Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

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...

(The entire section is 721 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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

(The entire section is 282 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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

(The entire section is 380 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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

(The entire section is 679 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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

(The entire section is 255 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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

(The entire section is 442 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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

(The entire section is 99 words.)


(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. Traces the blend of sacred and secular in the trilogy and evaluates Gandalf’s death and return to life in The Two Towers.

Isaacs, Neil D., and Rose A. Zimbardo, eds. Tolkien: New Critical Perspectives. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1981. An introduction to earlier Tolkien criticism. Includes discussions of Frodo and Aragorn as heroes, Gandalf’s battle with the Balrog, and light and darkness as symbols of Galadriel and Shelob in The Two Towers.

Lee, Stuart D, and Elizabeth Solopova. The Keys of Middle-Earth. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. A handy portal into Tolkien’s medieval sources, featuring modern translations of the original texts.

Lobdell, Jared, ed. A Tolkien Compass. LaSalle, Ill.: Open Court, 1975. Essays on such topics as good and evil in the trilogy, as represented in The Two Towers by color symbolism; the corrupting force of power, represented in The Two Towers by Gollum; and the spiral narrative structure of The Two Towers.

Petty, Anne C. One Ring to Bind Them All: Tolkien’s Mythology. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1979. Good introduction to Tolkien and mythology. Includes a structuralist interpretation of the trilogy and traces Frodo’s development in The Two Towers.