Saturday, February 24, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: The Palantir (TTT 3, 11)

This chapter is another beautiful representation of the cycle of temptation, sin, repentance, confession, and forgiveness. Pippin knows he shouldn't touch that glass ball, and even as he gives in to the temptation and tries to take it while Gandalf is asleep, his conscience is warning him not to. Gandalf later reprimands him for not listening to his conscience, saying, "You knew you were behaving wrongly and foolishly; and you told yourself so, though you did not listen" (p. 584). Pippin picks it up and thinks it's not really the palantir, but just a bundle of Gandalf's effects or something, and feels "a strange sense of relief" (p. 577). And yet, he gives in to that temptation still more, unwrapping it and then covering it again and sneaking away to hide his sin, not letting anyone see him.

But like all sin, what at first seemed attractive, fun, even harmless has dangerous effects. Pippin not only hurts himself, but puts all his companions and friends in potential danger. And once he realizes how he has transgressed, Pippin cries out, "Gandalf! Forgive me!" He knows he has erred, is sorry he's done so, and wants to be assured he will not be cast away as a result.

Before Gandalf grants him forgiveness, he first demands that Pippin confesses what he has done so Pippin will recognize its harmfulness and ask his help to never do that again.

Only once Pippin has realizes the seriousness of what he has done does Gandalf say, "I forgive you. Be comforted!" (p. 580). He tenderly carries Pippin to his bed and tells him that if he ever feels tempted to touch the Palantir again, to ask Gandalf for help in overcoming the temptation. If only Pippin had done that in the first place, he would have been saved much grief and pain.


Favorite Lines:

"All Wizards should have a hobbit or two in their care -- to teach them the meaning of the word, and to correct them" (p. 574).

"Perilous to us all are the devices of an art deeper than we possess ourselves" (p. 583).

Discussion Questions:

Compare Pippin's temptation, fall, and repentance to Boromir's. Do you find one of them more poignant or effective than the other? (DO NOT take into account the fact that Boromir is my favorite character -- I really want to know what YOU think here.)

Why do you think Tolkien included two representations of this temptation-sin-repentance-forgiveness cycle instead of just one?

YAY! We finished book three! We are roughly half done -- a little more than, by pages. We'll be focusing on what Frodo and Sam have been up to for all of Book Four.


  1. One of these days I'll get caught back up with you!

    I think Boromir's repentance is the more poignant of the two. (Come on, he dies; it's hard to not feel some sort of emotion at the change in heart he has in his final moments). However, I think Pippin's is the more instructive; it's a daily picture of what our lives should be like--repentance and living with the consequences, but also being forgiven and still loved and cherished.

    Continuing on the idea of consequences, I think it's important to note that though he's forgiven, Pippin must still face the fact that, due to his foolishness, Sauron now knows where he is. He'll have to face many ordeals in Minas Tirith and on the road there. Being forgiven doesn't magically erase the consequences of his actions; something we tend to forget (or at least I do). Natural consequences don't negate the forgiveness we've received.

    1. RM, you're chugging right along! I'm sure you'll catch up before long :-)

      I like that, the difference between poignant and instructive. Very, very cool.

      And yes! There are consequences for their actions, even though both Boromir and Pippin repent and are forgiven. Boromir dies knowing that he failed to protect the hobbits. Pippin goes into grave danger and ends up near death.


What do you think?

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