The group that set out to get Frodo to Mordor for him to destroy the ring has split after conflict and death forced Frodo and Sam to separate from the others. Merry and Pippin have been taken hostage after orcs killed Boromir while he tried to protect them, and Aragon, Legolas and Gimli make the decision to try and rescue them rather than the other hobbits. This is where we begin the first book of the second volume, The Two Towers, with the two books telling the two group's stories.
The first book follows Aragon, Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf, Pippin and Merry while the second book focuses primarily on Frodo and Sam's journey to Mordor. In the first, the hobbits are separated from the others after orcs kidnap them, thinking that they are the hobbits that Saruman is after. However, through clever thinking they are able to get themselves away from the orcs and find themselves with the ents. Aragon, Legolas and Gimli follow Pippin and Merry's trail but are disheartened by their fate when they are told that the orcs they were pursuing have been killed and burned with no signs of the hobbits. The second book follows Frodo and Sam's journey, where they are joined by Gollum/Smeagol who leads them through perilous trails at night and the hobbits are forced to trust him for the sake of their safety.
The Two Towers introduces us to a range of new characters that build up the world of Middle-earth. In the first book, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli meet with the riders of Rohan and are introduced to Éomer son of Éomund, who is the bearer of news that tells them the orcs they trailed had been defeated and burned. Still, the three push on in hope to find their hobbit friends. Pippin and Merry, however, are found by Fangorn, who is otherwise known as Treebeard. He is an ent, an old tree-like creature. He takes them to look after them when it is discovered they are not orcs and they tell him all about their journey and the troubles within Isengard with Saruman. This causes an ent moot, which arouses the rest of the ents to go out and fight for their own safety.
While Pippin and Merry are with Treebeard and the other ents, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli explore the forest in hope to find the hobbits. Instead they find Gandalf who they believed to be dead after his fall in Moria. He has transformed to become Gandalf the White, or the White Rider. Under the instruction of the wizard, they set off to Edoras, where we meet Théoden son of Thengal and King of Rohan as well as Éomer's sister, Éowyn. Then, there is the spy, Gríma Wormtail, who has tainted the King's thoughts while secretly working of Saruman. Gandalf is able to detect his treachery and has him exiled from Rohan to save Théoden and free his thoughts, which results in Théoden setting out with the group to fight a battle against the orcs and the power of Isengard.
Eventually, the group travel to Isengard after the battle to face Saruman. However, they arrive to find Pippin and Merry who are relaxing with pipes and food since the ents have secured the area. There is happiness since the group have finally joined back together, although there is a sadness and worry for Frodo and Sam. This quickly is shattered as they confront Saruman and receive the palantír, which Pippin finds himself and his curiosity drawn to and decides to look at it one evening while everyone else is asleep. Pippin and Merry are split after this as the first book ends with Pippin being taken to Minas Tirith with Gandalf to keep the group safe.
Then, the second book starts and we're taken back to just after Frodo and Sam have left the group and set off to Mordor on their own. It is not long after that they realise they have been followed by Gollum/Smeagol, who they capture and use his 'precious' against him to get him to lead them to the gate of Mordor. Frodo is more willing to trust Gollum than Sam, which is shown in the way either one acts to the gangly creature. Their actions also mark an impression on him with Gollum acting quite fiercely to Sam but kind to Frodo (although this is probably since he is the ring-bearer). Their journey, and a mistake caused by cooking rabbit and leaving a fire burning, has the hobbits found by some men lurking around the area.
This is when the hobbits meet Faramir, Boromir's younger brother. Stories are told between the two groups, which results in Faramir thinking that it is the hobbits fault that Boromir has perished. Eventually, an understanding is found between them and Frodo and Sam are forced to spend some time with the rangers without any idea of where Gollum is... until a ranger finds him fishing in a forbidden pool. It is the act of him being captured after trusting Frodo that puts a taint in their relationship, and once they journey away after farewelling Faramir, Gollum leads them to the tunnel inhabited by orcs and the fearsome Shelob. This is a trap that is part of the plan of Gollum taking back his 'precious'. However, Sam shows his courage and loyalty to Frodo by attacking both Shelob and Gollum. Unfortunately, he thinks he is too late to save Frodo from the spider-like creature and thinks him dead from the poison. However it is found at the end of the second book that Frodo is only paralysed and is still alive, but is now taken by the orcs.
The Two Towers by J R R Tolkien builds up the conflict on both sides of the story to reach the climax in the final volume: The Return of the King.
What I thought
There isn't much difference in my opinions from the first volume to this one. As you may have noticed in this review, I focus quite heavily on all the different characters that we are introduced to in this part. I do this mainly because I absolutely love the amount of characters and stories that arise in The Two Towers and the lore we begin to be introduced to. I have never been good at remembering the different locations in this series but the connection I have with the different characters make them sit predominantly in my mind.
Out of everyone we are introduced to, my favourite characters would be Treebeard and Gollum. Why? I have always been interested in the lore of ents when they were first mentioned, and I think the emotion they bring and the poignant story of them losing their entwives is such an interesting bit of history within Middle-earth. For Gollum, his complex story and characterisation has always intrigued me. In this volume in particular, there is a softening in his behaviour and we start to see his old hobbit self. I think the powerful image of him caressing Frodo while he is asleep rather than being possessed over his obsession with the Ring is one that always sticks in my mind whenever I read this story, and I begin to feel bad for him as he is misunderstood.
This volume builds towards the climax that will be reached in the final instalment. There is a lot of complexity in the writing of this volume and a lot of important events that need to happen to get to this point. Because of this, The Two Towers could be seen by some people as a difficult story to get through since so much information is highlighted all throughout. Nonetheless, it is a fantastically written story that works perfectly to have us anticipating what will happen next in The Return of the King.
One quotation from Sam sticks out for me in this volume as it focuses on the whole idea of storytelling and can also be quite inspiring for anyone going through a hard stage of their lives. So to end this review, I'll leave it here for you to read and think about because maybe it's what you need to hear right now or what you might need in the future.
'The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that's not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually -- their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lot of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn't. And if they had, we shouldn't know, because they'd have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on -- and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home and finding things all right, though not quite the same -- Like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren't always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of tale we've fallen into?'
- The Two Towers, Samwise Gamgee pp. 711 - 712 The Lord of the Rings 50th Anniversary Edition
Charlotte is a reading and writing lover who has completed a creative writing intensive course at the University of Oxford and is a current university student studying a double degree in journalism and creative writing. If you are curious to learn more, check out the 'About' page.