Yesterday I talked about “Ride of the Rohirrim” and how the riders crashed into the armies of Mordor. For a few glorious minutes it looks like the battle is definitively won, with Eomer eager to drive the orcs all the way to the river, while Theoden wants to make sure the city is secured. But suddenly, everything comes to a halt and we hear a strange booming in the distance along with shouting. The Haradrim (glimpsed in The Two Towers by Frodo, Sam, and Gollum) have arrived, mounted on enormous oliphaunts. The riders of Rohan are frozen by this sight (and if you listen closely, before the camera closes in on the oliphaunts, you can hear some of them say they’ve never seen anything like this). I’m not sure if this is actually a separate cue or not, but it is one of my favorite musical moments in The Return of the King.
What’s great about the Haradrim’s introduction to the scene is that all of the orchestral music has stopped (just moments before we had a rousing fanfare as the Rohirrim routed orcs left and right). Aside from the booming steps of the oliphaunts, all you hear for a few moments is the leering horn sounded by one of the Harad riders along with the war shouts of their fighters. I’m fascinated by the sound of this horn, as it helps to establish just how different the men of Harad are from anyone we’ve met before. Everything about it just sounds foreign. When the camera finally pans downward to capture an oliphaunt in all of its glory, the score finally returns with an ominous chord, to emphasize that the Haradrim are just as much a threat as the orcs. This impression is helped by the reveal that the oliphaunt’s tusks and feet are bound with metal spikes and razor sharp wire, ready to obliterate anything in their path (like horses, for example).
Theoden is not daunted, however, and quickly orders the riders to reform into a line, ready to charge. However, unlike the first charge, this one feels different. It’s understandably rushed given the Haradrim are swiftly approaching, but it also feels like more of a desperate gamble compared to the first charge (especially when you hear Theoden’s command to take them head-on). Given the ominous sounds in the score, it’s no surprise that this second charge is swiftly crushed by the oliphaunts, who literally sweep horses and riders from their path with their tusks (while archers and spear men have free reign to take out as many as they can).
What do you think about the arrival of the Haradrim? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!
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