Friday, December 16, 2011

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

Trying to review the Lord of the Rings trilogy is like standing in front of “The Pieta” and calling it “a nice statue.”  There just aren’t words to describe the combination of whimsy, adventure and manly virtue.   As I noted in my review of Fellowship of the Rings, Tolkien’s novel requires a tremendous amount of perseverance, but the rewards are rich.  It’s no wonder that those who love these books have a mystique about them.  The beautiful language and compelling story seem to demand a heart response from the reader.

Near the end of The Two Towers, Sam talks to Frodo about what makes an enduring story.

 “The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them.  I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say.  But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind… I wonder what sort of tale we’ve fallen into?

“I wonder if we shall ever be put into songs or tales.  We’re in one, of course; but I mean: put into words, you know, told by the fireside, or read out of a great big book with red and black letters, years and years afterwards.  And people will say: “Let’s hear about Frodo and the Ring!” And they’ll say: “Yes, that’s one of my favorite stories.  Frodo was very brave, wasn’t he, dad?” “Yes, my boy, the famousest of the hobbits….”’ (p. 711-712)

Did Tolkien know when he wrote these words that he was writing a masterpiece that would be read and re-read for generations to come?

Again, nothing I write can do the book justice.  I loved the Ents, I loved Faramir, I loved the constant references to Galadriel, I loved Gimli’s guileless infatuation with her, I loved faithful Sam, I loved the gorgeous prose:

When Sam determines to go with Frodo till the bitter end: “Sam said nothing.  The look on Frodo’s face was enough for him; he knew that words of his were useless.  And after all he never had any real hope in the affair from the beginning; but being a cheerful hobbit he had not needed hope, as long as despair could be postponed.” (p. 638)

Or when Sam describes Galadriel as “Hard as di’monds, soft as moonlight.  Warm as sunlight, cold as frost in the stars.  Proud and far-off as a snow-mountain, and as merry as any lass I ever saw with daisies in her hair in springtime.” (p. 680)

The Two Towers is a literary feast that nourishes and delights.

P.S. I watched the movie a few days after completing the book and was disappointed with its portrayal of Gimli and Faramir.  Gimli brought comic relief in the film, but he was not a buffoon in the book.  Faramir is a much more honorable character in the print version, although he does redeem himself in the movie.  Oh well. We all know that films are rarely as satisfying as the books...


Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I finally read The Hobbit for the first time last year and loved it. I really want to read more Tolkien, but I'm scared to even attempt something so long! Maybe one day. . .

Anonymous said...

Agreed! I am so glad my dad read the books to me when I was a child, and that I heard him read them again to my younger siblings, and read them myself and then read them to my own children. I think they are so important.

Ann Summerville said...

I have never read the books. Thanks for giving us an idea of what we've missed by only watching the movies.