Friday, April 19, 2013

Review: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Two Towers is the second book in J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy, The Lord of the Rings. The story picks up right after the Fellowship tasked with destroying Sauron's One Ring parts ways for good.

First up, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli set out to rescue Merry and Pippin, who were taken by the orcs of Saruman at the end of the previous book. Running for three days, they encounter Eomer of the Rohirim (or Riders of Rohan) who inform them that the orcs have been slain and no hobbits spotted. In return for a promise to return them, the three companions borrow three riderless horses to complete their journey to Fangorn Forrest hoping against all odds that Merry and Pippen live.

Meanwhile, Merry and Pippin are in the clutches of the evil orcs of Saruman and are dismayed when they are joined by orcs from Mordor. They rest on the edge of a knife as the two factions argue and posture for control of the valuable hobbits, not to mention the occasional reminder that the orcs wouldn't mind finding out what roast hobbit tastes like. Despite their predicament, one of them drops tokens along the way for their friends to find and when the Riders attack, manage a narrow escape, only to meat the mysterious Treebeard (whose official name is Fangorn). Their story and the actions of Saruman inflame the normally mellow ent and they go to war.

This half of the book continues with the two parties embroiled in their separate battles against the forces of Saruman the White.

The second half of the book returns the story to Frodo and Sam shortly after they slip away from the Fellowship. They quickly realize they have no idea how to get to Mordor, and even if they do, they have little chance of reaching it let alone making their way past its borders. Soon evidence of pursuit arises and Frodo and Sam suspect Gollum has picked up their trail. Sam captures Gollum shortly afterwards, earning his eternal hatred, but Frodo convinces the miserable creature to join with them and show them the way into Mordor.

Later, the trio meet Boromir's brother, Faramir of Gondor. Faramir cautions them against trusting their guide but ultimately allows them to continue their journey into darkness.

Throughout the second half of the book, my favorite element is the rising duality of Gollum's personality: Smeagol vs. Gollum. Gollum, an obsessed and devious creature who craves The Ring like a fish craves water, and Smeagol, starved for love and almost remembering the person he used to be before the ring. Pledging loyalty on the precious, Smeagol fawns upon Frodo while Sam looks on suspiciously, but Gollum refuses to be forgotten and slowly corrupts the nearly redeemed Smeagol.

The story is action packed, the characters fascinating and larger than life and the battles intense, but one of the things that always makes me think is the title, The Two Towers. Which two towers? Based on the cover of my movie tie-in edition, the answer is simple: Orthanc (Saruman's tower in Isengard) and Barad-dur (Sauron's tower in Mordor). The two play a huge part in the first half of the book as Saruman makes a play for power by sending his orcs after the hobbits and when that fails by sending his hordes to attack the Riders of Rohan. At the close of the battle, the eye of Sauron is drawn to Pippin through Saruman's orb, setting off the push into Gondor featured in The Return of the King.

However, the second half of the book focuses on two different towers: Minus Tirith and Minus Morgul. Minus Tirith guards the lands of men from the might of Mordor. Minus Morgul, its twin, guards the pass into Mordor and is home to the dreaded King of the Ringwraiths. As Frodo and Sam near Minus Morgul and the secret way that Gollum leads them towards, the two towers, light and dark, are compared and contrasted and the tragic history of Minus Morgul is revealed.

The rich world of Middle Earth, the intricately woven history, and the struggles and victories of the shattered Fellowship are the epitome of epic fantasy. Tolkien is a master of his art. 

Missed my reviews of the other books in this series?  Check them out here:
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

Have you read this series?  Let me know what you thought in the comments.

View all my reviews