Concerning hobbits and wizards…
‘All Wizards should have a hobbit or two in their care – to teach them the meaning of the word, and to correct them.’
Saruman has been dealt with, but Gandalf still has one riddle left: How did Isengard and Mordor communicate? But in the meantime, the hobbits are still a little lost and feeling unimportant, particularly Pippin.
‘Well, if Gandalf has changed at all, then he’s closer than ever, that’s all,’ Pippin argued. ‘That – glass ball, now. He seemed mighty pleased with it. He knows or guesses something about it. But does he tell us what? No, not a word. Yet I picked it up, and I saved it from rolling into a pool. Here, I’ll take that, my lad – that’s all. I wonder what it is? It felt so very heavy.’ Pippin’s voice fell very low, as if he was talking to himself.
‘Hullo!’ said Merry. ‘So that’s what is bothering you? Now, Pippin my lad, don’t forget Gildor’s saying – the one Sam used to quote: Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.’
‘But our whole life for months has been one long meddling in the affairs of Wizards,’ said Pippin. ‘I should like a bit of information as well as danger. I should like a look at that ball.’
Pippin’s frustration is understandable, especially considering how brusque Gandalf has been towards him in general – although to be fair, Pippin did kinda get him killed with one of his stunts already, so I can certainly see why Gandalf wouldn’t want to allow a repeat performance. But as I’ve mentioned before, Pippin’s not stupid, just impulsive. He needs someone like Merry around to make him think whenever he does want to do something stupid. Like stealing the crystal ball from Gandalf while he’s sleeping. Guess who was too tired to talk sense into Pippin?
At first the globe was dark, black as jet, with the moonlight gleaming on its surface. Then there came a faint glow and stir in the heart of it, and it held his eyes, so that now he could not look away. Soon all the inside seemed on fire; the ball was spinning, or the lights within were revolving. Suddenly the lights went out. He gave a gasp and struggled; but he remained bent, clasping the ball with both hands. Closer and closer he bent, and then became rigid; his lips moved soundlessly for a while. Then with a strangled cry he fell back and lay still.
The cry was piercing. The guards leapt down the banks. All the camp was soon astir.
‘So this is the thief!’ said Gandalf. Hastily he cast his cloak over the globe where it lay. ‘But you, Pippin! This is a grievous turn to things.’ He knelt by Pippin’s body: the hobbit was lying on his back, rigid, with unseeing eyes staring up at the sky. ‘The devilry! What mischief has he done – to himself, and to all of us?’ The wizard’s face was drawn and haggard.
As it turns out, his “mischief” didn’t cause irreparable damage to either, even though he was LITERALLY INTERROGATED BY SAURON. Fortunately for everyone, it wasn’t a “proper” interrogation, as the Dark Lord seemed more interested in communicating his displeasure to Saruman than anything, so all Pippin told him was that he was a hobbit.
‘All right!’ [Gandalf] said. ‘Say no more! You have taken no harm. There is no lie in your eyes, as I feared. But he did not speak long with you. A fool, but an honest fool, you remain, Peregrin Took. Wiser ones might have done worse in such a pass. But mark this! You have been saved, and all your friends too, mainly by good fortune, as it is called. You cannot count on it a second time. If he had questioned you, then and there, almost certainly you would have told all that you know, to the ruin of us all. But he was too eager. He did not want information only: He wanted you, quickly, so that he could deal with you in the Dark Tower, slowly. Don’t shudder! If you will meddle in the affairs of Wizards, you must be prepared to think of such things. But come! I forgive you. Be comforted! Things have not turned out as evilly as they might.’
It turns out the crystal ball was a palantír, a relic of Númenor placed in Orthanc by Elendil, so Gandalf gives it to Aragorn for safekeeping, and decides to ride on ahead to Minas Tirith with Pippin (mainly to keep him out of mischief).
‘What are you saying, Gandalf?’ asked Pippin.
‘I was just running over some Rhymes of Lore in my mind,’ answered the wizard. […] ‘About the palantíri of the Kings of Old,’ said Gandalf.
‘And what are they?’
‘The name meant that which looks far away. The Orthanc-stone was one.’
‘Then it was not made, not made’ – Pippin hesitated – ‘by the Enemy?’
‘No,’ said Gandalf. ‘Nor by Saruman. It is beyond his art, and Sauron’s too. The palantiri came from beyond Westernesse, from Eldamar. The Noldor made them Fëanor himself, maybe, wrought them, in days so long ago that the time cannot be measured in years. But there is nothing that Sauron cannot turn to evil uses. Alas for Saruman! It was his downfall, as I now perceive. Perilous to us all are the devices of an art deeper than we possess ourselves. Yet he must bear the blame.’
The Seeing Stones were originally used by the Men of Gondor to communicate between their many outposts, helping unite their kingdom, although they could see various things besides the people at the other stones.
‘I wish I had known all this before,’ said Pippin. ‘I had no notion of what I was doing.’
‘Oh yes, you had,’ said Gandalf. ‘You knew you were behaving wrongly and foolishly; and you told yourself so, though you did not listen. I did not tell you all this before, because it is only by musing on all that has happened that I have at last understood, even as we ride together. […]’
‘But I should like to know –’ Pippin began.
‘Mercy!’ cried Gandalf. ‘If the giving of information is to be the cure of your inquisitiveness, I shall spend all the rest of my days answering you. What more do you want to know?’
‘The names of all the stars, and of all living things, and the whole history of Middle-earth and Over-heaven and of the Sundering Seas,’ laughed Pippin. ‘Of course! What less? But I am not in a hurry tonight.’
Pippin is precious. And also in way over his head.
‘But I cannot tell how it will fall out, well or ill for us. It may be that the counsels of the Enemy will be confused, or hindered by his wrath with Saruman. It may be that he will learn that I was there and stood upon the stairs of Orthanc – with hobbits at my tail. Or that an heir of Elendil lives and stood beside me. […] That is what I fear. And so we fly – not from danger but into greater danger. Every stride of Shadowfax bears you nearer to the Land of Shadow, Peregrin Took.’
This chapter was much simplified in the movies, at least partly because it was moved from the final chapter of Book III to the beginning of a movie. It all takes place in Edoras, for one (although again, I won’t complain about more Éowyn), but the big change is the substance of what they learn from Pippin’s mistake. In the films, Gandalf clearly knew all along what the palantír was, and so the big revelation is that…Sauron is going to attack Minas Tirith. Because apparently that wasn’t obvious. Here in the books, Gandalf is taking advantage of the confusion caused by the interrupted communication between Isengard and Mordor to go where everybody knows the Enemy will strike next.
As he fell slowly into sleep, Pippin had a strange feeling: he and Gandalf were still as stone, seated upon the statue of a running horse, while the world rolled away beneath his feet with a great noise of wind.
Next, we return to the true Quest…