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While Aragorn’s group hunts for the hobbits, Pippin and Merry lie captive in the Orc camp, bound hand and foot. Pippin has a dark dream in which he calls out to Frodo but sees only Orcs around him. Pippin recalls the great battle in which Boromir appeared, at first causing great fear among the Orcs, but then unable to summon any other warriors with his horn. Pippin’s last memory of the battle is of seeing Boromir trying to pull an arrow out of his own body. Pippin regrets that Gandalf ever asked him to come along, as he feels like little more than a burden.
Pippin hears the Orcs talking among themselves. One orc asks why the hobbits cannot simply be killed. Another answers that orders have been given not to kill, search, or plunder the hobbits; they must be captured alive. Pippin is aware that the two orcs are speaking the Common Tongue, as the different Orc tribes cannot understand one another. Nevertheless, he notes that the various Orcs sometimes lapse back into their native tongue when speaking with their own; in these instances, he cannot follow their speech, which sounds angry and snarling to him.
There is apparently some hostility among the various Orc tribes. Uglúk, an orc from the Uruk-hai clan, is proud to call himself the servant of Saruman the Wise, the White Hand. The other orc insults Saruman, and a fight breaks out in which one orc dies, falling on top of Pippin. Pippin is able to rub his hand bindings against the blade of the fallen orc’s knife, thus freeing his hands. Not noticing that Pippin’s hands are free, Uglúk orders the hobbits to move quickly in march with the rest of the Orc horde. Suddenly, the hobbits are snatched up by the Isengard Orcs, who double their speed and pull out ahead of the others. The Isengard Orcs attempt to leave behind the other Orcs, who pursue them unsuccessfully.
Finally losing the other Orcs, the Isengard Orcs, stop to give Pippin and Merry Orc-liquor, which allows them to march a long distance. The Orcs halt and throw Pippin to the ground. They begin to search the bodies of the two hobbits, believing Pippin and Merry to be the possessors of the Ring. The hobbits demand to be untied before they will offer anything to Grishnákh, the Isengard orc who is searching them.
Suddenly, a rider appears and kills the hobbits’ Orc captor. Pippin and Merry lie frightened on the ground, covered by their Elf cloaks, which make them invisible. They eat some lembas cakes to regain their energy, and they decide to leave an Elf-brooch behind in the hopes that a rescuer might find it (as Aragorn indeed finds it later). The hobbits flee into the woods, not seeing that the rider kills Uglúk.
Our first glimpse of the hobbits in this volume of the novel is dark and troubling: Pippin and Merry are bound and captive, tormented and mistreated by their captors. In light of their small size, they are treated like pieces of baggage—carried around, picked up, and flung down without any courtesy. Pippin overhears several orcs wondering why they should take so much trouble for the sake of the hobbits, instead of simply killing them. Once again, the hobbits are a far cry from the traditional picture of heroism; they are important to the Orcs, but only as suspected bearers of the Ring, not as characters or identities in their own right. Even Pippin’s self-liberation from the Orcs’ bonds is not an act of courage, but a bit of very good luck: the dying orc falls in such a way that his knife rubs up against Pippin’s hand bindings.
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