Horses play a significant role in the Lord of the Rings movies. One of the best equestrian scenes is the chase between the Nazgûl and Arwen in The Fellowship of the Ring. Frodo has been stabbed by a Mordor blade and is slowly dying as Arwen rushes him to Rivendell on her horse.
The chase scene, where Arwen and Frodo are fleeing from the Riders has some incredible riding. Here is the scene from the movie:
Have you ever wondered about the story behind these fictional horses? Or the real-life horses in these incredible movie scenes?
Today I wanted to dig into the story of Arwen’s horse. Not only because the movie dramatically changed this part of the story, but also because I wanted to learn more about the white horse used in these movie scenes.
Asfaloth in Lord of the Rings
In the movies Arwen’s character is actually a combination of Arwen (Aragorn’s love interest in the books) and another character named Glorfindel (a male elf warrior).
The original story by J.R.R. Tolkien has Glorfindel finding Aragorn and the Hobbits on their way to Rivendell. Then it is Glorfindel’s horse, Asfaloth, who carries Frodo to Rivendell. When the Nazgûl are almost upon them, Glorfindel commands his steed to carry Frodo to safety. And he does.
That’s right, the horse rescues Frodo, not the elf.
In the book, this scene unfolds about halfway through the chapter titled, “Flight to the Ford.” It reads:
[Glorfindel] searched the wound on Frodo’s shoulder… and his face grew graver, as if what he learned disquieted him…. “You shall ride my horse,” said Glorfindel. “I will shorten the stirrups up to the saddle-skirts, and you must sit as tight as you can. But you need not fear: my horse will not let any rider fall that I command him to bear. His pace is light and smooth; and if danger presses too near, he will bear you away with a speed that even the black steeds of the enemy cannot rival.” Lord of the Rings, pg 227
After Frodo mounts the horse, he continues with Glorfindel and the rest of the party for some time as they make their way to Rivendell. Eventually the enemy catches up to them though:
One moment Glorfindel turned and listened, then he sprang forward with a loud cry. “Fly!” he called, “Fly! The enemy is upon us!”
The white horse leaped forward…[Frodo] reined his horse in, and halted, swaying in the saddle.
“Ride forward! Ride!” cried Glorfindel to Frodo.
He did not obey at once, for a strange reluctance seized him… “Ride on! Ride on!” cried Glorfindel, and then loud and clear he called to the horse in the elf-tongue: noro lim, noro lim Asfaloth!
At once the horse sprang away and sped like the wind along the last lap of the Road. At the same moment the black horses leaped down the hill in pursuit…Frodo could no longer see his friends. .. He shut his eyes and clung to the horse’s mane. The wind whistled in his ears and the bells upon the harness rang wild and shrill… the elf-horse speeding as if on wings, passed right before the face of the foremost Rider.
Frodo heard a splash of water… He was across the Ford.Lord of the Rings, pgs 229-230.
As you can see, this scene is completely different in the movies. And while it is nice to have a brave female warrior rescuing Frodo, a part of me would have rather seen the horse do all the rescuing, as intended.
The Real Life Horse
Even though the story was changed for the movie, the fact remains there is some remarkable riding in that film – not to mention many beautiful horses. In fact, three separate Andalusian horses were used to play Asfaloth in the movie:
- Florian – A white Andalusian stallion who was later purchased by Viggo Mortenson and gifted to Jane Abbot, the stuntwoman who rode him in the film. Here is a great blog post about a woman meeting Jane & Florian back in 2015. As of December 2020 this horse is still alive.
- Hero – Used for high speed chases. I wasn’t able to find out what happened to this horse, but according to articles quoting Viggo Mortenson (linked above), this horse has passed.
- Odie – Used for scenes in which Arwen was unhorsed. I also couldn’t find out what happened to him. He has also passed away.