The Two Towers

“Frodo was alive but taken by the Enemy.” So ends The Two Towers. My slow read of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings now advances into The Return of the King. Gandalf returned. The Ents laid siege to Isengard. Saruman’s power was broken. Gollum led Frodo and Sam into a deadly trap in Mordor.

Frodo Lives! I wonder if Tolkien realised he couldn’t pull the death of a major character and resurrection in the next volume more than once so revealed that Frodo isn’t killed by Shelob? Or that he didn’t want the second volume to apparently end so bleakly?

The Choices of Master Samwise. Tolkien seems to spend more time presenting the travels into Mordor from Sam’s perspective than he does Frodo. Sam becomes the hero of the tale (proving himself in the fight with Shelob). Scenes like the Oliphaunt appear to have been written to show Sam’s continued capacity for awe and wonder. Is Sam one of the only morally-firm characters of the novel? When he thinks Frodo dead, Sam realises there is no other choice but to continue to Mount Doom alone. (Ignoring that Sam leaves Frodo’s body then decides to return to it.)

Faramir. Boromir’s brother, Faramir, plays a similar role to Strider from The Fellowship. He joins the (few) characters who refuse the ring, realising its danger. Tolkien uses Faramir to introduce a great deal of information about Gondor. Tolkien also seems to reveal the quality of a character through their treatment of halflings (and Frodo particularly).

Double act. Enjoyed the comedy of Shagrat and Gorbag at the end. Tolkien runs the risk here of humanising orcs. Both are nasty, evil creatures that feel put-on by those in power over them. They reveal what being ordinary on the side of Sauron is like – which is something (so far) we don’t get from the human or elf side.

One ring to rule them all. It was only in the course of re-reading The Two Towers that I started to wonder what exactly the power of the ring actually is. It’s SO powerful and corrupting there is no choice other than to destroy it. We get glimpses of its power (invisibility, extended life, the ability to understand languages and so on) and it’s talked about as if it has some sort of consciousness. Yet, other than having power over all the other magic rings, what the ring actually does isn’t (as far as I can make out) explicitly addressed. Very vague.

Frodo Lives! The cliff-hanger ending has an Empire Strikes Back quality. Gandalf (and Pippin) is on his way to Minas Tirith and Sauron’s armies, led by the wraith-king are on the move. Frodo has been captured and Sam is ring-bearer and alone.