For the heck of it, relevant quotes about numbers concerning Saruman's thralls...
Chapter 7, Helm's Deep
"He that flies counts every foeman twice, yet I have spoken to stouthearted men, and I do not doubt that the main strength of the enemy is many times as great as all that we have here."
"The hosts of Isengard were advancing in silence now. Their torches could be seen winding up the coomb in many lines."
"Hundreds and hundreds more were pouring over the Dike and through the breach."
When the moon's sinking...
"Ropes with grappling hooks were hurled over the parapet faster than men could cut them or fling them back. Hundreds of long ladders were lifted up. Many were cast down in ruin, but many more replaced them, and Orcs sprang up them like apes in the dark forests of the South. Before the wall's foot the dead and broken were piled like shingle in a storm; ever higher rose the hideous mounds, and still the enemy came on."
(Well, Turbine certainly got the bit about the grappling hooks right in the BBs...)
"Between the Dike and the eaves of that nameless wood only two open furlongs lay. There now covered the proud hosts of Saruman, in terror of the king and in terror of the trees. They streamed down from the Helm's Gate until all above the Dike was empty of them, but below it they were packed like swarming flies."
Chapter 8, The Road to Isengard
"No Orcs remained alive; their bodies were uncounted. But a great many of the hillmen had given themselves up; and they were afraid, and cried for mercy."
Rohirrim corpses were piled in two mounds, but "the Orcs were piled in great heaps".
Chapter 9, Flotsam and Jetsam
(As told by the Hobbits)
"All Saruman's people were marching away. --- He emptied Isengard. I saw the enemy go: endless lines of marching Orcs; and troops of them mounted on great wolves. And there were battalions of Men, too."
"Well, of all sorts together, there must have been ten thousand at the very least," said Merry. "They took an hour to pass out of the gates. Some went off down the highway to the Fords, and some turned away and went eastward."
"As soon as our attack began, the few remaining rats in Isengard started bolting through every hole that the Ents made. The Ents let the Men go, after they had questioned them, two or three dozen only down at this end."
As an aside...
"But arrows are no use against Ents. They hurt them, of course, and infuriate them: like stinging flies. But an Ent can be stuck as full of orc-arrows as a pin-cushion, and take no serious harm. They cannot be poisoned, for one thng; and their skin seems to be very thick, and tougher than bark. It takes a very heavy axe-stroke to wound them seriously. They don't like axes. But there would have to be a great many axe-men to one Ent: a man that hacks once at an Ent never gets a chance of a second blow."
"And anyway (Saruman) did not understand (the Ents); and he made the great mistake of leaving them out of his calculations. He had no plan for them, and there was no time to make any, once they had set to work."
Thank you for producing this (what would be for me) tremendous amount of work and presenting it to us.
Originally Posted by Daeross
What do we do with this? How would Pippin know (at this point in the story) what Saruman understood of the Ents and how much into or out of his calculations and plans he left/included them? Was he just giving his opinions on the matters? Or are we to assume that since he was not corrected later in the book, (that I know of) that Tolkien was using Pip as a vehicle to let us know that; that was the reality (so to speak) of the situation.
At that point in the story the Ents had already overrun Isenguard. So perhaps Pippin is simply commenting on that fact? If the Ents were able to sneak in close to the gates, wait for the army to leave and then ravish the place as they did it might seem logical to Pippin that Saruman had no plan to deal with the Ents. If Saruman had created a plan to deal with the Ents things may have gone very differently.
Originally Posted by RKL
That's how I read Pippin's comment: that based on what he'd observed, how Saruman was apparently taken completely unawares by the Ents, Saruman hadn't figured them into his calculations.
Originally Posted by RKL
Completely off-topic, but...Meluihel: Ents sneaking? This I wanna see! :D
A bit off-topic, but I think it's a good summary of what we know of Saruman:
"A wizard should know better" -Fangorn
Originally Posted by Daeross
He used to converse with Treebeard. He knew they were there. While it is true that he probably did not know what they were doing at that time, he definitely should have known that slaughtering the trees in their forest would really piss them off. Even if Merry and Pippin did not show up, there was still a chance that just one Ent might wander toward the edge of the forest and see the devastation.
Indeed, he knew they were there. I doubt he knew just how fearsome they were if angry, though. It had been thousands of years since the last time the Ents did anything like they did to Isengard after all, well pre-dating his time in Middle Earth. I always tended to think that he saw Treebeard as a kind of funny old grandpa - knew a lot of about a lot of things, had lived a long time and all, but not all that big a deal when it comes to brute force.
Boy was he wrong.
Exactly. Capture the key city, even if it HAS been abandoned and the enemy is in your rear. Holding that city will win you the war by itself. Look how well it worked for Napoleon when he took Moscow.
Originally Posted by gasconade
You have to consider that Edoras has been lost before in Rohan's history - it happened during the Long Winter while Helm was king. Wulf took Edoras and drove the king and his people back to the Hornburg, where they withstood a siege of months. Edoras was, despite its site, not nearly as defensible as Helm's Deep or Dunharrow.
The only way capturing a capital wins you the war is if you capture the government in doing so. If not, they flee and organize resistance to the extent they can. If you do capture them, you can force them to agree to a treaty that gives you some form of control in return for not making things worse - or you could just kill them all, leaving the forces in the field no commanders and leaders to carry on the fight.