How Lord of the Rings Helm’s Deep Anime Film Could Expand Rohan’s History
Rohan’s ancient king, Helm Hammerhand, will be the focus of "bloodsoaked" Lord of the Rings anime feature The War of the Rohirrim.
“The horn of Helm Hammerhand shall sound in the Deep one last time!” – King Théoden
While The Lord of the Rings introduced Middle-earth’s geographical middle kingdom, Rohan, during a point of apparent decline, its history of warfare became exposition for The Two Towers’ climactic skirmish in which the Fellowship helped King Théoden hold the famed fortress, Helm’s Deep. Yet, the battle—iconic its own right amongst a film trilogy filled with iconic battles—notably bore a connection in J.R.R. Tolkien’s intricate lore to ancient king Helm Hammerhand, for whom the fortress was named. Now, said connection will become the focus of an anime movie. Yes, you read that right, folks. While we await Amazon’s exorbitant live-action TV series, a Lord of the Rings anime movie is also in the works!
The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim is the title that this most intriguing of projects will brandish. The feature, a studio collaboration between New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Animation, will see veteran anime director Kenji Kamiyama (Ghost in the Shell SAC_2045, Cyborg 009: Call of Justice) tackle the Tolkien-crafted story of Helm Hammerhand himself. The King of Rohan, who lived during Middle-earth’s Third Age from the year 2691 to 2759, was portrayed as a mythical figure whose wartime deeds still inspired the kingdom even centuries later, in the year 3019, when the Battle of Helm’s Deep took place.
The project’s official description teases a standalone “companion piece” to director Peter Jackson’s famed film trilogy that, “explores and expands the untold story behind the fortress of Helm’s Deep, delving into the life and bloodsoaked times of one of Middle-earth’s most legendary figures.”
Indeed, “bloodsoaked” is an accurate description, given the history attached to Helm Hammerhand, who ascended to Rohan’s throne in the midst of a long period of warfare with the neighboring Wildmen of Dunland centered on, among other things, perpetual grievances over disputed lands. However, a legend was cemented when an attempt by a wealthy, untrustworthy landowner named Freca to strong-arm an arranged marriage between his son and Hammerhand’s daughter was met by the king with a swift punch to Freca’s face. The punch was so hard that it eventually proved fatal, thereby establishing that the king’s cool surname isn’t just a reference to the warhammer he typically carried into battle, but the pair of hands that held the weapon.
Therefore, we can expect War of the Rohirrim to explore this most crucial and trying of periods in Rohan’s history, since Hammerhand’s famous fist ended up thrusting Rohan into a costly war when Freca’s vengeance-seeking son, Wulf, gathered a legion of Dunlendings to storm the fortress that would come to be known as Helm’s Deep, also known as the Hornburg. Compounding that, the protracted battle also happened to take place during a period of cold and starvation in Middle-earth known as the Long Winter, which even affected the Shire far in the west.
While the effort to hold the fortress—akin to a wintry version of the Alamo—would prove tragic for the king, its legend became a source of motivation for posterity, especially regarding the giant war-horn that Hammerhand kept atop the fortress, which, when blown, would signal to the Rohirrim to open the gates and storm the sieging enemies with a ferocity that drove fear across the land. In fact, the fear of Hammerhand’s exploits had evolved to a point in which it was believed that he killed his enemies with his bare hands and ate their flesh during the periods in which the fortress’ larder was empty.
Of course, the connections that War of the Rohirrim will carry to The Lord of the Rings films should already be apparent. After all, The Two Towers saw Saruman stoke the historical enmity of the Wild Men of Dunland, coaxing them to raid and burn the villages in Rohan’s Westfold. Plus, besides the fact that a statue of Helm Hammerhand is prominently shown in the film’s still-impressive longshots of Helm’s Deep, the king’s aforementioned horn was used to its historic effect by Gimli just before King Théoden—at the verge of defeat—was coaxed back into the battle by Aragorn to break open the gate and ride through the sieging forces of Uruk-hai, leading to the eventual victory. Thus, Théoden’s famous quote about the horn of Helm Hammerhand—which likely went over the heads of most moviegoers—will be given poignant context here.
So, while details about the actual plot are still unknown, we do have a general idea of the story War of the Rohirrim seeks to adapt. While it may be a lofty task, it’s one for which Carolyn Blackwood, Chief Operating Officer, Warner Bros. Pictures Group, and Richard Brener, President and Chief Creative Officer, New Line Cinema express excitement.
“All of us at New Line feel a deep affinity for the extraordinary world J.R.R. Tolkien created, so the opportunity to dive back into Middle-Earth with the team at Warner Bros. Animation is a dream come true,” said the duo in a joint statement. “Fans know Helm’s Deep as the stage for one of the greatest battles ever put to film and, with many of the same creative visionaries involved and the brilliant Kenji Kamiyama at the helm, we couldn’t be more excited to deliver a fresh vision of its history that will invite global audiences to experience the rich, complex saga of Middle-Earth in a thrilling new way.”
The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim will see director Kamiyama work off a screenplay by Jeffrey Addiss and Will Matthews (The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance), and is joined by producer Joseph Chou. Auspiciously enough, he’ll have the help of a key member of the film trilogy’s creative triumvirate, Oscar-winning writer Philippa Boyens, who will serve here as a consultant.
While there’s no release date available as of yet, the project is being fast-tracked, with animation work set at Sola Entertainment, and voice casting currently underway.