After Gandalf released Theoden from Saruman's spell in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Theoden wants to kill Grima for making him "crawl on all fours like a beast". But Aragorn stops him saying "enough blood has been spilled because of him".

Why wouldn't he just let him die, he surely deserved it!

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    one word: nobility.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Sep 15, 2015 at 17:36

1 Answer 1


There's a recurring theme in The Lord Of The Rings, both novels and movie, that showing mercy towards wrongdoers is an act of highest morality, and that killing should be done only for defense, not for revenge.

The clearest example of this is Gollum. In the first movie there's this bit of dialogue, taken verbatim from the books:

         It's a pity Bilbo didn't kill him when he
         had the chance.

         Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo's
         hand. Many that live deserve death, and
         some that die deserve life. Can you give
         it to them, Frodo? 

Frodo frowns.

                   GANDALF (CONT'D)
         Do not be too eager to deal out death in
         judgment...even the very wise cannot see
         all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum
         has some part to play yet, for good or
         ill, before this is over. The pity of
         Bilbo may rule the fate of many.

This sentiment by Gandalf is, of course, foreshadowing Gollum's importance later on, and his essential role in destroying the ring.

Aragorn, in this case, is showing the same mercy that he doubtless learned from Gandalf. And not surprisingly, the same mercy does, later, come back to help the good guys, to Saruman's downfall - in the books he is responsible for Aragorn taking possession of the Palantir and later on for Saruman's death during the Scouring of the Shire. In the movie, we have this scene in the Extended Edition of the Return of the King where Grima redeems himself:

Grima Wormtongue appears behind Saruman. 

               Grima! You need not follow him! You were 
               not always as you are now. You were once 
               a man of Rohan. Come down. 

Grima looks like he going to come down. 


               Grima…. Come down! Be free of him! 

               Free? He will never be free!


 Saruman turns around to Grima! 

               Get down cur! (slaps him to the ground) 



Grima rises up behind Saruman and attacks him with the knife, 
stabbing him twice in the back. Legolas aims an arrow at Grima 
who falls shot in the heart. Saruman falls from the tower and is 
impaled on a great wheel below. 
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    Why would Legolas shoot Grima there, if he was doing what they wanted? Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 15:48
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    @TankorSmash: They do not want Saruman dead; Saruman has valuable intelligence about what Sauron plans to do next. They want him alive but powerless. Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 16:50
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    @EricLippert True, but, still, why shoot Grima after he's already stabbed Saruman? It's not like killing Grima is going to bring Saruman back. This seems to violate the same mercy principle mentioned in the answer.
    – reirab
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 20:38
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    @reirab: That is a good question. In the movies, Leggy's core competencies seem pretty limited to shooting bad dudes with arrows and defying physics. Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 22:28
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    Also - speaking of comparing the books to the movies, in the books, it was actually Aragorn who wanted to kill Grima, and Theoden who didn't want any more killing - if I recall correctly, it had more to do with grief/"there has been enough violence in one day" (remember that for Theoden, the death of his son was just then sinking in, and he'd also thought of Grima as a friend - or at least, a valued adviser - up to that point, so he has all sorts of conflicting feelings over whether he really wants to see somebody else close to him die.)
    – ghostdog
    Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 18:51

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