Gríma, called (the) Wormtongue, is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. He appears in the second and third volumes of the work, The Two Towers and The Return of the King and his role is expanded upon in Unfinished Tales. He is introduced in The Two Towers as the chief advisor to King Théoden of Rohan and henchman of Saruman. Gríma serves as an archetypal sycophant, flatterer, liar, and manipulator.
The name Gríma derives from the Old English or Icelandic word meaning "mask", "helmet" or "spectre". It is also possible to link the name to the English word "grim", which among other characteristics meant "ugly" in Old English. Devising names with two possible explanations through two distinct etymologies is a typical example of Tolkien's linguistic playfulness he often employed in his fiction (cf. the name of Orthanc).
Gríma, son of Gálmód, was at first a faithful servant, but he secretly fell in league with Saruman, and from then worked to weaken Théoden and his kingdom through lies and persuasion.
Tolkien describes him as "a wizened figure of a man, with a pale wise face, and heavy lidded eyes", with a "long pale tongue"; he later says his face is indeed very pale.
He was not much loved in Edoras; everyone except Théoden called him "Wormtongue", for his malicious words were like that of a serpent (or dragon, as this quite fits with the speeches of Glaurung in the First Age). Gandalf repeatedly compares him to a snake:
It is implied that Saruman had promised him Éowyn, the king's niece, as a reward for his services. Éomer accused him of "watching her under his lids and haunting her steps", but was prevented from killing him right there and then; he would have killed him for this earlier if it had not been against the law.
As Tolkien writes in Unfinished Tales, Gríma may even have given Théoden "subtle poisons" that caused him to become frail and appear to age even more.
His schemes were foiled when Gandalf the White and his companions arrived at Edoras. With a flash of light, Gandalf struck him motionless, and convinced the king that he was not as weak as his adviser had made him out to be. Upon Théoden's restoration, "many things which men had missed" were found locked in Gríma's trunk, including the king's sword Herugrim. Théoden decided to go forth to battle at the Fords of Isen, and Gríma was given a choice: prove his loyalty and ride into battle with the king, or ride into exile. Choosing the latter, he went to dwell with Saruman at Orthanc.
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