Book Review: The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien

Just like with films, creating and reading the second book in a series can be a little bit difficult. Most of this is because there is some pressure for the book to just as good as the first one while still driving the story forward. In this regard, JRR Tolkien’s “The Two Towers” is quite unique. It is the second in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, but originally, it was meant to be published as two separate books that the publishers placed into one volume. Because of this, “The Two Towers” comes out as an action packed and natural continuation to the events in “The Fellowship of the Ring”.

The Two Towers Book
Image Source: The Official Online Tolkien Bookshop

“The Two Towers” picks up where “The Fellowship of the Ring” left off, but is told in a different  way. The first part of the book follows Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn in their search for Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took, and ends with them in the land of Rohan. It also follows what happened to Merry and Pippin after being taken by Saruman’s Uruk Hai army, them meeting the Ent named Treebeard, and them eventually meeting up with the rest of the Company at Isengard. The second part of the book starts where “The Fellowship of the Ring” left off, and follows Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee as they begin their long, dreary and perilous journey into Mordor. Technically speaking however, they spent most of their journey at the outskirts of Mordor and end with them going into Mordor, as the stretch of land from Emyn Muil to Mordor is pretty vast.

Most of the parts that have Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas in it are quite action packed and are fast paced. Because of this, the interludes in which we are presented with Merry and Pipping with Ents become a welcome respite.  It is here that Gimli and Legolas’ relationship as friends grows more, especially with the running tally of their kill list. Aragorn is presented here both as a ranger and  as a future king, as he is able to command armies yet is still an excellent hunter and tracker. I do like the fact that the Aragorn we get in the books isn’t afraid of the role he has to fulfill in the future.

The Battle of Helm’s Deep was already impressive on screen, but it was just as impressive while reading it.

Eowyn’s role in this book is not as much as it was in the movie, but you can still tell that she had a slight crush on Aragorn, or at least, was definitely interested in him.

Reading about the Ents was definitely just as amazing as it was to see them on the big screen. I love how Tolkien managed to give the Ents such a unique and different voice- if you read Treebeard’s lines out loud when he is speaking Entish, it definitely sounds like a combination of booming drums and horns.

In the film, Merry and Pippin’s resourcefulness is shown during their escape from the Uruk Hai, but in the book, it shows it even more, and allows them to still be hobbits, what with the fact that they actually stopped to  eat a little bit of lembas before actually running into Fangorn Forest.

The second part of the book is always hard for me to read, because Tolkien described Emyn Muil and  the Dead Marshes so well that you also felt just as weary as Sam and Frodo while traversing it.

This is also where majority of Gollum’s character is, as he becomes their guide, has that debate with himself, and ends up giving in to his most basic instinct of needing to get the Ring for himself.

Just as Emyn Muil and the Dead Marshes were dreary, Ithilien, by all descriptions, was a beautiful and wonderful respite to both Frodo and Sam, and to the readers.

Here, we see that the Faramir of the book is very different from the Faramir in the movie. The Faramir in the movie did have more motivations and was definitely a more interesting character with an interesting character arc; but I honestly prefer the Faramir in the book.

This Faramir was wiser than his brother and more learned, as he had an interest in old lore, and had Gandalf as a tutor in those matters. While Boromir was a born leader and warrior, Faramir was wise beyond his years and seemed more like a noble knight.

Poor Frodo becomes even more burdened with each step they take nearer to Mordor, and it is here, in this book that I  saw Sam as a true hero in this adventure. He was Frodo’s source of strength, always kept his wits about and made sense, and had to go through the very difficult decision of whether or not to continue to quest without Frodo when he though he was dead. In the end, Sam’s loyalty to Frodo prevailed, but I’m also glad that Sam was also able to share a little bit in the burden of bearing the Ring, even if it was just for a little while.

Several interesting themes do stand out in this book as compared to the others. Among those, the ones that do really stand out to me are the themes of isolationism and how modernization and progress  can destroy nature.

The themes of isolationism  can be seen in both Rohan and the Ents. Both didn’t want to get involved in the impending war,  but in the end,  they had no choice but to join the fight as it did  concern them  all.

Modernization and progress is characterized in Isengard and with what Saruman was doing, from destroying forests to create clearings for his experiments and machines; and with the unnatural experiments he was doing in order to breed better orcs for his army. In the end, the fury of nature in the form of the Ents, prevailed,  and Saruman ended up getting what he was due from them.

“The Two Towers” is definitely a great, action packed follow up  to “The Fellowship of the Ring”, as it continues the story of the Fellowship and greatly expands the world of Middle Earth for its readers. It also sets up the first few battles of the War of the Ring, while still offering some moments of calm before the storm that will happen in “The Return of the King”.

Have you read “The Two Towers”? How did you like this installment in the trilogy? What did you like and what didn’t you like in it? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Image Source: The Official Online Tolkien Bookshop

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