The Two Towers

 
Orcs attack, and Frodo marches to Mordor in exciting sequel.

What parents need to know

Educational value

This is one of the best contemporary examples of what scholar Joseph Campbell calls the Monomyth or Hero's Journey (another is the Star Wars series). Tolkien is also greatly admired for his "world building": he paints an unbelievably complete picture of Middle Earth with maps, dense background history of each race (elves, dwarves, different kingdoms of humans, hobbits), poems and songs, and even whole languages and scripts to pen them in.

Positive messages

Good vs. evil is at the heart of this trilogy and the stakes are very high. Many races must come together to fight and the smallest and most innocent carry the heaviest burden. There was a strong eco-message in Fellowship of the Ring with Tom Bombadil and also here when readers meet the Ents and when Frodo and Sam travel near Mordor. Both parties lament over how the drive to war can destroy the environment through deforestation and destruction. Here with the Ents we can see nature directly fighting back against man's folly. Go trees!

Positive role models

Frodo becomes a stronger hero figure here as he strikes out with only Sam as company, expecting never to return from his mission. Sam discovers he's as brave as Frodo and as dedicated to defeating the enemy as Frodo is. Merry and Pippin are also growing into heroic figures, helping the cause by befriending the Ents. Gandalf, after his transformation, becomes a commanding presence that helps bring together all the good beings of Middle Earth to fight.

Violence

Fierce but nongraphic battle descriptions with beheaded and burned orcs -- Legolas and Gimli keep a tally of their kills. An attack by an enormous spider leaves one main character presumed dead. Frodo and Sam travel into the fearsome terrain of Mordor and through marshes where fallen soldiers are well preserved in the dark water below. Merry and Pippin endure a forced march as captives of savage orcs and escape. Some ents die in battle and there's talk of villages of innocents overtaken by orcs.

Sex
Not applicable
Language

A mention of an "Entish malediction."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A couple joyous scenes of pipe-weed smoking after a battle victory and a reuniting of friends.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that if kids are ready to see the excellent Lord of the Rings movies they're ready to read the trilogy, including The Two Towers, the second in the series. For the most part this book feels a bit less violent than the movie, which turned the battle at Helm's Deep into a much bigger, bloodier spectacle. There's still a startling near-death of a major character, talk of beheaded Orcs, some macabre imagery of fallen dead lying well preserved in watery graves, and a competitive tally of battle kills between Legolas the elf and Gimli the dwarf. When the story follows Pippin and Merry there are lighter moments, like when they discover a stash of pipe-weed and smoke and feast with friends after a battle. But as the story switches to Frodo and Sam, the mood is much more somber with a feeling that "all hope is lost," just like any really good hero's journey that is far from complete. Readers won't find the mood lightened until the series concludes with The Return of the King.

What's the story?

The adventures of the hobbits and their allies in the epic struggle to save Middle Earth from domination by the Dark Lord, Sauron, continues in this monumental tale. The members of the fellowship discover new friends -- and new enemies -- in unexpected places, and the four hobbits, scattered and sent on divergent paths, find their courage and fortitude tested.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Where The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume of the trilogy, starts off slowly, this far more complex novel plunges right into the action, and the straight-ahead story line diverges. The fellowship has been split apart by near treachery and an attack by Orcs, and now the survivors debate whether to aid the Ring-bearer, Frodo, or try to rescue his captive countrymen, but they find no easy answer. After more betrayals and a seemingly hopeless battle, the story shifts to Frodo and Sam as the pair undertakes a grueling journey -- and the book culminates with yet another betrayal.

This is serious business -- especially to readers expecting more of the buoyant adventure of The Hobbit. But even amid all the archaic language, the din of war, and the trauma of little people overwhelmed by the shadow of impending doom, readers can depend on the hobbits' cheerful resilience and courage.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Frodo and Sam's discussion in the chapter The Stairs of Cirith Ungol where they imagine what sort of story they're in. What do they decide?

  • What does Sam realize about adventure stories? Do characters usually take on adventures willingly or are they thrust upon them?

  • Discuss the Ents and Treebeard marching to war. Have you ever encountered a true moment when nature fought back? Why did Treebeard decide it was time to be "hasty"?

  • Talk about what other stories tell the Hero's Journey. How are they similar to this trilogy? How are they different?

Book details

Author:J.R.R. Tolkien
Genre:Fantasy
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs, Wild animals
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Houghton Mifflin Children's Books
Publication date:November 11, 1954
Number of pages:447
Available on:Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle

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Adult Written byChi to April 9, 2008
age 0+
 

I loved it!

Even though it might not be my favorite in the series because of Gollum/Smeagol, it's still great to read. I quickly read through the first half, but the second part took me a while longer since it had my least favorite character. Despite the loathsome creature, I loved the book. One of my favorite parts Ent moot (they're so cool)! Anyways, worth the read and so much more.
Parent of a 5, 9, 11, and 14 year old Written byJamesRobertson January 4, 2009
Kid, 12 years old June 7, 2012
age 9+
 

Best books EVER

This is my favorite book of the whole trilogy, and they are my favorite books in the world!!! They are better for more advanced readers, because the vocabulary is a little had and it is a bit tricky to follow. But if you take your time, any age could read it.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence

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