“Where now are the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the harp on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow.
Who shall gather the smoke of the deadwood burning,
Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?”

I’ve finished Book 1 and taken a breather and decided to start Book 2. It’s as amazing as the first one and so well written! The two towers discussed in the title are none other than Saruman’s lair and Sauron’s eye-tower. The movie tie-in edition that I have was perfect to depict the other tower well into distance.

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The Story

One major thing I’ve noticed when reading this book was that Legolas, Aragorn and Gimli’s story is the first half of the book, while Sam, Frodo and Gollum make for the second part of the story. The movie blends the two stories together so seamlesly and you can tell that they are happening at the same time. When reading the book you’re thinking – but where are the hobbitses? And when you finally reach the section dealing with them, it’s so much more disappointing than expected.

Also, the Battle of Helm’s Deep which was such an artistic masterpiece in the movie, is shortened to a very lacklustre paragraph in the book. I had to look back to see if I missed anything interesting when reading that might have been more of the battle.

Also – The story of the magical love story between Arwen and Aragorn that you see in the movie, the discussion between Arwen and her father, Elrond, is non-existent. No talks about mortals and elves getting it on together, about mortality and destiny. If anything, Aragorn has a thing for Theoden’s niece:

“Thus Aragorn for the first time in the full light of day beheld Éowyn, Lady of Rohan, and thought her fair, fair and cold, like a morning of pale spring that is not yet come to womanhood. And she was now suddenly aware of him: tall heir of kings, wise with many winters, greycloaked, hiding a power that yet she felt. For a moment still as stone she stood, then turning swiftly she was gone.”

So back to the story.

“There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark.”

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Bad-ass Gandalf isn’t dead and he returns in a blinding reveal as Mithrandir. When called Gandalf, he says he remembers that name as he once was called long long ago but that is not what he is anymore. He is now a white wizard who has become such after a transcendental death after fighting the Balrog for many days and nights.

Aragorn son of Arathorn is no longer a ranger but more of a prince who will become king of men in Book 3. Legolas is pretty amazing with his elf-eyes and Gimli is again one that steals the show in the book by his speech and actions and my only desire is that he had more of this in the movie as I feel he was underused.

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Merry and Pippin find the old, magical trees of a race called Ents who speak very slowly as all things have long names and they must be said in full in order for them to be fully understood. This is a recurring theme in LoTR – names are magical and they should be spoken carefully and never misused. Some words have more than one name in Elvish or the Common Tongue. The Ents are no strangers to names and their power and they very slowly ponder the issues that Merry and Pippin have brought to them.

“I am not going to tell you my name, not yet at any rate.’ A queer half-knowing, half-humorous look came with a green flicker into his eyes. ‘For one thing it would take a long while: my name is growing all the time, and I’ve lived a very long, long time; so my name is like a story. Real names tell you the story of things they belong to in my language, in the Old Entish as you might say. It is a lovely language, but it takes a very long time saying anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to.”

Once they’ve been convinced (after seeing the chopped up trees in Isengard), they attack Isengard and flood the orc mines by breaking the dam. Gandalf and the rest of the fellowship finds them smoking a pipe guarding the entrance to the Ortanc tower where Saruman took last refuge. I think it’s not pretty well explained in the movies but Saruman, who once was a white wizard, is now a multi-coloured one with his robe changing colours everytime people blinked. When Gandalf faced him, he stripped him of his power given to him by the council of wizards and broke his staff.

Saruman also had his own plans for power and that’s why he had his own army of men and orcs. He was planning on fighting alongside Sauron until the lands of men were destroyed and then take the rest from Sauron. Sauron wasn’t dumb either so he used a magic orb to keep communications open with Saruman. When the orb was found by Merry, the link had been broken and now Sauron was thinking that Saruman had betrayed him and was planning on terminating that side-business using one of his Nazgul.

The second half focuses on Frodo and Sam and their journey to Mordor as guided by the creature known as Smeagol now. They are captured by a brave man, brother in arms of Boromir.

Faramir (like Aragorn) quickly recognises the ring bearers and the One Ring as a danger and a temptation, and does not hesitate long before letting Frodo and Sam go. He makes Frodo promise to be responsible for the creature and tells the creature that it would be slain. In the film, Faramir first decides that the Ring shall go to Gondor and his father Denethor, as a way to prove his worth. In the film, Faramir takes Frodo, Sam and the Ring to the Battle of Osgiliath—they do not go there in the book.

When Faramir finds out where Smeagol intends to take them through, he advises against but Frodo deems that Smeagol is too tame to try and kill them. The truth is that Smeagol and Gollum had reached an alliance and they want the ring and in order to get it, they will take the two hobbits to the caves of Shelob, a monstruous spider from ancient times, and have her eat them.

They manage to fight the beast off and blind it with the vial received from Galadriel and wound it grievously with the elf-swords. They put Gollum on the run but Frodo has been entangled in the webs and appears dead to all men.

I’ve nearly shed tears at the amazing nature of Samwise, who despite the perils, stays true to his master and refuses to leave him until he feels that Frodo’s quest is now his and he must be the one to destroy the ring.

“Then as he had kept watch Sam had noticed that at times a light seemed to be shining faintly within; but now the light was even clearer and stronger. Frodo’s face was peaceful, the marks of fear and care had left it; but it looked old, old and beautiful, as if the chiseling of the shaping years was now revealed in many fine lines that had before been hidden, though the identity of the face was not changed. Not that Sam Gamgee put it that way to himself. He shook his head, as if finding words useless, and murmured: “I love him. He’s like that, and sometimes it shines through, somehow. But I love him, whether or no.”

I had to laugh when I read somewhere that some crazy people say that the title “Two Towers” is a metaphor for two penises and there is a homosexual relationship between Frodo and Sam. Nope. None of that in here. Just male friendship to the max!

The scene on the stairs of Cirith Ungol, where Gollum sees him resting his head in Sam’s lap, is quite moving.

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”

The other thing, which I think I saw before without really seeing it, is the extent to which the bearers of the Three Rings – Elrond, Galadriel and Gandalf – are controlling the action. Their thoughts are always on Frodo, guiding and helping him, and they can see far, both in space and in time. On several occasions, when Frodo is on the point of succumbing to the power of the Ring, Gandalf is able to rescue him. And when Galadriel meets him in Lórien, and she says that the fate of the Quest hangs by a hair, I think she can already foresee the whole continuation, and she knows how very difficult it will be. Everything depends on Frodo’s being able to show mercy to Gollum, because he will play a crucial role at the ultimate moment; but, for reasons that are never explained, neither she nor Gandalf can tell him why.

Final Mark: 5/5

 

Themes:

  • war and the losses incurred by each side
    • “War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”
  • everlasting friendship
  • perseverance through adverse conditions
  • good vs evil
  • neutrality and the dangers in an all-or-nothing war (Ents)

Kudos to the actor who played this guy: the  portrayal was truly accurate down to the manner of speech and mannerisms.

The beauty and history of middle earth is introduced through a snapshot of that history in the War of the Ring. Rohan is introduced to the reader. Eowyn, Eomer, Faramir, King Theodin, Saruman and Wormtongue come onto the scene. The Ents have a meeting with the Hobbits and tear apart Isengard. The book is wonderful, as the history goes as deep as the roots of the Guardians of Fangorn. Every character has depth and personality, history, and inner struggles.

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Long Live The Fellowship!