King Theoden emerges as one of the more complicated characters in The Two Towers because of his recognizable humanity. When we first meet him, he is under a curse of Saruman facilitated by Wormtongue. After having his eyes open by the power of Gandalf, Theoden realizes the snake that Wormtongue really is, but he immediately tries to fight his way back into the good graces of the King. Theoden is not going to have any of it and prefers to go with the guidance of Gandalf.
“‘If this is bewitchment,’ said Theoden, ‘it seems to me more wholesome than your whisperings.’”
This passage is reminiscent of the discussion of the real world in C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair. Theoden realized that there was something true in the advice of Gandalf that seemed much more trustworthy than whatever Wormtongue had to say. He doesn’t provide any more detail as to why he knew that one was better than the other other than our outside knowledge that the Gandalf is really right while Wormtongue is speaking falsely. Theoden is somehow able to cut through and identify that which is true because of the way he feels after hearing two accounts.
It seems to me, however, that this ability comes from experience. Because he is one who had been under this bewitchment before, he understood the difference between wholesome and unwholesome feelings. He knew how it felt to be in the darkness or in the light. In fact, he mentions that difference as soon as Gandalf freed him from the darkness.
“‘Dark have been my dreams of late,’ he said, ‘but I feel as one new-awakened.’”
I found this as something I can definitely relate to. We sometimes feel like we’re in the dark and wrapped up in some difficult circumstances. These can be circumstances we bring on to ourselves or that other people are putting on to us. Theoden did not have enough power to get himself out of this situation. He needed Gandalf to come and deliver him. We sometimes find that in our own lives as well. There can be times when we certainly don’t have the ability to get ourselves out of a bind, and if God doesn’t show up to help us, we are going to be stuck.
This story illustrates a powerful picture of deliverance. Theoden does not seem to be an obviously evil man, and I don’t get the impression that he intentionally wanted to become possessed by Saruman. He allowed bad counsel to pollute his mind, and he slowly went under this bewitchment. He slowly went into the darkness, not because he wanted to, but he ended up there nonetheless. Totally helpless, he needed someone to help them, and Gandalf was there. This is such a picture of humanity.
 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002), 519, Kindle Edition.
 Ibid., 515-516.