Evil Times

A Theme for Middle-earth: The Ring Quest


EVIL TIMES, a theme for Middle-earth in the subcategory of the Ring Quest, "is the only Ring Quest theme applied to any character suffering towards the destruction of the Ring" (Doug Adams, CR-FOTR liner notes, page 34) The others are only used for members of the Fellowship. The first iteration of this music is heard as Gandalf slumps down in the rain atop of Orthanc and the music reflects this mood well. It speaks of hardship and hopelessness. The music continues to reflect this mood throughout FOTR and TTT but it has moments in ROTK when it starts to lighten until finally, after the destruction of the Ring, it shifts from 'suffering and anguish' to 'triumph'. (Doug Adams, CR-ROTK liner notes, page 35.

There are four notes that comprise the Evil Times Theme. There are also four notes in Gandalf's Farewells. In the first two movies, the keys are enough to differentiate them even if the content of the scene didn't. But once the Ring is destroyed and the key shifts from minor to major, the two themes sound very similar.


Places this theme is heard in FOTR:

  • Just after we hear the Orc tell Saruman that the trees are strong and their roots are deep. The camera cuts to Gandalf atop Orthanc. He slumps down to the tower roof.

  • As Boromir examines the shards of Narsil in Rivendell.

Places this theme is heard in TTT:

  • As Sam says, 'Mordor. The one place in Middle-earth we don't want to see any closer.' (This is not on the CR-TTT)

  • According to the AS-TTT, the choir's melody during the burning of the Westfold is Evil Times.

  • As Gríma rides into Isengard, brass plays staccato notes of the Evil Times motif.

  • As they prepare to empty Edoras and Théoden tells Gamling that they will return.

  • High string play a variant as Gríma tells Saruman how the Rohirrim will take the road through the mountains as they flee to Helm's Deep.

  • The music heard as Faramir tells Frodo of Boromir's death uses snippets of the Evil Times motif.

  • Soft brass plays a variant as Legolas says, (in Elvish), "They are all going to die."

  • A grating version is played as Aragorn and Gimli survey the Uruks at the Gate. Gimli is confident they can take them but he needs tossing.

  • A variant is heard as Faramir & Co approach and find Osgiliath burning.

Places this theme is heard in ROTK:

  • As Pippin lets his curiosity get the better of him and he finagles the palantír from the sleeping Gandalf. He just wants 'to look at it'.

  • As the Three Hunters exit the Paths of the Dead to see the Black Sails of the Corsairs.

  • As the sobbing Sam descends the stairs of Cirith Ungol after being sent home by Frodo.

  • A braver version sounds as Théoden begins giving orders to the captains of the Rohirrim at the rise above Minas Tirith. "Éomer, take your Éored down the left flank. Gamling, follow the King's banner down the center. Grimbold, take your company right, after you pass the wall. Forth, and fear no darkness! Arise! Arise, Riders of Théoden!"

  • A sneaky version sounds as Sam spies the tower of Cirith Ungol, approaches it and enters through the doorway guarded by the Two Watchers. As he enters the Tower and begins making his way to the top, Evil Times becomes more aggressive.

  • A brief, weak version plays as Frodo, unaware that Sam is on his way, struggles with his bonds. Two more notes play stridently as Sam sticks the Orc with Sting but the phrase doesn't finish. Evil does not triumph. Then the two notes echo a few times, more softly and in a milder key as Frodo apologizes to Sam.

  • As Sam, gazing up at Mordor's dark sky, sees a star. (EE scene)

  • The pulsing music heard when the Black Gates open in front of the Army of the West is guided by Evil Times. (This is after Aragorn calls forth the Dark Lord and after the EE confrontation with the Mouth of Sauron.)

  • After the destruction of the Ring, as Frodo and Sam run from Sammath Naur and the destructing mountain, four hymn like notes play multiple times. In the AS-ROTK, Adams identifies this as Evil Times but connects it to Gandalf's Farewells. To my ears, I can hear no difference between this iteration of Evil Times and the version of Gandalf's Farewells heard outside of Moria although the difference may lay in the key signature, which I can't 'hear' by ear. I'm curious if there was some intention (from the beginning) to have the two themes converge or it happened unintentionally (unconsciously).