Lord of the Rings

Kneeling among the simbelmynë that grow thick on the burial grounds of the Kings of Rohan, King Théoden weeps for the son he unknowingly lost while under the wicked spells of Saruman. “Alas that these evil days should be mine,” he says, instantly displaying the melded eloquence, regality, and ruggedness within the conflicted King. Before this, he was merely a prisoner of evil influence, a captive in his own throne room unable to make any decisions due to the poisoning of his mind.

And when released from the curse, his vengeance is the first feeling that overcomes him when he regains his strength. However, when all is said and done – when Théoden reverts to his former self in full – his mourning in the burial grounds is our true introduction to a supporting character that would become a significant touchstone for the most sprawling fantasy ever committed to film.

I reserve the right to declare that the Lord of the Rings trilogy is the single greatest cinematic feat – like, ever.

I could write about that, but so many before me have already. It’s big and bold but also specific and personal. Middle-Earth offers not only a huge playing field for 12 hours of epic movie magic but also a wealth of history and details. Théoden, Lord of the Rohirrim, is one such character that perfectly embodies the overall trilogy’s history and details, of which Peter Jackson & Co. did an excellent job of translating from page to screen.

Get quality help now

Proficient in: The Lord Of The Rings

5 (339)

“ KarrieWrites did such a phenomenal job on this assignment! He completed it prior to its deadline and was thorough and informative. ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

My man doesn’t even show up until a good forty minutes into the second film of the trilogy and yet he leaves such an impression to become the defining piece of the whole trilogy for me.

Théoden’s is a story reminiscent of a Shakespearean tragedy. When freed from Saruman’s grasp, it’s as if he awakens from a painful slumber and falls into a world trying desperately not to fade away. His armies are disbanded, his villages are being destroyed, his son is dead, and he just woke up during perhaps the most fateful war in the history of Middle-Earth. King Théoden is in disarray but must remain resolute for his people. Elements of King Lear are strong in Théoden: a king drifted into old age, not knowing where his power will pass on, and manipulated by the influences of snakes close to him. Only Théoden’s aging did not reflect the trueness of time, robbing him of a chunk of his life essentially. In King Lear, Shakespeare strips the King of his identity and leads him into madness once he loses his kingship. Théoden essentially loses his kingship through his possession under Saruman. He loses free will and people no longer refer to him directly as “king.” Tolkien and Shakespeare linguistically connect kingship with identity as they track Lear and Théoden through their initial abandoning of authority back to legitimate kingship.

Apart from Shakespearean connections (I could write another whole piece on Macbeth’s influence on LOTR), Tolkien gave Théoden a bevy of traits, struggles, and responsibilities, giving the reader a fully three-dimensional perspective of the King of Rohan. You have to commend these films for being able to maintain the greatness from those pages. In fact, many of Théoden’s lines are ripped straight from the books themselves, providing him a more lived-in and regal persona (indeed, the words of Théoden sometimes still sound like something from a Shakespeare play). Théoden is a prideful king, but one so noble in his dedication to his people, with decisions based around strategic hope. And he’s also a father – or, rather, a father figure once his son dies – who rarely bares contempt for those he claims responsibility to, instead opting to instill values of practicality and confidence. His kingly and fatherly duties are reflexive, as he treats his kingdom like his kin and his kin like his kingdom.

Upon the news of evil forces coming his way, he gathers all of his people in Helm’s Deep, a fortress built into the side of a mountain. This is his first big decision upon returning to his kingship. When walking through the fortress, he loudly tells Aragorn of the perks of the Hornburg and the tales of many failed enemy sieges. Aragorn criticizes Théoden for ignoring the facts that they are vastly outnumbered and that the enemy can very well take down this stronghold. The King however comes close to admit that he knows this: “What would you have me do?” His responsibility to keep his people safe extends to emotional and mental capacities; that means preserving the sense that there is still hope. Minute examples like this speak loudly about who Théoden is as a person, where he stands in the world, and where he sees himself standing in the world.

There are also some quite bold examples. My favorite scene in the trilogy (okay, one of my maybe 7 or 8 favorite scenes) precedes the siege of Helm’s Deep. While King Théoden’s captain, Gamling, assists him with his armor, the Lord of the Horses, backlit by an ethereal shining light that bursts into the hall unopposed, remembers the halcyon days of yore upon facing immeasurable odds, He voices remorse for how alone the Rohan truly is now in his Lament for the Rohirrim:

Where is the horse and the rider?
Where is the horn that was blowing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain,
Like wind in the meadow.
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow.
How did it come to this?

Théoden’s words, straight from Tolkien’s pen, evoke a wistful and sorrowful poetry. Somehow, I feel nostalgia for something I never experienced, as Théoden conveys not an explanation of the backstory but a feeling of it. Edited together with shots of the impending doom of the approaching Uruk-Hai army as well as scenes depicting the measures Rohan must take (such as suiting up children for battle) because of what they’ve come to, Théoden’s Lament portrays sentiments of the past, present, and future. The old days were legendary. These days are dark. I wonder where we’ll be when this is over.

The Battle for Helm’s Deep is arguably the greatest battle committed to the silver screen (again, I could write a whole piece on just that), and Théoden’s pride juxtaposed against his growing concern offers a realistically flawed human being who we know has tons of experience but has been off of his rocker lately. Still, in the climax, he rides out in a last resort not to win the battle, but to go out in a blaze of glory. And with the horn once again finally blowing, it all comes full circle.

King Théoden is once again called out to the battlefield in the battle for humanity. In Return of the King (different king), Théoden is faced with the autonomous choice to either hold out as others have for many years or risk everything for maybe a small chance to turn the tides of this war. Aragorn runs in: “Gondor calls for our aid!” Théoden takes a short pause. “And Rohan shall answer.” Shivers travel down my spine. This is a man who, before facing this evil threat, scorned Gondor for never coming to their aid but now understands and would call upon every last fighting man of the Eorlingas to save the White City. When circumstances seem to be the worst for the characters at Gondor, that iconic Horn of Rohan blows and Théoden rallies his men with the most rousing battle speech you’ve ever heard:

Forth, and fear no darkness!
Arise! Arise, Riders of Théoden!
Spears shall be shaken,
Shields shall be splintered!
A sword day…
A red day…
Ere the sun rises!

If you didn’t just get goosebumps, you ain’t livin’ right. Here, Théoden exalts bravery in the face of near certain death. Here is a man who knows he will most likely lose everything, but is not afraid of it, and manages to inspire that in his soldiers. Do not fear death, for if we do not go then all is lost anyway. They have nothing to lose and they might as well go out with a bang. And what a bang it is.

Over the course of The Two Towers, Théoden goes from being as far removed as he’s ever been for the Horselords to being the perfect embodiment of Rohan’s vigorous courage. In Return of the King, he evolves into the first ruler in ages to heed the call for men to unite against evil, becoming a universal symbol of honor and self-sacrifice. His arc features tragedy, loss, redemption, humility, and a hell lot of epic moments. And at the end of the day, he’s just a good guy. He transmits every bit of Rohan in his character from the hominess to the unparalleled level of honor. Every note of that violin in the Rohan Theme exudes the milieu of King Théoden because Rohan is an extension of him.

Pretty much everything about Tolkein’s work in The Lord of the Rings is a literary triumph, from laying down a fully realized and captivating fantastical history to creating an epic journey on multiple facets. Théoden is just one of these literary triumphs but I think that the specificity and passion infused in this one character speaks volumes about Lord of the Rings as a whole. If we can infer so much from the nuances of this one side character, we can assume that there is so much knowledge and emotion to be reaped from virtually every aspect of these films.

Yeah, the direction of the battle sequences is mind-blowing. The visual effects are game-changers. The production design, costuming, and makeup are a creative tour de force. The epic story, the enormous scope, and the New Zealand landscapes are breathtaking. The action and the events leading up to them are entertaining. Yeah, that’s all there and it’s top-notch. But the details, man: the throwaway lines that Gandalf whispers to himself in remembrance; the Elvish words written on the blade of a sword; the salt that Sam carries in his backpack; Boromir’s wrist braces which Aragorn wears throughout the trilogy; the real name of the Balrog of Morgoth; Legolas walking on snow; and the many many many oblique references to the books.

That’s what made Lord of the Rings the masterpiece it is. Middle-Earth is perhaps the most lived-in place we’ve seen onscreen. Théoden is just another part of that world. Before he lived, things happened. And after he perishes, things happen. During his life, we peek into an avenue of things happening, things that have happened, and things that will happen. Actor Bernard Hill transmits each thought through the old king’s mind with a legendary line or just a flicker across his face. And with a story that they all said would be impossible to translate to screen because of how huge it is, what really mattered were the specific connections of each character to that world and to us.

Cite this page

Lord of the Rings. (2021, Dec 11). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/lord-of-the-rings-2/

Lord of the Rings
Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7