War of the Ring, a more... Tactical approach

Discussion in 'J.R.R. Tolkien / Lord of the Rings' started by GrimWarlock, Jun 30, 2014.

  1. GrimWarlock

    GrimWarlock Daemon Prince of Tzeentch

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    Okay, fans are fans, but Lotr has quite enough war, politics and whatnot stuff to make you ask questions not only of the literature type. Especialy when you're from the type of fan that I am a.k.a the ones that play strategy games and read Clausewitz for fun. If that is so, then there must have been questions popping up in your head like: "Why did Theoden defend the fords of Isen when the map obviously shows that the position is impossible to save?"


    And so, are there mistakes in Mordor's campaigns against Gondor? As far as Tolkien did not read "Strategikon" and "Manual on military and household affairs" from Kekaumenos and has not played any strategy games - yep.


    For decades, the troops of Sauron move unorganised. Yeah, I know they take Ithilien from the stewards and turn the land south of Anduin into a no man's land, but that cannot be dubbed "succesful" for a constantly operating army.
    When a war, from an advance turns into a succession of maneuvers, that means that both sides have lost their initiative. It's obvious that Gondor suffers from a chronic lack of soldiers, so obviously a series of concentrated attacks would most likely give better results than a war of attrition in south Gondor.



    However instead of using the concentrated force of Harad and Umbar for a combined offensive by sea whole decades before "Lord of the Rings" actualy happens, Sauron just leaves the corsairs to well, raid and pillage. In fact, even if Gondor had the troops needed to defend against an invasion from the sea, that would mean moving soldiers and resources from the eastern border to defend the shores. In such a case the headquarters of the Gondorian defences would most likely be in Dol Amroth or Pelargir, and not in the massive and well defended fortress of Minas Tirith. Just one powerful attack from Mordor - a simultaneous advance from Gorgoroth and Morgul's armies with the exact same directive would turn Faramir's diversions against the haradrim ineffective or maybe even impossible.


    Actually in the book it goes like this - the Umbar fleet really does sail towards Pelargir and renders the Gondorian commanders incapable of defending with their own force. The kingdom's armies are already split between the multiple positions around the river and Minas Tirith - but that happens too late, and the intervention of Aragorn and the undead oathbreakers turns the attack from the sea into a complete faillure, and into the reason for the failure of the advance against Gondor. Mordor's armies move separately from one another and Gorgoroth's troops leave AFTER the morgul battalions are destroyed at the Pelennor fields. Furthermore, a pretty decent amount of the Haradrim reinforcements are killed around Ithilien from the diversion forces under Faramir. Instead of a large army simply surrounding the smaller one, Mordor's armies are destroyed one by one as the morgul-harad troops become a victim of their incompetent commanders.


    While running around the battlefield chasing strategicaly unimportant goals such as king Theoden's death, the Witch-King allows the charge against Minas Tirith to be slowed fatally. He does not leave enough reserves on the east shore and does not have any vessels on the river, should there be a need to block Anduin and sound a retreat. Apparently he expected to take the city before the reinforcements on the river arrive - i.e he wanted all the glory for himself and therefore rushed. That would explain why he throws all his soldiers on the west shore and the massive death toll the orcs take while capturing Osgiliath, Cair Andros and the wall of Pelennor. The Nazgul Lord simply does not expect the possibility of an attack through Anorien(supposedly counting on the attacks at the right Mordor flank in East Emnet would confuse the enemy, but not preparing for other possibilities.), but even after the rohirrim arrive, he still has his chances for victory. He did not have any contacts with the corsairs' fleet(either because of vainglory or self-confidence.), and therefore is taken completely by surprise with the attack of Aragorn with the oathbreakers and the rallied gondorian garrison.


    Sauron and his marshal act arrogantly, slowly and with many strategic(and tactical) mistakes, using not their advantages and abilities, but just the enemy's weakness. That allows Gondor to damage the orcs and haradrim far more during their retreat beyond Anduin. In fact, the weaker side in the conflict takes the initiative from the stronger. On the Third Age map, southern Gondor is noted as contested with Harad and basicaly a desolate no man's land. We have the discription of a whole(and quite possible not just one)corps haradrim being slaughtered by Faramir's archers. Turns out, that in strategic planning Sauron is delaying, while the gondorian forces don't allow him to establish a stable foothold in the "conquered" areas such as Ithilien in south Gondor. These lands remain a buffer zone between the two sides of the conflict and more often than not the victory goes to Gondor. That means that gondorian troops become bold, instead of being rendered incapable of defence. And leading your opponent to a paralisis out of fear is a primary goal of the high command, as stated by Clausewitz.



    The Alternative?

    After the fall of Ithilien and east Osgiliath, Sauron could give the Witch-King command over the united armies of Gorgoroth and Morgul. The instructions of the Dark Lord to Harad and Umbar should go like this: Transfer of large military forces and descending over Ethir Anduin with the goal of creating a bridgehead for the final strike against Gondor inside it's territory. That would lead to a quick attempt of emptying the regions beyond Anduin from gondorian diversion squads(Since the steward would try to remove the invaders from the shores.). While this situation stands, in a distance of no more than a week's worth of travel the Witch-King simply prepares an altogether massive advance of his entire force against the Pelennor field and/or Cair Andros, so that the already screwed up defenders of Gondor would end up attacked on two fronts while lacking in numbers. In the case, speed is most important, so that even if they eventualy win at one front, the gondorians would be facing complete and utter defeat at the other.


    During WW2 Erwin Rommel does a similar quick campaign in North Africa. His loss is due to lack of fuel and the not quite skilled actions taken by his italian allies by sea, but admitedly he does keep the british defences of Egypt in check. His tanks move in thick formation together(as with Manstein), with unexpected movements, often surprising and surrounding defence posts all over Libya and Egypt.


    With Sauron the fuel thing doesn't really matter, the umbar fleet is most likely better than the italian, and if South Gondor and Ithilien were not desolate, the forces of Mordor and Harad would have been able to feed on their production during the quick campaign. Either way, Sauron does not believe in the most important lesson of Clausewitz - move the forces separately and concentrate them to strike together decisevely.

    If everything went this way, rohan's cavalry would have been unable to arrive on time and the remnants of the gondorian troops would have hidden in mountain shelters all over Ered Nimrais, while the Witch-King easily places garrisons around the entire country, and can focus on continuing the campaign through Anorien - west to Edoras and meeting the allied forces in Isengard....
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2017
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  2. Sparrow

    Sparrow Well-Known Member

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    I don't think either side utilized air support to any great extent... the bad guys had Dragons, and the good guys had Eagles. I would have put that into play.:)
     
  3. GrimWarlock

    GrimWarlock Daemon Prince of Tzeentch

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    ^ I didn't consider them that much. After all you get like what, 9 mounted Nazghuls for Mordor and a few dozen eagles at most.
     
  4. Midnattblod

    Midnattblod Royal Wolf of Shadow

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    ah but the eagles would not necessarily have helped just because they were asked. I don't really know why it took so long for them to make a presence though.
     
  5. GrimWarlock

    GrimWarlock Daemon Prince of Tzeentch

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    ^ you know, thats kind of a good point - why do the eagles show up lke this. Considering that they could have solved EVERYTHING, everyone in the world brought it up - so am I. Why don't these mythical creatures of awesomeness show up to help more often. In fact why didn't they just get the ring themselves, fly to mount doom and throw it. It's obvious that if they wanted to win this war quickly and logicaly they would have used the bloody eagles from the beggining. And every excuse that can be thrown out just doesn't hold:

    1. Oh they're eagle beings of myth that just don't want to get involved into the worldly affairs: Really? Cause that didn't stop them from involving to save gandalf from Orthank and the mountain tops over Moria, didn't stop them from interfering with the battle of five armies, or helping out in the final battle.

    2. But they won't manage it, the evil forces of Mordor would just take them down: Oh, but in those last parts of Return of the King they were beating those evil forces pretty badly wouldn't you agree, they were beating the fellbeasts of the ringwraiths just fine. And even if they didn't Gandalf could just do his Light-spell to chase them off like he did before. Mordor has just 9 of the evil flying things

    3. Well, much like Gandalf they would have been tempted to use it themselves and be corrupted in the process: For what? A two hour flight? If Frodo can hold up for months and months on end, I'm pretty sure that the divine eagles can survive 120 pesky minutes, and hell - how would they even put the ring on their claws anyway?

    4. Um, well they're big and obvious, a sneak attack makes much more sense in the grand scheme of things: Again - Really? Because how many times are Sam and Frodo, spotted, captured and injured? For every day it took them to walk on foot, thousands of soldiers fight and lose their lives. And let's face it - it's only by pure luck that this Fellowship idea worked at all. Even Gandalf several times over aknowledges that this was one of the dumbest strategies they have ever come up with.

    Soooo yeah....
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2014
  6. Midnattblod

    Midnattblod Royal Wolf of Shadow

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    to add to your post, the eagles were also very helpful in the war that led to the destruction of Beleriand, though only when they felt like it and only at the end when Turgon (I believe) decided to leave his hidden realm and help out.

    I think the main reason they never did anything of the sort (outside of it would create a very boring read) is because they see themselves above everyone else, even though they technically protect the free peoples of Middle-Earth. the only reason they helped Gandalf was because he had helped their king previously.
     
  7. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    The Eagles are much like the Ents - the war is a war of man, elf, orc and dwarf and is not their concern. They also have the bonus that their habitats are far from the main areas of the war and thus, unlike the Ents, they don't get that pressure to partake - had it not been for Saurumon activities the Ents would not have gone to war at all and would likely have sat out this war.

    They have an allegiance/obligation to aid Gandaulf because of his past aid to them, but they are not subject to him. Furthermore they are not like the films portray them; they are not a simple case of "summon great eagles" spell as they are shown (indeed I was most annoyed that at the start of the second film they didn't get a few moments talking where Gandaulf actually explains the eagles and their roll).


    As for the whole "fly the ring to Mordor" approach; don't forget the Ring only made it to the Fires of Mount Doom because of an attack at the front gates distracting Sauron. Where it not for that attack he likely would have spotted the hobbits within his realm. The Eagles flying over would have been instantly spotted.

    Nazgule are not used on their fellbeasts early because Sarumon isn't waging open war. The early part of the war is one of attrition; wearing his enemies down not with large armies; but with smaller skirmishes and battles along with agents working in secret (Worm Tongue - the Orb in Gondor). Whilst he has large forces he'd far prefer to corrupt and take over other nations than go to all out war with them - partly because that could result in greater unification (don't forget the Elves and Dwarves are still present). If he'd made large standing armies early he likely would have sparked a greater resistance against him; and that is what undid his rule last time.
     
  8. GrimWarlock

    GrimWarlock Daemon Prince of Tzeentch

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    ^
    1. Mostly true, but considering Sauron- if he were to succeed, they would have most likely been attacked sooner or later.

    2. Again I agree, they don't really just get summoned, but what exactly is stopping Gandalf if they owe him favors for his own favors in the past, to just talk to one of them when he meets him/her and be like "Can you take this ring and toss it in the volcano over at Sauron's please?".

    3. Using a War of attrition was, as stated above far more ineffective than open war, simply due to Sauron's superior forces. An all out coordinated attack would have crushed anything the Free Peoples had to throw. And... No... He had the large armies quite possibly all the time since a military of that size is impossible to recruit and mobilize for such a ridicilously short amount of time.(Except Uruk-Hai, which were established doing that. But Sauron didn't have any of those so... Yeah)It's basicaly like being Attila, having the entire hun horde at your disposal, ready to charge into europe, and you go all like - "Y'know guys, let's try and be subtle.".
     
  9. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    1) True and not true; how many kingdoms of men, orc, elf and dwarf have risen and fallen in the ages since the last great wat. The Eagles likely underestimate the threat Sauron presents; remember that they likely recall the wars of ages past more than men do so to them this new age war is quite tiny in comparison.
    That was part of why the 5 wizards were sent, to ensure that Sauron was not underestimated even though he was but a general in the first war.

    2) Don't forget that the ring corrupts all; even hobbits and elves. The eagles likely would be under the same problem. Whilst not as easy to corrupt as men if Sauron saw the ring approach on eagleback his attention would have focused upon it fully; under that gaze its doubtful that the eagle, or its rider could have resisted (The rider just needs to fall or throw the ring - the ring just needs to drop - the eagle close its wings).

    3) True in the end the tactic undid itself; but don't forget Sauron spent many years as just a ghost; his army obeys him mostly through fear. It's not the same as ranked orderly and loyal troops - heck his orcs will fall into fighting each other if given even minor provocation. It's likely this that holds him at bay a little; he needs those armies but at the same time a major victory could see them rebel and turn against him; or at the very least try to take charge themselves and thus suddenly his armies have holes in them.

    Certainly in hind sight he could and should have done things differently to assure victory.

    Another aspect to consider is the leaving of the elves; he was likely most aware of this so his delaying might well have been to simple be positioning himself to take over at just the same point as the elves left. Not moving ahead earlier least he come up against them joining with man one last time; In the books elves do not come to the aid of man at Helms Deep - further at the flight to the ford scene whilst the flood is sent by Gandaulf and Elrond the Nazgoul have to be pushed/scared into that flood by another elf "revealing his true self". It being quite clear that powerful members of the elf society are very capable and powerful mages in their own right.

    This covert war is also something that the Wizards practice as well; Gandaulf even before he takes the white is a very powerful wizard; yet keeps his powers very held back even without the sanctions imposed upon him which keep them further in check (like all the other wizards). It's very much a game of the 5 Wizards VS Sauron - each team manipulating the free peoples of middle earth to work for them - through various methods.
     
  10. GrimWarlock

    GrimWarlock Daemon Prince of Tzeentch

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    1. Good point, but still - consider the option.
    2. Exactly my point - the Easgles will take just a few hours. If Frodo went to a Somewhat Corrupted Frodo for like a year, surely these beings wouldn't be that troubled for a few minutes.
    3. Weeeellll.... Huns were also not exactly ranked and orderly loyal troops... Again - as most barbarian armies. Yet they got it pretty succesful. To be honest I thought the orcs were a more loyal army than an avarage warband of savage warriors. Perhaps due to the fact that Sauron was Morgoth's lieutenant and orcs are basicaly geneticaly engineered grunt soldiers by Morgoth, so I alwasy considered they follow Sauron due to the fact that they were made to follow him(Well Morgoth, but Sau was kinda the right hand man so I guess it counts). Then again waiting the elves out was an okay strategy I guess but.... WHY DAFUQ did he start an open war then? If he was waiting for everyone to get lazy and not-noticing-him, and the elves to leave, WHY did he start one in the first place, instead of maximizing his security? Frodo and Sam would never have gotten past if there were a few orc battalions standing at the entrance I'm sure.
     
  11. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    2) The Ring was only part of Sauron and for the greater part of its time in Hobbiton it was hiding; much as it was with Gollum. It basically had no idea its master was out there, it was biding its time so it had no reason to corrupt and dominate Bilbo. It was only once it heard its masters call that it started having a greater effect. And whilst it spend many decades in Hobbiton with Bilbo it took only a few months to start corrupting Frodo. I've no idea how long one of the Great Eagles could resist corruption; plus the Dark lord would likely have put every fellbeast he had into the air; to say nothing of a magical attack (even just making Mt. Doom spew forth more toxins into the air).

    3) It's probably a balancing act. He knows that the wizards are aware of his return, but he also seems to be aware that they are not all powerful and basically must act through agents much like himself.
    So he has the drive to ensure that the free people of Middle Earth are coming under his spell, whilst at the same time hiding away as much as he can so that the elves focus upon leaving. By not presenting a clear, large, evil target early on and sticking to the shadows men, dwarf and even elf also suspect if the Wizards are telling the truth. So again you don't see alliances forming strong enough, early enough and going to war. This lets his dark forces divide and pillage Rohan; his influence corrupt Gondor, his armies march down and conquer.

    Indeed if it were not for the acts of Gandalf and Strider his corrupting influence and armies would have won. Rohan was divided and would have splintered more and more to be picked apart; whilst Gondor would have sat behind its high walls - a kingdom isolated and beaten by a slow siege.
    Many of the Dwarfs were already broken peoples and places like Mora were already under his control (or at least taken from the free peoples).

    His Easterling campaigns we can't speak of as we've really never had much idea of what happens in the far East - nor of the two wizards who went to those lands. Could well be that far into those lands there was another uprising and troubles putting pressure on that front of the war.
     
  12. Sparrow

    Sparrow Well-Known Member

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    I think you're confusing Wisdom with Innocence.
    If the Eagles were in possession of the Ring they would have succumbed to its power, just as all those who came before. Also, the Eagles, even if they make it as far as Mordor, couldn't fly undetected for long in Mordor airspace. They would have Nazgul's Fell Beasts to contend with, and more likely they would have highly trained archers looking to shoot them down. The Eagles already have a fear of archers.

    Nah, they did the right thing... give it to a Hobbit and take your chances.
     
  13. GrimWarlock

    GrimWarlock Daemon Prince of Tzeentch

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    ^ Note point two of my original post on this subject matter
     
  14. GrimWarlock

    GrimWarlock Daemon Prince of Tzeentch

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    Well...So much for using my knowledge into history and military strategy to get some discussions on fantasy I guess
     
  15. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    Your point two ignores the fact that hobbits have a natural resistance to the corruption of the ring - whilst other creatures have varying levels. Elves are quite resistant (several elves still carry rings of power); Dwarfs are less so; wizards don't have much resistance whilst humans, orcs and goblins appear to rank very much near the bottom. The ring also calls out to humans very readily - them being smarter than goblin or orc whilst also easily swayed by the ring. We don't see much evidence of the ring calling out to elves nor dwarves.


    Eagles on the scale are impossible to guess at - but its likely that being intelligent they are at least vulnerable. It would still have taken them days to make the journey and whilst they have speed, they've little else. A loan eagle would attract the Eye's attention and would have little chance fighting off several fellbeast - whilst a whole flock would attract even more attention - fellbeast and then orc and goblin on the ground would likely unit to provide a very formidable force. And that's without Sauron influencing Mt'Doom itself - a cloud of smoke and ash would render the mountain impervious to aerial assault.

    Don't forget that the Witch King is also a mage of power and in a fight in the sky with an eagle could likely strike it down with little effort - so now you've got to have the ring with Gandalf protecting it on the same eagle - a ring that would likely work its magic very hard to twist the situation to its favour (remember also Gandalf would the Grey in this version not likely the White - this might also mean that his powers could be diminished from what we see in the latter parts of the book).



    Smuggling the ring in is slower, but it also more reliable - the Hobbits were able to get significantly closer without any detection and with their natural resistance to the Ring's influence were not as impeded by its corruption.

    Don't forget in the original plan the Fellowship would have been with them at that stage (although I get the feeling that Gandalf would have found ways to break the Fellowship - he clearly intended to reduce the numbers because of the rings corrupting influence). A large part of the story is the Fellowship having to adapt to disaster and being fractured. Heck marching the ring into Mordor with a combined army of Rohan and Gondor might have been Gandalfs original plan (or one of them) - though I suspect if that were the case he'd have had the Hobbits move in secret well away from the army.
     
  16. GrimWarlock

    GrimWarlock Daemon Prince of Tzeentch

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    ^ This actually still sounds somewhat safer than "Several guys have to smuggle the ring past the eye and the orcish army, fellbeasts, nazghuls, dark magic and mount doom itself!"
     
  17. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    Thing is marching the army in didn't actually work all that well - Sauron blocked them at the Black Gate and with the concentration of his armies there sneaking past was all but impossible - indeed Sauron thought that was what Gandalf's plan was, which is why his orcs stripped Mordor and made for the Black Gate - letting Frodo and Sam sneak in.
     
  18. GrimWarlock

    GrimWarlock Daemon Prince of Tzeentch

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    ^ Ummm no. They did that because there was an army attacking them... And frankly the Ring would be useless if he just let an army to barge into Mordor and slaughter all of his minions. He'd be the Lord of Empty Useless Volcanic Wastelandaria then
     
  19. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    The ring would have been more than happy for an army of humans around it - remember when Frodo first went to Gondor and was captured. Men are weak to the rings influence.

    And yes the army marching upon Mordor was the distraction, but had they had the ring with the army (ergo Fellowship not fractured) it would have failed to have had the ring with or near the army. Frodo and Sam being at the opposite end of Mordor by their own methods was a far superior approach - and remember Shelob was there and she is an ancient spider monster from the early times - Sauron wasn't expecting her to fall nor fail. At least not without someone powerful like Gandalf being present (ergo attracting their own interest).
     
  20. GrimWarlock

    GrimWarlock Daemon Prince of Tzeentch

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    ^ And it still just worked by plain luck... Thats is my problem about it. There surely was a better way of doing all of this. And probably if we sit down and think it through we would find one.