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I always thought that it referred to the two opposing towers: Barad-dur and The tower of Minas Tirith. But I could be very wrong on that.
I thought the union referred to the palantirs, Saurons stone in Barad-Dur and Sarumans in Orthanc.
I'm so glad it's not just me who suddenly realises that he never really understood the d@mn title. Phew! Confusion abounds, anybody got a definitive answer? (awaits the inevitable Grondy/Melly/Eryan bombardment of source materials)
I always thought it refered to Barad-Dur and the Orthanc as they are technically the only two towers al the others are city's or garrison. I also think tolkien used the title to symbolise the two power's that are vying for the ring. Sorry but in my opinion that idiot PJ might have got it right for once.
Why do you think that PJ is an idiot?

I thinks that it is Orthanc and Cirith Ungol, those are really the only towers that play a part in TTT
Well folks, from JRRT's pen to you:

Letter #140
The Two Towers gets as near as possible to finding a title to cover the widely divergent Books 3 and 4; and can be left ambiguous - it might refer to Isengard and Barad-dur, or to Minas Tirith and B; or Isengard and Cirith Ungol.

Letter #143
I am not at all happy about the title 'the Two Towers'. It must if there is any real reference in it to Vol II refer to Orthanc and the Tower of Cirith Ungol. But since there is so much made of the basic opposition of the Dark Tower and Minas Tirtith, that seems very misleading.

So it would seem, even the postAuthorID was not really sure of which towers the title refers to. Elf Confused Smilie
Ah thank you Rednell!

As for why I think that PJ is an idiot you will find my disgruntled ramblings scattered throught out the forums, so I am a bit loth to discuss it as alot of people have already heard my arguements (Glorfindel, Tom Bombardil etc.)
Away at sea for just one night and I missed an interesting discussion brought to its conclusion. Had Rednell not posted the definitive answer I would have said Minas Tirith (The White Tower of Ecthelion) and Minas Morgul (The Tower of the Moon) because I had read somewhere that that was the actual answer. I cannot remember where I read that, but it is irrelevant because it was obviously wrong.

Might have been simpler if Tolkien had just called it The Four Towers!
Book three centered around Orthanc; Book four bypassed Minas Morgul and Frodo only just entered the Tower of Cirith Ungol. Minas Tirith had to wait to be entered until Book 5 and we never got to Barad-Dur.

My vote goes for Orthanc and the Tower of Cirith Ungol; however, Orthanc and Barad-Dur make more sense, as the forces of both Sarumen and Sauron were trying to capture the ringbearer, that their master could then become ultimate Overlord of Middle-earth.

I'm with you Grondy but it seems as if were all wrong, well except Rednell.
Why do you think that PJ is an idiot?

Don't encourage him... Wink Smilie

Good answers, I like the fact that JRR had no idea either, it's like another Balrog wings argument, hooray!
I say we rename the book/movie to: Gimli Gets Tossed
How about you start a petition Gimli? Wink Smilie
I'd probably sign it..... Wink Smilie
I think we should rename it return of the slinker!
We had this discussion before - didn't we? I have always thought (from reading the books) that it was Minas Tirith and Baradur - because you could almost see how TOlkein set them up as the white and the black - exact opposites.

But other than Boromir's quotes about the White Tower - there was NO mention of the White tower - and it was so important to the book - as like - a beacon of hope! Well, now I am just complaining about the writing of the script...
Looks like this is going the way of the winged balrog argument.

Anyway, since the postAuthorID himself didn't know, it's a moot point. Pick two towers... any two towers.
Okay, leaning tower of Pisa, and my tower of biscuits just there -->
The letters Rednell quoted don't tell the end of the story though. Tolkien ultimately decided on his explanation and published it in The Fellowship of the Ring itself. And to agree with this, his final illustration (intended for the cover of the book) depicts the same two towers as in the note, Orthanc And Minas Morgul

Some have pointed out the possibility that Tolkien himself might not have written or even approved the published note, but thanks to some investigation, we now know more. It's a bit out of context here, but in brief...

23 February 1954: 'He also returns, rewritten, the note for the last page of FR.' Hammond and Anderson JRR Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography pp. 91-2
And so, dear members, PJ was wrong - again!
What was PJ wrong about (I mean, regarding this two towers topic)?
PJ's two towers refer to Orthanc and Barad-dŻr.
I believe 'The Two Towers' refers to Orthanc and Minas Morgul. This is becuase on my edition the cover which was illustrated by JRR himself it has Orthanc on the right and a tower on the left with a moon over it. It is two narrow to be Minas Tirth and seeing as its got a moon it does seem to fit Minas Morgul best.

This may be becuase in the second book Orthanc is the main focal point of the fellowship in the Wrst, whereas Minas morgul is in the East to Frodo and Sam.
Yes, that's the drawing I was referring to (it also shows nine rings with Minas Morgul). Back when The Lord of the Rings was first published Allen and Unwin decided to go with the same cover design for all three volumes. Anyway, the published note reads...

'Here ends the first part of the history of the War of the Ring. The second part is called The Two Towers, since the events recounted in it are dominated by Orthanc, the citadel of Saruman, and the fortress of Minas Morgul, that guards the secret entrance to Mordor; it tells of the deeds...' Fellowship of the Ring

The Tower-names are actually in capitals in my edition, but I didn't want to appear to shout.
I ws searching for the quote you provided in my book but failed to find it. Instead I used the front cover as evidence. Anyway I wonder why Tolkien didn't say this in the quote from the letter in a post somewhere above.
The chronology is interesting here (including the chronology of the drawings, see JRRT Artist And Illustrator). For example, here's how one letter already quoted in this thread fits in.

'4 January 1954 Rayner Unwin sends Tolkien a rough draft of the note about TT and RK that follows the text at the end of FR.'

22 January: ... 'In response to the draft note sent by Unwin on 4 January, he has had 2nd thoughts about the title 'The Two Towers'. "It must if there is any real reference to volume II refer to Orthanc and The Tower of Cirith Ungol . But since there is so much made of the basic opposition of the Dark Tower and Minas Tirith, that seems very misleading. There is, of course, actually no real connecting link between Books III and IV, when cut off and presented separately as a volume. "

23 February 1954 ...'He also returns, rewritten, the note for the last page of FR.'
Hammond and Anderson - JRR Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography
Edited by virumor - Eeek! Politics! Eek! Filthy!!! The books don't deserve it in my oppinion......
Edited by virumor - No sensitive political comments, please

Anyway I am getting a bit off topic here...
Political stuff removed by virumor ...... but on with the topic.......
Moderator Smilie Watch it with the political stuff, please Moderator Smilie
Sorry. I thought I was in my bounds.
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Now you mention it I remember those rules. I just didn't think the 9/11 incident came under the political catagory.

Sorry again.
I didn't think that saying The Two Towers are often being compared to The Twin Towers wasn't good came under Politics but I am sorry nonetheless Elf Sticking Tounge Out Smilie
All were tall buildings called towers. Now let's move on.

I like that it is isn't 100% sure what towers Tolkien ment. I like the uncertainties in Tolkien's world. Instead of being told how everything is, it inspires you to think and wonder. Maybe, perhaps and what if.
But it is clear what Tolkien meant here.

The fact that we have 'behind the scenes' matter to confuse the issue doesn't change what JRRT himself ultimately decided, and published. We know, for (different) example, that Tolkien changed his mind concerning the numbering of the Rings with respect to the Elves, Dwarves, and Men, but that doesn't mean he never decided, or never 'found out the truth' of the matter and made it part of Frodo's world.

There are plenty of things in Middle-earth to wonder and muse about. But there's no doubt as to what Tolkien decided to explain to his Readers concerning the title (as opposed to letters and rejected drawings that most people were never meant to see). A different question might be: despite Tolkien's explanation, which towers do you (anyone) think best fit the title? Basically putting the author's ultimate decision aside for the sake of discussion.

And nothing wrong with that of course Smile Smilie but it's a different approach.
I figured it was Orthanc and Cirith Ungol, for those were the two towers where the action took place. None of the characters ever entered Minas Morgal. Elf Sticking Tounge Out Smilie
At the end of the Fellowship of the rings movie (I t hink extended version, we have both) you are given a glimpse of the coming Two Towers and they say and clearly refer to Mordor and Isengard. I am totally confused now.
In the film the Two Towers are Orthanc in Isengard and Barad-dur the Dark tower in Mordor. However the book refers to the Two Towers as Orthanc and Minas Morgul. We know this becuase these are the two towers Tolkien drew for us on the front cover and he says it in the end of the book as Galin has quoted.

Simple as.
Yay Lord of All,
thank you. thankyou. you are a hero. Smile Smilie
I figured it was Orthanc and Cirith Ungol, for those were the two towers where the action took place.

The action in Cirith Ungol doesn't really get going in the main (at least) until book VI though, which begins with the chapter The Tower of Cirith Ungol of course. As far as book IV is concerned Minas Morgul is more 'present' in my opinion, despite that no Hobbits are taken within: the description of Minas Morgul, or the force that issued from it... or the description of a luminous tower fascinating Frodo, for example, and that he fought the desire to run up the gleaming road towards its gate. It might be said that the Reader isn't 'properly introduced' to the tower of Cirith Ungol until book VI.

All this, I think, contributed to Tolkien's ultimate decision (reconsidering what he said in letter 143 I would guess).
I think your right, Galin; my previous idea has now been overruled by the Professor's proposed dust jacket/book cover. Happy Elf Smilie

The Two Towers are undoubtably Orthanc and Minas Morgul.
To add something that has not been mentioned what about the tower of Helm's Deep (i forgot its name) I always believed that it referred to Orthanc and the tower at Helm's Deep.
The edifice at Helm's Deep was the fortress called the Hornburg, named because a horn sounded in its tower was echoed loudly in the winding depths of Helm' Deep.

Movie-wise the two towers were Orthanc and the Hornburg, because Frodo and Sam wouldn't reach the Morgal Vale with its City of Minas Morgal and its Tower of the Moon until RotK. However, they reached there in the book with some fifty pages yet to read. This was another of PJ's devices to fit the story into three good movies without leaving Frodo the captive of Orcs for a whole year rather than for less than a day. He knew that a year long cliff-hanger would be just too much.

Book-wise the two towers were Orthanc and the Tower of the Moon; as that was from whence emanated the dastardly deeds the free peoples of Middle-earth were subjected to, with puppet strings extending back to the Iron Tower of Barad-dŻr, which we don't really see until the third book. IMHO
The film refers to the Two Towers as Orthanc and Barad-dur. I know this becuase whilst Saruman is talking into the Palantir the film suddenly shows the Dark Tower in Mordor and Saruman says 'the union of the Two Towers'.
If the question is simply 'What are the Two Towers?' the answer has been somewhat fully mined according to The Lord of the Rings (book) and also other 'unpublished' sources in any case.

In this instance Tolkien's letters might confuse the issue a bit, and indeed JRRT was a world class niggler in general. But he did make up his mind here for publication, and so the letters and earlier drawings essentially become 'draft material' by comparison.

Or maybe the question is 'Which two towers do you think should be the Two Towers?'...

... despite what Tolkien published Wink Smilie
We have established what the Two Towers were in the book. That subject is dead and covered. Now we are discussing what the Two Towers are in the film.
I believe 'The Two Towers' refers to Orthanc and Minas Morgul. This is becuase on my edition the cover which was illustrated by JRR himself it has Orthanc on the right and a tower on the left with a moon over it. It is two narrow to be Minas Tirth and seeing as its got a moon it does seem to fit Minas Morgul best.

You're right Lord of All, The Two Towers are Orthanc and Minas Morgul. I've always thought that the Two Towers were Orthanc and Barad Dur before this thread.Big Smile Smilie
Well, I've read through all the posts in this thread, and I have to agree that just from the storyline alone it is rather misleading, exactly "which two towers" are meant. Luckily my old edition of FOTR also had Tolkien's note which Galin reproduced above, "...since the events recounted in it are dominated by Orthanc...and...Minas Morgul...", otherwise I would've always wondered as well. (Of course it doesn't help that the movie makes it sound as if "The Two Towers" is supposed to mean Orthanc & Barad Dur!)

Of course we wouldn't even be having this discussion if it wasn't for the stupid publishers insisting that it had to be a trilogy. Tolkien never really wanted that, he intended for it to be six books. And (as Rednell quoted from Letter#143) Tolkien wasn't too happy about having to come up with the three titles either.

I'm glad that the publishers eventually started doing some of the editions the way JRRT intended: as 6 books plus a separate appendix (mine happens to be one of those, and it's pretty cool to see seven separate volumes).
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