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In the film when Aragorn rushes in the palace to announce that the beacons of Minas Tirith are lit, we see Theoden take a moment or two before deciding that Rohan would answer their call. I wonder is this scene in the book clearer, if it exists at all that is. Is Theoden hesitant?

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Why the downvote? – DVK-in-exile Jan 10 at 18:13
One of the usual standards for a good SE question is "research effort": that you made an attempt to find the answer for yourself before asking others to spend their time helping you. Since your question could be answered by getting a copy of the book and just opening it, and you haven't done that, this may account for downvotes. – Nate Eldredge Jan 10 at 19:47
@NateEldredge - I would consider that a fair approach for, say, a small book like original Ender's Game story, which can be easily and quickly scanned using Mark I eyeball. I would NOT seriously expect someone who doesn't have an electronic copy to find a very specific passage in LOTR volume; having never read one before (heck I didn't even remember where to look for Jason's quote, and I read the book multiple times - which is why Jason is a Tolkien expert :). So I don't think this is a case where "research effort" is clear as a problem. – DVK-in-exile Jan 10 at 20:27
I feel like there should be a named law, that the quickest way to get an explanation of what happened in this book is to ask SFF.SE "why did X happen in the movies?" – Travis Christian Jan 10 at 20:55
@TravisChristian - "Why did Elves march to defend Helm's Deep?" *hides in the corner* – DVK-in-exile Jan 10 at 20:57
up vote 12 down vote accepted

No, not really.

The call for Rohan's aid doesn't come the same in the books as in the movies; in the movie, he's summoned by the beacon-fires of Gondor, but in the book a messenger arrives with the symbolic Red Arrow. Here's how that conversation goes (emphasis mine):

A tall man entered, and Merry choked back a cry; for a moment it seemed to him that Boromir was alive again and had returned. Then he saw that it was not so; the man was a stranger, though as like to Boromir as if he were one of his kin, tall and grey-eyed and proud. He was clad as a rider with a cloak of dark green over a coat of fine mail; on the front of his helm was wrought a small silver star. In his hand he bore a single arrow, black-feathered and barbed with steel, but the point was painted red.

He sank on one knee and presented the arrow to Théoden. 'Hail Lord of the Rohirrim, friend of Gondor!' he said. 'Hirgon I am, errand-rider of Denethor, who bring you this token of war. Gondor is in great need. Often the Rohirrim have aided us, but now the Lord Denethor asks for all your strength and all your speed; lest Gondor fall at last.'

'The Red Arrow!' said Théoden, holding it, as one who receives a summons long expected and yet dreadful when it comes. His hand trembled. 'The Red Arrow has not been seen in the Mark in all my years! Has it indeed come to that? And what does the Lord Denethor reckon that all my strength and all my speed may be?'

'That is best known to yourself, lord,' said Hirgon. 'But ere long it may well come to pass that Minas Tirith is surrounded, and unless you have the strength to break a siege of many powers, the Lord Denethor bids me say that he judges that the strong arms of the Rohirrim would be better within his walls than without.'

'But he knows that we are a people who fight rather upon horseback and in the open, and that we are also a scattered people and time is needed for the gathering of our Riders. Is it not true, Hirgon, that the Lord of Minas Tirith knows more than he sets in his message? For we are already at war, as you may have seen, and you do not find us all unprepared. Gandalf the Grey has been among us, and even now we are mustering for battle in the East.'

'What the Lord Denethor may know or guess of all these things I cannot say,' answered Hirgon. 'But indeed our case is desperate. My lord does not issue any command to you, he begs you only to remember old friendship and oaths long spoken, and for your own good to do all that you may. It is reported to us that many kings have ridden in from the East to the service of Mordor. From the North to the field of Dagorlad there is skirmish and rumour of war. In the South the Haradrim are moving, and fear has fallen on all our coastlands, so that little help will come to us thence. Make haste! For it is before the walls of Minas Tirith that the doom of our time will be decided, and if the tide be not stemmed there, then it will flow over all the fair fields of Rohan, and even in this Hold among the hills there shall be no refuge.'

'Dark tidings,' said Théoden, 'yet not all unguessed. But say to Denethor that even if Rohan itself felt no peril, still we would come to his aid. But we have suffered much loss in our battles with Saruman the traitor, and we must still think of our frontier to the north and east, as his own tidings make clear. So great a power as the Dark Lord seems now to wield might well contain us in battle before the City and yet strike with great force across the River away beyond the Gate of Kings.

'But we will speak no longer counsels of prudence. We will come. The weapontake was set for the morrow. When all is ordered we will set out.

Return of the King Book V Chapter 3: "The Muster of Rohan"

Although he's rightfully concerned for his own borders, he doesn't express any of the hesitation he does in the movie; he actually expresses quite a lot of hesitation in the movie, point-blank refusing to come to Gondor's aid at one point:

Gandalf: If the beacons of Gondor are lit, Rohan must be ready for war!

Théoden: Tell me. Why should we ride to the aid of those who did not come to ours? What do we owe Gondor?

The Return of the King (2003)

The events also come at different times. In the movie, Dunharrow is the site of the Muster of Rohan, and a stop on the road to Gondor. In the book, Théoden is already at Dunharrow when he receives the Red Arrow; he intended to pass through Dunharrow to reach his muster at Edoras.

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It is so much different then than in the movie... Very interesting, thank you. In the movie Theoden appears rather arrogant with a cloudy judgement upon different calls. It is Aragorn who really makes the moves, I suppose that difference is evident in the books as well... – Alexandra Jan 10 at 18:24
@Alexandra Theoden definitely looks better in the book than in the movie. Aside from less waffling about his duties as King, Aragorn turns out about the same; he's the "typical" hero in both cases, so he's going to look good no matter what – Jason Baker Jan 10 at 18:43
@Alexandra the movies have more of a Hollywood dynamic where the main heroes (Gandalf in this case) have to be the impetus to rally everyone else and sort of goad them into being good/heroic. In Tolkien's writings, good and evil tend to be more clearly separated, and heroes need less convincing. Theoden is a clearly heroic character so once he's free of the influence of Wormtongue and Saruman he's as honorable and as active a collaborator as you could like. – hobbs Jan 13 at 6:10
Is that the case with Boromir as well? – Alexandra Jan 13 at 14:53
@Alexandra no, Boromir is not too different between novel and film. In both, he believes the ring could best be used in the defense of Gondor and that the others are fools for wanting to destroy it. In both, he tries to take the ring from Frodo, and in both he realizes the enormity of what he's done after Frodo escapes, and dies defending Merry and Pippin. I feel he was a little more... flighty... in the film, but the meat is all the same. – hobbs Mar 9 at 6:00

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