I am still enjoying my reread of Lord of the Rings. The Two Towers consists of books three and four.
The fellowship has been broken, and, as a result the narrative has been completely split. The fourth book follows the adventures of Sam and Frodo (and Gollum). The third book follows the adventures of everyone else: Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, etc.
The book opens with some drama: Merry and Pippin have been taken! Boromir has fallen valiantly in battle trying to protect them. He confesses all to Aragorn moments before he dies. (But the movie does it even better. That death scene in the extended edition is SOMETHING.)
Aragorn knelt beside him. Boromir opened his eyes and strove to speak. At last slow words came. ‘I tried to take the Ring from Frodo,’ he said. ‘I am sorry. I have paid.’ His glance strayed to his fallen enemies; twenty at least lay there. ‘They have gone: the Halflings: the Orcs have taken them. I think they are not dead. Orcs bound them.’ He paused and his eyes closed wearily. After a moment he spoke again. ‘Farewell, Aragorn! Go to Minas Tirith and save my people! I have failed.’ ‘No!’ said Aragorn, taking his hand and kissing his brow. ‘You have conquered. Few have gained such a victory. Be at peace! Minas Tirith shall not fall!’ Boromir smiled. ‘Which way did they go? Was Frodo there?’ said Aragorn. But Boromir did not speak again.The company also learns that Sam and Frodo have left, have "broken" the fellowship. The mission has changed without a doubt, but the remaining members still have purpose.
‘The rumour of the earth is dim and confused,’ he said. ‘Nothing walks upon it for many miles about us. Faint and far are the feet of our enemies. But loud are the hoofs of the horses. It comes to my mind that I heard them, even as I lay on the ground in sleep, and they troubled my dreams: horses galloping, passing in the West. But now they are drawing ever further from us, riding northward. I wonder what is happening in this land!’ ‘Let us go!’ said Legolas.
They decide to pursue the orcs and attempt a rescue of the hobbits. In their quest to save Merry and Pippin, they meet an old friend in a surprising place!
In addition to meeting an old friend, readers also meet some new characters: Treebeard, Éomer, Théoden, and Éowyn. Merry and Pippin encounter the Ents! Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, (and Gandalf) go to Rohan. I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this third book.
The fourth book concerns Frodo, Sam, Gollum. Readers meet Boromir's brother as well. It's good, very good. But I can't help thinking that it is largely redeemed by SAM.
Gimli ground his teeth. ‘This is a bitter end to our hope and to all our toil!’ he said. ‘To hope, maybe, but not to toil,’ said Aragorn.
‘Awake! Awake!’ he cried. ‘It is a red dawn. Strange things await us by the eaves of the forest. Good or evil, I do not know; but we are called. Awake!’
‘You may say this to Théoden son of Thengel: open war lies before him, with Sauron or against him. None may live now as they have lived, and few shall keep what they call their own.
The world is all grown strange. Elf and Dwarf in company walk in our daily fields; and folk speak with the Lady of the Wood and yet live; and the Sword comes back to war that was broken in the long ages ere the fathers of our fathers rode into the Mark! How shall a man judge what to do in such times?’ ‘As he ever has judged,’ said Aragorn. ‘Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.’ ‘True indeed,’ said Éomer. ‘But I do not doubt you, nor the deed which my heart would do. Yet I am not free to do all as I would. It is against our law to let strangers wander at will in our land, until the king himself shall give them leave, and more strict is the command in these days of peril.
There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark.
There are Ents and Ents, you know; or there are Ents and things that look like Ents but ain’t, as you might say. I’ll call you Merry and Pippin, if you please – nice names. For I am not going to tell you my name, not yet at any rate.’ A queer half-knowing, half-humorous look came with a green flicker into his eyes. ‘For one thing it would take a long while: my name is growing all the time, and I’ve lived a very long, long time; so my name is like a story. Real names tell you the story of the things they belong to in my language, in the Old Entish as you might say. It is a lovely language, but it takes a very long time to say anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to.
‘Of course, it is likely enough, my friends,’ he said slowly, ‘likely enough that we are going to our doom: the last march of the Ents. But if we stayed at home and did nothing, doom would find us anyway, sooner or later. That thought has long been growing in our hearts; and that is why we are marching now.
‘My name!’ said the old man again. ‘Have you not guessed it already? You have heard it before, I think. Yes, you have heard it before. But come now, what of your tale?’ The three companions stood silent and made no answer. ‘There are some who would begin to doubt whether your errand is fit to tell,’ said the old man. ‘Happily I know something of it. You are tracking the footsteps of two young hobbits, I believe. Yes, hobbits. Don’t stare, as if you had never heard the strange name before. You have, and so have I. Well, they climbed up here the day before yesterday; and they met someone that they did not expect. Does that comfort you? And now you would like to know where they were taken? Well, well, maybe I can give you some news about that. But why are we standing? Your errand, you see, is no longer as urgent as you thought. Let us sit down and be more at ease.’
They all gazed at him. His hair was white as snow in the sunshine; and gleaming white was his robe; the eyes under his deep brows were bright, piercing as the rays of the sun; power was in his hand. Between wonder, joy, and fear they stood and found no words to say. At last Aragorn stirred. ‘Gandalf!’ he said. ‘Beyond all hope you return to us in our need! What veil was over my sight? Gandalf!’ Gimli said nothing, but sank to his knees, shading his eyes.
Hope is not victory. War is upon us and all our friends, a war in which only the use of the Ring could give us surety of victory. It fills me with great sorrow and great fear: for much shall be destroyed and all may be lost. I am Gandalf, Gandalf the White, but Black is mightier still.’
Go where you must go, and hope!
A king will have his way in his own hall, be it folly or wisdom.
Men need many words before deeds.
‘Yet dawn is ever the hope of men,’ said Aragorn.
That must be my hope,’ said Legolas. ‘But I wish that he had come this way. I desired to tell Master Gimli that my tale is now thirty-nine.’ ‘If he wins back to the caves, he will pass your count again,’ laughed Aragorn. ‘Never did I see an axe so wielded.’ ‘I must go and seek some arrows,’ said Legolas. ‘Would that this night would end, and I could have better light for shooting.’
‘We will have peace,’ said Théoden at last thickly and with an effort. Several of the Riders cried out gladly. Théoden held up his hand. ‘Yes, we will have peace,’ he said, now in a clear voice, ‘we will have peace, when you and all your works have perished – and the works of your dark master to whom you would deliver us. You are a liar, Saruman, and a corrupter of men’s hearts. You hold out your hand to me, and I perceive only a finger of the claw of Mordor. Cruel and cold! Even if your war on me was just – as it was not, for were you ten times as wise you would have no right to rule me and mine for your own profit as you desired – even so, what will you say of your torches in Westfold and the children that lie dead there? And they hewed Háma’s body before the gates of the Hornburg, after he was dead. When you hang from a gibbet at your window for the sport of your own crows, I will have peace with you and Orthanc. So much for the House of Eorl. A lesser son of great sires am I, but I do not need to lick your fingers. Turn elsewhither. But I fear your voice has lost its charm.’
Now, Pippin my lad, don’t forget Gildor’s saying – the one Sam used to quote: Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.’
‘Don’t hurt us! Don’t let them hurt us, precious! They won’t hurt us will they, nice little hobbitses? We didn’t mean no harm, but they jumps on us like cats on poor mices, they did, precious. And we’re so lonely, gollum. We’ll be nice to them, very nice, if they’ll be nice to us, won’t we, yes, yess.’
We only wish to catch a fish, so juicy-sweet!
‘Yess, yess, nice water,’ said Gollum. ‘Drink it, drink it, while we can! But what is it they’ve got, precious? Is it crunchable? Is it tasty?’
‘I am commanded to go to the land of Mordor, and therefore I shall go,’ said Frodo. ‘If there is only one way, then I must take it. What comes after must come.’
Sam said nothing. The look on Frodo’s face was enough for him; he knew that words of his were useless. And after all he never had any real hope in the affair from the beginning; but being a cheerful hobbit he had not needed hope, as long as despair could be postponed. Now they were come to the bitter end. But he had stuck to his master all the way; that was what he had chiefly come for, and he would still stick to him. His master would not go to Mordor alone. Sam would go with him – and at any rate they would get rid of Gollum.
All hobbits, of course, can cook, for they begin to learn the art before their letters (which many never reach); but Sam was a good cook, even by hobbit reckoning, and he had done a good deal of the camp-cooking on their travels, when there was a chance. He still hopefully carried some of his gear in his pack: a small tinder-box, two small shallow pans, the smaller fitting into the larger; inside them a wooden spoon, a short two-pronged fork and some skewers were stowed; and hidden at the bottom of the pack in a flat wooden box a dwindling treasure, some salt. But he needed a fire, and other things besides. He thought for a bit, while he took out his knife, cleaned and whetted it, and began to dress the rabbits. He was not going to leave Frodo alone asleep even for a few minutes.
Sam drew a deep breath. ‘An Oliphaunt it was!’ he said. ‘So there are Oliphaunts, and I have seen one. What a life! But no one at home will ever believe me. Well, if that’s over, I’ll have a bit of sleep.’
‘I don’t like anything here at all,’ said Frodo, ‘step or stone, breath or bone. Earth, air and water all seem accursed. But so our path is laid.’ ‘Yes, that’s so,’ said Sam. ‘And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually – their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on – and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same – like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?’ ‘I wonder,’ said Frodo. ‘But I don’t know. And that’s the way of a real tale. Take any one that you’re fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to.’
Still, I wonder if we shall ever be put into songs or tales. We’re in one, of course; but I mean: put into words, you know, told by the fireside, or read out of a great big book with red and black letters, years and years afterwards. And people will say: “Let’s hear about Frodo and the Ring!” And they’ll say: “Yes, that’s one of my favourite stories. Frodo was very brave, wasn’t he, dad?” “Yes, my boy, the famousest of the hobbits, and that’s saying a lot.”’ ‘It’s saying a lot too much,’ said Frodo, and he laughed, a long clear laugh from his heart. Such a sound had not been heard in those places since Sauron came to Middle-earth. To Sam suddenly it seemed as if all the stones were listening and the tall rocks leaning over them. But Frodo did not heed them; he laughed again. ‘Why, Sam,’ he said, ‘to hear you somehow makes me as merry as if the story was already written. But you’ve left out one of the chief characters: Samwise the stouthearted. “I want to hear more about Sam, dad. Why didn’t they put in more of his talk, dad? That’s what I like, it makes me laugh. And Frodo wouldn’t have got far without Sam, would he, dad?”’ ‘Now, Mr. Frodo,’ said Sam, ‘you shouldn’t make fun. I was serious.’ ‘So was I,’ said Frodo, ‘and so I am. We’re going on a bit too fast. You and I, Sam, are still stuck in the worst places of the story, and it is all too likely that some will say at this point: “Shut the book now, dad; we don’t want to read any more.”’
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews