Time Period: Third Age
One of the most talked and sung about of the Kings of the Mark was Helm Hammerhand. It was after Helm’s defense of the Hornburg that the Deep became known as Helm’s Deep.
Helm was a grim man of great strength and he served as King of Rohan after his father Gram. During his time as king, there was a leader of men named Freca who claimed descent from King Fréawine but he had, men said, much Dunlendish blood. Freca had grown rich and powerful and fat, but he had his own stronghold on either side of Adorn and he heeded the King little. Helm mistrusted him but called him to his councils anyway.
Freca came to one council with many of his men and asked for the hand of Helm’s daughter to marry his son, Wulf. Helm said to the man, ‘You have grown big since you were last here; but it is mostly fat, I guess.’ Freca became angry at those words and said to Helm, ‘Old kings that refuse a proffered staff may fall on their knees.’ Helm did not react; he simply told Freca that the matter could wait and they continued their council.
When the council was over, Helm asked Freca to come outside because he said ‘The king does not permit brawls in his house, but men are freer outside.’ Helm sent Freca’s men away guarded by many of his own and he faced Freca and said, ‘Now Dunlending, you have only Helm to deal with, alone and unarmed. But you have said much already, and it is my turn to speak. Freca, your folly has grown with your belly. You talk of a staff! If Helm dislikes a crooked staff that is thrust on him, he breaks it. So!’ With that he hit Freca so hard with only his hand that the man fell back and soon died. Helm claimed Freca’s son and near kin enemies of the Mark and sent his men after them as they fled across the plains.
Four years later in 2758, Rohan was attacked from the east and could not be helped by Gondor because they themselves were attacked by three fleets of the Corsairs. The Dunlendings saw their chance and they came down over the Isen and down from Isengard with Wulf, Freca’s son, as their leader. Their force was great because they were joined by enemies of Gondor that had landed in the mouths of Isen and Lefnui.
So it was that Rohan was overrun and Helm fled to the Hornburg where he was besieged. Wulf went to Edoras and sat upon the throne in Meduseld. Haleth son of Helm was killed defending the doors of the Golden Hall.
During the time of Helm’s siege in the Hornburg, The Long Winter began and the Rohirrim and their foes suffered in the cold. Against the King’s counsel, Háma, his younger son led many men out on a sortie but they were quickly lost in the snow.
Helm soon grew fierce and gaunt from famine and grief. The enemies dreaded his coming for he would go out alone, clad in white, and stalk them and slay many with his hands. His people believed that as long as he bore no weapon that no weapon could bite him. The Dunlendings said that if Helm could find no food that he would eat men. Helm would blow his great horn before he went forth and his enemies would be filled with such fear that they would flee down the Coomb instead of toward him to fight.
One night though, the horn blew and Helm left but did not return. In the morning there was a sun-gleam and his people saw Helm standing on the Dike alone. He was dead but his knees were unbent. Men said that the horn was still heard at times in the Deep and the wraith of Helm would walk among the foes of Rohan and kill men with fear.
Soon after, the winter finally broke. Fréaláf, son of Hild (Helm’s sister), came down out of Dunharrow and surprised Wulf in Meduseld and killed him and so regained Edoras. When the floods came after the snows, the enemies were either killed or they fled and so Fréaláf became king.
The body of Helm was brought from the Hornburg and laid in the 9th mound of the kings. The white simbelmynë grew there thickest so that the mound seemed snow-clad as Helm had been when he died. When Fréaláf died, a new line of mounds was started.
After Helm’s death the Deep was renamed Helm’s Deep and there it was said the ghost of Helm protected the Rohirrim even during their battle with Saruman’s army during the War of the Ring.
Research by Nienna-of-the-Valar
Information compiled from The Lord of the Rings and especially Appendix A, The House of Eorl.