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The First Battle was fought on the night of 24 February III 3019, and the Second Battle on the night of the following 2 March
The Fords of Isen in western Rohan
Fought between Men and Orcs1
The western bank of the Fords was guarded by a pair of earthwork forts
The river Isen flowed through the Fords from the north
Isen ran on to the south before looping westward
Isen is pronounced 'eye-sen' (where 'eye' represents the sound of the English word 'eye')
Isen means 'iron'


About this entry:

  • Updated 9 January 2018
  • This entry is complete

Battles of the Fords of Isen

The defence of western Rohan

A pair of battles fought seven days apart for the vital Fords that guarded the western borders of Rohan, and stood between the Rohirrim and their enemies at Isengard. The Fords formed where the River Isen split into two streams, and so ran around a river-island, or eyot. Thus, there were two Fords at the crossing, to both the west and the east of the eyot.

To complicate the strategic situation, Isengard lay near the sources of the river. Saruman thus had the opportunity of sending his soldiers down the western or eastern bank, approaching the Fords from either side. The road running southwards along the western bank made this the easier route, but the slower eastern route allowed his armies to bypass the Fords and come directly into Rohan.

The First Battle - 25 February III 3019

Though Saruman's ultimate goal was to invade the Westfold of Rohan, his main target in the First Battle was the King's strong heir, Théodred son of Théoden. This first battle saw Théodred's forces attacked by Saruman's Wolfriders and Uruks. Falling back to the eyot itself, Théodred was felled by an axe-wielding Half-orc. Grimbold took command in his place, and was soon reinforced by Riders under the command of Elfhelm. Having achieved their main aim - the death of Théodred - Saruman's troops were content to withdraw.

The Second Battle - 2 March III 3019

After the loss of Théodred, Erkenbrand took general command of the forces of Westfold from the Hornburg, but left Grimbold to command at the Fords. A week after the First Battle, Saruman's forces assaulted the Fords in earnest, and Grimbold's attempt to hold the forts on the western bank failed. He was driven east to join Elfhelm, and so the eyot fell to the enemy. Soon the two commanders were driven apart, and Grimbold's forces were surrounded. Through skilful tactics, Grimbold was able to save most of his Men, but the Fords were left in the hands of Saruman.

The loss of the Fords in the Second Battle left the road open from Isengard to Helm's Deep, and Saruman's armies passed by the Fords on their way southwards. Thus they came to Helm's Deep in the evening of the day after the Second Battle, and the Battle of the Hornburg began.



Saruman's forces in the Battles were primarily composed of Orcs, but of various different kinds. They included the bulky warrior Uruks and smaller wolfriders, as well as at least some Orc-men. There were also a certain number of Men within his armies. We know of at least one detachment of Dunlending cavalry that took part in the First Battle, and there may have been other Dunlendings fighting alongside Saruman's Orcs.


About this entry:

  • Updated 9 January 2018
  • This entry is complete

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