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According to LOTR:TT movie, there were 300 men at Helm's Deep:

Legolas: [in Elvish] And they should be. Three hundred... against ten thousand! (src)

Is that "300" number a Jackson special, or sourced from Tolkien?

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    Originally they'd wanted Théoden to yell "This is SPART - um - ROHAN!" – Anthony May 6 '13 at 4:02
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I was just reading this scene, and 300 doesn't fit at all with what's in the book. When Théoden's riders arrive at Helm's Deep, there are already about 1,000 of Erkenbrand's soldiers guarding it:

'Maybe, we have a thousand fit to fight on foot,' said Gamling, an old man, the leader of those that watched the Dike. 'But most of them have seen too many winters, as I have, or too few ...'

The Two Towers, chapter 7, "Helm's Deep"

They weren't all fighters in their prime, but still, there were a thousand of them; nobody would call them a mere three hundred (especially not a keen-eyed Elf).

Added to that number are Théoden's Riders, though I don't see that the book ever states their number. Éomer's patrol numbered one hundred and five (per Legolas in The Two Toweers chapter 2, "The Riders of Rohan"), so there were at least that many, but I got the impression there were many more Riders than that one patrol.

While the book doesn't explicitly state the number of Théoden's Riders, it does give some hints. They weren't numerous enough to hold the Dike (below the main wall) by themselves:

'Nay, we are too few to defend the Dike,' said Théoden. 'It is a mile long or more, and the breach in it is wide.'

The Two Towers, chapter 7, "Helm's Deep"

But they were numerous enough that the defenders were very happy to have their aid, so their numbers must have been fairly substantial:

[At the gates of the Hornburg] they were welcomed again with joy and renewed hope; for now there were men enough to man both the burg and the barrier wall.

The Two Towers, chapter 7, "Helm's Deep"

The Riders were all seasoned fighters, which probably contributed to their warm reception. But the task at hand was manning the wall, which takes numbers as much as skill.

Not all the soldiers stayed to fight at the wall -- some went back to guard the horses further down in the Deep, but only "such guard as could be spared" (The Two Towers, chapter 7, "Helm's Deep") -- but it sounds like the vast majority stayed at the front. There were also fighters guarding the civilians and food stores in the caves at the back of the Deep, but I'm assuming the guards at the caves weren't included in that count of 1,000, since Gamling was talking about how many could defend the wall.

So they had maybe a thousand already there who could fight, plus the Riders, minus "such guard as could be spared" (assuming you're only counting the soldiers at the wall, not the total number defending the entire Deep).

Based on all that, I would guess that the defenders at the wall -- at least at the start of the battle -- numbered somewhere between one and two thousand.

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    +1: Plus, it was a cinematic ploy to give an excuse for the elves to participate in the Battle of Helm's deep in the movie since they were never there in the book. – BBlake May 5 '13 at 4:06
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    Too bad Leonidas wasn't an elf-friend... – Major Stackings May 6 '13 at 0:26
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I seem to recall when Theoden gathered all who were fit to fight at Edoras, they numbered around one thousand. And you say they were welcomed by Erkenbrands forces at Helm's Deep. we know for sure there are two thousand plus the riders of Eomer and Theoden's riders. there seems to be one major flaw in everyone's answer. how big is Helms Deep and what does it actually look like.

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