Book Review: ‘The Two Towers’ by J.R.R. Tolkien

Posted: 30 January 2014 in Book reviews
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‘The Two Towers’ is part 2 of Tolkien’s epic trilogy and comprises of ‘books’ three and four.

Book three follows the adventures of the fellowship after Frodo and Sam depart.  At the end of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring,’ the orcs have attacked.  Aragorn is up at the high seat where Frodo and Boromir conversed before he tried to take the ring from the hobbit.  Aragorn hears Boromir’s horn, but arrives too late.  Boromir is hanging on to life and after a few words, he dies in Aragorn’s arms.  Gimli and Legolas show up and they discover that Merry and Pippin have disappeared.  Aragorn tells them that the orcs have them and they make quick pursuit.

They follow the orcs (who were slain by Éomer and company) to Fangorn.  In the forest, they discover that Gandalf is still alive and that the hobbits are alive and well.  Gandalf goes with the trio to Edoras to meet with Théoden, King of the Mark.  There they find the king’s mind poisoned by Wormtongue.  Wormtongue’s hold is destroyed and he flees back to Isengard, to Saruman.

It is decided to go to Isengard and strike down Saruman and end his evil campaign. On the way, they are detoured to Helm’s Deep where a massive battle ensues.  Miraculously, the armies of Isengard are defeated and then destroyed by the mysterious forest (a horde of Ents) that appears.

They leave Helm’s Deep and continue on to Isengard where they find it ravaged.  After the armies had left, other Ents attacked and trapped Saruman and Wormtongue in Orthanc.  They also find Merry and Pippin quite safe and sound.  After they had escaped the slaughter of the Orcs, they had ran across Treebeard (Fangorn is his forest) who took them with him to a council of ents were they decided to go to war against Isengard.

When the company finally go and speak with Saruman, Gandalf destroys Saruman’s staff.  Then Wormtongue nearly hits Gandalf with an orb he threw from one of the higher windows.  What he threw was a palantir, one of seven stones used for communication many centuries prior (and how Saruman communicated with Sauron).  On their way back, Pippin lets his curiosity take over and holds the orb.  He communicates with Sauron, but doesn’t give anything away.  They see one of the Nazgûl and Gandalf instructs the others to go to Helm’s Deep, while he takes Pippin and leaves for Minas Tirith.

Across the river, Sam and Frodo are trying to make their way to Mordor.  Before they get out of Emyn Muil, they capture Gollum (also called Sméagol) who they thought they’d lost.  Gollum leads them across the dead marshes and to the Black Gate, but it is closed, guarded, and has too much foot traffic.  Gollum tells them of a secret way further south near Minas Morgul.  Sam (who doesn’t trust Gollum) isn’t keen on the idea, but Frodo knows there really isn’t another choice.

As they pass through Ithilien, they meet with Faramir (Boromir’s brother) who takes them with him and his soldiers.  Once he learns of their mission, he allows them to go (and doesn’t kill Gollum).  They continue down through Ithilien and eventually pass Minas Morgul and up through Cirith Ungol.  Gollum then leads them through the tunnels and his betrayal is learned when they are attacked by Shelob, a giant spider.  Sam and Frodo get separated and when Sam finds him again, Frodo appears to have been killed.  He takes the ring to continue the journey, but some orcs appear and he learns that Frodo is still alive.  He follows the orcs to where they take him, but arrives too late and is stuck standing outside the gate.

I was considering watching the film again to make sure I correctly mentioned some of the scenes, but got annoyed so I turned it off.  It is a no brainer that the book is better than the film.  As I’ve been reading the three books, I’ve been amazed at the liberties Peter Jackson took when making the films.  When they first came out, I remember people saying how close they were to the books.  Sorry to say, but not really. I’ll highlight some of the major scenes as citing them all would take ages.

Alright, here are some changes from book 3.  So the whole scene about how the Ents were going to war was totally incorrect.  Sure their meeting took a long time, but they were keen on going to war and already knew about what Saruman had done to the trees.  Next, Théoden wasn’t being controlled by Saruman.  His mind was poisoned by Wormtongue.  Then the whole scene at Isengard was so wrong  that it would take ages to convey all the differences (for one Saruman never dies).  Book 4 had tons as well.  Gollum never started to become good.  He pretended.  Frodo wasn’t bothered by the ring until they passed Minas Morgul.  The interaction with Faramir was totally different and they were never taken to Osgiliath.  And Frodo wasn’t poisoned against Sam whilst climbing Cirith Ungol. They’ve been cool the entire time.

I’ll just straight into my qualms with the characters.  Faramir is such an amazing character and Jackson made him into a joke.  When I read about him, all I could think about was how noble a person he was.  The ring was within his grasp and he knew taking it was wrong.  He knew that even with good intentions the ring would bring about evil.  The people loved him because he was wise, kind, and a great leader.  He was none of those things in the film.  It was so infuriating.  Not to mention that Frodo is so much stronger in the books than the films.  They turn him into a weakling as well.  It is so aggravating.  The characters are so great and unique.  There was no need to change them.

I found the book very exciting.  My problem was that it was more interesting following Frodo and Sam than the rest of the fellowship.  There is a lot of description going on with the fellowship and everything they are doing.  With the hobbits it is much more linear.  I found it easier because you were following feelings and journey of two people rather than the goings on of a large group.  It is more intimate.  Plus their journey is wrought with more danger (and who doesn’t like reading about dangerous adventures).

Overall, of course I think you should read it.  It is an epic fantasy that has earned that classification.  Yes, it can be difficult to get though and some of the sentences will need to be reread a couple times as they can be quite confusing (some seriously don’t actually make any sense).  But if you can get through it, you will be glad you did.  It is worth the read.  Enjoy 😉

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