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Timeline Event

Pippin looks into the Palantír of Orthanc

Event Type: General

Age: 3rd Age - Ring War

Date: March 5, 3019


An event in the aftermath of the Parley with Saruman in Isengard; see that entry for an overview:
At last they halted... they came to... the slope of round Dol Baran... they made their camp, two hours or so before the middle of the night....

Pippin... lay still now, but sleep remained far away.... The thought of the dark globe seemed to grow stronger as all grew quiet. Pippin felt again its weight in his hands, and saw again the mysterious red depths into which he had looked for a moment....

Driven by some impulse that he did not understand, Pippin walked softly to where Gandalf lay.... close beside him, between his right side and his bent arm, there was... something round wrapped in a dark cloth....

[Pippin] put his hands out stealthily, and slowly lifted the lump up.... He stood for a moment clasping it. Then an idea came into his mind. He tiptoed away, found a large stone, and came back.

Quickly now he drew off the cloth, wrapped the stone in it and... laid it back by the wizard's hand. Then at last he looked at the thing that he had uncovered.... a smooth globe of crystal, now dark and dead.... Pippin lifted it, covered it hurriedly in his own cloak, and half turned to go back to his bed....

'You idiotic fool!' Pippin muttered to himself. 'You're going to get yourself into frightful trouble. Put it back quick!' But he found now that his knees quaked, and he did not dare to go near enough to the wizard to reach the bundle.... He stole away....

Pippin sat with his knees drawn up and the ball between them1.... At first the globe was dark, black as jet.... 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....

All the camp was soon astir.

'So this is the thief!' said Gandalf. Hastily he cast his cloak over the globe where it lay.... '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.... 'What mischief has he done — to himself, and to all of us?' The wizard's face was drawn and haggard.

He took Pippin's hand and bent over his face, listening for his breath; then he laid his hands on his brow. The hobbit shuddered. His eyes closed. He cried out; and sat up, staring in bewilderment at all the faces round him....

'It is not for you, Saruman!' he cried in a shrill and toneless voice shrinking away from Gandalf. 'I will send for it at once. Do you understand? Say just that!' Then he struggled... but Gandalf held him gently and firmly.

'Peregrin Took!' he said. 'Come back!'

The hobbit relaxed and fell back, clinging to the wizard's hand. 'Gandalf!' he cried.... 'Forgive me!'....

'Tell me first what you have done!'

'I, I took the ball and looked at it,' stammered Pippin; 'and I saw things that frightened me. And I wanted to go away, but I couldn't. And then he came and questioned me; and he looked at me, and, and that is all I remember.'

'That won't do,' said Gandalf sternly. 'What did you see, and what did you say?'

Pippin shut his eyes and shivered, but said nothing. They all stared at him in silence, except Merry who turned away. But Gandalf's face was still hard. 'Speak!' he said.

In a low hesitating voice Pippin began again.... 'I saw a dark sky, and tall battlements,' he said. 'And tiny stars. It seemed very far away and long ago, yet hard and clear. Then the stars went in and out — they were cut off by things with wings. Very big, I think, really; but in the glass they looked like bats wheeling round the tower. I thought there were nine of them. One began to fly straight towards me, getting bigger and bigger....

'I tried to get away, because I thought it would fly out; but when it had covered all the globe, it disappeared. Then he came. He did not speak.... He just looked, and I understood.

'"So you have come back? Why have you neglected to report for so long?"

'I did not answer. He said: "Who are you?" I still did not answer, but it hurt me horribly..., so I said: "A hobbit."

'Then suddenly he seemed to see me, and he laughed at me. It was cruel.... I struggled. But he said: "Wait a moment! We shall meet again soon. Tell Saruman that this dainty is not for him. I will send for it at once. Do you understand? Say just that!"

'Then he gloated over me. I felt I was falling to pieces. No, no! I can't say any more. I don't remember anything else.'

'Look at me!' said Gandalf.

Pippin looked up straight into his eyes. The wizard held his gaze for a moment in silence. Then his face grew gentler.... He laid his hand softly on Pippin's head.

'All right!' he 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.... But mark this! You have been saved, and all your friends too, mainly by good fortune.... 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... 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.'

He lifted Pippin gently and carried him back to his bed.... 'Lie there and rest, if you can, Pippin!' said Gandalf. 'Trust me. If you feel an itch in your palms again, tell me of it! Such things can be cured.'....

With that Gandalf returned to the others, who were still standing by the Orthanc-stone in troubled thought. 'Peril comes in the night when least expected,' he said. 'We have had a narrow escape!'

'How is the hobbit, Pippin?' asked Aragorn.

'I think all will be well now,' answered Gandalf. 'He was not held long, and hobbits have an amazing power of recovery. The memory, or the horror of it, will probably fade quickly. Too quickly, perhaps.'....

'But... keep this thing secret.... Peregrin, above all should not know where it is bestowed. ... For alas!.... He ought never to have touched it in Isengard.... But my mind was bent on Saruman, and I did not at once guess the nature of the Stone. Then I was weary, and as I lay pondering it, sleep overcame me. Now I know!'

'Yes, there can be no doubt,' said Aragorn. 'At last we know the link2 between Isengard and Mordor, and how it worked. Much is explained.'....

'But at this time we have been strangely fortunate. Maybe, I have been saved... from a grave blunder. I had considered whether or not to probe this Stone myself to find its uses. Had I done so, I should have been revealed to him myself. I am not ready for such a trial.... But even if I found the power to withdraw myself, it would be disastrous for him to see me, yet — until the hour comes when secrecy will avail no longer.'

'That hour is now come, I think,' said Aragorn.

'Not yet,' said Gandalf. 'There remains a short while of doubt which we must use. The Enemy, it is clear, thought that the Stone was in Orthanc.... And that therefore the hobbit was captive there, driven to look in the glass for his torment by Saruman. That dark mind will be filled now with the voice and face of the hobbit and with expectation: it may take some time before he learns his error. We must snatch that time. We have been too leisurely. We must move. The neighbourhood of Isengard is no place now to linger in. I will ride ahead at once with Peregrin Took.'

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 11, The Palantír

1   But the minor Stones, those of Orthanc, Ithil, and Anor, and probably Annúminas, had also fixed orientation in their original situation, so that (for example) their west face would only look west and turned in other directions was blank. If a Stone became unseated or disturbed it could be re-set by observation, and it was then useful to revolve it. But when removed and cast down, as was the Orthanc-stone, it was not so easy to set right. So it was "by chance" as Men call it (as Gandalf would have said) that Peregrin, fumbling with the Stone, must have set it on the ground more or less "upright," and sitting westward of it have had the fixed east-looking face in the proper position.

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri

2   It needed the demonstration on Dol Baran of the effects of the Orthanc-stone on Peregrin to reveal suddenly that the "link" between Isengard and Barad-dûr (seen to exist after it was discovered that forces of Isengard had been joined with others directed by Sauron in the attack on the Fellowship at Parth Galen) was in fact the Orthanc-stone — and one other palantír.

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri

Elena Tiriel 22May05, 19Sep05

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