The Two Towers

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This article is about the second volume of The Lord of the Rings. For the live-action movie adaptation, see The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. For other uses, see The Two Towers (disambiguation).
The Two Towers
The Two Towers (novel) -1st edition cover.JPG
First edition
Author J. R. R. Tolkien
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Fantasy
Publisher George Allen & Unwin[1]
Publication date
November 11, 1954
Preceded by The Fellowship of the Ring
Followed by The Return of the King

The Two Towers is the second volume of J. R. R. Tolkien's high fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings. It is preceded by The Fellowship of the Ring and followed by The Return of the King.

Title[edit]

The Lord of the Rings is composed of 6 "books", aside from an introduction, a prologue and 6 appendices. The novel was originally published as 3 separate volumes due to post-World War II paper shortages and size and price considerations.[2] The Two Towers covers Books III and IV.

Tolkien wrote, "The Two Towers gets as near as possible to finding a title to cover the widely divergent Books 3 & 4; and can be left ambiguous."[3] At this stage he planned to title the individual books. The proposed title for Book III was The Treason of Isengard. Book IV was titled The Journey of the Ringbearers or The Ring Goes East. The titles The Treason of Isengard and The Ring Goes East were used in the Millennium edition.

In letters to Rayner Unwin Tolkien considered naming the two as Orthanc and Barad-dûr, Minas Tirith and Barad-dûr, or Orthanc and the Tower of Cirith Ungol.[3][4] However, a month later he wrote a note published at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring and later drew a cover illustration, both of which identified the pair as Minas Morgul and Orthanc.[5][6] In the illustration, Orthanc is shown as a black tower, three-horned, with the sign of the White Hand beside it; Minas Morgul is a white tower, with a thin waning moon above it, in reference to its original name, Minas Ithil, the Tower of the Rising Moon. Between the two towers a Nazgul flies.

Plot summary[edit]

Book III: The Treason of Isengard[edit]

As Aragorn searches for Frodo, he suddenly hears Boromir's horn. Aragorn finds Boromir mortally wounded by arrows and his assailants are gone. Before Boromir dies, Aragorn learns that Merry and Pippin were kidnapped by Saruman's Uruk-hai in spite of his efforts to defend them, and that Frodo had vanished after Boromir had attempted to take the Ring from him and that he truly regretted his actions. In his last moments, Boromir charges Aragorn to defend Minas Tirith from Sauron. With Legolas and Gimli, who had been fighting Orcs by themselves, Aragorn pays his last tributes to Boromir and sends him down the Great River Anduin on a funeral boat, the usual methods of burial being impractical. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli later resolve to follow the Uruk-hai captors and save Merry and Pippin. Meanwhile, after some hardship, Merry and Pippin escape when the Uruk-hai are attacked by the horsemen of Rohan, called the Rohirrim or "Riders of Rohan". Merry and Pippin escape into the nearby Fangorn Forest, where they encounter the giant treelike Ents. The Ents resemble actual trees, except they are able to see, talk, and move. These guardians of the forest generally keep to themselves, but after a long contemplation on whether or not the Hobbits were friends, or foes, their leader Treebeard persuades the Ent council to oppose the menace posed to the forest by the wizard Saruman, as suggested by Merry and Pippin, as Treebeard realizes that Saruman's minions have been cutting down large numbers of their trees to fuel the furnaces needed for Saruman's arming of his dark army.

Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas come across the Riders of Rohan led by Éomer, nephew of King Théoden. The trio learn that the horsemen had attacked a band of Orcs the previous night, and that they had left no survivors. However, Aragorn is able to track a small set of prints that lead into Fangorn, where they see an old man who disappears almost as soon as they see him — they assume him to be Saruman. Shortly afterward, the three meet Gandalf (again, they at first take him to be Saruman), whom they believed had perished in the mines of Moria. He tells them of his fall into the abyss, his battle to the death with the Balrog and his resurrection and his enhanced power. Gandalf tells them that Merry and Pippin are safe, and the four ride to Rohan's capital Edoras, where Gandalf rouses King Théoden from inaction against the threat Saruman poses. In the process, Saruman's spy in Rohan (and King Théoden's trusted advisor) Gríma Wormtongue, is expelled from Rohan. Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas then travel with Théoden's troops to the fortress of Hornburg, in the valley of Helm's Deep. Gandalf rides away before the battle begins, though he gives no reason for doing so. At the Hornburg, the army of Rohan led by King Théoden and Aragorn resist a full-scale onslaught by the hosts of Saruman. Yet, things begin to go ill with Rohan, until Gandalf arrives with the remains of the army of Westfold that Saruman's forces had previously routed. The tide now turns in Rohan's favour, and Saruman's orcs flee into a forest of Huorns, creatures similar to Ents, and none escape alive. Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas, along with King Théoden and Éomer, head to Saruman's stronghold of Isengard.

Here, they reunite with Merry and Pippin and find Isengard overrun by Ents, who had flooded it by breaking a nearby dam of the river Isen, and the central tower of Orthanc besieged, with Saruman and Wormtongue trapped inside. Gandalf offers Saruman a chance to repent, but is refused, and so casts Saruman out of the Order of Wizards and the White Council. Gríma throws something from a window at Gandalf but misses, and it is picked up by Pippin. This object turns out to be one of the palantíri (seeing-stones). Pippin, unable to resist the urge, looks into it and encounters the Eye of Sauron, but emerges unscathed from the ordeal. Gandalf and Pippin then head for Minas Tirith in Gondor in preparation for the imminent war against Mordor, while Théoden, Merry, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas remain behind to begin the muster of Rohan, to ride to the aid of Gondor.

Book IV: The Journey to Mordor[edit]

Frodo and Sam discover and capture Gollum, who has been stalking them in their quest to reach Mount Doom and destroy the One Ring, as Gollum attempts to reclaim the Ring for himself. Sam loathes and distrusts him, but Frodo pities the poor creature. Gollum promises to lead the pair to the Black Gate of Mordor and for a time appears to be like his old self Sméagol. He leads them through a hidden passage of the Dead Marshes in order to avoid being spied by Orcs. Frodo and Sam learn that the Dead Marshes were once part of an ancient battlefield, upon which the War of the Last Alliance was fought. Upon reaching the Black Gate, Gollum persuades Frodo and Sam not to enter, where they would have been surely caught. Gollum tells them of a secret entrance to Mordor. Thus, they head south into Gondor's province of Ithilien, where they are accosted by a group of Gondorian rangers led by Faramir, the brother of Boromir. Frodo learns from Faramir of Boromir's death. Faramir and the Rangers lead Frodo and Sam into a secret hideout where Sam accidentally reveals to Faramir that Frodo carries the One Ring. As a result of this, Frodo reveals the plan to destroy the Ring in the fires of Mount Doom. Later that night, Gollum is captured diving for fish into the sacred pool. Frodo negotiates Gollum's freedom with Faramir. The following morning Faramir allows them to go on their way, but warns them that Gollum may know more about the secret entrance than he has been telling them.

Gollum leads them past the city of Minas Morgul and up a long, steep staircase of the Cirith Ungol and into the lair of an enormous spider named Shelob. Gollum hopes to get the Ring from Frodo's bones after Shelob is done with him. The hobbits escape Shelob in her lair and mistakenly assume that they are safe. However, Shelob sneaks up on Frodo. Sam attempts to warn Frodo but is attacked by Gollum. Shelob stings Frodo in the back of the neck and he collapses to the ground. Sam fends off Gollum, who runs off back towards Shelob's cave. Sam then drives off Shelob by wounding her with Frodo's blade, Sting. After seeing Frodo lifeless and pale, Sam assumes that Frodo is dead and debates chasing Gollum and abandoning the Quest in favour of vengeance. Sam resolves to finish the Quest himself and takes the Ring, but when Orcs take Frodo's body, Sam follows them. He learns that Frodo is not dead, but only unconscious, and is now a prisoner. Sam falls into a swoon as the orcs reach the undergate of the Tower of Cirith Ungol. The book ends with the line, "Frodo was alive but taken by the Enemy."

Critical reception[edit]

The New York Times gave a positive review, calling it "an extraordinary work-pure excitement, unencumbered narrative, moral warmth, barefaced rejoicing in beauty, but excitement most of all."[7]

Anthony Boucher, although noting that The Two Towers "makes inordinate demands upon the patience of its readers" with passages which "could be lopped away without affecting form or content," nevertheless lavished praise on the volume, saying "no writer save E. R. Eddison has ever so satisfactorily and compellingly created his own mythology and made it come vividly alive ... described in some of the most sheerly beautiful prose that this harsh decade has seen in print."[8]

Adaptations[edit]

Some of the events of The Two Towers along with The Fellowship of Ring were depicted in the 1978 film of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, directed by Ralph Bakshi.

In 1999, the Lifeline Theatre in Chicago presented the world première of The Two Towers, adapted for the stage by James Sie and Karen Tarjan, directed by Ned Mochel.

In director Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Two Towers the title is indicated to be referring to the towers of Barad-dûr in Mordor and Orthanc in Isengard. In dialogue written for the film, the wizard Saruman says:

"The World is changing. Who now has the strength to stand against the armies of Isengard and Mordor? To stand against the might of Sauron and Saruman ... and the union of the two towers? Together, my Lord Sauron ... we shall rule this Middle-earth."

Both The Two Towers and the succeeding film, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, abandoned the parallel storytelling of the volume in favour of a more chronological presentation. The first chapter from the volume actually appears at the end of Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Later events of The Two Towers involving Frodo and Sam were filmed for Jackson's The Return of the King. Other significant changes were made in the plot line, partially to give each of the characters a story arc in which they could develop and change. Although all three of Jackson's films differ from their source material, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers arguably contains the most major alterations.

Various games also adapt The Two Towers, including online role-playing games like The Two Towers Mud and graphically oriented console games.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Two Towers". Between the Covers. Retrieved 28 December 2010. 
  2. ^ The Lord of the Rings Extended Movie Edition, Appendix Part 4
  3. ^ a b Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, #140, ISBN 0-395-31555-7 
  4. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, #143, ISBN 0-395-31555-7 
  5. ^ "The second part is called The Two Towers, since the events recounted in it are dominated by Orthanc, ..., and the fortress of Minas Morgul..."
  6. ^ Tolkien's own cover design for The Two Towers
  7. ^ Barr, Donald (1 May 1955). "Shadowy World of Men and Hobbits". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 December 2010. 
  8. ^ "Recommended Reading," F&SF, August 1955, p.93.
  9. ^ "J. R. R. Tolkien". birmingham.gov.uk. 31 May 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-06-07. Retrieved 2007-08-26. 
  10. ^ "Myths and Legends, Talking Tolkien". BBC. Retrieved 2012-01-28. 

External links[edit]