3.06. The King of the Golden Hall by atalante_star
This scene is pretty different in book and film, though it has, at least, the same purpose – an introduction to Meduseld and its inhabitants, the reawakening of Théoden, the meeting of Éowyn and Aragorn, and the start of Rohirric preparations for war.
Both the film and the book starts with Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas and Gandalf riding towards Meduseld, and Gandalf warning them that they are likely to not get much of a welcome from Théoden.
What they see as they ride towards Edoras is pretty similar. From the book: “I see a white stream that comes down from the snows … Where it issues from the shadow of the vale a green hill rises upon the east. A dike and mighty wall and thorny fence encircle it. Within there rise the roofs of houses; and in the midst, set upon a green terrace, there stands aloft a great hall of Men. And it seems to my eyes that it is thatched with gold. The light of it shines far over the land. Golden, too, are the posts of its doors. There men in bright mail stand; but all else within the courts are yet asleep.” [3.VI]
And apart from the green terrace, the film Meduseld fits that description very well:
One thing the book introduces straight away, as the party rides up to Edoras, are the barrows and simbelmynë (“Upon their western sides the grass was white as with a drifted snow”) which do not play a part until Théodred’s funeral in the film.
Eorl’s Hymn (“Where now the horse and the rider?”) is also used here in the book, by Aragorn, as an illustration of the culture and temperament of the Rohirrim. In the film, this was used elsewhere, with a number of the poem’s lines said by Théoden before the Battle of the Hornburg.
The film version fits well with the spirit of the book description of the actual citadel of Edoras, if not the exact details.
From the book: “They found a broad path, paved with hewn stones, now winding upward, now climbing in short flights of well-laid steps. Many houses built of wood and many dark doors they passed. Beside the way in a stone channel a stream of clear water flowed, sparkling and chattering. At length they came to the crown of the hill. There stood a high platform above a green terrace, at the foot of which a bright spring gushed from a stone carved in the likeness of a horse’s head; beneath was a wide basin from which the water spilled and fed the falling stream. Up the green terrace went a stair of stone, high and broad, and upon the topmost step were stone-hewn seats. There sat other guards, with drawn swords laid upon their knees.” [3.VI]
Gríma and Éowyn
In the film, there are two original short scenes inserted before the party arrive at Meduseld, showing the feelings Éowyn has for her uncle and her uncle’s advisor. The first scene shows Éowyn kneeling at Théoden’s side, asking him to come and see his son’s body. The second shows Éowyn weeping over Théodred‘s body as Gríma walks in:
Gríma: Oh, he 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 (he puts his hand on her face) like a morning of pale spring still clinging to winter’s chill.
(Éowyn closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. He moves his hand down to her throat. She looks at him.)
Éowyn then walks outside, and a flag rips off a pole and goes flying off in the wind. It lands just outside the gate as Aragorn is riding past.
The party’s meeting with the gate guards of Edoras is lost in the film, but in both film and book, they meet Háma at the doors of Meduseld, and in both he allows Gandalf to take his staff into the Hall. However he takes the other weapons – by order of Gríma Wormtongue in the film, and by order of Théoden in the book. There is also not, in the film, the by-play between Aragorn and Háma as to who has greatest authority in the Golden Hall.
“”It is not clear to me that the will of Théoden son of Thengel, even though he be lord of the Mark, should prevail over the will of Aragorn son of Arathorn, Elendil’s heir of Gondor.”
“This is the house of Théoden, not of Aragorn, even were he King of Gondor in the seat of Denethor,” said Háma, stepping swiftly before the doors and barring the way.” [3.VI]
And it is not Andúril that Aragorn leaves outside the doors in the film.
Théoden is introduced in both the books and the movies as a spent force, having ceded his power to Gríma Wormtongue. He rules in name only, allowing Gríma’s words to dictate his actions. The position to which Gríma had risen in the court, and the weary resignation with which most Rohirrim then viewed the situation, was clear from the first in both book and film
From the book:
“It is the will of Théoden King that none should enter his gates, save those that know our tongue and are our friends. … 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.
Do not hope too much! These are dark days.”
And from the film:
Éomer: He was ambushed, by orcs. If we don’t defend our county, Saruman will take it by force.
Gríma: That is a lie. Saruman the White has ever been our friend and ally.
Théoden: (whispering) Gríma.
Our first view of Théoden in the book is as an old man sitting on his throne, Wormtongue at his feet, and Éowyn standing behind him. He is described as bent with age, with long white hair falling in great braids from beneath a gold circlet in which was set a single white diamond. His beard reached to his knees. When he stood, he used a short black staff with a handle of white bone to support himself. However, Gandalf and the others could still see the strong man whom he had been. His blue eyes burned with a bright light, he was tall, and they saw that in his youth he must have been “high and proud indeed”.
The film version of Théoden is rather similar. He is certainly bent with age, with long white hair sprouting out over a tarnished bronze-looking circlet. He is dressed in old moth-eaten robes, with an outer robe of fur, and on his feet are old and ruined boots. No sign of the proud king remains as he slumbers on his throne, Gríma at his side.
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.” [3.VI]
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.
Théoden’s initial welcome to Gandalf is similar in both the book and the film. It is short, uncertain, and highly tempered by the version of events that was fed to him by Wormtongue. In both versions he questions why he should believe Gandalf Storm-crow.
The release of Théoden from Wormtongue’s influence in the book is much less dramatic than in the film. In the book, Gandalf simply encourages him out of his chair, and takes him out of the Golden Hall to look over Rohan: “Take courage, Lord of the Mark; for better help you will not find. No counsel have I to give to those that despair. Yet counsel I could give, and words I could speak to you. Will you hear them? They are not for all ears. I bid you come out before your doors and look abroad. Too long have you sat in shadows and trusted to twisted tales and crooked promptings.”
Slowly Théoden left his chair. A faint light grew in the hall again.
“Now, lord,” said Gandalf, “look out upon your land! Breathe the free air again!”
Théoden looked out, over his lands – the green fields, the river glittering like glass, a storm rolling away over the East, and a sharp stab of sunlight coming down from between the clouds. And gained his release from the influence of Saruman: “From the king’s hand the black staff fell clattering on the stones. He drew himself up, slowly, as a man that is stiff from long bending over some dull toil. Now tall and straight he stood, and his eyes were blue as he looked into the opening sky.
“Dark have been my dreams of late,” he said, “but I feel as one new-awakened. I would now that you had come before, Gandalf. For I fear that already you have come too late, only to see the last days of my house.”!” [3.VI]
The Théoden of old seemed to return more clearly when he holds a sword once more. He first takes Éomer‘s sword, holding it aloft, swinging it shimmering and whistling in the air, and crying out in Rohirric:
“Arise now, arise, Riders of Théoden!
Dire deeds awake, dark is it eastward.
Let horse be bridled, horn be sounded!
At that, his guards, draw their swords and lay them at his feet, a sign of fealty and love. In return, Théoden immediately promises to fight in the upcoming war, whether it mean glory and victory, or defeat and death: “I myself will go to war, to fall in the front of the battle, if it must be. Thus shall I sleep better.”
“Then even the defeat of Rohan will be glorious in song,” said Aragorn. The armed men that stood near clashed their weapons, crying: “The Lord of the Mark will ride! Forth Éorlingas!”” [3.VI]
Háma is then sent to fetch Herugrim.
This is vastly different from the film, where we first see Gandalf, dressed in a grey cloak, approaching the throne and commanding Saruman to leave his mind). Saruman-through-Théoden informs Gandalf that his power is nor great enough, so Gandalf reveals himself as Gandalf the White and jabs his staff towards Théoden. Saruman then says that he will kill Théoden if Gandalf tries to dislodge him from the Rohir’s mind. Gandalf jabs his staff towards him again, and eventually breaks the connection to Saruman.
Théoden then undergoes a remarkably physical transformation into the golden-haired king he once was, and after receiving Herugrim from Háma, he immediately directs his attention onto Gríma. Wielding his sword he pursues Gríma out of the Golden Hall and down its steps, only being stopped by Aragorn from killing Wormtongue. He then receives the fealty of his people
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.” [3.VI]
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.””
After Gríma is sent away, the book and the film diverge.
The Book after Gríma’s Departure
In the book, this chapter is the first time we really see Éowyn – or at least get a good description of her: “Grave and thoughtful was her glance, as she looked on the king with cool pity in her eyes. Very fair was her face, and her long hair was like a river of gold. Slender and tall she was in her white robe girt with silver; but strong she seemed and stern as steel, a daughter of kings. Thus Aragorn for the first time in the full light of day beheld Éowyn, Lady of Rohan, and thought her fair, fair and cold, like a morning of pale spring that is not yet come to womanhood. And she now was suddenly aware of him: tall heir of kings, wise with many winters, greycloaked, hiding a power that yet she felt. For a moment still as stone she stood, then turning swiftly she was gone.” [3.VI]
Feasting and gifting
After Gríma’s departure in the book, Théoden holds a feast, where the main topic of conversation is Saruman and Wormtongue’s treachery. The king then gifts Gandalf with anything he may care to name, saving Herugrim alone. Gandalf asks for Shadowfax, and Théoden gives him the horse gladly: “But as for your gift, lord, I will choose one that will fit my need: swift and sure. Give me Shadowfax! He was only lent before, if loan we may call it. But now I shall ride him into great hazard, setting silver against black” [3.VI]
The others were also given gifts from the armoury of Meduseld – Legolas and Aragorn were given shining mail, helms and round shields, and Gimli took a cap of iron and leather, and a small shield bearing the emblem of the House of Eorl. The shield had been Théoden’s, when still a boy.
After the gift-giving, Éowyn took round a cup of wine, starting with Théoden and continuing on to Aragorn – a scene clearly taken forward to “The Return of The King” in the celebration after the Battle of the Hornburg: “As she stood before Aragorn she paused suddenly and looked upon him, and her eyes were shining. And he looked down upon her fair face and smiled: but as he took the cup, his hand met hers, and he knew that she trembled at the touch.” [3.VI]
Éowyn is then named as the person who will stay behind and lead the Rohirrim – but from Edoras, unlike being given the role at Helm’s Deep.
“”I said not Éomer,” answered Háma. “And he is not the last. There is Éowyn, daughter of Éomund, his sister. She is fearless and high-hearted. All love her. Let her be as lord to the Eorlingas, while we are gone.”
“It shall be so,” said Théoden. “Let the heralds announce to the folk that the Lady Éowyn will lead them!”” [3.VI]
She agrees, and is given a sword and corslet from Théoden, and she bids them farewell, eyes fixed on Aragorn as she says how much she’ll miss them.
The others then all walk down to the gate where their horses are waiting for them. Éowyn is left at the door of Meduseld: “Alone Éowyn stood before the doors of the house at the stair’s head; the sword was set upright before her, and her hands were laid upon the hilt. She was clad now in mail and shone like silver in the sun.” [3.VI]
Gimli rides with Éomer, Legolas and Aragorn alongside, and Gandalf whistles and calls Shadowfax to him (the horse “sped towards the host like an arrow”).
Gandalf then throws off his grey cloak and hat, allowing his snowy hair to fly free in the wind, and his white robes to shine brightly.
“”Behold the White Rider!” cried Aragorn, and all took up the words.
“Our King and the White Rider!” they shouted. “Forth Eorlingas!”
The trumpets sounded. The horses reared and neighed. Spear clashed on shield. Then the king raised his hand, and with a rush like the sudden onset of a great wind the last host of Rohan rode thundering into the West.
Far over the plain Éowyn saw the glitter of their spears, as she stood still, alone before the doors of the silent house.” [6.VI]
The Film after Gríma’s Departure
After Gríma is sent away, Théoden – in the film – asks for Théodred, and the scene cuts to his funeral.
His body is brought to the barrows, carried on the shoulders of Rohirrim. The townspeople are gathered, making a slow procession behind the body. Éowyn is seen waiting at the open tomb with the other women. As Théodred’s body is passed through hands into the tomb, Eowyn sings in Rohirric:
“Bealocwealm hafað fréone frecan forth onsended
giedd sculon singan gléomenn sorgiende
on Meduselde þæt he ma no wære
his dryhtne dyrest and mæga deorost.
(“An evil death has set forth the noble warrior
A song shall sing sorrowing minstrels
in Meduseld that he is no more,
to his lord dearest and kinsmen most beloved.
An evil death…”)
The tomb is then shut, and outside, Théoden is seen holding a simblemynë. Then the last mention of Théodred comes from Gandalf: “He was strong in life, his spirit will find it’s way to the halls of your fathers. Westu hál. Ferðu, Théodred, Ferðu. (Be-thou well. Go-thou, Théodred, go-thou.)”
Another film-only scene is where Théoden leads the mourners at the barrows. It contains one of the two instances where I think book-Théoden and film-Théoden really coincide, in feeling and emotion, if not in actual action:
Théoden: A Simblemynë. Ever has it grown on the tombs of my fore bearers. Now it shall cover the grave of my son. Alas that these evil days should be mine. The young perish, and the old linger. That I should live to see the last days of my house.
Gandalf: Théodred’s death was not of your making.
Théoden: No parent should have to bury their child.
In that short exchange is seen the doom-laden nature of the book Rohirrim, ever conscious of life and death, the transient nature of their lives but the constancy and continuation of the line of the kings.
War is upon us
There is a greater emphasis on the upcoming war in the film than in the book. Freyda appears briefly, looking upset about her mamma, and then Gandalf and Aragorn try and persuade Théoden to ride out and meet the enemy forces. Théoden, however, decides to empty Edoras and make the Rohirrim ride for Helm’s Deep.
Théoden: They will be three hundred 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: Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not.
Théoden: When I last looked, Théoden, not Aragorn, was King of Rohan.
Gandalf: Then what is the King’s decision?
Háma: By order of the King, the city must empty. We make for the refuge of Helm’s Deep. Do not burden yourself with treasures. Take only what provisions you need.
Another film-only scene occurs in the Edoras stables, starting with Gandalf riding out with Shadowfax. Then in the extended edition, there is a further piece concerning Brego. Aragorn comes across two stablehands trying to calm a temperamental horse, but when Aragorn reaches out to him and talks to him softly in Elvish, the horse calms. Éowyn explains that it is Théodred’s horse, Brego.
Aragorn then tells the stablehands to set the horse free, as he had already seen too much war.
Éowyn and Aragorn
Yet another extra film scene is one between Éowyn and Aragorn in Meduseld, establishing the fact that Éowyn can swing a sword with the best of them.
She takes a sword out of a chest, unsheathes it and begins to swing it around, practising. Aragorn comes up behind her and as she turns with the sword he brings his sword up to block it.
Aragorn: You have some skill with a blade.
Éowyn: Women of this country learned long ago those without swords can still die upon them. (She sheathes the sword) I fear neither death nor pain.
Aragorn: What do you fear my lady?
Éowyn: A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them. And all chance of valour has gone beyond recall or desire.
Aragorn: You’re a daughter of Kings. A shield maiden of Rohan. I do not think that will be your fate.
This scene echoes a book conversation from ‘Return of the King’, where Éowyn speaks similar words to Aragorn when he leaves for the Paths of the Dead, but refuses to take her along. This scene orignally wasn’t even going to be in the movie, but Miranda Otto asked the scriptwriters to add it because she found it so crucial to sketch Éowyn’s character properly.
- 3.01.*b. The Burning of the Westfold by Figwit
- 3.02. The Riders of Rohan by atalante_star
- Aragorn by Figwit
- Ã‰owyn by Aervir
- Gandalf the White by EruantalincÃ«
- GrÃma by atalante_star
- HÃ¡ma & Gamling by Figwit
- ThÃ©oden by atalante_star
- ThÃ©odred by atalante_star
Our Gallery has has 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.
Some articles that are related to this sequence:
- Some more information about the Rohirrim can be found in our Middle-earth section, which has articles about The History of the Rohirrim, Ã‰owyn of Rohan, ThÃ©oden son of Thengel, GrÃma Wormtongue and a Family Tree of The Kings of the Mark.
The Middle-earth section also has an article about Saruman, and another one about his Relation to the One Ring.
- In the Literature Articles section you can find an article about Eorl's Hym, and about The Rohirrim and the Anglo-Saxons.
Forum threads related to this sequence:
- You can discuss this sequence in detail in TTT Sequence by sequence #7: The King Of the Golden Hall and TTT EE Sequence by Sequence #5: Edoras in the Movies Forum.
There's also a thread about the Characterization of ThÃ©oden.
- The Casting Forum wonders if ...anyone else likes ThÃ©odred?.
Take a look at how some artists saw this part in the book:
- Edoras by John Howe
- The Golden Hall by Pauline Martin
- In the Golden Hall by Montanini
- ThÃ©oden, GrÃma and Ã‰owyn by Ralph Bakshi
- King ThÃ©oden by Ivan Allen
- Theoden, Eowyn and Wormtongue by Michelucci
- Gandalf Judges GrÃma Wormtongue by Anke Eissman
- SimbelmynÃ« by Andrew Mockett
- Ã‰owyn in Meduseld by Anke Eissmann
- The White Lady of Rohan by Maija PietikÃ¤inen
- Ã‰owyn Outside Meduseld by Michael Kaluta
Looking for something more creative - you may find it here: