The great circular fortress of Isengard, home to the corrupted wizard Saruman, figures prominently throughout the annals of Middle-earth. But Isengard achieves its greatest prominence during the events of The Two Towers-and the fortress pays the ultimate price. Here is a look at the stories, facts and figures behind one of the most infamous locales in The Lord of the Rings.
Built by the men of Gondor in the second age as an extension of their kingdom, Isengard fell into disuse during the third age until the arrival of Saruman.
With Gondor's blessing, the white wizard took up residence in Isengard some 200 years before Frodo and the Fellowship would embark on their journey to destroy the One Ring.
At the time, Gondor's rulers were unable to foresee the evil that would overtake Saruman, the effect it would have on their once-proud fortress, or the threats that would result to all of Middle-earth.
A Seat of Power
Seduced by the promises of Sauron, Saruman fell under the sway of the dark lord. Together, these imposing figures formed an evil alliance, bent on ruling all of Middle-earth.
Under Sauron's direction, Saruman converted Isengard from a place of natural beauty to a factory-like stronghold capable of creating and arming a huge army.
Eventually, Saruman would put together a force 10,000 strong, including fearsome Orcs as well as the Uruk-hai warriors, a new breed of uber-warriors birthed deep within the bowels of Isengard.
Isengard's tower of Orthanc rises 500 feet above the plains, an indestructible spire of black rock. Within its walls, Saruman plots the destruction of mankind and communicates with Sauron via the palantir, or ancient seeing stones.
Although not as impregnable as Sauron's tower of Barad-dur, Orthanc is capable of withstanding great assaults, including the attack by the Ents, which would reduce the rest of Isengard to rumble and put an end to Saruman's power.
"The Two Towers is basically about the peaking of Saruman's power, and finally his downfall."-Christopher Lee (Saruman)
The Sounds of Isengard
"Isengard is really based on machinery and industry. It's the sounds of trees being chopped down and killed and industry taking over. So there's the sound of blacksmiths and fires--really the opposite of natural sound. It's the sounds of death and destruction."-Ethan Van Der Ryn, Supervising Sound Editor
For The Two Towers scene where Saruman unveils his army of 10,000 warriors, director Peter Jackson required the sounds that can only be generated by thousands of full-throated roars. So, working with supervising sound editor Ethan Van Der Ryn, Jackson went to a New Zealand cricket stadium, where he put 25,000 fans to work. "Pete went in at halftime and got this rousing response," Van Der Ryn says. "He got them chanting in Black Speech [the language of Mordor]. It's incredibly powerful to have this many people chanting in unison."
"The rousing of the Ents is really exciting. When they wake up and march against Isengard, you see these trees becoming these incredibly strong, intimidating beasts, ripping apart castle walls and throwing things. That's probably my favorite part of The Two Towers."-Dominic Monaghan (Merry Brandybuck)