I don't know how this one goes in the books, but in the movie Gandalf says:

Look to my coming on the first light of the fifth day, at dawn look to the east.

Does that imply that the battle of Hornburg lasted 5 days (it seemed to last only one night) or did he mean 5 days starting immediately

  • 33
    It simply means in 5 days time look east. At dawn he’d arrive.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 8:03
  • Maybe Friday in the morning ? ;) Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 17:10
  • 4
    don't forget after he said that he took off and then the people travel to Helm's Deep. There are traveling scenes, (Gimli talking to Éowyn, Aragorn and Theoden chat, a random villager spotting the keep and saying 'At last! Helm's Deep!''). A warg fight even happens on the journey. So obviously, the battle of Helm's Deep didn't last the full five days.
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 17:28
  • The only REAL question is whether Gandalf means "in 5 days time, starting now", or "in 5 days, starting midnight tonight". And even then, the answer is the same unless the statement is made before dawn today. Basically, he is saying "5 dawns from right now"
    – PcMan
    Commented Feb 25, 2021 at 10:59
  • 3
    Or "the 5th day of the month"
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Feb 26, 2021 at 12:54

2 Answers 2


Gandalf calculated the time he would need to fulfill the task and come back, and the result was "at the morning in five days from now, I assume to be back". And because he knows, from which direction he will occur, he said it like a wise wizard will do: To appear with the light of sun, from the east, in the morning of the fifth day... sounds better than "I'll be back in around five days"


He meant, on the fifth day from this day, I will arrive at dawn, from the east.

Note that this does not imply that the battle of the Hornburg last 5 days. Aragorn, Theoden, Gandalf and the rest of the party had not reached the Hornburg yet. As I recall (I have not have "The Two Towers" on hand) they were still a day's journey from reaching the Hornburg when Gandalf made that announcement and left. Then after they arrived at the Hornburg there was another day and a night during which Saruman's army arrived and besieged the fortress. Then the battle began and lasted a day and a night.

The Tale of Years, Appendix B, says that Gandalf healed Theoden at Edoras on March 2. On March 3, Theoden had taken over the defense of Helm's Deep. The battle of the Hornburg began on the same day, and on March 4 it was over and Gandalf and Theoden set out for Isengard. There is a discrepancy here which cannot be resolved, because 5 days did not elapse between Gandalf leaving to gather Erkenbrand and his scattered forces and his arrival on the "fifth" day..

Note also, that Aragorn trusted Gandalf to arrive on time, and convinced Theoden to charge from the Hornburg with the knights of Rohan on the morning of the fifth day. The Ents and the Huorns had arrived during that night, and Gandalf and the men of Rohan led by Erkenbrand charged from the east at the same time as Theoden's knights charged, resulting in the complete destruction of Saruman's army.

  • 19
    "...a discrepancy here which cannot be resolved" - the stuff about "the fifth day" doesn't appear in the book at all. Gandalf just tells them to "Await me at Helm's Gate!", and after his return, Eomer remarks explicitly that Gandalf "did not name the hour...of [his] coming". Regardless, given the Tale of Years, it seems plausible to suppose that "the fifth day" in the movie might have been intended to mean simply "the fifth day of March".
    – Crowman
    Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 21:16
  • @Crowman "the fifth day" in the movie might have been intended to mean simply "the fifth day of March" - that might be true in the English version, but not in translations.
    – molnarm
    Commented Feb 25, 2021 at 12:00
  • @crowman Thanks. I didn't think of that interpretation. And as I said, my copy of "The Two Towers" is stashed away somewhere, or I might have thought of it.
    – Wastrel
    Commented Feb 25, 2021 at 15:52
  • 1
    By the way, "the fifth day means the 5th of March" should be an answer, and the correct one. I'll leave it to you, if you care to post it as one.
    – Wastrel
    Commented Feb 25, 2021 at 18:34
  • @Wastrel, of course Aragorn expected Gandalf to arrive on time. Gandalf arrived precisely when he meant to, neither early, nor late. Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 18:00

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