The Two Towers: Novel Summary: Book III - Chapter 7

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Summary: King Thoden and his company make their way to that rocky fortress to make a stand against the forces of Saruman. Gandalf, however, leaves the group, riding on Shadowfax "on a swift errand," which he chooses not to reveal.
 
At Helm's Deep, the orcs of Isengard, many thousand strong, attack. Battle rages throughout a dark, storm-filled night. Legolas slays many orcs with his arrows, and Gimli, with his axe. Gamling, one of Thoden's warriors, fears that not even the new day's sun will help the people of Rohan, since Saruman's orcs are not threatened by sunlight. Aragorn, however, reminds him, "[D]awn is ever the hope of men." As part of their tactics, the orcs use a "blasting fire" brought from Orthanc (Saruman's tower in Isengard) to breach the fortress wall. "We are the Uruk-hai," they taunt the fortresses' besieged defenders; "we do not stop the fight for night or day. What of the dawn?" Aragorn reminds them, as he reminded Gamling, "None knows what the new day shall bring him." And when the day dawns, it brings with it Gandalf, with a thousand more men led by the Rider Erkenbrand. As the sun rises, Thoden sees that, in place of what had been a green meadow, there is now a forest. Those orcs who are not killed are routed. They run away into the forest, but they do not emerge again.
 
Analysis: In a chapter taken up with lengthy and detailed descriptions of warfare, Tolkien offers a partial analysis of the reasons people fight. Gamling discusses with Aragorn how Saruman has inflamed the grievances some of the Dunlanders feel against Rohan for allying with Gondor in the distant past. The mention is brief but nevertheless illuminating. Tolkien is showing readers how old grudges and unyielding pride can result in conflict (as they so often do throughout The Lord of the Rings). The incident also further develops the theme, touched on in the previous chapter, of (mis)communication: Saruman is abusing the ability to communicate in order to divide people rather than unite them.
 
The "blasting fire" employed by Saruman's orcs is (as the battering ram Grond will be in Book VI) a further indictment on Tolkien's part of the cold-hearted machinery of modern warfare. As one who fought in World War I, Tolkien experienced the devastation that machinery could wreak in war firsthand. He would, however, write to his son Christopher, who fought in World War II, that the latter conflict was truly "the first War of the Machines. leaving, alas, everyone the poorer, many bereaved or maimed and millions dead, and only one thing triumphant: the Machines" (Letters, p. 111).




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