The Two Towers
J. R. R. Tolkien
Contributed by Marinda Dreiling
Chapter 10

Gandalf and his companions enter Orthanc to confront Saruman; Gandalf warns them to beware of the defeated wizard’s voice. Saruman attempts to gain control over those with whom he speaks. The audible sound of his voice is "an enchantment," but also his words are subtle and beguiling, falsehoods wrapped in just enough lies to be potentially persuasive and, therefore, dangerous. He asks Thoden why there cannot be peace between them; he sows doubt and mistrust with his courteous speech. But Thoden resists, telling Saruman that there can be no true peace until the wizard and all his works "have perished." At times during his speech, Saruman betrays his true feelings of anger and even fright; but, repeatedly, he "master[s] himself" to attempt to show himself reasonable and ready for reconciliation. Gandalf, not in the least dissuaded by Saruman’s voice, gives Saruman a chance to leave Orthanc; but Saruman, motivated by hatred and pride, refuses to leave. He rejects the possibility of redeeming himself by offering his services to Gandalf in the war against Mordor. Gandalf magically breaks Saruman’s staff, literally and symbolically breaking Saruman’s power. At that moment, a large, round stone falls from above-Wormtongue has thrown a palantr, a seeing-stone, at Gandalf. Pippin runs after it and picks it up, but Gandalf quickly takes it from him.

Confused and even irritated at the way in which Gandalf took the palantr away from him, Pippin is nursing a desire to look into the dark and mysterious stone. While Gandalf is sleeping, Pippin takes the palantr from the wizard’s arms and gazes into it. As he does, the world around him grows dark, and he falls, having gone rigid. Later, he tells Gandalf what he saw when he looked into the seeing-stone: nine huge, winged creatures blocking out the stars in the sky; and he encountered ("He did not speak so that I could hear words") Sauron himself. He told the Dark Lord he was a hobbit, and Sauron instructed him to tell Saruman, "[T]his dainty is not for him." Gandalf presents the palantr to Aragorn, instructing him not to use it unwisely or too quickly. Aragorn concludes, correctly, that the palantr has provided the link of communication between Isengard and Mordor. The company sees a Nazgl-a Black Rider riding a winged beast. Knowing that Sauron mistakenly thinks Pippin has the Ring, Gandalf seizes the opportunity the Dark Lord’s error presents and leaves with Pippin for Minas Tirith, there to begin organizing a final stand against Sauron.


Saruman is, in this chapter, a master of modern (mis)communication. The danger of his voice is not so much that it is magical as that he uses it to misdirect and to deceive. His words are almost persuasive, however, to those who hear them. Tolkien is clearly criticizing the modern (ab)use of language-much as George Orwell does in 1984. Saruman would no doubt approve of "doublespeak." He knows how to manipulate language to hold out false hopes, a point driven home by the image of the ray of light shining through the "door of escape" by which Saruman stands. Readers need only contrast this single ray of light with the brilliantly overwhelming light at the end of Chapter 7 to know that Saruman is no bearer of true light, of true hope. Readers should note also how Saruman flatly rejects the only real hope offered to him in this chapter: the chance to leave Orthanc and be free. He cannot even imagine true freedom any more, so conquered is he by his lust for power. He imagines himself "free" when he is, in reality, a prisoner-in a prison of his own crafting. As Gandalf notes, "Often does hatred hurt itself!"

Pippin is sorely tempted to look into the palantr, and his rashness in giving into temptation leads to the crisis which concludes this chapter: Gandalf must take him quickly away, to Minas Tirith. As the youngest of the hobbits who began this journey, Pippin still has some maturing to do, as his rash deed illustrates. He is not yet able simply to trust in the wiser and more experienced judgment of others, even, we see, of Gandalf. Note, however, that Gandalf shows some sympathy for Pippin: he understands why the hobbit was curious. As a devout Roman Catholic author, Tolkien may be offering in this chapter an examination of how temptation works and the consequences of yielding to temptation, but also the possibility of forgiveness and restoration after such yielding has occurred. Interestingly, Pippin is not the only "hasty" character in this chapter: Gandalf states that Sauron himself "was too eager," and so failed to question Pippin enough to learn that this hobbit is not the hobbit with the Ring. For hero and villain alike, then, rashness in this chapter leads to negative consequences (although readers, of course, will, along with Gandalf, see Sauron’s negative consequences as a turn of good fortune).

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