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So let's set the scene first:

Back at the gates the orc bodies continue to pile up as they try to break down the gates with a battering ram. Gothmog walks up to them.

GOTHMOG: What are you doing you useless scum?

ORC: The door wont give. It’s too strong.

Archers continue to kill the orcs who are piling up in heaps.

GOTHMOG: Get back there and smash it down!

ORC: But nothing can breach it!

A pause.

GOTHMOG: Grond will breach it!

So you squander lives feebly fumbling against a door, can't breach it, try to squander more lives, argue with a soldier about it, pause to think and remember "oh yea, what about that battering ram we've been dragging halfway across Middle Earth, you know, that legendary one who's single purpose is to break down hard-to-breach doors? Let's try that one!"

Why not start with Grond in the first place?

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They were saying "grond"? It always sounded like "krom" or "grom" to me. –  Xantec May 14 at 14:49
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@Xantec Krum the legendary bulgarian seeker? –  Simon May 14 at 14:53
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@Xantec: In the books it's referred to as Grond. –  Royal Canadian Bandit May 14 at 14:58
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Out-universe answer: to add tension. Just as we think we're safe, BOOM! the orcs have a way in. In-universe answer: I have 10 pounds of dynamite and a thousand pounds of dynamite. I want to blow a hole in a wall of indertimanate strength: I'm going to use the 10 pound first. The battering ram may have got them in: it makes sense they would try that first. Also, Grond was massive. With a battering ram they can drop it and get to fighting; they'd have to move Grond out of the way first, leaving them open to arrows/swords. (Speculation Warning) –  Mac Cooper May 14 at 14:59
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@MacCooper: In the books, the gates of Minas Tirith are legendary for their strength. Sure, the advance party might have got lucky and knocked them down, but I think they were expecting to have to use Grond. –  Royal Canadian Bandit May 14 at 15:15
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1 Answer 1

up vote 26 down vote accepted

In the context of the film, the idea was to test Minas Tirith's defences before bringing in the valuable and hard-to-replace weapon which they had dragged for hundreds of miles.

For all the orcs knew, there was some sort of hidden trap in front of the gates. Imagine this sequence of events:

[Army of Mordor reaches Minas Tirith]

GOTHMOG: Bring up Grond at once!

[Trolls push Grond forward. Orcs chant in delight. Grond falls into deep pit in front of gates. Orcs fall silent. Awkward exchange of glances between Gothmog and Orc lieutenant.]

In addition, Mordor's strategy is about trying to break the defenders' morale. This is why they started by flinging severed heads over the walls from catapults. From this perspective, it is good psychology to let the defenders think they are doing all right for a while, before shocking them with this terrible new weapon.

If that costs the lives of a few hundred Orcs... well, they have plenty more where those came from, and Gothmog, the Witch-King, and Sauron himself are not at all sentimental about such things.

Out-of-universe, it is also good drama to let the audience think the defenders are doing all right before Grond appears.

I don't have the books to hand, and can't recall if the book version of the approach of Grond was significantly different, but I don't think so.

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The book confirms this: "Yet their Captain cared not greatly what they did or how many might be slain: their purpose was only to test the strength of the defence and to keep the men of Gondor busy in many places". It also uses the word "crawled" to describe Grond's movements - "Grond crawled on" - so we may assume that it just takes more time to bring it to the battlefront. –  Jimmy Shelter May 14 at 15:17
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I was trying to remember the book sequence of events too. My initial guess now that I think about it, is it was a probably Peter Jackson decision to add some drama. Then on editing, they probably thought "this is dumb, they have Grond" and that's why they cut the whole "what should we do about the door" exchange out of the theatrical release. Gothmog is supposedly a lieutenant, so some semblance of strategy would make sense, but the scene makes it seem like having a 150 foot battering ram just slipped his mind. –  coburne May 14 at 15:18
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Here's another sequence: "Grond is finally in place! It took us a week, and we lost a lot of soldiers, sappers and engineers, what with all the fire from the walls being concentrated on that one, big, slow-moving target, but now we can breach those famous gates!" [Grond smashes the gates to kindling with the first bump] "Huh... Guess the gates weren't so tough. Nobody's actually stormed this place in centuries. And now the defenders have set up behind the second shield wall, and we'll never get Grond up those winding streets to the second gate, and... Do you hear hoofbeats?" –  Beta May 14 at 16:06
    
@JimmyShelter -Yes the tactic is to harry and harass; To probe the defense, beat down the enemies stamina, resources and morale. They did this WHILE Grond was being brought forward to strike and splinter the gate. Sauron could loose 10-1 on the wall and still sack the city with relative ease once the gate was breached. –  Morgan May 14 at 17:18
    
@Beta: not the site for that kind of thing. –  Jimmy Shelter May 14 at 17:51
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