“Wake up, Pip.” Merry shook his cousin’s shoulder. He was answered by no response at all.
“Pippin!” Merry said, more harshly this time, “Wake up! Breakfast is ready and we have to get ready to go.”
Still no response. Merry made a sound that gave voice to the word “impatience”. He cared for his cousin very much, but honestly, sometimes he got very tired of always having to look out for him.
“Pippin! Really!” he shook Pippin, hard this time. He was answered by a low, soft moan. “Well are you going to get up and eat, or not? Really, Pip, we don’t have time for this lolling about.”
Pippin dragged himself up. When he tried to swallow, his throat burned and ached as though he had swallowed a red-hot stone. He tried to eat, but the soreness was just too much.
“Pip, are you well?” Merry said, his brows knitted in surprise mixed with concern; his cousin never refused food.
“Just a bit of a cold, Merry.” He replied. He would not complain, he knew he had barely been allowed to go on this mission, or what ever you may call it, and he meant to show everyone it was the right thing to do. He knew how Elrond had felt about the youngest of them. It wasn’t easy, being the youngest. Everyone expected you to be a failure.
Well, he would show them. He knew that making people laugh was actually an easy way to get acceptance, in fact for him, it was very easy, and he had nothing against that, in fact, he liked to make people laugh. It was part of his nature, as much a part of him as the color of his eyes.
But he wanted more. There was a side to him that no one knew, not even Merry, exept, perhaps, Gandalf.
He knew why Gandalf got so angry with him sometimes. It was because he expected better from him than he has thus far shown. He didn’t know if he would ever measure up, but he meant to try. He would have to, his pranks left little impression but what was not good when it came to Gandalf. It would be hard, though. Sometimes he did things without quite thinking them through, simply because he wanted to do these things. Sometimes, he did these things to amuse himself, sometimes to amuse others. Sometimes there was no reason at all.
It was a long day for Pippin. He began to cough. He lagged behind and got scolded. The chill of Caradhras seemed to have crept into the very middle of him and set up housekeeping. The longer the day got, the worse he felt, and still he said not a word.
By the end of the day, he felt positively ghastly. Well, at least they were leaving that terrible coldness behind them. The coldness at his core, however, seemed to have decided it liked the middle of him. He hoped it would be warm in Moria. He refused his evening meal altogether, and, drawing stares of wonderment from his companions, he went to his bedroll and immediately fell into a deep sleep. All was darkness, and voices sometimes crept into his fevered brain.
“Pip, time to get up.” Merry called, and shook his shoulder. He meant not to get angry with his friend this time. Pippin was not himself, something was not right. “Pippin?” Merry felt Pippin’s forehead. It was as hot as a firebrand. “What’s this, then? Gandalf! Strider! Something is wrong with Pippin!”
He watched anxiously as the Wizard and the Ranger stooped before his cousin. Merry remained, kneeling, over his cousin. “Wake up, Pippin, oh, do wake up, please?” Merry was patting Pippin’s shoulder. Pippin lay there like some dead thing; his chest rattling as his labored breathing struggled within his chest. “Pip, you’ve got to be alright, your family will kill me if I let anything happen to you. Wake up, Pip!”
“I’m afraid this is out of your hands, this time, Meriadoc,” Gandalf said gravely.
“His sister Pearl with flay me.” Merry said, dismally. Gandalf looked at him, thinking Merry looked for the entire world as though those had been Pearl’s actual words.
He didn’t know those were Pearl’s exact words. “He better come back in one piece, Merry, or I swear I’ll flay you myself.” Merry swallowed hard. Pearl could have a temper, at times.
“We must get him further down, the air is still far too chill here.” said Aragorn. “Here there are no curative plants to be found. Feverfew we need. Willow bark I already have.”
The Ranger set about making medicines from what little he had in his baggage. Bark from the black cherry he had, and he added this to the willow-bark concoction.
It took all three of them, Merry, Aragorn and Gandalf, to bring Pippin around long enough to have him drink the stuff. His breathing was an awful rasp; the cough sounded as though it would shred his lungs and throat. Aragorn wrapped him in a thick blanket. He carried Pippin himself until they came down from the heights of Caradhras, to country low enough to sustain the medicinals needed.
Around noon, they stopped again. Still the fever raged in him. He was again given the concoction. His eyes would open only slightly, and were glassy. Though the medicine was bitter as gall, he complained not at all. Even a complaint would have been a comfort, yet he made not a sound, but instantly closed his glassy eyes and fell back into that depth that was all too much like one near death. The small chest labored and rattled. It was as though some evil liquid was boiling and bubbling in the hobbit’s chest.
This time it was Boromir’s turn to carry Pippin. Aragorn and Legolas would make wide sweeps along the trail, searching for feverfew. So far none was found. Aragorn cursed himself; he usually did not let his curatives dwindle to such a short supply.
As Boromir hefted the hobbit and they traversed on, Merry trotted alongside of the big Man. Boromir noted the worry on Merry’s face. He understood all too well. Did he not have a younger brother to worry about? He wondered what was going on in Merry’s mind.
And Merry, well, Merry remembered…
Merry remembered how it all began; Pippin and himself. He had been eight years old when his cousin was born, and he didn’t see why the adults would take on so over a little baby when there was a nice young lad such as himself around, who had to be more fun than a helpless little baby. Relatives had come from some ways off to see the addition to the Took family; after all, the little thing was the only son of the Thain. Some day he would be The Took.
Merry was a serious child sometimes. Adults found his precocious nature endearing. Though as able to find mischief as any hobbit lad, there were times when he seemed far older than his years. His sense of fairness and justice belied his young age yet never stopped him from being a typical hobbit boy.
At the time of the gathering, little Peregrin was no more than six months old. Merry didn’t see why he had to be dragged along when there were so many more fun things to do than look at a baby.
The Smials was a bit crowded. Merry was bored. He decided to go exploring. The baby was sleeping, anyway.
He found a door opened just a crack, and decided to go in, seeing a few toys lying about. He crept into the room. It was a pleasant place. The window was open, and the sun was pouring through it like butterscotch.
Then Merry heard a tiny sound. Near the window in a cradle lay the object of all this commotion.
Merry crept closer. As he knelt beside the cradle, there lay a remarkable thing, though he did not then know it. This would be his life-long friend, more brother than cousin.
Merry peeped over the edge of the cradle. He was regarded with a very large and deep green set of eyes, fringed with long, thick lashes. The tiny ears looked like little seashells. Little Perigrin looked at the bigger child and made a small, soft, happy sound.
Merry looked at the tiny feet. He reached in and gently took one in his own small hand. Someday, the soles would be tough as leather…but now…Merry thought they felt much like the tender, newly unfurled petals of spring flowers. The little feet would someday be covered with a thatch of woolly hair, but for now, it felt like the fur of a new kitten.
The baby smiled up at him.
“Well, hullo, there!” Merry said, softly. The little one laughed. Merry decided to pick the baby up. As he lifted the tiny thing, the baby reached out little fingers to explore the child’s face.
The baby smelled just like apples to Merry. And since that’s what he smelled like, Merry decided then and there to call him “Pippin”, meaning “little apple”.
The adults had found him holding the tiny prize, and were amused that Merry, who had been so reluctant to see the baby, now seemed enchanted with the little thing. Merry’s parents asked, “Would you like to have one like that?”
Merry had paused and thought for a bit, then shook his head, “No”.
“No, I don’t think I want one like him, rather. No, I am sure I do not, I don’t want one like this one…I fancy I want this one.”
And so it had begun.
Merry, his tired and fatigued mind, worn with worry over this journey, his cousin, Frodo, good old Sam, the Free Peoples of Middle Earth and now his dearest friend Pippin, wondered to himself, “Did the Fellowship begin then, I wonder? Perhaps for we two.”
We return to the forests again. Our hobbit friend has lost all faith and finds the true meaning of apathy by the end of this chapter. He is taken captive by a band of elves and one human. This chapter suggests that some of his past will be revealed soon.