HomeLiterature Study GuidesThe Lord Of The RingsThe Two Towers Book 3 Chapter 8 Summary

The Lord of the Rings | Study Guide

J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Lord of the Rings | The Two Towers (Book 3, Chapter 8) : The Road to Isengard | Summary

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Summary

No one seems to be sure where the strange trees came from, but all are joyful the battle was won. Gandalf convinces Théoden and his allies to ride to Isengard, and, not knowing exactly what to expect, they agree. Nearing Isengard, the mysteries intensify: they are surprised to see some Ents, which no one but Gandalf even knew existed, and when they come to the River Isen, it has mysteriously slowed to a trickle.

That night, they feel a rustling darkness moving around them, and in the morning, the strange trees are gone. They continue on to Isengard, noticing as the River Isen resumes its normal flow. Arriving at Orthanc, the tower in which Saruman lives, they see two small figures napping and smoking amidst a great deal of destruction. These small figures turn out to be Merry and Pippin, who have been given instructions to greet them.

Gimli, Legolas, and Aragorn are overjoyed to see the two hobbits. Gandalf and Théoden meet with Treebeard.

Analysis

After the grim battle of the Hornburg and its surprising end, this chapter quickly changes tone to one of joy and wonder. It opens as the "light of a fair morning" shines on them, and upon the "green grass." They all gaze with wonder at the mysterious grove of trees, as if they can't believe their eyes, and Gandalf is gleeful, saying the outcome of the battle was "better even than my hope." The competition between Gimli and Legolas comes to a friendly end. Aragorn gently tends to Gimli's wound, as he has tended to Frodo's wounds along the way. Gimli speaks with wonder of Helm's Deep as they travel toward Isengard. But perhaps the most wondrous image of all is the comical one of Merry and Pippin waiting atop the heap of rubble, smoking and surrounded by empty plates and platters. Théoden and his men are amazed by this, although Gandalf is not. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are amazed for a different reason.

The contrast Tolkien draws between the Isengard of old and the "improved" Isengard of Saruman's design reflects his experience of industrialization and its destructive effects. It had been made by Men of Westernesse, and "had been green and filled with avenues, and groves of fruitful trees, watered by streams that flowed from the mountains to a lake." In contrast, Saruman's Isengard contains "no green thing" and the roads are "paved with stone-flags, dark and hard" with "long lines of pillars, some of marble, some of copper and of iron, joined by heavy chains" lining the roads, rather than the trees that once grew there. In caverns under Isengard, Saruman stores the machinery of war: "treasuries, store-houses, armouries, smithies, and great furnaces," which emit pollution and noise. These are the ways Saruman made Isengard "better," though Tolkien points out Saruman only believes these are improvements because he is deceived by the ideas of Mordor.

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