The rollout of the Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power TV series has re-energized Middle-earth fandom, and one thing is clear, we all love to get together, online, at conventions, and at the theater and talk Tolkien.

Reading The Hobbit during the Baggins Birthday Bash

The Baggins Birthday Bash, coming to Los Angeles at 11:30am on September 24 at Griffith Park’s Mineral Wells picnic area is the perfect way for SoCal Tolkien fans to gather and party like Hobbits. There will be games, there will be food, there will be plenty of Tolkien discussion going on, and I’m sure we can fit some fun in there somewhere.

Regarding food, in the before times it was a big buffet, and last year, we decided to ask everyone to just bring enough food and drink for their own party. This year, it will probably end up being a bit of a hybrid. Some will just bring what they want to eat, and a few will bring shareable dishes, and we’ll let the food and drink sort itself out. It would be nice if some folks bring extra picnic plates and cups, maybe some paper towels, and of course, everyone should bring a portable chair or blanket and a popup if you have it.

We would like to bring back the Cake or Cupcake contest for the best Middle-earth designed desserts. We’ve had some really creative and beautiful designs in the past, so start contemplating now on how to wow your fellow fans this year. Costumes are welcome, as usual, especially any new 2nd Age costumes. If we do trivia, there is a decent chance it will include some references to the Rings of Power show, since the 5th episode will have screened just 2 days before the picnic.

Please do RSVP on our Facebook Event page, located at: https://www.facebook.com/events/1271178800320132/ and read through the About Details, including selecting ‘see more’ to access the directions for those driving from different sections of Southern California in order to get to Griffith Park and the Mineral Wells section of the park.

Here’s a somewhat overlooked piece of news from a little while back! On June 15, voice actor Alex Jordan announced that he had a part in the Warner Bros Animation/New Line Cinema feature The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim.

However, it seems that his name was inadvertently omitted from the orginal English voice cast list given to Deadline at the same time. As a result, knowledge of Jordan’s involvement pretty much slipped under the radar.

More interestingly, Jordan has provided the name of the character he will be voicing — an completely original character by the name of Lord Frygt.

Seemingly a strange name, but Scandanavian friends on TORn’s IRC channel tell me that Frygt is a Danish word that means “fear”. One could interpret it as Lord Fear or Lord Fright.

Helm Hammerhand concept art for The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim

At first I wondered, if the use of Danish could be related to the use of Anglo-Saxon to name the other original character we’ve heard of so far — Helm’s daughter, Héra.

Is it meant to be a Dunlending word? Unfortunately, the only Dunlending word we know of is “forgoil”. It seems to impossible to judge by extrapolating our knowledge of Tolkien. But Dunlending is supposedly related to the language of the Haladin, so it seems more likely it might be Rohirric? I’m no language expert so if anyone knows better, let me know!

A name like Lord Fear seems a little ominous as a name for someone of the Rohirrim. Could it be a Dunlending person instead? That seems a little unlikely since the leaders of the Dunlending faction are the Rohirrim lords (and outlaws), Freca and Wulf.

Instead, perhaps it’s meant to be an appellation give by either the Rohirrim or the Dunlendings to something else. Because I’m reminded of something that Philippa Boyens said when I interviewed her in June just after the casting announcement:

I can give you a little tease and let you know that, although we said this isn’t about The Ring and this isn’t about the Dark Lord … there are the White Mountains and there are creatures [out there]. We know that there were orcs around this area.

Exclusive: Philippa Boyens talks The War of The Rohirrim with TheOneRing.net

She also confirmed that these creatures she’s referring to are definitely not the dead men of Erech.

I think Lord Frygt will emerge as some non-human being feared by either the Dunlendings, or by the Rohirrim. Or both.

The War of the Rohirrim will be released in theatres worldwide on April 12, 2024.

About the author: Staffer Demosthenes has been involved with TheOneRing.net since 2001, serving first as an Associate News Editor, then as Chief News Editor during the making of the Hobbit films. Now he focuses on features and analysis. The opinions in this article are his own and do not necessarily represent those of TheOneRing.net and other staff.

Executive Producer Philippa Boyens is pretty pleased with the casting for The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim.

“It’s exciting — we’ve been sitting on it for a little bit,” she says. “[But] it all seemed to come together in an organic way, which is what you want, I think. Suddenly, the right people come to the role.”

We’re speaking via a slightly crackly telephone hook-up just a couple days after the voice casting announcement that includes the news that renowned Scottish actor Brian Cox will be Helm Hammerhand, while Miranda Otto makes an unexpected return to Middle-earth as Éowyn in a narrative role.

An oral tradition

Boyens says that bringing in Otto as narrator was not an immediate decision. Rather it was one that gradually emerged.

She explains that Éowyn eventually felt like the natural way into the bloody and grim tale from Rohan’s past.

“Her voice was familiar,” she says. “And then I think it started to come easily for the writers.”

She hopes that it will also help locate the story for film fans who are unfamiliar with deeper cuts from Middle-earth’s history.

Yet that was not the only reason — an oral tradition felt fitting.

“It’s also so fragmentary, what we are dealing with in terms of the source material. It’s little bits of references here and there … so the oral tradition felt kind of right. The oral tradition of her telling the tale, passing the tale on.”

She doesn’t divulge to whom. But one guesses it is likely her grandson, Barahir. Tolkien not only names Barahir in The Lord of the Rings (solving any potential rights-access issues that would arise with her son, Elboron), he is also an in-world scholar and the author of The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen.

Helm Hammerhand concept art for The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim

Helm Hammerhand: a complex and epic role

Boyens says that both the film’s director Kenji Kamiyama, and Warner Bros SVP and producer Jason DeMarco, were well aware of Brian Cox from his recent voice role in the English dub of Blade Runner: Black Lotus.

“They’re huge fans, of course,” she says.

“Weirdly, years ago — and this is me aging myself — I tried to go and see Brian’s performance as Titus Andronicus.”

She describes how this 1987 run of the Shakespeare tragedy directed by Deborah Warner has attained a legendary status.

“It was just one of those ones which was fresh and shocking,” she says.

“And it [the Andronicus role] wasn’t a role — this is from Brian himself — that many of the other actors were interested in taking on. But he connected to it. I couldn’t get a ticket, but I had a couple of friends saw it who were just blown away. And they talked about the way in which his rage was fuelled by this grief. And the underlying horror that was in the storytelling.

“And that kind of resonated with me when we were thinking about the Helm role. Because it just — it spans a lot of different emotions.”

She says the role — and the film — is about delving into Helm’s choices.

“And the mistakes he made as well. And then his acknowledgement of those mistakes. Was there an acknowledgement of those mistakes?” she asks.

At different points she notes Helm’s hot-temperedness, and how he almost certainly under-estimated the Rohirrim lord, Wulf, who after he is outlawed leads the Dunlending invasion of Rohan.

“[Yet], I saw the tales of him slipping out [of the Hornburg] during the siege and attacking the camp for his people as literally someone trying — even with their bare hands – to protect the people as the king should,” she adds.

“So he was a true manifestation of the king-protector.”

Helm’s heirs and the overthrow of Edoras

The grim reality, though, is that Helm is unable to protect his children.

His eldest son, Haleth, is slain when Edoras is overrun and taken by Wulf’s forces while Helm is forced to take refuge in the Hornburg. We touch only briefly on Helm’s other son but I conclude that his Hama’s fate will remain the same tragedy that it is in Appendix A.

Boyens describes the first as a shocking and powerful moment. Powerful, perhaps, for readers, to finally see things they’ve long envisaged through Tolkien’s descriptions; shocking for film fans to see the unexpected — Edoras besieged and overthrown.

On the other hand, Tolkien leaves the fate of Helm’s daughter unclear. In fact, he never names her even though Freca’s bid for her hand in marriage for his son, Wulf, is a key catalyst for war. Boyens concedes that we simply do not know a lot about her.

“Where we turn to, very deliberately, is to Æthelflæd, the Lady of the Mercians. Alfred the Great’s daughter,” Boyens says, and proceeds to provide a rapid-fire education on an era of British history that I’d barely known of until now.

“She never ruled as a queen per se; she’s known as the Lady of Mercians. But she seems to step in when her people needed her.

“Æthelflæd was also really ingenious, which comes into play in the script. [It] was an idea that Kamiyama had, and they (he and the writers) played with that. I can’t tell you too much about it. But it’s about how you save your life when you have very little to work with?”

It’s a statement that seems to suggest that Helm’s daughter – who they’ve chosen to name Héra – will play some key role after the fall of Edoras to Wulf, and the death of Haleth.

“And I really don’t think that Professor Tolkien would hate this,” Boyens says. “Because I always see him as a bit of a Mercian himself being from the Midlands.”

Héra: so named as a nod to the Anglo-Saxon

Unsurprisingly, the name Héra is chosen for alliterative effect: Helm, Haleth, Hama, Héra. Yet Boyens reveals that wasn’t initially the case.

“Someone suggested another name and I went: “Nope, it’s gotta start with “H”, sorry”,” she says.

“Actually, Fran Walsh named her. I told her we were stuck. It’s actually Héra (I get a quick pronunciation lesson and discover the é functions a little like the “ai” in hair) — that’s why it has the accent. Not so much based on the Greek [goddess] Hera, but a nod to the Anglo-Saxon.

“And I like to think she wasn’t a character that [the writers] tried to create wholesale — pulling things out of thin air. Héra is very much drawing from sources that fit with the storytelling that Tolkien himself is drawing on.”

In case you’re wondering, Boyens confirms that neither Fran Walsh nor Peter Jackson have an official production role. It’s more that, since they’re long-time collaborators and have so much experience within Tolkien’s Middle-earth, they’re sometimes just a natural sounding board for ideas.

“I also want to give a shout out to Gaia Wise who voices Héra. I think you guys are going fall in love with her. She is fantastic, she’s amazing. She just had such innate sense of who the character is and how to play her. She was great.

“She had a very natural sense of fiery-ness, but without it being petulance defiance.”

Mûmakil, mercenaries and money

While we’re discussing events at Edoras, conversation inevitably veers toward the Mûmakil that were prominent in the initial concept art released in January.

Boyens agrees with TORn’s suggestions about why Mûmakil might be present at the siege of Edoras.

“A lot of your supposition was right in that article from our viewpoint,” she says. She more or less adds only a single word to that: mercenaries.

“I think it works. I think it’s not against what you could infer from what we know.”

That might perplex some. But Tolkien Gateway seems to provide an element of support: the word “Variag” (as in the Variags of Khand) is a Slavic word derived from the Norse Varingar — “mercenary people”.  Moreover, Tolkien’s notes to translators imagined the Corsairs as “similar to the Mediterranean corsairs: sea-robbers with fortified bases”. During the 16th Century, the Barbary Corsairs of the Mediterranean regularly used wealthy backers to finance their raids, in turn paying them a share of the plunder.

“In order to understand the use of those [ideas],” Boyens says, “you need to understand the character of Wulf and the position that Wulf is in — and had found himself in. And who he would be turning to.”

At this point she pulls in another fact, mentioning the great wealth of Wulf’s father, Freca.

“His father was not an insignificant Lord of Rohan. He had indeed grown fat and prospered,” she says, referencing Helm’s comment in Appendix A about Freca’s large waistline.

Boyens doesn’t expand any further, but my own guess is that The War of the Rohirrim will establish Wulf as the organising mind behind coordinated assaults on Gondor and Rohan, using resources wealth from his father to secure the assistance of Corsairs and Haradrim.

As Appendix A states:

Four years later (2758) great troubles came to Rohan, and no help could be sent from Gondor, for three fleets of the Corsairs attacked it and there was war on all its coasts. At the same time Rohan was again invaded from the East, and the Dunlendings seeing their chance came over the Isen and down from Isengard.

It was soon known that Wulf was their leader. They were in great force, for they were joined by enemies of Gondor that landed in the mouths of Lefnui and Isen.

A human struggle that becomes increasingly claustrophobic

If this sounds like a very human — and political — struggle, Boyens concurs. I suggest the absence of elves, dwarves and hobbits makes it a very different tale to The Lord of the Rings that most know.

She indicates that this was one of the reasons for choosing Helm’s story.

“It’s not about the Ring, it’s not about the Dark Lord. All of that is very peripheral to the story.”

She says it’s also the attraction of examining honour, revenge and familial ties — on both sides.

For Helm, there’s madness born of grief from the loss of the child. With Wulf, there’s his relationship with his father, and with Héra.

“He is his father’s son, but he has a different character. So he does actually offer [to wed] her and the writers asked: ‘Why?’ What was driving him? Was it just his father demanding that he do this? Was it his ambition? What was at play there?”

Even the historical grievances of the Dunlendings — that the lords of Gondor gave what the Dunlendings felt was their land to the Rohirrim — should come through in the film.

She says that all those things are in the Helm tale.

“When I talked to Kamiyama about it, it resonated with him. So that was the genesis,” she says.

“And there’s a moment in the film, which is incredibly gut-wrenching and powerful where Wulf commits himself to a course of action he cannot turn away from. And once he does that, the story darkens.”

She says it was here that the screenwriters Phoebe Gittins and Arty Papageorgiou really connected with Kamiyama.

“So, yes, it begins with these quite large-scale battles, but it actually becomes more intense and … claustrophobic,” Boyens says.

“And the nature of the film changes almost into a ghost story.

“As the siege takes hold, as the rumours of horror begin to spread. And I can give you a little tease and let you know that, although we said this isn’t about The Ring and this isn’t about the Dark Lord … there are the White Mountains and there are creatures [out there].”

Somewhat to my relief she squashes speculation that she might be referring to the Dead of Erech. Instead, she suggests that orcs inhabited the area — a historically more agreeable inclusion.

“Also, I can just add — and I thought it was, again, really interesting in the way that Kamiyama approached this — this was a long, cold winter that was hurting everyone.”

This suggests that there won’t be space to see Gondor’s own struggles. Gondor may come to the rescue in the end, but it seems the focus will be squarely on a life-and-death struggle within Rohan.

She won’t even confirm or deny the presence of Saruman the White in the film. We’ll just have to wait and see.

War of the Rohirrim title lgo

About the author: Staffer Demosthenes has been involved with TheOneRing.net since 2001, serving first as an Associate News Editor, then as Chief News Editor during the making of the Hobbit films. Now he focuses on features and analysis. The opinions in this article are his own and do not necessarily represent those of TheOneRing.net and other staff.

If you have a Tolkien/Middle-earth inspired poem you’d like to share, then send it to poetry@theonering.net. One poem per person may be submitted each month. Please make sure to proofread your work before sending it in. TheOneRing.net is not responsible for poems posting with spelling or grammatical errors.

According to Deadline, Brian Cox is set to perform the English voice role for Helm Hammerhand in Warner Bros. Animation’s upcoming anime feature, The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim.

Helm Hammerhand is described as the protaganist of the tale, but the real surprise is the inclusion of Miranda Otto. Otto will reprise her Éowyn role from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and serve as the film’s narrator.

In addition, Gaia Wise voices Hammerhand’s daughter, Hera. Luke Pasqualinoi will voice the Dunlending chieftain Wulf.

The story outline given to Deadline is as follows:

The anime feature, directed by Kenji Kamiyama, is set 183 years before the events chronicled in the original trilogy of films. A sudden attack by Wulf, a clever and ruthless Dunlending lord seeking vengeance for the death of his father, forces Helm and his people to make a daring last stand in the ancient stronghold of the Hornburg — a mighty fortress that will later come to be known as Helm’s Deep. Finding herself in an increasingly desperate situation, Hera, the daughter of Helm, must summon the will to lead the resistance against a deadly enemy intent on their total destruction.

Helm’s daughter is not named in Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings. However, the story describes how relations between Helm and Wulf’s father Freca sour dramatically after Freca attempts to use her as a political pawn. Her ultimate fate is one of the mysteries of the ensuing war.

Warner Bros. Animation has also released a new piece of concept art that appears to show Helm at the gate of his eponymous fortress. It’s reminiscent of this scene during the depths of the Long Winter:

One night men heard the horn blowing, but Helm did not return. In the morning there came a sun-gleam, the first for long days, and they saw a white figure standing still on the Dike, alone, for none of the Dunlendings dared come near. There stood Helm, dead as a stone, but his knees were unbent.

The Lord of the Rings: Appendix A.
Helm Hammerhand concept art for The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim.
Helm Hammerhand concept art for The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim.

The voice ensemble also includes Lorraine Ashbourne (Netflix’s Bridgerton), Yazdan Qafouri (I Came By), Benjamin Wainwright (BBC One’s World on Fire), Laurence Ubong Williams (Gateway), Shaun Dooley (Netflix’s The Witcher), Michael Wildman (Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw), Jude Akuwudike (Beasts of No Nation), Bilal Hasna (BBC’s Sparks) and Janine Duvitski (ITV’s Benidorm).

The film will be released on April 12, 2024.

Over on The Gamer, there’s a great little backgrounder about the famous king of Rohan, Helm Hammerhand. It discusses his reign, key role in the events of the Long Winter and suggests he might just be “the most badass” character Tolkien ever wrote.

I’m not so sure on the last; any number of First Age elves might disagree (let alone the famously enthusiastic Morgoth-wrestler, Tulkas) but it’s certainly material for a good debate.

An excerpt:

…it’s not killing Freca that gave Helm his name, it’s his solo missions behind Dunlending lines during the Long Winter. His people were besieged by weather and foes for five months, and Helm himself was gaunt and emaciated due to famine and grief for his son who was killed in battle. Despite this, Helm clad himself in white and stalked behind enemy lines “like a snow troll.” He would kill many foes with his bare hands during these raids, and legends spread about his abilities.

The Gamer
Wulf’s forces assault Edoras. Concept art for The War of the Rohirrim.

I also have to note that the author considers the presence of the Haradrim (and Mûmakil) a non-canon insertion for The War of the Rohirrim. As I outlined in a long article a couple of weeks ago, the appendices to The Lord of the Rings indicate that folk from Harad actually supported Wulf’s endeavours.

In the days of Beren, the nineteenth Steward, an even greater peril came upon Gondor. Three great fleets, long prepared, came up from Umbar and the Harad [my emphasis], and assailed the coasts of Gondor in great force; and the enemy made many landings, even as far north as the mouth of the Isen. [again, my emphasis]

Appendix A, The Lord of the Rings

Still, it’s a great read if you don’t know anything about Helm Hammerhand and want to look him up. Go check it out.

Thanks to Chen for the heads-up about the article.

The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim

Since the announcement of The War of the Rohirrim, I’ve been pondering how it might all come together. And, in particular, I’ve been pondering the potential role, actions and presence of Saruman.

Here’s why.

We know that after coming to Middle-earth (recorded as around TA 1000) Saruman does not settle down. He goes east (as do the Blue Wizards) into the lands beyond Mordor — presumably Harad, Khand and Rhûn. Unlike the Blue Wizards, he returns.

When is not precisely specified. However, in TA 2463 Galadriel summons the first meeting of the White Council (probably held in Rivendell). Given that the outcome of that meeting is that Saruman is appointed head of the council, he must surely have been present.

The White Council meets in Rivendell in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit.

Might he have returned to the lands in the east following that? He may have. But another option occurs to me: a long sojourn in Minas Tirith — perhaps interrupted by occasional ventures into other lands.

`In former days the members of my order had been well received [in Gondor], but Saruman most of all. Often he had been for long the guest of the Lords of the City. Less welcome did the Lord Denethor show me then than of old, and grudgingly he permitted me to search among his hoarded scrolls and books.
‘”If indeed you look only, as you say, for records of ancient days, and the beginnings of the City, read on!” he said. “For to me what was is less dark than what is to come, and that is my care. But unless you have more skill even than Saruman, who has studied here long, you will find naught that is not well known to me, who am master of the lore of this City.”‘

The Council of Elrond, The Lord of the Rings

In fact, as the shiny new head of the White Council, Saruman may well have spent — on and off — several hundred years in Minas Tirith forging good relations with Gondor’s stewards because of its importance as a bulwark against the re-emerging threat of Mordor.

There is some support to be gleaned for this view from Unfinished Tales.

Now the White Messenger in later days became known Elves as Curunír, the Man of Craft, in the tongue of Northern Men Saruman; but that was after he returned from his many journeys and came into the realm of Gondor and there abode.

The Istari, Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth

And key events occur in, or around, Gondor during that period. Attacks on Gondor began again in TA 2475. Osgiliath is finally ruined, and its stone-bridge broken. Then, in TA 2510 orcs and Easterlings overrun Calenardhon. Gondor is only saved by the assistance of Eorl the Young. That famous victory at the Field of Celebrant paves the way for the pact of then-Steward Cirion and Eorl that allows the Rohirrim to subsequently settle in Calenardhon.

These are all solid reasons for Saruman to spend time working behind the scenes in Minas Tirith during this period.

Set against all this, the headnote to Appendix B simply states that “Curunír journeyed often into the East, but dwelt at last in Isengard.” But, like, I said, he need not have been in Minas Tirith during all of that period.

At this point, Orthanc is long-unoccupied with the keys at Minas Tirith in the possession of the ruling Steward. Tolkien’s essay on The Palantíri describes how by the time of the rule of the Stewards only rustic “hereditary chieftains” remain in Isengard (Orthanc itself is empty and locked) and that even these are eventually supplanted, subverted, or slain, by Dunlendings.

It is this that gives the Dunlendings in TA 2758 — lead by Wulf — leverage for their campaign against Helm Hammerhand.

Concept art for The War of the Rohirrim showing showing Edoras being beseiged.

But, returning to Saruman, what might have he been doing during this period when both Gondor and Rohan are fighting for their very existence?

We know Saruman has the power to make a difference as Gondor struggled to repel the Corsairs raiding its own coasts. It also seems very possible he was residing in Minas Tirith at the time. But we also know he is constrained by the Valar’s exhortation to “avoid open display of power” and “seek to unite in love and understanding all those whom Sauron, should he come again, would endeavour to dominate and corrupt”.

Surely he wouldn’t just spend such a critical period merely sifting through Minas Tirith’s archives.

So let’s do some theory-crafting here.

What if Saruman had played some key role in repelling the Corsairs from the south Gondor coasts, allowing Gondor to finally come to Rohan’s aid? Surely that would earn him the gratitude of Gondor’s Steward and cement his reputation as a friend of the Dúnedain and the Rohirrim.

It need not have even been a dramatic display of power. After all, during the War of the Ring, Gandalf saves Theoden at Helm’s Deep through his efforts at gathering and coordinating those who opposed Saruman (and Sauron). He gathers the scattered forces of Erkenbrand. He gains the assistance of Treebeard and the loan of the Huorns.

Would Saruman have the humility to accomplish something in a similar vein? To be a facilitator rather than to seek to rule wills through open display of power? I’m not so sure about that — Unfinished Tales suggests that even at this point Saruman was disenchanted by the suggestion that Gandalf should head the White Council, and more generally jealous of the respect Gandalf was accorded. We don’t know for sure, but by this time he may even have been aware that Cirdan had given Gandalf the Narya, the ring of fire.

That might push Saruman to dramatic efforts to assist the Steward of the time, Beren, in repelling the Corsairs. Dramatic efforts that would gain greater recognition.

But what sort of efforts?

For The War of the Rohirrim anime, one answer might draw on the “canon” of the Peter Jackson films. In those, Saruman appears to harness the weather to command the snowstorm on the pass of Caradhras that dramatically halts the progress of the Fellowship.

Saruman summon the storm on Caradhras in the PJverse in The Fellowship of the Ring.

What if, during The War of the Rohirrim he was to do the opposite — exerting his powers to halt the Long Winter that so devastated the Rohirrim? Or at least to lessen its effects?

The Tale of Years records:

In that year (2758) the Long Winter began with cold and great snows out of the North and the East which lasted for almost five months. Helm of Rohan and both his sons perished in that war; and there was misery and death in Eriador and in Rohan. But in Gondor south of the mountains things were less evil, and before spring came Beregond son of Beren had overcome the invaders.

The Tale of Years, The Lords of the Rings

The section detailing the history of the House of Eorl further adds that winter broke soon after the death of Helm. No date is given, but given that Rohan lay under snow from November to March of 2758-9, one could reasonably deduce that the snowmelt began in early-mid April.

Perhaps, in this WarnerBros-verse, Saruman could lend his efforts to keep winter’s effects from devastating Gondor, and/or contribute to breaking its deathly grip on Rohan. This would allow Beregond (son of the Steward, Beren) the opportunity to oust the Corsairs from Gondor’s southern coasts. Beregond can then finally come to the aid of the Rohirrim just as Helm’s sister’s son and heir, Fréaláf, completes his breakout from the fastness of Dunharrow and manages to surprise and slay Wulf in Meduseld.

Rohan and Gondor are saved. Apart from the proposed influence of Saruman, all this is per Tolkien’s given history.

In the aftermath, a grateful Beren asks Saruman what reward he would have. Saruman simply requests the guardianship of Orthanc and the Ring of Isengard in order to, as outlined in Unfinished Tales, “repair it and reorder it as part of the defences of the West.”

Chris Lee as Saruman the White.

What of Saruman’s motives here?

The Tale of Years records that “at the crowning of Fréaláf that Saruman appeared, bringing gifts, and speaking great praise of the valour of the Rohirrim. All thought him a welcome guest.”

He earns not just great prestige, but a seat of power that provides clear control over the Gap of Rohan. Was he intent on consolidating a powerbase even at that point? Or sensibly plugging a hole in the defences of the free peoples of Middle-earth?

Unfinished Tales records that Saruman “had no doubt from his investigations gained a special knowledge of the Stones… and had become convinced that the Orthanc-stone was still intact in its tower.” It further adds that if the then-Steward, Beren, considered the Stone at all when he handed over Orthanc’s keys “he probably thought that it could be in no safer hands than those of the head of the Council.”

In itself that is not damning as to Saruman’s intent. What is dubious is that Saruman never reports the existence of the Orthanc to his colleagues. But it’s not until TA 2850 that he sends servants to search in secret for the Ring at the Gladden Fields. The Tale of Years suggests that it was around that time that Saruman had begun to desire the the Ring for himself. Finally, in TA 2953 he completely stops cooperating with other members of the Council and begins spying on Gandalf.

Regardless, there’s an opportunity for director Kenji Kamiyama to include Saruman in The War of the Rohirrim as more than someone who merely shows up to occupy Orthanc at the end of the film. It will be interesting to see if (and how) he uses that opportunity.

The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim

About the author: Staffer Demosthenes has been involved with TheOneRing.net since 2001, serving first as an Associate News Editor, then as Chief News Editor during the making of the Hobbit films. Now he focuses on features and analysis. The opinions in this article are his own and do not necessarily represent those of TheOneRing.net and other staff.

If you have a Tolkien/Middle-earth inspired poem you’d like to share, then send it to poetry@theonering.net. One poem per person may be submitted each month. Please make sure to proofread your work before sending it in. TheOneRing.net is not responsible for poems posting with spelling or grammatical errors.