The Two Towers, Part 2

New Warhorn Media post by Nathan Alberson:

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Orthanc is the actual tower in Isengard. Isengard is the whole walled-in area around Orthanc which contained gardens and trees before Saruman destroyed them for his industry. Sauron’s tower is Barad-dur.

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Yeah I realized that when I was editing it but I decided to let us be stupid.


I’ve never known which two towers the name referred to. Orthanc is certainly one. But is the other Barad Dur or Minas Morgul? Or Cirith Ungol? I’m rereading with my boys but am only part ways through book three. I think Cirith Ungol doesn’t play into the narrative until the Return of the King, but not sure.

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I’ve always thought it was Orthanc and Barad-dur because they are the strongholds of the two big bad guys. I’ve never thought that Minas Morgul could be the second tower, although it could make sense. It is the tower where the army that Frodo and Sam see and that everyone else fights at the Pelennor Fields originates from.

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Doing some digging online, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus. Becuase Tolkien had to split up the work into 3 books, he had to give the middle book a title, “The Two Towers” and never seemed to specify which towers those were. I read some comments suggesting that even Minas Tirith could be considered as a tower. Apparently the original artwork for “The Two Towers”, by Tolkien himself, had Orthanc and Minas Morgul on the cover, so that does lend some serious credence to your idea.

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Minas loosely means ‘tower’ is my understanding. That argues, I guess, for Minas Tirith and Minas Morgul, which were both originally built by the men of Gondor to keep back Mordor (early in the third age), but Mordor took over Minas Morgul later. But Minas Tirith plays such a small part in Two Towers that I don’t think it is one of the towers.

Isengard with the tower of Orthanc plays a large part, so I feel like Orthanc must be one of them.

Barad translates closer to ‘fortress’ than ‘tower,’ but I guess could be tower and it certainly IS a tower so it could be the second one.

At the end of Two Towers, Frodo has been caught by orcs and is held in the tower of Cirith Ungol. It is certainly a less formidable tower than the other 4 possibilities, (2 Minases, Orthanc and Barad-dur) but it is an important geographical setting in the Two Towers. (I looked up the timing on Cirith Ungol. It looks like Frodo is taken captive in Two Towers and is freed in Return of the King.)

Barad-dur looms large over all 3 books, but no one ever really approaches it. It is set well east of Mount Doom, and even the closer 2 of the other 4 towers. But even though it is far from the action geographically, it is figuratively close to the heart of the entire epic trilogy.

I guess its just a mystery.

But the more I think about it, the more it seems to be Barad-dur and Orthanc, the primary forces of the Dark Lord and the Fallen Wizard.


A wrinkle.

Im reading through LOTR with my boys. This from book 4 (Part 2 of Two Towers), chapter 3 (The Black Gate is Closed), paragraph 2.

Who really knows? I, for one, give up.

(Hat tip to my younger brother; he mentioned this to me last month; he thinks the towers flanking the black gate are “the Two Towers.”)


Naw, it’s gotta be Mordor vs. Saruman, the whole book deals with the treacherous alliance between those two baddies.


Yeah. I think Orthanc is one of them. The other is probably Barad-dur but Minas Morgul is a possibility for me.

I guess it doesn’t matter. (My inner nerd only shows when it comes to LOTR or Star Trek.)