The Two Towers Review

The Fellowship is Broken

One of the many things that I appreciate about Tolkien is that he picks up right where we left off, and in case it's been a while the book starts with a synopsis of . Although I still expect this to be my least favorite for the trilogy (as it is with Peter Jackson's film adaptation), I enjoyed the book much more than the movies.

The book begins with Aragorn searching for the missing hobbits. The fellowship has broken, Sam and Frodo have departed to shield the others from the struggles of their journey, Boromir has fallen in battle, Merry and Pip have been taken by the Orcs and Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are searching for their lost hobbits. The first book primarily follows this storyline.

Isengard's Agenda

The world of Middle Earth continues to expand as we see fighting tribes of Orcs, meet the ends and come to find that Isengard might have its own plan separate from The Enemy. We see how detrimental it can be for characters to continually underestimate hobbits. They really are such remarkable beings.

I find it difficult to assess the two books within The Two Towers together. Since the first book follows the larger group of the fellowship as they find each other and help Rohan against Isengard and the second follows Frodo and Sam as they persevere on their journey towards the fires of Mount Doom. I wished that instead, the story had gone back and forth between the two.

As I think back to the story of Rohan and Isengard, I find it surprising that King Theoden thought about all of the people who could have as advisors and was like, "That Grima Wormtongue guy seems like the most trustworthy." Seriously, bad judgment there your highness. The naming is obvious. Everything about him is obviously not a good guy.

One thing the lore brought to life that I had not fully understood having watched the movies many times before was that Saruman has his own agenda and it's not entirely just in service to The Enemy. Isengard's agenda brings nuance and complexity that helps me look past obvious things like Wormtongue. The book makes clear that Saruman is on his own quest to find the One Ring and has his own plans for how to rule Middle Earth. This is a common villain plan: thinking that if only they had the power then they could force peace.

As the world was getting bigger and more interesting, what was unexpected was how small The Battle for Helm's Deep was in this story. I've been spoiled by cinematic war stories of the struggle, especially in Peter Jackson's adaptation for this. While I don't feel the need to revel in those stories given the current world events, it felt more like a footnote in the overall story when reading The Two Towers.

A Light in Darkness

The second book in The Two Towers follows Frodo and Sam as they continue the quest set out by Gandalf to deliver the ring back to whence it came: the fires of Mount Doom.

If only all of us were lucky enough to have someone love us the way Samwise Gamgee loves Frodo Baggins, the world would be a different place.

Sam has no reason other than his love for his master to continue here. He's younger than Merry and Pippin and Frodo. They are all family and he is not. He is Bilbo's gardener's son. He's basically just the kid that hung around long enough to become their friend. And yet, here he is, far from home without the comforts that he loves so much. Doing anything necessary to keep things moving. He reminds Frodo to eat, he makes sure he doesn't fall too far behind, and when all hope is lost he takes it upon himself to finish his master's mission.

I will always come back to these stories because as I'm finishing these books I always find myself watching the way Sam takes care of Frodo and being reminded that that is what friendship is all about.

“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.”

For that alone, I will continue to recommend this story and I will keep coming back to it myself.


High Fantasy
Science Fiction Fantasy