We have King Theoden, Eomer, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Merry pausing at the Hornburg. From here, the party split into two: Party 1 - Theoden, Eomer, and Merry; Party 2 - Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. Both Parties decide to go to Dunharrow. However, Party 1 decides to take the mountain roads, which takes two days longer. Why is this?

1 Answer 1


There was a need for secrecy, where Aragorn had a need for haste.

It's tucked away in various passages of the chapter, but Aragorn makes several references to Theoden's fear of the winged beast that flew over Meduseld, and his requirement for secrecy to remain hidden from the enemy.

The king is now determined to set out at once. Since the coming of the winged shadow, he desires to return to the hills under cover of night.
Return of the King - Book V, Chapter 2: The Passing of the Grey Company

Then, by your leave, lord, I must take new counsel for myself and my kindred. We must ride our own road, and no longer in secret. For me the time of stealth has passed. I will ride east by the swiftest way...

Theoden continued through the mountain paths for although Gondor needed aid, he needed secrecy. Aragorn however had a lot more ground to cover. He had to pass through the Paths of the Dead, summon the dead, ride across the southern plains of Gondor and then return by boat from Umbar to Minas Tirith. His need for haste was far greater than Theoden and Theoden therefore chose secrecy.

  • Oh I see. Thank!. I was considering the Nazgul as a potential threat to company as a possible explanation. But then wouldn't Aragorn have to fear them as well? I like your secrecy explanation since after looking into the Palantir, he no longer had anything to hide, while Theoden still had to hide his forces. I was also thinking that maybe there were forces in the mountains that Theoden wanted to muster. Probably not though since Merry mentions they were riding for three days straight (tough times...).
    – Victor
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 8:15
  • 1
    Oh good point about Aragorn had nothing to hide, he does say that to Gimli. The quote seems to suggest he didn't outright reveal himself, but Sauron at that point had likely deduced who it was: "'You forget to whom you speak,' said Aragorn sternly, and his eyes glinted. 'Did I not openly proclaim my title before the doors of Edoras? What do you fear that I should say to him?"
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 8:19
  • I was thinking about that quote as well... I suppose that also implies that Sauron has spies in Edoras? Or perhaps transfer of knowledge from Wormtounge-->Saruman-->Sauron (probably not, since I don't think a defeated Saruman would want to share anything). Or maybe Aragorn has been flaunting his bloodline so much at this point that one would assume that Sauron would have already heard of it by now.
    – Victor
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 8:29
  • I'm unsure whether Aragorn is saying he's "flaunted his bloodline" Or whether he's revealed himself as a master of the Palantir by right (The blood of the Kings were more present and more dominating when using the palantirs)
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 10:34

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