A new report coming out of the 2023 Annecy International Animation Film Festival shows that the upcoming The Lord of the Rings: The War of Rohirrim animated film will inject feminism into Tolkien’s classic tale of Helm Hammerhand.

Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Karl Urban as Eomer in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), New Line Cinema

The Lord of the Rings: The War of Rohirrim was announced back in June 2021 with Warner Bros. Animation President Sam Register explaining, “This will be yet another epic portrayal of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world that has never been told before. We’re honored to partner with much of the incredible talent behind both film trilogies, along with new creative luminaries to tell this story.”

At the time of the announcement it was revealed the film would tell “the untold story behind the fortress of Helm’s Depp, delving into the life and bloodsoaked times of Hammerhand.”

Karl Urban as Eomer and Orlando Bloom as Legolas in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), New Line Cinema

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Tolkien provided a short story about Helm Hammerhand in Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings with a war erupting over one of Helm Hammerhand’s lords named Freca demanding Helm marry his daughter to Freca’s son, Wulf, during a council meeting.

Following the meeting, Helm confronts Freca and fells him with one punch. Hammerhand then declares Freca and his men enemies of Rohan.

Gandalf leads the charge of the Rohirrim at Helm’s Deep in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), New Line Cinema

A couple of years after this confrontation, Rohan is besieged by three fleets of Corsairs up and down its coasts. Freca’s son Wulf has allied himself with the Dunlendings and is leading an army from the East that also includes “enemies of Gondor that landed in the mouths of Lefnui and Isen.”

Helm rides out to meet Wulf’s forces, but is beaten. However, he is not defeated as he flees to to the Hornburg, which would later become known as Helm’s Deep. Wulf would then have his forces lay siege to the great fortress. However, he would defeat Helm’s son, Haleth, while he defended the doors of the Meduseld in Edoras.

The Rohirrim and their allies defend Helm’s Deep in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

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While the Hornberg was besieged the Long Winter set in covering Rohan with snow for five months. Helm’s people began to starve. Attempting to take matters into his own hands, another of Helm’s son’s Hama led a sortie in an attempt to find food. He would never return being lost to the snow.

Hammerhand would channel his grief into vengeance by dressing in white and stalking the enemy camp like a snow-troll. When he attacked he killed as many as he could with his bare hands.

In fact, he refused to carry a weapon with Tolkien noting, “It was believed that if he bore no weapon no weapon would bite on him. The Dunlendings said that if he could find no food he ate men. That tale lasted long in Dunland.”

As for the legend of the horn of Helm Hammerhand, Tolkien wrote, “Helm had a great horn, and soon it was marked that before he sallied forth he would blow a blast upon it that echoed in the Deep; and then so great a fear fell on his enemies that instead of gathering to take him or kill him they fled away down the Coomb.”

The Horn of Helm Hammerhand as depicted in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), New Line Cinema

Helm would eventually succumb to the forces of nature, but his people would continue their fight against the Corsairs and Wulf’s forces. Helm’s nephew Fréaláf came down out of Dunharrow and launched a surprise attack on Wulf at Edoras and killed him.

As the snows began to melt, the Rohirrim would receive aid from Gondor would drove the Dunlendings out from Rohan and even Isengard. Fréaláf would be crowned king.

Gimli blows the horn of Helm Hammerhand in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), New Line Cinema

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It appears some significant liberties will be taken in the upcoming animated adaptation. According to Slashfilm, who attended the film’s presentation at the 2023 Annecy International Animation Film Festival, much of the story will focus on Helm Hammerhand’s unnamed daughter.

In the film, she has been given the name Hèra and Slashfilm claims she “is the protagonist of The War of the Rohirrim.”

Producer Philippa Boyens explained the decision to make her the protagonist, “Everyone else dies!” And before you start complaining, this is already in the text, and also the story takes place centuries before the movies.”

Edoras as depicted in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), New Line Cinema

Not only is Hèra the protagonist, but according to Slashfilm the character is based off of “Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians and daughter of Wessex king Alfred the Great.” Æthelflæd was married to Æthelred after Alfred was victorious at the Battle of Edington in order to cement a strategic alliance with Mercia. Æthelred was the Lord of the Mercians.

The two rulers would support help fortify a number of towns to ward off Viking attacks and also were heavily supportive of the Catholic monastic communities under their purview. Upon her husband’s death Æthelflæd became Lady of the Mercians and aided her brother in Edward in fortifying more of their territories. She would also fend off a number of Viking invasions in 917 by having her army capture Derby.

Meduseld in Edoras as depicted in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), New Line Cinema

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Not only is the character inspired by Æthelflæd, but the film’s director reportedly “described Hèra as tomboy-ish, a young woman who is wild and vulnerable, with a character arc that sees her grow in a time of war — because you can’t really have a Middle-earth story without war.”

One thing the film does appear to get correctly is that the war begins over Freca wanting Wulf to be married to Helm’s daughter. The outlet reports, “According to Boyens, both men think with their muscles, and Freca’s proposal of marrying his son to Helm’s daughter is the inciting incident that begins the titular war.”

Aside from having the film focus on Hammerhand’s daughter rather than Helm Hammerhand, the film also reportedly features a scene that “shows the politics at play in Edoras, with a lord of Rohan wanting to erase the history of a group of female warriors and banner women to the king, a prelude of things to come.”

Bernard Hill as King Theoden in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), New Line Cinema

It looks like Warner Bros. is pulling a play out of Amazon’s playbook with The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim.

What do you make of this report that the film features a female protagonist and will feature a scene about erasing female warriors from Rohan?

NEXT: ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ Actor Trashes Prime Video’s ‘The Rings Of Power’ Claims It Is “Not Like The Real Thing”




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    John F. Trent
    Founder and Editor-in-Chief

    John is the Editor-in-Chief here at Bounding Into Comics. He is a massive Washington Capitals fan, lover of history, and likes to dabble in economics and philosophy.