Agincourt, Aragorn, English Longbowmen, Faramir, French Knights, Gondor, Grond, Hoth, Jan Sobieski, Lithuania, Minas Tirith, Mumakil, Nazgul, Orcs, Ottoman, Peter Jackson, Poland, Rammas Echor, Rohan, Rohirrim, Siege Towers, Stone Throwers, The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien, Vienna, Winged Hussars
Welcome, as always, dear readers!
In this posting, we’re going to make another suggestion about a model for something in Tolkien’s work.
If you read us regularly, you know that our favorite part of P. Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings is anything to do with the Rohirrim. When we rewatch favorite scenes, the charge against the Orcs outside Minas Tirith is always first on our list (and high on our general list of cavalry charges—more on those in a future posting).
First, we see that massive Orc army marching up to the walls. (In the book, this is more dramatic: the Orcs blow two holes in the Rammas Echor, outflank the defenders, and drive them into retreat, which is where Faramir is badly wounded by an arrow.)
Then they begin to attack with stone-throwers,
and, eventually a giant, flame-filled battering ram.
Things look increasingly desperate for Gondor as the Orcs press their attack, led by the Chief Nazgul.
And that’s when the Rohirrim appear.
And move to strike the Orcs from behind.
When the Orcs realize what’s happening, they try to stop the attack with bows.
This immediately reminded us of the 1415 battle in which English longbowmen and their clever use defeated an army of brave French knights, Agincourt.
Unlike Agincourt, however, arrows didn’t stop the Rohirrim, who sweep through the enemy—but are brought up short by the sight of a row of mumakil—giant war elephants—bearing down on them.
Seeing this scenario made us think of another attack by huge, lumbering things in a galaxy long ago and far away—
The film goes on from there, including an attack by a ghost army, instead of by the actual forces brought from southern Gondor by Aragorn, but we want to back up a bit to the actual siege and another one which bears a strong resemblance to it.
For centuries, the Ottoman Turks had been expanding their dominions.
They had first reached Vienna in 1529,
but had given up the siege. Now, however, in 1683, they were back.
Their attacks against a dwindling number of defenders in a crumbling town
had brought them to the edge of conquest when an army of reenforcements, including cavalry from the army of the combined state of Lithuania/Poland, had appeared. Some of the cavalry were the famous Polish winged hussars.
Just as the Rohirrim are led by their king, Theoden, so are the Poles led by their king Jan Sobieski—
The reenforcements, Poles in the lead, rush upon the Turks and drive them back through their camps and out of the siege entirely.
So similar, isn’t it? No giant war elephants, ghost armies, or Nazgul, but the basic elements of siege, relieving army with cavalry led by a king attacking an unprepared enemy, and chasing off the besiegers, is nearly identical.
Tolkien was an extremely well-read man, with a strong interest in history. Was the siege and relief of Vienna somewhere in the back of his mind when he began to plan the siege of Minas Tirith?
Thanks for reading!