We watched Peter Jackson’s Two Towers (2002) … and we have some thoughts!
Our goal with this “review” is not to identify all the differences between the book and the film, which has been done plenty of times already by more diligent note-takers than ourselves. Rather, in this special episode we focus on some particular themes of the Two Towers book and film, including
Sam’s purported simplicity (as characterized by Tolkien himself), and whether this is fair;
Gríma and his super-creepy movie scene with Éowyn, and the interesting source of some of his poetic dialogue;
the age-disparate celebrity couple Ara-wen and the might-have-been celebrity couple Éo-gorn;
and Rich’s unshakable suspicion that Gandalf the Grey and Gandalf the White are two different people.
This stunning conclusion to Book Four will reveal whether half-wise (the meaning of Old English Sām-wīs) is wise enough. When Sam recovers from the immediate shock of Frodo’s “death”—tumbling out of a grief-induced blackout—his world is transformed into a Frodo-less nightmare where he is now, for lack of a better phrase, the adult in the room.
As Sam contemplates leaving his companion in favor of the mission, he even thinks it prudent to don the Ring. But is he actually tempted by It at all?
Parts of this chapter zoom out to what Chris calls the “epic sweep,” and we humble Hosts try to keep up. Frodo and Sam confront what we can only describe as a different, more primordial evil than what we have seen so far: where Orcs, Sauron, and even Melkor/Morgoth represent corruptions or perversions of an original Good, Shelob—unholy spawn of Ungoliant—represents an Evil in the negation, the absence, that is the Void.
The lectio section is somewhat more down-to-earth, and looks at Shelob’s ability to affect the memory and senses of our Hobbits. When all thought of Galadriel’s Phial has been purged from Frodo’s mind, Sam provides some timely inspiration.
“All the world’s a stage,” but is there any direction in the theater of life, or are we all free to do whatever we want? After the evil city issues forth an infernal army bound eastward and Frodo’s moment of temptation passes, the two Hobbits get a little meta in this chapter. When can we safely say that a tale is over and take pleasure or displeasure in the ending? Or are stories comic or tragic merely in the telling?
Lectio this week is the free-will-iest one yet. The dark forces bending Frodo’s will towards putting on the Ring are obviously some kind of magical influence—but what do they symbolize for readers in a non-magical world?
Frodo, Sam, and Gollum take an elaborate left turn.
In all seriousness, the main character of this episode—as highlighted in this week’s lectio divina section—is probably none other than the silence that surrounds our wayfarers at this point. The absence of sound plays many roles, both positive and negative, in our lives. What does it foretell for the journey into Mordor?
RANDOM-ASS THEME: Walking in on someone in the bathroom
This chapter makes up for its shortness in plot with its rich philosophical discussion on military force, its responsible use, and what its inherent good might be. Our lectio section in particular asks what is required for the ends of war—or, more generally, of the flexing of military muscle—to justify its means. What are some reasons that we as Americans hold our armed forces in such high regard?
We are joined by special guest Joshua Calton who directs discussion on this topic, exploring some considerable differences between Faramir and Boromir. We also look at Faramir’s peculiar capacity of perception: it frequently seems as though he can see right through people, like a human lie detector.
This chapter offers many (too many?) kinds of plants, and Nathan leads an analysis of the role of heather in this landscape. We also spend some time analyzing the curious phrase “dishevelled dryad loveliness.”
We encounter the Southrons again, notably in the lectio divina segment. Sam has some insights upon seeing a fallen warrior that generate further discussion on the in-world races of Men and the problems that their representations can have for a 21st-century readership. Why are we only able to empathize with the Other after they have died?
After Frodo, Sam, and Sméagol/Gollum arrive at the gates of Mordor only to find them shut, our lectio section—as though it were inevitable—ropes us back into our on-again, off-again debate on free will.
We also spend a good portion of this episode discussing the Southron men, who are described abundantly in this chapter and have “dark faces” and hail from the sunny South, where oliphaunts roam. We consider these people’s role and (lack of) representation in Tolkien’s world. Where do they and their homeland fall in the scheme of good and evil? Why do we know so little about them—except that they have decided to fight for Mordor—and what does that say about Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings?
The Tolkien Heads make a dramatic return from their summer hiatus by turning what might seem an uneventful chapter into one of the most illuminating and challenging discussions yet! At its center is the question of Sméagol-vs.-Gollum, but we also find ourselves unsure of the difference between ‘lords’ and ‘masters’—and whether this is even important. Etymologies and symbolic analyses abound in this episode.
We made it through Book Three! Join us as we recollect and reminisce on what has happened to some (but not all!) of the book’s main characters in the first half of The Two Towers.
We are joined today, though not for the first time, by The Dwarrow Scholar. After going through a quick summary of the chapters of Book Three, we go into a larger discussion of some themes and passages that the five of us have individually selected.