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.
Join us for a great conversation with Luke Shelton, an academic doing his doctoral research on the reception of J. R. R. Tolkien’s works—and also the films and video games they have inspired—among children and young adults. We interview Luke on his findings and he shares some fascinating insights with us.
Of course, we also run through our usual lectio divina method, focusing on a passage concerning some proverbial wisdom in The Lord of the Rings. (“Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.”) We also explore the question of the in-world intended audience for Frodo’s text.
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.
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.