‘The Two Towers‘ is the second installation of the much loved and widely circulated trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, by the respected author J.R.R. Tolkien. In contrast to the first book, ‘The Two Towers‘ begins on a grim and dire note. the Three Hunters, comprising of Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas, go on a non-stop chase after the Orc band who kidnapped the Hobbits Merry and Pippin, fearing that every second that passes might spell doom for their dear friends. all is not dark and lost, however, as, in the course of the book, the Hobbits find time to sing, dance, and be merry, bringing joy to hearts burdened by duty and impending doom.
The Two Towers Themes
The Two Towers and The Decay and Decline of Civilization
The world of ‘The Two Towers‘ is a world filled with memories of a glorious past and fallen kingdoms. Many Elven, Dwarven, and Human kingdoms had risen, flourished, and eventually fallen due to the influence and wars of Sauron, the Dark Lord. Throughout the book, the characters travel through ruined monuments, barren lands, vast gravesites, failing kingdoms, and lands that were once fair but have fallen under the Shadow of Sauron.
The threat Middle-earth faces is not only from Sauron, who intends to conquer everything and destroy the world, but also from the corruption and failure found in the civilizations of Men, leaving them more vulnerable to Sauron’s influence. As Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli travel through Rohan, and Sam and Frodo search for an entrance to Mordor, their surroundings indicate that Middle-earth has declined, slowly and unnoticed, from a beautiful and noble past under the Numenorean kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor to a bleak and hopeless present. It is now characterized by a loss of hospitality, morality, honor, and natural beauty.
In ‘The Two Towers,‘ the Ents, who once shepherded the trees of Middle-earth, are few and fading into legend. Faramir and Théoden anticipate the imminent end of their nations as Sauron readies his forces for war. The civilizations of Middle-earth are dying, a death hastened by the influence of Sauron, whose Orcs kill the Men of the West and burn the land. The Fellowship, in striving to destroy the Ring and defeat Sauron, also attempts to halt the swift decaying of Middle-Earth. Sauron and Saruman’s destructive influence is mirrored in the slow corruption of Middle-earth’s natural landscapes.
The Hobbits, in particular, as a race of peaceful gardeners and lovers of nature, notice the destruction of the natural world. Merry and Pippin are witnesses to the deterioration of the land of Isengard in ‘The Two Towers,‘ and the destructiveness of the Orcs who fell the trees of Fangorn forest, leaving “wastes of stump and bramble” behind them. The orcs, servants of both Sauron and Saruman, have no respect for the lands they inhabit, burning Rohan’s fields and farmlands as they march to attack Helm’s Deep.
Good vs Evil in The Two Towers
J.R.R. Rolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy presents to the reader the traditional epic struggle between good and evil. In ‘The Fellowship of the Ring‘ this struggle was relatively straightforward. Sauron, who is characterized as a force of watchful malevolence, is uncomplicated and purely evil in his desire to enslave Middle-earth. Likewise, characters such as Aragorn, the heir of Isildur and the true king of Gondor, are similarly presented as purely righteous. However, the second volume, ‘The Two Towers,’ complicates the trilogy’s understanding of the fundamentally opposed forces of good and evil through the experiences of characters who undergo moral struggles.
Boromir falls to the influence of the Ring and his Frodo in an attempt to take it, but he also sacrifices his life to protect Merry and Pippin from Orcs. Saruman, on the other hand, was a great wizard and the leader of the White Council for many years, but he falls prey to Sauron’s influence, his greed for power, and his lust for the One Ring, destroying the land of Isengard and waging war against Rohan in ‘The Two Towers,‘ consumed by his schemes for domination.
Théoden, who cares deeply about his people, allows his counselor, Wormtongue, to poison his mind, sitting idly as his kingdom falls to ruin. Gollum is split in two by his opposing desires: half of him longs to be good and keep his promise to Frodo, while the other half is completely corrupted and malicious, desiring only the Ring. As the war begins and Middle-earth grows more dangerous, it becomes more difficult to differentiate evil from good.
Honor and Glory in The Two Towers
The characters in J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Two Towers‘ frequently compare their actions and experiences to stories of heroes of the past ages and wonder whether their actions will be recorded or bring them fame. To encourage his small band of Hunters, Aragorn predicts that their hunt for the Orcs will be counted as a marvel among the stories of Middle-earth. When the chase began at Amon Hen, he urged Legolas and Gimli to prioritize saving their friends Merry and Pippin, rather than seeking fame and glory by going after Frodo and the Ring. The chase would be marked by no one besides themselves—what they need is speed, not glory.
Surpassing legendary heroes’ bravery and skill in hunting down the Orcs is a feat that’s worthy of glory—but glory isn’t their motivator, and it’s only a byproduct of their efforts. Merry, praised Pippin’s resourcefulness in freeing them from capture and tells him that he’ll get a chapter in Bilbo’s book. Frodo, watching an army march towards Osgiliath, fears suddenly that his quest is too late, and that his brave deeds in journeying to Mordor will not be remembered or recorded by anyone. Sam wonders if the story of Frodo and the Ring will ever be told as a bedtime story for children.
Yet Aragorn and the Hobbits are motivated by honor to do what is right—and often difficult—regardless of whether anyone will know about it, and even when they are certain that no one will. While there is an allure to the sort of glory that accompanies being put into a story, and while it can be comforting to think that one’s deeds might be remembered, ‘The Two Towers‘ continually asserts that true heroism involves a devotion to honor rather than glory, and to internal values rather than external reward.
Analysis of Key Moments in The Two Towers
- Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee continue their journey to Mount Doom alone, while the rest of the Fellowship faces new challenges.
- Boromir dies while trying to protect Merry and Pippin from being captured by the band of Mordor and Isengard Orcs.
- The Hobbits Merry and Pippin are captured by Orcs, leading to the breaking of the Fellowship.
- The Three Hunters, Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn, decide to chase down the Orcs and rescue Merry and Pippin instead of going after Frodo and the One Ring.
- Frodo and Samwise capture the creature Gollum and forces him to swear by the One Ring to lead them to Mordor.
- The Hobbits Pippin and Merry escape from the Orcs and travel deep into the Fangorn forest where they meet the ancient Herder of Trees named Treebeard.
- The Three Hunters run into Eomer and his Riders. They are informed that the Orc band has been destroyed at the edge of the Fangorn forest. They were also given horses.
- Treebeard calls for an Entmoot to decide what should be done against Saruman for his wanton destruction of trees.
- The Hunters run into a wizard robed in white who they first assumed was Saruman, but were delighted to realize it was Gandalf, who was returned to Middle-earth by the Valar for his valor in facing the balrog of Morgoth.
- The Ents attack Saruman’s fortress in Isengard and flood it with the waters of River Isen, defeating Saruman’s forces, and effectively ending his reign.
- Gandalf leads the hunters to Rohan where Gandalf rouses King Theoden from his stupor of despair and frees him from the evil influences of Saruman’s servant Wormtongue, who he chose as his adviser.
- The forces of Rohan, led by King Théoden and Aragorn, defend the fortress of Helm’s Deep against Saruman’s army.
- Pippin sneaks a look into the Stone of Orthanc and encounters Sauron himself. Fortunately, Gandalf breaks the contact before the hobbit had a chance to reveal Frodo’s quest to destroy the Ring.
- Frodo and Sam reach the Black Gate of Mordor but were dismayed to find it under constant watch. Gollum convinces them to take a secret passage known only to him.
- Faramir, Boromir’s brother, encounters Frodo and Sam in Ithillien and shows them kindness.
- Gollum deceptively leads the Hobbits to the tunnels of Cirith Ungol, the lair of the giant spider Shelob. In his terror, Frodo gets trapped in the spider’s webs.
- Sam rescues Frodo from Shelob’s grasp, but Frodo had been stung by the spider. Thinking him dead, Sam takes the Ring, vowing to continue the mission.
Writing Style and Tone of The Two Towers
The writing style of ‘The Two Towers‘ often varies based on the race of the speaker or where the scenes were set. Passages relating to Elves and Dwarves are often written in the archaic style, while those about Hobbits were written in a simple, modern style. The tone often goes from a lighthearted narrative to grave seriousness.
Who did Frodo and Sam encounter at the Black Gates?
When the Hobbits got to the Black Gates with their guide Gollum, they encountered the Witch King of Angmar, commander of the dark forces of Sauron, at the head of a host of Southrons. He sensed the presence of the Ring, but his attention was turned aside when Frodo touched the Phial of Galadriel.
What is an Oliphaunt?
Also known as mumakil, oliphaunts are massive tusked animals that originated in the Southron lands of Harad. The Haradrim rode them into battle, building huge war towers on their backs. The Hobbits Frodo and Sam first encountered them in Ithilien during the battle between the soldiers of Gondor and the Haradrim.
Who is the Witch King of Angmar?
The Witch King is the foremost and most dreadful of all of Sauron’s servants. He is also the captain of Sauron’s armies. He is likely originated from the Black Numenoreans who settled in Middle-earth before the fall of Numenor. In the Second Age, he was one of the powerful kings who received the 9 ring recovered from the Elves. In time the ring corrupted and changed them, turning them into wraiths, spirit slaves of Sauron.
What are Huorns?
Huorns are ancient sentient trees created by the Valar Yavanna during the Years of the Valar, when the spiritual beings still inhabited Middle-earth. They were originally Olvar, non-sentient living things, but the influence of the Ents, spiritual beings sent to guard and guide them, slowly turned many of them into setient beings with the power of speech.