Gríma Wormtongue by atalante_star
Gríma – unlike the rest of the Rohirrim – is a pretty similar character in both book and film. What else could he possibly ever be but a snivelling, grasping spy for Saruman who has grown over time to have a hold over Théoden King in Meduseld?
Gríma in Meduseld
The first mention of Gríma in the book occurs as Gandalf and the Three Riders reach the gates of Edoras: “It is but two nights ago that Wormtongue came to us and said that by the will of Théoden no stranger should pass these gates.”
In the film, this mention of his name by the gate guards does occur, but only after a short scene inserted solely for the film – a scene that contains maybe his best lines and shows much of his character:
Gríma: Oh, he [Théodred] must have died sometime in the night. What a tragedy for the King to lose his only son and heir. I understand his passing is hard to except especially now that your brother has deserted you.
Éowyn: Leave me alone, snake!
Gríma: Oh but you are alone. Who knows what you’ve spoken to the darkness in the bitter watches of the night, when all your life seems to shrink. The walls of your bower closing in about you. A hutch to trammel some wild thing. So fair and so cold like a morning of pale spring still clinging to winter’s chill.
The next place we see Gríma in both the book and film is next to Théoden’s throne, a place befitting the chief advisor of the Lord of the Mark. But here can been seen the one way in which Gríma does differ substantially between book and film – appearance: “At his feet upon the steps sat a wizened figure of a man, with a pale wise face and heavy-lidded eyes.”
This is very unlike the picture we have of Gríma in the film – he is much younger, much more menacing in appearance, with odd-coloured eyes (without the snake-like heavy lids) and lank black hair. One detail they do however agree on is the pale face – wise in the book, but calculating in the film.
The details in this scene show the substantial difference in character between the book and film. In the book, Gríma sits at Théoden’s feet, a very subordinate position, while in the film he sits at Théoden’s side, even placing his hand on the king’s arm at one point. Furthermore, Gríma openly mentions Saruman in the film, whereas his presence is a much more hidden thing in the book.
Gríma’s subordinate position in the book is emphasised by Gandalf: “The wise speak only of what they know, Gríma son of Galmod. A witless worm have you become. Therefore be silent, and keep your forked tongue behind your teeth. I have not passed through fire and death to bandy crooked words with a serving-man till the lightning falls.”
Even the basics of Gríma’s conversations in the film and the book are different. In the film Gríma speaks for Théoden, clearly taking the role of power away from the king. In the book, however, he does not talk over Théoden, simply adding to and reinforcing the king’s words (though these have no doubt have been influenced by Gríma over time). His words in the book also seem to still show care for Rohan, whereas in the film, it is completely clear that he is working for Saruman and only promoting the wishes of Isengard.
The actual manner of Gríma’s downfall is different in film and book, though the end result is pretty much the same.
In the film:
Gandalf: Be silent. Keep your forked tongue behind your teeth. I have not passed through fire and death to bandy crude words with a witless worm.
Gríma: His staff. I told you to take the wizards staff.
(Gríma backs away. Soldiers come rushing forward. Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas fight them off. Háma holds back Gamling from joining. Gandalf continues forward as if nothing is going on.)
Gandalf: Théoden son of Thengel. Too long have you sat in the shadows.
(Gimli puts his foot on Gríma’s chest, stopping him from getting up.)
In the book, however, Gríma is sent sprawling on the floor by Gandalf’s magic, and then next is seen with Háma, after Háma had retrieved Herugrim from Gríma’s keeping. Even then he continues to maintain the pretence of caring for Théoden and Rohan: “”I care for you and yours as best I may” … “Mercy, lord!” whined Wormtongue, grovelling on the ground. “Have pity on one worn out in your service. Send me not from your side! I at least will stand by you when all others have gone. Do not send your faithful Gríma away!””
“One who knows your mind and honours your commands should be left in Edoras. Appoint a faithful steward. Let your counsellor Gríma keep all things till your return.”
But Gandalf knew his true nature, and spoke to him in whole of the whole court, words in the book speech easily recognisable from the film: “Down snake!” he said suddenly in a terrible voice. “Down on your belly! How long is it since Saruman bought you? What was the promised price? When all the man were dead, you were to pick your share of the treasure, and take the woman you desire? Too long have you watched her under your eyelids and haunted her steps.””
Gríma leaves Edoras
In the book, Théoden then gives Gríma two choices – to ride beside the King on the way to war, or to leave Edoras in disgrace. “You have my pity,” said Théoden. “And I do not send you from my side. I go myself to war with my men. I bid you come with me and prove your faith.”
When Wormtongue refused the King’s offer, spitting at his feet and running from Edoras, still Théoden shows mercy: “After him!” said Théoden. “See that he does no harm to any, but do not hurt him or hinder him. Give him a horse, if he wishes it.”
In that section is a wonderful description of Wormtongue, utterly snake-like: “His eyes glittered. Such malice was in them that men stepped back from him. He bared his teeth; and then with a hissing breath he spat before the king’s feet, and darting to one side, he fled down the stair.”
In the film, however, Háma simply comes up with Théoden’s sword, and when Théoden takes it, Gríma attempts to slide away, cowering on the floor before being thrown out of the hall. Théoden follows him:
Gríma: I’ve only ever served you my lord.
Théoden: Your witchcraft would have had me crawling on all fours like a beast.
Gríma: Send me not from your sight.
(Théoden raises his sword to strike, Aragorn stops him.)
Aragorn: No, my lord. No my lord. Let him go. Enough blood has been spilt on his account.
(Aragorn offers a hand to Gríma to help him up. Gríma spits into Aragorn’s palm and gets up and runs through the crowd.)
Gríma: Get out of my way!
Gríma in Orthanc
Rather unintuitively, more is seen of Wormtongue at Orthanc in the film than the book. In the book, he is not actually seen, just heard and talked about. It was Wormtongue who asked the identity of the party at Orthanc’s gate when Gandalf arrived; and then it is Gríma who is thought to have thrown the palantir from the tower. His twisted mind and unfortunate situation is clearly shown: “”The aim was poor, maybe, because he could not make up his mind which he hated more, you or Saruman,” said Aragorn.
“That may be so,” said Gandalf. “Small comfort will those two have in their companionship: they will gnaw one another with words. But the punishment is just. If Wormtongue ever comes out of Orthanc alive, it will be more than he deserves.””
In the film, however, in Orthanc he is seen as an accomplice of Saruman, and the complicated relationship between the two of them that is already developed in the books is not yet clear.
Gríma (voiceover – inside Orthanc speaking to Saruman, nursing a cut on his lip): Théoden will not stay at Edoras. It’s vulnerable, he knows this. He will expect an attack on the city. They will flee to Helm’s Deep, the great fortress of Rohan. It is a dangerous road to take through the mountains. It’ll be slow; they will have women and children with them.
Wormtongue: (voiceover) Helm’s Deep has one weakness. Its outer wall is solid rock but for a small culvert as its base which is little more than a drain.
Wormtongue: How? How can fire undo stone? What kind of device could bring down the wall?
Saruman: If the wall is breached, Helm’s Deep will fall.
Wormtongue: Even if it is breached, it would take a number beyond reckoning thousands, to storm the Keep.
And Wormtongue’s last appearance in the film is probably his most curious, and the subject of continued discussion. As Saruman shows him his new army, a single tear rolls down Wormtongue’s face. Why a tear? Because he suddenly realises the true might of the dark forces and regrets the path he has taken? Because he realises that the army is going to sweep over Rohan and probably kill his beloved Éowyn? Unfortunately, only Peter Jackson knows the answer …
- Ã‰owyn in TTT
Our Character Gallery has a separate section devoted to GrÃma Wormtongue.
It also has the screencaps of the theatrical version, as well as the extended edition.
A transcript of 'The Lord Of the Rings: The Two Towers' can be found in our Film Fun & Facts section.
A summary of 'The Lord Of the Rings: The Two Towers' can be found in Elrond's Library.
You can also check out some pictures of Brad Dourif in our Cast & Crew Gallery or read a short biography in our Film, Fun & Facts section.
Some articles that are related to GrÃma Wormtongue:
- In the Middle-earth section there's an article about GrÃma by EressÃ«a, and ThÃ©oden.
- In the CoE Newsletter there's an article about GrÃma's Tear.
Forum threads related to GrÃma Wormtongue/ Brad Dourif:
- The Movie Forum has threads answering the questions GrÃma - Victim or Villain? and Why is GrÃma crying?.
- In the Books Forum you can find threads like GrÃma - Villain or Victim (bookversion) and GrÃma Wormtongue.
- For Brad Dourif-fans, there's the Favourite Character/Actor - The Baddies thread in the Casting Forum. There's also threads about GrÃma Wormtongue / Brad Dourif.
Take a look at how some artists saw GrÃma Wormtongue in The Two Towers:
- ThÃ©oden, Wormtongue and Ã‰owyn by Ralph Bakshi
- Gandalf Judges GrÃma outside Meduseld by Anke Eissmann
- Wormtongue Unmasked by The Brothers Hildebrandt
- GrÃma by Andrew Mockett
- GrÃma by spooky
- Mini-GrÃma by Wolfie-thu
Looking for something more creative - you may find it here:
You can preview the GrÃma preview here.