Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Book 13 of 2013: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

I probably don’t need to reiterate my love for Tolkien again here. Suffice to say, I’m a huge fan and I reread several of his books every year, The Lord of the Rings being one of those. I have several different editions and each year I try to read a different one; last year it was the ebook version I got for my Kindle. Originally I planned to read an early single volume edition (that I picked up in a charity shop several years ago because I liked the cover only to discover some time later that it was a lot older than I realised) this year, but then someone on the HTV reading challenge picked The Fellowship of the Ring as their challenge read, so I decided to go for my old three volume set. If nothing else, it adds another two books to my total for the year that way.

If you’re unfamiliar with the plot of The Two Towers, it literally picks up right where The Fellowship of the Ring left off. In a slightly unusual move, Tolkien devotes the first book of the volume (it’s divided into two books) entirely to the journey of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, as well as the antics of Merry and Pippin. Frodo and Sam are mentioned, but we don’t see them at all until the second half, where they are joined by Gollum as they head towards Mordor.

On this read I got through the first half very quickly. I suppose it just seems like that’s the meatier part of the story. You’ve got Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli tracking Merry and Pippin, then bumping into Gandalf, going to Edoras, the battle of Helm’s Deep and then they head for Isengard where they are reunited with Merry and Pippin, who after escaping from the orcs have wound up with Treebeard, Pippin looks into the Palantir and no sooner are these few Fellowship members reunited, than they’re being separated again. By comparison Frodo and Sam’s attempts to get into Mordor, led by Gollum, are relatively mundane, even with their brief spell with Faramir.

That probably makes it sound like I don’t enjoy the second half, which isn’t true at all. I love both halves of the book, though I don’t imagine that an author would be allowed to abandon half his characters for so long in a modern book. I think part of my problem with it is that I prefer the hobbits when they’re interacting with people who aren’t hobbits, they just seem more interesting then. Two hobbits and a hobbit-like creature don’t have quite the same draw for me; which is probably why I picked up speed around the chapters with Faramir.

The second half also feels a lot more darker somehow. That’s not to say that the first half isn’t dark; Boromir’s death, the orcs abducting Merry and Pippin, Saruman’s control in Edoras, it’s all pretty dark stuff. But Frodo has the Ring, Sam is worried about Frodo, Gollum is just unpleasant, and they’re heading for somewhere dark and deadly. It doesn’t get much darker than that!

The hobbits always seem to be among my favourite characters. This time around I really loved Merry and Pippin, probably another reason for my reduction in speed on the second half of the book. I was missing them. I like that they have just a little bit of humour in their interactions, they recover from bad situations quite quickly and they’re just a bit fun.

On the flip side, I both hate and pity Gollum, which probably shows just what a good author Tolkien was because I think that’s exactly how you’re supposed to feel about him. That’s certainly how characters like Frodo, Aragorn and Gandalf feel towards him. He makes my skin crawl, but he’s a wonderful character to read, even if in my head now he’s less the way I used to picture him when I read The Hobbit and more the way he is in the film. The two weren’t so very different anyway.

I think my favourite setting has to be Edoras. I love the description of the Golden Hall and the people there. I was never a horsey child, I was more into dogs than horses, but I think I could learn to love horses if I got to live in Edoras. Again, I can’t help but picture the film as I’m reading those bits.

I love to read this out loud. I was quite lucky in that one of the days I was reading it was a day when I had the house to myself. That meant that I could read away to my heart’s content with only the girlie!rats and Tara thinking I was crazy, rather than anyone else. I love to say the place names and the style of the writing. Tolkien was so careful with the way that he wrote that each word feels like it’s exactly where it should be.

I took a month’s break between reading The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers and now I’m planning a similar break before moving on to The Return of the King. I’m pacing myself so that I can reread The Hobbit towards the end of the year before we go and see part two of the films in the cinema. I reread all the Tolkien books so regularly now (and I’ve been gradually adding to my collection) that I’m never more than a few months away from another Tolkien book.


  1. I still haven't read any of LotR, though I have read (and loved) the Hobbit. LotR is on my list though. Has been for a long time :)

    1. It took me a whole ten years to be able to get past the first three chapters of Lord of the Rings, once I did though, I loved it. :-)

  2. I've always felt that, as much as I love Frodo and Sam, their part is more akin to melodrama and personally, I'd rather have the excitement and adventure rather than the melodrama. It's been quite some time since I've read the trilogy, well before the movies came out. I think I need to dust them off!

    1. I think that's probably a very good way of describing the difference between the two halves of the book and why I'm more drawn to the first half.


Let me know what you think. :-)