Actor behind LOTR’s King of the Dead before taking on the role

In The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn enlists the help of the King of the Dead, a character with a millennia-long history predating the events of The Return of the King.

The King of the Dead played a pivotal role in Aragorn’s triumph at Pelennor Fields, where his spectral army vanquished the Corsairs of Umbar, preventing their reinforcement of the enemy. Following this victory, Aragorn, the rightful King of Gondor, released the King of the Dead and his ethereal followers, deeming their oath fulfilled. However, this marked the conclusion of the character’s arc in The Lord of the Rings, leaving untold tales that The Return of the King did not delve into.

English actor Paul Norell portrayed the King of the Dead in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. The rich lore behind J.R.R. Tolkien’s works extends far beyond the narrative of Frodo, and Peter Jackson’s film adaptation only scratches the surface.

The backstory of the King of the Dead unfolds over 3000 years before The Lord of the Rings, during the end of the Second Age. At that time, the living ruler of the Mountain Men, dwelling near Dwimorberg in the White Mountains, pledged allegiance to Isildur and Elendil, founders of Arnor and Gondor. Despite initially worshiping Sauron, the Mountain King swore an oath at the Stone of Erech, the same location Aragorn later summoned him.

The tragic tale continues as the Mountain Men, obligated by their oath, refused to betray Sauron during the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. Ignoring Isildur’s summons, they faced a curse. Isildur declared that there would be no king after the Mountain King’s death, and his people would find no peace until aiding Gondor.

The War of the Last Alliance, the Siege of Barad-dûr, and the Disaster of the Gladden Fields unfolded over the following years. Isildur’s eventual demise marked the beginning of the Mountain Men’s long wait, leading to their eventual transformation into the Dead Men of Dunharrow, with the King of the Dead as their leader.

In The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Ring, thousands of years later, Aragorn, Isildur’s heir, summoned the King of the Dead and his spectral army, fulfilling the ancient oath and bringing closure to their haunting saga. The intricate timeline and events in Middle-earth offer a deeper understanding of this captivating character’s journey.

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