the Little Red Reviewer

LOTRreadalong: The Two Towers, part 3

Posted on: October 29, 2011

Hi Everyone, welcome to our last discussion of the epic middle book in The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers. (click for parts One and Two) Focusing on the end of the book, our adventures center around Frodo and Sam, who with Gollum’s help, are looking for a way into Mordor.

and as they say, one does not simply occupy Mordor. Or wait, have I got it wrong? ;)

Anyway, after running into a very suspicious but mostly friendly Faramir, they decide to take Gollum’s advice regarding the only other way into Mordor. Up many, many stairs. Into a dark, dark cave.  I still can’t watch those particular scenes in the movie, I usually cover my eyes and have someone tell me when it’s over. If you’ve seen it, you know what I mean.

I got to come up with questions/discussion starters for the end of The Two Towers, and I invited everyone to add and subtract, get creative, go whichever direction they wanted. Here’s what we started with:

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?

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.

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?

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?

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?

The book ends on a cliffhanger. Are you excited to finish up the trilogy and see how it all turns out?

The answers, after the jump!

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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. He’s a good son, but I don’t think he is tempted by power. Had he been part of the original Fellowship, I don’t think he ever would have tried to take the ring from Frodo, or even asked about it.  But where does that get us?  If Frodo hadn’t felt threatened, he wouldn’t have left.  If Faramir had been with them, and somehow fallen (it’s the noble thing to do, doncha know), it would have been Boromir that they’d have run into outside Mordor. . . and he certainly would have tried to take the ring.  So I guess it’s a good thing in the end, that Faramir wasn’t part of Elrond’s Council. Even though I still think he’s the more deserving of the brothers.

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.

At least it wasn’t as scary as I’d expected. I had plans to read this chapter in broad daylight, with two beers by my side.  Not only was it a super fast chapter, and yes, it was suspenseful and very scary, but it wasn’t totally arachnid-y.  only a little bit.  Would I willingly go in there? If i had more than 2 beers by my side (and then in my bloodstream) perhaps.  I might have been one of those jerks who demands we go exploring and find another way.  Frodo is great about trusting Gollum, but jeez man, you are allowed to make your own decisions you know!

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?

If I learned anything from Greek mythology it’s that whatever you hear or see from an oracle, it’s the half of the truth that you want to see. And the other half is always the tragic side of the story.  ‘nuf said.

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 came up with this question, and now I’m having a really hard time answering it!  But I’m reminded of the scene where Sam is talking himself into taking the ring.  He reminds himself that Frodo never wanted the ring, or chose this path.   He did it because no one else could, or would.  He didn’t do it because he wanted it, he did it because he had to.  And really, if anyone other than Frodo is capable of carrying the ring, wouldn’t it be Sam?  Me personally, I’d have a tough time with it.  I’m not greedy for power or anything, but I’m so abhorred by the thing, that I’d probably happily give it to the first person who asked to see the shiny.  And that would be a bad thing.

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?

I got the impression that Tolkien was humanizing the enemy, and I was comforted by that. Sauron is a super duper needs to die now kind of bad guy, but the jerks who signed up to work for him?  Jerks, and in the wrong place at the wrong time, and would rather go home and live their lives and be left alone. Remember, there are a lot of humans who work for Sauron too. It would have been really interesting if this conversation was between two humans instead of two Orcs.   The bad guy is the bad guy, but the idiots who work for him might or might not be.  Makes war look a little fuzzier, doesn’t it?

The book ends on a cliffhanger. Are you excited to finish up the trilogy and see how it all turns out?

Very much so!  from the films, I have a general idea of how it ends, but it’s been a few years since I saw them, and I”m not going to watch the again until we’re completely done with our read along.  I’m very excited for the end, and morbidly curious to see who survives to the end.  There’s some foreshadowing all over the place about how there was a traitor in the Shire or there abouts, and I want to know if that gets taken care of.

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12 Responses to "LOTRreadalong: The Two Towers, part 3"

I managed to finish the book. Yay! I was really slow for a bit there… Now to find time to catch-up with the questions!

No worries, take your time. I barely finished the 1st section in time. The only reason I finished this part as quick as I did was because I knew it was my turn to come up with questions.

Your discussion prompts were great, Andrea. Thanks! I of course am just too literal with these things and had to answer them all.

I was surprised that Shelob’s lair was not as scary in the book as it was on screen, although that doesn’t take away anything from the book. There is just something about ‘seeing’ a giant spider that is different than ‘imagining’ one. I do enjoy the way Tolkien describes the darkness and oppression of the lair. And I would not want to go in there. No thank you.

I still see Frodo as making his own choices often. Yes, he is influenced by Gandalf’s words about Gollum, but I see that as merely Gandalf opening Frodo’s mind to not always judge things at face value. I think Frodo’s stern words to Gollum earlier in the story show that he is not willing to entirely trust Gollum and that the time could come when he will react with judgment and not pity in regards to Gollum. I think Tolkien points out that while Frodo knows that Gollum isn’t telling the “whole” truth, that he is being truthful about this being the only way into Mordor if Frodo wants to get in secretly. And of course they trust that Gollum is not going to lead them anywhere that is dangerous to him and so by default it is a little less dangerous for the hobbits.

Having read this far you really can appreciate the situation Sam finds himself in. We’ve seen what the ring did to Bilbo. We’ve seen what long term exposure to the ring did to Gollum, and Sam has witnessed it drag Frodo down over this long journey. No wonder he is reluctant to take it and try to finish the mission himself. And of course all along his motivation is to protect and serve Frodo, not to destroy the ring. Once Frodo is seemingly dead, Sam is lost. It is a mark of his true character that he realizes that in the end the mission is still important, not just for him but for all the wondrous people and places he has seen on this journey.

I’m very well acquainted with these stories. I watch the films at least once a year and just saw them all again on the big screen this past June. But I am still VERY excited for the next leg of our journey. I can’t wait!!!

Hi, only just posted – sorry I’m a bit late..
Not read everyone’s comments yet but will do shortly.
My link: http://lynnsbooks.wordpress.com/2011/10/29/lord-of-the-rings-read-along-end-of-book-two-the-two-towers/
Lynn :D

Hello again,
Just read your responses – I’m trying not to read anyone else’s thoughts until I’ve posted so I’m not influenced. We seem to have pretty similar thoughts on a bit of this. I thought it was better that Boromir was in the original party – but I really liked Faramir, much more than in the film where I actually quite disliked him at one point! I’m going to watch all the three films again (extended versions) shortly (not until I’m near the end so I can finish them at the same time). That’s the plan anyway!
I liked your point about Tolkien humanising the enemy – after all you’re on different sides more often than not just an an happen chance of birthplace – or if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Great discussion points.
Thanks
Lynn

Here’s my response to some very thought-provoking questions on The Two Towers: http://allbookedup-elena.blogspot.com/2011/10/two-towers-read-along-week-three.html

Just think how different the Fellowship would have been if Faramir would been in the Company instead of Boromir. The whole group probably would still to together in the conclusion of The Two Towers.

I am glad that Shelob’s Lair was not that bad for you..:) I was thinking what is Andrea going through right now. I am not that sure if I could put the amount of trust that Frodo put in Gollum in throughout the journey to Mount Doom. I was would have been more skeptic of Gollum as Sam has been.

I also like the way that Tolkien humanized the Orcs to make it look like they have brains larger than a mustard seed.They just reminded me of Cotton Hill of King of the Hill BSing with his old WWII buddies.

Nothing beats the rich atmosphere of Tolkien. There are densely plotted novels, highly lyircal works, Tolkien beats them all in a perfect balance. He is just as poetic as Ursula LeGuin (to me, the styles are almost indistinguishable, apart from some side aspects and differences of personality and background), he has all the briskness of norse myth and legend, he can be light and tragic, he is realistic and deeply fantastic, etc.
OK, I’m exaggerating now, but the impact is always tremendous from reading something else and going back. It’s exactly that, “reading something else” and “going back”. Anyway, I’m just fooling around, take it or leave it (and there are elements I find rather tiresome, dull, like anyone else).

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Redhead is a snarky, non-politically correct 30-something who reviews mostly science fiction and fantasy and talks about all sorts of other fun scifi and fantasy geekery. She once wrote a haiku that included the word triskaidekaphobia.

This blog contains adult language and strong opinions. The best way to contact her outside of this blog is twitter, where she is @redhead5318 .

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