Reading along

I just barely squeaked in under the wire with this one.  I finished The Two Towers at 11:30 on the night of the 31st.  IT WAS EXCITING.  When, you know, when the gates closed?  And Sam?  And Frodo?  You know what I’m talking about?

Well, anyway.  Teresa is done hosting The Two Towers and Maree is taking over.  So here we go.

The last half of The Two Towers covers fewer characters than the first half. For some, this makes Book 4 slower than the rest of the book; others love the intense focus on Frodo, Gollum, and Sam. Where do you stand on this question?

I love all the Frodo, Mordor stuff.  Frodo is a far better character in the books than he is in the movie.  He’s stronger and cleverer, and rereading The Two Towers, I got a bit teary at how brave he was.  And Gollum is one of my favorite characters in all of literature.  I enjoy Gollum.  I think it’s touching when he manages to overcome his worst instincts, and sad of course when he cannot do that.

If you’re a first-time reader (or even a rereader), what surprised you most about this half of the book?

How good Frodo is!  Elijah Wood and his increasingly slow talking in the films made me forget that Frodo is actually not an annoying character.  He’s not quite as hobbity as Bilbo, in some ways (people keep referring to the fact that he looks and acts rather elflike), but he bears up surprisingly well under the weight of the Ring.

Are there any specific moments that stand out as favorites or least favorites in this section?

The moment when, oh, the moment when Gollum kneels down beside Frodo and reaches out to touch him.  And he looks almost like an old tired hobbit, and you know if Sam hadn’t woken up and fussed at him, things could have gone a different way for Frodo and Gollum.  Why did Sam have to fuss at him?  I mean I love Sam and I’d probably have fussed at Gollum if I were he, but that part is saaaaaad.

What are some themes or ideas in this book (or the trilogy as a whole so far) that stand out to you?

Mainly the idea of setting goodness against evil.  The evil in Mordor is incalculably bigger than Frodo and Sam, and yet they’re the only ones who can defeat it.  Sam’s devotion to Frodo, their mutual determination to see their quest through to the end as they promised, these are the things that keep them going and will eventually defeat Sauron.  We see the same thing in the friendship of Legolas and Gimli, how they grow beyond their prejudices and come to be very close friends.  I love it when Gandalf goes to confront Saruman.  We see the trust between Gandalf and Theoden, how it makes them strong, compared with the contempt and mistrust that Saruman and Wormtongue have for each other, which is of course self-defeating.

And the obligatory movie question: Many LOTR readers take the biggest issue with Jackson’s treatment of this part of the trilogy than with any other? Did the changes bother you? Are there any ways in which you think the movie was more effective?

Let’s talk about Faramir, shall we?  My sisters and my sister’s boyfriend and I just finished up with our long-anticipated Lord of the Rings Extended Edition Film Marathon (culminating in my little sister’s being struck down with food poisoning and having a food-poisoned birthday on the 31st), so the films are fresh in my mind.  I think the flashback scenes with Boromir and Denethor and Faramir are very good.  David Wenham and Sean Bean are so good in those parts, and I am a sucker for emotional manipulation through dysfunctional parent/child relationships.  But I DO NOT APPRECIATE all this foolishness of Faramir deciding to take the ring back to Gondor.  He did not behave in that manner!  He was stronger than Boromir.  His word was his bond.  Did Aragorn try to take the ring from Frodo in the films?  No!  So why should Faramir?  They know it would make them all evil, so they are tempted, but they do not take it.

I love that line about Faramir: A chance for Faramir, Captain of Gondor, to show his quality, and then, I would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway.  Not were Minas Tirith falling into ruin and I alone could save her, using the weapon of the Dark Lord for her good and my glory.  No, I do not wish for such triumphs.  Up the House of Húrin!  Why would they change that when it’s already perfect?

Have you read LOTR before? If so, what are you anticipating most re-reading in ROTK? (er … try to avoid spoilers, although I suppose that question makes that a bit tricky)

I am looking forward to Denethor.  Denethor, Denethor!  Because I cannot remember at all what Denethor is like in the books.  It was so sad in the movies when Denethor liked Boromir better, and Faramir was sad, and he lost his brother and his father didn’t like him….But, um, I don’t think that’s how it went in the books.  Did it?  No, right?

Who’s your favourite character in ROTK?  Favorite scene?

STILL FARAMIR.  LOVE FARAMIR.  The scenes I am afraid I do not remember so well.  It has been a while since I read Return of the King.  I was sad about, but nevertheless enjoyed, the Scouring of the Shire, and I of course love Eowyn’s shield maiden brilliance.

Have you seen the movies? Have they coloured your reading of ROTK?  Does reading the books make you want to watch the movies, or run screaming in the other direction?

Already watched ’em.  They were good.  However, by the time it gets to be the third movie, I am mainly watching for Aragorn.  The scenes with Frodo and Sam in Mordor do drag in the third film (mostly; I can neither confirm nor deny the presence of tears in my eyes when Sam says Don’t go where I can’t follow!), whereas Aragorn gets to be all sexy with his steely resolve and his reforged sword.

Onward, onward!  I promise not to leave Return of the King to the very last minute the way I did with The Two Towers and The Fellowship of the Ring.  Seriously.  I’m a reformed character.

35 thoughts on “Reading along

    • Yes, it’s really sad. I kept thinking I’d missed it, actually. I remembered it so vividly from the last time I read these books, and this time around I was waiting for it to happen, and waiting for it to happen. Eventually I couldn’t take the suspense and I flipped forward to find it. :)

    • But in the end, what if Gollum hadn’t turned to his darker self? I always think it is confounding how evil occasionally achieves good.

      • I know Tolkien wrote a letter about this, and I’m just trying to remember what it was. He said what he thought would have happened if Gollum had been let alone and gotten more hobbity, and although I can’t remember it exactly, I know it still ended with the Ring being destroyed.

  1. You are so right about Faramir in the movie. Unfortunately, you’re remembering Denethor right in terms of what he does, but the movie gets him SO WRONG! He tried to be strong by force of will, rather than by acknowledging that he had human weaknesses and guarding against them.

    • I knew the movie hadn’t got him right. Doesn’t he do something that’s kind of playing with fire? I mean apart from the actual funeral-pyre thing. I feel like I remember him doing something that turned out to be really stupid.

  2. I hope your sister is feeling better! Food poison is the worst.
    Regarding the book stuff in this post, I agree with everything you say here.

  3. I’d totally forgotten how wonderful Faramir was before I re-read the Two Towers – I’m convinced, although at this stage Aragorn is still my #1 man…

    • Aragorn in the books is sort of a little bit dull. I mean I love him, but Faramir is more interesting to me. I think because we see more of his personal life, so it seems more like we know him.

  4. I SO AGREE ABOUT FARAMIR. GRRR.

    But, I’m sorry to say that you are wrong about Denethor not having the whole loving Boromir better in the books and being mean to Faramir and at. Totally happened.

    Did you also find that you somehow found Merry and Pippin to be more…person-like in the books? It’s not that the movies are wrong or bad, they just seem less and flatter in the movies. But that might be just me.

    • Oh good! Because I like that part with Denethor in the films! And I don’t really know that Merry and Pippin were any more interesting in the books. I do think the films play Gimli for comic effect more often than they need to, though.

  5. Totally agree about Frodo and Faramir. Frodo really doesn’t fall apart until the end. He’s remarkably strong in this book. I loved the rock-climbing scene and how he’s all clever when talking to Faramir.

    And of course, Faramir–it would be my favorite character that Jackson decided to mess up the most. And now tons of people don’t realize how utterly and completely awesome he is from the moment he appears because they remember the movie version, who is only eventually sort of awesome.

    • He is clever when he’s talking to Faramir. And that time that he sort of threatens Gollum, and Sam realizes that he’s been mistaking Frodo’s kindness for a sort of blindness to evil.

      Yeah, Faramir doesn’t get as much chance in the films to be awesome. He does much more looking sad with the big puppy-dog eyes, than bravely resisting the lure of the Ring. Hrmph.

  6. AND!

    You may THINK Mom and Dad don’t have favorites, but Dad told me that I’M his FAVORITE daughter. So.

    And also, interesting, I agree, noble and awesome but slightly dysfunctional family is more interesting, but Aragorn is still lovely and comforting in the books. I always feel happier and safer when he’s around in the books, except in the Mines, which, let’s face it, are horribly horribly terrifying.

  7. A couple of friends and I just watched Return of the King last night, and I found most of Frodo and Sam and Gollum’s storyline to be so dull. I remember it being better in the books but it’s been a while.

    • It is better in the books. I definitely think so, though I guess we’ll see whether I hold that opinion throughout ROTK. In the films it gets very repetitive, and I was mad about the whole mess where Frodo tells Sam to go home. So not what would have happened.

  8. Yes, that moment when Gollum reached out to Frodo was so incredibly sad and frustrating. I just wanted to yell at Sam, and then I felt so bad when he felt guilty later about saying he was sneaking. Gollum just couldn’t get over being called a sneak, and he was just off…ummm…sneaking to Shelob?? Ah well, I love him anyway.

    • Me too! And if I’d been helping out Frodo and Sam so helpfully all the time, and then Sam had fussed at me for no good reason, I might very well have fed them to a giant spider myself. Huh.

  9. The Gollum moment broke my heart too! But what made it so memorable was its fleeting nature, so Sam fussing was crucial to this scene standing out.

    I’m a huge Aragorn and Faramir fan too. I watched the movies before I read the books, so reading about them was so much better!

  10. I’m hosting ROTK, but I STILL haven’t read The Two Towers – so you’re doing a lot better than me.

    Eowyn – I think she’s one of my favourite characters in literature.

    Thanks for joining in the fun! :D

  11. Yes, Denethor does do something that’s like playing with fire. He thinks he has the strength to turn a palantir to his will. Later it’s obvous that only one of the kings of old can have that strength–not a steward.

    Sauron shows him only sights that cause Denethor to despair.

  12. Seeing all of your LOTR posts makes me think that I’d like to read the book, especially the parts where you say that the books are so much better than the movies.

    The only problem I’ve had in the past is that I get bogged down in the language information (the fictitious language, etc.) and give up early on in the first book.

    • I gave up every time I tried to read Lord of the Rings as a kid, for those exact reasons. What worked for me was seeing hte first movie, and then going straight into the second book. It let me bypass all the amazingly dull things that happen in Fellowship, without missing out on any of the crucial aspects of the story.

    • I always complain about Eowyn winding up with Faramir, even though I love them both and in fact think they’d be great together. It just bugs me that Eowyn spends the whole book pining after Aragorn and then ends up with Faramir who is essentially Aragorn-lite. :/

  13. “Aragorn-lite”? You are making me laugh! I think Faramir is a much better choice for Eowyn. He has all the good qualities Aragorn has, without the burdens and trappings of kingship. Faramir makes a beautiful speech to Eowyn when he reveals that he loves her, about how he would still love her even if she was Aragorn’s queen. I’m not sure Aragorn would say the same, if the positions were reversed.

    There’s just something stern about Aragorn, always having to think about his legacy (or maybe my view is colored by reading the Appendix). It’s like he is TOO conscious of his place in the stories. I think he would be a lot less fun on a daily basis.

    • I agree, but when I first read the books, I’d already seen the first film. So even though Aragorn is a far less interesting character than Faramir in the books, my mind’s eye was full of Viggo Mortensen relentlessly bringing the sexy. Book-Aragorn is quite dull a lot of the time, although it is a bit badass when he confronts Sauron with the palantir. :)

  14. Poor Faramir. Second fiddle again! :-)

    Maybe this is why I like him better: the sexy, powerful, movie-star guy gets all the girls, but the geeky ones are more my type. (Once again, I’m reminded that literary interpretation is often about more about the reader than about the work!)

    Somehow Viggo has never really stuck with me, and in my imagination book-Aragorn is a little bit blurry. Guess I am missing out!

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