The Screw-ups of Peregrin Took


Nerd alert!  If you thought three hours was way too long for part 1 of The Hobbit movie trilogy, this may not be for you.  Ditto if morality tales leave you cold.  But if you thought the best possible result was for the story of The Hobbit to be made even longer, or you are okay with lessons from fairy stories, read on.

Many of the disasters in Lord of the Rings were precipitated by the follies of Pippin.  He is the one, when the four hobbits were supposed to be keeping a low profile, telling stories of Bilbo’s farewell party to the patrons of the Prancing Pony at Bree, bringing the name of Baggins to the fore and leading to Frodo’s performance which culminates in his use of the Ring – all of which contributed to the attack on the inn by the Black Riders .

Pippin causes more trouble when he idly drops a stone down the well in the guard room in Moria, thus arguably (though never expressly) prodding the Balrog into its disastrous appearance at the bridge of Khazad-dum.  At least that’s the way I’ve always interpreted it.

Then Pippin kicks off another bout of chaos with his covert inspection of Saruman’s palantir after Wormtongue hoicks it at them off the Tower, thus alerting the Dark Lord to things it may have been better he didn’t know of.

Yes, Pippin certainly wreaked some havoc:  causing Gandalf’s fall into shadow, stirring things up in Barad-dur, probably contributing to Boromir’s death. But there were some important downstream consequences, like Gandalf’s transformation into a white wizard, for example, and the distraction of Sauron’s attention away from Frodo and Sam at a critical time.

Without descending into too thinly stretched an allegory, there’s a pattern there which I in particular know I have fallen into:

  1. We screw up significantly, despite having no malice aforethought but perhaps just a little too much reckless indifference
  2. Shit consequentially happens, and we and other people are often hurt as a result
  3. Events which might not otherwise have happened then transpire
  4. Good things happen, sometimes even (though sadly not always) with beneficial outcomes for those who may have suffered in 2. above.

I am too often tempted to stop the self-examination at step 2.  If you do something similar, taking a longer view may give us a more positive and less damning view of our personal histories.

So maybe we don’t have to beat ourselves up quite so comprehensively when we screw up – something good might just follow.  In the end, even Peregrin Took and his mate Meriadoc, whom he had sorely tried along the way, were able in the end to “cut a fine dash in the Shire with their songs and their tales and their finery, [but] were unchanged otherwise, unless they were indeed more fairspoken and more jovial and full of merriment than ever before.”

And there endeth the lesson.

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