Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Pippin and Gandalf

Something that's always bothered me about Gandalf was how he treats poor Pippin.  It seems like he is often very angry with our young Hobbit, and I--as a person who is extremely sensitive to others' feelings--have always been hurt by Gandalf's chastising.  My mom, because she is a parent, I suppose, probably understands Gandalf's motives better: tough love.  We know that Gandalf is a good character and that he cares for the Hobbits in general.  The question is: is his harsh treatment of Pippin wholly benevolent, or is it a side of Gandalf that is less than perfect?

The examples are found in both the books and the movies:
"Knock your head against these doors, Peregrin Took! And if that does not shatter them, and I [Gandalf] am allowed a little peace from foolish questions, I will try to find the opening words." (The Fellowship of the Ring 2001)
This is just one of the many outbursts Gandalf has.  He also famously calls Pip a "fool of a Took" several times, rolls his eyes, and several other minor things that, when added up, seem almost hostile.


I have historically been on Pippin's side.  I feel very bad for him when Gandalf is angry with him.  As a powerful and respected figure, it must hurt to be insulted by Gandalf, and I wouldn't wish that upon anyone.  But I never could fully say that Gandalf was "mean" to him because Gandalf was always painted as a perfect character with no errors.  After I read The Silmarillion and found out that he was actually an angelic character--a Maia--I became even more convinced that he could do no wrong and must have had some reason for berating Pippin.

My mom has always suggested that he is exhibiting tough love like a parent would do to their child.  Considering this, I found a few examples where Gandalf does support a few things Pippin does, apparently approving of Pip's good behavior.

Gandalf claps after Pippin and Merry's dance in Edoras, apparently approving of their happiness and congratulating them.

Gandalf comforts Pippin and cares for him while they are in Gondor.  He even trusts him to light the Beacons (in the movie).

He is surprisingly caring about Pippin when the Hobbit looks into the Palantir.  He apprehends him harshly--in this case, completely appropriate--but understands that Pip has just gone through a traumatic experience and tries to keep him calm.  

Overall, I think it has become clear to me in time that while Gandalf can come across as harsh and stern, he is well-meaning deep down and truly cares about all the Hobbits.  He has been put into a stressful situation with remarkably high stakes and will not allow a Hobbit to mess things up.  As Pippin matures throughout the story, Gandalf gains more respect for him and ultimately comes to trust him as a comrade.  

Gandalf was integral in shaping Pippin's character and without his tough love, Pippin could have ended up a lot worse.

What are your thoughts on the Pippin/Gandalf relationship?  Do you think Gandalf went a bit too far?

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  1. I think Gandalf always meant well, and was indeed fond of Pippin; I just think he has very little patience for fools, and there's no denying that Pippin often behaved very foolishly.
    Sauron proves that the Maia are not perfect by any means, so I think that sometimes Gandalf made mistakes that he most likely regretted. As weary as he was in the world, he probably spoke more harshly than he would have liked. Also, his slight sense of superiority may have added to his impatience in that respect.
    But still, his treatment of Pippen did eventually lead to the boy becoming a better person, so I wouldn't say it was harmful.

    1. I think that sounds right on--good way to put it!

  2. Yes, this really bugged me, too. Especially in the movies. I think you're right, that he was trying to help Pippin and, in a way, sober him after his prior carefree lifestyle.

    Actually, what bothered me more was the way Sam treated Gollum. Sam's mistreatment was kinda what lead to Gollum's betraying them to Shelob. Have you ever thought that Sam was too harsh?

    1. Oh, by the way, I couldn't find a comment box on it, but I really love your "About" page!

      Libraries, pizza, LotR, braids, piano, tea, Redwall, Latin, photography, Tolkien, reading, writing, and violin-- YES. :D

      I also enjoy Gregorian Chant on occasion, especially while I'm studying Latin. :)

      And thanks for linking my blog!!

    2. Oh thank you!

      Wow, we have a lot of common :)

      You're welcome!

    3. As for Sam, Tolkien said something about the most tragic part the story being when Sam lashed out at Gollum--that was the moment when Gollum officially turned to the evil side. Sam definitely can be harsh, but I totally understand where he was coming from.

    4. @Meredith: I definitely think that Sam was too harsh with Gollum. I understand his mistrust, but he lacked empathy and understanding for Gollum/Smeagol, and thus his cruel treatment was became the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. :(