What if the Battle of Helms Deep never happened?

Discussion in '"The Lord of the Rings"' started by BalrogRingDestroyer, May 14, 2018.

  1. BalrogRingDestroyer

    BalrogRingDestroyer Member

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    Logically, it wasn't really much needed. Saruman was already defeated by the Ents. The people could have just evacuated instead of losing soldiers at Helms Deep.


    More to the point, if they'd retreated from Rohan toward Gondor, Saruman, assuming that the Ents didn't attack him, would have pretty much had nothing except the land and now he'd be stuck with three choices:


    1.) Head toward Gondor and ally with Sauron (who already may have heard or suspected the double-cross, though maybe not, as neither Mordor orcs nor Isengard orcs ended up surviving the attack by Rohan (or infighting).)
    2.) Head toward Gondor and ally with the Free People of the West
    3.) Head toward Gondor and fight both Rohan, Gondor, and Mordor at once. (Not a good idea)



    Also, unless Gandalf believed that the Ent march, if he even knew about it, would be successful, Gandalf had to assume that, if his goal was to defeat Saruman, that, after fighting off the Orcs and the Dunlandings (why the heck did they join in this again?), that they'd STILL have to assault Isengard. Had Isengard not already been taken down by the Ents, the siege following the Battle of Helms Deep, even if won, would have ensured that they got to Gondor too late, and that Minas Tirith fell, which would mean the eventual fall of Gondor, and could have meant that they were in no position to assault the Black Gate, leading to Sauron's capture of the Ring Bearer and the Ring with him.


    It was NOT that they actually believed Saruman to be truly working for Mordor, because Gandalf knew of the double cross. As such, leaving Rohan and taking all the people toward Gondor would have been the better move. With Rohan and Gondor in the way of Sauron, Saruman didn't have to worry about Mordor beating down his door yet.

    If, however, he pursued Gandalf and the Rohirrim to Minas Tirith, Saruman would have come into sight of Osgilliath, which was under the control of Mordor.

    Granted, I'm not sure if Saruman would have even come himself, and orcs are unpredictable (they aren't Mordor friends, but orcs aren't generally the good guys), but it's possible that the Dunlandings would have sided with Rohan and Gondor rather than Mordor.
     
  2. Felix

    Felix Frodo's Gardener

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    As a huge fan of the great battles from Tolkien, it is hard to think about the Lord of the Rings without the many battles, i.e. the battle of Helms Deep. However, having read through your comment @BalrogRingDestroyer , it has really made me think about how the fate of middle-Earth may have been altered.

    In my opinion, the battle of Helms Deep was a key strategic move of the men of Middle-Earth, as it was an opportunity for king Theodon and the armies of Rohan to show there strength against the armies of Saruman. Without this show of strength, and the ultimate depletion of Sarumans army, the battle of Pellenor Fields may have been drastically different, as with the aid of Saruman, I don't think the armies of Rohan and Gondor would have stood a chance, even with the army of the dead coming to their aid.
     

  3. gentleDrift

    gentleDrift New Member

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    (First of all, hello! This is my first post here, and I did go off rambling quite a bit :). Essentially I think it's not really a good strategy for the Rohirrim to try to evacuate, but that this opens up some interesting options for Saruman.)

    That is an interesting question! If I understand correctly, your argue that it would have been the "correct" strategic move for the Rohirrim to abandon their land and head towards Gondor, leaving Saruman successful in Rohan, but with no real way forward, since he betrayed both Sauron and the good guys already. (And I am pretty sure that Sauron did already know that Saruman had turned traitor).

    There are a couple problems I see with this, however. It simply does not seem feasible to evacuate the entire kingdom of Rohan, especially the women, children and elder people. Do they just get left behind to be slaughtered/enslaved/whatever by Saruman's army? I cannot see Theoden agreeing to such a plan. The problems here are both speed (Saruman's Orc host would surely be able to catch up to the evacuating people, who would be moving mostly on foot and would have to carry provisions for the march to Gondor), and also organisation: How would the Rohirrim assemble quickly enough? They can only send out riders as messengers, and even Gandalf on Shadowfax (the fastest means of communication at their disposal) took several days just to assemble the soldiers of the Westfold under Erkenbrand.
    So even if Gandalf could convince Theoden to not try and defend his people and instead head to Gondor with as many of his people as possible, there just is not the time to save them all (or even most of them). Remember also that Theoden came to Helm's Deep with only about a thousand men from Meduseld, and that the mustering of the Rohirrim in the books (after Helm's Deep) also took some time and still was incomplete - Theoden states that he might have sent ten thousand spears to Gondor, but only has time to assemble about six thousand (although he leaves some behind to guard Rohan even then).

    So given that the Rohirrim want to evade Saruman's Orcs and evacuate to Gondor, I don't think that more than, say, three thousand riders actually arrive in Gondor to help in the fight against Sauron. The rest would be scattered across Rohan, mostly uninformed of the evacuation and overwhelmed by Saruman's forces.

    Ultimately, I think this notion of simple evacuation stems from our modern times, where almost instant communication to a big percentage of the population is possible because of our technology and urban culture. In Rohan most people live scattered across the land anyway, Edoras seems to be the largest permanent settling, and even it is not very large. And of course the closest thing to instant communication is a man (or woman) on horse. Given the very narrow timescale between the release of Theoden from Saruman's Spell or Grima's influence and the advance of Saruman's army, and evacuation of the kingdom does not seem feasible.

    As for Saruman, you are certainly correct that he has no real option here. He has betrayed both Rohan and Gandalf (and both are very much aware of this), and also Sauron. In The Hunt for the Ring in UT it seems to be very clear that Sauron knew of Saruman's treachery as well, and even in LotR this is implied, I think. Saruman then is in a very difficult position. Your option 3), where he fights both Gondor and Mordor seems highly improbable to me as well. Coming to the aid of Gondor with an Orc army (option 2)) is of course difficult to image, too. Aiding Sauron (option 1) seems the most likely of these. With the destruction of Rohan, Saruman might have won back some good will from Sauron, though ultimately I think this option does not end well for him either.

    For him, the entire affair really depended on him gaining the One Ring anyways, and now that it is out of his reach it is clear that this gamble did not pay off. In this scenario he actually is in almost the same situation as after his defeat in the books, the Orc army at his disposal does not make much of a difference, I think. I do see some further possibilities however:

    a) Saruman could just wait. Assuming enough of the Rohirrim managed to escape to Gondor and Saruman is now in control of Rohan, and he somehow withstood the Ents (either by them not attacking at all or because he still had his army to defend him), the rest of the books could play out as before: The Battle of the Pelennor Fields is still won, and because Frodo is still making his way to Mount Doom, Aragorn and company still decide to ignore Saruman in their back and head to the Black Gate, the Ring is destroyed and Sauron defeated. Saruman has simply been strengthening his position up to this point, unable to decide who he wants to help. But now he could swoop in and defeat the remaining Gondorian forces and the story ends tragically with Sauron defeated but the Kingdoms of Men destroyed as well.
    This strategy would be great with the benefit of hindsight, but seems quite unlikely to me however as it assumes knowledge of these events on Saruman's part. He would be very much convinced that Sauron was going to win the war, and afterwards come for him.

    b) What I think the most likely option is that Saruman would do precisely what he did in the books. He thinks that the situation in the South is hopeless for him: Sauron will win the war and then take revenge on him. He therefor takes his army and heads North, takes over the Shire or maybe even tries to attack Rivendell or some other place with his Orc army.

    Still, overall I think this entire scenario is rather far-fetched. I just cannot see the Rohirrim completely abandoning their land, all the while leaving an enemy behind and giving less aid to Gondor than they did in the book narrative. If however, Saruman's enemies simply ran away from him I do think there are some paths he could take that would not lead south into Gondor.

    As all "what-ifs" it is an ultimately pointless question, but still fun to speculate about!