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The Palantír

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The Palantír is the eleventh chapter of the third book in The Two Towers.


As Gandalf and Théoden retreat from Isengard, the wizard carries Merry with him on Shadowfax, while Aragorn carries Pippin. Merry and Gandalf chat. They ride late into the night and then stop to camp. Pippin asks Merry whether Gandalf seems different now that he has come back from the dead, and Merry replies that the wizard seems both happier and more serious.

Merry is sleepy and tired of Pippin’s questioning, and he soon falls asleep. But Pippin, unable to sleep, is tormented by curiosity about the crystal globe Wormtongue threw out of the tower. Pippin sneaks over to the sleeping Gandalf and snatches the globe. Gazing into it, Pippin is appalled by the sight of a dark flying creature approaching him, and then an image of an evil figure addressing him. He drops the globe and cries out in fear. Gandalf awakens, angered at Pippin, as the globe is a palantír, one of the seven ancient seeing-stones that Sauron has turned to evil uses as devices to communicate with his minions from his tower in Mordor. Pippin’s glimpse into the palantír not only enabled the hobbit to see visions, but allowed Sauron to see Pippin and into the hobbit’s thoughts. Aragorn notes that the palantír explains how Saruman was able to communicate with Sauron, and Gandalf notes that the palantír likely played a large part in the corruption of the formerly good Saruman. Gandalf also says that the sight of Pippin in the globe will confuse the Dark Lord, and that the group can make good use of the delay caused by this confusion. The wizard explains that the winged creature Pippin saw in the globe is one of the Nazgûl, the Ringwraiths who pursued the hobbits earlier in the novel. Gandalf proposes to take Pippin away on Shadowfax and to ride as far as the court of Edoras.