An encyclopedia of Middle-earth and Numenor
Brad Dourif as Grima in the New Line film
Grima was the counsellor of King Theoden of Rohan. He betrayed king and country by becoming an agent of Saruman, and on the Wizard's orders Grima weakened Theoden in preparation for an invasion of Rohan. But in the end, Grima turned on Saruman and was slain himself, and their deaths were the final act of the War of the Ring.
Grima was the son of Galmod. He had a pale face and dark, heavy-lidded eyes. Nothing is known about Grima's early life or exactly how he came to be corrupted by Saruman. The Wizard apparently promised Grima not only wealth but also Theoden's niece Eowyn, whom Grima desired.
Grima began to exert his influence over Theoden on behalf of Saruman around the year 3014 of the Third Age. It is thought that Grima may have administered poisons to the King that caused him to become frail and appear to age prematurely. Theoden had been a strong and vital king who rode out with the Rohirrim, but Grima encouraged him to believe that his days as a warrior were over. Grima took the King's sword Herugrim into his keeping and he locked it in his chest along with valuables that he had stolen from others. Grima also brought jewels and heirlooms of the House of Eorl to Saruman.
Grima used his skill with words and persuasion to influence the enfeebled King's decisions and policies. Theoden's judgment was clouded and he became dependent on Grima for advice. The King seldom left the hall of Meduseld and he began to issue orders through Grima. Theoden's commanders resented Grima's intrusion and did everything in their power to thwart his influence, but they would not defy their King and they obeyed the orders that Grima gave them. They disliked Grima but at the time it was not known that he was a traitor to Rohan.
To further Saruman's plans of conquest, Grima tried to weaken Rohan's central command and discredit the King's commanders. His primary opponents were Theodred - the King's son - and Eomer - the King's nephew. Grima was unable to turn them against the King or against each other, so he tried to turn Theoden against Eomer. Grima insinuated that Eomer was power-hungry and disobedient, and though Eomer remained loyal, Grima was able to plant a seed of doubt in Theoden's mind.
Eowyn was also the target of Grima's poisonous counsel. He played on her despair at her role as nursemaid to her ailing uncle and led her to believe that she and her people had lost their honor. Grima constantly watched Eowyn and followed her, anticipating the day when she would be his as Saruman had promised.
On September 19, 3018, Gandalf the Grey came to Edoras and was refused admittance. The next day Gandalf was granted an audience and he told the King that he had been imprisoned by Saruman in Orthanc. Gandalf tried to warn Theoden that Saruman was planning to invade Rohan, but Theoden was deeply under Grima's influence and would not listen and he sent Gandalf away.
Grima went hastily to Isengard to report that Gandalf had come to Edoras. According to one story, Grima was stopped by the Lord of the Nazgul who was seeking Gandalf and the Shire. Grima told everything he knew and revealed that Saruman had concealed his knowledge of the Shire from the Nazgul. The Lord of the Nazgul left Grima cowering on the ground and rode north in search of the Ring-bearer.
After Gandalf's visit, Grima's carefully woven webs of deceit began to unravel. Though Theoden continued to heed Grima's counsel, others began to defy him. Theodred took command of the forces of Rohan and strengthened the defenses on the western marches. When Saruman claimed lordship over Rohan's lands and sent forth companies of his Orcs, they met with resistance from the Rohirrim.
Saruman decided that Theodred had to be eliminated, and he dispatched a force with orders to kill him. Theodred was slain at the First Battle of the Fords of Isen on February 25, 3019. Erkenbrand assumed command and sent a message to Edoras requesting that forces be sent to the Westfold at once. But Grima advised against it on the grounds that Edoras would be left defenseless and Theoden acquiesced though Eomer disagreed.
Eomer had also learned that a band of Orcs had entered Rohan from the Emyn Muil on the eastern border and that some bore the White Hand of Saruman. Eomer wanted to pursue them because he feared an alliance between Saruman and Sauron, but again Grima advised Theoden to forbid it and the King did so. Eomer suspected Grima of treachery and threatened to kill him. In defiance of orders, Eomer led his eored after the Orcs and slew them all, unknowingly helping Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took to escape captivity. On the way back, Eomer met Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli and asked them to come to Edoras.
When Eomer returned to Edoras, he was arrested at Grima's urging for defying the King's orders and for allowing strangers to ride freely through Rohan. On March 2, Gandalf arrived with Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. Grima warned that Gandalf's staff should be taken away from him, but Hama the Doorward perceived that Gandalf was a friend and allowed him to keep it.
Grima accused Gandalf of being a bearer of bad tidings, calling him Lathspell, or Ill-news. He said that the Wizard only came in times of trouble and sought help rather than bringing it. Then Gandalf revealed that he had become Gandalf the White and he rendered Grima powerless.
"The wise speak only of what they know, Grima son of Galmod. A witless worm have you become. Therefore be silent, and keep your forked tongue behind your teeth. I have not passed through fire and death to bandy crooked words with a serving-man till the lightning falls."Gandalf raised his staff and there was a roll of thunder and a flash of lightning, and Grima fell to the ground. Gandalf freed Theoden from Grima's influence and the King decided to ride to war against Saruman. He called for his sword and Hama forced Grima to give up the keys to the chest where he had hidden it.
The Two Towers: "The King of the Golden Hall," p. 118
Grima was brought cringing before the King. He tried to persuade Theoden to change his mind, but his words no longer had any power over the King. Trying one last ploy, Grima asked to be left in charge of Edoras, but Gandalf exposed him as an agent of Saruman. Eomer threatened to kill Grima for his treachery and his designs on Eowyn, but Gandalf stopped him. Theoden gave Grima the choice to either accompany the Rohirrim into battle or leave Edoras immediately. Grima spat at the King's feet and fled.
Grima rode toward Isengard. At one point he may have been accompanied by a band of Orcs, but he arrived alone on the morning of March 5. Grima was stunned to see that the walls of Isengard had been cast down and the pits and forges had been flooded and all that he had thought strong and invincible had been destroyed.
When Grima saw Treebeard he tried to run away, but the Ent caught him and lifted him from his horse and Grima groveled on the ground. Grima claimed that he was on an errand from King Theoden and that he had been the only one brave enough to come, but Gandalf had warned Treebeard about Grima. Treebeard told Grima he could either wait with him for Theoden or join Saruman in the tower. Grima waded through the dirty water to Orthanc and Saruman pulled him inside.
Later that day Theoden and Gandalf arrived to parley with Saruman. Gandalf broke Saruman's staff and cast him from the Order of Wizards. As a parting shot, Grima threw the palantir of Orthanc down and nearly hit Gandalf. Aragorn suggested that his aim may have been off because Grima could not decide whether to strike Gandalf or Saruman with it. When Saruman learned what Grima had done he was enraged at his servant.
Grima and Saruman remained imprisoned in Orthanc for the rest of the War of the Ring. On August 15, Saruman persuaded Treebeard to release him. Grima was like a pale shadow when he emerged from the tower. He was abused and terrorized by Saruman but he was even more afraid to leave him.
Saruman and Grima journeyed northward, and on August 28 they met Gandalf and the Hobbits and Galadriel, Celeborn, and Elrond on the road. Saruman refused their help and he struck Grima with his staff and ordered him to come along. Grima said he hated Saruman and wished he could leave him, but when Gandalf suggested he do so Grima looked terrified and followed his master.
Saruman decided to seek revenge for the destruction of Isengard by ruining the Shire. They arrived on September 22 and Saruman moved into Bag End and took over as Chief from Lotho Sackville-Baggins. On Saruman's orders, Grima stabbed Lotho to death in his sleep. Saruman later insinuated that Grima may even have eaten Lotho's body, but it is not known whether this was true. Grima was thoroughly wretched and hungry and cowed by Saruman.
On November 3, the Hobbits defeated Saruman's Men in the Battle of Bywater and Frodo Baggins came to Bag End. Frodo ordered Saruman to leave and Grima started to crawl after his master when he called. Frodo told Grima that he could stay if he wished and receive food and shelter before going his own way. Grima wanted to do so, but then Saruman revealed that he had killed Lotho. When Grima replied that he had done so at Saruman's command, Saruman mocked him and kicked him in the face.
Something snapped inside Grima then, and he turned on the master he hated and feared. Grima jumped onto Saruman's back and slashed his throat with a knife and killed him. Grima fled but he was shot to death by three Hobbit archers. With the deaths of these two traitors, master and slave, the War of the Ring came to an end.
Grima begins to influence King Theoden on behalf of Saruman around this time.
September 19: Gandalf comes to Edoras but is refused admittance.
September 20: Gandalf tells Theoden of Saruman's treachery, but the King refuses to believe him and sends him away. After his visit, Rohan is troubled by Orcs and Men in the service of Saruman and Theoden's commanders begin to defy Grima's orders.
February 25: Theodred is slain at the First Battle of the Fords of Isen.
February 27: News of Theodred's death reaches Edoras. Erkenbrand sends a request for reinforcements but Grima advises against it and Theoden follows his advice. Also on Grima's advice, Eomer is forbidden to pursue a band of Orcs that entered Rohan from the east, but Eomer defies him.
February 30: Eomer returns to Edoras and is arrested on Grima's advice.
March 2: Gandalf arrives at
Meduseld and heals Theoden. Grima's treachery is exposed and he flees toward
March 3-4: Saruman's forces are defeated at the Battle of Helm's Deep and Isengard is destroyed by the Ents.
March 5: Grima arrives at Isengard and is dismayed to find it destroyed. He is imprisoned in Orthanc with Saruman. At the parley between Theoden, Gandalf and Saruman, Grima throws the palantir down from Orthanc.
August 15: Treebeard releases
Saruman from Orthanc and Grima accompanies him north.
August 28: The Hobbits and Gandalf meet Saruman and Grima on the road. Saruman and Grima head for the Shire.
September 22: Saruman and Grima arrive in the Shire. Saruman moves into Bag End and takes over as Chief from Lotho Sackville-Baggins. At some point afterward, Grima kills Lotho.
November 3: The Hobbits defeat Saruman's Men at the Battle of Bywater. Grima kills Saruman and is himself slain by Hobbit archers.
The name Gríma means "mask" or "helmet that hides the face" in Old English and Old Norse. His name is a reference to his secret identity as an agent of Saruman.
Old English, Old Norse Men's Names & Their Meanings
Grima was called Wormtongue - or wyrm-tunga - by those who distrusted him. This name implies that Grima had a snake's forked tongue - meaning that he lied and deceived.
"Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings," entry for Wormtongue
Saruman called Grima simply Worm, short for Wormtongue, but also likely a reference to Grima's groveling demeanor.
The Return of the King: "The Scouring of the Shire," p. 299
The Fellowship of the Ring: "The Council of Elrond," p. 275
The Two Towers: "The Riders of Rohan," p. 38-39; "The King of the Golden Hall," passim; "Helm's Deep," p. 133-34; "The Road to Isengard," p. 149, 161-62; "Flotsam and Jetsam," p. 178-79; "The Voice of Saruman," p. 183, 189-90; "The Palantir," p. 205
The Return of the King: "The Houses of Healing," p. 143; "Many Partings," p. 258, 261-62; "The Scouring of the Shire," p. 299-300
Unfinished Tales: "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields," p. 277; "The Hunt for the Ring," p. 340; "The Battles of the Fords of Isen," p. 355. 359-60, 367-68
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