‚I was going to find a way into Mordor,’ he said faintly. ‘I was going to Gorgoroth. I must find the Mountain of Fire and cast the thing into the gulf of Doom. Gandalf said so. I do not think I shall ever get there.’
The second movie was my introduction to Lord of the Rings: sometime in my teens, I wanted to watch ‚Braveheart‘ on TV, and I ended up watching ‚The Two Towers‘ instead – right in the middle of the Battle of Helm‘s Deep. I don’t remember the year, but it was Easter, and the next tuesday I went into the next bookstore, picked up these books, read them in three days and fell in love with them.
There suddenly upon a ridge appeared a rider, clad in white, shining in the rising sun.
‚The Two Towers‘ is better than ‚Fellowship‘ by far, because it is the second book in the trilogy: it doesn’t have to do all that introducing things and characters which the prequel did. Instead, it starts in medias res, right in the middle of the fights at Rauros – oh come on, I’m not gonna write a spoiler-free review for the Lord of the Rings, seriously. If you haven’t read it yet (you should!) then I’ll just tell you that I highly recommend this book. Please leave now, for this review is dark and full of spoilers.
‘Beneath Amon Hen I heard his cry. There many foes he fought,
His cloven shield, his broken sword, they to the water brought.
His head so proud, his face so fair, his limbs they laid to rest,
And Rauros, golden Rauros-falls, bore him upon its breast.
‘O Boromir! The Tower of Guard shall ever northward gaze,
To Rauros, golden Rauros-falls, until the end of days.‘
So, Boromir dies. He doesn’t say those epic last words Peter Jackson gave to him, but it’s still sad – and still, there’s no time left to cry for the rest of the fellowship: Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli start their awesome bromance-roadtrip to Fangorn on the heels of the Uruk-Hai, trying to save Merry and Pippin who are pretty good at taking care of themselves. They don’t find their companions (yet), instead they stumble into the middle of the erupting war between Isengard (bad!) and Rohan (cool!). On the way there they show us the most awesome character resurrection ever as they meet Gandalf again, who is now the White but has aged quite well. In fact, this is still the only character resurrection I’ve ever been okay with. Anyway, they get to Helm’s Deep to have a fancy battle with the Uruk-hai that isn’t nearly as epic as in the movie – Tolkien’s whole focus is towards Pelennor Fields, and this is just a benchmark on the way. An important benchmark of course, as Legolas and Gimli battle for the title of Mr Orcslayer Number One.
In Dwimordene, in Lórien
Seldom have walked the feet of Men,
Few mortal eyes have seen the light
That lies there ever, long and bright.
Clear is the water of your well;
White is the star in your white hand;
Unmarred, unstained is leaf and land
In Dwimordene, in Lórien
More fair than thoughts of Mortal Men.
Then they collect the others in Isengard and turn their minds towards Gondor and the epic battle of the Third Age – but we turn to Frodo and Sam on their way through the Emyn Muil. And that is the single, big critique I have regarding this one: these two stories aren’t told interchangeably, but in two big chunks instead, and that feels like it’s somehow making everything that happens in Rohan smaller – because the big battle happens right in the middle of the book. And then we leave them. Right there. I’m not saying that book four isn’t epic or worth the attention because that’s just not true, but I guess I’m not used this way of storytelling anymore: most books I read nowadays are told interchangeably, so that all of the various storylines‘ climaxes can happen right next to each other near the ending.
‚Stew the rabbits!’ squealed Gollum in dismay. ‘Spoil beautiful meat Sméagol saved for you, poor hungry Sméagol! What for? What for, silly hobbit? They are young, they are tender, they are nice. Eat them, eat them!’
Apart from that: brilliant book. Epic: Battle of Helm’s Deep. Funny: almost every conversation between Sam and Gollum. Everything else: is also there. ‚The Return of the King‘ is clearly the best one of these, just as it should be in a trilogy, but this is a perfect second book: it picks up the traces of the prequel and starts the big storylines that will reach their climax in the sequel: the battle for Minas Tirith is coming, Frodo and Sam enter Mordor to reach the final destination of their quest. This here isn’t the height of epicness but the collective breathing in of Middle-earth before this greatest of battles in Fantasy history. Also, there’s Treebeard and his awesome hatespeech about Jair Bolsonaro, sorry, I mean Saruman.
‚There is always a smoke rising from Isengard these days.
Curse him, root and branch! Many of those trees were my friends, creatures I had known from nut and acorn; many had voices of their own that are lost for ever now. And there are wastes of stump and bramble where once there were singing groves. I have been idle. I have let things slip. It must stop!
Does it get five stars? Hmm… seriously, of course it gets five stars. As I said, I’m not a big fan of how they split the book this way, but I’m not gonna take away a star for that because everything else is just P-E-R-F-E-C-T. This one isn’t as focused on worldbuilding as the first one – instead, the perspective shifts towards the characters, and those characters are just excellent. From Legolas and Gimli’s banter in the middle of battle up to Sam’s last stand against Shelob, these characters never cease to amaze me. A wonderful, timeless masterpiece about the power of friendship and shining hopes in the middle of the darkest night: come on, J.R.R., take those five stars.
‚Good-bye, master, my dear!‘ he murmured. ‚Forgive your Sam. He’ll come back to this spot when the job’s done – if he manages it. And then he’ll not leave you again. Rest you quiet till I come; and may no foul creature come anigh you! And if the Lady could hear me and give me one wish, I would wish to come back and find you again. Good-bye!‘