Tolkien Geek

Blogging J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and other aimless pursuits.

11/13/2005

TTT: Bk 3, Ch 11

The Palantir
"'Nazgul!' he cried. 'The messenger of Mordor. The storm is coming.'"
As they rode out from Isengard, Merry asks if they are riding far. Amused at his inquisitiveness, Gandalf tells him that their original plan was to return to Edoras, but because of the danger of Sauron they have decided to make haste to Dunharrow, by way of Helm's Deep. Merry says he thought that the battle there was already won. Gandalf acknowledges that it was but one battle in a larger war, and because he fears that the Enemy knows much because of Saruman that they must make ready for yet another battle. He says "The Eye of Barad-dur will be looking impatiently towards the Wizard's Vale, I think; and towards Rohan. The less it sees the better."

After the sun set in the west, they come to the slope of a great hill called Dol Baran. Here they make camp. Later Merry and Pippin discuss the "new" Gandalf. Merry has noticed some changes. "He has grown, or something" he says. Pippin talks of his obsession with the glass ball cast down at them back at Isengard. He desperately wants to know more about it. Merry counsels him to forget about it and go to sleep. But Pippin's curiosity gnaws at him. He cannot sleep and he goes to where Gandalf is sleeping. Replacing the Palantir in Gandalf's arms with a stone wrapped in a blanket, he sneaks off to have a closer look.
"The air seemed still and tense about him. 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."
After a few moments, the hobbit collapsed and blacked out. Gandalf wakes and tries to revive him. Pippin comes out of his trance, terrified. Looking into the Palantir he saw Sauron, who spoke to him. Thinking Pippin was imprisoned at Isengard and forced by Saruman to look into the stone to torment him, Sauron tells the hobbit, "Tell Saruman that this dainty is not for him. I will send for it at once." Gandalf insists that Pippin try and remember if he said anything to the Enemy anything important. He can see in his eyes that he didn't. Gandalf comforts him, "I forgive you. Be comforted. Things have not turned out as evilly as they might". He muses over the irony that Sauron will now think that Saruman has betrayed him by holding the hobbit captive and refusing to further communicate with him through the Palantir. Avoiding Sauron's wrath was exactly the reason that the wizard refused to assist the Dark Lord's enemies in the first place.

As Gandalf ponders the significance of this contact with the Dark Tower, he entrusts the keeping of the Orthanc-stone to Aragorn. He feels he must leave with great haste, and he should take Pippin with him. His fears are confirmed when high above a Nazgul rides on a Fell Beast, a messenger sent to find out what was going on with Saruman. It was too soon for a Nazgul to be sent because of Pippin's revealing himself in the Palantir. But another would follow shortly looking for the hobbit.

Gandalf and Pippin ride Shadowfax swifty towards the East. As they ride, the wizard tells Pippin more about the seeing stones and their history. The Palantiri were eight stones crafted in Valinor, probably by the Noldor Elf, Feanor (who also wrought the Silmarils). In the Second Age, when Sauron convinced the Numenorean King Ar-Pharazon to sail west to the land of Aman, a group of Numenoreans connected by blood to the line of kings sailed east to Middle-Earth. Led by Elendil, the "Faithful" men of Numenor escaped the wrath of Eru and the Valar and the destruction of Numenor. Bits of this lore are muttered by Gandalf as he tries to recall the legends of old:
"Tall ships and tall kings,
Three times three,
What brought they from the foundered land,
Over the flowing sea?
Seven stars and seven stones,
And one white tree."
In nine ships, they carried seven of the eight Palantiri to the lands that would become Arnor and Gondor, the realms in exile - the eighth remaining in Valinor. One was kept in Osgiliath, which was the master stone and could communicate with the other stones at the same time. It was much larger than the others. But when the Dome of Stars destroyed during the times of the kinstrife, it was lost. Two others were kept at Annuminas and Amon Sul. These two were lost when King Arvedui, fleeing the attack of the Witch-king of Angmar, was lost at sea. One stone, which only looked westward toward Valinor was kept at the White Tower of Avallone, in the hills just east of the grey havens. As such it was of not much value in relation to the other stones. The remaining three were kept at Isengard, which was abandoned by Gondor, Minas Anor (which became Minas Tirith) and Minas Ithil (which was captured by the enemy and renamed Minas Morgul).

So Sauron had the Ithil-stone. Aragorn was now in possession of the Orthanc-stone. And what Gandalf did not know for sure, but suspected, was that the Anor-stone was locked away in the Tower of Ecthelion in Minas Tirith and could very well be in the hands of Denethor, the current Steward of Gondor. Gandalf reveals to Pippin their destination, "To Minas Tirith, before the seas of war surround it."

Shadowfax gallops at a speed swifter than any horse in Middle-Earth through the night, making for the White City.
"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."
The War of the Ring was about to explode in full force upon all the peoples of Middle-Earth.

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[Chronology: March 5th 3019 T.A.]
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Here ends Book Three of The Two Towers. The story continues in Book Four with Chapter One: The Taming Of Smeagol

(revised 9/24/06)

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