||Definitely the weakest book of the trilogy, and
I find it strange that my favorite sections deal entirely with Frodo,
Sam and Gollum, while the sections with the other members of the Company
were less interesting, even though much more occurred!
Book III deals entirely with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, their time in Rohan, as well as Merry and Pippin's
adventures with the ents. The beginning of the book drags on for quite
some time. Being a fan of the history of the lands, however, I did enjoy
the trek over the mountains and plains, and the details of the past that
we were given as they marched. I understand that it was a long march,
but the description went on for too long.
When the trio finally met up with Eomer,
there was a lot of talk, and I understood it all, amazingly, because I
know the stories so well, and the geography. But as with
of the Ring, I wonder how a first-time reader could interpret all of
this. These books definitely need multiple readings.
We get Boromir's last stand from the
point of view of the captured hobbits, but the description still falls
short of what was accomplished in the movie of
The Fellowship of the
Ring. As with my previous review, it is hard to avoid comparisons of
this book with the movie. I think there were a lot of missed
opportunities in the movie. If they had simply followed events as they
occurred in the books, the movie would have been better. Although the
chapter with Treebeard is way too long, with way too much exposition
(especially for new readers), meeting Treebeard for the first time was
actually a very nice and quiet moment. The writers of the movie really
made the world smaller in the movie. The ents in the book were fully
aware of what Saruman was doing, and that he had destroyed much of the
borders of Fanghorn forest. They didn't need a hobbit to trick them into
that. However, Merry and Pippin's arrival was the catalyst. I think both
the movie writers and Tolkien did a poor job with the end of the entmoot.
Because of all the new lands and
peoples that we meet, a lot of exposition is necessary. In that regard,
The Two Towers is way too talky, which is what made it so difficult, I'm
sure, to put it into movie form. While The Fellowship of the Ring has
adventure, then action, and menace, The Two Towers has a forsaken chase
across a vast landscape, talk between hobbits and a tree, talk between
the resurrected Gandalf and Aragorn/Legolas/Gimli, and talk between
Gandalf and Theoden/Wormtongue. The battle at Helm's Deep is rather
short, then we get more talk between Gandalf and Saruman! All the talk
was very informative, if you already knew about the lands and the
legends and cultures. Even while making the story more dramatic in many
ways, the film preserved the results even while altering the manner in
which the characters got there. That is quite impressive.
I have never been a fan of poetry,
although at one time, probably after reading this trilogy or
The Lays of Beleriand I tried my hand at it. This book has almost one long verse of
poetry, not all in English, in each chapter, thus weakening the chapters, as far
as I am concerned. I do not even know if it is good poetry, as I am from
a science background, but I wonder...
There is very little in the story to
suggest that Saruman had bewitched Theoden, except that he had given
Wormtongue some spells to prematurely age and weaken the King. The movie
was able to make it crystal clear. Some of the movie's funniest moments,
like the company leaving their weapons at the door, but Gandalf keeping
his staff, actually come from the book, as unlikely as that seems. In
the movie, however, Theoden goes into hiding right away, while the book
has him going to meet Saruman head-on, but retreating when a huge orc-host
is seen. Gandalf goes to gather the rest of Rohan's Westfold, rather
than Eomer's horsemen. I prefer the book version much more.
It is interesting that we get the
Flooding of Isengard in backstory from the hobbits, instead of
concurrent with Helm's Deep, as in the movie. As with the death of
Boromir, this only works in book form because of the dedicated points of
view in each chapter. The movie must do things differently, or appear
totally confusing. I like both kinds of storytelling, and they both work
in their appropriate element. Tolkien obviously wanted to keep the
flooding as a surprise (as did Gandalf) to the readers and the
characters, and didn't want to interrupt the action at Helm's Deep.
Gandalf uses veiled references to what is happening in Isengard, but the
hobbits take way too long to get to the tale. We know that the Ring of
Isengard was flooded, but Merry and Pippin talk incessantly before
gelling us how! On an unrelated note, I like the fact that elves frown
down upon smoking, as Legolas goes out to find some fresh air.
The Voice of Saruman chapter was mainly
a waste of time, as it barely has any substance, except as setup to The
Scouring of the Shire.
When we finally get to Book IV, we are
very ready to find out what was happening to Frodo and Sam. Somehow,
even though it is mostly uneventful, it is far more interesting than
most of what happened in Book III. Theirs is more of a mental battle, and
there is certainly less talk, because the characters do not know
anything. They secure Gollum and take him as their guide through the
rocks and marshes, to the Black Gate and through Ithilien to the Stairs
of Cirith Ungol. The events are fully character-driven, and as such, we
have a much larger emotional investment.
As I suspected from his dialog in Book
III, it was Gandalf resurrected who saved Frodo from the eye of Mordor at
Amon Hen as he had the ring on at the end of BookII. Gandalf came back from the Undying Lands
much stronger than he had been before dying.
As Peter Jackson pointed out in one of
the special features of this movie, the timelines in Books III and IV are
wildly divergent. Frodo and Sam only reach the Black Gate when Wormtongue threw the Palantir from the window in Isengard. This is
because journeying takes a lot less space than filling people in on the
results of battles and troop movements. Still, Tolkien did manage to
give us some long and detailed descriptions. The geography of the lands about Mordor
reminded me of the description of Beleriand in
The Silmarillion, though
it made me rather drowsy. Afterwards, I took a good look at the maps,
which made a lot more sense to me. It is also here that the book
Journeys of Frodo was most helpful, for it broke the wandering down into
smaller segments, and showed things not on the much larger scale maps
given in the trilogy.
Moving into Ithilien, the movie
completely butchered the character of Faramir. I wonder if that was
really just an excuse to show us Osgiliath, because it seems like a
wonderful city to build. Faramir was supposed to be more like Aragorn
than his brother Boromir. Aragorn refused the Ring, and Faramir did
likewise. There is no reason why he changed his mind after being a bully
in the movie. The book version works so much better. Just because the
writers couldn't understand his reaction, doesn't mean it is not valid.
It was not necessary to add conflict between Faramir and Frodo in
Ithilien, nor later on between Frodo and Sam on the Stairs. They all
feel the dread as they approached Shelob's lair, and that should have
been enough. It felt forced in the movie version of
The Return of the
It is nice that the writers kept so
much of the dialog from the book, like Sam and Frodo's discussion about
being in stories, and especially Gollum and Sam's discussion about
"sneaking", which I thought was hilarious in both versions. Although
much of the dialog occurs in different locations, I am still amazed at
how much was kept intact.
In the movie, Sam was not shown to put
on the Ring, as that was left as a surprise to the audience, as well.
Here, Sam's escape from Shelob's lair was much more involved, as was his
entrance into Cirith Ungol. I wondered long about why Sauron did not see
the Ring when Sam put it on. Was it because Sam did not put it on for
the sake of Power? Because Sauron was setting war into action? Possibly
because Aragorn was looking into the Palantir at that moment? Not the
first or last, I think (the timing isn't right on the Palantir), but
mostly because of the war. The explanation in
The Return of the King is
that Sauron's darkness hindered him from noticing, but I think that is
only part of the truth, because it is too weak.
The Two Towers is the book I remembered
least before going to see the movies. After all the talk, and moving of
pawns, I now understand why. Not much happens, although it is all
important, it is more important to move the pieces into proper position.
There is a huge explosion of the number of characters and locations,
which makes the story epic, but also very confusing or beyond complete
comprehension, especially on the first read. Having a guide like
Journeys of Frodo or map guide to Middle-Earth is essential. I found
that I needed it most while reading this book.
What surprised me most, after seeing
the movie so many times, is how much more enjoyable the Frodo-Sam
storyline was than the rest of the war. It was the opposite in the