Thursday, March 7, 2013

Book Log: The Two Towers

Okay, confession: I get confused by this title. The two towers that spring to mind are Minas Ithil and Minas Anor, towers of the moon and sun. The latter doesn't really feature though. The former is probably sufficiently featured to earn a place in the title, although not in its capacity as one of Gondor's pair, but as Minas Morgul of the ringwraiths. The second tower is presumably Orthanc, which features noticeably, if sometimes indirectly, pretty much right through Book III. So the two eponymous towers are only related by, well, being eponymous. And in the book, I suppose.

The titles of the three parts are kind of curious that way, actually. The Fellowship of the Ring is only half about the fellowship proper and The Return of the King is not in my mind the most exciting part of the third volume - although it is a kind of culmination. I'm not entirely sure how much should be read into those titles anyway. Hmm.

Last time I blogged about The Lord of the Rings I wrote a fair bit about the loyalties of the fellowship. Boromir's loyalty to Gondor seems to be somehow twisted into a desire for the ring. Certainly the ring uses that loyalty. But having met Faramir in the second part of the story, we encounter a much purer loyalty. Early in the fifth book Gandalf comments to Pippin that the blood of the Numenoreans runs truer in Faramir than in his brother. Faramir, unlike his brother, resists the temptation of the ring. I think his loyalty to Gondor and her ideals helps him; it's the other side of the coin, perhaps.

At the end of the fourth book, outside Shelob's lair, Sam's struggles with his loyalty to Frodo and the need to see the task through; to make sure right is done. In the end he berates himself for trying to go on with the task and acting out of something other than his loyalty to his master. But it seems to me that his loyalty would be misplaced if it didn't have some sense of the greater purpose and good it serves. I think the very title of the final chapter of Book IV "The Choices of Master Samwise" reflects this dilemma. Tolkien seemed to like the phrase too, judging by its inclusion later in the text.

Faramir and Eomer both aid the Fellowship, thereby disobeying at least the letter of the law issued by their "masters"; Sam would have abandoned his master to complete the quest too, but realises that this is the wrong choice - although with the information he had, it certainly seemed like the best decision.

Sam's status as an obedient follower almost seems inferior to those who thought for themselves and made decisions contrary to instructions, but he gains a peculiarly high position from the fact that he doesn't seem particularly affected by the ring. Only Bombadil comes to mind as being notably less so. Nobility of heart is not, of course, the same thing as holding a noble title or being admired among men, but Sam is a peculiarly concrete example of it. I admire Sam, but I suspect I understand him less than Aragorn, for all his apparent simplicity. Hmm. This probably says as much about me as it does about him!

There's certainly plenty to ponder in this book! I intended to consider a handful of other characters, but this post seems to have grown long and rambly enough already. I think I'll end it here. (Pretend it's not abrupt, okay?)

Savo 'lass a lalaith.

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