Study Guide

The Two Towers Love

By J.R.R. Tolkien


Sorrowfully they cast loose the funeral boat: there Boromir lay, restful, peaceful, gliding upon the bosom of the flowing water. The stream took him while they held their own boat back with their paddles. He floated by them, and slowly his boat departed, waning to a dark spot against the golden light; and then suddenly it vanished. Rauros roared on unchanging. The River had taken Boromir son of Denethor, and was not seen again in Minas Tirith, standing as he used to stand upon the White Tower in the morning. But in Gondor in after-days it was long said that the elven-boat rode the falls and the foaming pool, and bore him down through Osgiliath, and past the many mouths of the Anduin, out into the Great Sea at night under the stars. (3.1.45)

Even though Boromir has been a bit of a troublemaker for the Company, he has traveled with them faithfully through The Fellowship of the Ring. It's nice of Tolkien to take some time to mark his passing. One of the things that we like about Tolkien is the genuine affection he seems to have for his characters: both Gandalf and Boromir receive the mourning they deserve, including songs and tears because their fellow characters loved them, and Tolkien probably did, too.

"But why should he leave us behind, and without a word?" said Gimli. "That was a strange deed!"

"And a brave deed," said Aragorn. "Sam was right, I think. Frodo did not wish to lead any friend to death with him in Mordor. But he knew that he must go himself. Something happened after he left us that overcame his fear and doubt." (3.1.53-4)

When Frodo disappears with the Ring, his companions might have assumed that he made off with it for his own evil purposes. But Aragorn reads his purpose correctly: Frodo wants to go it alone (or with Sam, because Sam insists) as a gesture of love toward his friends. He wants to save them, both from the horrors and Mordor and from the influence of the Ring (which has just taken Boromir). And of course the fact that Frodo makes off with the Ring out of love rather than fear or desire for power, we know he'll have some protection from the Ring's dark powers. At least for a little while.

I remember it was long ago—in the time of the war between Sauron and the Men of the Sea—desire came over me to see Fimbrethil again. Very fair she was still in my eyes, when I had last seen her, though little like the Entmaiden of old, for the Entwives were bent and browned by their labour; their hair parched by the sun to the hue of ripe corn and their cheeks like red apples. Yet their eyes were still the eyes of our people. We crossed over Anduin and came to their land; but we found a desert: it was all burned and uprooted, for war had passed over it. But the Entwives were not there. Long we called, and long we searched; and we asked all folk that we met which way the Entwives had gone. Some said they had never seen them; and some said they had seen them walking away west, and some said east, and others south. But nowhere that we went could we find them. Our sorrow was very great. Yet the wild wood called, and we returned to it. (3.4.106)

This story of the Entwives is utterly odd. Why stop in the middle of a story about rousing forces against Isengard to tell us a tale that will have no bearing on the overall plot of The Lord of the Rings? We might take it as a warning against allowing the worlds of men and women to get too separate. But at the same time, the world of Middle-earth is all about separating men from women—how many major women characters do we see in these novels? For much of the series, you would be forgiven for thinking Middle-earth doesn't even have women. So what's the deal here?

The woman turned and went slowly into the house. As she passed the doors she turned and looked back. Grave and thoughtful was her glance, as she looked on the king with cool pity in her eyes. Very fair was her face, and her long hair was like a river of gold. Slender and tall she was in her white robe girt with silver; but strong she seemed and stern as steel, a daughter of kings. Thus Aragorn for the first time in the full light of day beheld Éowyn, Lady of Rohan, and thought her fair, fair and cold, like a morning of pale spring that is not yet come to womanhood. And she now was suddenly aware of him: tall heir of kings, wise with many winters, greycloaked, hiding a power that yet she felt. For a moment still as stone she stood, then turning swiftly she was gone. (3.6.72)

Tolkien's got a real thing for height, doesn't he? Both Aragorn and Éowyn immediately notice that the other is tall. But what's even more interesting to us about this first description of Éowyn is how much she reminds us of Galadriel, who is also grave and tall (see The Fellowship of the Ring Book 2, Chapter 7). What we are getting at here is that, when Tolkien wants to make a woman seem tough and impressive—even warrior-like, in the case of Éowyn—she must be serious and even chilly.

"You move me, Gimli," said Legolas. "I have never heard you speak like this before. Almost you make me regret that I have not seen these caves. Come! Let us make this bargain—if we both return safe out of the perils that await us, we will journey for a while together. You shall visit Fangorn with me, and then I will come with you to see Helm's Deep."

"That would not be the way of return that I should choose," said Gimli. "But I will endure Fangorn, if I have your promise to come back to the caves and share their wonder with me."

"You have my promise," said Legolas. "But alas! Now we must leave behind both cave and wood for a while. See! We are coming to the end of the trees." (3.8.54-6)

How far these two have come since the day when Legolas cried, "A plague on Dwarves and their stiff necks!" (The Fellowship of the Ring 2.6.124). Now they're making future plans to vacation together. Because there is so little time for actual romance in The Lord of the Rings (except for Aragorn's awkward love triangle between Éowyn and Arwen), we'll have to settle for a little bromance now and then.

"And it's a good thing neither half of the old villain don't know what the master means to do," [Sam] thought. "If he knew that Mr. Frodo is trying to put an end to his Precious for good and all, there'd be trouble pretty quick, I bet. Anyhow old Stinker is so frightened of the Enemy—and he's under orders of some kind from him, or was—that he'd give us away rather than be caught helping us; and rather than let his Precious be melted, maybe. At least that's my idea. And I hope the master will think it out carefully. He's as wise as any, but he's soft-hearted, that's what he is. It's beyond any Gamgee to guess what he'll do next." (4.3.21)

Sam's hatred of Gollum is deep and probably justified. But we do find it interesting that both Sam and Gollum call Frodo "master." Both Sam and Gollum—or at least Sméagol, Gollum's good side—regard Frodo as their shared superior. And we know that Sam has come all the way to Mordor primarily to accompany his beloved master. Could it be that what we have between Sam and Gollum (at least in part) is a kind of weird, angry sibling rivalry? Maybe one reason Sam cannot believe in the possibility that Gollum could have genuine good in him comes from his resentment that Gollum is horning in on his relationship with Frodo. Then again, maybe we're just being cynical.

Many great trees grew there, planted long ago, falling into untended age amid a riot of careless descendants; and groves and thickets there were of tamarisk and pungent terebinth, of olive and of bay; and there were junipers and myrtles; and thymes that grew in bushes, or with their woody creeping stems mantled in deep tapestries the hidden stones; sages of many kinds putting forth blue flowers, or red, or pale green; and marjorams and new-sprouting parsleys, and many herbs of forms and scents beyond the garden-lore of Sam. The grots and rocky walls were already starred with saxifrages and stonecrops. Primeroles and anemones were awake in the filbert-brakes; and asphodel and many lily-flowers nodded their half-opened heads in the grass: deep green grass beside the pools, where falling streams halted in cool hollows on their journey down to Anduin. (4.4.12)

First of all, this moment among the spring flowers is a breath of fresh air, not only for the hobbits, but also for the reader, after their travels through the ashy blight of Noman's-land in Mordor. While Tolkien takes the time to make up new flowers elsewhere in the series, such as the yellow elanor of Lothlórien or the white simbelmynë of Rohan, the flowers that bloom in Ithilien are largely familiar, which contrasts with the strangeness and wrongness of neighboring Mordor, where the plants he loves are nowhere to be found. This walk through Ithilien is like a quick return to the loving comforts of home between the horrors of the Dead Marshes and the terror to come in Cirith Ungol.

Frodo's face was peaceful, the mars of fear and care had left it; but it looked old, old and beautiful, as if the chiselling of the shaping years was now revealed in many fine lines that had before been hidden, though the identity of the face was not changed. Not that Sam Gamgee put it that way to himself. He shook his head, as if finding words useless, and murmured: "I love him. He's like that, and sometimes it shines through, somehow. But I love him, whether or no." (4.4.24)

There's this odd split quality to the perspective of this paragraph describing Frodo in Ithilien, as though both the narrator and Sam love Frodo separately. The narrator looks at Frodo's sleeping face and sees "the chiselling of the shaping years." But, the narrator emphasizes, these are not Sam's words about his master. For Sam, Frodo is like "that," and he loves him for it. What do you think Sam means by "that"? What is this quality of Frodo's that both Sam and the narrator love so much?

"And people will say: 'Let's hear about Frodo and the Ring!' And they'll say: 'Yes, that's one of my favorite stories. Frodo was very brave, wasn't he dad?' 'Yes, my boy, the famousest of the hobbits, and that's saying a lot.'"

"It's saying a lot too much," said Frodo, and he laughed, a long clear laugh from his heart. Such a sound had not been heard in those places since Sauron came to Middle-earth. To Sam suddenly it seemed as if all the stones were listening and the tall rocks leaning over them. But Frodo did not heed them; he laughed again. "Why Sam," he said, "to hear you somehow makes me as merry as if the story was already written. But you've left out one of the chief characters: Samwise the stouthearted. 'I want to hear more about Sam, dad. Why didn't they put in more of his talk, dad? That what I like, it makes me laugh. And Frodo wouldn't have got far without Sam, would he, dad?'" (4.8.63-4)

It's a credit to Frodo that he can laugh while sitting near Minas Morgul with the Ruling Ring on a chain around his neck, and it's equally to Sam's credit that he can tell a joke that makes Frodo chuckle. The obvious love between Frodo and Sam seems to be the only cure for the miseries of Mordor. And even the land itself seems to be tuning in, leaning over to hear their banter. This moment with Frodo's laugh is a rare instance when we stop to think of the agony it would be for the land itself—if it is alive in any sense, as it is being described here—to be tortured with the presence of the utter evil living in Mordor. Perhaps the rocks are listening to Frodo's laughter as their own cure for the miseries they have endured under Sauron.

"But what can I do? Not leave Mr. Frodo dead, unburied on top of the mountains, and go home? Or go on? Go on?" he repeated, and for a moment doubt and fear shook him. "Go on? Is that what I've got to do? And leave him?"

Then at last he began to weep; and going to Frodo he composed his body, and folded his cold hands about him; and he laid his own sword at one side, and the staff that Faramir had given at the other. (4.10.23-4)

This farewell from Sam to Frodo is unbelievably loving and touching, though it's also a bit premature. But aside from tugging the heartstrings, Sam's decision to leave poor supposedly-dead Frodo lying in Cirith Ungol gives Tolkien a plot-level reason to separate Frodo and Sam for a time, so that Sam can get a taste of the Ring. But even when Sam wears the Ring, he still chooses to save his buddy. This brief separation allows Tolkien to reinforce Sam's essential trait: love of Frodo. He is willing to undertake the quest if he must, but where he really feels he belongs is at Frodo's side.