The famous lines "Where now the horse and the rider?" from The Two Towers, spoken by Théoden in Peter Jackson's film, but recited by Aragorn in Tolkien's original text, find an unquestionable source in the Anglo-Saxon poem The Wanderer, and as such received detailed comment by the Professor as a scholar, stating that it is not very important to identify who the rider being cited might be, as long as we admit he is a "type". In order to understand the type of this rider, then, we only have to look for similar occurrences of the evergreen "ubi sunt" motif in Old English literature, and, by cross-checking other sources such as Jordanes's Getica, we can reconstruct, as Tolkien himself would have surely done, a Germanic equivalent of Alexander the Great as the ideal mounted hero and leader in Eormanric the Greuthungian. Excepting the traits of cruelty associated by different authors both to the Macedonian and the Gothic rulers, Aragorn's unnamed rider of Rohan may then be understood not only as a vague figure of Middle-earth history, but also as the image of Tolkien's wish for a better integration between Northern and Mediterranean cultures than in real world history actually ever took place, and one that he envisions in the alliance between Gondor and Rohan, thus explaining why it was Aragorn who had to sing those words.


Paper presented at the 2022 Tolkien Society Seminar in Leeds (hybrid event)



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.