Théoden is a fictional character in
J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasynovel, " The Lord of the Rings". He first appears in " The Two Towers" and remains an important character in " The Return of the King".
Théoden was the only son of King
Thengeland Morwen of Lossarnach(a region of Gondor). He was the second-born of five children, and the only boy. Théoden was closest to his youngest sister, Théodwyn. He was born in Gondor, where his family lived until Thengel became king of Rohan.
He became king after the death of his father. Théodwyn lived with him in
Edoras. He married Elfhild, but she died giving birth to their son, Théodred. After Théodwyn and her husband Éomundalso died, he adopted their children, Éomerand Éowyn.
In his prime, Théoden was a strong and vital king, highly respected by his subjects. As with other Men of the
Riddermark, Théoden was a skilled horseman.
He acted as the First Marshal of the Mark after the death of Éomund, who had filled that position; as First Marshal he commanded the Muster of Edoras (Théodred and Éomer were respectively the Second and Third Marshal). His sword was called "Herugrim".
Role in the War of the Ring
By the time of the
War of the Ring, Théoden had been king for nearly 30 years, and was showing signs of his age. He was increasingly misled by his chief advisor Gríma(or "Wormtongue" as most others in the Mark called him), who was secretly in the employ of the corrupt wizard Saruman, and who may even have accelerated his ageing through "subtle poisons" (as implied in " Unfinished Tales").
In the last years before the War of the Ring, Théoden let his rule slip out of his hands, and Gríma became increasingly powerful. Rohan was troubled again by Orcs and
Dunlendings, who operated under the will of Saruman, ruling from Isengard.
When Théodred was mortally wounded at a battle at the Fords of Isen, Éomer became Théoden's heir. Éomer was out of favour with Wormtongue, however, and was eventually arrested.
When Gandalf the White and
Aragornappeared before him in "The Two Towers", Théoden initially rebuffed Gandalf's advice to ride out against Saruman. When the wizard revealed Wormtongue for what he was, Théoden returned to his senses. He restored his nephew, took up his sword Herugrim, and in spite of his age, led the Riders of Rohan into the Battle of the Hornburg. After this he became known as Théoden Ednew, the Renewed, because he had thrown off the yoke of Saruman and Gríma.
Bound by the
Oath of Eorl(the first king of Rohan), Théoden led the Rohirrim to the aid of Gondor at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. In that battle he routed the Haradcavalry, personally killing their chieftain and banner-bearer in the process. He challenged the Witch-king of Angmar, the leader of the Nazgûl, and was mortally wounded when his horse Snowmanefell upon him. He was avenged by Éowyn and the HobbitMeriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck, both of whom had ridden to war in secret. Before mustering the Rohirrim to ride to Gondor's aid, Théoden enlisted Merry into his army, but did not let the Hobbit ride into battle at Pelennor. In his last moments, he bid farewell to Merry and appointed Éomer the next king.
Théoden's body lay in Minas Tirith until it was buried in Rohan after the defeat of Sauron. He was the last of the Second Line of the kings, judging from direct descent from Eorl the Young.
Other versions of the legendarium
In one of Tolkien's early drafts, Théoden also had a daughter by the name of Idis, but she was eventually removed when her character was eclipsed by that of Éowyn.
Names and titles
The name is taken from the Old English word "" (also spelled "ðeoden"), cognate to the
Old Norseword "þjóðann", both meaning "leader of the people" (i.e. "King").
In Tolkien's fiction, the name "Théoden" is the Old English translation of the original
RohirricTûrac, an old word for King, showing influence from the Sindarinstem "tur-" ("power/mastery"), also present in Turgonand related names.
Portrayal in adaptations
Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated version of "The Lord of the Rings", the voice of Théoden was provided by Philip Stone. Théoden also appears in Rankin/Bass's attempt to complete the story left unfinished by Bakshi in their television adaptation of "The Return of the King", though he speaks little. His death is narrated by Gandalf.
In the 1981
BBC Radio 4version of "The Lord of the Rings" , Théoden's death is described in song rather than dramatized conventionally. In this adaptation he is voiced by Jack May, also known for playing Nelson Gabriel in " The Archers". Peter Jackson's film "" (2002) deviates considerably from Tolkien's story by having Théoden (played by Bernard Hill) actually semi-possessed and magically aged by Saruman rather than simply deceived (and poisoned) by Gríma. Gandalf heals him, and he is restored to his true age. After Gandalf has released Théoden from Saruman and Gríma's control, he attempts to execute Gríma Wormtongue but is stopped by Aragorn. Gríma then runs off to be with Saruman.Théoden's decision to take his people to safety at the stronghold of Helm's Deeprather than to confront the enemy in open battle is presented as a grave strategic misjudgement, which Gandalfcan only make up for by finding Éomerin time. In Jackson's "" (2003), he also initially refuses to aid Gondor, due to the filmmakers omitting the Oath of Eorl. Later Théoden is aware of Éowyn's presence at his death, whereas in the book he says his farewell to Merry and does not know that Éowyn is also there.
* [http://www.tuckborough.net/theoden.html Théoden] at The Thain's Book
Kings of Rohan
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