- "Late is the hour in which this conjurer chooses to appear. Lathspell I name him. Ill news is an ill guest."
- —Grima Wormtongue to Gandalf, in Two Towers
Little is known of Gríma before he became counselor of Théoden in Edoras. His childhood is a mystery. What is known is that Gríma, son of Gálmód, and a native of Rohan, joined the service of Saruman in secret and worked as a spy to weaken Théoden and his kingdom, using his voice to keep the spell intact while Saruman is inside the King.
It is likely that Saruman had promised him Éowyn, the king's niece, as a reward for his services; in the novel, Wormtongue is accused of "watching her under his lids and haunting her steps" and in the film, he makes clumsy romantic overtures to her as she weeps for her dead cousin Theodred. He also exiles Éowyn's brother Éomer and his army from Rohan, only saying that he sees "too much" after Éomer says, "Too long have you watched my sister, too long have you haunted her steps". It is also possible that he has Dunlending ancestry, since he is darker-haired and physically smaller than the other Rohirrim.
After Gandalf usurps Gríma's control of Théoden and releases the King, "many things which men had missed" were found locked in his trunk, including Herugrim, the blade of Théoden. With his betrayal revealed, Théoden presents Gríma with a choice: either ride into battle for the King or be exiled. Choosing the latter, he went to dwell with Saruman at Orthanc. In the book, Gríma arrived at Orthanc after the battle of the Ents, but in the movie, he was there before the battle began. There, Gríma gave Saruman important information about Théoden's plans to leave Edoras with his people suspecting an attack would come, and that they would flee to Helm's Deep, the main fortress of Rohan, where the Battle of the Hornburg would be fought. Later, Saruman had cause to regret Gríma's dwelling in Orthanc when, following the confrontation between Saruman and Gandalf, he foolishly threw a "heavy rock"— which was actually the Palantír of Orthanc at either Gandalf or Saruman (it is stated that "he couldn't decide which he hated most"), an act for which Saruman seems to have punished him severely (Pippin picked up the Palantír). Saruman was also said to have scalped Gríma and beaten him over time.
Gríma then accompanied Saruman to the Shire, where the two sought revenge in petty tyranny over the hobbits (though Saruman had already been exerting control from afar by sending evil Men to the Shire). During this time, Gríma became increasingly degraded until he was a crawling wretch, a beggar, almost resembling Gollum, and Saruman shortened his nickname to "Worm". Gríma killed Lotho Sackville-Baggins and may have eaten him, which he claims to have done in the book under Saruman's orders.
Spurred by the words of Frodo that he did not have to follow Saruman, and having been pushed over the edge when Saruman scorned him, Gríma used a hidden knife to slit Saruman's throat, killing him (only in the book). He then tried to make his escape, but was quickly killed by several arrows fired from the hobbits present, ending his short and unhappy life.
Gríma actually played a major role in the story of The Lord of the Rings prior to his first appearance in The Two Towers. In Unfinished Tales, Tolkien writes that on the 20th of September in 3018 Gríma was captured by the Nazgûl in the fields of the Rohirrim, while on his way to Isengard to inform Saruman of Gandalf's arrival at Edoras. He was interrogated and divulged what he knew of Saruman's plans to the Nazgûl, specifically his interest in the Shire, and its location. Previously, the location of the Shire had been unknown to the Nazgûl, but they knew it to be the home of 'Baggins', whom they thought still had the Ring. Gríma was set free, but only because the Lord of the Nazgûl saw that he would not dare tell anyone of their meeting and might do harm to Saruman in the future. The Nazgûl set out immediately for the Shire. Had the Ringwraiths not captured Gríma, they would instead have pursued Gandalf into Rohan, and possibly not find the Shire until much later, giving the Hobbits and then the Fellowship a considerable head start.
Portrayal in adaptationsEdit
Ralph Bakshi's Lord of the Rings filmEdit
In Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated film of The Lord of the Rings, Gríma Wormtongue was voiced by Michael Deacon (and his name is pronounced as "Gree-ma"). Here he is much smaller than is implied in the book. Paul Brooke played Gríma in BBC Radio's 1981 serialisation.
Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogyEdit
In Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films, Gríma was played by Brad Dourif. Here, he is depicted as dark-haired, emaciated and eyebrowless as well as extremely pale (the only detail coming from the book). According to Dourif, Jackson encouraged him to shave off his eyebrows so that the audience would immediately have a subliminal reaction of unease to the character.
The "Scouring of the Shire" episode does not appear in the film version, so the deaths of Saruman and Gríma have been moved to an earlier scene, "The Voice of Saruman". This scene was cut from the theatrical releases of the films, but can be found on the Extended Edition DVD of The Return of the King.
In this scene, the assembled leaders of the West ride to Ent-occupied Isengard to confront Saruman. Théoden offers to forgive Gríma for his treachery, pointing out that he was not always a villain, as he was manipulated by Saruman (as Théoden himself was). Gríma goes to accept the offer, attempting to escape Saruman's cruelty, but Saruman interferes, claiming that Gríma belongs to him forever. When Gríma objects, Saruman slaps him violently to the ground. Enraged at being constantly ill-treated by his enslaver, Gríma rises and stabs Saruman twice in the back with a dagger. Saruman's body then falls from the tower and is impaled on a spiked wheel, a remnant of his war machines, and the Palantír slips out of his cloak. Gríma himself is shot with an arrow fired by Legolas, who had hoped to prevent him from killing Saruman (who was in the process of revealing vital information). It is assumed he dies of his wound.
Other than the location, the manner of the characters' deaths is very much the same. As in the book, Gríma kills Saruman, not by stabbing him in the back, but slitting his throat (probably because this would have been too graphic for a PG-13 movie), and then shot with an arrow by Legolas (in the book, a hobbit). This scene was to have included a line where Saruman blamed Gríma for killing Théodred; replacing Lotho in the context of that scene, but the line was cut out. However, the line is included in a scene in the The Lord of the Rings: Gameboy Advance version of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King after the player defeats Saruman in the Tower of Orthanc.
Gríma appears in The Lord of the Rings Online.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, "The Scouring of the Shire"
- Unfinished Tales