The Two Towers

The Two Towers is the second volume of J. R. R. Tolkien's high fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings. It is preceded by The Fellowship of the Ring and followed by The Return of the King.

The Two Towers
The Two Towers cover.gif
First edition, with Tolkien's artwork
AuthorJ. R. R. Tolkien
CountryUnited Kingdom
SeriesThe Lord of the Rings
Set inMiddle-earth
PublisherGeorge Allen & Unwin[1]
Publication date
11 November 1954
Pages352 (first edition)
LC ClassPR6039.O32 L6 1954, v.2
Preceded byThe Fellowship of the Ring 
Followed byThe Return of the King 

Title and publicationEdit

The Lord of the Rings is composed of six "books", aside from an introduction, a prologue and six appendices. However, the novel was originally published as three separate volumes, due to post-World War II paper shortages and size and price considerations.[2] The Two Towers covers Books III and IV.

Tolkien wrote: "The Two Towers gets as near as possible to finding a title to cover the widely divergent Books 3 and 4; and can be left ambiguous."[3] At this stage he planned to title the individual books. The proposed title for Book III was The Treason of Isengard. Book IV was titled The Journey of the Ringbearers or The Ring Goes East. The titles The Treason of Isengard and The Ring Goes East were used in the Millennium edition.

In letters to Rayner Unwin, Tolkien considered naming the two as Orthanc and Barad-dûr, Minas Tirith and Barad-dûr, or Orthanc and the Tower of Cirith Ungol.[3][4] However, a month later, he wrote a note published at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, and later drew a cover illustration, both of which identified the pair as Minas Morgul and Orthanc.[5][6] In the illustration, Orthanc is shown as a black tower, three-horned, with the sign of the White Hand beside it; Minas Morgul is a white tower, with a thin waning moon above it, in reference to its original name, Minas Ithil, the Tower of the Rising Moon. Between the two towers a Nazgûl flies.


Some editions of the volume contain a Synopsis for readers who have not read the earlier volumes. The body of the volume consists of Book III: The Treason of Isengard, and Book IV: The Ring Goes East.

Critical receptionEdit

Donald Barr in The New York Times gave a positive review, calling it "an extraordinary work – pure excitement, unencumbered narrative, moral warmth, barefaced rejoicing in beauty, but excitement most of all".[7]

Anthony Boucher, reviewing the volume in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, wrote that The Two Towers "makes inordinate demands upon the patience of its readers" with passages which "could be lopped away without affecting form or content". Nevertheless, he lavished praise on the volume, saying "no writer save E. R. Eddison has ever so satisfactorily and compellingly created his own mythology and made it come vividly alive ... described in some of the most sheerly beautiful prose that this harsh decade has seen in print."[8]

The Times Literary Supplement called it a "prose epic in praise of courage" and stated that Tolkien's Westernesse "comes to rank in the reader's imagination with Asgard and Camelot".[9][10]

Mahmud Manzalaoui, in the Egyptian Gazette, wrote that the book "has not pleased readers of the staple modern psychological novel", but that it signified a new trend in fiction.[11][10]

John Jordan, reviewing the book for the Irish Press, wrote admiring its narrative "weaving of epic, heroic romance, parable, and fairy tale, and the more adventurous kind of detective story, into a pattern at once strange and curiously familiar to our experience". He compared the wizard Gandalf's death and reappearance to Christ's resurrection.[12][10]


  1. ^ "The Two Towers". Between the Covers. Retrieved 28 December 2010.
  2. ^ The Lord of the Rings Extended Movie Edition, Appendix Part 4
  3. ^ a b Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, #140, ISBN 0-395-31555-7
  4. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, #143, ISBN 0-395-31555-7
  5. ^ "The second part is called The Two Towers, since the events recounted in it are dominated by Orthanc, ..., and the fortress of Minas Morgul..."
  6. ^ Tolkien's own cover design for The Two Towers
  7. ^ Barr, Donald (1 May 1955). "Shadowy World of Men and Hobbits". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Boucher, Anthony (August 1955). "Recommended Reading". The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. p. 93.
  9. ^ Anon (17 December 1954). "The Epic of Westernesse". The Times Literary Supplement. p. 817.
  10. ^ a b c Thompson, George H. (15 February 1985). "Early Review of Books by J.R.R. Tolkien - Part II". Mythlore. 11 (3): 61-63 (article 11).
  11. ^ Manzalaoui, Mahmud (18 February 1955). "No Artificial Allegory in this Fairy Romance". Egyptian Gazette. p. 2.
  12. ^ Jordan, John (18 December 1954). "The Little Life of Man". Irish Press. p. 4.

External linksEdit