As elephant-like creatures called 'oliphaunts' were used in the movies and the books, I'm wondering how many died in all of the Lord of the Rings battles?

Whether they were stabbed or whatever, is there an exact number of these animals that died in the Lord of the Rings?


3 Answers 3


I don't have any answers from the movies, but I can answer from the books.

As I remember, after the fall of Sauron, Sam was disappointed to learn that none of the oliphaunts had survived the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.

So I searched The Return of the King, Book VI, Chapter Four, "The Field of Cormallen", and found, on the last page of the chapter, five paragraphs above the bottom:

The Hobbits wandered here and there visiting again the places they had passed before; and Sam hoped always in some shadow of the woods or secret glade to catch, maybe, a glimpse of the great Oliphaunt. And when he learned that at the siege of Gondor there had been a great number of these beasts but that they were all destroyed, he thought it a sad loss.

'Well, one can't be everywhere at once, I suppose,' He said. 'But I missed a lot, seemingly.'

The Return of the King, Book VI, Chapter Four, "The Field of Cormallen", page 290, Ballantine Books, 1965 edition.

I think that "a great number" of oliphaunts or Mumakil at the Pelennor Fields would probably be many times as many as Blackwood's lower limit of two there.


In the film there are twenty seen on screen.

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This also tallies with interviews with the crew.

"Howard had to take it on faith when Peter told him that he had to write music for a line of twenty mumakil that would come charging at the Riders, when all that was on film was ‘just a bunch of people’!"

Shore’s ‘Music Fit for a King’ Tribeca Report

Any that remain at the end of the battle appear to have been killed by ghosts.

  • 1
    Are they behind their own foot solders? Doesn't seem like a very clever strategy.
    – user
    Jul 29, 2019 at 14:55
  • 8
    @user - Spoken like someone who doesn't have overwhelming numbers and/or gives a crap about the well-being of his troops
    – Valorum
    Jul 29, 2019 at 15:30
  • During the film, the two towers, we see Sam and Frodo being captured. When they are captured we see rangers assaulting one of the oliphaunt, would you count this to the total number?
    – Matthew
    Jul 30, 2019 at 15:44
  • I can't remember... did any die in the ambush in Ithilien in the movies? Or only in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields? The movie certainly does show them during that ambush, but I don't remember if any died there.
    – reirab
    Jul 30, 2019 at 15:45
  • @user "Use up the Irish. The dead cost nothing." - Edward I from Braveheart
    – kingledion
    Jul 30, 2019 at 18:05

We don't know

Valorum's answer covers the movies; I will try to answer for the books. Oliphaunts appear twice, once in a skirmish and once in a major battle.

The first is when an oliphaunt escapes from Faramir's ambush of the Southrons in Ithilien. It is quite possible that there was more than one oliphaunt in the battle, but we are only told about this one. We are not told the fate of this oliphaunt, it appears that it is not killed in the battle but may not have lived much longer.

On the great beast thundered, blundering in blind wrath through pool and thicket. Arrows skipped and snapped harmlessly about the triple hide of his flanks. Men of both sides fled before him, but many he overtook and crushed to the ground. Soon he was lost to view, still trumpeting and stamping far away. What became of him Sam never heard: whether he escaped to roam the wild for a time, until he perished far from his home or was trapped in some deep pit; or whether he raged on until he plunged in the Great River and was swallowed up.

The Lord of the Rings Book Four, Chapter 4: Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Page 661-2 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Single Volume 50th Anniversary Edition)

The second appearance of oliphaunts (this time refered to as Mûmakil) is in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. We are not told how many are present (although it must have been more than one - Mûmakil is a plural word), and we not told if any were killed.

We do know that the horses of the Rohirrim avoided them.

Not too soon came their aid to the Rohirrim; for fortune had turned against Éomer, and his fury had betrayed him. The great wrath of his onset had utterly overthrown the front of his enemies, and great wedges of his Riders had passed clear through the ranks of the Southrons, discomfiting their horsemen and riding their footmen to ruin. But wherever the mûmakil came there the horses would not go, but blenched and swerved away; and the great monsters were unfought, and stood like towers of defence, and the Haradrim rallied about them.

The Lord of the Rings Book Five, Chapter 6: The Battle of the Pelennor Fields
Page 846 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Single Volume 50th Anniversary Edition)

We do know that the men of Gondor attacked the oliphaunts on foot, but we don't know if they had any success.

But many others were hurt or maimed or dead upon the field. The axes hewed Forlong as he fought alone and unhorsed; and both Duilin of Morthond and his brother were trampled to death when they assailed the mûmakil, leading their bowmen close to shoot at the eyes of the monsters.

The Lord of the Rings Book Five, Chapter 6: The Battle of the Pelennor Fields
Page 849 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Single Volume 50th Anniversary Edition)

And that's it.

  • Number of oliphaunts who appear in battle: unknown, at least three and probably many more.
  • Number of oliphaunts killed in battle: unknown, could be as low as zero.
  • 26
    They made the films into a book?
    – Valorum
    Jul 28, 2019 at 13:35
  • 29
    @Valorum: Yeah, but they changed a lot of the details and added a bunch of irrelevant subplots just for genre expectations ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    – PLL
    Jul 28, 2019 at 16:49
  • 4
    And I still can't believe Blizzard didn’t sue them after all the content they plainly copied from World of Warcraft... Jul 29, 2019 at 14:43
  • 10
    @PLL and then they made the Hobbit trilogy into a single book that was more kid-friendly....
    – Hellion
    Jul 29, 2019 at 17:31
  • @Hellion I thought that was just the book of the Movie.
    – JGNI
    Jul 30, 2019 at 14:37

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