In the film LOTR: The Two Towers, there's a scene where Merry and Pippin are saved by a Rohirrim who throws his spear into the body of an orc that was about to kill them.

The Rohorrim then charge in on horseback and use their spears and swords as skirmishing weapons at short range. Now, obviously the Rohirrim didn't know Merry and Pip were saved this by spear throw and Eomer even said (to Aragorn) that they saw no Hobbits during the attack.

So why did that particular Rohirrim throw his spear so early?

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    Question edited to reflect that you're interested in knowing why it happened in the film.
    – Valorum
    May 12, 2015 at 23:06
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    There's nothing in any of the multitude of commentaries that addresses this, except in passing.
    – Valorum
    May 13, 2015 at 0:19
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    But it is easier to explain if you've read the books. Orcs are a bit less intimidating there than they are in the movies.
    – Wad Cheber
    May 13, 2015 at 0:32
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    Just a linguistic note: Rohirrim means ‘the warriors of Rohan’ (or literally translated, it means ‘host of horse-lords’) and is inherently plural. A single member of the Rohirrim would be a Rohîr (horse-lord), or if you prefer to use endonyms instead of exonyms, an Eorling (singular of Eorlingas). May 13, 2015 at 10:19
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    @WadCheber No, the -ing suffix means ‘son/descendant of’; so Eorling(as) is ‘descendant(s) of Eorl’, first king of Rohan; and Helming(as) is ‘descendant(s) of Helm (Hammerhand)’, after whom Helm’s Deep was named. May 13, 2015 at 15:53

1 Answer 1


It is more obvious in the book than the movie, but when the Rohirrim engaged the Orcs, the Orcs were terrified and more interested in running away than fighting (in fact, in the book, the Rohirrim are so confident that, rather than killing the Orcs as soon as they catch up to them, they encircle the Orcs, set up camp, and go to sleep, then wait for sunrise before beginning the slaughter; the Orcs don't attempt to attack during the night, but some of them do try to break out and flee - unsuccessfully).

The Rohirrim had the upper hand and everyone knew it. The books say that there were 200-300 Orcs against a much smaller force of Rohirrim, yet the Rohirrim killed every last Orc and suffered only relatively minor losses - just 15 men died, compared to 200-300 Orcs.

In such a lopsided battle, the Rohirrim were confident enough to throw spears willy nilly and use their swords more than they would have if the enemy posed a more formidable threat. It was almost like shooting fish in a barrel. And of course, a spear designed for throwing - also called a javelin - is very different from a spear designed to be held and thrust at an enemy. Throwing spears are shorter and lighter; thrusting spears are longer and heavier. Trying to use a throwing spear or javelin as a lance will likely result in a broken spear.

In general, human warriors (and elf warriors, and dwarf warriors) in Middle-earth are far more skilled and formidable than Orc warriors (again, this is more obvious in the books than it is in the movies). Orcs are terrifying, but there is a reason they tend to focus on raiding and pillaging civilian settlements, farms, etc, rather than engaging in set piece battles against hardened troops in numbers similar to their own - at least when they have a choice. Killing women, children, old people, farmers, shopkeepers, etc, is a hell of a lot easier (and safer) than fighting against experienced warriors who know you're coming and have swords of their own.

Orcs are brave when they have a huge numerical advantage or when their targets are frightened, defenseless civilians, but in a fair fight against actual soldiers, they tend to be easily routed. Imagine a street gang - they are tough enough to squabble with other gangs and terrorize their neighborhood, but how do you think the Crips would fare in a battle against the Marines? Not very well. In fact, they'd be wiped out in a few seconds. The same basic dynamic loosely applies to Orcs - they're like a gang, and they can only hold their own against civilians or wildly outnumbered warriors.

The Rohirrim know all of this, and fight accordingly. They knew that they would win without breaking a sweat, so they killed the Orcs off in the easiest manner possible. Throwing a spear or two wouldn't affect the outcome either way, so there was no reason not to throw it.

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    Good answer. You have my +1
    – Valorum
    May 12, 2015 at 23:58
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    This also answered another question I have been thinking. In the scene that Aragorn met Eomer and his troop, Eomer gave them 2 horses whose owner were killed by orcs. He gave them 2 horses instead of 3 horses and there were 3 persons in the company. So I wondered : "Only 2 Rohirrims died from the battle?" May 13, 2015 at 11:50
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    @Iamwaiman - The reason he gives only 2 horses is because Gimli has no riding skills and doesn't want a horse, prefering taking the ride with Legolas.
    – Joel
    May 13, 2015 at 13:26
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    @lamwaiman1988: IIRC, 15 humans were killed in the battle, along with 12 horses.
    – jamesqf
    May 13, 2015 at 18:39
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    @jamesqf - Without looking it up, I believe you're right. If we assume that the Rohirrim started out with no extra horses (which would not happen in real life, but Tolkien gets horse-related stuff wrong sometimes), they would only have 3 horses to spare (15 men died and 12 horses died, therefore there are 3 horses without riders now). But either way, Joel is correct - Dwarves don't like horses much, so Gimli always rides with someone else - in Two Towers, he rides with Legolas, Gandalf, and Eomer.
    – Wad Cheber
    May 13, 2015 at 18:48

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