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War of the Ring

Prelude: Attack on the Woodland RealmSauron's assault on OsgiliathSkirmish at WeathertopBattle at Amon HenWar commences:First Battle of the Fords of IsenAmbush of the RohirrimSecond Battle of the Fords of IsenBattle of the Hornburglast march of the EntsBattle of IthilienBattle of OsgiliathSiege of GondorBattle of the Pelennor FieldsBattle of DaleBattles of Lórien and invasion of eastern Rohanbattle under the treesQuarrelAmbush in IthilienBattle of the Morannondestruction of Dol GuldurBattle of Bywater

The Battle of the Hornburg, often called the Battle of Helm's Deep, was the first large-scale battle of the War of the Ring, where the Rohirrim under King Théoden defended the Hornburg from Saruman's army of Dunlendings and Uruk-hai.



After being freed by Gandalf from Gríma Wormtongue's influence, Théoden rode for the Fords of Isen where Erkenbrand was battling Saruman's Orcs. As Théoden rode west, he met Ceorl, who informed him of Erkenbrand's defeat. Unable to meet Saruman's force head-on with his small force, Gandalf advised him to ride straight to the Hornburg where many of the people of Westfold were taking refuge in the Glittering Caves. A local captain called Gamling the Old led the garrison of about a thousand men. With the arrival of Théoden, the defenders' strength was just under three thousand men, allowing the defences to be fully manned.

The battle

The army of Saruman, ultimately consisting of Uruk-hai, Wild Men of Dunland, Orcs, and Half-orcs, was reinforced on the way to 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 defense of Helm's Dike, but sustained many losses to the rearguard, "filling up the dike to the top". After moving past the dike, the Orcs approached the fortress of the Hornburg and 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 II 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, they 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 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

A huge host of Orcs poured into the new breach, and after a desperate battle in the Deep, some of the defenders led by Éomer, Gimli and Gamling retreated into the Glittering Caves while Aragorn, Legolas and the remainder fought their way into the keep via a stairway from the Deep to the fortress. During the retreat, Aragorn stumbled and was almost overcome by Orcs; but was saved by Legolas and a boulder that was cast down upon the Orcs from the wall.

Just before dawn, Aragorn called for a parley at the gate 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 blasted open the gate, destroying the arch with the 'blasting-fire'. Suddenly, Théoden and Aragorn led a powerful cavalry charge out of the keep to the blasts of the great horn of Helm Hammerhand, 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 company in 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-foot soldiers. They charged Sauraman's host, trapping them between Erkenbrand's army, Théoden's army, and a newly appeared forest of strange trees. The Dunlendings dropped their weapons and surrendered, while the Uruk-hai fled into the forest.

Immediate aftermath

One of the Rohirrim dead was Háma, a captain of Théoden's personal guard and doorward of Meduseld, whose body the Orcs hewed after he died. Nonetheless, the refugees in the Glittering Caves were safe in their entirety, and thus returned to their homes. 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]

The surrendering Dunlendings were spared and given amnesty by Erkenbrand, much to their surprise, as Saruman had claimed that the men of Rohan would burn all survivors alive. The Dunlendings would be required to retreat behind the River Isen again and never re-cross it bearing arms. At Erkenbrand's orders, the Dunlending prisoners were put to work repairing the damage to the Hornburg before being sent home. The slain Dunlendings were buried in a communal mound, while the Orc carcasses were simply piled off to the side of the battlefield and left to rot.

Less than half of the 10,000 Uruk-hai who had survived the main battle had fled into the strange forest, where they were never be seen again, as this was actually the newly arrived Huorns from Fangorn Forest. At night, unseen by the Rohirrim, the Huorns slew all remaining Uruks and buried them in a hill later known as the Death Down.

Later aftermath

The Battle of the Hornburg was critical to the survival of Rohan and to its participation in the War of the Ring as a whole; had the Rohirrim lost the battle, their people as a whole would have been obliterated by the rampaging legions of Saruman's Uruk-hai and would not have been able to aid Gondor at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Merry and Pippin's persuasion of Treebeard to attack Isengard was critical as well, guaranteeing Rohan's survival for a time.

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 Peter Jackson's film The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, an expanded and emotionally-potent version of the book's events is depicted, as the people of Rohan possess a more prominent role in the conflict, Elves of Lothlórien arrive as reinforcements, the technology and tactics of Isengard are depicted in great detail, and the entire battle takes on a more climactic role than Tolkien likely intended. Some Tolkien purists were disappointed by the film's addition of the old men and young boy conscripts of the Rohirrim, plus the Lórien Elves, neither who was shown alive at the end of the battle (as Jackson wanted to show the toll of war). Nonetheless, the Battle of the Hornburg is among the film trilogy's depiction of events that is largely faithful to its literary counterpart. This adaptation of the battle has been described as one of the greatest battle scenes in film, combining "technical mastery, sweeping spectacle and tonal balance". 

For Jackson`s film, the keep was built into the mountainside and resembles a World War I bunker, in keeping with Tolkien's history as a soldier in that war. The entrance to the Glittering Caves of Aglarond is also contained within the keep itself, rather than at the top of the deep behind the Deeping Wall as in the book. Further, the Uruk-hai assault the main gateway in a testudo, or locked-shields style formation, and the 'blasting fire' is depicted as gunpowder. The battle was filmed mainly at night, in frequent heavy natural rain or when necessary with artificial rain on the actors, for more than three months. The Helm's Deep set used some computer-generated imagery; some parts were constructed as full size sets; some shots used a 1/4 scale physical model, while more distant shots used a 1/85 scale model. In the final battle scene, Weta Digital's "Massive" crowd simulation software and "Grunt" rendering software were used, with thousands of Uruk-hai modelled using Alias/Wavefront's "Maya" software.

Preceding the battle, the entire city of Edoras is evacuated to Helm's Deep, along with all the people of Rohan, rather than merely the refugees of the Westfold, and Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli accompany King Théoden and his people there. Along the way, they are attacked by Saruman's Warg-riders. During this fight, Éowyn leads the evacuees on to Helm's Deep while the Riders of Rohan fight off the attack. Aragorn becomes entangled with the harness of a Warg and is dragged off the side of a cliff. Upon arrival at Helm's Deep, the Rohirrim begin belated siege preparations, during which Aragorn, found by the horse Brego, arrives with news of 10,000 Uruk-hai coming from Isengard, news which leads Théoden to order conscription of mature boys and old men for the impending battle. Aragorn suggests calling for aid to the downtrodden Théoden, and Legolas argues with him about the Rohirrim defenders' fighting odds. All are surprised at a sudden arrival of Haldir and an army of Elves from Lórien. They had been sent by Elrond to support the Rohirrim, in honor of the ancient alliance between Men and Elves. Aragorn, Legolas, and Haldir's Elves station on the Deeping Wall, ensuring that every fortification of the Hornburg is manned.

The battle begins once the Uruk host of 10,000 has formed fully in front of the castle - an accidental bow shot by an old man named Aldor kills an Uruk at the front, followed by a volley of arrows from all defenders once the Uruks begin to charge forward. The events are similar to those in the book, as Uruk-hai pour over ladders on the Deeping Wall to be met with a brave but shifting defence by the Rohirrim; however, Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn's roles are greatly expanded, and the device responsible for destroying the wall is revealed as a form of gunpowder. Once the wall is blown, the Uruk-hai pour into Helm's Deep through the breach.

The battle slowly turns from here; Aragorn is briefly incapacitated and, the Elves begin to wither, and Haldir himself is slain. The Rohirrim begin to suffer casualties of their own, their already-sparse forces thinning and losing their weakest members, and the Uruk-hai begin to besiege the keep by using a battering ram against the main gate. Théoden is injured in this chaos, and Aragorn offers aid, to which he requests "Time, as much you can get me." To do this, Aragorn and Gimli stealthily circle the fortress to ambush the Uruk-hai on the causeway. Gimli and Aragorn earn time for the Rohirrim to refortify the entrance, but soon the defenses break down as Uruks fully breach the area behind the Deeping Wall, and all remaining Rohirrim retreat to the keep. Once inside where they are trapped, Théoden falls further into despair while his soldiers brace the doors, as Aragorn and Gamling deliberate on sending the women and children further into the caves.

As the Orcs break down the doors to the keep, Gimli notes that the sun is rising, allowing Aragorn to remember the arrival of Gandalf, and convinced Théoden to ride out with him. Gimli sounds the horn of Helm Hammerhand as Théoden, Aragorn, and the remaining Rohirrim upon horses charge out of the keep, through the Hornburg and out its gates, breaking the front line of the host at the causeway. From a vantage point, Théoden and Aragorn see Gandalf arrive upon Shadowfax on a high hill in the east, and with him Éomer and the horsemen he has gathered, who collectively plunge into the valley towards the Hornburg. The Uruk host, which is still great in number, forms up a massive phalanx of spears to meet Gandalf and Éomer's charge from above. The sun rises over this high point and shines on the battlefield, blinding many of the Uruk-hai and breaking their cohesive formation, and as the newly arrived forces charge into them, causing the Uruks to break and flee. 

In a deleted scene that is included in the Extended Edition, the Uruks escape into a nearly arrived "forest" of Huorns at their north, who have slowly moved there from Fangorn Forest. Éomer orders that the pursuit be halted and Rohirrim watch from afar, as the mass of Huorns is seen stirring followed by the death throes of the Uruk-hai as they are slain. 

Notable deaths

See also


Foreign Language Translated name
Afrikaans Slag van die Hornburg
Albanian Beteja e Kalaja me brirë
Amharic ቀንድ ምሽግ ጦርነት
Arabic معركة القلعة قرنية
Armenian եղջյուր բերդ նտամարտ
Azerbaijani Hornburg döyüş
Basque Hornburgko gudua (Battle of the Hornburg) Helmeko abismoko gudua (Battle of the Helm's Deep)
Belarusian Cyrillic Рагаты крэпасць бітва (Battle of the Hornburg) Хельмава Падзь бітва (Battle of the Helm's Deep)
Bengali হর্নবার্গের যুদ্ধ
Bosnian Bitka u Hornburg
Breton Emgann ar Hornburg
Bulgarian Cyrillic Битката на Рогоскал (Battle of the Hornburg) Битката на Шлемово усое (Battle of the Helm's Deep)
Cambodian សមរភូមិបន្ទាយហ៊ន
Catalan Batalla de les Fortalesa de la Banya (Battle of the Hornburg) Batalla de les Gorja d'en Helm (Battle of the Helm's Deep)
Chinese (Hong Kong) 聖盔谷之戰
Corsican Battagghia di li Fortezza Cornuta
Croatian Bitka na Hornburg
Czech Bitva o Hlásku (Battle of the Hornburg) Bitva o Helmův žleb (Battle of the Helm's Deep)
Danish Slaget ved Hornborg (Battle of the Hornburg) Slaget ved Helms kløft (Battle of the Helm's Deep)
Dutch Slag aan de Hoornburg (Battle of the Hornburg) Slag aan Helmsdiepte (Battle of the Helm's Deep)
Esperanto Batalo ĉe la Fortikaĵo de Corno
Estonian Selle Hornburg lahing
Filipino Labanan ng mga Hornburg
Finnish Ämyrilinnan taistelu (Battle of the Hornburg) Helmin syvänteen taistelu (Battle of the Helm's Deep)
French Bataille de la Fort-le-Cor (Battle of the Hornburg) Bataille du Gouffre de Helm (Battle of the Helm's Deep)
Frisian Slach fan 'e Hornburg
Galician Batalla das Fortaleza de Corno (Battle of the Hornburg) Batalla das Abismo de Helmo (Battle of the Helm's Deep)
Georgian ჰორნბურგთან ბრძოლა (Battle of the Hornburg) ჰელმის ხრამი ბრძოლა (Battle of the Helm's Deep)
German Schlacht um die Hornburg (Battle of the Hornburg) Schlacht um Helms Klamm (Battle of the Helm's Deep)
Greek Μάχη του Χόρνμπουργκ
Gujarati શિંગડા કેસલ યુદ્ધ
Hebrew ה קרב על הורנבורג
Hindi की लड़ाई सींग वाला किला
Hungarian Csata a Hornburg
Icelandic Orrustan við Hornburg
Indonesian Pertempuran Hornburg
Italian Battaglia del Fortezza del Corno (Battle of the Hornburg) Battaglia del Fosso di Helm (Battle of the Helm's Deep)
Irish Gaelic Cath na Hornburg
Japanese 角笛城の合戦
Kannada ಕೊಂಬಿನ ಕೋಟೆ ಯುದ್ಧ
Kazakh Мүйізді бекініс шайқасы (Cyrillic) Müyizdi bekinis şayqası (Latin)
Korean 나팔산성 전투 (헬름 협곡 공방전)
Kyrgyz Cyrillic Мүйүздүү чеп салгылашуу
Latvian Kauja Hornburg
Lithuanian Mūšis dėl Hornburg
Luxembourgish Schluecht vun der Hornburg
Macedonian Cyrillic Битка со Рог замок
Malaysian Pertempuran Hornburg
Maltese Ġlieda tal-Hornburg ?
Marathi शिंग असलेला किल्ला लढाई
Mongolian Cyrillic Эвэрт цайз тулаан
Nepalese हर्न किल्ला लडाई
Norwegian Slaget om Hornborg (Battle of the Hornburg) Slaget om Helmsdjupet (Battle of Helm's Deep)
Persian (Battle of the Helm's Deep) جنگ گودی هلم (Battle of the Hornburg) نبرد قلعه شاخ
Polish Bitwą o Rogaty Gród (Battle of the Hornburg) Bitwa o Helmowy Jar (Battle of Helm's Deep)
Portuguese Batalha do Fortaleza de Chifres (Brazil)

Batalha das Fortaleza de Chifres (Portugal)
Batalha das Abismo de Helm (Battle of the Helm's Deep)

Punjabi ਸਿੰਗ ਕਿਲੇ ਦੀ ਲੜਾਈ
Romanian Bătălia de pe Hornburg
Russian Битва при Хорнбурге (Battle of the Hornburg) Битва при Хельмова Падь (Battle of the Helm's Deep)
Samoan Le Taua o le Hornburg
Scottish Gaelic Blàr an Hornburg
Serbian Битка на Рожната тврђава (Cyrillic) Bitka na Rožnata tvrđava (Latin)
Sinhalese අං බලකොටුව සටන
Slovak Bitka o Hornburg (Battle of the Hornburg) Bitka o Helmov žľab (Battle of the Helm's Deep)
Slovenian Bitka v Hornburg
Somalian Dagaalka ee ah Hornburg
Spanish Batalla de las Hornburg (Battle of the Hornburg) Batalla del Abismo de Helm (Battle of the Helm's Deep)
Sundanese Perang tina Hornburg
Swahili Vita ya Hornburg
Swedish Slaget vid Hornborgen (Battle of the Hornburg) Slaget vid Helms klyfta (Battle of the Helm's Deep)
Tajik Cyrillic ҷанг аз Ҳорнбург
Tamil கொம்பு கோட்டை சண்டை
Telugu కొమ్ముల కోట యుద్ధం
Turkish Hornburg Muharebesi (Battle of the Hornburg) Miğfer Dibi Muharebesi (Battle of the Helm's Deep)
Turkmen Şahly gala Söweşi
Uzbek Чохли қалъа жанги (Cyrillic) Shoxli qal'a jangi (Latin)
Vietnamese Trận Hornburg
Welsh Brwydr y Hornburg
Yiddish שלאַכט פון די האָרנבורג
Yoruba Ogun ti awọn Hornburg