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The Two Towers

J. R. R. Tolkien

Key Facts

Important Quotations Explained

Study Questions & Essay Topics

full title  ·  The Two Towers, being the second part of The Lord of the Rings

author  · J.R.R. Tolkien

type of work  · Novel

genre  · Epic; heroic quest; folktale; fantasy; myth

language  · English, with occasional words and phrases from various languages of Middle-earth that Tolkien invented

time and place written  · 1937–1949; Oxford, England

date of first publication  · 1954

publisher · Allen and Unwin

narrator  · The whole of The Lord of the Rings is told by an anonymous, third-person narrator.

point of view  ·  The Two Towers is narrated in the third person, primarily following the exploits of Merry and Pippin in Book III and the exploits of Frodo and particularly Sam in Book IV. The narration is omniscient, which means the narrator not only relates the characters’ thoughts and feelings, but also comments on them.

tone  · The narrator is unobtrusive, not allowing himself any authorial commentaries on the fate of the characters or any exclamations about the story as it unfolds. The tone is somewhat reminiscent of the tone used in the Odyssey and other ancient poetic epics: it focuses on actions in a simple, direct manner, and generally avoids psychological explorations in the narrative. There are minor exceptions to this rule, especially in the narration of the thoughts and feelings of the hobbits at moments of crisis, but these are infrequent.

tense  · Past

setting (time)  · The end of the Third Age of Middle-earth

setting (place)  · Various locales in the imaginary world of Middle-earth, including Rohan, the Forest of Fangorn, Edoras, Helm’s Deep, Isengard, and Mordor

protagonist  · Primarily Merry and Pippin in Book III and Frodo and Sam in Book IV, though the Fellowship as a whole might be considered a single protagonist

major conflict  · Frodo struggles with the ever-heavier burden of the Ring as he and Sam convey it to Mordor. Meanwhile, Gandalf attempts to obstruct Saruman’s quest to gain power in support of Mordor.

rising action  · Boromir’s death; Aragorn’s attempt to reunite his group with the hobbits after the battle separates them; Aragorn’s meeting with Gandalf, and later Pippin and Merry; the group’s collective pursuit of Frodo and Sam; Frodo and Sam’s wanderings, and their acceptance of Gollum as a guide; Frodo and Sam’s passage into Mordor

climax  · Gollum’s betrayal of Frodo and Sam; the hobbits’ struggle with the spider-monster Shelob

falling action  · Frodo’s paralysis from Shelob’s bite; Sam’s assumption of the role of Ring-bearer; Sam’s anguished uncertainty about how to proceed with the quest

themes  · The decay of civilization; the value of fellowship; duty

motifs  · Songs and singing; the natural world; suspicion

symbols  · The two towers; the palantír; Pippin’s pipe; the Dead Marshes

foreshadowing  · Frodo’s assertion that Gollum is full of wickedness; Sam’s repeated doubts about Gollum’s trustworthiness

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Trying to trip up the lazy, or is it a mistake?

by CBCoulter, July 11, 2012

In the Sparknotes guide to The Lord of the Rings, on page 186 in the Character List for The Return of the King, Eomer is mis-identified as Theodan's son and heir. This is incorrect; Eomer is Theodan's nephew. Theodred was Theodan's son, and he was killed by Orcs, making Eomer, next in line for the throne, the new heir.

Is this error put in to trip up folks who aren't going to read the book, or is it a serious editing oversight?

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9 out of 9 people found this helpful

correction to summary

by tew1988, December 18, 2013

the plot summary says the hobbits meet an ent named Fangorn. Fangorn is the name of the forest, Treebeard is the name of the ent.

Lacks attention to detail

by prancingpony2014, January 11, 2014

I've been reading through the series for the first time and using SparkNotes after each volume to help me process some of the larger literary elements I might otherwise miss. The SparkNote for FotR was very good, but this volume has many factual errors that make it distracting. Among these are: 1) the Orcs who capture Merry and Pippin heard a *rumor* about them possessing *something*, not a prophecy about them having the One Ring; 2) Gimli does not see a vision of Saruman, but all three see the figure in the woods with their own eyes and Ara... Read more

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7 out of 7 people found this helpful

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