The Two Towers

by: J. R. R. Tolkien

Book III, Chapter 1

Tolkien’s characterization of the villains in these opening chapters reveals much about the moral universe he has created. The evil of the Orcs is evinced not just by their cruelty, but also, we see, in their inability to fight in close union with each other. In the next chapter, Aragorn notes that some of the slain Orcs he passes on the battlefield appear to have been killed by fellow Orcs from a more northerly tribe. Unlike Gandalf’s alliance of Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, and Men, who overcome long-standing animosities (most notably, that between Elves and Dwarves) to fight under vows of unity and solidarity, the Orcs kill each other in addition to their common enemy. This idea of evil as a tendency toward treachery is perhaps most notable in the character of Boromir. This noble and tragic figure dominates the opening of the novel; though he has fallen prey to the lure of the Ring, desiring it for himself, he appears noble and is mourned because he realizes the scope of his error, humbly repenting to Aragorn. The fact that Boromir is killed in battle so quickly after his attempt to commandeer the Ring suggests that his death may be a fated punishment of sorts for his lapse into selfishness and reckless ambition.