The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkein

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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!

Reviewed on May 14, 2010

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • I tried to read The Lord of the Rings Trilogy when I was in my late teens, and after I finished this book, I hit a wall. I found it horribly boring, especially the Ents! I just wound up disliking all of the characters and didn’t feel invested in anyone or the outcome of the quest, so I stopped reading. The same thing happened with the movies – I’ve seen the first two, but never the last!
    .-= Steph´s last post on blog ..“Admission “ by Jean Hanff Korelitz =-.

    • Steph, I watched the movies with my husband during a “LotR movie weekend.” I didn’t mind them. But I completely understand stopping reading or watching! It just drags sometimes.

  • I really loved this trilogy, but, yes, The Silmarillion is way, way better. Now THAT is my fave Tolkien, and I could reread it every year and not get bored. Not sure if rereading it would make you appreciate this more. In fact, it might make you even more biased of its superiority!
    .-= claire´s last post on blog ..Perfect understanding =-.

    • Claire, oh, I’m so glad I’m not the only one who found SILMARILLION so much better! I read that first of any Tolkein and was just blown away by how beautiful it was. I may just have to read that again.

  • I read The Two Towers when I was too young, and I was so scared by the ending that I put of reading the third book by at least a year! Then when I got around to reading it, it wasn’t nearly as scary as I had thought, and I quite enjoyed reading it.

    Still, my favorite is the first book, it really is the best part of the series. The second book is the dullest, so you should be alright finishing the series.
    .-= Paula´s last post on blog ..Läsdagbok v18 =-.

  • I’m sorry it’s not working for you. You’re not the first person I’ve known who gave up at the end of this book because it’s too dark. It boggles my mind when people do that, but I think it’s because *I* got so attached to those characters and couldn’t imagine not seeing what happened to them. If you’re not attached to them *and* you’re finding it too dark, I can see why you wouldn’t care to continue. The final book is shorter, and less grim once you get past the first half, if that helps.

    And regarding Frodo and Sam’s friendship. I’ve heard others say the same. I think the thing that I find, though, is that their bond ends up transcending class. Plus, I think a lot of their relationship is based on the officer/servant relationship during WWI, and that provides an additional–possibly less troubling?–reason for the hierarchical depiction of their relationship.
    .-= Teresa´s last post on blog ..Prince Rupert’s Teardrop =-.

    • Teresa, I know you love it, so I’m sorry for not loving it just as much! I think I will get to the last but just not right now. 🙂

      I haven’t seen the Frodo-Sam relationship transcend class at all yet. Maybe that’s in the last book?

      • Yes, the transcendence I had in mind is in the last book, particularly the final chapter where you see the characters’ fates. And it also helps me when I remember that Frodo is several years older than Sam, which, along with the class difference, would lead Sam to defer to Frodo.

        I’m not trying to say the class issues aren’t there, BTW; they’re present, but those are the reasons that I’m not terribly bothered by it.
        .-= Teresa´s last post on blog ..2017 =-.

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