The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings presents a particular difficulty in reviewing, since it’s a novel published in three volumes. But I already gave the first volume its own review, and I strive to be consistent. (Other than, you know, disrupting Eric Van Lustbader Week… but this is much more interesting!) So let’s get started.
The Two Towers picks up directly where The Fellowship of the Ring left off. The Fellowship has shattered into three groups–Frodo and Sam are headed to Mordor, Merry and Pippin are captives of Orcs, and Legolas, Aragorn, and Gimli are searching for Merry and Pippin. Book Three follows the latter two journeys, while Book Four concerns itself only with Frodo and Sam.
I’ve covered a great deal of what I wanted to say about the series in my review of The Fellowship of the Ring–the world-building is, of course, absolutely flawless. We get to see more with the introduction of Rohan and a brief taste of Gondor, which are very different from each other. I did find myself getting lost more and more during The Two Towers, making the map and Tolkien’s marvelous geography absolutely invaluable.
Book Three is really where the rest of the Fellowship come into their own, especially Merry and Pippin. I loved seeing how similar and different Merry and Pippin really are–Pippin trying to use his wits to escape their situation, while Merry resorts to good, old-fashioned fisticuffs. Gimli and Legolas’ friendship develops further, and I was especially touched by Legolas vouching for Gimli to Treebeard. I also loved their good-natured competition during Helm’s Deep. It was a nice way, on their parts, to try and add levity to a very bad situation. While I was delighted to see Éowyn, she doesn’t have much to do in The Two Towers beside be attracted to Aragorn and take over Rohan while the men go to war. (I found the scene were Éomer recommends that Éowyn take command very sweet–I think Éomer and Éowyn are very understanding of each other.)
I’ve always been fond of Ents–the whole story of the Entwives just fascinates me–but I didn’t realize how dark they could be. Merry and Pippin’s relation of how the Ents destroyed Isengard was honestly thrilling, I have to say, as well as the whole concept of the Huorns–wild Ents that must be managed and move like shadows. I’m a sucker for overlapping stories, for whatever reason, and seeing the Huorns from the perspective of people who have no idea what they are at first was something I really enjoyed.
I also really enjoyed the Battle of Helm’s Deep, especially the nature of the siege. Tolkien manages to convey violence without too much gore, and the lulls and sudden action felt very realistic to me. I have to admit, I teared up a little when the smoke cleared and the dead were buried–it’s done with such somber economy.
I do wish that Book Three and Book Four intermingled, as they do in the film. Sam and Frodo’s journey through Mordor is quite grim and often very lonely. For some reason, I had a difficult time getting through the middle of Book Four, although I couldn’t put my finger on why–I think it’s the natural lack of action after the marvelous action of Book Three. Even the brief respite with Faramir could feel a little slow, although my heart went out to him when he related the vision of Boromir’s funeral boat. I did like Faramir, but he felt more like a nobler Boromir than anything else at this point.
I was especially touched by the depths of Sam’s love and devotion for Frodo, which even humbles Gollum into something almost hobbitlike at one point. It’s just so pure. Sam is just so wonderful–he’s heroic, he’s down to earth, and he is the most determined and loyal hobbit you’ll ever meet. I defy someone not to like Samwise Gamgee. The ending is absolutely heart wrenching, especially that one near-fatal misunderstanding. It’s very difficult not to dive immediately into The Return of the King.
Bottom line: The rest of the Fellowship really come into their own during The Two Towers, and Sam becomes the hero we all know he is. While Book Three and Book Four could have used a little more crossover between the two, The Two Towers–and especially Book Three–is an amazing middle.
I rented this book from my college library.