As I think everyone knows, The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkein continues where The Fellowship of the Ring left off. The Two Towers is split in two halves, with the first part focusing on the remaining members of the broken fellowship and the second half focusing on Frodo and Sam’s journey. While I had found some delightful things in Fellowship, this book was dark, and it just kept getting darker. I am delaying starting the final book of the trilogy.
I enjoyed meeting the Ents. I recall that people who adore the books have mentioned that they were mad when the movies came out because the Ents were so poorly portrayed in those, and I can see why. I much prefer the Treebeard of the book. But much as I enjoyed the little bits of Entish folklore in the first section of the book, the first half of the book was mainly about the battles against the orcs, and about the horrible waste that was Saruman’s land. There were few pleasantries and many consequences and battles.
By the second half of the novel, I felt like I was wading through a swamp. I enjoyed the beautiful waterfall retreat, but then the two hobbits and Gollum were back in the dark again. I struggled to not be disgusted by Gollum. I hated Sam’s obsequiousness, and thought Tolkein’s representation of Sam was blindly classist. Someone has mentioned to me before that they loved the example of friendship that Sam and Frodo have, but I personally saw nothing but a master-to-servant relationship in this book.
As for the story of their journey, I was struck by how many themes had been borrowed by J.K. Rowling when she created her Harry Potter series: the lake with dead bodies to spook the travelers, the giant spiders. Obviously, Tolkein’s is much scarier than Rowling’s children’s novels. (Rowling’s spider is not completely blood thirsty.) But I guess symbols of “evil” are pretty universal, especially in fantasy.
I have been putting off writing my thoughts on The Two Towers. It is not a cohesive novel, nor is it meant to be. The beginning begins elsewhere; the end is yet to be discovered. I found if I read my 20 pages a day as I exercised I was bored to death. But if I sat down for an hour or two and read it straight, I was less bored: I felt I was making progress.
I had originally intended to finish off the trilogy and write my thoughts on the last two books at the same time. But I am dreading picking up the third book, and I wonder when I’ll bother to get around to it. (I may try to focus on it in June.) Yes, The Two Towers ends in a moment of suspense. However, because this is a formulaic good versus evil story, I know good is going to prevail in the end. I’m not holding my breath for the final book’s story of “how that happens” to sweep me off my feet.
Maybe I need to reread The Silmarillion so I can fall in love with Tolkein’s writing again. I really did enjoy that book!
P.S. Isn’t that a great cover above? I read a book with a different one, but I do like the illustration of the Ents!