29 November 2015

The biter bit -- Gandalf and Sauron Share a Perspective

© Jeff Murray

As Merry tells his comrades of the storming of Isengard by the Ents, he doubts the accuracy of Saruman's previous repute, 'wonder[ing] if his fame was not all along mainly due to his cleverness in settling at Isengard.' 
'No,' said Aragorn. 'Once he was as great as his fame made him. His knowledge was deep, his thought was subtle, and his hands marvellously skilled; and he had a power over the minds of others. The wise he could persuade, and the smaller folk he could daunt. That power he certainly still keeps. There are not many in Middle-earth that I should say were safe, if they were left alone to talk with him, even now when he has suffered a defeat. Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel, perhaps, now that his wickedness has been laid bare, but very few others.' 
(TT 3.ix.567, emphasis mine)
Later, after Pippin has looked into that same palantír and encountered Sauron, Gandalf says: 
'Easy it is now to guess how quickly the roving eye of Saruman was trapped and held; and how ever since he has been persuaded from afar, and daunted when persuasion would not serve. The biter bit, the hawk under the eagle's foot, the spider in a steel web! How long, I wonder, has he been constrained to come often to his glass for inspection and instruction, and the Orthanc-stone so bent towards Barad-dur that, if any save a will of adamant now looks into it, it will bear his mind and sight swiftly thither.... 
'I wish I had known all this before,' said Pippin. 'I had no notion of what I was doing.'
'Oh yes, you had,' said Gandalf. 'You knew you were behaving wrongly and foolishly; and you told yourself so, though you did not listen. 
(TT 3.xi.598, emphasis mine)
Pippin's experience with the palantír re-enacts for us, on a smaller scale, that of Saruman himself, who thus became the fool (TT 3.viii.583) that Gandalf often considered Pippin to be (FR 2.iii.272, iv.306-07, 313; TT 3.ix.570, xi.593-94, 598; RK 5.i.754). To Sauron he is now one of 'the smaller folk' whom he 'could daunt.'


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