Musings on Helm's Deep
First, three (well, I started with 3! ;-)) problems with having
Elves at Helm's Deep and the way PJ scripted their actions:
1. A smart general (Theoden is... "I've fought many wars, Master Dwarf. I know how to defend my own keep!)
would put his best archers as high as possible so they could shoot undisturbed for as long as possible.
However, I can argue the other side, too. Theoden has only a vague respect for Elves and so the setup is
done to give his people the best chance for survival: The Deeping Wall is where most of the battle will be
fought, so he 'gets his people out of there' ahead of time.
2. OK, so the Elves are stuck with the Wall. Every good archer knows that with a close-packed army and a
low wall, you start shooting as soon as they come into range. That old guy who slipped had it right, and the
Elves would have already had at least 3 volleys off before then.
3. 400 Elves (figuring the 4 columns each had 100 ranks, just based on visuals) with even just one
standard quiver of 20 arrows each, a 25% miss (or double-hit) ratio since 2/3 or so of the Elves are
firing blind, all gives us 6000 dead Uruk-hai. Eomer should have been chasing down the odd strays who ran
away after the dead were piled high enough to walk up on the wall without ladders.
4. I'm WAY underestimating the count of Elves. There were 3 ranks on the wall, standing shoulder to
shoulder for the whole length. That's got to be close to 600 at least! Then there were another 5 ranks or so
in the valley behind... probably only 50 or so per rank, though... that's 850 Elves total! Even with a
50% miss ratio, that's 8500 dead Uruks! This battle was over the second the Elves showed up!
5. Let's forget the Elvish skill and numbers for a second... Even human archers trading shots with
crossbowmen from behind a crenellated wall are not going to drop like the flies they seemed to be, even
if it only seemed to be that one volley.
6. OK, all that aside and we're granting that the Uruks were able to blow up the Deeping Wall. There's
now this 50 foot gap in the wall with Uruks being all but knocked over by the water pouring through at
first. 250 Elves with nothing to do but pick them off? C'mon! The Elves wouldn't have budged and Gimli and
Aragorn would've both been fine! And Aragorn knows the Elven skill well enough to know that. Even with the
situation as depicted in the movie, those Elves could have plugged that hole until they ran out of arrows.
And by then the dead would've been stacked high enough to slow any Uruks down so the swordsmen could take
7. If anyone doubts the rating of archery vs. Uruk plate, just check out what happened to the French
knights when they were up against the English longbow.
::deep breath:: Sorry. I just HAD to get that off my chest. And I'll probably post a more coherent tactical
summary of the battle later, but I want to talk about Haldir for a moment now.
I agree with what Varda said earlier about Haldir seeming to quickly empathize with the 'lesser' races.
And I believe that he was probably one of the biggest proponents of helping Rohan out. As for his death, I'm
happy to say that, just as in Varda's inkling, he did kill his slayer. The one that came up afterwards was
just gratuitous. And having seen it again after reading all of these thoughts, I definitely believe
that Haldir is just sorry that he had to lead his Elves to all that ruin. Sorry as any good Prince or
General would be. And realizing also what his death means - never finding out if Valinor has Mallorn trees
after all :-(. It's a sadness that only someone who knows what it's like to lose immortality can
understand. I have a new respect for the way Craig Parker portrayed even such a small part with so much
Addition by Lindorie:
I always estimated that there were about 1000 elves at Helm's Deep
in the film. If they carried 20 arrows apiece, it would
seem that Saruman's uruks would have been decimated in the first volley, but accuracy in the dark and in the
rain might not have been as good as you think. Even if the arrows had all reached their intended targets, no
one says, "you take out this one, and you, that one, and I'll take the one on the far right." Lots of them
would have been aiming for the same targets apart from all the ones shooting blind. Yes the English longbow
was very effective against plate armor, but it was also the exception to the archery rule. England was
the Only country which required all of its men and boys to be trained to use the bow and paid its archers
decently and required disciplined training. Every other country in Europe treated archers like lower
class citizens or dirt. Archers were a dime a dozen and very, very expendible. It cost money to be a
knight, and any man could make some sort of a bow. Respect went to the man with the power.
You also have to take the Uruk crossbowmen into account. There were an awful lot of them, yet i really
dont have a clue where to begin to estimate. I do know, however that, although a crossbow cannot fires
as many rounds per minute as a bow being fired by a decent archer, It is generally more accurate and more
powerful. I have several friends who are both archers and crossbowmen in the SCA. Most of them are beginning
to use the crossbow for competion because of its accuracy and in 'combat' as well. They like shooting
the bow, but the crossbow gives them better advantage. Even in timed rounds where the crossbow is
disadvantaged, they score higher because of improved accuracy.
Uruk Crossbowmen, if they took the time with their shots, could pick off archers from the crenelations
easily and could carry more bolts than archers could arrows.
As to armor, the elven armor, while pretty, looked pretty thin gauged. Now if it was, in fact, mithril,
this shouldnt have been a problem, but I was under the impression that mithril was a white metal. Yeah I
suppose it could be plated or something but just a nitpick. looked wonderful, but the Uruk armor looked
like it was more a cross between heavy plate and cast iron. Not sure if even elven arrows would penetrate
that easily, that's why Legolas points out that their armor is weak at the neck and under the arm. Saw more
uruks wearing gorgets to protect their necks than I saw elves, though
Loved the seige engines. Those ladders were great, the bigger ones with the metal brackets that lowered
independently. virtually impossible to push those away, and the ballistas shooting the iron bolts with
the ropes attached were great too. The bolts were long enough that the ropes couldnt be cut free by
swordsman, great detail.
And then there's the other thing that comes to mind when I see discussions about things like this. I get
all serious and then remind myself...It's only a movie and it entertained me and made me feel 'in the moment'
and thats all I can really ask. It was accurate enough to seem real and inaccurate enough to ensure that it
is fantasy, a wonderful make believe that can sweep me away to another time and place. It's so easy to forget that part.