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

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.

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.

It appears that the appearance of Mûmakil in the recent Warner Bros. concept art has sparked dire thoughts that the production is already going off-track and that the apocalypse is nigh.

Fear not: I think people are misremembering the contents of Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings. That’s okay — I forget things all the time only to be reminded of something really obvious like “Oh, Finrod is a blonde, duh”.

The good news is that we don’t have to dig far here to get at the substance of the argument. First, Appendix A: II: The House of Eorl. Second, we want to look at the corresponding entries for the Stewards of Gondor. That is, anything mentioned during the stewardship of Beren.

This comprises the core of our knowledge about this period of the history of Gondor and Rohan.

Looking more closely at the histories, two passages stand out.

First, turning to the House of Eorl, we find this passage describing events in the years after Helm Hammerhand killed the Dunlending, Freca, with a blow from his fist at Edoras:

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 [my emphasis], and the Dunlendings seeing their chance came over the Isen and down from Isengard. It was soon known that Wulf was their leader. The were in great force, for they were joined by enemies of Gondor that landed in the mouths of Lefnui and Isen.

Appendix A, The Lord of the Rings

Now, I’ll agree from the east is vague. Do the Balcoth, who assaulted Gondor during Cirion’s stewardship, still exist as a threat? Could that be referring to them? Or folk out of Rhûn? Not impossible. That the folk of Harad would circle all the way around Mordor in order to cross the Brown Lands and cross the Anduin at The Undeeps seems … less than likely.

But I don’t think it actually matters.

Because more details emerge from the Appendix A section that discusses events during the lifetime of the Steward of Gondor, Beren.

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.

Appendix A, The Lord of the Rings

Joining these two together, I believe, solidifies an argument for the presence of Haradrim (and thus, potentially Mûmakil at Edoras when it’s taken by Freca’s son Wulf).

Because as Appendix A also states:

The Rohirrim were defeated and their land was overrun; and those who were not slain or enslaved fled to the dales of the mountains. Helm was driven back with great loss from the Crossings of Isen and took refuge in the Hornburg and the ravine behind (which was after known as Helm’s Deep). There he was besieged. Wulf took Edoras and sat in Meduseld and called himself king. There Haleth Helm’s son fell, last of all, defending the doors.

Appendix A, The Lord of the Rings

Thus, what the concept art shows is Wulf’s final assault on Edoras with the assistance of Haradrim allies. Haradrim allies who were part of those three fleets (along with the Corsairs of Umbar). Haradrim allies who landed at the mouths of the Lenfui and the Isen. And Haradrim allies who travelled all the way up from the south coasts to support Wulf in his invasion. His invasion of, first, Westfold, and subsequently the rest of Rohan.

If they happen to bring Mûmakil in tow, well is not that lore-accurate, too?

The Haradrim need not have invaded from the east at all. In fact, the invasion from the east is probably another, different folk. Rather, the Haradrim were with Wulf all along. And the Mûmakil? Well, what better weapon to overthrow the horselords? As we see in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields…

But wherever the mûmakil came there the horses would not go, but blenched and swerved away; and the great monsters were unfought, and stood like towers of defence, and the Haradrim rallied about them.

The Battle of the Pelennor Fields, The Lord of the Rings
battle of the pelennor fields by alan lee
The Battle of the Pelennor Fields by Alan Lee.

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.

Variety reports that Warner Bros. and the Saul Zaentz Co. are currently in private mediation to settle differences over license rights to film adaptations of key J.R.R. Tolkien’s works The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

According to Variety’s sources, the argument stems from disagreement about whether the studio has met ongoing obligations needed to maintain the long-term license that it has held since the late 1990s.

In a statement to Variety, a Warner Bros. spokeswoman said:

New Line Cinema has maintained the theatrical film rights, both live-action and animated, for over two decades now. We are currently in production on our anime film ‘The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim’ and look forward to bringing audiences back to Middle-earth.

Warner Bros. earlier this week announced a release date for that film, and showed off the first samples of concept art.

As Variety points out, license deals such as this “often involve producers conducting a certain level of development and production activity by pre-determined dates, among other clauses.”

However, it is the Saul Zaetnz Co. (through its subsidiary, Middle-earth Enterprises) that holds the rights to exploit The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit “in movies, video games, merchandising, live events and theme parks.”

Variety adds that this includes limited matching rights should the Tolkien Estate make movies or other content based on two Tolkien books published after his death: The Silmarillion, and The Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth.

The Saul Zaentz Co. also recently announced that it will auction all its Tolkien IP rights. Universal and Warner Bros. are both reported to be interested.

Read more at Variety.

The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim