The Two Towers, Book 3, Chap. 1-5

 

two-towers-cover

Patrick Pagenhart, The Two Towers, Book 3, Chap. 1 “The Departure of Boromir”:

1) Close to death Boromir says, “I tried to take the Ring from Frodo … I am sorry. I have paid.” Was sacrificing himself for Merry and Pippin a fair price to pay for trying to take the Ring?

2) Boromir blows the horn of Gondor when leaving Rivendell, in the Mines of Moria, and finally at Parth Galen. What is the significance of the horn in Tolkien’s story? How could it be an inspiration from Tolkien’s life?

 The Two Towers, Book 3, Chap. 2 “The Riders of Rohan”:

1) From the encounter between Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and the Riders, what can we gather about the people of Rohan? How do they differ from the Men of other kingdoms in Middle Earth in their philosophies, culture, and relation to other races?

2) How has Rohan’s perception of strangers, sorcerers, and wizards changed over time? Why have the people of Rohan as well as their King become so focused on isolating themselves from the outside forces around them and the conflicts therein?

Keri Holsler, The Two Towers, Book 3, Chap. 3 “The Uruk-hai”

1) The orc Ugluk seems to be in charge of the orc hoard. Why is that? What makes him different from the others?

2) Merry and Pippin were able to escape using a clever lie about the Ring. What does this say about the Ring’s corruptive powers?

3) There were two different foods that where spoken of in this chapter, orc-draught and lembas bread. What are the differences between the two, not just physically but emotionally or spiritually?

The Two Towers, Book 3, Chap. 4 “Treebeard”

1) Tolkien often likes to personify his forests. What does Treebeard seem to represent thematically?

2) Treebeard explains that many Ents are becoming “sleepy.” What do you think he means by this? Why do you think this is happening?

Dr. B, The Two Towers, Book 3, Chap. 5 “The White Rider”

1) Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli enter Fangorn looking for Merry and Pippin. Instead of finding them, they encounter an old man, cloaked in gray. Why do you think that the old man’s true identity is hidden from them when they first see him and speak with him?

2) Gandalf says of Sauron: “That we should wish to cast him down and have no one in his place is not a thought that occurs in his mind. That we should try to destroy the Ring itself has not yet entered into his darkest dream.” Why is Sauron incapable of imagining this?

3) What is the “long sorrow” (as Legolas puts it) of the Onodrim (Ents)? How does their experience relate to Tolkien’s thematic concerns with married love and the necessity of self-sacrifice (vs. selfishness) in defense of a shared land or country?

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27 thoughts on “The Two Towers, Book 3, Chap. 1-5”

  1. Chapter 1:
    1) This scene very much resembles a confession — another sign of the influence of Tolkien’s faith on his writings. He may have wanted to show that Boromir, despite his actions, could still gain redemption because he admitted that he failed, and was genuinely sorry. Had he lived, he probably could have helped repair the damage done by his sins, but his pride may have driven him to despair, knowing what he had intended to do to obtain the Ring. I think that in Tolkien’s mind, by saving the hobbits, Boromir saved his own soul.

    Chapter 3:
    3) The lembas bread given to the fellowship by the elves resembles the Eucharist, and Tolkien may have modeled it after this idea. It provides a nourishment that cannot be found elsewhere in Middle Earth, and sustains them through the darkest of times. Like many other evils in Tolkien’s world, I think that the orc-draught is meant to be a “twisted” version of something that is pure and good — the miruvor. Its powers seem similar to those of the invigorating drink from Rivendell, but are hot and fierce rather than pleasant.

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  2. Chapter 1
    1) When sacrificing himself for Merry and Pippin, Boromir rights his wrongs. This action cleansed his previous actions when he tried to take the ring from Frodo. I do believe this was a fair price to pay for trying to take the ring. He died a hero.

    Chapter 5
    2) It is hard for Sauron to imagine that anyone would try to destroy the ring because to him, the ring is the representation of power and to Sauron, the number one goal is to achieve power. That’s why he cannot fathom the thought of anyone wanting to destroy the opportunity to be great.

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    1. I agree with your answer to chapter 5, question 2. He, like Tom Bombadil, cannot go against his own nature. Sauron believes that the root of all actions is the desire for power, and it is impossible for him to fathom willful destruction of any power.

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    2. I agree with your response to CH. 5 that Sauron does not believe anyone is capable of resisting the Ring, much less resisting it with the intent to destroy it. Sauron’s evil is centered on his power, specifically, the power he has over people, to twist their minds and their will. The Ring is the very embodiment of that power, it tricks people into thinking they can use it for their themselves, it does not matter if their goal was originally good or not. Sauron could never imagine someone destroying this power instead of trying to harness it because he is as obsessed with it as he believes everyone else to be.

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  3. Ch 1:

    1) I think that it was a fair price. Him trying to take the Ring from Frodo did not come from him simply being an awful, selfish person. He felt the power of the Ring, felt the hopelessness of his people, and saw that as his only option. He regretted it almost immediately after doing it. Sacrificing his life for two Hobbits was noble and indirectly (or maybe directly?) related to the success of the quest. Could Frodo complete the journey without the support of his team behind him, even if in different locations?
    2) The horn is a family heirloom and also a war horn. This could be coming from Tolkien’s own experience in the war. It could be significant in connecting Boromir to his home, especially given what happened the last time it was blown. It could be heard all the way in his homeland- maybe it was a goodbye to his beloved people.

    Ch 4:

    1) I think that Treebeard and the rest of the ents represent the minority group being threatened and controlled by the powerful group. They have little hope and little resources against such power but they find strength in numbers and in allies.
    2) I think that when Treebeard says the Ents are becoming sleepy, he really means that they are losing hope. They are a dying species since all the entwives wandered off. They are being killed off and threatened without the ability to reproduce or fight back- or so they thought.

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    1. Shira, I really like your responses because you give a lot of information. I really like your idea about what the horn might mean for Tolkien. I think that your idea about him using it to say goodbye to his beloved people is a really good point of view.

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    2. I agree with your response on Treebeard and the Ents; and how they find power in numbers and allies. I beilieve that this power in numbers and the need for allies goes along with Tolkien’s ongoing theme of fellowship and friendship.

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  4. Chapter 1
    1) I think that it was a good price to pay because he caused Frodo not to be able to trust him. I think that his sacrifice for Merry and Pippin was a good sacrifice because he was not thinking for the greater good when I he tried taking the ring.
    2) I think the significance of the horn in Tolkien’s story was to send a sound of hope to the people. I think that it could be an inspiration to Tolkien because it reminds him to have hope.
    Chapter 4
    1) I think it represents how there is life in all things and all things matter. I think that Tolkien uses them as a way of showing people that there is always someone watching over you.
    2) Many things are coming to an end. He is meaning that there needs to be something saved.

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  5. Chap 1
    1/ By sacrificing himself for Merry and Pippin I think that Boromir pay a fair price for taking the ring from Frodo because it is a very brave attitude to be ready to sacrifice your own life for your friends. It shows that he really regretted his act, and that he’s ready to do whatever it takes to get the trust back from his friends.
    2/ The horn is seen as a family heirloom but also a war horn. Tolkien uses experience from his own life to his story. The horn in his life had probably a big importance. It was maybe a way to show that he was still alive, during the war, by blowing into that horn and make a huge noise.

    Chap 5
    1/ The old man’s true identity is probably hidden in the beginning so there is more mystery, and the reader just want to know who it is and will just keep reading. Moreover, it makes it more difficult for Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli because they don’t know if they should listen to that man or not.
    2/ Sauron is incapable of imagining this because he only see the power of the ring and the good sides the ring has, therefore, for him there is no reason to have the desire to destroy the ring.

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  6. Chapter 2:
    1) The Riders of Rohan are a rugged sort who rely more on action and strength of arms than diplomacy when it comes to dealing with outsiders. This wariness comes honestly, however, due to their proximity to the Necromancer’s tower in Mirkwood, their long-hated enemies in Dunland, and the home of the newly-revealed traitor Saruman in Isengard. The men and women of Rohan live knowing that enemies are never far away and allies are scarce. Rohan is a bastion of free folk in an inhospitable land, and so they must be cautious when dealing with unknown travelers.

    2) In the years since the revival of Sauron in Mordor, Rohan has gone from a kingdom derived from the cherished line of Elendil to a backwards and paranoid land of sparse homesteads and walled villages. This is due in large part to the wedge driven between the nations of Rohan and Gondor by the forces of Mordor. Gondor is too occupied in its own war with Sauron to lend aid to its Northern brethren, effectively severing ties between the two kingdoms. Additionally, King Theoden of Rohan has become corrupted by the fell counsels of his traitorous adviser Grima Wormtongue, causing the horse-lords to drift even further away from the rest of the free people.

    Chapter 5:
    1) Gandalf is testing the Three Hunters by keeping his identity secret upon his encounter with them. He does not know if the power of the ring has corrupted his former companions since his duel with the Balrog, nor does he know if their presence is some trickery by Saruman. Only by questioning them briefly in the guise of a beggar can he gauge the purity of their spirits.

    2) Sauron is arrogant beyond compare. He knows the power of the ring, as he is its creator, and so he believes that any mortal who possesses it would want to keep that power for themselves.

    3) The long sorrow of the Ents is the absence of the Entwives. Sauron’s forces have forced the Ents to retreat to the safety of Fangorn, but they did so without the Entwives, stagnating the development of their race. Much like Tolkien, Ents place much value in marriage as they are naturally inclined towards nurturing all things, relationships included. Thusly, the absence of the Entwives is the cruelest fate imaginable for these usually-gentle guardians of the forest.

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    1. Andrew, I think that your responses on the people of Rohan are in depth and accurate. Their society must be becoming more insular and isolated with all the danger around them. In years past, they would be more welcoming to foreigners like Gandalf and Aragorn but now they have been having bad experiences with strangers like Grima and bands of Orcs pushing on their land.

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    2. I agree with your response to CH. 3, especially regarding how Tolkien viewed marriage. As we know from Baron and Luthien, and later, Aragorn and Arwen, the love between two people should not be selfish, nor should their resources be hoarded. Tolkien emphasizes the importance of marriages that help the land, and that their love must be selfless. But the Ents have lost the ability to give back to the land in this way with the loss of the Entwives, and they feel guilty and saddened about that.

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    3. I think your observations that the people of Rohan are constantly wary is very accurate. They are literally surrounded by enemies, thus making it understandable that they would not necessarily be welcoming to outsiders.

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  7. Chapter 1
    1) In a way, saving Merry and Pippin’s lives is a small redemption for Boromir’s horrible deed. He is what leads the fellowship to be broken apart so it’s only fitting he saves the lives of two of them. It is also an interesting parallel that he saves Merry and Pippin from death. Earlier, Boromir attacked Frodo because he desired the ring’s power. Frodo, like Merry and Pippin, are small hobbits that would be at the mercy of a powerful man like Boromir (if Frodo didn’t have the ring of course). One second, Boromir is threatening someone who has less power than him and the next he is saving the lives of Merry and Pippin who would have been powerless to stop the orcs. His redemption is not only that he has learned his lesson about desiring more power but also that he should protect, not threaten, those physically weaker than him.

    Chapter 4
    1) Treebeard, similar to Tom Bombadil, is described as one of the oldest beings or the being that has walked the longest under the sun of Middle-Earth. Both of them are also associated with the powerful majesty of nature and they are both wise and light-hearted. He represents another very old mentor figure, similarly to Gandalf, and that the land itself is like a protective force for those who wish to do good. Him and the rest of the ents are like the visit to Lothlorien; a dreamlike (note they describe the ents as “sleepy”) world out of the past. The ents themselves are also like an echo of the past as in most cultures of Middle-Earth they are regarded as myth.
    2) Besides being similar to the fantasy/dreamlike world of Lothlorien, the ents being sleepy could be in reference to them losing power. They are mere myth to many of Middle-Earth and have been forgotten by most. Without this belief or presence in the modern world, they may slow down enough to become just like regular trees.

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    1. I agree that Boromir redeemed himself in his final moments. He is not an evil man by nature, rather one who is simply too desperate to see reason. When he finally sees the folly in his ways he is more than willing to give up his life to help right the wrong he committed. Though his mad actions do irreversibly shatter the Fellowship, Boromir still dies a hero.

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  8. Chapter 1
    1) When Boromir sacrificed himself to save Merry and Pippin, he essentially righted his wrongs. He knew right away that what he did to Frodo was a horrible thing, and since he did not get a chance to talk with and apologize to Frodo, he knew he had to save Merry and Pippin to fix what he did. This again hints back to Tolkien’s flawed hero concept. Boromir was disloyal and thus broke the Fellowship, but he still showed that he could be a hero by performing a different loyal act.
    2) Boromir blowing the horn closely parallels Tolkien’s own life in the war. Tolkien was a messenger and coder, so while he might not have necessarily blown a horn, he still sent messages throughout enemy territory in the war, much as Boromir was doing in his last moments.
    Chapter 4
    1) Treebeard seems to represent the dichotomy of good and evil. In the Old Forest, the Hobbits encounter Old Man Willow, another tree spirit that wants to harm them. However, now Merry and Pippin encounter the Ents, who offer them food and shelter and are seemingly good spirits. This hospitality shown by the Ents illustrates Tolkien’s idea that good always bring people together.
    2) Just as the Elves in Lorien were concerned that the land’s magic would eventually die out as Sauron gained power, the Ents are also starting to lose their powers. However, the Ents are also willing to fight against Saruman and his army of Orcs, showing the gravity of the situation, considering the Ents are typically nonpolitical creatures.

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    1. I agree with your statement regarding the gravity of the situation invoking the Ents to turn from a nonpolitical/uninvolved lifestyle to one demanding action. Do you think they were always like this though, or that they should like this, sleepy and uninvolved?

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  9. Ch. 1 Question 1:
    I think that in sacrificing himself for Merry and Pippin, Boromir did in fact redeem himself. His desire for the Ring had him turning on Frodo, betraying Frodo’s trust and the fellowship’s as a whole, resulting in its split. But in giving his life in exchange for Merry and Pippin’s, Boromir makes amends not only to the fellowship, but to Frodo, despite his already being gone. Boromir saves Frodo’s close friends, the best way he can apologize to Frodo and make up for attacking him for the Ring. His sacrifice was noble, not self-serving.

    Ch. 4 Question 1
    As early as the Old Forest in “The Fellowship of the Ring,” we have seen Tolkien giving nature a mind of its own. Through his personification of the Old Forest, we learn that the trees there are mischievous, threatening, and some of them quite angry. One can even feel that tension by walking along the hedge outside the forest, so powerful and obvious are the trees’ emotions. However, despite this, the trees thoughts and opinions are never known. We have needed the likes of Tom Bombadil to communicate with nature, and even then it has been a one-sided conversation for the likes of the Hobbits and the reader. But with the introduction of Treebeard, the trees are quite literally given a voice in the form of the ancient Ent. Tolkien felt very strongly about the preservation of nature, and by giving nature a voice, it can better protect itself.

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  10. Chapter 3:

    1) Ugluk seems to be in charge because he is an Uruk-hai with great stature and physical presence. He also has taken orders directly from Saruman, so he knows what the company of Orcs and Uruk-hai should be doing to best make Saruman content with their work.

    2) Merry and Pippin’s trick with the Ring shows the power it has over people’s hearts. In this case the Orc had a great desire for it and Pippin used that against him to have the Orc carry them away from the battlefield where they would most likely have died. This shows that it’s not just the physical presence of the Ring that has great power over people, because even when Pippin didn’t have the Ring at all it’s influence still worked on the Orc.

    Chapter 4:

    1) I think Treebeard represents the old and forgotten connection we humans used to have with forests. He personifies Tolkien’s wish that people could coexist with trees and living things and to genuinely care for them. Thematically I think he’s very important to recognizing that there are many ways of life and that not all of them should be forgotten. Treebeard’s connection to life in the forest is beneficial to his peace and understanding of the world but also beneficial to the forest because he cares for the trees and protects them. It’s easy to see that Tolkien channeled a lot of his own feelings about forests and how they should be treated through this character.

    2) I think Ents becoming sleepy is Tolkien’s way of saying that things die out through the ages. In this case the Ents don’t really die but transition to a life that is less magical and more suited for the age of Men and how they understand the world. The Ents have been around for a very long time and now in the Third Age, their time is coming to an end. Without any Entwives to keep the Ent population going, the Ents will just pass into sleepiness and be absorbed by the forest around them.

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    1. I like what you say about the Ring having power even when not even present. Just the idea of the Ring is enough to have an effect on people. Very interesting point

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  11. Chapter 1

    1. Boromir crossed a boundary that would split the fellowship, in trying to take the ring. So having put the lives of those in the fellowship in danger, Boromir was just in attempting to at least save the lives of Merry and Pippin. However, Boromir did not believe his fighting and slaying of the twenty or so orcs was enough. Only until Aragorn told him, “You have conquered. Few have gained such a victory. Be at peace!” that Boromir smiled as his sacrifice was acknowledged and accepted.

    2. The horn of Gondor could be a symbol of courage. When faced with a dangerous situation it is blown in order to show that no matter what the cost, even of life, the person wielding it will continue fighting. So, it is a battle cry when faced with an uphill fight and it could be indicative that Tolkien had a similar object or battle cry in his life, especially when he served in WWII.

    Chapter 4

    1. Treebeard could be a representation of things of the old, similar to how the countryside tends to represent a simpler lifestyle that existed before the bustling of cities and urban life erupted. He makes the claim of being very old, however he notes he is not as old as the forest of the North, which is not as old as say, Tom Bombadil.

    2. It is the sleepiness of the Ents that has allowed the evil at Isengard to rise, and Treebeard himself is aware of that. The theme behind the Ents getting sleepier and Saruman gaining more power is that when good falls “asleep” that is usually the occasion during which evil can increase.

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  12. Chapter 1:
    1) This is hard to say. While it might not be a just punishment for solely attempting to take the Ring, it could be a just punishment for breaking the fellowship, which is what he did when trying to take the ring.
    2) It means two things. One, it foreshadows great change. When they leave Rivendell, they leave the safety of the elves and walk into the unknown of Middle Earth. When they are in the Mines of Moria they are near the death of Gandalf the Grey. Finally, in Parth Galen the horn sounds near the death of Boromir. Secondly it foreshadows danger. Rivendell, it foreshadows the perils of their quest. Moria, it foreshadows the Balrog. Parth Galen, it foreshadows the mass of orcs. I think this idea of creating a loud noise in the face of danger directly ties into Tolkien’s experience in World War 1. During WW1 whistles were used for many different things, many of these things were to warn others of approaching danger and Boromir uses his horn for incredibly similar things.

    Chapter 2:
    1) To me they seemed quite like other kingdoms in Middle Earth. They followed a strict code and are reluctant to aid outsiders. Nothing about the Men of Rohan stick out to me as unique, they seem similar to many other kingdoms and fit in the Lord of the Rings naturally.
    2) All perceptions of strangers, sorcerers, and wizards have become closed minded over time in Rohan. The men of Middle Earth apparently have a belief that they alone have the power to stop the coming darkness. It is shown in Boromir how he believes he can wield the ring to defeat Sauron. It is now shown in Rohan and how they are cutting off ties with the outside world in hopes to prepare and stabilize their country to combat Sauron and Saruman

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    1. I like how you compared the horn blowing to Tolkien’s own experience in WW1 but also it as a literary device. It’s sort of like a marker for the beginning of a particular story arc or sequence besides typical chapter headings. It also reminds me of medieval imagery when opposing armies sound horns before battles.

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  13. Ch. 1 Q. 1
    I believe Boromir paid the price for what he did by trying to take the ring from Frodo. In doing so, he showed himself to be very weak and cowardly to the ring, but by sacrificing himself for Merry and Pippin he showed courage and redeemed himself.

    Ch. 2 Q. 2
    I would say Rohan is isolationist. Rohan sins want to answer to Gondor if they called for help. The Rohan people want to stay out of trouble like the Hobbits and not concern themselves with others affairs.

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  14. Ch. 4
    1) Treebeard is the life of the forest. Tolkien is very interested in anti-industrial imagery, and giving the forest a literal body and voice is the best way that we can understand and sympathize with the destruction of the forest and nature. Tolkien is all about the natural beauty of the world, and even the heroes of his stories are often small, rural people, such as the hobbits.
    2) By becoming “sleepy,” the Ents are staying isolated from the world, and only concern themselves with what they think are their own problems. They don’t consider the problems of the outside world something to concern themselves with, but the point of the trilogy is that the whole world is affected by decisions and the problems of other realms; world peace is a joint effort from all parties. In another sense, this could be that the forest is literally becoming still; they lose their life the more passive they become. They sleep instead of being active; there’s nothing wrong with your station in life until it’s suddenly threatened by something that could have been prevented had you taken action long ago.
    Ch. 5
    1) This reminds me of the passage in the Bible where Jesus talks about the final judgement and the “I was hungry and you gave me food” (Matthew 25:35) section. This man is Gandalf, reborn, similar to Jesus’ resurrection, and he is seeing if they are holding to the quest, and have held to the fellowship. It’s almost like a test of their loyalty to each other, and if they are able to continue on with the quest even with the absence of Gandalf, they have proven their worth as members of the fellowship. By hiding his identity, Gandalf is able to more accurately assess what has become of the fellowship, and not lend false hope.
    2) Sauron is incapable of imagining the destruction of the Ring because it is a complete overhaul of the governmental system that has been in place in Middle Earth. They are essentially initiating a coup against someone who has been established as “Ruler of them All” in order to replace with single, autonomous kingdoms, with no centrality to it. This is a very political move within Middle Earth, and Sauron not only thinks that this isn’t the plan, but he doesn’t believe that they have the power to overthrow him like that at this point in history.

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