Frodo. Poor dude isn't doing so well.
It seems like every single shot of him is a close up on his face, emphasizing the distant look in his eyes. He's not feeling too hot, either emotionally or health-wise. It's like the Ring is physically heavy, not just dragging on his mind, but also taking a toll on his frail body. Even Frodo's massive feet aren't big enough to carry the weight of the One Ring.
He's also more and more removed from Sam. Although they shared their troubles in Rivendell (and even as they started their journey apart from the group), Frodo is now emotionally isolated from his bestie.
It's partially that Frodo's unwilling to burden Sam with worries of the Ring, but he also believes that Sam can't understand the struggles of the Ring bearer. As Galadriel tells him in Lothlorien, "to bear a Ring of power is to be alone."
The happy Frodo we see in the Shire tavern at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring is long gone. Instead, he is constantly zoning out, staring into the eyes of the dead or the great eye of fire. His spill in the Dead Marshes shows how dangerous his disconnection with the physical world can be. He seems almost drawn to the ghostly spirits of the corpses in the swamp and comes pretty close to lighting a little candle of his own, as Gollum would say.
All of these signs point to him becoming more like the nine wraiths, each of them undone by their greed for power. And he's also becoming more like Gollum. Remember the scene where Frodo is up at night, softly stroking the Ring in the palm of his hand? Right next to him we see Gollum, pretending or hallucinating that he has the Ring in his palm, doing the exact same petting motion.
We know it took five hundred years for Gollum to end up like he is, but with Sauron's army growing and the Ring getting closer to home, Frodo is this close to stripping off his clothes and biting into some raw fish.
Could this be why Frodo has so much pity for Sméagol? Check out Frodo's pro-Gollum stance in action:
SAM: He's up to something.
FRODO: Are you saying there's another way into Mordor?
GOLLUM: Yes. There's a path, and some stairs, and then… a tunnel.
FRODO: He's led us this far, Sam.
SAM: Mr. Frodo, no.
FRODO: He's been true to his word.
FRODO: Lead the way, Sméagol.
It's easy to say that Frodo is just a great guy who wants to be nice to everyone so they can all get a long and be happy… but let's be real, with the way Frodo's been treating Sam recently, we don't think this is the case. Instead, Frodo might see Sméagol as a projection of his own future self. As Frodo becomes more and more engrossed in the grasp of the Ring, he begins to understand Gollum's plight and realizes that, in some twisted future, he will be the one riddled with hate for a new bearer and lust for his lost Precious.
Okay, so the Ring is a burden and carrying it must be awful—that band of gold seems to be literally draining the life out of Frodo. But Frodo himself is acting like a bit of a burden these days.
Not only has Frodo been distrusting of Sam (like during their argument over whether to follow Gollum on his little detour to Mordor), he's be outright violent. On the one hand, you can just say that it's just the curse of the Ring; Frodo is doing the best he can. He's carrying what is probably the darkest, most evil, dangerous object in all of Middle-earth. We get pretty cranky when we miss breakfast, so excusing Frodo for being a bit upset or forlorn seems only fair.
But on the other hand, can we really separate how the Ring affects Frodo from Frodo himself? Is the Ring possessing Frodo, taking control of his volition? It doesn't really seem like it. Maybe the Ring is just exacerbating his worst qualities. Or maybe this is some primal form of Frodo that's uncaged by the calling of the Ring.
All you have to know about our lovable, affectionate Samwise Gamgee comes in a quote at the end of the movie. Frodo and Sam are adorkably pretending to be hobbit kiddos, listening to the epic tale of Frodo And The Ring. Sam goes on for a while, playing at being a child that's super-into hearing about Frodo… but Frodo cuts him off. In character, he says:
FRODO: "Well, you've left out one of the chief characters: Samwise the Brave. I want to hear more about Sam. Frodo wouldn't have got far without Sam."
Sam is such a humble and loyal friend that he thinks Frodo is just messing with him. Emphasis on the "humble"—he doesn't even consider that his own heroics are worth mentioning except as a joke. This is just who Sam is: a hobbit, a gardener, and someone whose aspirations in life used to involve Rosie and now involve getting home in one piece. He's not ambitious at all, which is probably why he's such a good companion for Frodo.
That's not to say Frodo is a naturally evil or greedy hobbit, but with the Ring is slowly wearing on him (no pun intended), and he needs someone by his side who he can trust with the burden. He needs someone who won't challenge him or compete with him for the Ring, but will be happy serving him and looking after him. Sam fits this role perfectly. He's always concerned about Frodo's well-being—he's constantly asking him how he feels and telling him to get more sleep.
Sam's like the den mother of the group; he's always got it together. Whether he's keeping an eye on Gollum or cooking some stew; without him, everyone knows their whole journey to Mordor would have fallen apart somewhere between Emyn Muil and the Black Gate. Frodo may be bearing the Ring, but Sam is bearing the burden of Frodo, and of Gollum, and of being the only one who still has any hopefulness or optimism left in their dark journey.
And let's be honest, Frodo isn't exactly making this easy on him. Poor Sam is only trying to help. We think he's pretty sensible in not trusting a creature whose mind and body seem to have been literally warped by its obsession with the Ring for the last half a millennium. But Frodo trusts Gollum nonetheless, and Sam's carefulness only serves to drive a wedge between him and Frodo, resulting in Frodo almost driving a sword through Sam's throat.
Well, okay, maybe Sam is more than just "careful" around Gollum. In fact, he can actually be a bit mean:
GOLLUM: It tries to chokes us! We can't eats Hobbit food! We must starve!
SAM: Well starve then, and good riddance!
GOLLUM: Oh, cruel Hobbit. It does not care if we be hungry, does not care if we should die. Not like master; master cares; master knows. Yes, Precious. Once it takes hold of us it never lets go.
Yes, yes, we know that at the end of the film Gollum plans to betray the hobbits and that Sam was right all along. But hindsight is 20/20 as they say, and this seems like a poor excuse for how Sam behaves toward poor Sméagol. As much as we'd love to think of Sam as the shining light, the one true noble soul of the film who is forever incorruptible, this just isn't realistic.
This makes us ask: what if the tables were turned and Sam was the Ring bearer? Would he want to outright kill Gollum? Could he resist the temptations of the Ring as long as Frodo has? It's easy for us to label Sam as the true hero of the journey and Frodo as someone who's off in his own world of rings and dead kings. But this may just be a product of their situation and of not their true character.
But we're starting to sound like Frodo, with all this doubting Sam talk. Sam's wonderful. And what makes Sam so wonderful is that his love and loyalty are unconditional. It doesn't matter that Frodo trusts Gollum despite Sam's warnings, or that Frodo is getting more violent and more burdened. Sam is going to be there until the very end, whichever (or whoever's) end that may be. It's even going to take more than Frodo nearly cutting off his head with a sword to drive Sam away from his best friend (which is more than we can say for ourselves; one near decapitation and we're out).
Merry is usually the wiser, more thoughtful hobbit of the inseparable Merry/Pippin duo, and he certainly has his wise, thoughtful moments in a film which mostly… sees him hanging out on the top of a walking tree.
When they're carried by the orcs toward Isengard, he dislodges his elven broach and spits it on the ground. When Aragorn finds it he says, "not idly do the leaves of Lorien fall," knowing that the hobbits are leaving a trail to help their potential trackers.
But for all Merry's cunning, he's unable to break the stubbornness of Treebeard and the ents. Merry knows what's at stake here. He sees the ents as a crucial element in the war and knows that his friends "cannot fight this war on their own." When the ents decide not to take action, Merry pleads with the, "but you're part of this world, aren't you?!" but to no avail. When Pippin begins to lose hope too, wondering if the world is too big for two small hobbits to make a difference and if they shouldn't just go home, Merry counters,
MERRY: […] the fires of Isengard will spread and the woods of Tuckborough and Buckland will burn. And—and all that was once green and good in this world will be gone. There won't be a Shire, Pippin.
And so Pippin is inspired to try one last time to persuade the ents at the risk of their own lives—and it actually works. He shows the ents the destruction of the forests nears Isengard, knowing that sometimes things have to get super-personal before you're willing to risk your hide helping others. And bingo: the ents go from mild to wild in a matter of seconds—it's revenge-time for the tree-people, thanks to one very crafty little hobbit.
Now in Isengard, they're even farther away from the comfort of home. But hey, at least they found a flooded storeroom to pilfer. There's nothing like some good ol' Longbottom leaf to relax after a hard day of sacking Orthanc.
What is our "fool of a Took" up to now? When Pippin's not sending skeletons down old pipes and waking entire armies of orcs, he's eating mass quantities of lembas bread, setting off giant fireworks in tents, or just generally messing things up. This reputation has followed him in one way or another over the course of his adventures. Always the screw up, Pippin seemed to be good for a few laughs and not much else.
In the beginning of The Two Towers, not much has changed. In fact, Merry and Pippin don't have much agency throughout their narrative—they're forced into Fangorn and then carried around be Treebeard; it seems like they're basically just along for the ride:
PIPPIN: And whose side are you on?
TREEBEARD: Side? I am on nobody's side because nobody's on my side, little orc. Nobody cares for the woods anymore.
But a single, crucial moment changes the fate of the ents and of Isengard, and it's all a product of Pippin's plan.
As Treebeard carries them home, Pippin tells him to take them south, instead of toward the Shire, knowing that Isengard is south and that Treebeard will be faced with the destruction Saruman has wreaked on his brother trees, and may change his mind about entering the ents into the war.
The plan works perfectly. Treebeard is enraged by the burning of the forest and the ents end up assaulting and overthrowing Saruman's fortress as the water from the dammed river floods his grounds and drowns his machinery of war. Suddenly, we can't quite see Pippin as an ignorant, naïve hobbit hoping to have a bit of fun and score some of Farmer Maggot's cabbages. He has been a key player in the history of Middle-earth; maybe he'll finally get some respect.
And what's more, this plan doesn't come without some sacrifice. From the start, Pippin has just been tagging along with Frodo and friends, not looking for adventure so much as sticking with his hobbit pals. And now that he finally has a choice to go back home, he decides instead to go toward the enemy and away from the Shire.
It would be easy to leave the fate of Middle-earth to bigger, more important people like Elrond and Aragorn and Gandalf, but Pippin proves that even the homebody race of hobbits can make a difference. And now that he and Merry aren't being carried around by orcs or trees, we'll have to see what moves they make next… after they snack on some rotisserie chicken, that is.
The only Gollum we've ever known is a big eyed, bony creature that crawls almost naked on four limbs. He's, um, not a looker. He has weathered skin and only a few wispy strands of hair—he's been made decrepit both from the Ring's corruption and from the fact he's been living pretty literally under a rock for the last five centuries.
But Gollum wasn't always this way. He was once a stoor (a hobbit-like being) named Sméagol, who found the Ring oh so long ago.
Living alone with the Ring, Sméagol has all but disappeared as he was slowly replaced by his Ring-obsessed alter-ego, Gollum (named because of a nasty cough he developed—when he hacks it sounds like he's saying "gollum, gollum."). There's no knowing what Sméagol was originally like, but we don't think he was crunching down on raw fish and talking with absurd pluralizations—both common side effects of possessing a ring of power. But then came Frodo who, by showing Gollum a mixture of compassion and pity, is able to partially resuscitate Sméagol and some of the basic humanity Gollum had long since lost.
But just because Sméagol is back doesn't mean Gollum's just gonna take a hike (although that's one way to describe their trip to Mordor). These two personalities duke it out in a battle of wits. Sméagol is grateful that he's finally met someone (Frodo) who cares about who he is. Sméagol wants to trust master and help master reach Mordor so he can destroy the… Ring?
This is where things get a little dicey. Sméagol may want to serve Frodo, who rescued him from that itchy rope that chokeses him, but Gollum definitely doesn't want to see the Ring thrown into the fiery pit of Mount Doom. Gollum will do whatever it takes to save his one, true master: the Precious. He has a lot of mean things to say about Sméagol: he's a liar, a thief, and even a murderer. We're not sure if these things are true, but when Gollum says, "You don't have any friends. Nobody likes you," we know he isn't telling the truth because Frodo does genuinely care for Sméagol.
Or so Sméagol thinks. Frodo, somewhat inadvertently, tricks Sméagol at the sacred pool and loses all of his trust. So in the final scene, Gollum is back once more and arguing with Sméagol. But this time, Sméagol isn't defending Frodo, he's simply too timid and scared to kill him and take the Ring back; "It's too risky." So when a mysterious she comes up, Sméagol immediately jumps on board Gollum's plan.
This is where Sméagol ceases to be a separate identity, and becomes merely a façade that Gollum can use to hide his true intentions from the hobbits, especially "the fat one." We realize just how connected these two sides of him are, and how silly it was of us and Frodo to think that a few weeks or months of minimal kindness (like not making him a slave…) could undo five hundred years of servitude to the dark lord.
We thought we'd learned Aragorn's deepest secret. We knew he was the heir of Isildur. We knew dude was a man of noble birth, hidden away in Rivendell and raised by elves to become a lone Ranger of the North, roaming the landscape in solitude, and hiding from his fate.
Honestly, we don't know why he was hiding. Being an all-powerful ruler sounds like a pretty sweet gig—or it at least sounds easy compared to wandering around and forbidden love.
But it turns out there's even more to Aragorn: you know, apart from being a secret royal. Being of the line of Isildur, Aragorn is a Dúnedain. A whatawho? Tolkein history time: the Dúnedain were decedents of the Numenorean line, men that had come from their island in the west during the Second Age. They had long lifespans and, while this longevity has decreased overtime, the surviving Dúnedain like Aragorn still live an exceptionally long time (about three times as long as normal men, which apparently means aging three times as slowly and not just getting really old and being bed ridden for the second half of your life).
So when Aragorn tells Erwin that he's eighty-seven, we're as surprised as she is. He looks to be in his early forties, but he has the experience of an old man. This must be, in part, why he appears to be so wise and so respected by those who know of him. It's unclear what he's being doing living in Middle-earth for such a long time, but suddenly his character makes sense—he's not a super-mature middle-aged man, he's a very youthful old man.
We're not talking about Aragorn being hopeful for the throne of Gondor. In fact, that's about the last thing he's hopeful for. Aragorn just has a lot of hope, in general. We suppose hope is just a word, a vague noun used to describe some vague sense of optimism or wishful thinking.
But in LotR, hope is a valuable resource, and one that Aragorn has in abundance.He plays an important role in the Battle of Helm's Deep, where he fights on the frontline, slaughtering orcs and commanding the elves. When Théoden needs time to recoup, he and Gimli run a flank mission and start chopping orcs away from the doors to the wall.
So his mastery of the sword is useful, but no matter how many orc heads fall, no amount of death can amount to Aragorn's ability to inspire:
ARAGORN: What is your name?
HALETH: Haleth, son of Hama, my lord. The men are saying we will not live out the night. They say that it is hopeless.
ARAGORN: [He swings Haleth's sword and hands it back to him. This is a good sword Haleth, son of Hama. There is always hope.
Finally, when Théoden seems all but defeated, it's Aragorn who inspires him to ride out one last time: a ride of wrath and almost-certain death. Théoden, the king who is supposed to be leading his people in war, is ready to call it quits… while Aragorn has never lost faith. And maybe this faith in the triumph of good over evil is nothing more than an idea, but if you can use an idea to lead a final charge against an overwhelming enemy, we think that idea is a pretty powerful one. Aragorn plays a pivotal role in Helm's Deep and, considering the title of the final film, we expect him to play an even bigger part—perhaps even in the fate of humanity as a whole.
Steady, trustworthy, and always right by your side to peg some orcs between the eyes when you need him, Legolas is one steadfast companion. Most of The Two Towers is focused on Aragorn (at least when we're dealing with the story of the three travelers), but Legolas, along with Gimli, is always helping Aragorn along the way.
Legolas not only covers Aragorn and Gimli after the wall of Helm's Deep falls, but he picks up Aragorn's Evenstar necklace when Aragorn takes a tumble off a cliff. If only he could have successfully nailed the guy carrying the ignition for the bomb—come on Legolas, those had to be your worst two arrow-shots of the whole trilogy.
While the elves as a whole aren't exactly the most amiable of people, Legolas is truly loyal to the fight against darkness. Elrond, for example, is determined not to get involved and many of the elves are already on their way to Valinor in nice little boats as Middle-earth burns. But Legolas has stayed behind, putting himself in the midst of the plight of mankind, and he'll stick by his friends and see their journey to an end.
Gimli is played for laughs; he's the probably the most crusty-looking good guy in the entire trilogy, but he's got a heart of pure gold. Whether we're laughing at his expense when falls off his horse, as he angers the huorns in Fangorn, huffs and puffs along as he tries to keep up with Aragorn and Legolas, or as he tells funny anecdotes of the mysteries of dwarven reproduction, Gimli always manages to put a smile on our face… despite all of the war and death around him.
In fact, in a pretty morbid joke, he and Legolas play a game of "who can kill the most orcs." It's clear that, while The Two Towers deals with heavy some heavy subject matter, it's still a PG-13 fantasy. That's why, even in the heat of battle, as Aragorn and Gimli struggle to defend the keep of Helm's Deep, we have a moment where Gimli, despite telling everyone in Moria that "nobody tosses a dwarf!" whispers sheepishly to Aragorn, "toss me." "Don't tell the elf," he adds.
Not only is this funny, but is shows Gimli's loyalty to his friends and their cause. Dwarves are known for being a very isolated and selfish people, but Gimli races over the plains of Rohan, fights orc after orc, and even allows himself to be tossed like some kind of hobbit… or bean bag. As the trilogy progresses, Gimli grows more and more accustomed to dealing with these outsiders on their quest. He now has as much invested in the wars of elves and men as the rest of them.
That's right, Gandalf got an upgrade and it comes with a shiny new cloak and a sleek, fancy staff (we're also assuming he's probably more powerful with some new magical tricks up his sleeve, or some newfound wisdom or knowledge). And his new all-white steez gives us our protagonists quite a scare… because everyone assumes the "White Wizard" is Saruman. But instead of Saruman's craggy face, we're met with a friendly, familiar, smiling mug of Gandalf.
"Gandalf?" he ruminates, "that is what they used to call me… Gandalf the Grey…" It's like he doesn't really know who he is anymore—and for good reason. Apparently being promoted in the wizarding world doesn't just mean defeating an ancient, powerful creature of fire. You also have to take a massive, Balrog-infested journey:
GANDALF: Through fire and water, from the lowest dungeon to the highest peak, I fought with the Balrog of Morgoth. Until at last I threw down my enemy and smote his ruin upon the mountainside.
Oh yeah: and this is followed by a healing period where "every day was as long as a life age of the earth." So basically Gandalf took off for a couple centuries or more, and came back to Middle-earth "until [his] task is done." What is that task? It's not entirely clear. But Gandalf always seems to have a plan.
So yes, Gandalf has transformed, but in many ways he's the same wizard he's always been. He's sly (telling Wormtongue's thugs not to deprive him of his "walking stick," and winking at Aragorn on his way in), full of hope and wisdom (telling Aragorn of his role to play, and that his people will need him), and always shows up to save the day (this time with Éomer and a bunch of Rohirrim riders).
It's easy to forget who Gandalf really is and just think of him as an old, wizened man with a knack for the supernatural. But Gandalf is a lesser god, a Maiar of old. As he charges down the hill towards the orcs, we would not want to get in the way of his righteous wrath.
Éomer seems like a good guy. He doesn't like Wormtongue creeping on his sister and poisoning his uncle, and he lets him know it. He takes his Rohirrim and kills a whole company of orcs. And at the end of the day he returns to his people with Gandalf and rides down into the valley, slaughtering Saruman's hordes and turning the tides of the battle. Good job, Éomer.
But what about the whole middle of the movie? Where is Éomer then? Éomer tries to help Théoden, but upon his exile he takes the armies of Rohan and rides around killing orcs. We already established killing orcs is a good thing, but we're thinking Théoden could've used those horsemen when traveling to Helm's Deep. Maybe he would have even been able to defend Edoras, and there surely would have been fewer lives lost at Helm's Deep.
Maybe Éomer didn't have a choice and was just helping from a distance as best he could. But another way to look at it is that he abandoned his people in their greatest time of need. While he gets a wonderfully heroic ending, we're wondering if he's a hero or if his charge is his act of redemption for leaving his people defenseless.
Finally, a second woman (too bad LotR still doesn't pass the Bechdel Test). Éowyn's presence in the beginning of the movie is exactly what you'd expect from a woman in a land of manly heroes. She's a damsel in distress, a loving niece who tries to make her uncle well and tend to his house while being stalked and sexually harassed by the slimy Wormtongue. She cries, smiles, holds Théoden's hand, and sings a pretty lament at her cousin's funeral. All is just as it should be. She even starts to sort of have a thing for Aragorn. Whoa, love triangle? Definitely not in the original Tolkien … but it sounds juicy and exciting to us.
But then her character takes a bit of a turn we don't see coming. First of all, she can't make soup. Can't make soup?! What kind of stereotyped female tending to the warriors of her land doesn't know how to cook?
But no. Instead, her soup sucks—so much so, in fact, that Aragorn practically spits it out. Then he catches her swinging a sword around and notices she has "some skill with a blade." It turns out her desire isn't to feed the men and mother the children; it's to fight against the orcs. When the warg riders attack, she wants to ride into battle but Théoden forbids her. She must lead the women and children to the safety of Helm's Deep while the men stay and fight.
Again, in Helm's Deep as the men prepare for battle, she comes to Aragorn, pleading that he allow her to fight alongside the one she loves. But Aragorn doesn't have that authority, and tells her position of guiding the women and children and elderly is one of honor. But Éowyn doesn't want any of it. What she wants to do is use her skill as a warrior and go to battle and cut off some orc heads.
Talk about a transformation. When we first see Théoden he's old and wrinkled and generally haggard looking. His hair is hoary and frazzled and his eyes are milky and clouded with old age. Mentally, he's non-existent. Wormtongue whispers in his ear and he just sits there, soaking in the poison. When Erwin tells him of his son, Théodred, being badly wounded, he can't even master a shrug.
The single time he does show a bit of life is his defiance of Gandalf. Calling him "Stormcrow," he laughs when the wizard attempts to throw off Saruman's hold of him. This laugh is almost demonic; he bares his crooked teeth and throws his head back. It's clear Théoden is not himself; this is Saruman we're dealing with.
So, where is the true Théoden? Well, when we see him change in front of our eyes. His hair grows brown and thick, his skin tightens, and his eyes now glow with life. Gandalf, being almost as manipulative as Saruman, suggests, "Your fingers would remember their old strength better if they grasped your sword." And when he does, he goes after his deceiver, halted by Aragorn just before he cuts him down.
But despite this display of aggression, Théoden doesn't want to lead his people out to open war. With Éomer's riders gone, Théoden believes he has no choice but to risk traveling to Helm's Deep, which the Rohirrim have defended for generations. The journey from his resurrection to the retreat of the Uruk-hai is a difficult one. Théoden is at first steadfast in his power and position as king, telling Aragorn, "When last I looked, Théoden, not Aragorn, was King of Rohan." (Translation: "Sit down, son!")
But as he hides in the keep of Helm's Deep, with orcs ready to bust through the doors and his army all but defeated, Théoden questions himself: "Who am I, Gamling? You are our king, sire. And do you trust your king?" As when Théoden wonders, "How did it come to this?" it seems like he's lost all hope in himself and in his people.
But Aragorn doesn't lose faith. He convinces Théoden to go out in a final ride of glory, and the King's valor is renewed by the appearance of Éomer and his Rohirrim. He yells, "Fell deeds, awake. Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red dawn."
He's still a warrior king, who will defend his people at all costs.
Ol' Faramir can be a little bit of a drama queen:
FARAMIR: The enemy? [Faramir walks to an Easterling corpse, kicking it supine with his foot.] His sense of duty was no less than yours, I deem. You wonder what his name is, where he came from, and if he was really evil at heart. What lies or threats led him on this long march from home; if he would not rather have stayed there in peace. War will make corpses of us all.
Uhh, okay Faramir, take it easy bud. We've been looking at the dead bodies of the enemy for the last film and a half, and haven't though much of it until now.
But Faramir can't help himself. He's not a war mongering captain, he's thoughtful and brave—brave enough to withstand the wrath of his father when he lets Frodo and Sam take away the Ring of power, which might have been Gondor's if he had let it.
But it takes Faramir a while before he's able to do the right thing.
When we first see him and his men capturing and beating Gollum, he snags the Ring with the point of his sword because it calls to him—and it doesn't talk in the sort of dull hum with which it talks to Frodo, but in harsh whispers of Black Speech. Faramir decides that Gondor should have the Ring, although his decision doesn't seem to stem from a desire for power. Instead, it comes from his desire to please his Dad.
But, after seeing what the Ring's done to Frodo (almost making him kill his best buddy Samwise), Faramir has a change of heart. Sam asks him,
SAM: "Do you want to know what happened to Boromir? You want to know why your brother died? He tried to take the Ring from Frodo after swearing an oath to protect him. He tried to kill him! The Ring drove your brother mad!"
Knowing that the Ring corrupted his brother reveals to Faramir its real danger… and it makes the idea of handing the Ring over to his Daddy less than appealing. While Elrond may be right when he tells us in the first film that "men are weak," the honor and courage of Faramir stand out against men's failures and against his father's opinions.
In our "Symbols and Tropes" section, we talk about how light always represents good and darkness always represents evil in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. When we see Gandalf in his shiny new White Wizard getup, we see in him a reflection of hope and a kind of righteous power that can banish the shadows back to the dark corners of the earth.
But wait a minute. Saruman is also a White Wizard. What gives?
Well, Saruman used to be on the side of the free beings of Middle-earth. He was just like Gandalf, a Maiar sent down to the world to help out elves and men (and hobbits, of course). But Saruman was corrupted by his hunger for power and knowledge. In fact, in the books he renamed himself Saruman of Many Colors, ditching the whole white/light/goodness thing and embracing his… true colors.
While in the books, Saruman was bent on gaining the Ring for himself and betraying Sauron, in the movies he's portrayed as Sauron's puppet, someone ensnared by his trap through the Palantír:
SARUMAN: The world is changing. Who now has the strength to stand against the armies of Isengard and Mordor? To stand against the might of Sauron and Saruman, and the union of the two towers? Together, my Lord Sauron, we shall rule this Middle-earth.
As Sauron wills it, Saruman builds a giant horde of orcs to crush Rohan. But he doesn't create just any orcs; he makes a fresh batch of uruk-hai. These guys are some messed up hybrids of dead elves and men. Saruman is seriously screwing with mother nature (which is underlined by him going all industrial revolution and burning down Fangorn Forest).
But all of Saruman's power and wisdom can't save him from the angry river and angrier trees. We hope he's been practicing his levitation spells, or things for Mr. S. are about to get very wet.
That's Grima Wormtongue to be precise. Grima Wormtongue… let that name linger in your mouth. How does it taste? Greasy? Sweaty? Like curdled milk on a hot summer day?
Okay, you get the point; just based on his name alone we can tell that Wormtongue is one slimy dude.
But what makes him so slimy (other than looking like the love child of Severus Snape and Peter Pettigrew)? Well, he's manipulating the mind of the enfeebled Théoden, who's under Saruman's spell, he's created some sort of gang to protect him and to unjustly dispose of Éomer when he resists his authority, and he's super creepin' on Éowyn.
But what happens when he's exposed? He immediately cowers in fear, begging for his life, pleading that he was only serving Théoden and that he did nothing wrong. The dude's groveling on his knees the moment he squirms from Gimli's grasp. Théoden calls Wormtongue's magic leechcraft, and he is certainly a leech—he hangs on to whoever is in power.
Keep this tendency mind after Isengard falls. Do you think Wormtongue will continue to serve the disposed Saruman?
Treebeard is a leader of the ents, the guardians of the huorns that make up Fangorn Forest.
And yes, when you can read that sentence without saying "Whowhatnow?" you too, young padawan, will be an official member of the Tolkien Nerds Club.
Not only does Treebeard look like a great big anthropomorphized tree, he talks and acts like one too. Entish (the language of the ents) is characterized by a low, creaking noise, like what you might hear a tree make under the pressure of the wind. And they speak so slowly. It takes all day and all night for them to have a meeting.
Trees live long, sedentary lives, so the slow speech reflects this extended perception of time. Just think— if you lived to be two thousand years old, spending five minutes cleaning your room would seem like such a miniscule investment. And when it comes to war, the ents have a very tree-like mentality:
"The ents cannot hold back this storm. We must weather such things as we have always done… this is not our war."
But at the same time he admits, "War? Yes. It affects us all. Tree, root, and twig."
Treebeard's stubbornness is broken when he sees all of the burnt huorns on the southern edge near Isengard. He lets out a cry of such anger and sorrow that we know it's not just sap that runs through his wooden veins. With this, he leads his ent brethren in an assault against Orthanc. For such a passive species, they sure know how to fight.
We don't see much of Arwen in The Two Towers, but with this whole forbidden love-thing developing between her and Aragorn, they needed to fit her in the movie somehow. Originally, she was scripted to show up at Helm's Deep, but when that didn't work out they went for the classic dreamy flashback.
Arwen appears to wake Aragorn with some elf powers that we don't exactly understand. How can she speak to him half a world away? Does the power of love to transcend space and time? Whatever it is, we see Aragorn and Arwen speaking to each other of their love, but their hopes are cut short by Elrond urging Aragorn to let his daughter go, for her sake.
While Aragorn seems willing to make this sacrifice for the good of his love, Arwen will not give him up, she still has hope. Hope is a huge theme of the movie, and Arwen's hope is in the success for triumph in the war against the enemy. But that's not the worst of it.
Even if the war is won, Aragorn will still die a mortal man as Arwen lives forever with her grief. Maybe Elrond's never heard of "better to have love and lost than never to have loved at all." But, in the end, Arwen is obedient to her father, whom she loves, and travels away from Aragorn, into the west.
Rivendell's master elf doesn't make much of an appearance in The Two Towers, but that doesn't stop him from trying to do the job of all fathers: protecting his little girl from boys. Well, maybe being a few thousand years old means Arwen isn't exactly a "little girl," but Elrond still warns her against giving her heart to Aragorn, a mortal man.
Elrond desires her to follow the rest of her people over the sea, back to Valinor. He knows that the time of the elves has come to an end in Middle-earth, it is time for them to leave. But Arwen's stubborn and wishes to stay with the boy—or eight-seven-year-old man—she loves, so Elrond has to get all dark and describe to her the pain of even the best possible scenario:
ELROND: Aragorn will die, and there will be no comfort for you; no comfort to ease the pain of his passing. He will come to death: an image of the splendor of the kings of Men, in glory undimmed before the breaking of the world.
Well okay, that doesn't sound like a bad way to go. Elrond seems to have a lot of faith in Aragorn… so why try to dissuade Arwen from staying with him. Well…
ELROND: But you, my daughter, you will linger on in darkness and in doubt, as nightfall in winter that comes without a star. Here you will dwell, bound to your grief under the fading trees, until all the world is changed, and the long years of your life are utterly spent.
Wow, Elrond isn't pulling any punches with his description of her fate. He even pulls out the old "A im, ú-'erin veleth lîn?" Translation: "Do I not also have your love?" Not wanting your daughter to deal with an eternity of pain and loss and loneliness actually makes a lot of sense—but then why can we not help but hope she decides to stay?
Denethor is such a minor character in The Two Towers that he didn't even make the theatrical release. So why talk about a character who's been relegated to the extended edition? Well, he still has an important role to play in the trilogy's finale, and Faramir's flashback gives us some good insight into what kind of man he is.
Denethor is Boromir and Faramir's father and, unlike most parents who have a favorite child but try to hide it out of a common sense of decency, Denethor makes his favor painfully obvious. He sees his younger son as weak and incompetent while praising his elder son's victory.
Just look at him: that long gray hair and wrinkled face with his large, sunken eyes. He looks as mean as his scathing remarks to Faramir make him seem. Soon, he'll learn that Faramir could have (and chose not to) delivered the Ring to him. Someone is going to get some spankings… or possible disowned.