“You Seem to Have Been Doing Well, Master Took.” Merry and Pippin Escape From The Orcs Into Fangorn Forest.

The Two Towers by J.R.R Tolkien (Harper Collins 1991,2007) pp. 591-599

The Orcs have taken Merry and Pippin close to the eaves of Fangorn Forest on their way towards Isengard but there they are halted by Éomer’s company who swiftly surround them with a ring of watch fires in the night. Neither side make any move until a small group of the Riders come in close, slip off their horses and kill several orcs before disappearing into the night. Uglúk and the orcs who had been guarding the hobbits dash off to stop a general stampede and the hobbits are left with Grishnákh, a terrible orc from Mordor.

Inger Edelfelt depicts the cruel captivity of Merry and Pippin.

It soon becomes clear that Grishnákh has been sent from Mordor with orders to bring hobbits back to Barad-dur and it even seems that he knows something about the Ring. Pippin becomes aware of this first and begins to make noises that imitate Gollum. We can only assume that he knows about Gollum’s mannerisms from stories that Bilbo would have told as he has never met him but the noises have their effect. Grishnákh is almost overcome with desire and picks up the hobbits, one under each arm, and tries to escape between the fires.

He does not succeed. He is killed by the Riders who miss the hobbits in the dark and so Merry and Pippin are able to make their escape.

Later there is a charming scene in which Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli succeed in tracking the route that Merry and Pippin take from the orc encampment into the Forest of Fangorn. Legolas tries to make sense of the hobbits’ escape.

Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli try to make some sense out of the chaos of battle.

“A bound prisoner escapes both from the Orcs and from the surrounding horsemen. He then stops while still in the open, and cuts his bonds with an orc-knife. But how and why? For if his legs were tied, how did he walk? And if his arms were tied, how did he use the knife? And if neither were tied, why did he cut the cords at all? Being pleased with his skill, he then sat down and quietly ate some waybread! That is enough to show that he was a hobbit, without the mallorn-leaf. After that, I suppose, he turned his arms into wings and flew away singing into the trees. It should be easy to find him: we only need wings ourselves.”

The answer to the question about the knife is that earlier in the forced march across the plains of Rohan there had been a bloody argument amongst the hobbits’ captors about what to do with their prisoners. In the brief moment of chaos that followed the fight before Uglúk was able to restore control Pippin was able to cut the cords that bound him using the knife of one of the orcs that had been killed. He quickly retied them loosely before his captors were able to find out what he had done and so it was that after Grishnákh was killed he was able to use his freed hands to use Grishnákh’s sword to cut the other bonds and so he and Merry were able to make their escape. Merry is impressed by his friend’s inventiveness, hence his remark that Pippin has done “rather well”.

But before they complete their escape Pippin takes a mallorn leaf filled with wafers of lembas, removes some of them from the leaf and shares them with Merry. And soon the taste of lembas brings back to the hobbits “the memory of fair faces, and laughter, and wholesome food in quiet days now far away.”

Tolkien drew upon his belief in the efficacy of the eucharist in his creation of lembas. He outlined that belief in a letter he wrote to his son, Christopher.

“Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament… There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth.”

Tolkien went on to tell his son that the more frequently he received the sacrament the more he would be nourished by it and when Frodo and Sam find that they have nothing else to eat in their journey through Mordor than lembas Tolkien remarks that they were more sustained by it than if they had mixed it with other forms of food. Merry and Pippin find new strength and cheerfulness after the trauma of their cruel treatment at the hands of their captors and so continue their journey into Fangorn.

Tolkien drew upon his experience of the blessed sacrament in his creation of lembas.

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