windandwater: I’ve posted about this passage of Two Towers on my blog before but I gotta talk about…


I’ve posted about this passage of Two Towers on my blog before but I gotta talk about another element of it that I really love but can’t capture in any other format. This is when Frodo & Sam are in Cirith Ungol:

All was dark about it, earth and sky, but it was lit with light. Not the imprisoned moonlight welling through the marble walls of Minas Ithil long ago, Tower of the Moon, fair and radiant in the hollow of the hills.

Paler indeed than the moon ailing in some slow eclipse was the light of it now, wavering and blowing like a noisome exhalation of decay, a corpse-light, a light that illuminated nothing.

In the walls and tower windows showed, like countless black holes looking inward into emptiness; but the topmost course of the tower revolved slowly, first one way and then another, a huge ghostly head leering into the night.

The Two Towers, Book 2 Chapter 8

There’s so many things I love about this chapter, and of course this is creepy and mood-setting and world-buildy (just casually throwing in the corruption of Minas Ithil in there! I could write another post just about that line!) in a ton of amazing ways. 

But what I’m thinking about this time around the most is that you get this sense, that even though it may be possible for Sam & Frodo to infiltrate Mordor and make their way through and do their job and maybe, maybe even get out–if they get taken into Minas Morgul, they’re not coming out.

It’s a credit to the way Tolkien has built up the terror of the Ringwraiths, partially, but they’ve always been able to escape or evade their attention, even narrowly, before. But now they’re on Ringwraith territory. Now this is their ground. And Tolkien makes the peril so real. If they’re caught, it’s all over. There’s no escaping this time.

And then there’s a moment where the Witch-King senses the Ring and very nearly finds them, but then:

At that moment the Wraith-king turned and spurred his horse and rode across the bridge, and all his dark host followed him. Maybe the elven-hoods defied his unseen eyes, and the mind of his small enemy, being strengthened, had turned aside his thought. But he was in haste. Already the hour had struck, and at his great Master’s bidding he must march with war into the West.

The Two Towers, Book 2 Chapter 8

It’s such a close call, and there are many things that save Frodo & Sam in this moment–the light of Galadriel, the Elven cloaks–but also, Gandalf’s whole plan. He’s been saying all along at this point that his job is distract Sauron from Frodo & Sam, to keep him worrying about the war with Gondor instead of keeping too close an eye on his borders.  And in this moment, we see it actually work.

This is showing, not telling–we get a horribly close call, saved at the last moment by a desperate strategy, plotted by people who don’t and can’t know if it’s working, or how close it came to not working.

I love this book so much.

Reposted from

Tags: this.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.