The Two Towers is the second part of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic adventure, The Lord of the Rings. Frodo and the companions of the Ring have been beset by danger during their quest to prevent the Ruling Ring from falling into the hands of the Dark Lord, Sauron, by destroying it in the Cracks of Doom. They have lost the wizard Gandalf in a battle with an evil spirit int he Mines of Moria; and at the Falls of Rauros, Boromir, seduced by the power of the Ring tried to seize it by force. While Frodo and Sam made their escape, the rest of the company was attacked by Orcs. Now they continue their journey alone down the great River Anduin---alone, that is, save for the mysterious creeping figure that follows wherever they go.
Original publication date
The middle volume of the The Lord of the Rings is far more than a placeholder between the two halves of the action. The stage is set in the first volume, the map flung out and
Tolkien never even thinks of the story as a three-part work with the problematic middle volume to fill up. Rather than just getting us to the third volume, The Two Towers continues the world-building of the first book and spins some new complications and cultures that get caught up in the War of the Ring. There's Rohan, a whole new country with a distinct history of its own. There are the Ents, the tree-herders, whose role in the conflict proves invaluable. Tolkien's imagination never flags, and he takes us right along with him.
A friend who is also currently reading this pointed out the wonderful relationship between Gimli the Dwarf and Legolas the Elf. The Dwarves and the Elves are estranged, each blaming the other for various ills, and both Gimli and Legolas carry that prejudice with them into the Fellowship. Tolkien does not go into details about how Gimli and Legolas began to change their opinions of one another; presumably it happens during the Fellowship's journey in the first volume. But in the second volume where we end up with three distinct narratives following the characters' different journeys, Tolkien is able to lavish more time on this unusual friendship, and it is very satisfying.
In the same way, The Two Towers sees Merry and Pippin becoming stronger, more defined characters. Out of the context of the Fellowship, they are forced to make decisions for themselves, and Tolkien begins to round out their characters.
Book Four is dedicated to the journey of Frodo, Sam, and Gollum, and every time I read this section I marvel at the complex relationships within it. Sam and Gollum create a "good servant/bad servant" dynamic, and while it can be very funny at times, it is also extremely sad. Sam and Gollum are more alike than Sam would care to admit; Tolkien often describes both of them using animal similes, and both hold interior dialogues with themselves at some point.
Gollum has to be one of the most fascinating characters ever written. Tolkien takes the pyschology of a modern junkie and imports it into his medieval fantasy world — and the effect is stunning. Gollum is pathetic, sneaky, deceptive, mournful, even hilarious at times. You never know what he is going to do next, and neither do Sam and Frodo. It sounds dull, an entire sixth of the book being devoted to this one leg of the slow journey to Mordor, but it isn't at all. The psychological studies are enough to keep me riveted, even apart from the events that push the plot forward.
Rob Inglis again does a very nice job reading this work. My only quibble is that sometimes after giving a line of dialogue in character, he will say the "he said" tag in that same character voice, though "he said" should technically be in the narrative voice. This trick annoyed me slightly when I noticed it, but not not enough to interfere with my overall enjoyment of the book. Inglis' voice for Gollum is brilliant — slightly different from Andy Serkis', of course, but just as good. He also does a very good job with the Orc voices, reaching down DEEP in his register to growl a bit.
I feel it impossible to do justice to Tolkien's genius in a short review. It's just amazing. Often as I listened, I knew what particular perfect phrase would be spoken next, because of my familiarity with the printed book! Tolkien's writing is just that memorable. And Rob Inglis' performance never distracts from the work itself. Listening to Tolkien on audiobook is one more way to enjoy his incredible creation. Recommended!
I am in awe of my own
No onslaught more fierce was ever seen in the savage world of beasts, where some desperate small creature armed with little teeth, alone, will spring upon a tower of horn and hide that stands above its fallen mate.
As I've said elsewhere, the friendship between Gimli and Legolas, along with the character development of Merry and Pippin are the things that made Book Three for me.
I also love the part in Book Four when Frodo and Sam talk about their journey as a story - a small part of the ongoing tale of the Silmaril. You could start pontificating about postmodernism and meta-fiction here, but really, the beauty of it is that we get a wonderful wider context of their quest, and it also somehow makes the fantasy element of the story become more real. And I love how they wonder if Gollum thinks of himself as the hero or the villain of the tale.
Treebeard is by far an away the most exciting character and it is a shame that he only appears for a while in book 3. There are many exciting battles although somtimes overly descriptive like much of Tolkien's writings - particularly when it gets to Frodo in the swamp. However book 4 should not be skipped entirely as is sometimes wished because there comes relief in the woods and herbs of Ithillian and more importantly one of the best monsters in the genre - Shelob, last unloved child of Ungoliant. Eowyn makes her apperance as the only other female character with depth. In this instance she is relegated to serving Aragorn some wine and swooning at him.
Shorter than the Fellowship, Two Towers has many less songs - and fewer Elves - but still takes it time. Relax and enjoy the Quest is progrressing and the cliffhanger ending will leave you desperate to read the final installments.
'It's saying a lot too much,' said Frodo, and he laughed, a long
It always amazes me how when you reread books at different points in life they are meaningful in different ways. The Two Towers really hit me with this concept. Back in the day my favorite was always the Rohan half, especially the battle of Helms Deep and Merry and Pippin's adventures with Treebeard. Even now Helm's Deep remains my favorite part of the movie. On this read through I was impressed by how engaging I found Frodo, Sam and Gollum's journey. Possibly it's because of all the lore and history revealed. Possibly it is the strength of Frodo and Sam's friendship and loyalty. Possibly it's due to being fascinated by Gollum/Smeagol's schizophrenia. Probably it is a combination of all three and more. Other than the few chapters with Faramir (which feels like a slog; Frodo being forced to deceive Gollum breaks my heart every time and I don't look forward to reading it) I blew through the second half of the book.
Tolkien sure knows how to write one hell of an exciting ending. Shelob. Enough said. It's straight to Return of the King for me.
Any fanstasy fan will love this book. I reccomend it to readers who loved the movies, of course. It's just as thrilling as it's cinema counterpart, and we all know that the books are always better anyway.
This book has the story really hitting its stride, and it was ultimately my favorite of the three. I loved the introduction of the Ents, the ancient tree-like creatures who are careful before acting, but then possess tremendous strength when they do. There is humor sprinkled in throughout, whether it be in the sharp words of Gandalf (who by the way is a bit of a pain if you ask me) or in the camaraderie that forms between those on the quest, but the moment I smiled the most was when Gimli meets Treebeard and while bowing, has his axe slip from his belt and clatter to the ground; I could just picture this little moment of embarrassment.
The character of Gollum is also fantastic, and this was one of my favorite passages:
“Down the face of the precipice, sheer and almost smooth it seemed in the pale moonlight, a small black shape was moving with its thin limbs splayed out. Maybe its soft clinging hands and toes were finding crevices and holds that no hobbit could ever have seen or used, but it looked as if it was just creeping down on sticky pads, like some large prowling thing of insect-kind. And it was coming down head first, as if it was smelling its way. Now and again it lifted its head slowly, turning it right back on its long skinny neck, and the hobbits caught a glimpse of two small pale gleaming lights, its eyes that blinked at the moon for a moment and then were quickly lidded again.”
Gollum is brought into an uneasy alliance with Frodo and Sam, leading them into battle against Shelob, which is memorable. With his epic way of telling this story, Tolkien continues a tradition that extends back to Beowulf (or The Iliad), and he had a huge influence on everything from Harry Potter to Game of Thrones. This middle book was on very firm footing at four stars, and I considered higher.
On coping with anger as the Ents do:
“’Good! Good!’ said Treebeard. ‘But I spoke hastily. We must not be hasty. I have become too hot. I must cool myself and think; for it easier to shout stop! than to do it.’
He strode to the archway and stood for some time under the falling rain of the spring. Then he laughed and shook himself, and wherever the drops of water fell glittering from him to the ground they glinted like red and green sparks. He came back and laid himself on the bed again and was silent.”
On fate, again from Treebeard the Ent:
“’We may help the other peoples before we pass away. Still, I should have liked to see the songs come true about the Entwives. I should dearly have liked to see Fimbrethil again. But there, my friends, songs like trees bear fruit only in their own time and their own way: and sometimes they are withered untimely.”
“It was Sam’s first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. He was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man’s name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace…”
This is a tremendously influential book in modern fantasy. If you're a fan of the genre at all I'd recommend reading The Lord of the Rings if only so you can spot the many cheap imitations. However, yes, some parts are a slog. On my reread of The Fellowship of the Ring I was mostly impressed with how readable it was--not so much the case I think with Book One of The Two Towers. The title refers to two towers that are ruled over by the dark lords of Middle Earth our heroes must defeat. At the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, the group that had combined forces was scattered. Frodo and Sam left to make their way to Mordor, and the rest of the group was split further. The other two hobbits, Merry and Pippin, were captured by Orcs and in the first half of the book Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas go hunting for them and we follow their adventures involving the tower at Isengard.
And this is where I really found the reading a slog. It seems whenever Tolkien has hobbits in the mix, the narrative is light, humorous and engaging. But when they disappear from the narrative, Tolkien goes into heroic saga mode. Gimli challenges those who impugn "his" lady's honor like a knight out of Mallory. Out of his and others' mouths come out words like: verily, alas, forsooth, ere, aught, oft, nay, yonder. I think that is what contributes to the reputation of The Lord of the Rings as stiff (and those songs--which I skip over.)
Even in that first part, though, there are pleasures. Our first glimpse, for instance, of Eowyn is in this part--the closest thing Tolkien has to a kick-ass heroine. Then there's the Ents who--not unlike Tolkien's hobbits--are a fresh fantasy creation--even after decades of fantasy. I loved Treebeard in particular.
And I don't think the second book of this volume, that follows Sam and Frodo into Mordor, is a slog at all. Gollum is genuinely creepy and pitiable and the entire journey is as epic and imaginative as something out of Dante's Inferno and the development of all three characters and Sam and Frodo's friendship is wonderful to read.
Many things changed in this novel and it was great to see how many of the characters are growing and maturing, changing and finding new inner strength and wit and hope. And, even though they are no longer on the main quest Legolas and Gimli still find plenty of excuses to knock some orc heads about as they journey into Rohan and discover the treachery of Sauroman. I also loved the Ents and the magic and history they brought to the story. It was also wonderful to read about the geography of the world so you could always follow along with where everyone was easily using one of the maps included in the book.
The detailed layers in the story telling in this volume helped the first half come to life as all sorts of new countries and politics, beings and histories, magic and more were brought to light. I loved the poems and the languages and the names that all flowed together to just make the story come that much more to life.
The second half of the book was much more quieter. Not as many characters and not quite as much going on. Frodo and Sam continue on alone until they discover Gollum, or Smeagol if you like, has been following them and decide it is better to follow than be followed and rope him (literally) into being their guide. This part of the story ended up being much more personal and seemed to go even faster as you followed the hobbits in their quest to Mordor and see over and over again just how dangerous, perilous and foolhardy the whole thing appears to be. Not to mention every time it seems like they have reached a milestone you realize they have so very much farther still yet to go. There's a whole third book yet!
Fans of the movie should really read the books as well. You can immerse yourself more in the world and really take in all of the details, the songs, the legends and the world itself on a far more intricate level that only a book can achieve.
The other half is better, but one has to admit that that's "no great mastery," to quote King Lune of Archenland. (_The Horse and his Boy_, Narnia part 5, which you *must* read if you're reading this review...)
That said, though, this is the _original_ Orc Book. Notice how much they accomplish in this book, and how little anyone else, on either side, can accomplish by comparison. (Well, everyone except the Ents...)
I didn't notice that the three or four times I read
That says something. I'm not sure what, though.