The darker feel of “The War of the Rohirrim” story is easy to spot in the source material. The narrative comes from a few pages tucked away in the appendices of “The Return of the King” where we get an outline of a fight between the Men of Rohan and the nearby Men of Dunland.
The Dunlendings are joined by other enemies of the Rohirrim from the south, west, and East. While these groups aren’t detailed, that last direction is capitalized on purpose. The upper-case “East” refers to an area where, as one may surmise, other humans dwell. Additionally, the Men of Rohan have one primary hope for support. That, of course, comes from Gondor — yet another kingdom of Men. In other words, while there is potential for other creatures to get involved, the source material for “The War of the Rohirrim” centers on a struggle between Men.
Zooming into the details shows things quickly getting grisly. The king of Rohan, Helm Hammerhand, is a brutish warrior who strikes first and thinks afterward. He is depicted stalking through snow, killing men with his bare hands. There is also a severe famine during the conflict, adding another distressing degree of complexity to the fabric of the story.
From inter-human violence to starvation and angry acts of untamed aggression, “The War of the Rohirrim” has all of the ingredients to be the darkest chapter of Middle-earth to date. The fact that it will be packaged in an anime format is even more fascinating. How will director Kenji Kamiyama, returning Éowyn actress Miranda Otto, and the rest of the creative team handle this more sinister dimension of J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium? Only time will tell.