Neil Macy

2023 Reading #3

The Two Towers, like the other volumes of The Lord of the Rings,is split into two books (Part 3 and Part 4, I'll refer to them, to reflect their place in the overall story). And they are two very different books. I blasted through Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli's orc chase, Rohan, Helm's Deep and Isengard in Part 3. I took months to read Frodo, Sam and Gollum's journey in Part 4.

I've always disliked this split. (I've completely ignored Part 4 more than once in previous readings.) I wish the two stories, ultimately Frodo's story and Aragorn's story, were intertwined. It would be nice to see what was happening in a linear timeline, as I'm constantly trying to figure out what Tolkien is obliquely referencing in Frodo's story.

And the pace of the two books just don't match up at all. Three things happen in the whole of Part 4: they fall in with Gollum, they meet Faramir, and they go into Shelob's lair. And it takes as long as all of Part 3, when: - Aragorn and co chase down the orcs, Merry and Pippin; - Aragorn and co meet Gandalf and Eomer; - The hobbits meet Treebeard and the Ents; - Aragorn and co have a confrontation with Wormtongue to save Theoden; - There's an entire battle at Helm's Deep; - Then they all meet up at Isengard and have a confrontation with Saruman.

All of the action is rushed through at the start of The Two Towers, and it's really great, but then the second half really drags. Mixing Frodo's journey in with the rest would really improve the pace of the book. The movie struck that balance perfectly.

I love the pace of Part 3. I love discovering Rohan, Fangorn and Isengard. I love the mystery of the Ents, of Gandalf and of Saruman. And I love the hope. This is the resistance, the heroes drawing together to fight an impossible fight.

Some favourite quotes

Book 3, Chapter 5: "The White Rider"

I was talking aloud to myself. A habit of the old: they choose the wisest person present to speak to; the long explanations needed by the young are wearying.

Book 4, Chapter 4: "Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit"

He wondered what the man’s name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace.

Published on 4 May 2023