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.
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.
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).
One does not simply walk into Mordor, right? Well, now you can with this new fitness challenge app from The Conqueror. You can also run, cycle, or even swim your way to Mt Doom.
The Conqueror specializes in virtual fitness challenges that allow people to gamify exercise and map their progress to different virtual scenarios such as scaling Mt Fuji, or Mt Everest, or walking the Great Wall of China.
For their newest offering, they’ve teamed with Warner Bros. Consumer Products to give people the opportunity to virtually replicate Frodo and Sam’s mammoth trek all the way from Bag End in The Shire to the fires of Mt Doom.
There are five successive challenges in the new Lord of the Rings series, each unlocking the next as it’s logged and completed by participants on the app. The app uses a custom-made map of Middle-earthapp to track and display progress, taking participants on an immersive journey to destroy the One Ring.
Basically, if you’re looking for Lord of the Rings fun while getting healthier and more fit, this could be just the thing for you. It does cost money, but it also comes with some pretty sweet swag as well.
Bootnote: When some fans reached out to us with news of this new LOTR-based fitness app, we decided to take the step of confirming its authenticity and reached out to The Saul Zaentz Company, the current holders of The Lord of the Rings merchandising rights. They have assured us that this is an official product that is properly licensed via Warner Bros. Consumer Products.
In a spy report for the ages, we’re excited to reveal Amazon is already planning an animated spin off from their Rings of Power series.
Anticipating the success of the show, premiering September 2nd on Prime Video, the creative team at Amazon are working on a children’s cartoon series. Here’s what our inside source told us:
The inspiration for the show came from the opening of The Hobbit, when Bilbo first encounters Gandalf. He remarks that the wizard ‘was responsible for so many quiet lads and lasses going off into the Blue for mad adventures. Anything from climbing trees to visiting Elves or sailing in ships, sailing to other shores!’ We thought it would be great to hear the stories of the other Hobbits, who had been on adventures with Gandalf in the past.
With this new series, we’re hoping to make ‘Saturday Morning Cartoons’ exciting, educational and fun again, with wholesome entertainment that is both silly, yet meaningful for the whole family. We’re delighted that Sir Lenny Henry, an actor with a well-known pedigree in comedy and family entertainment, has agreed to voice one of the main characters of the show. With such a distinguished performer already on board, we’re hoping to persuade Sir Ian McKellen to voice Gandalf for us. You really can’t have Gandalf without Sir Ian.
There hasn’t been a final title decision yet. ‘Adventure Hobbits’ was our first thought, but because The Rings of Power is set in the Second Age of Middle-earth, we’re featuring Harfoots in that series. So then we wanted to go with ‘Adventure Harfoots’; but of course the Istari didn’t arrive in Middle-earth until early in the Third Age – so can we blur the lines and have Gandalf and Harfoots together? Then of course there is the additional dilemma about whether it should be ‘Adventure Harfoots’ or ‘Adventure Harfeet’… It’s still a work in progress.
Here at TORn we’re speculating that Amazon may also have wanted to create something to go up against Warner Bros.’ animated Middle-earth tale, The War of the Rohirrim, which is slated for release in April 2024. Now Amazon will have their own animated adventure from Arda. There hasn’t been a cartoon Hobbit since the days of the Rankin/Bass movies; we can’t wait to see the first images from this upcoming show.
Staff from TheOneRing.net will be at Wondercon this weekend in Anaheim and this project is one of many we will be discussing in our Middle-earth! Coming to your TV this Fall presentation. Look for us tonight in room North 200A at 4:30 pm, tickets are still available online and at the door.
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.
…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.
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.
TheOneRing.net will be at WonderCon this year, and we will be hosting two panels over the course of the weekend, April 1-3 in the Anaheim Convention Center. If you plan to attend the convention, please read through the WonderCon COVID protocols.
Our first panel, Middle-earth! Coming to your TV this Fall will be at 4:30 pm on Friday, April 1 (no joke) in room North 200A. This will be our big overview panel, with all the news, rumors, and anecdotes about Amazon’s Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, as well as the WB’s upcoming animated War of the Rohirrim. There will be an update on any and all Middle-earth news, activities, and events coming up this year. And we can wait to see if anyone has had enough time to create a costume from the recent Amazon Teaser Trailer.
Our Second panel, I am no Man: The Women of Middle-earth will be a deep dive into Tolkien’s legendarium to discuss all the unique and wonderful women that Tolkien created. For those who have just read The Hobbit, Middle-earth feels like an ‘all males club’, but in The Lord of the Rings and some of the books of deeper lore, there are queens and warriors and creators, all women, who had a hand in shaping the Middle-earth we all know and love. The presentation is still being crafted, if there is a specific woman of Middle-earth you wish to see discussed, send an email to Garfeimao@TheOnering.net. Include the character name and a brief note about what makes her so special for you, we will include as many as we can fit into our allotted panel time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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