Sunday 16 July 2017

The Two Towers by J R R Tolkien

I had planned to write two posts about this, the second part of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as it actually begs to be considered in its two separate sections. In fact, Tolkien originally wrote the book as one big book with six parts. He planned to name part III The Treason of Isengard and part IV The Journey of the Ringbearers or The Ring Goes East.

However, due to post-WWII paper shortages and size considerations, the book was eventually published as three books, with the middle one, The Two Towers, being published on the 11th November 1954.

Part III and part IV are two very distinct stories. The first part follows the trials and tribulations of the remnants of the fellowship after Frodo and Sam secretly depart. The second part is all about Frodo and Sam. And Gollum.

However whichever part you consider, the story continues to be about the role of fellowship, friendship, loyalty, duty, responsibility, honour, commitment and courage. The end of times may be fast approaching, morals may be slipping and attitudes may be changing, but our stalwart group shines on to show us a better, finer, more noble way.

One of the highlights of The Two Towers for me, though, are the Ents, and Treebeard in particular. I love his slow, thoughtful approach to life and decision making. But I'm being too hasty!

They found they were looking at a most extraordinary face. It belonged to a large Man-like, almost Troll-like, figure, at least fourteen feet high, very sturdy, with a tall head, and hardly any neck. Whether it was clad in stuff like green and grey bark, or whether that was its hide, was difficult to say. At any rate the arms, at a short distance from the trunk, were not wrinkled, but covered with a brown smooth skin. The large feet had seven toes each. The lower part of the long face was covered with a sweeping grey beard, bushy, almost twiggy at the roots, thin and mossy at the ends. But at the moment the hobbits noted little but the eyes. These deep eyes were now surveying them, slow and solemn, but very penetrating. They were brown, shot with a green light. Often afterwards Pippin tried to describe his first impressions of them. 
'One felt as if there were an enormous well behind them, filled up with ages of memory and long, slow, steady thinking; but their surface was sparkling with the present; like sun shimmering on the outer leaves of a vast tree, or on the ripples of a very deep lake.'
Treebeard by Alan Lee, Timothy Ide and Jerry Vanderstelt
I love this description of Treebeard and the Ents, but sadly I have never seen an illustration or a movie version of them that does justice to what I have in my mind. All the art work, to my mind, fails to capture that ponderous, slow, kind, considered gravitas that Tolkien refers to.

Lee and Vanderstelt are close to the mark, but the eyes in both are wrong while Ide's version is too scary. Severin's 3D model has a nice face, but is missing all the green, twiggy stuff. And they all lack the size and bulk that I feel is necessary for an Ent. I have always imagined a giant, stately oak tree as an Ent, not the spindly version that every artist seems to prefer.

Treebeard by Alexey Severin

The other character that appeals to me in The Two Towers is Boromir's brother, Faramir. He is a brave fighter, but prefers peace. As the younger son, he has a more balanced attitude towards power and leadership. He provides thoughtful counsel and safe harbour to Frodo and Sam, in much the same way that Treebeard assists Merry and Pippin.

Despite the dark days looming, honour and kindness can still be found, when least expected.

And that's why I enjoy these books so much. The fellowship, goodness and hope that shines through the darkness and despair is something we can all take heart from. 
The movies have this too, but the level of violence and the massive battle scenes so often overwhelm the other messages that Tolkien was trying to convey.

Previously I read these books so quickly, that I missed lots of the finer details. This leisurely reread has been a delight of rediscovery and paying attention.

How are you going? 
I see that Jean has finished and Nick is still adding page updates on Goodreads. I think Nancy may have fallen to the wayside. As with all of life's journeys, we travel at our own pace in our own way!


The Fellowship of the Ring 

- Halfway post - Book one 
- TFOTR - Book two

The Two Towers

- Welcome to Book
- Review

The Return of the King


  1. Ah, yes....I am laying by the wayside and cannot get up!
    Good news, when I look up I see the stars!
    Love you review with so many great quotes!

    1. Happy star gazing!
      I hope the audio book helps you along :-)

  2. I also enjoyed reading them in such a leisurely fashion! It was so nice to enjoy them properly.


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