Caught between two choices

The King’s Decision

They had no warning. They were unarmed. Now the Wild Men are moving through the Westfold, burning as they go. Rick, cot and tree.


Éowyn paints a vivid image of the devastation left behind by Saruman`s want for destruction. Freda and Éothain are living proof. They are one of the lucky ones who escaped the burning of the Westfold. Fortunately, the two children obeyed their mother with a hope to reunite with her. Though they may not understand a mother`s sacrifice to save her children from harm, they are at least out of harm`s way for the time being.

The worst is yet to come

This is but a taste of the terror that Saruman will unleash. All the more potent for he is driven now by fear of Sauron. Ride out and meet him head on. Draw him away from your women and children. You must fight.

Gandalf the White

Saruman fears Sauron. He has thus far been portrayed as only a servant of Sauron, not equaling him in any way. Had he had the Ring of Power, his powers might have surpassed that of Sauron in his current state. However, since the One Ring only answers to Sauron, it would have probably found its way back to him.

Saruman, nevertheless, believes that the acquisition of the One Ring would provide him with as much power as Sauron and that the two would rule together. However, Sauron, as Gandalf stated in the Fellowship of the Ring, does not share power. This implies the following: Sauron has managed to manipulate Saruman with promises of equal power and possession to obtain him as an ally. When this did not secure his loyalty to him, he turned to intimidation.

Now that Saruman has lost the two Hobbits his Uruk-hai believed had the One Ring in their possession, fear of Sauron`s wrath clouds his judgment. He now has no idea where the One Ring is located and who exactly carries it. He is now in the dark.

As the fear of retribution starts to creep in, destruction far and wide is his only option. Although none of the devastated lands have anything to do with the One Ring, when fear strikes, haste springs into action. At the moment of the fall of the Westfold, Saruman has no other alternative than overall annihilation.

The arrival of Éothain and Freda makes King Théoden aware of this fact and he can only assume what might come his way, hence the head in his hands. He has not even had time to mourn his son. The news of the state of Rohan has brought him more grief than he can handle at the moment.

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Desperation amid solutions

Théoden`s glazed eyes stare into nothingness. He is confronted with a tough situation. Gandalf has presented a solution, but Théoden seems not to acknowledge it.

Gandalf proposes a viable solution. Instead of hiding behind walls and hoping it to simply pass by, he is urging Théoden to become an active participant. Women and children would be in a much safer position if the violence heading their way were stopped in its tracks, outside Edoras.

Gandalf places his hand on the throne`s armrest sculpted as a horse`s head, as a sign of urgency. Théoden understands the urgency which Gandalf tries to convey but in a stupor caused by grief and too much information all at once, he simply ignores it.

As he is entangled in the stages of his grief, the news of attacks and destruction only leads him into a downward spiral. He is not in any capacity to rule objectively or in the best interest of his people which is why he flees to Helm`s Deep, to hide in depression.

Aragorn: “You have 2000 good men riding north as we speak. Éomer is loyal to you. His men will return and fight for their king.”

Théoden: “They will be 300 leagues from here by now. Éomer cannot help us. I know what it is you want of me but I will not bring further death to my people. I will not risk open war.”

Aragorn expands Gandalf`s proposition explaining that there is an army behind Théoden, who, although banished, would still be loyal to their king and therefore fight in his name willingly. This Théoden dismisses at once, on account of them being too far away to join the fight that may be at their doorstep.

The agony of decision

Man on a ledge
Photo by Cam Adams on Unsplash

I would say that Théoden himself isn`t sure if Éomer would agree to serve him, not after he (or rather Saruman via Gríma) banished him and his company. Théoden has given up on the idea before he even tried to communicate with Éomer and settle this nonsense of banishment.

On the other hand, Théoden wanting no more of his people dying is, of course, referring to Éomer and his company as well. It is completely understandable, he does not want anyone else coming to harm, not after he has lost his son. For fear of death, he would not want any parent to suffer as he is suffering at the moment. Which is why he won`t risk any more lives with a head-on confrontation. A reasonable conclusion.

As he is defending his argument, Théoden is pacing around his Golden Hall, unsure of himself, of his own thoughts and actions, riddled with confusion and sadness. He stops Gandalf in his tracks with “I know what it is you want from me”. There is also a hint of Théoden not being sure of himself enough to fight against anyone. He has lost confidence in himself.

Gandalf wanted to add something reassuring to Théoden`s argument, perhaps that Éomer is still within reach and would help them. However, Théoden has made up his mind, which angers Gandalf. Théoden might appear like a coward in the present situation, but there is no telling what any of us would think or decide in this excruciating situation.

A clash of Kings

Aragorn: “Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not.”

Théoden: “When last I looked Théoden not Aragorn was king of Rohan.”

Aragorn presents the situation as it is. Théoden may not be caught up on everything that happened since the Fellowship started their journey, but the outside council should be enough for Théoden to trust their judgment. However, Théoden interpreted Aragorn`s statement as an attack on his leadership of Rohan, which, in all fairness, has lost its edge since Saruman enchanted him.

Weak and unable are two things Théoden does not want anyone to think about him. They hurt him because they are true. Although it wasn`t his fault all of this happened, the feeling of guilt has not left him. So, in order to protect himself from feeling weak and unable, he strikes back at Aragorn. He is offended by Aragorn`s words, although there is nothing to be offended by. It was a simple statement of fact.

Then what is the King`s decision?

Gandalf the White

Gandalf carefully treading and dismantling an escalating situation, simply asks for Théoden`s decision. For, as it appears, Théoden has shut down every good council and wants to make his decision based on his thoughts and his arguments alone. As Gandalf poses the question, Théoden turns around, looking at Gandalf with a mix of sadness, uncertainty and an overall sense of shame about the decision.

They flee to Helm´s Deep

By order of the King, the city must empty. We make for the refuge of Helm`s Deep.


Háma himself is not too thrilled with the king`s decision, but he has to carry out what is ordered. The people of Edoras spring into action, finally having a clear plan forward, after being stuck in misery for a long time.

Gimli: “Helm`s Deep. They flee to the mountains when they should stand and fight. Who will defend them if not their King?”

Aragorn: “He`s only doing what he thinks is best for his people. Helm`s Deep has saved them in the past.”

Gimli, a Dwarf warrior, and a face-to-face combat enthusiast gives a good argument. He is only saying what everyone else is thinking. However, the reasoning behind this decision can only be clear to the King. He is the only one put in this impossible situation with the duty to do what’s best for his people, and he has chosen refuge. 

Aragorn now defends the King`s decision. He has provided Théoden with a reasonable argument, an argument about the current state of things and the King`s own army that would stand with him. As this was rejected and the King decided otherwise, Aragorn respects this decision and accepts the reasons given by Théoden. Based on past experience, Helm`s Deep has been of great help to the people of Rohan.

Respect and acceptance

Aragorn is aware of the impossibility of the situation Théoden finds himself in. He does not push on to convince Théoden otherwise, which people are generally prone to. It is a fact that we seek to surround ourselves with people who share our opinion and are willing to listen to a good proposition.

However, when a solution to a problem is met with resistance and refusal, some react in hostility. It is inconceivable for them to understand why a person would not value their opinion and simply follow the instruction that has been laid out.

Accepting another person`s opinions and decisions is crucial in establishing respect among people. This is exactly what Aragorn shows us. He may not agree with Théoden`s decision, but he also doesn`t contradict it. A perfectly respectful and diplomatic approach.

Gandalf: “There is no way out of that ravine. Théoden is walking into a trap. He thinks he`s leading them to safety. What they will get is a massacre. Théoden has a strong will, but I fear for him. I fear for the survival of Rohan. He will need you before the end, Aragorn. The people of Rohan will need you. The defenses have to hold.”

Aragorn: “They will hold.”

Gandalf, however, knows into what kind of danger Théoden is leading his people. Théoden thinks too much of Helm`s Deep Deeping wall, which is about the only form of defense they currently have. The impossibility of breaching the wall is the only hope he has. Gandalf is aware of Théoden`s thinking, which is why he asks Aragorn to assist Théoden once they reach Helm`s Deep. He is sure Théoden will be in need of good counsel and a right-hand man when worse comes to worst. 

Théoden is a strong-willed man, as Gandalf points out. At this time, he only accepts his own judgment and reasoning. However, he is also a man in deep mourning. Grief and fear cloud his judgment. He will need a helping hand once grief starts taking over his actions and impede the actions of his army. Aragorn is the voice of reason, apart from Gandalf, he is the only one who can break through to Théoden. 

As Gandalf mentions a trap in the making, Aragorn turns fearful. Nevertheless, he promises Gandalf that the defenses of Helm`s Deep will hold, which, knowing better, Gandalf is doubtful of. Aragorn is becoming ever more sure of himself and his ability as a warrior. Not because of any nobility that runs in his blood, but sheer will and never tiring spirit. He is willing to die defending all that is worth fighting for. 

Where has Gríma gone? He took off on a horse and never looked back. Read on in my next post.

Featured image by Vladislav Babienko on Unsplash.

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