“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien
Published by Ballantine Books, 1954
Re-readability: We will come back to this trilogy again and again for years.
Rating: Indiana’s: 5 out of 5 stars Pete’s: 4 out of 5 stars
Pete: Much to your chagrin, this was my first time reading The Two Towers, and I enjoyed it much more than The Fellowship of the Ring. I think it was mainly a pacing thing. The first 150 pages or so of Fellowship are spent in the Shire, whereas we meet Treebeard within the first 100 here, and Helm’s Deep isn’t long after that.
Indiana: This one is a lot more action-packed than the first. Not that the first is lacking in any way, but this is where you really get the meat and weight of Frodo’s mission.
Pete: I found it interesting that the story is divided into Sam/Frodo and the rest of the fellowship. It felt like two books in one (and of course that’s how Tolkien separates the parts), even though each book takes place at the same time. I enjoyed the stories of Gandalf, Aragorn, and the rest of the team, but I was itching to find out what had happened to Sam and Frodo. However, this felt perfect thematically, since Sam and Frodo’s friends are also wondering what the two Hobbits are up to.
Indiana: It’s funny how you can almost get this itchy feeling when you’ve been reading one perspective for a while. Obviously that was intentional and it worked because it makes everyone keep reading, but it does feel like there are long stretches where you’re unsure of where Sam and Frodo are. But I really enjoyed finally meeting Treebeard and Éowyn and even awful, disgusting Wormtongue.
Pete: The plot with Wormtongue and Théoden was one of my favorite parts, though this book contained my favorite chapter so far: The Choices of Master Samwise. This scene solidified Sam as my favorite character. I honestly can’t see how anyone could have a different favorite character (I’m only slightly kidding… Aragorn is pretty great).
Indiana: You’re forgetting about Legolas, whom I named my cat after. But yes, that chapter is heartbreaking and definitely used to give me nightmares. Another character that used to give me nightmares is Gollum, and he remains at once terrifying and pathetic. His character has always reminded me of the power that addiction can hold over people and how much it can change people.
Pete: Yes, I’ve always wondered what inspired that character. I’m sure I could pull up a dozen papers about it online, but I like to think it’s about addiction of some kind. I was impressed with how accurately Peter Jackson depicted Gollum’s character. I couldn’t help but hear Andy Serkis’s voice as I read.
Indiana: Agreed. This book also has one of the best cliffhangers I’ve ever read. Good thing I’ve never had to wait for the next one!