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From the beginning of the chapter to Gandalf’s words
Back in Minas Tirith, Pippin receives his new uniform
and gear as a member of the Tower Guard. He spends a long day serving
Lord Denethor, Gandalf, and the Captains of the West. Pippin chats
with Beregond at the outer wall of the Citadel amid heavy darkness
and a stagnant air. Suddenly, they hear the terrifying shriek of
a Black Rider. Beyond the outermost gate, they can see five dark
Nazgûl swooping over a small, rapidly approaching group of Men on horseback.
The leader of the horsemen sounds his horn; Beregond recognizes
the trumpet call of Faramir, Denethor’s son.
The men, thrown from their terrified horses, run for the
city gate on foot. Just as a Nazgûl descends on Faramir, Pippin
sees what appears to be a brilliant white star in the north—it is
Gandalf on his horse, Shadowfax. Gandalf raises his hand and sends
a shaft of light shooting upward into one of the Nazgûl. The Nazgûl
cries and circles away, the other Ringwraiths following. Gandalf
returns to the city with Faramir slumped in the saddle.
Faramir is escorted into Denethor’s chambers, where he
is shocked to see Pippin (Faramir has already had a strange encounter with
two other hobbits—Frodo and Sam—in The Two Towers). Gandalf
erupts when he learns from Faramir that Frodo and Sam are heading
to Mordor by way of Cirith Ungol. Faramir notes that he bid farewell
to the hobbits only two days ago; they could not have reached Cirith
Ungol yet. The men surmise that Sauron’s new movement on Gondor
is not related to Frodo’s approach to Mordor.
Denethor upbraids Faramir for showing cowardice in defending the
outposts. The Steward bitterly remarks that Boromir, his other son,
would have brought him a “mighty gift”—meaning the Ring. Gandalf
points out that Boromir would have kept the “gift” for himself.
The two men argue, and Pippin again senses the strain between them.
Denethor opposes sending the Ring with a Hobbit into the hands of
Sauron, believing that he himself should have been given the Ring
for safekeeping. The gathering disperses. Pippin asks Gandalf why,
as Faramir has indicated, Frodo and Sam are traveling with Gollum.
Gandalf fears Gollum’s treachery, but notes that perhaps some good
may yet come of Gollum’s actions.
Now that Pippin is a member of the Tower Guard, we realize
how much his status has changed throughout the novel. When we first meet
him, he is content to smoke and lounge about; as recently as The
Two Towers, he has seemed more interested in leisure than
in warfare, as when Aragorn’s group comes upon Merry and Pippin smoking
their pipes at Isengard. The Pippin of this volume of the novel,
however, is a warrior, or at least an aspiring one. His passage from
the simple pleasures of food and conversation to the grave obligations
of fighting mirrors the rite of passage that all the hobbits of
the Fellowship are undergoing on the quest. Nonetheless, at this point
Pippin is still not much of a fighter. His close association with the
slender young warrior Beregond reminds us that Pippin is no seasoned
soldier. Moreover, we see that his role in this chapter is basically
observational rather than active. He sees the white star heralding
Gandalf’s arrival on the back of Shadowfax, carrying Faramir with
him—but Pippin only witnesses this heroism; he does not play any
part in it. Nevertheless, his presence on the scene is a kind of
achievement for him.
Denethor’s misappraisal of his two sons, Boromir and Faramir— his
wrongful condemnation of Faramir and praise of the treacherous Boromir—recalls
an earlier scene from The Two Towers. Previously,
Faramir captured Frodo and Sam on suspicion that the hobbits had
something to do with the death of Boromir, who perished under mysterious
circumstances. Faramir hinted that the hobbits had betrayed Boromir,
ironically unaware that it was actually Boromir who was the betrayer.
While Frodo remained silent on that earlier occasion, unwilling
to destroy Faramir’s faith in his deceased brother, Sam eventually
spoke up to tell the truth, which Faramir ultimately accepted gratefully.
Here, the situation is similar, as Denethor is unable even to imagine
that Boromir would have kept the Ring for himself rather than presenting
it as a gift to his father and lord. On this occasion, it is Gandalf
who reprises Sam’s earlier role of truth-teller, revealing Boromir’s
betrayal to a shocked family member. This parallel between the two
scenes is one of many in The Lord of the Rings, serving
as a unifying force that reminds us that The Lord of the
Rings is one novel with three volumes, rather than three
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Return of the King!