An oncoming, unavoidable, terrifying ordeal is about to be brought upon the people of Edoras. The anticipation of war breeds fear. There is no way to come to terms with its presence, no way to avoid or ignore it. So, there it festers, expanding from within, driving every organ, muscle and thought in our mind into unmanageable reactions.
War brings cruelty, death and subsequent misery for those left behind. There is no sense of elation in war, even in victory. A price is always paid.
A summons to duty
Aragorn: “Farmer, farriers, stable boys. These are no soldiers.”
Gimli: “Most have seen too many winters.”
Legolas: “Or too few. Look at them. They`re frightened. I can see it in their eyes. And they should be…three hundred..against ten thousand!”
Every male able to bear a shield and sword has been summoned to defend the Keep, for the army is few in number. The guards go into the caves, where the women, the elderly men, and their young sons have taken refuge as per the order of the King.
As there is a great need for as many men as possible, every able-bodied man and young boy have to leave their mother and wife`s tight embrace and follow the guards to the Deeping Wall.
The scene is a heartbreaking one. In as much pain and uncertainty of surviving the night as the women of Edoras find themselves, to have their loved ones taken away is an unbearable feeling. If they are ever to see each other again is beyond knowing. A forceful goodbye is all they are left with.
They are no soldiers. They are simple, hard-working people performing a duty to which their King beckons them. Refusal is not an option. Not even the tears shed by their loved ones sways the guards from taking them. It is a bitter and most hopeless situation.
Each of them takes his armor, sword, and shield without ever knowing how to wield it. As much as this is a duty to be performed, they wear their feelings on their sleeves. There is a mixture of numbness, fear, sadness and general peril in their facial expressions.
Legolas, upon seeing this, draws a logical conclusion: they should be scared of what is to come for a victory against an army of such magnitude is impossible. They number only three hundred, and only a small number are those who have once participated in a battle themselves. The others have only heard it through the stories told by others.
Aragorn: “They have more hope of defending themselves here than at Edoras.”
Legolas: “Aragorn. They cannot win this fight. They are all going to die!”
Aragorn provides a solid argument against Legolas` despair. In spite of the desperate atmosphere that encircles the men standing around them, Aragorn remains calm. There is more hope of them protecting themselves here than at Edoras. That is, however, the only positive perspective Aragorn can give at the moment, for he too understands the peril that is about to be unleashed upon them.
This is another point in Aragorn`s character that shows his leadership capabilities. Even in a dire situation such as this, he is objective but positive. He knows what awaits them, but he still holds onto hope that this particular strategic position will provide a defense in itself.
Legolas points straight at the outcome, the outcome that all are fearing, the death of all these men surrounding them. Pointing at the negative in an already worst-case scenario, cannot bring anything but despair. There is no point in that. They cannot flee, so all they can do is to defend what little they have left.
Aragorn: “Then I shall die as one of them!”
Gimli: “Let him go, lad. Let him be.”
This outburst from Aragorn is layered. Aragorn`s own personal situation coupled with the inevitability of battle has him reacting to Legolas in a manner he otherwise would not have permitted himself. For Legolas to feel despair is also a side of him that does not suit his general disposition. Legolas` desperation triggered Aragorn`s rash reaction.
Aragorn seems to be the only one holding to any kind of hope, for even Legolas has turned desperate. Aragorn leaves Legolas in anger. There isn`t anything the men or he can do at this point, but to abandon hope is to surrender to defeat.
If everyone around you were defeated and desperate, and you were the only beacon of hope in a dire situation, at some point you would seek the company of only yourself. Everyone has a boiling point, a limit to their patience and understanding. In light of his emotional and physical distress, his threshold had been reached when even his close friend and comrade abandons hope for despair.
Gimli understands that it was simply a matter of time and what Aragorn needs is some time to himself to gather his thoughts. He understands there is no ill will between Aragorn and Legolas.
Both Aragorn and Legolas face anger and desperation. This dire situation couldn`t breed any other kind of feelings. They reacted in accordance with these feelings in a way that may have caused a row. However, it wasn`t a disagreement between the two, but rather an expression of their inner worlds.
One of the people
That Aragorn places himself among the ranks of the people of Edoras is a new and important insight into his inner world. He has already promised Boromir to not “let our people fail”. In the present situation, he is fulfilling his promise in the most immersive way possible. As the long lost King of Gondor, his allegiance should lie with them, but in his mind, the race of Men is under attack, no matter what realm they belong to.
The journey had brought him to Edoras, and upon learning of an oncoming battle, he tries his best to help. Even without the immediate threat of war, he resided briefly in Edoras to consult with Théoden and help in any way possible. He is now lead by the orders of King Théoden. Aragorn respects his decision and without ever being asked, he offers his service to the people of Rohan.
Aragorn shares the same fears and uncertainties as do the men defending Helm`s Deep. He thinks the same as they do, holding onto what little hope there is. Self-sacrifice seems to come naturally to Aragorn. At the Council of Elrond, he swore by his “life or death” to protect Frodo. Self-preservation becomes ever more insignificant to him.
His only purpose is to defend as much as he can, to contribute to the protection of the race of Men. He stands against the evil that yearns for the destruction of his race. But he does it not to save himself, but to preserve the people standing there with him. He is selfless. To be crowned King is not the motivation behind his actions. Had he wanted the crown, he would have gone straight to Minas Tirith and claimed it.
Théoden: “Who am I, Gamling?”
Gamling: “You are our king, sire.”
Théoden: “And you trust your king?”
Gamling: “Your men, my lord will follow you to whatever end.”
Théoden: “To whatever end.”
Self-doubt gnaws at Theoden as he is armored for the battle. His stare is blank and his hope gone. He has all but lost himself. Théoden has lost trust and confidence in himself, as he doubts his decision in these moments before the battle. The Men of Edoras, young and old, soldiers or not, they all stand behind their King. They are all doubtful of a positive outcome, but nevertheless, they follow their King.
Where is the horse and the rider?
Where is the horn that was blowing?
They have passed like rain on the mountains.
Like wind in the meadow.
The days have gone down in the West…
Behind the hills..
How did it come to this?
Featured photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash.