St. Holbytla’s Monastery

Reading Tolkien in the Light of Faith

Archive for February 2009

Wormtongue, Saruman, and the Serpent in Paradise: Old Liars with Forked Tongues

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Master Wormtongue is the adviser of King Theoden, poisoning his mind and will.  As Theoden said to him later:

If this is bewitchment, it seems to me more wholesome than your whisperings.  Your leechcraft ere long would have had me walking on all fours like a beast. (Two Towers p. 132)

The word “worm” does not mean the earthworm eaten by birds.  Worm means dragon or serpent (Old English “wyrm” and High German “wurm”) (see Wikipedia).  And it is this meaning Gandalf uses:

Down, snake!  …. Down on your belly!  How long is it isince Saruman bought you?  What was the promised price?  When all the men were dead, you were to pick your share of the treasure, and take the woman you desire?  Too long have you watched her under your eyelids and haunted her steps.

(Wormtounge then said, ‘You lied.’)

…. I do not lie.  See, Theoden, here is a snake!  With safety you cannot take it with you, nor can you leave it behind.  To slay it would be just. (Two Towers p. 133)

Theoden offered a choice to Wormtongue to go with him to war to whither he will.  But then if they meet again, Theoden shall not anymore be merciful.  And Wormtongue’s reaction became serpentlike:

Slowly Wormtongue rose.  He looked at them with half-closed eyes.  Lst of all he scanned Theoden’s face and opened his mouth as if to speak.  Then sudenly he drew himself up.  His hands worked.  His eyes glittered.  Such malice was in them that men stepped back from him.  He bared his teeth; and then with a hissing breath he spat before the king’s feet, and darting to one side, he fled down the stair. (Two Towers p. 34)

Wormtongue learned his wormcraft from Saruman.  During their parley with Saruman, Eomer spoke to Theoden:

Lord, hear me! …. Now we feel the peril that we were warned of.  Have we ridden form to victory, only to stand at last amazed by an old liar with honey on his forked tongue…. (Two Towers p. 203)

And Saruman responded

If we speak of poisoned tongues what shall we say of yours, young serpent?

In the Book of Genesis, the Old Liar with a Forked Tongue is the Serpent who tempted Eve:

Did God really tell you not to eat from any trees in the garden?  ….. You certainly will not die!  No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad.  (Gen 3:1-5)

When Adam and Eve committed sin,  God cursed the Serpent:

Because you have done this, you shall be banned from all the animals and from all the wild creatures; On your belly shall you crawl, and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life. (Gen 3:14)

The ancient serpent is Satan  as said in the Book of Revelation:

The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it.  (Rev 12:9)

He is the Father of Lies.  As Jesus said to the Jews:

You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies.  (Jn 8:44)


As a Father You Shall be to Me: Merry to Theoden and Christ’s Sonship

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Merry offered his sword to Theoden King:

Filled suddenly with love for this old man, he knelt on one knee, and took his hand and kissed it.  ‘May I lay the sword of Meriadoc of the Shire on your lap, Theoden King?’ he cried.  ‘Receive my service, if you will!’

‘Gladly will I take it,’ said the king; and laying his long old hands upon the brown hair of the hobbit, he blessed him. ‘Rise now, Meriadoc, esquire of Rohan of the household of Meduseld!’ he said.  ‘Take your sword and bear it unto good fortune!’

As a father you shall be to me,’ said Merry.

For a little while,’ said Theoden. (Return of the King p. 39)

The line ‘As a father you shall be to me,’ recalls the Paul’s argument from the Old Testament that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God:

In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe, who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word. When he had accomplished purification from sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high, as far superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say: “You are my son; this day I have begotten you”? Or again: “I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me”? (Heb 1:1-5)

The last line is part of a promise of God to David, as spoken by Prophet Nathan:

The LORD also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you. And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm. It is he who shall build a house for my name. And I will make his royal throne firm forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. And if he does wrong, I will correct him with the rod of men and with human chastisements; but I will not withdraw my favor from him as I withdrew it from your predecessor Saul, whom I removed from my presence. Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.'” (2 Samuel 7:11-16)

Written by Quirino M. Sugon Jr

February 12, 2009 at 10:55 am

Do not worry about tomorrow: Gandalf to Pippin and Christ on Providence

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Some time after Pippin made his oath of allegiance to Denethor, Gandalf told Pippin that Denethor is unlike any other man:

He is not as other men of this time, Pippin, and whatever be his descent from father to son, by some chance the blood of Westernesse runs nearly true in him; as it does in his other son, Faramir, and yet did not in Boromir whom he loved best.  He has long sight.  He can perceive, if he bends his will thither, much of what is passing in the minds of men, even of those that dwell far off.  It is difficult to deceive him and dangerous to try.

And since Pippin is now under the command of Denethor, Pippin must be wary.  Then Gandalf fell silent and sighed.  And he said to Pippin:

Well, no need to brood on what tomorrow may bring. For one thing, tomorrow will be certain to bring worse than today, for many days to come.  And there is nothing more that I can help it. (Return of the King p. 18)

These words of Gandalf recalls the teachings of Christ regarding trust in Divine Providence:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil. (Mt 6:25-34)

The only difference is that Gandalf does not explicitly mention Providence.

Written by Quirino M. Sugon Jr

February 9, 2009 at 11:16 am

Cut No Living Wood: Fangorn Forest and Deuteronomical Laws on Siege Warfare

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Aragorn warned Gimli not to cut any living wood in the Forest of Fangorn, for it is ‘perilous to to touch the trees of that wood (Two Towers p. 37).  Gandalf also told Gimli the same advice from Galadriel:

To Gimli son of Gloin give his Lady’s greeting.  Lockbearer, wherever you goest my thought goes with thee.  But have a care to lay thine axe to the right tree. (Two Towers p. 112)

The reason for this is that some trees maybe Ents.  As Treebeard (or Fangorn in Elvish) explained to Merry and Pippin:

Some of us are still true Ents, and lively enough in our fashion, but many are growing sleepy, going tree-ish, as you might say.  Most of the trees are just trees, of course; but many are half awake.  Some are quite wide awake, and a few are well, ah, well getting Entish.  That is going on all the time.

When that happens to a tree, you find that some have bad hearts.  Nothing to do with their wood; I do not mean that.  Why, I knew some good old willows down the Entwash, gone long ago, alas!  They were quite hollow, indeed they were falling all to pieces, but as quiet and sweet-spoken as a young leaf.  And then there are some trees in the valleys under the mountains, sound as a bell, and bad right through.  That sort of thing seems to spread.  There used to be some very dangerous parts in this country.  There are still some very black patches. (Two Towers p. 69)

In the the Book of Deuternomy, God also forbids the cutting of fruit bearing trees during siege warfare; only the non-fruit-bearing trees may be cut:

When you are at war with a city and have to lay siege to it for a long time before you capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them. You may eat their fruit, but you must not cut down the trees. After all, are the trees of the field men, that they should be included in your siege? However, those trees which you know are not fruit trees you may destroy, cutting them down to build siege works with which to reduce the city that is resisting you. (Dt 20:19-20)

Written by Quirino M. Sugon Jr

February 5, 2009 at 11:50 pm

Pippin to Denethor and Pepin the Short to Pope Zachary: the Offering of the Sword

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Pepin (French) or Pippin (German) the Short or Pepin the Younger or Pepin III (714 – 24 September 768) was the Mayor of the Palace and Duke of the Franks from 741 and King of the Franks from 751 to 768. He was the father of Charlemagne who was crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 800 AD and the son of Charles Martel who destroyed the Moslem army of Abdul Rahman al Gafiqi (732 AD) in the Battle of Tours (Poitiers).

Pepin the Short asked Pope Zachary: “Is it right that the royal power sit with the person with the title of King, or the person who makes the decisions as King?”  The pope said that such state of affairs is not proper.  So the position of the king was made vacant.  The Franks elected Pepin king and St. Boniface anointed him.

In 754 AD Pope Stephen II asked Pepin’s aid against the Lombard King Aistulf who oppressed Italy.  The pope anointed Pepin “Patricius”, a titled formerly used by the representative of the Byzantine empire (or the Eastern Roman Empire who rightfully claims Italy but failed to protect it against the barbarian invaders).  After Aistulf was defeated, Pepin gave the Papal States (754-1870 AD) to the pope as “Donation of Pepin”, in partial payment of his debt to the popes who supported his quest for the crown.

Pepin the Short’s offering of his sword to the popes recalls Pippin’s offering of his sword to Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, in payment of his debt to Boromir Denethor’s son who died while trying to save him and his friend, Merry:

Then Pippin looked the old man in the eye, for pride stirred strangely within him, still stung by the scorn and suspicion in that cold voice. `Little service, no doubt, will so great a lord of Men think to find in a hobbit, a halfling from the northern Shire; yet such as it is, I will offer it, in payment of my debt.’  Twitching aside his grey cloak, Pippin drew forth his small sword and laid it at Denethor’s feet. (Return of the King p. 13)

After Denethor recognized the sword of the Westernesse that Pippin got from the Norbury of the Kings (Deadman’s Dike), Denethor accepted Pippin’s service.  Denethor laid the sword along his lap, and Pippin put his hand to the hilt, and said slowly after Denethor.  These are the oaths:

‘Here do I swear fealty and service to Gondor, and to the Lord and Steward of the realm, to speak and to be silent to do and to let be, to come and to go, in need or plenty, in peace or war, in living or dying, from this hour henceforth, until my lord release me, or death take me, or the world end.  So say I, Peregrin son of Paladin of the Shire of the Halflings.’

‘And this do I hear, Denethor son of Ecthelion, Lord of Gondor, Steward of the High King, and I will not forget it, nor fail to reward that which is given: fealty with love, valour with honour, oath-breaking with vengeance.’   (Return of the King p. 14)

Later, after the war with Sauron, Pippin, together with Merry, became the de facto Prince of the Halflings, or Ernil i Pheriannath.


1.  Kampers, Franz. “Pepin the Short.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 3 Feb. 2009 <>.

2. “Pepin the Short,” in Wikipedia. 3 Feb. 2009 <>