~ 6 June 2023 ~
The weather has turned slightly colder here these past few days. Perfect weather then for curling up on the sofa with a good book and a cuppa…
The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts
This week we will be reading Book 3, Chapter 9: Flotsam and Jetsam.
As Gandalf and Theoden, and the rest of the entourage go off in search of Treebeard, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas remain behind with Merry and Pippin. The five of them together, they share a meal, have a drink and smoke some pipe-weed (from the Southfarthing in the Shire), before they begin to catch-up properly.
Merry and Pippin explain all that had happened since their capture, speaking briefly of what the reader already knows and what Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas deduced along the way. When it comes to where their trail went cold as they entered Fangorn forest, the three hunters learn of how Merry and Pippin met Treebeard, and how they attended a Entmoot, and how all them came to be at Isengard. It is here that we are told how Isengard came to be the state it is currently in.
The Ents had watched Saruman’s army empty out of Isengard as they made their way to attack Rohan. With few guards remaining, the Ents set about breaking into the walled settlement, whilst the Huorns (like Ents, but a little more wild and dangerous), set about destroying any orcs they find. Saruman locks himself inside Orthanc, which withstands everything the Ents throw at it.
The Ents then turn their mind to other matters as Saruman isn’t going anywhere. They dam the Isen and all the other streams in the area. Merry and Pippin are told to wait somewhere safe. Then the dam is removed and the water course diverted into Isengard itself, so the water can wash away all that Saruman has created and put out any fires. Its original course is eventually reinstated.
Gandalf arrives that night, and speaks briefly with Merry and Pippin, and has a mini conference with Treebeard. This is the first time they have met him since Moria. However, Gandalf is in a hurry, and later Treebeard tells them of the approaching battle at Helm’s Deep and that Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are there. After Gandalf leaves, the Huorns also depart.
The last thing they have to share concerns Wormtongue, who arrived at Isengard that morning. On seeing what had befallen the place, he hastily concocted a story about being a messenger sent by the Theoden with an important message for Saruman, a message that was now nullified as Isengard had already fallen. He also attempted to make out that he was the only man brave enough to go on this errand for his master. However, Gandalf had already warned Treebeard that Wormtongue was on his way, so his ruse had failed and he was captured. Treebeard gave him the option of waiting at the gate for Gandalf and King Theoden to arrive, or to go to Saruman in Orthanc. He chose the latter.
Once Merry and Pippin have concluded their tale, Aragorn is a little preoccupied with how pipe-weed from the Southfarthing made it to Isengard. Concerned with what this might mean, he says that although it might only be a small matter, given all that is going on in Middle Earth, he would like to mention it to Gandalf.
As I read this chapter, one of the things that stuck out was the effect the experience Merry and Pippin had at the hands of the orcs had on them. You can hear in what they say that although they might already be recovering from it, aspects of it had such an effect that they don’t feel comfortable talking about them, and so won’t. In the past, I think I had read this chapter so quickly that I only acknowledged their resilience and how quickly they seemed to bounce back to their usual selves.
In the next Tolkien Tuesday post, in two weeks, we will be reading Book 3, Chapter 10: The Voice of Saruman.
Middle Earth Musings and Meditations
Reading this chapter felt like taking a breath and pausing, after all that happened at Helm’s Deep and subsequently, the, at times, uncertain, ride to Isengard.
The interactions between Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas were light and gentle, even though they were discussing some rather big events.
I couldn’t help but smile as Pippin recalled seeing Gandalf outside the walls to Isengard:
‘Did he say: “Hello, Pippin! This is a pleasant surprise!”? No, indeed! He said: “Get up, you tom-fool of a Took! Where, in the name of wonder, in all this ruin is Treebeard? I want him. Quick!”‘
Then there was Treebeard, pulling down some more of Isengard, because, why not?
‘He began to pull down a bit more of the walls, in a leisurely sort of way, just to amuse himself.’
And then, Legolas making a joke with Merry and Pippin, who had set about putting a meal together for the other three, and decided to join them:
‘We must keep our guests company,’ they said.
‘You are full of courtesy this morning,’ Legolas laughed. ‘But maybe, if we had not arrived, you would already have been keeping one another company again.’
I’ve nothing to add here this time round…
The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week
If you were in Wormtongue’s shoes, would you rather wait at the gate for Gandalf and Theoden, or be inside Orthanc with Saruman? Where do you think it’s safest for him to be?
I think if I was Wormtongue, I would not expect to be well-received by Theoden and Gandalf. After all, he was warned that if he should be seen again, he was unlikely to be met with mercy. And, given Saruman’s a powerful wizard, there’s still a chance he can get out of this tight spot. So, I can understand why he chose to go to Saruman. If you’re in self-preservation mode, which he clearly is, I think the odds are more slightly in your favour when you’re standing next to a wizard… That’s of course, if Saruman actually cares what happens to you.
Another point to note is that, if Theoden and Gandalf are given to mercy, it can still be offered to you inside Orthanc. If, on the other hand, they are in a compassionless mood, given all that had happened on the road to the Fords, then at Helm’s Deep, you will be more than a little vulnerable and exposed, waiting for them at the gate.