When Belmonte Castle became Helm’s Deep

A horde of red-eyed, coal-black-faced orcs besiege the gates of Helm’s Deep, the fortress behind which the city of Rohan defends itself in the second part of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. However, we are not talking about Peter Jackson’s The Two Towers, nor about the scene narrated by J.R.R. Tolkien in his book. We are talking about a less well-known and critically acclaimed film adaptation: Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings. But, wait a moment, the castle is something that rings a bell, why? It is the fortress of Belmonte, located in Cuenca.

Belmonte Castle

Belmonte Castle, Cuenca. | Shutterstock

Bakshi’s film was shot in the 1970s using what was then a very innovative technique: rotoscoping. This means, basically, that first the scene is shot and then the scene is illustrated. In other words, it’s as if we were talking about shooting two different films: a conventional film and an animated film. Regardless of the aesthetic and narrative result this achieved, the work was huge. This means that the scenes that appear at the end of this film were actually shot in Spain.

Belmonte Castle, declared a Historic-Artistic Monument, has preserved its structure, its external appearance and its state of conservation practically unaltered since it was built in the 15th century. For that reason, this monument is the ideal setting for recreating the past or even, as in this example, fiction. Belmonte not only is the setting of The Lord of the Rings, but also for the films El Cid, The Lords of Steel, Joan the Mad and The Knight Don Quixote. Now we can state that Spain has been one of the settings chosen to represent Tolkien’s world.

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