Tag Archives: The Return of the King

The Return of The King “The Haradrim Arrive” (2003)

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The Return of the King “The Haradrim Arrive” (2003)

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!

See also:

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

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The Return of the King “Lighting the Beacons” (2003)

The Return of the King “Ride of the Rohirrim” (2003)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Shire” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “Shadow of the Past” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Wood Elves/Passing of the Elves” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Treason of Isengard” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “A Knife in the Dark” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “Flight to the Ford” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “Many Meetings” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Ring Goes South/Fellowship Main Theme” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “In Dreams” (2001)

The Two Towers “Lament for Theodred” (2002)

The Two Towers “Last March of the Ents” (2002)

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The Return of the King “Ride of the Rohirrim” (2003)

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The Return of the King “Ride of the Rohirrim” (2003)

It’s one of the oldest tropes in storytelling, but also one of the best: when the heroes seem doomed to fail against overwhelming odds, more heroes suddenly arrive to lend their assistance. This is the setup that leads to “Ride of the Rohirrim,” one of the best cues in the entire film. At this point, Minas Tirith is close to being completely overrun by the armies of Mordor. Gandalf is doing his best to lead the defense but there’s simply too many of them (not to mention he also has the Witch King to deal with). But then…a distant horn call grabs everyone’s attention: Rohan has arrived!

The Return of the King “Ride of the Rohirrim” Soundtrack (2003)

The music starts off slow as Theoden gives his commanders their orders. But as the king launches into a rousing speech to his men, the music is filled with more and more trumpets, culminating in a blast as Theoden shouts “A sword day, a red day, ‘ere the Sun rises!” The music then briefly pulls back but not by much, it’s clear the climax for this scene is imminent. One of my favorite moments comes right before the charge when all the horns of Rohan are sounded at once (it actually gives me goosebumps every time I hear it).

The charge itself is followed by Rohan’s theme played over and over again as the Rohirrim charge the lines of Mordor. What’s clever here is that Howard Shore grows the theme in power with each iteration. No matter how many arrows the orcs send at them, the riders simply keep coming. I love how the charge builds with equal intensity, you can see the lust for battle building in all of the riders as they race forward. I also love the moment when it finally dawns on the orc commander that nothing is stopping this charge from hitting them head on. Finally, with trumpets blazing in the background, the cavalry strikes the orcs and decimates their forces. It’s a supremely uplifting moment that instantly restores hope that the good guys will win the day. But while Rohan’s arrival has somewhat evened the odds, our heroes are forgetting that Mordor has been holding forces in reserve all this time. For next time I’ll discuss the arrival of the Haradrim.

What do you think of “Ride of the Rohirrim”? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

The Return of the King “Lighting the Beacons” (2003)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Shire” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “Shadow of the Past” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Wood Elves/Passing of the Elves” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Treason of Isengard” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “A Knife in the Dark” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “Flight to the Ford” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “Many Meetings” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Ring Goes South/Fellowship Main Theme” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “In Dreams” (2001)

The Two Towers “Lament for Theodred” (2002)

The Two Towers “Last March of the Ents” (2002)

The Return of the King “Lighting the Beacons” (2003)

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The Return of the King “Lighting the Beacons” Film Scene (2003)

While there have been many criticisms leveled at the final entry in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, you can’t deny that the film possesses some awesome musical moments. One of my particular favorites is “Lighting the Beacons,” when Gandalf dispatches Pippin to secretly light the city beacon so that Rohan can be notified that Gondor needs help. While it is a deviation from the book (in the original story Denethor ordered the beacons lit before Gandalf and Pippin even arrived at Minas Tirith), it’s one I don’t mind because the music that goes with this scene is just wonderful.

The Return of the King “Lighting the Beacons” Film Score (2003)

The cue starts with a tentative motif in the strings, matching Pippin’s secret climb up to the beacon while Gandalf observes from below. Despite the two guards sitting nearby, there’s never any real sense that Pippin is in danger of being caught or falling. As soon as the guards notice the beacon is lit, the music quickly jumps up into a “burning” melody that matches the leaping flames shining for all to see. As the next beacon in the sequence is lit, the music “ignites” again, flourishing higher and higher as the message is passed on with each new beacon.

The next segment in this scene is a montage showing beacons being lit all across the mountains. There’s actually far more than the seven beacons mentioned in the book, but it makes for a great filler scene so I don’t mind. The music heard during this scene is a fast reprise of Gondor’s theme. I’ve always loved the power in this theme, which is dominated by the brass. The theme slowly fades as the final beacon is lit and observed by Aragorn at Edoras. The music trails off on a note of suspense because, in the following moment, Aragorn dashes to inform the king that Gondor is calling for aid (the music for that can be found in another cue, that’s why it trails off to silence).

If you compare the film version to the soundtrack version, you’ll notice there are some musical differences. While they sound very similar to each other, I think the soundtrack version of this piece comes from an alternate take that didn’t make it into the final soundtrack.

What do you think of the music for “Lighting the Beacons”? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Shire” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “Shadow of the Past” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Wood Elves/Passing of the Elves” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Treason of Isengard” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “A Knife in the Dark” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “Flight to the Ford” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “Many Meetings” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Ring Goes South/Fellowship Main Theme” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “In Dreams” (2001)

The Two Towers “Lament for Theodred” (2002)

The Two Towers “Last March of the Ents” (2002)