The Two Towers: Novel Summary: Book III - Chapter 2

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Summary: Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli continue to follow the orcs' trail. They discover more dead orcs: all orcs from the North, none of Saruman's orcs. Aragorn surmises that these orcs, however, were not slain by the Rohirrim-the horse-riding warriors of the kingdom of Rohan-but by each other: "There was a quarrel. it is no uncommon thing with these foul folk." Legolas again sees an eagle flying overhead. Later, as the three continue their search, Aragorn finds an elven brooch in the grass. He concludes that one of the hobbits intentionally left it to be found as a clue to their whereabouts. Their pursuit of the orcs continues, despite the companions' increasing weariness. The lembas bread of the elves sustains them.
At length, the Riders of Rohan encounter them. Aragorn does not know whether the Rohirrim are in league with either Saruman or Sauron; he knows only that, in the past, the Rohirrim were "the friends of the people of Gondor, though they are not akin to them." eomer, the chief of these Riders, similarly regards Aragorn and his companions with suspicion, especially when he hears that their journey has taken them through Lothlerien: he has heard strange tales of an enchantress in that elvish wood from whose "nets" few escape. Gimli particularly takes offense at eomer's characterization of Galadriel, but Aragorn intervenes before the dwarf and the Rider can fight. Aragorn reveals his true identity as the heir to the High Kingship; eomer marvels that, in these days, "[d]reams and legends spring to life out of the grass." Aragorn tells eomer that Rohan cannot remain neutral in the coming conflict with Mordor; like all other peoples of Middle-earth, it must face the "doom of choice."
The three companions tell eomer the story of their journey. He tells them that the Riders have indeed slain orcs, but did not even see two hobbits. Indeed, eomer has not even heard that race's name before. He also tells them Gandalf is not likely to be mourned in Rohan, for the wizard angered King Theoden by taking the king's greatest horse, Shadowfax, as his own. eomer, for his part, reaffirms the old alliance between Rohan and Gondor. He asks Aragorn for help in Rohan's struggle against Saruman, who "has claimed lordship over all this land." He says that Saruman is wandering abroad "as an old man hooded and cloaked, very like to Gandalf." Although Aragorn cannot abandon the search for his friends, he promises to return (with the horses the Riders now loan them) to Meduseld, the Golden Hall of King Theoden, when that quest has ended.
Newly mounted, the three companions continue their search, eventually arriving on the outskirts of Fangorn Forest, of which they have heard dark and mysterious things. At night, Gimli, while keeping watch, sees "an old bent man, leaning on a staff, and wrapped in a great cloak." He wakens Legolas and Aragorn, who calls to the stranger, but the old man does not reply. The three companions, however, discover that their horses are now gone.
Analysis: When Aragorn lies on the ground to listen for noise of the orcs' passing, he is connecting with the land on both a literal and a symbolic level. He is one of many royal figures in literature who are tied to their kingdoms. As the rightful High King, Aragorn can of course hear and discern "the rumour [in this context, 'distant noise'] of the earth." He can of course know that the very ground resents the passage of the orcs who trample, unthinking, over it. He is, in a sense, the earth's master. The king and the land are bound together. Look for this motif to reappear in Chapter 5, as well as in Book V.
A larger thematic concern in this chapter is the issue of trust. Aragorn asks eomer whom he serves to determine whether the rumors about Rohan's allegiance to Mordor are true, even as eomer asks Aragorn whom he serves, for, he explains, strangers cannot be immediately trusted "in these days of doubt." Yet trust is necessary to overcome Sauron. These individuals must trust each other, as their peoples must come to trust each other. More than that, the peoples of Middle-earth must forge alliances to resist and defeat the evil threatening them. Again and again, Tolkien will stress the need for well-placed trust and interdependence. Strength and survival are found in unity, not isolationism and division. For instance, as Gimli receives his horse from the Riders, eothain protests, "[W]ho has heard of a horse of the Mark being given to a Dwarf?" Yet it is precisely such concrete acts of cooperation that must become common in order for freedom to resist tyranny.
Related to the theme of trust is the theme of communication. For example, Aragorn mentions the reports that Gondor is in league with, or at the very least paying tribute to, Mordor. Indeed, Tolkien originally intended for the Rohirrim to be enemies, and that intention is "vestigially present in completed work" as this rumor (Shippey, pp. 54-55). But this rumor turns out to be false, as are the rumors that eomer has heard about Galadriel. At this point in the text, readers do not know the truth or falsehood of the rumors regarding Fangorn Forest, but they should bear in mind that-in the world of Middle-earth, as in our own-what one hears cannot necessarily be believed, and placing trust in rumors and gossip often leads to an erosion of trust between people, a trust, as stated above, that grows increasingly necessary as evil threatens.

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