The Two Towers: Novel Summary: Book III - Chapter 9

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Summary: Merry and Pippin tell the story of how they escaped from the orcs, met Treebeard, and came to be at Isengard: Once the Ents decided to march to war, they "roused" the Huorns, those "Ents that have become almost like trees" themselves. The Huorns are wilder and more dangerous than the Ents, and it is the Huorns who assembled near Helm's Deep, forming the forest in which the routed orcs met their doom. Meanwhile, once Saruman had sent his army toward Helm's Deep, the Ents moved on Orthanc, trapping Saruman within it and destroying the machinery of war that he had established. Ultimately, the Ents broke the dams on the Isen River in order to wash away "all the filth of Saruman." Wormtongue arrived before King Thoden and the others, and is now imprisoned inside Orthanc with Saruman.
 
Only one fact goes unexplained: how did Saruman come by the pipe-weed from the Shire that Merry and Pippin are smoking? Aragorn concludes that Saruman must have been in secret contact with someone from the Shire.
 
Analysis: Several details in this chapter implicitly invite readers to reflect upon what some social theorists have referred to as the "banality" of evil-simply put, the fact that evil can so often seem ordinary. For example, as Merry recalls Saruman's emptying of Isengard, he notes that the "many battalions of Men" who served the treacherous wizard were "ordinary men. not particularly evil-looking." Furthermore, the revelation that Saruman has quite likely been in contact with someone in the Shire prompts Aragorn to say, "Wormtongues may be found in other houses than King Thoden's"-an acknowledgement that evil can be found everywhere, even in such seemingly idyllic and insulated communities as the Shire.
 
Finally, Aragorn comments early in the chapter that "[o]ne who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters"-a warning against becoming enslaved by material possessions, a different but no less real kind of evil; and, to some extent, the temptation that Frodo will face at Mount Doom in Book VI, when he finds himself unable to "cast away a treasure at need."
 
Attentive readers will note the biblical imagery Tolkien employs to depict the fresh start the Ents give to Isengard: after the sudden and violent flood, which is intended to cleanse from evil, "there was a great rainbow over the eastern hills"-as in Genesis, after Noah's flood, a symbol of a new beginning.




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