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The Two Towers

J. R. R. Tolkien

Book III, Chapter 3

Book III, Chapter 2

Book III, Chapter 4

Summary — The Uruk-Hai

While Aragorn’s group hunts for the hobbits, Pippin and Merry lie captive in the Orc camp, bound hand and foot. Pippin has a dark dream in which he calls out to Frodo but sees only Orcs around him. Pippin recalls the great battle in which Boromir appeared, at first causing great fear among the Orcs, but then unable to summon any other warriors with his horn. Pippin’s last memory of the battle is of seeing Boromir trying to pull an arrow out of his own body. Pippin regrets that Gandalf ever asked him to come along, as he feels like little more than a burden.

Pippin hears the Orcs talking among themselves. One orc asks why the hobbits cannot simply be killed. Another answers that orders have been given not to kill, search, or plunder the hobbits; they must be captured alive. Pippin is aware that the two orcs are speaking the Common Tongue, as the different Orc tribes cannot understand one another. Nevertheless, he notes that the various Orcs sometimes lapse back into their native tongue when speaking with their own; in these instances, he cannot follow their speech, which sounds angry and snarling to him.

There is apparently some hostility among the various Orc tribes. Uglúk, an orc from the Uruk-hai clan, is proud to call himself the servant of Saruman the Wise, the White Hand. The other orc insults Saruman, and a fight breaks out in which one orc dies, falling on top of Pippin. Pippin is able to rub his hand bindings against the blade of the fallen orc’s knife, thus freeing his hands. Not noticing that Pippin’s hands are free, Uglúk orders the hobbits to move quickly in march with the rest of the Orc horde. Suddenly, the hobbits are snatched up by the Isengard Orcs, who double their speed and pull out ahead of the others. The Isengard Orcs attempt to leave behind the other Orcs, who pursue them unsuccessfully.

Finally losing the other Orcs, the Isengard Orcs, stop to give Pippin and Merry Orc-liquor, which allows them to march a long distance. The Orcs halt and throw Pippin to the ground. They begin to search the bodies of the two hobbits, believing Pippin and Merry to be the possessors of the Ring. The hobbits demand to be untied before they will offer anything to Grishnákh, the Isengard orc who is searching them.

Suddenly, a rider appears and kills the hobbits’ Orc captor. Pippin and Merry lie frightened on the ground, covered by their Elf cloaks, which make them invisible. They eat some lembas cakes to regain their energy, and they decide to leave an Elf-brooch behind in the hopes that a rescuer might find it (as Aragorn indeed finds it later). The hobbits flee into the woods, not seeing that the rider kills Uglúk.

Analysis

Our first glimpse of the hobbits in this volume of the novel is dark and troubling: Pippin and Merry are bound and captive, tormented and mistreated by their captors. In light of their small size, they are treated like pieces of baggage—carried around, picked up, and flung down without any courtesy. Pippin overhears several orcs wondering why they should take so much trouble for the sake of the hobbits, instead of simply killing them. Once again, the hobbits are a far cry from the traditional picture of heroism; they are important to the Orcs, but only as suspected bearers of the Ring, not as characters or identities in their own right. Even Pippin’s self-liberation from the Orcs’ bonds is not an act of courage, but a bit of very good luck: the dying orc falls in such a way that his knife rubs up against Pippin’s hand bindings.

Despite the hobbits’ ignoble introduction, however, their positive characteristics emerge clearly. Pippin begins the chapter dreaming that he is calling out for Frodo, reminding us of the strong bond among the four hobbits—the bond that Gandalf predicts will count for much when he argues for Pippin and Merry’s inclusion in the Fellowship in the previous volume of the novel. Though Pippin and Merry never complain about the physical hardships they undergo, they do suffer when they are out of contact with each other. The narrator describes the hobbits’ great sense of relief when they are near enough to each other to talk quietly for a while, taking pleasure in the simple camaraderie of being together even when bound and in captivity.

The importance of camaraderie is emphasized through contrast, in the the almost total absence of it among the Orcs. The Orcs simply do not get along well together, squabbling constantly and at times even fatally. Their frequent lapses into their native Orc dialects, incomprehensible to the Orcs of different tribes, is one sign of how little the creatures care about communication and unity with each other. The Isengard tribe’s betrayal of the other Orcs is the most obvious example of this disunity, but we see considerable quarreling and dislike even within the Isengard tribe itself. We see the Isengarders snarling at each other in their camp, cursing each other with a bitterness that we would expect from enemies, not cohorts. When Pippin is being searched, he senses that his searcher might be attempting to double-deal his companions and seize the Ring for himself. While the two hobbits would do anything for one another, the Orcs seem barely able to hold together long enough to accomplish their kidnapping mission.

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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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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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