Saturday, August 28, 2021

Review - The Two Towers

Original Title: The Two Towers
Series: Lord of the Rings, #2
Author: J. R. R. Tolkien
Published: November 11th, 1954

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (this edition)

To know how I’ll be doing this review and the Return of the King one, please visit my review for Fellowship of the Ring. And watch out for spoilers.

The adventure continues.

The Fellowship of the Ring is broken, and now our heroes are going separate ways, meeting new people, and facing the unknown, while darkness grows, and war marches on the lands of Men. What was one journey is now divided three ways, and if at first you were the 10th member of the Company, here you become the fourth hunter along with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, you go with Merry and Pippin into the depths of the Fangorn Forest, and cross Emyn Muil, the Dead Marshes and Ithilien with Frodo, Sam and Gollum. In every possible way, the story gets deeper, and more complex.

One of the things I love the most in the Two Towers movie is that, as the story starts to change and new characters come in, the score also changes and gets deeper. Howard Shore is nothing short of a music genius, because every race has their tune, and he managed to make them utterly different from each other, reflecting their identity. In the Fellowship of the Ring, we met the Elves through a melody that is mysterious, and sounds ancient, but not threatening, while in Moria, the tune is deep, and the male voices have this echoing quality that makes me think their singing was born from the very depths of the mountain. But now, things change. Isengard is unleashed, and its music is heavy on industrial sounds, like hammer on anvil, and with a metallic quality that can only mean war. Yet now, in this adventure, we finally enter the realms of Men, and the music is just incredible. Gondor’s is a majestic, yet still quiet sort of melody, that we already heard with Aragorn and Boromir, but now its meaning grows, speaking of a city of kings and old glory, that, although it’s been diminished over time, is not completely gone. And Rohan, with that utterly unforgettable sound provided by the Hardanger fiddle, matches to perfection the rolling hills and wide plains of the home of the Horse Lords.

After Boromir’s death, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli start the chase that will lead them into the country of Rohan. Things didn’t go as planned, yet there’s still a lot to be done.

I would have guided Frodo to Mordor and gone with him to the end.

Aragorn is a loyal friend, and although Legolas and Gimli don’t say it, they would’ve done the same thing. Their loyalty to each other, and to their cause, never wavers, moving them to go after the Uruk-hai that took Merry and Pippin, instead of considering them lost, and abandoning them. But these hobbits aren’t completely hopeless. If until then they were naïve and perhaps didn’t do much for the journey, now they are on their own. And Pippin proves that even being carried as prisoners in that foul-smelling band of Orcs, he can keep his head cool, because it’s his wit what saves them both. Yes, more than once in the trilogy he is a fool of a Took, but this is definitely not the case. Both in the books and in the movie, it’s possible to appreciate Merry and Pippin’s evolution into people they never thought they would become, not even in their wildest dreams. And as Gandalf says, their coming to Fangorn, almost accidental, is “like the falling of small stones that start an avalanche in the mountains”. They may not have the strength to change the course of the war, but they do have the power to awake those that can.

And so, we get to meet the mysterious, yet powerful Ents, the shepherds of trees of the Fangorn Forest.

Treebeard is Fangorn, the guardian of the forest; he’s the oldest of the Ents, the oldest living thing that still walks beneath the Sun upon this Middle Earth.

Treebeard is a fascinating character, with a lot more of stories to tell than the one Tolkien chose to tell us. However, he’s so slow that his chapter kinda puts me to sleep. Yet, I love how Tolkien was able to imbibe his writing with this “no hurry” mindset of his, and the concept of him having a name that is like a story, filled with all the ages of the world. After all, you can’t define the world’s oldest creature with only one word, after all he’s seen and done. Now, as I left abundantly clear, I deeply admire Tolkien for the world he created, and how he wrote it, I mean, the scene in Wellingfall, with the green and golden lights, is nothing short of magical, and all the time I felt I was there, with Merry and Pippin. Yet, if I have to talk about something that is a little hard to get through in Two Towers, is the whole Entwives part. There’s a very long song about them that I skip every time I read this book, because this, just as Tom Bombadil in the previous book, expands the world, but not the plot, and while Treebeard sings about the Entwives, I just want to go back to Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, to continue de hunt. It’s a lot more interesting and fun.

Ents seem to think at the speed of a growing tree, it appears to me. But everything in Middle Earth is alive, and the Fangorn Forest is no exception. You don’t mess with it without getting slapped. And upon Isengard’s lack of respect for growing and living things, the Ents decide to go to war –in despite that they may not survive it– in a last march that is to be reckoned with.

You don’t want to anger these tree-shepherds. They may be slow but it only took them two days to make a decision, imagine if they were not in a hurry. They don’t like being roused, but when they are, you better have something to hold on to. A war gets serious if the Ents decide to join, because they normally stay out of business that don’t concern them. And even though nor Merry nor Pippin have any experience in war, they understand that sooner or later, in a way or another, everyone would have to fight, no matter what they were (Men, Elves, Hobbits or Ents), and that is what they try to explain Treebeard. The war would get to them sooner or later, and they have to either act, or wait to be destroyed. The world around them doesn’t move at their speed, and won’t wait for them to decide before aiming for the trees with axes and fire.

In the movie, one of the best things about the Ents, other than their design, because there are not two alike, is the overwhelmingly intense music that sounds as they march towards Isengard. It’s ancient, something that hasn’t sounded in ages, something that was powerful, yet dormant, and was awaken. Saruman knows nothing of love, friendship, or honor; only numbers, and servitude, and the Ents come to prove how wrong he is if he thinks the world won’t fight back his abuse. And of course, Sir Christopher Lee’s face when he sees the havoc they cause in his forges is absolutely priceless.

Saruman may have the seer stone, but he definitely did not see that one coming. You forced them to wake up, now deal with it. And later, after Helm’s Deep, when Gandalf and the rest go to find him in Orthanc, it’s amazing how I felt sorry for him. But not because of the words he speaks from his tower, using the little magic he has left, but because he actually has to do that so save his miserable life. Now that Isengard lies in ruin, and Sauron –his so-called ally– won’t answer for him, or help or shelter him in any way, he realizes that, in his lust for power, he was used as Mordor’s puppet, and now is completely alone. Even his own servant tried to kill him by dropping the Palantír on his head. Sauron was never really going to let him share his power, and it’s pitiable how he has to go for cheap tricks to avoid punishment, after all he destroyed in his name. How a wizard known as the White could be so naïve? But there you see it, darkness promises it all, and in the end, it takes everything from you. Saruman learns it the hard way.

In Two Towers, Gandalf is back, as the White. His task in Middle Earth was not done, and he was sent back after the victory over the Balrog of Morgoth, that cost his life. But even though he is more powerful than as the Grey and he can’t be easily hurt, he’s mostly absent in this book. Yet, it’s not in vain. Even though he only uses his power when there’s absolutely no other choice, I think that the fact that the characters do not rely on his magic is also a way in which they grow and evolve, through the facing of difficulties and obstacles just as they are, making them all the more relatable and human. Magic can’t, and won’t, save Middle Earth, but it can doom it, and no one can foresee the end of the road, except possibilities that fade in such an unstable reality, with so much at stake. The only answer is courage and fighting back, as the fate of the world is every day closer to be decided. And that seems to be Gandalf’s task, as he comes and goes where he’s needed, making sure people make the right choices, and do what they are supposed to be doing, advising them, and using his wisdom to guide them in the war that, if won, will lead to the dominion of Men. That is his purpose. His magic is meant to be used against Sauron, and beings like the Balrog, and to help those prisoners of their power. And so was Saruman’s, but getting too close to the Dark Lord has the same effect as having the Ring: all that was good on you gets rotten, and becomes a mean of destruction.

Beyond the Fangorn Forest, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli enter the green plains of Rohan, where darkness is slowly taking over and poisoning their king’s mind. Rohan has always been my favorite country in Middle Earth. In contrast with places like Lórien, life in the Land of the Horse Lords is more about practical things: riding, weapons, battle and honor (never forget honor). And it’s also the home of my favorite character in the trilogy.
Éowyn, daughter of Éomund, niece to King Théoden, and White Lady of Rohan. She represents everything her country is, and is a strong female character that was written long before the concept was popular (or as popular as it is today, at least). Now, I feel like I really need to say this. It wouldn’t be fair to say that Tolkien didn’t write strong female characters. They may not be in Lord of the Rings, but The Silmarillion is filled with them. There, we can find proud Haleth, who, after both her father and brother died in an Orc raid, took the reins, and lead her people with strength and resilience (and for that they were later known as the Halethrim). There’s powerful Queen Melian, mother of Lúthien, whose magic kept both Elves and Humans safe in Doriath. There’s Lúthien herself, who dared to enter Morgoth’s fortress to save Beren, and ultimately sacrificed everything for love. There’s Aredhel Ar-Feiniel, princess of Gondolin, who died trying to save her son, by stepping on the way of a poisoned spear. There’s Emeldir, Beren’s mother, who was responsible for leading the women and children of her people to the safety of Doriath after the conquest of Dorthonion, their home. And there’s Nienor, that, though her fate was sad and tragic, still dared to pose as a male soldier so she could find her brother Túrin, joining her equally strong mother, Morwen (she even tried to fight Glaurung’s spell, but proved too much for her).

But Éowyn is the most remembered of them all, and an utterly unique character. This is a woman who understood, a long time ago, that no one would come save her, that she had to be her own hero, and that if she wanted something, she had to make it happen herself. Along with her brother, Éomer, she was responsible for keeping Rohan’s head up, while the king was under Saruman’s spell, all the while stalked by Gríma, and promised as his war spoil. I’m glad the movie included her story from before the travelers meet her, and that her appearance as she’s first seen was respected, with the simple white dress and her long hair like a river of gold. The only thing I feel she lacked in this book was the opportunity to stab Gríma, after he had followed her steps for so long. He so deserved it.

Miranda Otto’s performance is absolutely perfect. If you don’t know who Éowyn is, at first it seems that she will be just a royal lady in elegant dresses with one or two lines of dialogue here and there; but then she grabs a sword, and you see that she’s no damsel in distress, nor she will ever be one. Miranda kept true to Éowyn’s spirit as a shieldmaiden, and was able to show her strength, in despite that in this movie she doesn’t do much fighting (at least not with swords). She wants to, though, especially during the warg battle (which is not in the books, but to keep things moving in the movie was a great choice), but her uncle begs her to lead their people to the safety of Helm’s Deep. I love her, but I’m afraid I’m with Théoden on that one, because if both him and Éomer died in battle, she was Rohan’s only hope. It was wise to listen to reason this time.

I think it’s admirable that Éowyn’s worst fear isn’t war or death, but a cage.

There’s a very significant take in Return of the King, that reflects this:

It matches this quote from Two Towers:

For over the plain Éowyn saw the glitter of their spears, as she stood still, alone before the doors of the silent house”.

Éowyn, standing in Edoras, while the fiddle sounds, is a beautiful image, but it’s also what she hates: waiting at home for the men while they deal with the important stuff and get all the glory. And taking care of the bewitched king, her worst nightmare had come true, she had nothing else to fear. She was eager to fight and yet, she was sad and lonely, doomed to play nurse to an old man she loved, but who didn’t even recognize her. As a woman in a world of men, that would be her fate, if she didn’t step forward to change it. And when Aragorn comes along, she can feel his majesty, and falls in love with the idea of him. Miranda Otto was capable of showing us the exact moment in which that happens.

I never considered this to be a love triangle with Arwen, because they both are just too different, and don’t get to be rivals over his heart. While Arwen knows Aragorn and cares for him as a man, Éowyn cares for him as a king, the one that promises freedom, and the opportunity to turn her into everything she knows she can be. Because the fact that by the end she doesn’t get to be the Queen of Gondor, doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have what it takes. She had leading qualities, and her people loved her and were willing to obey her when Théoden left for Helm’s Deep.

And speaking of the King of Rohan…

I want to mention the wardrobe department here, although this is entirely my own interpretation. I think Théoden’s costume also tells his story. While under Saruman’s spell, he’s wearing this big fur-trimmed coat, fully dressed in light brown shades that give him a totally stale sort of look, like he’s drained of life. But after Gandalf sets him free, that changes completely; back as himself, he starts wearing richer, more lively colors and fabrics, like deep brown and red with hints of green and gold, in pieces that do not hinder his movements, and never again he’s seen in such a big coat that is more ornamental than fit for movement.

The real Théoden is not the one that sits in his throne and does nothing while his land suffers, but the one who says this:

But I will not end here, taken like an old badger in a trap […] When dawn comes, I will bind men sound Helm’s horn and I will ride forth.

This is a king speaking! Rohan won’t go down without a fight, even with slim chances of victory. And then:

I myself will go to war, to fall in the front of the battle, if it must be”.

I love Théoden for this. And with such spirit as an example, no wonder Éowyn and Éomer are who they are, as children of kings, with the same sense of duty. And although we never get to know Théoden’s son, Théodred, I’m sure he shared that very same love for the Riddermark. He died fighting, after all, like a true son of his father. It was good that, in the movies, Théoden’s grief over the loss of Théodred was included. In the book, it is overlooked, he only says “I have no child. Théodred my son is slain. I name Éomer my sister-son to be my heir”, and that’s it. But in the movie, there’s a funeral scene, and we can actually see Théoden as a heartbroken father, crying on his knees, in front of his son’s grave, making him so deep, so human, that it’s tear-worthy.

Something that is very noticeable in this book is Aragorn’s evolution. It’s amazingly well done how he comes to everyone’s life like a quiet sort of thunder. He doesn’t appear on a big moment of glory or majesty; he just strolls in, in old, ragged clothes, and speaking in a calm voice, and yet, no one can remain unchanged after knowing him, because they all can feel what he is, and see how he is, a man that is selfless, wise, and powerful. It’s fair to say that, in every character, there’s a before and after Aragorn. Yet, it’s not that he changes a lot as the story goes on. It’s more about revealing his real self, the man he’s always been in despite of the Ranger’s look and attitude, and that everyone can sense.

But still, he remains humble. During the Helm’s Deep battle, he exclaims “Andúril for the Dúnedain!”. Not Gondor. The throne isn’t his yet, and he doesn’t brag about his bloodline. He doesn’t even speak of himself as future king. And that is constant with him. He doesn’t force anyone to do anything, in despite that one order from him would be enough to set anyone in motion. And that is the same attitude he has towards Arwen, in despite of how much he loves her.

She’s not in the book, but in the movie, we see her as Elrond tries to convince her to leave and take a ship to the Undying Lands. It’s an utterly sad scene in which Arwen has to face the perspective that, even if Aragorn survives the war and reclaims the throne, it will entail that she gives up immortality to stay with him. The time of the Elves is over, and if she wants to stay, it will have to be as a mortal, understanding that Aragorn simply won’t be with her forever. Elrond is harsh but realistic with her, showing her the bitter side of her choice. But ultimately, if staying is worth it or not, it will be her decision.

It’s not like Elrond doesn’t want Arwen and Aragorn together, it’s just that he doesn’t want her to regret her decision, because there’s no turning back from it. Arwen may not be strong the way Éowyn is, as she doesn’t belong in the battlefield and the wielding of weapons like she does, but her choice isn’t an easy one, and her strength lies in her love for Aragorn. And no matter the choice she makes, Aragorn will respect it, because he wants what’s best for her. Theirs is an immortal true love.

And then, battle reaches Rohan. Helm’s Deep has to be one of the most epic ones in the history of cinema. Until then, you were at the edge of your sit, but when it starts, it’s just… breathtakingly epic. There’s no other word to define it.

Yet, it is also raw and realistic. You can feel the men’s despair, because they are simply too few to defend the keep against ten thousand Orcs, and see how they even prepare children for battle. However, one of the things I like about the movie, and that it doesn’t happen in the books, is this:

Bravo to the armor department for Haldir’s stunning look.

At one point, in the movie, Galadriel asks “Do we leave Middle Earth to its fate? Do we let them stand alone?” In the books, save Legolas, no other Elves come to fight alongside the Riddermark, and at first it bothered me, because it’s their world too. They did a great job guarding their own borders, and even when their time was ending and most of them were leaving, they should have stayed and fight along with Men, for a better world. It’s not like they aren’t warriors, after all. But later, as you read the appendixes, you see their absence is justified, for war had already reached their own lands. As Gondor and Rohan fought both Mordor and Isengard, Thranduil in Mirkwood, and Haldir in Lórien, lead their own battles against invaders, same as the Dwarves in the Iron Hills. So, it’s good to know they were doing their part for the world.

But, Elves or no Elves, the point is that the Helm’s Deep battle is so immersive, that you forget about everything else, both in the book and the movie. Gimli and Legolas add the comic relief to all the blood and destruction around them, with their killing count, the same way Haldir’s death adds the element of loss, because in the book, no significant characters die in this battle. However, as the day comes, the Orcs take the fortress and plant their flag, and Men do their best in despite of exhaustion, fighting to their last breath; it all seems lost, and in one last ride, Théoden decides to go down as the king he is. The cry of “Forth Eorlingas!” has always made me want to jump from my seat and charge along with the riders, as there’s such pride and dignity in it, for the Mark and who they are, that is infectious.

And then Shadowfax neighs, and Éomer returns, and you feel the relief, the renewing of hope. I have cried. Yes. How I feel when that happens, it’s beyond words.

Few things are as epic as the charge of the Rohirrim with the rising sun.

And yes, I know in the book it’s not Éomer but Erkenbrand from the Westfold, but I don’t care. I love Éomer, for his loyalty and his spirit. A worthy future King of Rohan.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Anduin, Frodo and Sam continue their journey, utterly lost in the labyrinth of rocks that is Emyn Muil. And it’s maddening. The description is so well done, so vivid, that I felt as lost as Frodo and Sam, even if the place is little else than grey rock, water streams, and dead trees.

As they go, the Ring gets heavier, and I can’t but think about Galadriel’s line in the movie that states that Frodo begins to understand that the Quest will claim his life. This doesn’t necessarily mean physical death. The journey takes a toll on both Frodo and Sam, but Frodo is slowly losing himself, taken over by the Ring; even if he survives, the scars won’t fade, and his life will never be the same. He’s been deeply hurt both in body and soul, and yet, there’s still a long way ahead of him, with no less than the weight of the world’s fate on his shoulders. But there’s hope, and it relies on the most unlikely of creatures. Because in the middle of Emyn Muil’s grey landscape, Frodo and Sam meet one of the most iconic characters fiction has ever known.

So… Gollum. What a character, right? He’s the living proof of what happens to those who keep the Ring for too long. Their essence is lost, as if the Ring is feeding on it. He became a hollow, primitive creature, ruled by his basic instincts of survival, hunting with his bare hands and eating raw fish. He can barely speak properly, even when before finding the Ring, he wasn’t very different from hobbits. He forgot the basic names of everything, as he calls the Sun and the Moon, the Yellow Face and the White Face. He lost his language, keeping only a few misused words, and the skills he needs to keep himself alive. Hunger and hiding are his driving force, he was reduced to two things alone. The rest is his Precious. He had it for so long that he lost himself, he was reduced to no more than a sad carcass of what he used to be. Yet, a part of him remained Sméagol, and that is the one that Frodo wants to reach. As Gandalf said, he still had a part to play in this tale, even though he’s overall a wretched, pathetic creature. However, his depth lies in trying to understand both him and the Ring. Whatever it was that it did to him, it consumed him whole.

It’s amazing how one little decision contributes to the shaping of the world and sets so many things in motion that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. You see it in Isildur, in Frodo, in Merry and Pippin… But most of all, in Bilbo. His pity over Gollum, in despite of the wicked, disgusting creature he was, meant one step closer to destroying the Ring, and basically to the outcome of a war that hadn’t even started by then. He couldn’t even have imagined it, but, as it is said, the great tales never end, and those who have already played their part step aside, so others can continue it. If it wasn’t for Bilbo, if he had gone through with it, Frodo would have never gotten to Mordor alive. Sam never trusted Gollum, and constantly watched him, but with Frodo, it’s different. He, other than being their guide, lets him see his future, what he would become eventually, if he didn’t carry on with his task, that was slowly taking over him. And it’s chilling.

With Gollum and his reluctant help, Frodo and Sam manage to finally leave Emyn Muil behind, and after trudging through the Dead Marshes, and finally finding the Black Gate closed, they take a different route that leads them to the fair Ithilien, where they meet another of my favorite characters in the whole series.

Faramir, son of Denethor II, and the very embodiment of honor.

Yet he felt in his heart that Faramir, though he was much like his brother in looks, was a man less self-regarding, both sterner and wiser.

He’s the only character that lost some of its essence in translation from book to movie, although in the end, his true heart prevailed. He’s a man of his word. He has everything in his favor to just take the Ring, but he said he wouldn’t do it, and he won’t. That is the main difference with the movie, because there, Frodo and Sam are his prisoners, while in the book they are his guests; Faramir is actually not as cold-hearted as he appears to be in the movie, but if I have to read something on it, I see it as a way he has of being some sort of replacement now that Boromir would never come back, obeying rules, and trying to do what he would do. Yet that is not who he is.

I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend […]”

Faramir doesn’t want power, but rather, he seems more interested in knowledge, and can’t detach himself from his feelings the way his brother could. Though he’s too young to be such a wise man, he has a sense of responsibility, and he’s a warrior by need, not for the love of battle. He himself says that he doesn’t kill unless he absolutely has to. Even though in the shadow of Boromir, Faramir was indeed a true Son of Gondor, less proud, perhaps, but equally brave, and ready to die for his cause. But the main difference with his brother is that Boromir was willing to do literally anything to save Gondor, while Faramir is not. Not just anything. He wouldn’t delve in darkness, he had boundaries, lines he didn’t cross. He simply wouldn’t take what wasn’t his.

I liked that, in the extended edition, they included a scene with Boromir and Faramir together as brothers, after reclaiming Osgiliath for Gondor.

There, you can perfectly see both their differences and their similarities. Faramir loves Gondor as much as Boromir does, but he’s not made for war, nor finds any joy in it. He fights because if he doesn’t, no one will. With Boromir gone, and without him too, Gondor’s men would be leaderless. But he’s more fit for the diplomatic aspects of war. His strength isn’t physical or in combat, but that doesn’t make him any less strong, and I think he was more fitted for the Fellowship than Boromir. He didn’t have his same attitude, he even says that he wouldn’t take the Ring, and much less use it, even he had found it by the side of the road. I believe that if he had been the one to go to Rivendell, perhaps the Company would have lasted longer.

I think it is necessary to mention the amazing job done by the wardrobe department with Boromir and Faramir, to show the difference between the two. While Boromir is dressed in more elegant, distinguished pieces, framing this huge presence he is, Faramir’s outfits are more like a Ranger’s. If no one tells you he is the captain, you wouldn’t guess it, because he’s dressed with almost no difference with his men. Obviously, the clothes of an Ithilien Ranger respond to a need of camouflage, but I mean, his looks are way humbler than his brother’s, as he seems the kind of person who gets lost in the crowd, but not quite. And Boromir definitely did not give that image. You could instantly tell he was an elite warrior, someone of rank and status. And that is also one of the reasons why Faramir is such a great man, modest and yet worthy of respect, followed blindly by his men, no matter where he leads them.

One of the main differences with the book is that Faramir never takes Frodo, Sam and Gollum to Osgiliath. But if anything, it helps to see how men are being besieged in every possible front, how Sauron is actually worried about Gondor fighting back, and left Saruman to deal with Rohan, like a minor nuisance. He knows the power to defeat him in the battlefield is in Gondor, especially if Isildur’s heir still lives and reclaims the throne. And even in the middle of all the chaos, Faramir gets one step closer to understand the burden Frodo is carrying, and that everything around the Ring is a lot bigger than himself, than his father, and even Gondor itself, finally accepting that pleasing Denethor is not more important than doing the right thing.

In this book, Sam continues his task of being… well, Sam. Even though he is as lost as Frodo in the wilderness, his innocence is just too much for the darkness that gets closer with each passing day. He’s the one that keeps Frodo moving, and although he’s not the wisest or the strongest, his loyalty is unbreakable.

Sam is the one that keeps up Frodo’s hope, taking care of him and helping him bear his burden, slowing down the darkness that is slowly taking over him. And he does so by being himself.

Still, I wonder if we shall ever be put into song or tales. We’re in one, of course; but I mean: put into words, you know, told by the fireside, or read out of a great big book with red and black letters, years and years afterwards.

I want to hug this hobbit. He’s so simple and adorable! For God’s sake, he wants his tale to be told by the fireside! Through the journey he gets in contact with the very same immense power that have corrupted people way older and more powerful than him, and yet, the Ring can’t do anything about someone whose greatest ambition is this one. This is what keeps darkness at bay. Sam’s promise and love are his driving force, and when he attacks Shelob, it’s for sheer anger, managing to wound her in ways no one, ever, could before. He had no idea of the magnitude of his enemy’s power and strength, he just wanted to defend his master, and acted on an instinct. His purity is too much for the darkness of the Nameless Land.

In Two Towers, once again, Tolkien’s writing is gold. The way Minas Morgul is described is utterly terrifying. As Minas Ithil, it used to be a fortress of Gondor, so it wasn’t always a place of darkness. But it was taken over during the Third Age, and since then it has been controlled by the Ringwraiths. The place drips evil and horror, it’s where the doom of Middle Earth will start. It’s basically Mordor’s threshold, both literally and figuratively, because what’s coming is way, way worse. Now, few things are so appalling as the description of the darkness that reigns in Shelob’s lair. It’s too well written, because it’s not just that you can’t see with your eyes. Your mind also gets blinded to all memory of light, making it inescapable, because you can’t go back to what you don’t remember, you can’t get out of a darkness you have always been in. There’s no smells other than the stench of rotten corpses, and nothing beyond the blackness of the tunnel. It’s just… terrifying. And this is even before knowing about the nightmare creature that dwells inside that mountain. All paths that go into Mordor are watched, and this one is no exception. No wonder not even Orcs want to take it.

Yet, I have to say this. I think it is amazing how Tolkien could write about darkness, and make it different in each place the characters face it. It’s not the same one in Moria, than in Mirkwood, than in Shelob’s Lair, or later in the Paths of the Dead. In each of these places, it is silent and deep, and yes, it’s ominous, but there’s no way it means the same thing. Not all darkness is the same, just as no one is corrupted by it in the same way. Galadriel’s phial is what helps them cut through the sheer blackness of the lair, but as they get closer and closer to the heart of Mordor, not even the star of Eärendil can get past its power. There will be a point in which the hobbits won’t be able to rely on any sort of help anymore, and they’ll have to go on as they are, with nothing but their own willpower to keep moving. This horrible place is just the beginning of that. Yet, hope prevails. Frodo is stung by Shelob, and when Sam believes him dead, he takes up as Ring-bearer, determined to finish the quest, in despite of his despair. And this is a hero for me. The one that is broken and makes mistakes, doesn’t want to go on, and yet, finds a reason to keep moving, even if he must go alone, and there seems to be nothing else to be done, nor way out. If this is not the definition of hope, then I don’t know what it is.

No matter how many times I read this book, it will always leave me fascinated, and unbelieving how one single man could create all this. This universe that we get to know is worthy of a standing ovation, and it’s so incredible, that my love for it is beyond all words, beyond all review. It’s a fantasy world, and yet, it’s amazing how close it is to us. I myself can relate to some of these characters in the trials they go through, and understand their struggles, even when their obstacles and mine are way different. But this is what makes stories classics, after all. Their ability to resist the test of time, and mean something different in each stage of our lives.

Now, I final word on the movie trilogy. People may disagree with this, but I’ll say it, anyway. I think these movies were made right when they needed to be made, before fantasy filming became more about the special effects and the action sequences, and less about the story they wanted to tell you. Before CGI became almost everything the actors work with, and the computer effects were perhaps less sophisticated, but the story is so compelling that you forget you are watching, completely absorbed and having forgotten about the world outside. I’m not saying that there weren’t good fantasy movies after Lord of the Rings, but I hardly ever saw something done with such passion for a story, in which not a single scene is a waste, and there’s such a perfect balance between worldbuilding and characterization, in which you can both fall in love with the characters, and get fascinated with the places they visit.

They are, without a doubt, the bests in their genre.

If you stayed this long, may you be blessed! 
Thank you so much for reading!

See you soon!


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