Places Discussed

East of the river

East of the river. An Orc ambush has captured Merry and Pippin, and a remorseful Boromir has died trying to protect them. Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas (human, dwarf, and elf) commit Boromir’s body to the river and head southwest, following the Orc trail in the hope of rescuing the young Hobbits. Their route crosses into empty grasslands, territory given to the Rohirrhim by Gondor. Meanwhile Merry and Pippin escape during a fight between the Orcs and a band of the Riders of Rohan and slip into Fangorn Forest. There, in an ancient, almost stiflingly dense woods, they meet Treebeard the Ent, a giant “shepherd” of the trees.

The long-lived Ents rarely concern themselves with human power struggles; however, Saruman, an evil wizard who occupies a tower near the forest, has allowed his Orc workers to chop down trees, partly to feed the furnaces of his war ambitions and partly out of utter indifference to nature. Treebeard agrees to help the Hobbits, gathers other Ents, and, with Merry and Pippin on his shoulders, leads a march upon Isengard followed by furious “huorns,” who may be degenerate Ents or angry animate trees, a green army intent upon payback.

Gandalf, who is not dead, finds Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas, and they ride across the plains of Rohan to Edoras, where Theoden reigns in a primitive yet dignified palace which suggests the world of “Beowulf,” a simpler and younger civilization than that of Gondor. Roused to action, Theoden, his Riders, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas gallop from the Golden Hall to Helm’s Deep, a fortress from which the horselords are mounting a defense against Saruman’s troops. Gandalf departs to seek other help, and after a night of graphic battle, he brings aid to...

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Literary Techniques

Tolkien has received a great deal of critical acclaim for the amazingly comprehensive history of Middle-Earth that so enriches his work. Much...

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Ideas for Group Discussions

Tolkien, a linguist, understood well the relationship between language and its speakers. Thus, one of the ways he differentiated the various...

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Social Concerns

J. R. R. Tolkien's The Two Towers begins almost in chaos. The fellowship of the ring has been shattered, Boromir killed, Samwise and...

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Literary Precedents

One of the most important literary precedents to The Two Towers is the Old English epic of Beowulf, which Tolkien translated...

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Related Titles

Tolkien published The Hobbit; or There and Back Again in 1937 as a children's book, in which he introduces Hobbits (and specifically...

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Audio book versions of The Two Towers have been published both on cassette and compact disc in an abridged version by Random House...

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(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Carter, Lin. Tolkien: A Look Behind “The Lord of the Rings.” New York: Ballantine Books, 1969. A useful general introduction to the trilogy. Contains a summary of The Two Towers and includes chapters discussing allegory, the inclusion in the trilogy of elements of the classical epic and fantasy, Tolkien’s theory of fairy stories, the kind of names he used, and the sources on which he drew.

Ellwood, Gracia Fay. Good News from Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1970. Discusses the “aliveness” of all things in Middle Earth and the way in which that resembles the human unconscious....

(The entire section is 292 words.)