The Second Element
The Kindling of a Fiery Spirit
Merry had come to enjoy sitting quietly with Pippin as he watched his cousin scrape and scrape at the wood with a touch deft and
delicate. Oddly, he had never really noticed his cousin’s hands all that much. Watching Pippin sculpting the wood had given Merry
a greater appreciation of the delicacy of Pippin’s fingers, and at times he marveled that Pippin could wield a blade or pluck a
bowstring with all the sureness of a greatly seasoned trooper. Pippin had begun learning to play fiddle and harp when he was little
more than a faunt, and later had taken up the goatskin drums favored by the Tooks in their upland dances. Merry hadn’t noticed
how delicate Pippin’s hands were then. He had been young, after all, and was usually more concerned with getting Pippin to go
bird-nesting or fishing.
Watching Pippin’s clever hands now, Merry thought it almost a shame that such hands ever had to do anything besides make
beautiful things spring from wood, or beautiful sounds spring from harp or fiddle or drum. But they had, those hands. Those clever
fingers took to the hilt of a sword as if the blade had been made for Pippin alone. As Pippin carved the piece he now worked on,
Merry lifted from the wooden box, still undecorated with the White Tree at this time, the little figure of Boromir, admiring it for the
sheer beauty of the artwork itself as much as for the resemblance to their friend. The detail of the carving never failed to fascinate
Merry. How had Pippin ever managed such fine detail? Touching the carven sword at the figurine’s side, Merry smiled fondly.
How Boromir had delighted in having a pair of pupils! And how Merry and Pippin had taken to the man, most especially the
youngest of the Fellowship. No denying it, a close friendship had bound the three of them, but the bond between Pippin and Boromir had been special. Merry supposed it began when they first had met, and Pippin had been so impressed with Boromir’s kindly and noble nature. Later, Merry would learn of Boromir’s love for his younger brother, and he understood better why Boromir had taken such a liking to the youngest hobbit.
Looking at the face of the little wooden figure now, Merry was yet again taken by the detail. Small though the face was, the most
amazing details had been lovingly set there. Why, good old Boromir looked like he might actually smile at him for a moment. Yes,
he and Pippin had learned so much from this man… but had Boromir taken away any lessons from them in return?
“I was just thinking,” Merry said, “Do you think Boromir learned much from us? We certainly learned a great deal from him. What
do you think, Pippin? Pippin? Pippin, are you…”
At his cousin’s silence, Merry glanced in Pippin’s direction, thinking that perhaps Pippin had dosed off. But no, he was still
carving. Only, there was something odd about Pippin’s eyes, as if he were seeing not his handiwork, but something else altogether.
There was something funny about Pippin’s eyes. They looked glassy, as if Pippin was in a half-drowse. Merry reached out and
touched Pippin’s elbow.
“Pippin? Are you all right?” Merry said, worry plain in his voice.
Pippin shook his head and seemed to come back from wherever it was he had been. He did not answer, but only looked at the
figurine he held. “Look, Merry!” he smiled, “It’s Gandalf!”
Merry edged closer to his kinsman to have a better look. “So it is,” he said. “Tell me, do you know who it will be when you begin
“Not really. I just carve, and whoever it will be just shows up, so to speak. It was the same with the other one. Did I not show it to
you? Look inside that bit of cloth, there in the box.”
Merry lifted the item from the box and unwrapped it. “Why, it’s cousin Frodo! Why, Pippin, it is lovely! Just look at that, you even
carved his hand with the finger missing, and I just love the look on his face. How do you do it, how do you get in such perfect
details, when they are so small?”
“I don’t know,” Pippin said with a shrug. “It seems to happen on its own.”
“Oh, I forgot,” Merry said. “I was just going to ask you a question, about Boromir. Do you think he learned very much from us?
After all, we learned a great deal from him.”
Pippin put down his carving for a moment and smiled at Merry. “I should not be surprised if he learned a great deal from us,
Merry. I am certain of it, in fact.”
“What do you suppose he learned?
“Well, do you remember all the questions he used to ask us, about hobbits and the Shire and such?”
“I do, of course——he asked so many. He asked questions I just never thought of as being something particular about hobbits.
You know——questions about our birthday customs, our calendar, our holidays and customs.” Merry scratched his head in thought.
“But I cannot imagine how that could be considered as anything special, only the differences between our people.”
“Well, that is just the thing I am talking about, Merry,” said Pippin with a little smile. “All his life, Gondor was the world to him.
When he came to Rivendell with that riddle, he began to see how the world is so much bigger, and how all the people on it are
different. Before that, he only knew about Mannish things, and even then, it could not have been so very much. He only knew
how things were as they pertained to his people. He was like an eagle, caged in a great stone mew. His responsibilities were his
tethers, you see, and his duties were like a hood that covered his eyes. When he went on his journey, he flew truly free for the
first time, and saw much more than he ever had done.”
“Well, I see what you mean,” Merry nodded, “but I was wondering what he might have learned from us, in particular.”
“Oh, that there are other things to love besides what might be found in Gondor or her neighboring countries,” Pippin said. “He
learned, too, that he had worth to us as more than a soldier and traveling companion. He learned that there are many kinds of
brotherhood. I could see it in his eyes, sometimes. It was as if a door had opened for him, and he could see things outside of the
doorway which he had not truly seen before. Gandalf said it best: that it was a good thing you and I went along, if only for
“I’m not sure I understand what you mean,” Merry said, leaning forward in his chair, the way he always did when listening carefully.
“Well, I think,” Pippin said, a dreamy look in his eyes, “I think that Gandalf meant that Boromir was able to save himself from the
Ring because of us. I cannot think what else he might have meant.”
“Are you saying that had it not been for his affection for us, he may have followed Frodo’s footprints, and perhaps…”
“He could have done just that, you know,” Pippin said, and a little sadness settled on his face. “I’m sure he hunted enough to be
able to track most anything. Besides, he was also a hunter of Men. I think that once the madness had passed, he knew what he had
done. Do you remember when he returned? Do you recall the look on his face? He was so ashamed of himself. He loved us all, I am
quite sure of it. Otherwise, he might have followed Frodo and… Or perhaps even just left, and just gone back home and given
Denethor any tale he wished to dream up. But he did not do any of those things. He came back, all sick at heart. And when the orcs
came, he might have chosen not to sacrifice himself, so that he could return to Minas Tirith and fight. Only, he chose differently.
He chose us, Merry. He chose us.”
“I see,” Merry nodded. “When you put it like that, I see that he must have thought us worth dying for. He would not have done
so if he had not… had not loved us so. Thinking of it like that, I do not know when I have felt so proud, and so humble all at once.”
“He was one of the reasons I did some of the things I did, you know,” Pippin said. “Oh, I was loyal to Frodo, and to our cause.
But I might have been content to take it no further, you see. Just to be loyal, without truly doing anything about it. Much like a
person who is kind-hearted, but never truly does anything about it, if you take my meaning. You see, he taught me the worth of
sacrifice, Merry. He taught me that when you are willing to lose everything, even your life, for a person or for the sake of good, it
lends a kind of weight and worth to the person or reason you are fighting for. Sacrifice makes what you are fighting for even more
important, for you are fighting for love. He and Faramir, they kindled something in me. I did not wish to fight——I never did. But if you have enough love in your heart, you can do things you might never have done. Sometimes, Merry, love is like a fire that burns you but doesn’t consume you, if you understand what I am saying.”
“I do, cousin, I do,” Merry said, and his heart swelled with pride in his younger kinsman. “And how brightly you burn, sometimes,
Peregrin Took. How very brightly you do burn.”