- "Is it not said that no foe has ever taken the Hornburg, if men defended it?"
- —Aragorn, during the Battle of the Hornburg
Said to have been built during the Second Age by the Men of Gondor, it was, along with Angrenost (Isengard), one of two strongholds built to guard the Fords of Isen. The fortress was turned over to the Rohirrim when the Steward Cirion handed control of Calenardhon to Eorl the Young. The remaining garrison was then redeployed to Isengard. The Rohirrim named the fortress Súthburg, as it was the southern fortress guarding the Gap of Rohan.
During the war with the Dunlendings under Wulf, the Rohirrim under King Helm Hammerhand and many of his people sought refuge in the keep, where they held out during the Long Winter of TA 2758 – TA 2759. After this heroic siege the fortress was renamed Hornburg in honour of Helm.
During the War of the Ring, the fortress again became the refuge of some of the Rohirrim, now under King Théoden, and the Battle of the Hornburg was fought there against Saruman's army. It was during this battle that the Deeping Wall was destroyed by explosives. Despite this, Saruman's forces were driven back and routed with the arrival of Erkenbrand on the morning of March 4, 3019.
The valley in front of the fortress was crossed over its entire width by the earthen wall called Helm's Dike. Behind the fortress was the entrance to the Glittering Caves. A long causeway wound up to the great gate of the fortress itself which was built upon an outthrust spur of rock, the Hornrock. The fortress had concentric walls with a tower, the Burg, in the centre.
The Deep, which stood next to and behind the fortress, was barred by the long Deeping Wall, which was thick enough for four men to walk abreast and was twenty feet high. Only a tall man could look over the parapet and it's outer face was smooth. except for a small culvert which allowed water from the Deeping-stream to exit; this provided a fresh supply of water during a long siege, though this small weakness would eventually prove to be the wall's undoing. Access to the fortress from within the Deep was made possible by a stair leading up to the fortress and by three stairs going down into the valley and from there up to the Hornburg's rear gate.
Portrayal in adaptations
The Hornburg features heavily in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, where it is depicted as being built into the mountain behind it, and referred to as the fortress of Helm's Deep.
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