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The Two Towers? WHICH Two Towers?
An Imaginary Tolkien and Lewis Conversation
J.R.R. TOLKIEN: As you know, Jack, I've had to split The Lord of the Rings up into three volumes for publication. Nasty business, that. But unavoidable, I’m afraid. I’m naming the three volumes The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King.
C.S. LEWIS: Of course, Tollers. Very self-explanatory. Except…are the titular Two Towers Sauron’s fortress of Barad-dûr and the capital of Gondor, Minas Tirith? Yes, of course: the White Tower and the Dark Tower, locked in a centuries-long struggle, diametrically opposed to each other, and symbolizing Good and Evil…it works beautifully!
LEWIS: That’s not it? I mean, of course not! How silly of me, that’s too simple! The Two Towers is obviously referring to Orthanc—tower of Isengard—and Barad-dûr, lairs of the evil allies Saruman and Sauron, who join forces to conquer the Free Peoples of Middle-earth whilst secretly planning to betray each other at the earliest opportunity! Brilliant!
TOLKIEN: *nervously shuffling papers around on desk*
LEWIS: …well come on, then. Which two towers do you mean?
TOLKIEN: …it’s actually Orthanc and…Minas Morgul.1
LEWIS: LMAO! Orthanc and MINAS MORGUL?!? Are you quite lucid right now, Old Chap? Of all the TOWERS in all the KINGDOMS in all of MIDDLE-EARTH you mean to tell me that THE titular Two Towers are Orthanc and…MINAS MORGUL??? Minas Morgul isn’t even Sauron’s main lair of operations! It’s hardly even in the book except as a glorified tourist trap the hobbits and that nasty little bald fellow who talks to himself pass by!
TOLKIEN: That’s the two I chose and I’m not going to explain myself to someone who has Father Freaking Christmas show up in their pre-Christ-event world, Jack.2
Last month I wrote about Tolkien’s view of allegory. In a recent newsletter,used Tolkien’s distaste for allegory as a launching point to argue that allegory has its place in forming readers “in attention to the meanings that lie under the literal.” Read the excellent article here:
The Rings of Power received six Emmy nominations this week.
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Tolkien wrote a note that was published at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring saying, "The second part is called The Two Towers, since the events recounted in it are dominated by Orthanc, ..., and the fortress of Minas Morgul...". He also drew the following illustration as a mock-up for a cover. Minas Morgul is on the left, the white moon above it a reference to it’s original name as Minas Ithil, the Tower of the Moon. Orthanc is on the right with a white hand below.