Just finished reading book 2 of the Lord of the Rings, the Two Towers, as part of our group read along. This final instalment of Book 2 took us from The Window on the West through to The Choices of Master Samwise.
This week Andrea from The Little Red Reviewer has come up with discussion points which are below:
Faramir strikes me as a noble, intelligent fellow, especially concerning powers beyond his control. Had he gone to Elrond’s Council instead of Boromir, how might the story have changed?
I really liked Faramir (a lot more in the book than the film) and thought it was interesting to read this section because it is actually quite different from the film. I think the film version makes Faramir seem a bit more weak and indecisive than the book. In the book he comes across as intelligent, dedicated, honourable and thoughtful. He treats the hobbits respectfully and questions them in a way which gives him the answers he needs. He also tries to give them wise counsel before they continue on their quest and although he understands the nature of what is before him he resists the temptation and therefore proves himself more resistant to the ring than his brother Boromir (although whether or not he would be able to sustain his resistance if he stayed longer in company with the hobbits is unknown). But, personally I think it was better that Boromir was included in the Fellowship. I don’t think he was always the wisest but to be honest the Counsel were not short of wiseness – Aragorn and Gandalf certainly don’t have a lack of knowledge – and maybe if Faramir had been included they would have had so many wise voices that they would have just gone round and round in circles and never made any decisions. Boromir – through his dissenting voice – quite often pushed the Counsel to make decisions almost as an adverse reaction to what he was saying, and, on top of that, he was the spur that Frodo needed to break with the Fellowship and continue to Mordor with Sam.
What did you think of Shelob and her lair? Would you willingly go in there? Yes, I know Gollum says “this is the only way”, but Frodo could have demanded they explore and attempt to find another way.
I really don’t like spiders and the notion of a spider as large as Shelob gives me the shivers – in fact, I’d sooner climb up a mountain I think!. I think I would probably have preferred to look for an alternative if the truth be told but, in fairness to Frodo, he didn’t really have any other option did he? He was reliant on Gollum – he knew that he would eventually try something or betray them but whilst he seemed to be guiding them he had to trust him and the fact that Gollum was scheming meant he would never have revealed any other way to the hobbits (even if one existed). I suppose the other thing was that Frodo, having seen the army issuing forth from Mordor, now realised the urgency of his quest and so his choices were limited and the need for haste was paramount.
When Sam saves Frodo from Shelob, he finds himself in the vision he saw in Galadriel’s mirror. Knowing the future isn’t always as helpful as one would think, is it?
Definitely not. One part of me thinks it would be so irresistable to be told the future and another thinks not (maybe the winning lotto numbers!). As it happens, having seen this particular vision of the future didn’t turn out helpful to Sam at all – although, interestingly, when Sam sees the vision he assumes Frodo his asleep, in reality however he thinks Frodo has died and he therefore makes the decision to continue alone – if he had stuck with his original interpretation of the vision things may have turned out differently!
Having always been a sidekick/helper of sorts, Sam reluctantly realizes he may have to become the Ringbearer. What do you think Sam will do with the Ring of Power? If you were the sidekick of the hero, and suddenly had the opportunity to become the hero, to finish the quest, what would you do with the Ring of Power?
I think I would have reached the same conclusion as Sam, which is that the quest is too important and that it must continue to the end, even if the ringbearer has to change. I like the idea of Sam being the sidekick – just picturing him as Robin to Frodo’s Batman!!
The conversation between the two Orcs at the end was highly amusing for me. Yes, it serves to educate Sam on Frodo’s condition, and Tolkien could have just left it at that, but he didn’t. The Orc’s commiserating could have been any soldiers in any war. To me, it felt like Tolkien was humanizing the enemy, instead of the traditional dehumanizing of the enemy that you usually see in war stories. What do you think?
That’s a really good point – when I was reading the conversation between Gorbag and Shagrat the part that struck me particularly was their discussion about slipping off somewhere with a few trusty lads, somewhere with good loot and nice and handy with no big bosses – like the old times. So, you can gather from that conversation that they don’t like the war any more than anybody else – I like that Tolkien wrote it like this – I don’t think it made me like the Orcs any more but it does illustrate that in spite of the differences the enemy also wants to get things over with and have some semblance of normality.
The book ends on a cliffhanger. Are you excited to finish up the trilogy and see how it all turns out?
I’m really enjoying the read along – and particularly seeing the differences between the book and the film. It’s so long ago that I read the story that to be honest I thought the film was exactly the same and yet there are differences and I find it really interesting as these crop up – thinking particularly about the change in story regarding Faramir and how he lets the hobbits continue on their quest and also Sam and Frodo on the stairs and how they actually go in to Shelob’s lair together. I’m really looking forward to the final book!
Thanks Andrea, really good topics for discussion.
This week seems to have completely run away from me. I’ve had a few days off from work and so was expecting to get lots of reading done and for this part of the read along to be a breeze but the best laid plans, etc, etc. So, I’ve only just caught up! I’ve not checked out everyone’s comments yet but will do so shortly – didn’t want to be influenced before I’d sorted my answers. Thanks to Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings for providing the questions this week.
1. The Glittering Caves of Aglarond; Fangorn Forest: Which of the two would you be most excited to visit once the war was over?
I actually like the sound of the caves but I think I would not like to be under the earth for any great length of time and so I would definitely prefer Fangorn Forest. I like the idea of exploring Fangorn, even though it’s very strange, creepy and old it still sounds fascinating. I love the descriptions of the forest not to mention the moving trees – you would go to sleep under a tree and wake up in the morning and it would be gone – you’d just be totally lost. (Well, maybe being lost isn’t such a brilliant idea – better remember to take lots of provisions!)
2. How did you like the reunion of at least part of the fellowship at Isengard? Did any part of it stand out to you?
I personally enjoyed the ‘part’ reunion at Isengard although I thought it was more low key than I anticipated. That being said I thought all the bits with Merry and Pippin smoking their pipes and foraging for food added a really good injection of humour. Yet again, I really like the way that Tolkien manages to make you smile. I think his ability to add humour is one of the big pluses of this book for me and stops it becoming too dark.
3. What are your thoughts about Galdalf’s confrontation with Saruman?
Again, I found this particular scene strangely low key. I think there was a decent build up of tension with everyone being warned beforehand about how to act in the face of Saruman but somehow I think I would have liked more flash and fireworks between the two wizards, although I suppose on reflection, they had already had a face off earlier on in the novel. For me, I think I would have liked to have had the satisfaction of Gandalf kicking some wizard butt (although I knew that didn’t happen so what am I going on about here??) Gandalf is clearly a lot more grown up than me!! And, he just took it all in his stride.
4. We learn a great deal about the Palantir in this section. How do you feel about Saruman given Gandalf’s speech about the use of the Palantir? Would you, like Pippen, be tempted to look in to see what you could see?
I think Saruman showed a surprising lack of common sense throughout the novel not to mention a huge amount of arrogance. The very notion that he was going to side with Sauron is just naïve to the maximum given all his years’ of experience and what he knows of the enemy and also there is this element to his behaviour where he actually believes he can get the better of Sauron which again just seems unbelievable. It makes you see though that not only Boromir succumbed to the power of the ring after all. I think I would be tempted to look into the Palantir but I don’t think I would have had the nerve to go and take it from under Gandalf’s nose! But, in the end, Pippin’s mistake probably turned out more helpful than harmful and also saved Gandalf from a potentially dangerous confrontation.
5. What are your thoughts about Smeagol/Gollum in this first part of his journey leading Frodo and Sam? For those of you who’ve seen the film, are you hearing Andy Serkis in your head when you read Gollum’s lines?
Strange as it may seem I can’t help but like Gollum. He certainly has a one track mind and pursues his own goal relentlessly – it’s a pity he’s such a strange and lonesome little critter – he could really be quite helpful to have on your team, he virtually doesn’t need to eat or sleep, he’s dedicated and he’s an adept tracker! I also can’t help just reading all Gollum’s lines in the voice of Andy Serkis. I think he just made the role his own and it’s now impossible for me to imagine this character in any other way. Again, I like the way that Gollum manages to add quite a bit of light heartedness with his little songs, his sulking and his comical dialogue – ‘give me fish now, and keep nasty chips!’
6. Sam and Frodo are not traveling in the most picturesque part of Middle-earth. Which would you find worse, the seemingly impossible to leave mountains or the Dead Marshes?
No thought necessary for this one – I would find the mountains the worse. I don’t have any head for heights and the notion of having to peer over the edge of a cliff or scale down it brings out the goosebumps for me! Give me the marshes any day! Plus, imagine having to sleep on the side of a mountain – I’d probably roll over the edge during a dream or something. Terra firm is definitely my choice, boggy and full of dead people and strange lights or not!
7. Tolkien introduces us to a lot of places in this section of The Two Towers, many just getting a mention in passing. What do you think of Tolkien’s place names (Minas Morgul, Isengard, the Emyn Muil, and on and on)? Do any stand out to you? Are there any that you don’t care for?
I think Tolkien did a great job of naming such a lot of places – I genuinely don’t know how he did it because I think it’s not as easy as it sounds coming up with random names. Also, I feel that his name places quite often give a strange sense of what the place is going to be like – although I would say that because I’m already familiar. But, just by way of example, the Shire, you imagine this to be farmlands, rich and green with cottages, Rivendell – lots of water and falls, Fangorn – just sounds creepy as though the forest has teeth (I know I’m being overly simple here!!). But, I think Tolkien does a great job of not just conjuring the places but also naming them – he makes it look easy.
Thanks Carl for the questions this week.
Other blog conversations can be found at:
Just finished reading the first part of The Two Towers as part of a #LOTRreadalong being hosted by The Little Red Reviewer with this week’s questions being provided by Clint of Geeky Daddy. This week’s chapters take us to Chapter 8, the Road to Isengard.
The questions this week:
What is your favorite part of The Two Towers, thus far into the book?
I’m torn with this one. Obviously I think the Ents are brilliant, they are such amazing characters and I think the whole history with the disappearance of the Entwives was so good to read. I’d completely forgotten about that! I also thought the Riders of Rohan is a great chapter. I love the introduction to the Riders of Rohan, the part where they completely ride past Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli without even noticing their presence is great and then we’re introduced to Eomer and his little altercation with Gimli ‘I would cut off your head, beard and all, Master Dwarf, it it stood but a little higher from the ground’. What I really love about that little speech is that it is completely replicated in the film as is so much of the dialogue from the book. I think it’s great the way Gimli’s parts in the book always manage to inject some humour – even at the bleakest times – and also this highlights yet again his friendship with Legolas when he stands by Gimli against Eomer. But, and after that long diatribe my favourite chapter has got to be Helm’s Deep. Such bravery and courage in the face of such enormous opposition. Gimli, shines yet again in this chapter! And, I think what the book manages to portray more strongly than the film, was the underlying cowardliness of the Orcs – who, in spite of their far greater numbers, run for the hills (or more importantly the trees – and how cool was it that a forest appeared of a sudden) as soon as Helm’s Horn sounds – plus Gandalf appearing at the final moment with Erkenbrand – just so uplifting and I got goosebumps reading it.
What were your thoughts of Boromir trying to defend Merry and Pippin from Orc archers?
I know Boromir isn’t to everybody’s liking but I never really disliked him. He was misguided but not bad and even though he was overwhelmed I believe he would always try to defend those in need – even in his last breath he was asking Aragorn to go to Minas Tirith and save his people. So his defending Merry and Pippin to me felt natural – also, I’m sure he would very much have liked to have made up for his part in Frodo’s running away.
What thoughts would have been going through your mind if you were approached by Treebeard?
I think if I had been approached by Treebeard I would have been completely gobsmacked. I mean, even if you were living in Middle Earth where Wizards, elves and hobbits exist along with Trolls and other creatures I don’t think anything could prepare you for an Ent. I think an Ent would be just something that was talked about as a mythical thing – a bit like a unicorn. Yep, gobsmacked about sums it up for me! Not very eloquent but there it is.
What were your thoughts and reactions of the battle at the Hornburg?
Well, I’ve already spoken about this in my first answer. This is my favourite part of the book. I just love the way that even though the situation is so desperate the characters don’t lose hope. They’re full of courage, always rushing into battle with their own battle cries and each of our characters have such important parts to play.
Do you like it that Tolkien has split the Company into three mini-quests? Do you wonder if the company will be together throughout the quest again?
I actually think that splitting the Company into three mini quests makes great sense. We get to cover so much ground – and it’s three times as interesting. A definite winner on all fronts as far as I can see and I don’t think it could have worked in any other way. I mean, really, the Company never planned to stay together for the whole quest and even Gandalf didn’t have a plan that would take them to the end. Plus I don’t think nine people could just stride up to the Gates of Mordor – two little hobbits going it alone have a much better chance of staying hidden – hidden in plain sight really, because Sauron just doesn’t conceive of the idea of anyone actually wanting to destroy the One Ring. I don’t think it would be possible for the Company to come together during the Quest (but then I would say that as I already know the outcome) but it makes for a brilliant reunion at the end!
Rereading this book is just proving such a lot of fun, especially with all the discussion and what I find really amazing is that even though we’re now over 500 pages into the story I have never felt any lack of interest or desire to skip read. Such a testament to JRR Tolkien’s writing that it is still so captivating even though I’ve already read it not to mention seen the films a lot!
Take this link to The Little Red Reviewer to see more discussion.
Plus this link takes you to a lego version of the first book – I couldn’t resist it, it just made be laugh (although I’m not sure how reliable this link is so not necessarily saying you should use it – if you want a look check it out on You Tube (LOTR The Fellowship of the Ring):