The Two Towers – J.R.R. Tolkien

the-two-towersReading level: 8.4

Series: Book 2 of The Lord of the Rings series

Genre: Fantasy, adventure

ELL-Friendly: No

Library recommendation: High school

I don’t have much to say here that hasn’t already been said in my post about The Fellowship of the Ring. I suddenly realized that maybe one of the reasons it takes me so long to get through these books is that nothing really…happy happens. It’s all dark, dangerous, and life-threatening. All the time. It’s sort of bumming me out, really.

The character of Gollum is fascinating to me. At the end of this book, Gollum sells out Frodo and Sam to the nasty spider, but I still don’t find him to be a villain. How much agency does he really have? I get the impression that because he had the Ring for so long, it essentially possessed him. We can still see the bits of goodness in him where he acts as an honest guide to Sam and Frodo. In the cave place with Faramir and other Gondore folk, Frodo shows such tenderness to Gollum, and Gollum in turn trusts Frodo among men who would kill him.

Being cognizant that Gollum isn’t a “good guy” exactly (and I have no proof that he’s entire bad, either. Can you be evil without having agency?), how Gollum is treated speaks a lot to how humans treat one another. Frodo addresses Gollum as Smeagol. Everyone else, especially Sam, calls him Gollum. Frodo treats Gollum humanely, and, in return, Gollum treats Frodo humanely…until his urge to get the Ring gets the better of him. This is an example, if flawed, of treating others how you wish to be treated.

Sam’s love for Frodo really comes through in this book. Yet, I’m still unsure where all that love comes from. Sam might be a loyal friend, but, man, it is kind of annoying how he always beats himself up and worships Frodo. Allow me to quote from Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (this is for you, Samwise Gamgee) —

“You think because he doesn’t love you that you are worthless. You think that because he doesn’t want you anymore that he is right — that his judgement and opinion of you are correct. If he throws you out, then you are garbage. You think he belongs to you because you want to belong to him. Don’t. It’s a bad word, ‘belong.’ Especially when you put it with somebody you love. Love shouldn’t be like that. Did you ever see the way the clouds love a mountain? They circle all around it; sometimes you can’t even see the mountain for the clouds. But you know what? You go up top and what do you see? His head. The clouds never cover the head. His head pokes through, because the clouds let him; they don’t wrap him up. They let him keep his head up high, free, with nothing to hide him or bind him. You can’t own a human being. You can’t lose what you don’t own. Suppose you did own him. Could you really love somebody who was absolutely nobody without you? You really want somebody like that? Somebody who falls apart when you walk out the door? You don’t, do you? And neither does he. You’re turning over your whole life to him. Your whole life, girl. And if it means so little to you that you can just give it away, hand it to him, then why should it mean any more to him? He can’t value you more than you value yourself.”

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