A Tale of Two Towers

I came across my first TTT figures today - a Gondorian Ranger and an Easterling at Sam Goody. I have to say I was not impressed. The Gondorian Ranger is a fairly boring figure, and I never had any interest in it; but I'd hoped for more from the Easterling. He looked fairly uninspired. I have yet to come across a Rohirrim Soldier, which is the figure (other than Gandalf & Shadowfax) that I'm most looking forward to from this line.

But some good can come out of this unfortunate tale - it allows me to segue into something I've been thinking about lately. The official site for the Lord of the Rings films has put up an "editorial exclusive" explaining the title of the upcoming Two Towers. It cites these towers as Orthanc and Barad-Dur, strongholds of the corrupt Saruman and the evil lord Sauron, respectively. All of the press materials for Towers have emphasized this identification.

Unfortunately, it's by no means correct. I suppose New Line Cinema had no choice but to pick two of the many towers in LotR and go with it, but in fact even Tolkien himself never knew exactly which towers the title referred to. As explained on this webpage, Tolkien came up with the title The Two Towers under pressure from his publishers to come up with a subtitle for the second volume of his novel (LotR is actually a single novel that the publishers divided into three volumes so the already imposing book wouldn't have a hefty price tag to boot). Tolkien drew a number of book covers for the second volume that depicted various towers as the eponymous "two towers" - including Orthanc, Barad-Dur, Minas Tirith, Minas Morgul, Minas Ithil and the Tower of Cirith Ungol. He waffled back and forth over which of these towers the titled referred to, though ultimately he seems to have decided upon Orthanc and the Tower of Cirith Ungol, as these structures are the main backdrops for the two main conflicts in The Two Towers: that of Aragorn & Co. against Saruman and, in the second half of the volume, Frodo & Sam's descent into Mordor. However, Tolkien acknowledged that the more broad opposition between the forces of good, represented by Minas Tirith, and those of evil, represented by Barad-Dur, make the Orthanc/Cirith Ungol identification "misleading."

The significance of all this is only thus: that in claiming the title of the new movie refers to Orthanc and Barad-Dur, New Line Cinema is taking a few liberties. Personally I'm not bothered by it - Tolkien himself endorsed the ambiguity of the title at one point - but given that Barad-Dur will play little or no role in The Two Towers, I'm a little perplexed by the choice. In any event, toy fans can breathe easy knowing that this makes no difference whatsoever on the LotR toys.

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