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The narrative picks up just after Frodo and Sam have left
the rest of the Fellowship and have headed toward Mordor to destroy
the Ring. Aragorn races in pursuit of Frodo, but he finds it difficult
to follow the hobbit’s tracks. Suddenly, Aragorn hears the voices
of Orcs going into battle, followed by the battle horn of Boromir,
the other human warrior in the Fellowship. Aragorn fears that Boromir is
in danger. Indeed, the Orcs wound Boromir fatally, and when Aragorn
reaches him, Boromir is nearly dead. Boromir confesses to having
tried, unsuccessfully, to take the Ring from Frodo earlier. Boromir
dies, and Aragorn weeps over his friend’s body.
Legolas the Elf and Gimli the Dwarf join Aragorn. Legolas regrets
that he has been chasing the wrong group of Orcs, leaving Boromir
without defense. Aragorn announces that Boromir is dead, having
been killed defending the hobbits. Gimli, Legolas, and Aragorn carry
Boromir’s body on a bier to the river and launch a funeral boat.
Legolas and Aragorn sing bits of prophetic songs that concern the
death of Boromir and his role in the larger scheme of destiny.
Legolas asks where the hobbits are now, but Aragorn says
he does not know. He explains that he sent Boromir to follow Merry and
Pippin, but neglected to ask whether Frodo was with them. Aragorn
now realizes his error. He speculates that Frodo separated from his
colleagues because he did not wish to expose them to the dangers of
the quest. Aragorn says that the Dwarves, Elves, and Men must stick
together in their mission to find Frodo.
The opening chapters of The Two Towers mark
the first time in The Lord of the Rings in which
the hobbits are absent from the narrative. The other characters—Aragorn,
Boromir, Gimli, and Legolas—constantly talk about the hobbits, however,
and try to find them. This absence of the hobbits continues throughout
much of The Two Towers, as the hobbits are at the
center of everything that occurs, yet are kept offstage, leaving
us in doubt about what is happening to them. Through Aragorn’s eyes,
we study the tracks on the forest floor, hoping in vain for a glimpse
of the hobbits. Tolkien, in structuring the narrative in this manner,
keeps us in suspense about what is happening to Frodo, Sam, Pippin,
and Merry; our interest is inevitably aroused by creatures whom
everyone is pursuing, but who are kept offstage. Ironically, it
is the hobbits’ very absence that contributes to their status as
the focus of the narrative, the center of the plot as bearers of
Moreover, Hobbits in general are intriguing simply because
of the fact that, as a race living in a sheltered corner of Middle-earth, they
are relatively unfamiliar to many of the other inhabitants of Tolkien’s
world. Although we as readers have been introduced to Hobbit lore
and culture in The Hobbit and the Prologue to The
Fellowship of the Ring, many of the characters in The
Two Towers—such as Éomer (whom we meet later)—are unclear
about what exactly a hobbit is. Gimli must explain to Éomer that
Hobbits are neither children nor Dwarves, but Halflings—a hybrid
reference that makes us realize that even we, for all the background
knowledge Tolkien has provided, do not really understand the true
origin and nature of the Hobbit race.
As we have seen thus far in the novel, the Hobbits, unlike
many of the other races and creatures of Middle-earth,
do not appear to possess any special gifts or powers. Others have
such special abilities, which Tolkien often showcases in dramatic
moments of the plot. Legolas has the incredibly acute eyesight for
which the Elves are famous. Gimli demonstrates the considerable
Dwarf skill in wielding an axe. Aragorn displays the honor, courage,
and masterful horsemanship that mark the best of the race of Men.
Gandalf and his order of Wizards are immensely powerful; the Ents,
the treelike creatures whom we meet later, have both great strength
and seemingly limitless endurance and patience. The Hobbits—though they
attract the close interest of all these other races, placed as they are
at the center of the plot—display no comparable strengths or talents,
making them rather unique among the canon of epic heroes.
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.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Two Towers!