Pippin sits with the brave and kind, Beregond, at an embrasure in the walls of the citadel while they break their fast together. Pippin speaks a little of his journeys but more than this he wishes to hear of the story of Minas Tirith. And so he learns of the brief moment of hope when the young Denethor retook the ancient city of Osgiliath, but how the Nazgûl came and robbed them of whatever hope they might have had.
So Beregond turns to Pippin and asks him, “And, Master Peregrin, do you see any hope that we shall stand? ”
Where does hope come from? Pippin looks about him at the walls of the city and the citadel, “The towers and brave banners, and the sun in the high sky.” The towers and banners are symbols of the proud history of Gondor standing ever in the vanguard against the darkness, reminding all who stand beneath them of the day when the armies of Elendil and Isildur and the last great alliance overthrew Sauron before his gates. And the sun in the sky is a reminder of that which lasts beyond the lives of even the longest lived in Middle-earth. But nearer still is the shadow that creeps towards them. Pippin looks “at the gathering gloom in the East,” and thinks of the “the orcs in the woods and the mountains, the treason of Isengard, the birds of evil eye, and the Black Riders even in the lanes of the Shire- and of the winged terror, the Nazgûl.” All of these he has experienced personally and no shutting of the eyes or of any gate, however mighty, can make that experience go away or make it less real. The powers of darkness are real and Pippin knows that only too well. Denethor knows that too and here we receive a hint of how he has sought to confront them. Beregond tells Pippin of Denethor’s sitting alone in his high chamber bending “his thought this way and that” searching “even the mind of the Enemy, wrestling with him.”
Later we will learn that Denethor has learned to use one of the Palantir, the seeing stones of Númenor, even as Saruman did. Unlike Saruman the vision of the growing darkness does not lead him to treachery but it did lead him to despair.
And here we see the contrast to Gandalf as we thought about last week. It is not the long intense gaze into the dark that leads to treachery or despair. Gandalf too has wrestled with the dark and so too has Galadriel. They have no illusions about its might. But along with the gaze into the dark has come also a deep and long contemplation of the good, the beautiful and the true. On their journey to Minas Tirith Gandalf told Pippin of how he longed to gaze into the mind of the greatest of artists, Fëanor the maker of the Silmarils, but unlike Fëanor he does not desire their possession. To possess adds nothing to who he is. He wishes to commune only with the beauty of Fëanor’s creation and with the maker himself. Such contemplation and such communion lead to an enlivening and as we saw when we thought of Gandalf’s laughter last week, to an abiding joy.
In the New Testament it is the writer to the Hebrews who puts this best of all. He speaks to his fearful readers first of the great heroes of their faith as a source of courage and then speaks of Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame”. It is the contemplation of the joy that sustained Jesus and the writer to the Hebrews calls upon his readers to learn to look through Jesus’ eyes. Pippin may not yet be able to see the same joy that Gandalf can but he can see Gandalf and for now that is enough. We must do whatever we can to make the same connection. We might start with inspiring people around us and learn what sustains them.
8 thoughts on “Master Peregrin, Do you see any hope that we shall stand?”
I love Pippin’s response to Beregond. He does not let the horror of his experiences define and destroy him. He sees the present and it’s sunny and Gandalf is with him and it gives him strength to hope for the future. Denethor stares into a feared future of darkness. Pippin has learned much from Gandalf and we can learn much from them both. At the Black Gate, the tween says he understands Denethor’s despair but like Aragorn, Eomer and Faramir, they stare despair in the face and do not flinch or collapse under its weight. Let us emulate them when the darkness presses too close.
Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie 🙂
Many thanks for this great comment. I agree with everything that you say here. How Pippin grows after the incident with the Stone, although, of course, the foundations were already laid. Gandalf may have had harsh words for him but I think his opinion is already growing by the time they reach Minas Tirith, hence his description of Pippin as a valiant man. And how wonderful that he can feel for Denethor. That takes real maturity.
And without knowing it, Pippin himself has spent a long time contemplating simple goodness in the Shire. I think that is part of the secret of Hobbit strength and resilience. They’re grounded in that rich soil and so have a different perspective on what is at stake, and the fact that evil has not yet won.
I also think it’s interesting, and important, that Gandalf studied with Nienna, the Lady of Mercy, and that from her he learned pity. You have to love to experience pity.
I agree with you entirely about this. Pippin did put his growing up in the Shire to good use. I love the conversation with Merry after the battle when they speak of learning to love what you know. What wonderful spiritual counsel to any young person. Of course the hobbits of the Shire seem to have been ill prepared to resist Lotho Pimple’s take over. A warning to us all!
I only came across the reference to Gandalf and Lady Nienna the other day for the first time. It’s wonderful isn’t it? Saruman learns contempt for ordinary folk. Gandalf learns pity. What a contrast and what a challenge! He must have thought long about her through the long years of waiting and wandering. His words about the pity of Bilbo, spoken to Frodo, were born of that long contemplation. Thank you for reminding me of them.
This is true. Tolkien doesn’t shy from the potential weaknesses in Shire folk. Ever nuanced!
I love that he is “Gandalf the Gray,” as her color is gray. It’s as if he’s wearing the heraldry of his teacher, a symbol for how he comes at the world. XD
So grey is the colour of mercy and pity. It suggests that the one who weeps for us shares in our sadness. Another thing that strikes me in what you say is that in the relationship between Gandalf and Lady Nienna the masculine learns profoundly from the feminine and yet is truly masculine.
I sometimes thing grey was Tolkien’s favorite color. It certainly has a lot of meaning/symbolism for him, as he uses it A LOT, usually in beautiful and wistful ways.
I will be looking out for all the references to grey in his work from now on. Thank you!