Thus declares Gandalf when challenged by the guards of the Rammas Echor, the defence that surrounds the fields of the Pelennor, the fertile farm lands that lie before the great city of Minas Tirith. Ingold, their commander, recognises Gandalf who has been to the city many times but who is his small companion? Gandalf replies:
“As for valour, that cannot be computed by stature. He has passed through more battles and perils than you have, Ingold, though you be twice his height; and he comes now from the storming of Isengard, of which we bear tidings, and great weariness is on him, or I would wake him. His name is Peregrin, a very valiant man.”
A few weeks ago we thought about the journey of Samwise Gamgee from simple gardener to mighty warrior. By doing so we did not seek to diminish the calling of gardener. Sam will return to his gardens gladly but he will be a kingly gardener even as Faramir will be a kingly gardener as Prince of Ithilien, the Garden of Gondor. The journey to manhood must pass through hardship, peril and battle. Such a journey will make a boy a warrior and perhaps a lover and a wise teacher too; and if the journey is continued until its ending it will make the man kingly.
Pippin began the journey as a boy. His ambition on its second full day, even after the first encounters with the Ringwraiths, was limited to spending as much time as possible in The Golden Perch at Stock in the East Farthing of the Shire and enjoying its excellent beer. That day lies just a few short months ago in the past and Pippin will never lose the boyishness that will always make him so attractive but since that day he has passed through the attack upon the camp below Weathertop, the fall of Gandalf at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, the time he spent as a prisoner of the orcs of Isengard and then the time with Treebeard and the storming of Isengard. And last and as significant as all of these there is the humiliation that he suffered before the ravenous gaze of Sauron when he looked into the Seeing Stone of Orthanc.
All of these things have transformed Pippin, not by some kind of magical action that happens simply when a person passes through hardship and failure but by the wisdom that is learnt through such experience. Pippin is a little sadder and much wiser through what he has learnt so he declares:
“I am a hobbit and no more valiant than I am a man, save perhaps now and again by necessity.”
Ingold immediately recognises that these are words spoken by a true warrior one who has truly learnt the lessons of hardship. A boy would try to convince others of his courage by boastfulness. Pippin is no longer a boy.
The words that Gandalf spoke were not just intended for Ingold and his men but for Pippin also. Gandalf knows that whatever lies ahead Pippin will need great courage. In calling Pippin a man he calls him to manly deeds and bearing. Pippin may make light of all that he has been through. He is more aware of what he owes to the courage of Boromir and his humiliation with the Palantir than he is of any deed he may have performed but his back is a little straighter and he stands a little taller because of Gandalf’s words. Perhaps we should say especially because they are Gandalf’s words. Pippin will remember Gandalf’s angry rebukes. A boy usually needs the blessing, the approval of a wise father in order to become a true man. “You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Pippin has received a father’s blessing. He is Peregrin, a very valiant man.
5 thoughts on “His Name is Peregrin, a Very Valiant Man.”
I love the clear depiction in the quote you pull – “I am a hobbit and no more valiant than I am a man, save perhaps now and again by necessity.” – of how humility is truly a form of confidence and self-possession. Wonderful post, as ever.
Pippin does stand against Nietzsche here (the slave religion) and certain contemporary followers of Nietzsche (a certain presidential candidate comes to mind here!) True humility needs to reclaim this confidence and self-possession.
Hi Rev. Winter, I am enjoying your insightful posts as you journey through Middle-earth, and we are glad to follow you. Love what you have said about Frodo and Sam and Gollum and Faramir especially, and also what you say here about Pippin growing up. You started out saying you had given up the idea of writing a book on LOTR but could do blog posts. I submit to you that you are in the process right now of writing a wonderful book – these posts that you should publish as a book. I would definitely buy it and so would your other followers. Go for it!
Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie 🙂
Many thanks for your kind comment, Anne Marie. I do find the conversation that a blog encourages very energising. I started writing this back in 2012 originally posting on a website I created for my work. When I look back at those early posts I realise that my relationship with Tolkien’s tale has deepened. I am working on those now. Many thanks for your encouragement to keep going.
Ach, my heart. The constant theme of the greatness of the small and the significance of the “insignificant” in Tolkien’s work never, ever fails to pierce right through me. Perhaps because the world is always clamoring the opposite ideas, and I always need reminders of the truth. Or perhaps it is simply a poignant theme no matter the environment.
I love the comparison of Gandalf’s rebukes with his exhortation and approval. Wow.