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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Lord of the Rings:
Did You Ever Notice... The King of the Dead's costume?

Arwen's daughter

May 11 2011, 8:33pm

Post #1 of 10 (2372 views)
Did You Ever Notice... The King of the Dead's costume? Can't Post

Let's compare kings. We just looked at Aragorn on his way to the black gate. And now we have a much older, less sympathetic king. I think the first thing people notice is the wear and tear on this costume. Nothing has escaped time, it seems. We see the red, color of kings, repeated in a big way here.

The crown looks like even the metal has been eaten away over the centuries. These motifs don't look like any other culture we've seen, to me. What do you guys think?

Notice the etching on the "ribs" and the gold cording around it neck. Is that meant to symbolize a noose?

Very handsome vambraces. (ignore the green, it's the lighting when it was on display at ComicCon in 2004)

The chain mail is made up of many different styles of chain, even a little bit of Dwarvish mail. I hope it comes through in this scaled-down picture.

And of course every king needs a cape.

I really encourage you guys to pop over to AlleyCatScratch's page on this costume to see the full-sized versions of these images (and more).

So, any thoughts?

Did You Ever Notice? is a running series taking a look at some of the details in LOTR one costume at a time. It appears on no particular day and follows absolutely no order. Look for me when you see me. In the meantime, you can always find previous discussions over at my Costume Discussion Archive.

My LiveJournal
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TORn's Costume Discussions Archive


May 11 2011, 9:03pm

Post #2 of 10 (1686 views)
Helmet iconography [In reply to] Can't Post

Notice the vulture motif on the helmet? High 'shouldered' wings with the head hanging low between them. I suspect this was intended in a way to mirror the watchers at Cirith Ungol- to suggest some kind of a kinship or link (possibly purely cinematic) between two places of ill repute or possibly a similar sense of malignant watchfulness. I can't remember the origin of the watcher right this moment- were they one of the Orcs' additions or do they date to the original Gondorian structure? The answer would help confirm whether the iconography is intended to imply the influence of one on the other or whether it was intended by the designers to be a lucky coincidence. In addition, the vulture, being a carrion bird would be a very suitable icon for the men of Dunharrow- a symbolic nod to their fate (to end up as the shades of desiccated carcasses).

The form of the costuming and armour strikes me as having more in common with the culture of Rohan as depicted in the films (though by the book it would more likely be Dunnish) the spangel type helms with long separate cheekguards, the latticework, the preponderance of chain over plate. Which side of the mountains do you believe the men of Dunharrow to feel more kinship towards- Calenardhon or Gondor?

Dr Death


May 11 2011, 9:11pm

Post #3 of 10 (1682 views)
thanks 4 the photos [In reply to] Can't Post

I've never spent time about this, yes I saw some frontal photos and of face but I passed over the costumes
it's an original style of dressing, that takes inspiration from different cultures, let's say it's a mix of them, and it's damn perfect 4 the King of the Dead, sounds like in him are survived traditions of various cultures; and anothe thing that catches my attention is his face (aside the crown): the time has passed but the strongness is still the same...


Superuser / Moderator

May 12 2011, 1:00am

Post #4 of 10 (1679 views)
I do like the effect of the rotting metal. [In reply to] Can't Post

It’s a great shorthand for the length of time since these ghosts were men, and also how these are ‘unclean’ or ‘fallen’ ghosts – not your bog-standard shades of Men but ghosts with a cursed history.

It took the movie appendices for me to pick up on how the ghosts’ armour was designed to replicate a human skeleton. It looks obvious now! (Also, good call on the golden noose – it certainly fits within the ‘cursed’ motif.)

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauron’s master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded b*****d with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.

Ataahua's stories


May 12 2011, 1:07am

Post #5 of 10 (1692 views)
These are always my favorite posts. [In reply to] Can't Post

You really should write a book and collect all these images you have collected over the years.

TORn member formally known as ryan1976.


May 12 2011, 2:38pm

Post #6 of 10 (1704 views)
I like that he's still got a shred of dignity... [In reply to] Can't Post

Well,"shreds" anyway...

Love the detailing on this costume, which is hard to see when he's all whispy-special effected on screen, or in the dark cave setting. It gives you the idea that there's still something inside this guy that has value and worth, something that could be reclaimed by Aragorn, kind of like a piece of tarnished silver. He still comes off as a leader and regal even all tattered and moldy. .

The King of the Dead is my favorite part of the whole Paths of the Dead sequence -- he seemed a worthy adversary to Aragorn, and I like the interplay between the two characters throughout. Thanks for giving me a better look at him!



May 12 2011, 9:26pm

Post #7 of 10 (1671 views)
I love how his chest armor is evocative of skeletal ribs. // [In reply to] Can't Post


LOTR soundtrack website
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Forum Admin / Moderator

May 13 2011, 8:29am

Post #8 of 10 (1725 views)
Does the crown symbolize death? [In reply to] Can't Post

I've always been struck by those vultures carved on the crown.

It's impossible that they actually represent "the King of the Dead" because that would imply the crown was made after Isildur's curse.

Just like Rohan esteemed horses because their life revolved around them, and Gondor esteemed sea-bird's wings in memory of their Numenorean lineage, I wonder if this was a culture that somehow esteemed vultures (like the Parsis who believe that the bodies of their dead must be fed to vultures) which is why those birds show up on the King's crown.

Wraith Buster

May 13 2011, 10:40pm

Post #9 of 10 (1661 views)
I like the cape [In reply to] Can't Post

The helmet totally finishes off the look I think. I'm always wowed at how awesome they did on the details in LOTR.

Pedich Edhellen? Lau? Hria cuilë.

End of line.

The Shire

May 18 2011, 3:46am

Post #10 of 10 (1676 views)
what kingdom were they from?? [In reply to] Can't Post



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