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.

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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.

One of the continual questions that has come up since the first announcement of The War of the Rohirrim is whether the Kenji Kamiyama-directed effort will be 2D or 3D.

(To say that many anime aficionados have mixed feelings about the use of full 3D would be somewhat of an understatement.)

Last year, WOTR producer (and now Senior Vice President of Anime and Action Series at Warner Bros.) Jason DeMarco answered on his personal twitter that the film would be in 2D. Yesterday he re-confirmed that the feature-length animation would be 2D — there has been no change of direction.

Some of the confusion (and concern) seems to arise from the involvement of Sola Entertainment. Sola Ent. is the parent company of Sola Digital Arts. It was Sola Digital Arts that animated full-3D works such as Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045, Ultraman, and Bladerunner: Black Lotus.

But as one of the editors of longtime anime news source Anime News Network points out on their forums: The War of the Rohirrim “may be being made by a different division of Sola Entertainment, or by a studio outsourced from it. Notably, [the] production studio is listed on Sola’s own website as ‘Sola Entertainment/TBC.'”

DeMarco also reinforced that several alumni from the Peter Jackson films are involved in the production:

Do we have Weta on board? YUP
Do we have Philippa Boyens on board? YUP
Do we have John Howe on board? YUP
DO WE HAVE ALAN FUCKING LEE ON BOARD?? HELL YEAH WE DO

The War of the Rohirrim concept art.