The differences between J.R.R. Tolkien's book, The Two Towers, and Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers are very difficult to document because of substantial differences in plot sequence. There are two major plot threads in this story that are presented very differently, which are:
- the exploits of Frodo and Sam on the road to Mordor and
- the adventures of the other characters in the lands of the West—Gondor, Rohan, Fangorn, etc.
Instead of separating the two major threads into two internal books as Tolkien did, the story-lines are interwoven in the screenplay to keep up the pace and progress of each.
In this article, these storylines are "unshuffled" into two subsections to make it more intelligible, but because the movie starts with Frodo and Sam, that is where we start here instead of the other way around as in the book. The differences between the movie and book are described here in considerable detail. The order is intended to be that of the movie, and it is also the intent that this article should eventually include all significant differences between them.
Frodo and Sam
- In the scene at the Black Gate, the movie leaves out Sam's recitation about Oliphaunts.
- Also at the Black Gate, the movie throws in a near disaster in which Frodo and Sam fall down the side of the hill and are almost discovered by the two Easterlings from the unit marching into Mordor. This did not happen in the book, the men marching into Mordor were in fact from Harad, not Rhun.
- The words of Faramir over the body of the dead Haradrim soldier in the movie were thoughts in the mind of Sam in the book.
- The personality of Faramir and of the Rangers of Ithilien was substantially altered in the screenplay. In the book, Faramir is quite unlike his brother, and even before he understood what was Isildur's Bane from his dream, he swore an oath to Frodo to never take it up or even to desire it to save Gondor. In the movie, when he became aware of the enemy's Ring in Frodo's possession, he decided to take him and Sam to the White City instead of allowing them to pass on their way unhindered. However, unlike his brother, he does not claim the Ring for himself. He initially intends to take the Ring as a gift for his father. He also does not react with anger when Frodo refuses to give him the Ring. Moreover, in the book, he and his men were wise, trustworthy, and kind. When they captured Gollum, they treated him with gentleness and kindness. In the movie, Faramir's men beat and tortured Gollum, treating him with malice and cruelty. This was altogether contrary to the nature of men of Gondor.
- When questioned by Faramir in the book, Frodo said, "I told you no lies, and of the truth all I could." In the movie, Frodo lied to Faramir when he was asked about "the gangrel creature" that had been seen with them, meaning Gollum.
- In the movie, Frodo, Sam, and Gollum were brought to Osgiliath on the western shore of Anduin, which they could only reach by openly crossing the river exposing them all, and especially the Ring, to capture. In the book, the hobbits and Gollum were sent on their way from Henneth Annûn and were not taken to Osgiliath. After the events at Osgiliath in the screenplay, the three were shown the tunnel, which did not exist in the book, and allowed to take their journey. (In the book, the two parts of the city were joined by a bridge and there was no mention of a tunnel).
Events in the West
- Gandalf's battle with the Balrog is told more or less accurately in the movie, but the tale of it was divided between the prologue and his oral narrative when the three companions met him in Fangorn. In the book, the entire story was told in Fangorn. This is just a difference of sequence. (Note: In the movie, the prologue is depicted as a dream of Frodo's as he lay sleeping on a mountainside in the Emyn Muil).
- The outcome of the Entmoot in the book was that the Ents chose to go to war, but in the movie, they chose not to. They were later manipulated by Pippin into doing so anyway.
- The heart-tugging scene of Eothain and Freda fleeing the Westfold and leaving their mother, Morwen, behind does not appear in the book.
- The scene about Dwarf women is found in the appendix of the books.
- The scene where Éowyn's discovery of Aragorn's age and heritage does not occur in the book.
- The screenplay has Théoden sending his people to Helm's Deep for refuge even though that is exactly where he expects the battle to be fought. In the book, he sends them to the equal safety of Dunharrow.
- In consequence of the above, Éowyn was not at the Hornburg during the battle in the movie. She was at Dunharrow in command of the refugee settlement.
- The battle between Théoden's force with all of its refugees in tow and the Warg Riders of Isengard did not occur in the book. Théoden's men were not challenged to battle on their journey from Meduseld to the Hornburg. It is likely that this was adapted from the Warg attack before the Mines of Moria in the Fellowship of the Ring, which was left out of the screenplay.
- The "loss" of Aragorn over a cliff did not happen in the book because the battle in which it occurred was not fought. As a result, Aragorn was not separated from the king and his men until he voluntarily chose to take the Paths of the Dead as his road to Minas Tirith.
- In the movie, Háma is killed when the Warg Riders attack. In the book, he is slain at the gate of Helm's Deep.
- The army of Elves that comes to Helm's Deep in the movie is otherwise occupied in the book. There, they fight a series of battles to defend Lothlórien from an Orc army that invaded from Dol Guldur and then later to conquer Dol Guldur. This also means that Haldir does not die, at least as part of the story.
- In the books Éomer is not banished, but instead only imprisoned by Wormtongue, and freed after Wormtongue is overthrown. As a result he is present as Helm’s Deep and battles alongside Aragorn and the others. It is Erkenbrand, a Rohirrim Commander, who shows up alongside Gandalf to lift the siege.
- Gamling is altered completely. In the books he is an elderly man conscripted into the battle, who fights alongside Gimli and Éomer whilst Aragorn and Theoden ride out into their foes. In the film, he is altered into the captain of Theoden's guard, who seems to be mentored and friendly with Háma.
- When the battle of Helm's Deep began to turn ill, in the book it was Théoden, not Aragorn, who proposed the final mounted charge from the keep.