On Reading The Lord of the Rings for the Fourteenth Time, Part Two: The Two Towers

I’m in a martial arts studio in New Jersey watching my oldest son train.  A peculiar situation, you might say, in which to write a review of a fantasy story.  But not so.
“The Lord of the Rings” has to do with the struggle of good versus evil.  The difference, in the novel at least, is stark.  In real life often it is not.  Absolutes exist, to be sure, but we do not always see them in the floods of shades of gray.  Martial arts training is one way to deal with the modern wave of violence in the streets.  Not that if you have it you kick the shit out of anyone who threatens you.  It is more for personal confidence and peace of mind.  And of course for physical fitness.

“The Lord of the Rings”, setting out as it does the good and the bad so obviously, always causes in me a slight feeling of envy.  Would that our world could be so simple.  Instead it is vague, uncertain, nebulous, hazy.  Often I don’t know what is the right thing to do.

Be that as it may, “The Two Towers”, as the interim volume, has always been more difficult to read than the other two.  If there is any slow spot in the books, I think it is in the description of the capture of Merry and Pippin by the orcs, and their flight towards Isengard.  I always read it in toto, but I often wish it were more brief.  After that,
though, the story picks up, as the riders of Rohan and King Theoden are introduced and the battle of Helm’s Deep and the storming of Isengard are described.  In Peter Jackson’s movie version there are deviations from the book in this section, but I will not nitpick into every detail.

The main deviations with which I disagree in “The Two Towers”, as in “The Fellowship of the Ring”, have to do with characterization.  Firstly, there is the character of Faramir.  In the book he is marvelously developed, a princely man indeed, who does not love war for its own sake, who craves peace and art and poetry, who possesses great wisdom and discernment.  In the movie, to be honest, he is presented as a bit of a wimp.  Not only that, but in the book he expresses his deep-felt conviction that he would never touch the ring though it were laying on the ground in front of him, while in the movie he craves it for his father, to reconcile himself to him.  This is not right.

Another area in which the movie errs is in the character of Samwise.  The choices he is confronted with at the end of this book are profound and greatly illuminate his
character.  The movie brushes over this depth, and in the film Frodo sending Sam away, overcome as he is by the deception of Gollum, is completely out of left field.  Frodo never doubts Sam in the book, and Gollum is never able to overwhelm him with his delusions.

As I have mentioned before, in the review of “The Fellowship of the Rings”, I greatly enjoy the films, but the books are far superior.

The martial arts class goes on, as does the struggle of good against evil.  In this world, our
world, there is real good, and there is real evil, and we all must make choices daily to walk the paths of honor and responsibility and courage.  Destiny does not imply lack of choice,
because only through right choices can destiny be discovered.  In “The Two Towers” the Fellowship is sundered and each of the members are scattered in different directions and
must make choices according to their circumstances, and it is only when they decide on the noble and unselfish options that they are able to clearly see their next step.

Lately I have been going through changes in my own life through which I must discern my right path.  It isn’t easy.  Important decisions seldom are.  But a book like “The Lord of the Rings” is ennobling, and encourages me to find the right way, the honorable way, which is usually not the easy way.  Actually, in the confusion of the last few months it has been difficult for me to read anything at all.  I chose “The Lord of the Rings” because it always gives me a boost in the spirit, as it has this time as well.  “The Two Towers” concludes in darkness and despair.  But it is not the end.

I’m a professional writer; I make my living by my words.  I’m happy to share these essays with you, but at the same time, financial support makes the words possible.  If you’d like to become a patron of the arts and support my work, buy a few of my available books or available stories.  Thanks!

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