas' repeated attempts to bring him down. The ensuing explosion sent Uruks, Elves, and huge chunks of rock high into the air. The falling debris brought great casualties to both sides of the conflict.

Once the wall was blown, the Uruk-hai poured into Helm's Deep through the large gap that was made from the explosion, while another group of Uruk-hai brought a wooden battering ram to the main gate and attempted to break it. Aragorn, having been thrown from the wall in the explosion, lay dazed right in the path of the advancing Uruk-Hai. Gimli leaped from the wall amongst the enemy, forcing them to deal with the dwarf in their midst. This bought Aragorn time to regain his senses and rally the remaining elves for a counter charge. The elves, despite being outnumbered, managed to stem the tide. Soon afterwards Aragorn, Gimli, and the elves were forced to retreat as the battle became more desperate; Haldir, still fighting on the wall, was slain by two Uruk-hai before Aragorn's eyes. Aragorn rushed to his side, but he was too late.

The Uruk-hai shot grappling lines onto the walls and used them to anchor massive ladders that carried dozens of Uruk-hai up to the main Hornburg walls. Although Legolas shot one down, many more sprung up. At the main gate, the Uruk-hai had broken a hole into the wood of the gate and engaged the Rohan soldiers in a vicious struggle. King Theoden was injured in this fight, but was able to fall back to a safer place to recover. Théoden, when asked what he needed by Aragorn, requested "Time, as much you can get me." To do this, Aragorn and Gimli sneaked out the back of the fortress. To reach the crowd of Uruk-hai, they had to cross a wide gap, which Aragorn had to throw Gimli across. Before he was thrown Gimli said "Don't tell the Elf", referring to Legolas and what he was likely to say about the incident. Aragorn and Gimli managed to buy enough time for the Rohirrim to brace the door, though it did little to slow the enemy's advance. Despite fighting ferociously, the Rohirrim defenders were cut down quickly by the overwhelming Uruk numbers. With Helm's Deep being quickly overrun, Theoden ordered a retreat to the keep. Aragorn and Gimli, trapped outside the gate, were able to scale the wall up to the Hornburg, via a rope cast down to them by Legolas. During the retreat, many Rohirrim were killed.

Once inside the keep, Théoden fell into despair while his men tried to brace the door. Aragorn sent word to evacuate the caves.

At this point, Gimli noted that the sun was rising, and Aragorn remembered Gandalf telling him that he would arrive at dawn on the fifth day, and convinced Théoden to ride out with him. Gimli sounded the horn of Helm Hammerhand and what remained of the Rohirrim (amounting to barely nearly 10), along with Aragorn and Legolas, mounted on their horses and charged the Uruks just as they broke through the door, at the command of 'Forth Eorlingas'. Théoden's cavalry drove out all of the orcs from the Hornburg, killing and knocking out hundreds of Uruks and broke through the gate and the causeway, with Saruman's main host now gathered outside the fortress.

Outside the keep, Théoden and Aragorn saw Gandalf arrive on Shadowfax. Alongside him was Éomer and his cavalry, and together they charged down the valley. The Uruk-hai formed up a phalanx of spears to repel Eomer’s horsemen; however, the Rohirrim charged down with the sun behind them, and the Uruk-hai defense was thrown into disarray when the sun crested the hill and blinded them. Between the combined forces, the Uruk-hai were forced to retreat.

In the extended edition, the remaining Uruks were driven into a Huorn forest that had appeared out of nowhere, and Éomer ordered his men to stop pursuing them. The Rohirrim watched from a safe distance as the Huorns slaughter the remaining Uruk-hai.

In the extended edition of the film, after the battle, Gimli is sitting on a corpse nearby the gate and Legolas walks up to him, saying he killed forty-two Uruk-Hai, while Gimli responds by saying he was on forty-three. Legolas shoots the corpse Gimli is sitting on, startling Gimli, and says he now has forty-three because the corpse was twitching. Gimli insists the corpse was already dead, and that it was twitching because his axe was "embedded in its nervous system". He proves his point by jerking the axe shaft twice, causing the corpse to twitch twice.

"He was twitching because he's got my axe embedded into his nervous system!"
Gimli speaking to Legolas (Extended Edition only)

Elves of Lórien


Haldir alongside his Elven army from Lorien on the Deeping Wall

The elves' involvement in the defense of the Hornburg proved critical in delaying the enemy; as their superior archery and sword skills enabled them to defend the Deeping Wall for a time. Around 400 Galadhrim Warriors marched to defend the Hornburg. Otherwise, the Rohirrim did not have sufficient manpower to cover all of the Hornburg's fortifications and hold out long enough, being forced to supplant their ranks with teenage boys and old men. The elves' sacrifice bought enough time for Gandalf, Eomer and the two thousand mounted Rohirrim horseman to arrive and turn the tide of the battle.

But the price that the elves paid was high indeed: most of them who left Lothlórien including Haldir were slain in the battle. They were buried by the men of Rohan with honor in the land of their allies.

It is notable that the Elves are sent only in the film. The Two Towers has no reference whatsoever to Elves being sent by Elrond and Galadriel for the battle. It was made purely for the film, which has been known to anger many "Tolkien purists".

Notable deaths

See also

Translations around the world

Foreign Language Translated name
Afrikaans Slag van die Hornburg
Albanian Beteja e Hornburg
Arabic معركة حورنبورع
Armenian Ճակատամարտ է Հորնբորգ
Azerbaijani Hornburg döyüş
Bengali হর্নবুর্গ যুদ্ধে
Bosnian Bitka Hornburga
Bulgarian Cyrillic Битката на Рогоскал
Catalan Batalla de la Gorja d'en Helm
Chinese (Hong Kong) 聖盔谷之戰
Corsican Battagghia di li Hornburg
Croatian Bitka Hornburga
Czech Bitva u Hlásky
Danish Slaget ved Hornburg
Dutch Slag van de Hoornburg
Esperanto Batalo de la Hornburg
Estonian Selle Hornburg lahing
Filipino Labanan ng mga Hornburg
French Bataille de l'Hornburg
Frisian Slach fan 'e Hornburg
Galician Batalla do Hornburg
Georgian ბრძოლა ჰორნბურგთან
German Schlacht um Helms Klamm
Gujarati હોર્ન્બુર્ગ યુદ્ધ
Hungarian Csata a Hornburg
Icelandic Orrustan við Hornburg
Irish Gaelic Cath ar an Hornburg
Japanese 角笛城の戦い
Kannada ಹೊರತಂಬುರ್ಗ್ ಕದನದಲ್ಲಿ
Kazakh Һорнбұрг шайқасы (Cyrillic) Hornburg şayqası (Latin)
Kyrgyz Cyrillic Hорнбург согуш
Latvian Kauja Hornburg
Lithuanian Mūšis dėl Hornburg
Luxembourgish Schluecht vun der Hornburg
Macedonian Cyrillic Ваттле оф тхе Хорнбург ?
Malaysian Peperangan Hornburg
Maltese Ġlieda tal-Hornburg ?
Marathi होर्न्बुर्ग लढाई
Norwegian Slaget om Hornburg
Polish Bitwa o Rogaty Gród
Portuguese Batalha do Hornburg
Punjabi ਹੋਰ੍ਨ੍ਬੁਰ੍ਗ ਦੀ ਲੜਾਈ
Romanian Bătălia de la Hornburg
Russian Битва при Хорнбурге
Samoan Le Taua o le Hornburg
Slovak Bitka pri Hornburg
Slovenian Bitka na Hornburg
Somalian Dagaalka ee ah Hornburg
Spanish Batalla del Hornburg
Sudanese Perang tina Hornburg
Swahili Vita ya Hornburg
Swedish Slaget vid Hornborgen
Tajik Cyrillic ҷанг аз Ҳорнбург
Turkish Hornburg Muharebesi
Uzbek Ҳорнбург жанги (Cyrillic) Hornburg jangi (Latin)
Vietnamese Trận chiến của hornburg
Welsh Brwydr y Hornburg
Yiddish שלאַכט פון די האָרנבורג
Yoruba Ogun ti awọn Hornburg


  1. The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, Book Three, Ch. VII: "Helm's Deep"
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