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The Joy of Battle in The Lord of The Rings

Updated on March 3, 2018

Intro: A must for every warrior

Every warrior uses something to motivate themselves before going into battle. For some the courage comes from hatred of one’s foe. For some it comes from an inspiring leader, but for others this courage comes from the sheer delight found in battle. This “joy of battle” is a lust for victory and motivation to best one’s foe. Enjoyment of battle is pride taken in defeating your foe, and satisfaction drawn from fearlessly plunging into the thick of the battle itself. Part of this happiness in the midst of battle is drawn from the desire to do something worthy of remembrance, something valiant. Theoden and the Riders of Rohan find this happiness when they plunge into the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Seeing that their allies in Gondor are overrun, the Rohirrim valiantly charge into battle behind Theoden and blissfully slay alongside their leader (Tolkien 967). Many races and cultures seem to experience this battle joy in The Lord of The Rings, but some do not. The combination of inspiration from a leader, fighting for a noble cause, or thirst for battle seem to bring about the ”joy of battle” which the Rohirrim, and several other groups of warriors experience in The Lord of The Rings.

Gimli's Thirst for Battle

It seems that more than anyone else in The Lord of The Rings, Gimli is filled with battle bliss. He seems to fight solely for the joy of killing in many cases, as can be clearly seen in his competition with Legolas to see who can reach the higher kill count at Helms Deep. The first time Gimli joins the battle at Helm’s Deep, he jumps down into the midst of a dozen Orcs in order to save Eomer (Tolkien 608). Gimli’s battle joy here comes from his will to save Eomer and his desire to finally join the combat. Gimli’s shouts and jests seem indicate that he has no fear in battle, and that he is filled with happiness as he wields his axe against his foes. “‘Ai-oi!’ he shouted. ‘The Orcs are behind the wall. Ai-oi! Come, Legolas! There are enough for us both! Khazad ai menu!’” (Tolkien 609). The Dwarvish phrase Gimli speaks here, Khazad ai menu means, The Dwarves are upon you, shows the great pride and inspiration Gimli draws from his people, and the origin of his battle delight. The courage Gimli receives during his joy of battle seems to come specifically from the influence of his specific situation, and the pride he takes in his home and his race.

Gimli's Thirst is Strong

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Aragorn's Delight in Battle

Aragorn finds his battle delight in a much different way than Gimli. It seems that Aragorn draws his courage and joy in battle from his sense of destiny, his love for his companions, and his unending hope. Yet Aragorn’s battle happiness is much more subtle at times than the other characters in The Lord of The Rings. The enjoyment that gives Aragorn courage comes from a steady, stern determination that allows him to fight even in weariness and despair. When Aragorn first joins the fray at Helm’s Deep, he leaps to the defense of the gate with only Eomer at his side, brandishing his blade and shouting its name to the foes below. “Charging from the side, they hurled themselves upon the wild men. Anduril rose and fell, gleaming with white fire. A shout went up from wall and tower: ‘Anduril! Anduril goes to war. The Blade that was Broken shines again!’” (Tolkien 607). Anduril is the symbol of Aragorn’s destiny and heritage, so he shouts its name to dismay his foes as he launches himself into battle delight and gives courage to the people around him. When Aragorn lands his ships and joins the Battle of the Pelennor Fields he takes happiness in his meeting with Eomer and their chance to draw blades side by side in battle (Tolkien 581). Aragorn’s “joy of battle” is much more subtle than many of the other characters in the Lord of the Rings, and it comes mostly from the love he bears his companions and his sense of destiny.

Aragorn ready for battle

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Theoden's Thirst for Glory

King Theoden is one of the best examples of battle delight. It seems that Theoden can find joy against all odds, as he does in Helm’s Deep and in the charge at the Battle of Pelennor Fields. Theoden seems to muster his battle happiness through rousing words and desperate odds, as is generally true for the Rohirrim in general. When the battle seems lost at Helm’s Deep, Theoden rides out to meet his foes head on. “And with that shout the king came. His horse was white as snow, golden was his shield, and his spear was long... Light sprang in the sky. Night departed” (Tolkien 1013). Even being as old as Theoden is, he can still take pleasure and be roused by the glory of a final charge. Theoden’s battle happiness is a very intense thing that seems to take over and even border on madness. When Theoden leads the charge at Pelennor Fields, he blows so hard on a horn that it bursts, and he even outruns his own men and plunges into the ranks of enemies alone. “Fey he seemed, or the battle-fury of his fathers ran like new fire in his veins, and he was borne up on Snowmane like a god of old, even as Orme the Great in the battle of the Valar when the world was young” (Tolkien 967). It appears that Theoden can find his best joy in situations where he is clearly outnumbered and outmatched.

Theoden Plunging into Battle

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Hobbits can fight too!

In the case of the Hobbits, the issue of battle pleasure seems to be a completely different issue. In all the battle scenes in The Lord of the Rings, the Hobbits do not appear to experience “joy of battle”. Their motivation to fight seems more like a duty to their leaders, or a duty they feel they owe to the ones they love. The Hobbits are not generally a war-like race, but they are occasionally thrown into warlike situations. The Hobbits would take much more joy in having their afternoon tea and a pipe than they would in slaying a foe. When Sam fights against Shelob in the tunnel, it is not delight he feels as he fights; it is despair. He only holds on and continues to fight for the love he bears for his master and the courage he takes from the phial of Galadriel. “ Even as Sam himself crouched, looking at her, seeing his death in her eyes, a thought came to him, as if some remote voice had spoken… cold and hard and solid it seemed to his touch in a phantom world of horror, the Phial of Galadriel” (Tolkien 841). The strength Sam finds is not his own, it seems to come remotely from Galadriel herself as Sam is reminded of the Phial. The Phial continues to give Sam courage as he bests Shelob and continues his adventure. When the Hobbits return to the Shire and find that it is being tormented by the ruffians Saruman has brought in, there is little to no hint of battle delight in them. The Hobbits do kill some of their foes in this battle, but there is no indication of enjoyment. Frodo even refuses to take up a weapon, only staying with his friends to support them. Merry and Pippin command the battle effort, and the Hobbits kill when it is necessary, but never exceedingly and never for anything more than to reclaim their lands (Tolkien 1061). Had the Hobbits the ability to find their “enjoyment of battle,” one would think that they would have resisted the invasion of the big people more fervently, or that they would have been more involved in war in the past. It seems that the Hobbits are capable of courage in battle, but they seldom take any pleasure in it.

Sam Bravely Facing his Foe

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Conclusion

“Joy of battle” seems to be a form of courage that is taken up in battle where the warrior can rise above despair and adversity, then face his foes with pleasure and ferocity. Many things contribute to the mustering of this happiness, like inspiration from a leader, challenging odds, love for one’s companions, or pride drawn from one’s own people. It seems that the “joy of battle” varies with the culture, race, and personalities of the warrior. Men seem capable of taking part in this happiness, as do the Dwarves, but it seems that the Hobbits do not. This concept is quite different from simply courage itself. Joy in battle is something that seems to be unshakable, drawing off adrenaline and spite as well as honor and glory.

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