Note: If you'd like to read a formal review of The Two Towers, please click here. Today is just a casual chat about the things I loved.
I'm on a deadline for a library reading program, and this morning I finished the 7th of 8 books: The Two Towers. I've watched the movie 3 or 4 times now, and while I love the Tolkien movies, it's just humanly impossible for them to include everything that's good in the books. In the 3 years since I first read LOTR, I forgot a lot of things that actually happened: and it was a continual source of delight to rediscover them this time around.
Here's a list of the things I loved in The Two Towers:
1. Aragorn is awesome
Seriously, I knew he was awesome, but I forgot how awesome. There are so many good speeches of his I can't quote them all, but here's one from when he meets Eomer for the first time:
Aragorn threw back his cloak. The elven-sheath glittered as he grasped it, and the bright blade of Anduril shone like a sudden flame as he swept it out. 'Elendil!' he cried. 'I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, and am called Elessar, the Elfstone, Dunadan, the heir of Isildur Elendil's son of Gondor. Here is the Sword that was Broken and is forged again! Will you aid me or thwart me? Choose swiftly!'
The Two Towers, Book 4, Chapter 2, by J.R.R. Tolkien
I also loved the moment at Helm's Deep, where Aragorn stands above the gates and holds out his hand to all those orcs in parley. When they ask him what he wants, he says simply "I looked out to see the dawn."
So great a power and royalty was revealed in Aragorn, as he stood there alone above the ruined gates before the host of enemies, that many of the wild men paused, and looked back over their shoulders to the valley, and some looked up doubtfully at the sky.
The Two Towers, Book 4, Chapter 7, by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. Rohan was actually a beautiful place.
The movie portrays it as a rough-hewn, old-style English cross between a barn and a fort. Actually, Rohan was full of color and beauty, and some pretty ornate architecture. A floor of many hues, carved with runes and other devices; pillars with gold and other colors; great tapestries, one with a young man on a battle horse, blowing a great trumpet, with billowing waves curling around the horse's legs. These people didn't live in rough-hewn comfort. They lived with art and culture and a lot of richness.
3. The race of men had different names for different regions:
The Numenoreans were called Men of the West. The Rohirrim were called Men of Twilight, or Middle Peoples. And the men of the Wild were called the Men of Darkness.
"I bid you stand, Men of the West!" Doesn't that make your blood run fire-red with wonder?
4. Faramir's Speeches are just splendid.
'But fear no more! I would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway. Not were Minas Tirith falling in ruin and I alone could save her, so, using the weapon of the Dark Lord for her good and my glory. No, I do not wish for such triumphs, Frodo son of Drogo.'
'For myself,' said Faramir, 'I would see the White Tree in flower again in the courts of the kings, and the Silver Crown return, and Minas Tirith in peace: Minas Anor again as of old, full of light, high and fair, beautiful as a queen among other queens: not a mistress of many slaves, nay, not even a kind mistress of willing slaves. War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the Men of Numenor; and I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom. Not feared, save as men may fear the dignity of a man, old and wise.'
Excerpts taken from The Two Towers, Book 6, Chapter 5, by J.R.R. Tolkien.
5. Tolkien's biblical theology in the scenes with Sarumon was pretty incredible.
It's hard to explain in movie form like you can in book narrative, but the deception and temptation of Sarumon was convicting and rich in its explanation of sin. Grace was offered to him, yet he chose not to humble himself and clung to his pride. I especially liked Tolkien's explanation of the making of Orthanc, how Sarumon thought he was making it better, but in his foolishness he made it worse. Mordor watched him like a toy, mocking and reveling in his weakness. I highly recommend revisiting the book for this plot alone.
That's in all seriousness some of the tidbits of what I loved in re-reading this book. And just for all you Tolkien aficionados, here are some fun little details I was delighted to rediscover:
6. Legolas really did say "The red sun rises."
He's been made fun of so much on YouTube that I thought the quote was completely made up. It was there, slightly altered, but true in its essence. Granted he had a few more things to say which made it more--meaningful. But he did say it!
7. Theoden has white hair in braids.
I really didn't remember what Theoden looked like, and every moment expected Tolkien to explain that his hair lost its white color and he looked a little younger. But unlike the movie, his hair never changed back to blond. It was in long white braids, and made me think of a viking king in grave splendor. I think Theoden and his band are a lot like Finn MacCool and his warriors.
8. Eowyn gave the cup of wine to Aragorn when she first met him, not after the battle of Helm's Deep.
You know that scene in ROTK when she hands him the victory cup and they gaze lingeringly into each other's eyes? Well, it actually happens a lot sooner, right when they first meet. Eowyn is smitten with him at first sight, and it's the cup of farewell not the cup after they get back.
9. Legolas actually didn't mind Gimli winning the orc count.
Legolas: "He was still quivering."
Gimli: "That's because my axe is in his nervous system!"
That's in the movie. But behold, in the book Master Legolas comes up to Gimli and congratulates him on his victory.
'You have passed my score by one,' answered Legolas. 'But I do not grudge you the game, so glad I am to see you on your legs!' ~The Two Towers, chapter 8, by J.R.R. Tolkien
10. Sam's movie potato speech is mostly made up.
Boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew. Sorry folks, but it's not there. I was shocked. The first sentence is there-- Po-ta-toes. But beyond that, Sam is mostly reminiscing about how much his Gaffer loves them.
11. Frodo did really trick Gollum at the pool of Minas Ithil.
I didn't know if this was true to the book or not (true in a fictional sense--I really don't like the term 'canonical' applied to Tolkien.) but when Faramir caught Gollum eating fish out of the forbidden pool, Frodo did have to go down and trick him into being captured so he wouldn't be killed.
And yes, in the movie I still like Legolas sliding down the steps on the shield at Helm's Deep, and Sam's beautiful, cinematic speech to Frodo. Aragorn's speech at someone's death was better in the movie. I also loved Merry and Pippin's added banter at Orthanc ("Only...you've never done a hard day's work.") I love Haldir's introverted elvishness. The book doesn't have those things, so I'll keep watching the movies. Besides, in all due fairness, there are some really disgusting things in the book that PJ could have put in and didn't.
But after all, there is no magic like an author's original love for the lessons and characters and stories he has created. Find some time this year if you can to take another look at this beautiful tale. :)