21 March 2010

Readalong 2: The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien

It's time for the second set of questions for this month's Lord of the Rings Readalong. Our host for The Two Towers is Teresa from Shelf Love, has come up with some great questions.

1. Where are you in your reading? Are you finding it slow going or is it a quick read?

I've finished The Two Towers. I listened to the unabridged audio edition of the book, so reading was neither slow nor fast, but I found it hard to put the book down. After the slower pace of The Fellowship of the Ring, this novel is action packed, taking us to our first battles. Strange alliances are made, and the characters are forced to make critical decisions that could affect not only themselves but all of Middle Earth.

2. If you’re a rereader, how does this reading compare to past readings? If you're a first-time reader, how has The Two Towers met—or not met—your expectations? What has surprised you most in your reading?

Although other participants in the readalong have already mentioned it, I'd like to comment on the strength of this novel. The middle entry of many trilogies suffer from being a transition book, a vehicle to get the reader from the setup to the climax. Tolkien, however, crafted a novel that stands up well on its own. New characters are introduced, all plot lines are advanced, and there is a good mix of action and suspense. As I mentioned in my first discussion of The Two Towers, the personalities of main characters grow, and their qualities are tested. In some cases, the strength of an individual is surprising or inspiring.

3. In Book 3, we visit lots of new places and meet lots of new characters. There's Fangorn and the Ents, the riders of Rohan, Saruman at Isengard. Which are your favorites? Least favorites?

I already mention how much I like the Ents and Éowyn. I finally got to meet Faramir of Gondor again! He is one of my favorites. I admire the way he treats Frodo and Sam, with just the right mix of distrust and fairness until he learns their story. He digs deep enough to get the information he needs to make a wise decision about the Hobbits' fate, while respecting the secrets they must keep. Although we learn he is Boromir's brother, and we see that his men respect him, we do not yet know much about his father. In Lord of the Rings, events, relationships, individuals, and places may be hinted at and foreshadowed, but these are revealed only slowly, as they are in real life.

4. Have your opinions of the main characters from Fellowship changed at all in The Two Towers?

No. I don't think my opinions of the main characters have changed, but this may be the result of how familiar I am with the books. We see new aspects of their personalities, such as the burden of Frodo, the resourcefulness and loyalty of Sam, the practical bravery of Gimili, and the self-doubts of Aragorn. The important characters are realistically portrayed: they make mistakes, lose their temper, or can be foolish, but in the end, their true nature shines through.

5. Are there any scenes that strike you as particularly memorable? Anything you could do without?

Oh no! Don't cut anything from LOTR! I like every bit of it. I love the horrible scenes when Frodo and Sam meet Shelob and discover the power of Galadriel's light and of the sword Sting. Sam's dilemma and his ultimate choices are key to the tale's conclusion, yet his struggle is not overdone. Of course, I love it when Pippin and Merry meet up with Aragorn, Gimili, and Legolas again. The sharing of their adventures over food and drink is a welcome break after the death and destruction of battle.

6. And the obligatory movie question: If you've seen the movie, has it affected your perception of The Two Towers? If so, how?

I'll touch on just one thing here: the relationship between Frodo and Sam. I never understood why Peter Jackson had to make Frodo turn against Sam. Although Frodo feels the weight and pull of the ring, his personal strength is that he never shies away from what he must do and never doubts the loyalty of Sam. The distance between master and servant is ever shrinking, and their bond never breaks. As I've said before, I am able to keep the movie and the novel separate; it's only when I make these side-by-side comparisons that I get upset with the films.

To see what the other participants think, check out the Mr. Linky in Teresa's post. Next month, it's The Return of the King, and then I'll be leaving LOTR for another few years.


caite 3/21/10, 9:57 AM  

I agree that LoTR is an exception to the case of the second..or third...part being weaker than the first. In fact, I think it just get stronger andf stronger as it goes on toward the climax.

Dorte H 3/21/10, 1:31 PM  

It is so interesting to follow your progress, and I like your comments on film versus books especially. Films are okay if you want to kill an hour or two, but I cannot remember when I have been so engrossed in a film that I didn´t visit blogs simultaneously.

Teresa 3/21/10, 1:50 PM  

As I know I've mentioned before, I also love Faramir. I just finished his section in TTT, and I miss him already.

And I agree with you about Frodo turning against Sam seeming unnecessary. I know it ramped up the tension, but there's enough tension already! I read a blog post somewhere that lots of Jackson's changes served to diminish the characters in some way, which I think is why the changes bug me so. I love these characters so much that it pains me to see their nobility and goodness diminished.

Alice Teh 3/22/10, 2:26 AM  

I think it's the same for me too. I like the story better from book two. I'm still reading THE HOBBIT (yes, I know. I'm HORRIBLE!).

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 3/22/10, 1:30 PM  

I admire that you revisit these books periodically. I really should give them another try. From your notes today, it seems maybe I should skip THE HOBBIT and just move to the trilogy ... or, try the audio :)

Amy 3/22/10, 4:12 PM  

You're right about Faramir. He has a tough role but treats Frodo and Sam very fairly.

Nymeth 3/22/10, 4:24 PM  

Frodo and Sam's relationship really is a beautiful thing. And I completely agree that this suffers from no middle-book-in-a-trilogy syndrome. I need to read these again.

Marie 3/22/10, 6:47 PM  

I've never read these books, so I'm enjoying following the readalong posts :-)

Tribute Books 3/23/10, 12:45 PM  

Thanks,for the review enjoying it!

kaye 3/24/10, 4:48 PM  

I enjoyed reading your post very much Beth and agree with you on all points. I think Tolien's development of the story is phenomonal. The characters are all near and dear to the heart. And I agree--I would want nothing left out. I'm also with you on the whole changes to Frodo in the movie. I really disliked the way Jackson changed Frodo's character in the film.

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