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Thursday Quotables – The Two Towers

All the big important plans are not for my sort. 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 afterward. 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 strouthearted. ‘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?

Well, Sam, I can tell you that the story is still told and people do love it.

I loved this passage from The Two Towers. There is so much in it. But what I like the most is hope. Even in the most horrible of places, laugh may ring, and stories may bring it. I like the power that Tolkien gives to stories, and I think he was right.

It’s very strange. Very often, in trilogies, the central book is the lamer. Away from the exciting beginning and from the fulfilling ending, the middle book very often seems to be unresolved and truncated. To me, The Two Towers is the strongest of the trilogy. There is so much in this book in so many ways: so many feelings, so much purpose, so much action.

The Rohirrim part of the story always had my heart. I love these people, the way they understand life. I love the way they are willing to accept anyone, even the most different people, as long as they share their same values. And I like in particular their understanding and acceptance of everything which is primordial, even when they don’t fully understand it. I like the way they tend to understand life in a positive way, measuring it by the loyalty you can give, the respect you can give and take, the friendships you can build, the bravery you can assert. There seems to be very little space for negativity in the lives of the Rohirrim. When hate touches them, they look for the loyalty that can dispel that hate. When darkness descends, they look ahead for the rising sun. And they rather return the good they’ve received than the wrongs they suffered.

I truly love them.

On the other hand, the second book concerning Frodo and Sam is so involving, far more than I remembered. The relationship between Sam and Gollum is so much more complex than in the film. Even when Sam doesn’t trust Gollum at all, he still feels he should be civil to him, and this engenders a peculiar relationship of guarded trust and accepted danger, which is a very peculiar feeling I’ve seldom encountered in stories.

I loved the entire episode of Faramir, who is such a complex and positive character who embodies the essence of the leader is a subtly different way than Aragorn. Not a chosen one by any stretch, Faramir still possesses features of character which are innate in his personality and are as well the best a leader can wish for. Yes, Faramir appears in the films too… but he’s a completely different character there.

The episode of Cirith Ungol, including Shelob, is absolutely fantastic. So much visceral felling. It goes to the core of what life means and what meaning we can give to life. What depends on our choices, why we should still choose even when we are afraid to do so. Even when we make the wrong choice.

This is where The Lord of the Rings becomes the great story it is, in my opinion. This is its truest, strongest heart.

"The Two Tower, central novel of the #LOTR is the strongest of the three. So much fellings and purpose #Tolkien Share on X

Envisioning Middle Earth

When word of the making of a film trilogy first came out, more than twenties years ago, the world of Tolkien’s fandom went crazy. Most fans predicted horrible outcomes, thinking that it was impossible to translate The Lord of the Rings for the screen in a faithful way.

So I’m quite surprised that fifteen years after the trilogy, imagining a different Lord of the Rings is nearly impossible. I know that it will forever be impossible to envision these characters with a different look than that of the films, and especially it will be difficult to envision Middle Earth in any other way than in the film.

Peter Jackson made a choice that I didn’t quite share back then but that it proved to be the right one. Instead of creating his own vision of Middle Earth (which was what I had hoped for, the personal vision of a fan), he built on what was already familiar to fans. Even before the film trilogy, all fans were familiar with John Howe’s entrance of a Hobbit house, or with Alan Lee’s stately image of Orthanc. The Black Riders after the Hobbit hiding among the roots of a tree, the flight to the Bruinen Ford, the nine levels of walls of Minas Tirith, Gandalf’s grey outfit, the Dwarves’ stocky looks. When all these came to the screen, we fans recognised it. We had already seen it, in a guise or another.

I see now that this cemented our knowledge of Middle Earth. The reality of that place became stronger. It really became a place that could exist, somewhere other than our own readers’ minds.

There might be things we can blame on Peter Jackson (in spite of my love for the film trilogy, there are still things I could blame him for), but he did give us a ‘mighty gift’. I do believe he did. Fan to fan.

The Two Towers, always my favourite

When I started The Two Towers with the budding reading of The Lord of the Rings, I knew it was going to be my favourite. It has always been. Besides, the film of The Two Towers is my favourite of the film trilogy too. But because the films have overlaid the books in so many ways in the years since last I read them, I didn’t quite remember the beauty of the book.

Some characters are far more complex and subtly different in the book (Eomer, Theoden Faramir, for example), and episodes which are likewise very different (Shelob, the entire episode of Faramir in essence if not in action). I fell in love with Eomer and Theoden once more, who are quite different characters in the book. And the parts of Frodo, Sam and Gollum (including Shelob, which appears in the third film instead) were so deep and involving. They carried a profound meaning which is mostly lost in the films.

A better experience than even I was expecting.


Chapter One
The Departure of Boromir

Chapter Two
The Riders of Rohan

Chapter Three
The Uruk-hai

Chapter Four

Chapter Five
The White Rider

Chapter Six
The King of the Golden Hall

Chapter Seven
Helm’s Deep

Chapter Eight
The Road to Isengard

Chapter Nine
Flotsam and Jetsam

Chapter Ten
The Voice of Saruman

Chapter Eleven
The Palantir


Chapter One
The Taming of Sméagol

Chapter Two
The Passage of the Marshes

Chapter Three
The Black Gate Is Closed

Chapter Four
Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit

Chapter Five
The Window on the West

Chapter Six
The Forbidden Pool

Chapter Seven
Journey to the Cross-Roads

Chapter Eight
The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

Chapter Nine
Shelob’s Lair

Chapter Ten
The Choices of Master Samwise


DISCLAMER:  Of course, none of these images belongs to me. I’ve only collected them in order to share my feelings about the story, but every image belongs to its own creator. The great many of them come from Peter Jackson’s film trilogy, but classic works of the most famous Tolkien’s illustrators (I’ll just mention Alan Lee and John Howe as an example, but there are others) also appear, together with illustrations created by less known Tolkien enthusiasts.


In post is part of the Thursday Quotables meme. If you want to discover more about this meme and maybe take part in it, head over to Bookshelf Fantasies


  • Margot Kinberg
    Posted October 19, 2017 at 16:35

    I’ve always liked the depth and complexity of the characters that Tolkien created, Sarah. It’s very hard to portray those networks accurately in film, but they’re certainly there in the novels.

    • Post Author
      Posted October 20, 2017 at 07:38

      I so loved rereading the books I almost can’t believe it.
      My friends from the Tolkien group here in Verona joked of me because I kept texting them on the Whatsapp chat commenting the chapters. One of them said: “As if she had never read it before!” He made me laugh!
      But really, it was such awesome experience I needed to share. Well, that’s what I’m still doing, I suppose 😉

  • Sharon HImsl
    Posted October 21, 2017 at 02:54

    Like this 🙂 Just stopping by to say ‘hi’

    • Post Author
      Posted October 30, 2017 at 08:30

      Hi Sharon! Sorry for the late reply. So happy to see you here 🙂

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