Mark Reads ‘The Two Towers’: Chapter 7

In the seventh chapter of The Two Towers, BY GANDALF’S BEARD THIS IS SO INTENSE. If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to read The Lord of the Rings.



I will forever be unable to understand how I never read this book before now, and I will forever refuse to forgive myself for thinking it was terrible. I am now in complete awe of this book and how frightening, shocking, and entertaining the first seven chapters are. Tolkien is not taking any breaks here, and in chapter seven, we get perhaps the most tense scene in the whole novel. The riders press on for hours in their journey towards Isengard, and I could sense their determination in Tolkien’s words. They might already be too late to help out what men they have. We’re reminded of this constantly right up until the moment that they arrive. Oh, and of course there’s this:

‘I can see a darkness. There are shapes moving in it, great shapes far away upon the bank of the river; but what they are I cannot tell. It is not mist or cloud that defeats my eyes: there is a veiling shadow that some power lays upon the land, and it marches slowly down stream. It is as if the twilight under the endless trees were flowing downwards from the hills.’

‘And behind us comes a very storm of Mordor,’ said Gandalf. ‘It will be a black night.’

Just what the fuck? What the fuck is that? What has Saruman done? WHAT SORCERY IS THIS? Also, can I just say that I’m really starting to appreciate how Tolkien uses the weather to signify evil and darkness? It’s such an appropriate step towards setting an atmosphere. I know that it’s using the familiar trope of lightness and darkness, but sometimes I just like how an author uses an archetype in their own way, and this is one of those times.

It takes just two days for doom to come upon the Riders when one of the guards/soldiers of Rohan arrives on horseback to tell them of the bad news: things are not looking well for those opposing Saruman. They’re overwhelmed, and Ceorl recommends they return to Edoras immediately. So Théoden does what any good king should do: reveal himself right after this to give the man hope, and order the Riders to continue on. FUCK YEAH. Does this strike you with hope? Of course it does! So now we all get to watch as that hope is slowly and definitively crushed from here on out. The first time it’s chipped away is when Gandalf orders them all to ride to Helm’s Deep to meet him there, and then fucking leaves. Gandalf, oh my god, please stop doing this. Every time you leave, I am convinced you are going to die. And you can only come back from the depths of the middle of the earth ONCE before it becomes permanent. Plus, what the hell is more important than helping your friends and the men of Théoden? Ah, I DON’T LIKE THIS. I mean, I totally get how it gives a new tension to the story and I find it brilliant, but I’m already stressed enough about this book at this point. Why are you adding more to that?

Helm’s Deep is a fascinating place to me, and it’s clear Tolkien wanted to up the stakes here. Every description of the place and of the Riders moving into that valley adds an element of danger. They’re essentially riding into a self-set trap because there’s nowhere to escape. While it will provide a much safer form of defense, that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. But, again, they’re desperate to defeat the armies of Saruman now before heading to Isengard. Does it help that they’re news that Gandalf is riding to and fro across the plains? No, because what the holy fuck are you doing Gandalf? Actually, wouldn’t it be hilarious if he departed from the Riders just because he wanted to spend more time riding Shadowfax? Like, he clearly loves that horse and he wants to take Shadowfax on one last frolic before battle. Look, this is my own personal head canon and I refuse to let you take it away from me.

What’s actually terrifying to me, though, is that the “rumour of war” grows behind them. (God, I love that term. Not the sound, but the “rumour.” THAT IS SO BRILLIANT. I love your vocabulary, Tolkien.) They are heading into a closed valley and bringing their enemy behind them. Not only that, but this is AT NIGHT. How horrifying is this? Sure, in the caves, there’s food , but with just over a thousand fighters against a host of untold number, up against a cliff in a gorge, how is this going to end well? Tolkien’s set this up to be a slaughter, and I started worrying. PLEASE DON’T LET THIS ADD BADLY. (PS: The Deeping Wall reminded me of The Wall. Obviously they’re not the same, but I can see where GRR Martin may have been inspired.)

I became increasingly worried when Tolkien started writing cuteness into the book. Look, Legolas and Gimli’s bromance is just one of the most beautiful things in all of fiction. I won’t apologize for loving this:

‘But you comfort me, Gimli, and I am glad to have you standing night with your stout legs and your hard axe. I wish there were more of your kin among us.’

Just stoooooppppppp. Stop it, you two! Stop being cute! I DON’T WANT TOLKIEN TO TAKE YOU AWAY FROM ME. Granted, it’s not like this is a GRRM novel, and Joss Whedon certainly had nothing to do with it. But in face of one of the most brutal battles in the novel so far, this sort of stuff sets off every one of my alarms. It’s like my heart is telling me STOP SHIPPING STOP LIKING JUST STOP IT THIS WILL ONLY HURT STOP IT MARK. But for now, I will allow myself this one moment of wanting to reach through the pages and just hug these two so tight.

That moment is brief. Very brief. The battle of Helm’s Deep arrives just a few paragraphs later, and from this moment until the end of the chapter, I simply held my head in my hands, waiting for the inevitable tragedy. It’s written in such a way that nearly all hope is impossible to experience. The only time I felt it? That brief bit of pure silence after the first attack by the Orcs. The immensity of the gorge is just so frightening in that moment of time. Having it answered with the cries and screams of the enemy is even more upsetting because of how uncertain this feels. The storm of darkness is literal in this case, too, another example of the use of weather to denote evil. Oh god, and the flashes of lightning that accompany it, lighting up the whole valley. The imagery of this assault is so important to the storytelling, and it’s how Tolkien is able to make it so emotional for the reader.

When it comes time for Éomer and Aragorn to fight, I just lost it. I felt terror. I felt joy. I felt fear. I felt the thrill of the battle. I felt confused by the lightning. Did the Orcs bring that, too? How is it striking them? Oh my god, they’re trying to ram down the great gate to enter the wall. Oh shit, GÚTHWINË and ANDÚRIL ARE CUTTING DOWN ORCS OH FUCK THIS IS SO INTENSE.

They turned and ran. At that moment some dozen Orcs that had lain motionless among the slain leaped to their feet, and came silently and swiftly behind. Two flung themselves to the ground at Éomer’s heels, tripped him, and in a moment they were on top of him. But a small dark figure that none had observed sprang out of the shadows a gave a hoarse shout: Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu! An axe swung and swept back. Two Orcs fell headless. The rest fled.


‘Two!’ said Gimli, patting his axe. He had returned to his place on the wall.

‘Two?’ said Legolas. ‘I have done better, though now I must grope for spent arrows; all mine are gone. yet I make my tale twenty at the least. But that is only a few leaves in a forest.’

I swear to Gandalf, I will write you the angriest letter that has ever been written if you separate these two, J.R.R. Tolkien. I don’t fucking care. I will install a headstone next to yours wherever you are buried that says, “THIS DUDE WROTE SOMETHING THAT UPSET ME,” and everyone will know this forever. Seriously, this is like the blueprint for all bromances to ever come.

And it’s right about here where this chapter just takes a nosedive into pure awful: the battle starts to turn sour for the men of Rohan. Out of arrows, tired, aware that they really don’t have anywhere to go, and with the threat of Orcs behind the wall, I felt so terrible reading this. Sure, it was reassuring that Gimli slaughtered NINETEEN MORE ORCS, but what’s nineteen to the hundreds more that arrive afterward? What about the half-orc and goblin-men? I mean, I can’t get over the fact that Sarumen BRED THESE CREATURES FOR WAR. Like, what kind of fucked up existence is that? You are created by a wizard to do his evil deeds. What the hell?


‘Where is Gimli?’

‘I do not know,’ said Aragorn. ‘I last saw him fighting on the ground behind the wall, but the enemy swept us apart.’

‘Alas! That is evil news,’ said Legolas.


Aragorn now passed into the citadel. There to his dismay he learned that Éomer had not reached the Hornburg.


When Legolas and Aragorn speak with Théoden inside Hornburg, the news is grim. No Gimli, no Éomer, and almost no hope that the enemy is close to stopping. I respect the fact that given this news, Théoden decides he isn’t just going to sit back and go out while hiding. He recruits Aragorn to ride out of Hornburg at dawn for one last attack against the Orcs swarming outside. But before this happens, Aragorn teases the Orcs below the wall for a bit. Bless his heart. I’d forgotten that Orcs could talk, though, so for like half a second, it was like this was a brand new development for me. But the real importance of this scene is how Aragorn can create fear in others just by talking with confidence in his voice. He can be such an unassuming character sometimes because he’s not quick to speak, so it’s one of the reasons why he’s so impressive when he does.

Then the great horn of Helm rang out. And all hell breaks loose. It’s one of the most chaotic scenes I’ve ever read in literature, and Tolkien handles it so well. Théoden rides out in a splendor on the back of Snowmane, with Aragorn at his side, and all the men of Rohan that are still alive pour out of Hornburg behind him to make one last assault. It’s just so impressive. But it is pretty much nothing to what they all discover in the Deeping-coomb:

The dale is gone. THERE’S A FOREST IN ITS PLACE. WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!? HOW CAN THE LAND CHANGE OVERNIGHT? Is that even fucking possible?

There suddenly upon a ridge appeared a rider, clad in white, shining in the rising sun. Over the low hills the horns were sounding. Behind him, hastening down the long slopes, were a thousand men on foot; their swords were in their hands. Amid them strode a man tall and strong. His shield was red. As he came to the valley’s brink, he set to his lips a great black horn and blew a ringing blast.

HOLY SHIT!!!!!! Gandalf, you got Erkenbrand and a thousand more men? YOU BEAUTIFUL GODDAMN WIZARD. I don’t know how you did it, and I don’t care. BLESS YOU. BLESS YOU FOREVER. Oh my god, just when I thought this was going to be a disaster, you save everyone. The Orcs have fled and the way is now clear to head to Isengard.

Just holy shit, y’all.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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382 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Two Towers’: Chapter 7

  1. Jenny_M says:

    The idea of a forest just appearing overnight is so endlessly cool to me. I think the first time I read this chapter I thought it was boring, but now that I'm older I can appreciate the way Tolkien sets up a battle that isn't confusing at all. I have to say, most fantasy authors lose me in battle scenes, but Tolkien never does. I think it's because he introduces just a few key players, instead of trying to give me the name of EVERY KNIGHT FIGHTING (sorry GRRM, but eventually all the Sers just blur the fuck together).

  2. Sindragosa says:

    Anyone who enjoys Tolkien's vocabulary should read 'The Lay of Leithian'. Aloud.

  3. Castlewayjay says:

    My only comment- Mark when u do watch the films watch them on the BIGGEST SCREEN POSSIBLE. Ok ?

  4. cait0716 says:

    My favorite part of this chapter is Legolas and Gimli's competition to see who can kill the most orcs.

  5. Becky_J_ says:

    Here are a couple of my thoughts on this chapter….

    ~WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU GOING GANDALF. I swear, he leaves at the worst possible times.
    ~Yeah, WHY DO YOU MISS WORMTONGUE, THEODEN. Were you not AWARE that he is the scum on the shoe of a slimeball?
    ~"Aragorn and Legolas were now with Theoden in the van."Alright, monkeybutter, I have to blame you for this one…. I AM QUITE LITERALLY PICTURING THE THREE OF THEM IN THE MYSTERY MACHINE. My brain… I think it broke.
    ~Okay, Mark, STOP BEING A TRUE SEER. There has been at least two, possibly more, times in the last couple of reviews that you have mentioned something that then happens in the next chapter. BIG BATTLE SCENE, HERE YOU GO!
    ~Speaking of…. I get we have to have a battle, but does it have to be in the dark AND while it's raining? Really, Tolkien? Is it just too easy to fight on a nice, sunny day?
    ~Tolkien provides such cool imagery for this battle…. like a black sea breaking upon a cliff in a wild storm. Awesome. It makes it that much more better when dawn comes, and brings with it The White Rider and victory!
    ~GIMLI. You badass you. "Excuse me, I don't THINK any gross Orcs like you are going to slay my friend here. I mean, really, we JUST agreed to be friends…. I wouldn't want to be losing him so soon!"
    ~Great son of a hobbit, Legolas, do you HAVE to boast? Yes, we get that you have great eyesight, we get that you are really old, and we get that you can kill a ton of Orcs. Can you just let Gimli have his moment here??
    ~Okay, I changed my mind, the battle-count between Legolas and Gimli is now MY FAVORITE THING EVER. Just another teasing sign of affection from my favorite bromance!
    ~Yeah, fighting Uruk-hai, WE GET THAT YOU ARE THE FIGHTING URUK-HAI. You don't have to say it in every sentence. Good lord
    ~THANKS FOR SHOWING UP GANDALF (Okay, I'm sure he did more to help than meets the eye, BUT STILL)
    ~……Look, I know the forest is on our side, but THAT THING IS TERRIFYING. There are many, many things I would run from, but a host of conscious, moving trees is probably near the top of my list.

    but YAY WE WIN HELM'S DEEP!!!! And now for some Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli love, in honor of Legolas and Gimli's scorekeeping:
    <img src=""&gt;

    Also, I found this, and I can't NOT share it. I mean, seriously, HELMS DEEP IS THE BEST
    <img src=""&gt;

    <img src=""&gt;

  6. knut_knut says:

    LEGOLAS AND GIMLI!!!<3 That is all. This slightly lulzy picture is the cover of my copy of TTT, and I’m assuming it takes place at Helm’s Deep.
    <img src=""&gt;
    Look at Gimli’s rippling muscles and Legolas’ golden hair! No wonder they fell in love became bffs.

    And now for the question everyone else will probably ask, but I don’t want to feel out of the loop so I’m going to ask it anyway: Jung qvq lbh thlf guvax bs gur punatrf va gur zbivr znqr gb gur onggyr bs Uryz’f Qrrc, cnegvphyneyl gur ryirf? Rira gubhtu gur ryirf ner ernyyl pbby naq birenyy, gung onggyr vf bar bs zl snibhevgr zbivr onggyrf rire, vg gbbx zr n ERNYYL ybat gvzr gb trg hfrq gb. V thrff CW jnagrq gb qvssreragvngr orgjrra Gur Onggyr bs Uryz’f Qrrc naq Gur Onggyr bs Cryraabe Svryqf, naq guvf jnl gur ObCS ERNYYL frrzrq ubcryrff. Znlor.

  7. atheistsisters says:

    Agh, we watched this on the theatrical version last night. I'm a total wuss and always have been about movies, so I'm constantly shutting my eyes and covering my ears in the Helms Deep battle. One is tempted to do that when reading it, though, which is a real feat of storytelling.

    Qba'g jbeel, znex, sbe bapr na nhgube unf yvfgrarq gb lbhe cyrn. Gur qjnes funyy or erhavgrq jvgu gur rys, fb qba'g jbeel!

    Bu, naq lbhe ynfg cnentencu? Lbh'ir tbg lbhe snpgf n ovg zvkrq hc gurer, YBY.

  8. stefb4 says:

    I will forever be unable to understand how I never read this book before now, and I will forever refuse to forgive myself for thinking it was terrible.

    It's okay now, Mark. You've learned your lesson.

  9. rabidsamfan says:

    Landscapes and weather. It's like Tolkien makes them into characters in this story.

  10. stefb4 says:

    Also, seeing Legolas at Helm's Deep in the TT trailers for the first time in theaters is what actually made me interested in seeing LotR. HE WAS VERY PRETTY AND I WAS TWELVE AND IT WAS ALL THAT MATTERED.

    <img src=""&gt;

  11. Zoli says:

    Yeah, honestly, I skipped over this chapter when I was rereading TTT. I was like "Mm, fighting, whatever, when are we going to catch up with Merry and Pippin? I want hobbits!" I came back and read it later, but… I found it really, really hard to follow any of the action. It all seemed very rushed and I couldn't get a clear picture of what was going on. I much prefer the movie version for clarity and epic visuals.

    Also! Look what I found! They're going to make Lord of the Rings Legos!:

    (Shouldn't be any spoilers in the link: they feature one set of Orcs/Nazgul/Gollum and then the Fellowship figures)

  12. Robin says:

    I must have a strange mind.
    When Eomer siad Guthwine for the Mark, I thought how do Eomer know Mark but realised a second later that he mean Riddermark=)

  13. chikzdigmohawkz says:

    So that forest that just appears – apparently Tolkien saw a production of 'The Scottish Play' when he was younger and he was just so excited to see 'Birnam wood…come to Dunsinane'. And then…he found out that it wasn't the actual forest that was moving, it was soldiers pretending to be trees in order to sneak up on Dunisnane Castle. Which was quite the disappointment. So then years later he wrote this scene because a walking forest is awesome, which is something Shakespeare should have known. Clearly.

  14. Mariska says:

    This battle is one of my favourite battles EVER put to screen…thank you Tolkien.

    Also: Gubhtu V nz unccl jvgu rirel frpbaq bs rkgen-rbjla va gur zbivrf; V nz qvfnccbvagrq gung gur obbx'f pbasvqrapr va ure nf n yrnqre vf punatrq vagb gur svyzf' qvfzvffny bs ure novyvgvrf. V guvax EBGX jnf gbb cnpxrq fgbeljvfr, naq gurl chg gur znva bs ure pbasyvpg nyernql va guvf svyz. Jvfu gurl nyfb unq nqqrq gur fprarf bs ure svtugvat va gur pnirf, gubhtu.

  15. plaidpants says:

    Guvf onggyr fprar vf zl nofbyhgr SNIBEVGR va gur ragver zbivr frevrf. V ybirq jngpuvat gur oruvaq gur fprarf fghss, naq gur "V fheivirq Uryzf Qrrc" g-fuvegf, gur snpg gung gur thlf cynlvat gur bepf vzcebivfrq naq fgnegrq gnhagvat gur crbcyr cynlvat gur Ryirf, gur nznmvat "ovtngher" gung gurl ohvyg. Gur bayl ceboyrz V unir vf rirel gvzr jr jngpu guvf fprar, jvgu Tnaqnys pbzvat va ng gur raq, zl Zbz nyjnlf fnlf "Ubefrf jbhyqa'g or noyr gb evqr qbja gung!"

  16. Leah-san says:

    "I became increasingly worried when Tolkien started writing cuteness into the book. Look, Legolas and Gimli’s bromance is just one of the most beautiful things in all of fiction."

    YES YES!

    <img src=""&gt;

    I love how this conversation between the two mirrors the one they had in Fangorn, where Gimli was all like: "Yeah, Fangorn is weird, and Elves are weird, but I like you besides me anyways", and here Gimli fanboys over the stone they are standing on and Legolas is totally saying the same, only the other way around. THEY ARE SO DIFFERENT AND YET SO SIMILAR AND THAT THEY ARE BEST FRIENDS FOREVER IS A BEAUTIFUL THING YES.

  17. monkeybutter says:

    Oh, Gandalf. Don't you know that bad things happen every time you disappear? It always makes me nervous when he has to run off on some side-errand. I trust he'll be back, but things will get unpleasant in the interim. I love that he came back at sunrise, though. I think it's a neat parallel to him returning with the sunrise when Bilbo and co. get captured by the trolls. Gandalf and sunrise give us hope.

    A thousand times yes to Legolas and Gimli's bromance, especially as it manifests itself in a kill contest. I WILL CONTRIBUTE TO THE “THIS DUDE WROTE SOMETHING THAT UPSET ME" FUND. We should probably start one for GRRM while we're at it; maybe we can get a two-for-one deal.

    Fringles OT: All of the mentions of "Mark" in the past few chapters have caused a theory about last Friday's glyphs. I know the preceding week was "DEATH," so we have the gruesome "DEATH MARCH" if you read them together, but what if it's meant to be the same usage as here where Mark/March mean a borderland. Like, the borderland between two universes. Because there's gonna be an awesome crossing of said border next week (EEEEE!).

  18. Ryan Lohner says:

    V pna vzntvar Znex trggvat cerggl pbashfrq nf Uryz'f Qrrc va gur zbivr xrrcf tbvat naq tbvat, abg xabjvat gung gur fgbel phgf bss urer. "Qnza, ubj zhpu ybatre VF guvf zbivr?"

  19. Clamarnicale says:

    Here's a rather brilliant map of Helm's Deep. Be warned, there are minor spoilers regarding that suddenly appearing forest.

  20. stellaaaaakris says:

    I love Legolas and Gimli's contest slaying orcs. Legolas wonders where Gimli is and Aragorn tries to comfort him, because he obviously knows of their bromance, and says he may be safe in the caves and Legolas is like, "Yeah, that's good. But I want him to know how many orcs I've killed. I'm sure I've got more than him!" They're so cute.

    <img src=""&gt;
    (Sidenote: Googling "Legolas and Gimli bromance" images brings up lots of epic bromances through the ages, including one between Viggo and Orlando. They're all quite lovely.)

    I also enjoyed how Gimli saves Eomer and explains how he got there: I decided to stalk you because I was getting sleepy but the enemies are too tall for me so I decided to just sit down and hang out in the dark corner and watch your little sword fight. It was quite entertaining.

  21. Ryan Lohner says:

    One of the most effective moments in the movie for me:Gur fubg bs gung yvggyr xvq chggvat ba n uryzrg gung'f jnl gbb ovt sbe uvz. Evtug gurer, vg'f qevira ubzr whfg ubj qrfcrengr gur fvghngvba vf.

  22. Blab says:

    When I was a little boy, I thought Gimli and Legolas were in love…ng gur raq jura V ernq gur nccraqvprf V npghnyyl gubhtug gurl zneevrq. But somehow, I've seen Sam and Frodo as "only friends". How curious.

  23. Dreamflower says:

    Thank you so much, Mark, for doing this! It is so hard to restrict myself to one chapter in this re-reading, but I am really able to find new things this way! I'm enjoying this re-read immensely.

    The night, the rain, the mud– the hopelessness– I think part of the intensity we have here is JRRT writing out his own feelings from his experiences in WWI and the Battle of the Somme, which by all accounts was horrifc and miserable.

    And I loved Legolas and Gimli's counting game from the first time I ever read it!

  24. Leah-san says:

    I thought that too.
    And everytime they had cute moments I was all like

    <img src=""&gt;

    keep in mind I was seven. Yes Mark, I read it at seven. Mostly because my parents didn't wanted me to read it because they thought it would scare me. So because I was curious, I snatched them from under my big brothers bed. Best time of my life. The next day, I roleplayed with some of my friends in elementary school a particular scene. Vg jnf gur bar jvgu gur fcvqre.

  25. Geolojazz says:

    And this is where Bakshi's movie ended.

    Sadly, since Bakshi's movie's what got me to read the books, it meant I was spoiled until this point. 🙁

    NO WAIT. I was spoiled for the end too by Rankin Bass' terrible Return of the King (I think tis even worse than Bakshi's, imo).

    Play me a violin.

  26. Smurphy says:

    You really need to learn to stop asking for things…. I love how there is this huge battle and Tolkien in the midst of it all still manages to put in some of the best lines of the whole book. Everything between Gimli and Legolas for one (I agree best bromance ever) and Theodon's speech before riding out with Aragorn? Beautiful.

    "Gur qnyr vf tbar. GURER’F N SBERFG VA VGF CYNPR. JUNG GUR SHPX!?!?!? UBJ PNA GUR YNAQ PUNATR BIREAVTUG? Vf gung rira shpxvat cbffvoyr?" Ernyyl Znex? Orvat sbetrgshy bs lbhe snibevgr punenpgre rire? Qvq lbh sbetrg lbhe nyy pncf erivrj gung dhvpxyl? *ynhtuf*

    27 DAYS! … also … I had a dream about meeting you last night. The cafe we were at was immense and I'm proud of myself for creating such a complex landscape for my dream… anywho you were late and we got really nervous that we wouldn't recognize you because you would come in a disguise. Which in retrospect is very silly of me. Anyway all these people in these ridiculous costumes kept walking in and we had to go up and talk to each person to make sure it wasn't you … I woke up before you got there too… Boo. ANYWAY 27 DAYS!!!!

  27. Suzannezibar says:

    So I know I keep talking about the difference between reading this at age 12 and reading it as an adult, but god, THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS I FOUND TO BE SO MUCH MORE BEAUTIFUL upon the years-later re-read. This chapter is one of them.

    12-year-old Suz: "La la la, they're fighting, this is kind of boring, LOL Gimli and Legolas are competeing to see who can kill the most orcs, oh good Gandalf is back so now the interesting stuff can happen again."

    Adult Suz: "HOLY SHIT how did I miss how tense this was the first time *even though I know what's going to happen*, damn Tolkien can write battle scenes better than most authors, LOL GIMLI AND LEGOLAS ARE COMPETING TO SEE WHO CAN KILL THE MOST ORCS, and GANDALF BROUGHT THE FOREST WITH HIM?!?! HOW DID I MISS THIS THE FIRST TIME???"

  28. I don't care what anyone says, I freaking adore Tolkien's battle scenes. They aren't glamorized in any way, they're horrible places to be. The setting and the fighting and the sounds all combine to make this place inherently chaotic. There's no upside to being caught here, and Tolkien knew that from experience. I love Legolas and Gimli being awesome. I love Theoden's charge out into the battle and the moment where they burst out to find the wood there is equal parts awesome and horrifying.

    Movie stuff: V UNGR gung gurl tnir Nentbea gur vqrn gb unir gur ynfg punetr va gur svyz. Ybbx, V ybir Nentbea naq ur'f njrfbzr va rirel erfcrpg, ohg guvf jnf Gurbqra'f zbzrag naq ur fubhyq unir unq vg. V ubarfgyl unir ab vqrn jul gurl unq gb znxr Gurbqra frrz jrnx sbe Nentbea gb ybbx tbbq. Vg znxrf zr shevbhf- jbhyq vg ernyyl unir xvyyrq gurz gb yrg Gurbqra npghnyyl fgnl gur jnl ur jnf va gur obbxf? Vg'f bar bs uvf punenpgre-qrsvavat barf naq vg jnf phg naq tvira gb nabgure crefba ragveryl. Abg bxnl ng nyy.

  29. settledforhistory says:

    I have a confession to make: I really don't like battle scenes.
    Now, what we saw in Becoming Part two on Buffy yesterday is fine, I even enjoyed the artistic aspect of it. Anything with more than five people is just to confusing to me though. I get lost in all the little fights and war zones, the bodies pile up and I have no idea who is where and who is still alive.

    Reading about the battle of Helm's Deep did not feel much different at first. What I liked about it so much that I`m willing to read it again and again:

    The characters are just as overwhelmed, constantly lose track of who is where and they actually ask other characters if they have seen this and that person somewhere, just as I want to turn back a few pages to look for him. [Of course him, as there are no women on the battlefield : ( ]

    Little breaks from the over all attack, like Aragorn talking to Theoden give me time to breath after all the tension.

    Gimli and Legolas counting their kills, their's is a wonderful bromance!

    The respect everyone has for each other. Thinks like "Master Gimli", the way people treat Aragorn when he fights with his ancient sword and the fact that seeing Theoden gives people so much hope are so interesting and make me really happy.

    Culture info during the battle; more names, families, heroes like Helm and Erkenbrand amid all the action, Tolkien doesn't even stop the world building during a freaking war and that is so awesome.

    All in all this is probably the best battle chapter I've ever read and I can't wait for more.

  30. DrummerWench says:

    "Rumour of war", uh, isn't actually Tolkien's! It's from the Bible (the King James)–Mark 13:7 "And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled." There's a similar passage in Matthew, but I quoted "Mark" thinking it more appropriate …

  31. Fiona says:

    I get the feeling there's going to be as much rot13 today as there was yesterday somehow. The films are just so good and there are so many stories attached to the filming that they always end up linked in my mind, especially as it's been a while since I've done a proper read through of the books. Anyway, battle scenes in books always seem to lose me as my brain switches off a bit. I think they're much better done visually, although my brain tends to disappear in battle scenes in manga as well. That may be due to how repetitive they can get though (Bleach comes to mind, which I gave up on after what seemed like 50 chapters of fighting).

    Film stuff: V nz fb tynq gurl qvqa'g chg Nejra vagb guvf onggyr. Vg znqr frafr gb chg ure va fbzrjurer fb crbcyr qba'g sbetrg gung fur rkvfgf ohg vg jbhyqa'g unir orra evtug. V pna qrny jvgu gur nqqvgvba bs gur ryirf zbfgyl orpnhfr bs Unyqve'f qrngu juvpu vf fb vaperqvoyl jryy qbar. Jura ur qvrf vg znxrf vg frrz yvxr nyy ubcr unf npghnyyl orra ybfg naq hcf gur fgnxrf n ovg. Gur hfr sebz gur cbrz va gur ynfg puncgre nyjnlf tvirf zr puvyyf nf jryy.

  32. SweetVerda says:

    Yesterday I posted this on the MarkSpoils blog, but I don’t know how many people go onto it, so I’ll post this here.

    First, a brief history lesson. I lurk. A lot. I’ve been following along with Mark Does Stuff back in the Firefly days. I love Mark Does Stuff; it’s introduced me to some great works and really broadened my horizons. Generally, I didn’t read the comments sections simply because I didn’t have the time. Then ATLA came around, and the comments section was one of my favorite parts of the day. All the gifs, glee, and general happiness drew me out somewhat, but not enough to post or make an account.

    Then came LOTR, and I thought of something that I wanted to say, a post I wanted to make, and so I signed up. And the post was well received, and compelled me to make more posts. Most of my posts were in response to someone else, often times disagreeing with them on a small point, but I didn’t think that it had gotten malicious. I believed that we were just several friendly people on the Internet, with different opinions and backgrounds, which is necessary to form a healthy community.

    As it turns out, one of my posts were misinterpreted, and someone thought that I meant to say a terribly stupid thing. I actually expect that this happens a lot, and is one of the reasons I’m hesitant to post on the web. My communication skills aren’t all that great. But I had no clue that my post had been misinterpreted. Instead of saying something like, “But surely you don’t mean this,” or “You’re an idiot because…” or even, “Behold Isildur’s Bane! GTFO!”, nobody replied to it.

    On Sunday the website went down, and I remembered people mentioning the spoils blog, so I went to see if there was something wrong. I had no idea just how wrong things were. I saw last week’s “Awful Comments of the Week” thread, and the subject of the thread struck me as a terrible idea. It creates a sub-class of commenters, and alienates and skews opinions against anyone who gets named in this thread. Hoping that it wouldn’t be quite as bad as my initial fears, I scrolled through it. To my horror, I saw one of my own posts mentioned, taking a few details from it and twisting it to mean something that I hadn’t said.

    Yikes! Mostly the Sweet in my name is because I have a ginormous sweet tooth, but also because it takes a lot to make me mad (or even less happy). But I felt my blood boil. (I know people think that it’s just an expression, but I swear, if I had gotten even a paper-cut, my room would have burned down.) I hadn’t been this angry since my best friend’s parents had gotten deported. People that I had once had the utmost respect for were misinterpreting me, face palming, and posting gifs declaring what a terrible fool I am. And I never would have even found out.

  33. clodia_risa says:

    Trr, V jbaqre ubj gurer pna or n sberfg jura abar jnf gurer gur cerivbhf avtug. Vg’f abg yvxr jr’ir rfgnoyvfurq gung gurer ner gerrf gung pna jnyx, unir jr?

    V fanex orpnhfr V ybir!

  34. Katarina_H says:

    I have to admit, this isn’t one of my favourite chapters. My mind isn’t visual enough for battle scenes. In fact, after watching TTT, I went, ”There was a battle at Helm’s Deep?” and had to go back and check, because it had been lost in my mind among all the other stuff that happens in the book. But there’s still plenty of interest for me in this chapter, now that I have to pace myself and only read five chapters a week. (I’ve started on the Silmarillion to keep me busy between chapters.)

    V fjrne gb Tnaqnys, V jvyy jevgr lbh gur natevrfg yrggre gung unf rire orra jevggra vs lbh frcnengr gurfr gjb, W.E.E. Gbyxvra.

    Arire rire. Va gur orfg cbffvoyr jnl. 🙂

    Also, fun trivia: ”Gamling” means old person in Swedish. So Gamling the Old is a tautology. (And also a bit rude; calling an old person a gamling isn’t quite like calling them a geezer, but it’s not the most polite way of expressing it.)

  35. Patrick721 says:

    The "rumor of war" thing always reminds me of the creature Rumor from the Aeneid, which is described as having "great wings" and at the base of every feather there is an eye, and ear, and a mouth, so that she can see, hear, and spread her rumors and lies.

    And I'm not sure if anyone's mentioned this, but the sudden appearance of the forest at the end is partly due to Tolkien reading/seeing Macbeth, and being disappointed that Burnham Wood didn't actually get up and move.

  36. floppus says:

    The Spoiler-Free Map of Middle-Earth

    Normal / blurred

    This map doesn't show any detail of Helm's Deep, but we can see where it is (about halfway between Edoras and Isengard, very convenient. :P)

  37. Squibke says:

    I first read this series as a wee little queer child who didn't understand that early 20th century fantasy novels were usually very light on the canonically queer characters, and I simply assumed that Legolas and Gimli were falling in love. This was the late '80s/early '90s and I was well-acquainted with the trope of 'two people from very different worlds, with bickering leading to love.'

    …I still ship it.

  38. Sure, in the caves, there’s food , but with just over a thousand fighters against a host of untold number, up against a cliff in a gorge, how is this going to end well? Tolkien’s set this up to be a slaughter, and I started worrying. PLEASE DON’T LET THIS ADD BADLY.
    I think you should be more worried about subtraction.

  39. Peg says:

    I wrote a long blog post here when I was deciding whether to see the movie "United 93," about the fourth plane that crashed in Pennsylvania during 9/11. I wrote:

    Should it [the movie] be seen? It's tempting to twist the story to enhance the passengers' heroism, because it is so desperately powerful, resonating deeply in the gut. Offering us the seductive consolation of vicarious heroism, too. Example: The movie's slogan is, "40 people sat down as strangers. They rose up as one." Very powerful, if true. And yet, maybe not all the passengers voted to attack, and some weren't rushing down that aisle, but cringing back, doing nothing more than hoping desperately that somehow, they would survive. [more]

  40. peg says:

    Also! See the battle of Helms Deep as a gumdrop diorama!

  41. flootzavut says:

    The Leggy/Gimli bromance is cute as puppies and kittens <3

    Vf nalbar ryfr nzhfrq/vzcerffrq ol gur snpg gung Znex vf FBBBBBB vagb guvf gung ur unfa'g rira erzrzorerq gb or jbeevrq nobhg Sebqb naq Fnz? Gung'f fbzr frevbhf vzzrefvba va gur zbzrag gurer. Fjrrg 😀

    "V fjrne gb Tnaqnys, V jvyy jevgr lbh gur natevrfg yrggre gung unf rire orra jevggra vs lbh frcnengr gurfr gjb, W.E.E. Gbyxvra."

    Fb hacercnerq sbe ubj zhpu zber nqbenoyr gur oebznapr jvyy or. Naq – vg'f orra n juvyr, ohg qbrfa'g Tvzyv tb gb Inyvabe jvgu Yrtbynf? V fhfcrpg Znex znl pel…

  42. flootzavut says:

    I LOVE the image of them riding out! V xabj vg'f qbar n yvggyr qvssreragyl va gur zbivr, naq bs pbhefr gur vzcrghf gura pbzrf sebz Nentbea, ohg vg tvirf zr PUVYYF, V gryy lbh, PUVYYF!

  43. ThreeBooks says:

    "Every time you leave, I am convinced you are going to die."

    Jesus, Mark, you remind me of my first puppy and my first girlfriend all in one go! I understand that feel, though, because last night when reading this I just kind of went, "Oh shit" as soon as Gandalf started to get distracted. It's never a good thing when your Wise Old Guy senses things on the wind or asks Legolas what his elf-eyes see.

  44. threerings13 says:

    I remember being really bored by this stuff when I first read it at age 12. And now, yesterday I was all "I get to read HELM'S DEEP! THIS IS SO AWESOME!" Although I DID always like Legolas and Gimli's competition. They are too adorable.

  45. wildered_dream says:

    Helms Deep was so nervewracking. I approve of your love for Legolas and Gimli's epic bromance.

    "I swear to Gandalf, I will write you the angriest letter that has ever been written if you separate these two, J.R.R. Tolkien."

    V ernyyl ubcr Znex ernqf gur nccraqvprf pnhfr Tvzyv naq Yrtbynf fnvyvat gb gur Haqlvat Ynaqf gbtrgure whfg znxrf zr fb rzbgvbany.

  46. tanbarkie says:

    Film spoilers:

    Uryz'f Qrrc vf zl snibevgr onggyr fprar va gur svyzf. Vg'f whfg fb enj naq ubeevsvp, va n jnl gung vfa'g nccebnpurq ol nal bgure fprar va gur gevybtl. Vg'f tenaq ba n fpnyr hazngpurq ol nal onggyr va SBGE, ohg jvgubhg gur fgenvarq PTV furra gung bppnfvbanyyl znef Cryraabe Svryqf. Naq qnzzvg, V YBIR RYIRF NG URYZ'F QRRC, V QBA'G PNER VS ABOBQL RYFR QBRF.

    (Frevbhfyl, gubhtu, V yvxr gung Unyqve'f nccrnenapr naq fhofrdhrag snyy tvirf gur onggyr n gbhpu bs trahvar gentrql gung V'ir nyjnlf sryg vf… jryy, abg zvffvat cre fr, ohg abg ng yrnfg greevoyl cerfrag va gur obbx.)

    Naq gura gur qnexarff naq gur enva naq gur pehapu bs obar nyy tvirf jnl gb gung tybevbhf qnja, nf gur Ebuveevz punetr qbja vagb gur inyyrl yrq ol gur Juvgr Evqre, juvyr Fuber'f fpber ernpurf vgf nofbyhgr ncbgurbfvf, naq ubyl fuvg whfg GLCVAT nobhg vg tvirf zr gur tbq qnza fuviref.

  47. valmarkont says:

    As George R. R. Martin borrows heavily from the history of England, his Wall was also quite obviously inspired by the real-life Hadrian's Wall and not by Tolkien. That minor correction aside, great review, as usual.

  48. Delta1212 says:

    You know, reading this review of the Helm’s Deep chapter made me remember something.

    You know how difficult it is to take an incredibly awesome book and adapt it successfully to an incredibly awesome film? Or to take an incredibly awesome film and successfully adapt it to an incredibly awesome videogame? How many times has anyone managed to adapt an incredibly awesome book into an incredibly awesome movie which was then adapted into an incredibly awesome game?

    I don’t know the answer but I do know they somehow managed it with The Two Towers (and Return of the King). Seriously, how amazing were those games?

  49. menegil says:

    It is one of the main reasons, in fact, why I rarely post myself, despite being a great lover of all things Tolkien (and a great lover of much of what Mark covers). I find it is incredibly easy for opinions to get twisted and for people to be demonized, even if a post is written well, with clear and concise arguments and in response to matters which are disconnected to people, and thus should ideally be based on some form of neutrality mid discussion.

    I do believe that the participants in said commenting section should, quite simply, cease to do this sort of thing. SweetVerda's words are words I echo.

  50. Zoli says:

    Honestly, it's disappointing but it kind of doesn't surprise me? I have felt for some time that this community tends to be very quick to judge, and if you don't agree with the general reaction you get called out, like a different opinion makes you a terrible person somehow. It's why I now pretty much limit my commenting to "I like this part" and nothing more, because it seems like anything I might want to say would only start an argument. I have often written out long comments and then just canceled them without posting because I am that afraid anything I say will be misinterpreted. :/

    I went and read the Awful Comment threads in question, and am equally disappointed that the response to SweetVerda was "Well, our community wanted this thread and we feel it's needed, so we're keeping it." If people are that frustrated with certain commenters or ideas, the place to rant about it and vent steam is a private blog or journal, not a public forum which is supposed to be devoted to talking about the book/show in question plus spoilers. I have had those moments where I get very frustrated. I've even written rants. You know what? They're all in private-locked posts on my LJ, where they belong and where no one will ever see them besides me.

    This community prides itself on being super-friendly and inclusive to everyone. Isn't it a bit hypocritical to have an extension of that community that pokes fun and says nasty things about people?

  51. elyce says:

    Here we go again, Mark! Ask and ye shall receive!

  52. t09yavosaur says:

    I hate this level of the video game with a burning passion. I can handle the ladders ok but once the wall is breached I am always overwhelmed. There are just too many orcs.

  53. arctic_hare says:

    I don't really have much to say today because battle scenes don't really inspire tl;dr in me. SORRY, TOLKIEN! IT WAS LIKE THIS IN AVATAR TOO, SO DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY! The best damn part of this chapter is Gimli and Legolas' contest over who can slay the most foes. BRILLIANT BEAUTIFUL BROMANCE. <3 MAY IT NEVER END.

    V ybir gur onggyr va gur zbivr fb zhpu, gubhtu. Hggreyl snagnfgvp.

  54. Tauriel_ says:

    I don't think it's a spoiler to say that after filming this battle, everyone who participated in it (cast, crew, extras) got themselves T-shirts that said:



    (They're in the DVD extras, but I don't have my copies with me at the moment, so I can't post a snapshot – perhaps someone else can?)

  55. Aris Katsaris says:

    "It was impossible for me to ignore that a largely white audience was telling me that I was a fool, that I didn't understand context, that I was too sensitive, that I was too angry, that I didn't know how to have fun (!!!!), etc."

    Question: Is a white person allowed to ever disagree with you on any topic concerning racism? Because the sense I got from some commentators in that thread was "how dare white people disagree with a person of color about an issue concerning racism." — not anything about how rudely or politely white people expressed that disagreement, but the mere fact of disagreement seemed to be considered a violation.

    It's your forum, it's your site, and you can obviously set whatever rules you want here. But please clarify the rules you're setting: Are white people allowed to express a different opinion from yours on topics that touch on issues of racism?

  56. stormwreath says:

    So: The Battle of Helm's Deep in easy bullet point form.

    This picture may help understand it, although it's not exactly how I imagine Helm's Deep – I think of the Deeping Wall on the left being longer, stretching across the entire valley for maybe half a mile.
    <img src=""&gt;

    * Legolas and Gimli start out on the wall on the left. Aragorn and the others are in the castle on the right. The army of Saruman is advancing up the valley from where we're looking, towards the fortress.

    * Orcs and Dunlendings advance up the causeway on the right with battering rams to try and smash down the main gate. Aragorn and Éomer (and Gimli) sneak out through a hidden side-door, drive them away, then go back inside the castle.

    * Orcs try and climb over the (lower) wall on the left using ladders and grappling hooks. The defenders fight them off.

    * The same thing happens again and again. Each time the Orcs are driven back with heavy losses, but the defenders are getting tired and running out of arrows.

    * Aragorn and Éomer are still defending the gate, but it is finally smashed down after constant attacks. They organise for a barricade of stones and timber to be piled up in the entrance instead to keep out the Orcs.

    * Some Orcs sneak through that little tunnel where the stream flows underneath the wall. Gimli and Gamling defeat them, then Gimli blocks the tunnel with rocks. (Thus damming the stream, which slowly spreads into a lake behind the wall.)

    * More Orcs sneak into the now blocked-off tunnel with what I assume is a barrel of magic gunpowder, and blow a huge hole in the wall. The enemy rush through the gap.

    * Gimli and Éomer are separated from the others by the Orcs charging in through and over the broken wall, and pushed back up the valley. The Hornburg castle is now surrounded on all sides; Aragorn and Legolas only just make it back inside.

    * Dawn comes: Aragorn talks to the Orcs.

    * Saruman's army uses more of its gunpowder to blow up the main gate of the castle and its barricade (right where Aragorn had been standing a minute earlier). They start to charge in through the gate…

    * … Only to find Théoden, Aragorn and the cavalry of the Riddermark charging right back out towards them. At the same time, the people at the back of Saruman's army see the sinister forest that just mysteriously appeared behind them (and remember, in Middle Earth, trees can eat you). They're trapped in the valley. Also it's now daytime, and Orcs hate the Sun; and there's that clearly-supernatural echoing of the horns sounding all around them. Their morale crumbles: they realise they're not going to win this one.

    * Théoden and his men charge down the causeway and right through the middle of the enemy army. They're probably still badly outnumbered – Tolkien doesn't say – but Saruman's army is now in a full-scale panic. They're not standing to fight: they're running away.

    * Then Gandalf and his army show up to complete the rout. The humans in Saruman's army surrender; the Orcs run away into the 'waiting shadow' of the forest and are never seen again.

  57. roguebelle says:

    Does anyone else think it's hilarious that Znex unf orra fb genvarq ol NFbVnS (nzbat bgure zrqvn) gb oryvrir gung, vs fbzrguvat tbbq unccraf, fbzrguvat GREEVOYR NAQ UBEEVSVP zhfg or nobhg gb vzzrqvngryl sbyybj vg? V zrna, va grezf bs obql pbhag bs znva punenpgref, YbgE pbzrf abjurer arne NFbVnS, ohg ur'f pyrneyl nagvpvcngvat gung vg jvyy, juvpu xvaq bs ragregnvaf zr. 😀

  58. MajorWhoa says:

    Mark, have you ever read "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allen Poe? It's a short story- only about 20 pages, but it also makes EXCELLENT use of setting and weather to enhance the story- to the point where the setting itself acts like a character. Re-reading LotR and your reaction to Tolkien's use of setting reminded me of it.

  59. Cakemage says:

    ‘But you comfort me, Gimli, and I am glad to have you standing night with your stout legs and your hard axe. I wish there were more of your kin among us.’

    This is the part where I stopped seeing Legolas and Gimli as a "bromance" and started seeing it as a full-blown romance. I mean, come on, Legolas basically just admitted he loves Gimli's "hard axe" and stout legs. Clearly he is a twink who's craving some hot dwarven bear-meat. The orc-killing competition is basically foreplay.

    On a cleaner note, I totally wouldn't blame Gandalf if he did want to take Shadowfax on one last ride before battle. Hell, sometimes when I'm riding I like to pretend my horse is Shadowfax, and I haven't had to fight orcs in at least a year.

  60. eyelessgame says:

    Juvyr guvf vf n tbbq svtug, vg pbzcyrgryl cnyrf orsber gur Cryraabe Svryqf – abg whfg va fpnyr ohg zbfgyl orpnhfr FB ZHPU NJRFBZR pbzrf bs bs Cryraabe.

    Znex vf fb irel abg cercnerq.

  61. windsparrow says:

    "I will forever be unable to understand how I never read this book before now, and I will forever refuse to forgive myself for thinking it was terrible. "

    And when you are done, you may find yourself grieving for the fact that no matter how much you enjoy re-reading it (if you do), you will never be able to read it for the first time again. Having read The Lord of the Rings more than twenty times (it was how *I* survived an urban public high school as a smart, fat girl, and how I got through my early adulthood, and how I got through almost a decade of living alone – isolated geographically as well as emotionally – in the Arizona desert, with my sanity relatively intact) I still wish for surprises that awaited me that first time. Your reviews of each chapter are delicious because I am getting to relive it vicariously through you.

  62. Alice says:

    The Great Battle at Helm’s Deep!Gimli’s and Legolas killing orcs contest XD!!Gur Uhbeaf!!! And that’s all I can say about this. 🙂

    (In this order : Hildebrandt Bros-Helm’s Deep, Alan Lee-Helm’s Deep, John Howe-Aragorn, John Howe-Theoden, Cavini-Theoden, 2 John Howe’s- Legolas and Gimli, Darell Sweet-The Battle at Helm’s Deep, John Howe- Helm’s Deep, Alan Lee-Helm’s Deep, Angus McBrides)

    …the last lines of the chapter-brrr!chilling…

  63. Mikan says:

    When I was a little girl (like, twelve) I googled Legolas and Gimli. Somehow, I managed to end up finding a site that had photoshopped their heads to various, uh, explicit photos of men. Doing things.

    I was very amused. XD

    And they were very good photoshops! Classy even.

    I kinda don't want to credit too much to the site (since I've mostly forgotten it), but I tend to automatically ship those Legolas and Gimli, even now. XD

  64. Katie says:

    What I love most about LOTR is that Tolkien has managed to write a book, where we haven't heard a word about the main character for seven chapters now, and we kind of don't mind. We're quite happy to go running and riding across the fields with the tertiary characters (who we only met halfway through the book), while the secondary characters (who were at least present from the beginning of the book) are also off somewhere else doing something we don't know about for a few chapters. Testament to the absolute talent in world and character building.

  65. Hotaru_hime says:

    The most chilling thing is that the orcs ran into the trees and nothing was seen of them ever again.
    Sentient plants are terrifying.

  66. stormwreath says:

    Look what I've found:

    <img src=""&gt;

    A drawing of Helm's Deep by Tolkien himself. So now we know what it 'really' looks like in the book. 🙂

  67. nie hundred says:

    Hey. Just curious — but are you reading the Percy Jackson series next? READ THE PERCY JACKSON SERIES NEXT. I know that people either love it or hate it or have no interest in it. ><

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