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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Corrupted palantirs, an insight into Sauron's powers and methods?


Jan 29 2013, 1:05pm

Views: 1277
Corrupted palantirs, an insight into Sauron's powers and methods? [In reply to] Can't Post

Quite right, Elizabeth, the palantirs aren't evil as such (unlike the Ring).

But there is nothing that Sauron cannot turn to evil uses. Alas for Saruman! It was his downfall, as I now perceive. Perilous to us all are the devices of an art deeper than we possess ourselves. Yet he must bear the blame. Fool! to keep it secret, for his own profit.

[Gandalf, discussing the palantiri with Pippin while en route to Gondor]

Sauron certainly seems to have corrupted (or bewitched? hacked?) Saruman's stone, and perhaps that gives us some insights into Sauron's powers.

Sauron has done something to Saruman's palantir, perhaps a bit like getting a virus onto a computer. Barad dur has become Saruman's "Home page", and Gandalf also thinks that Saruman is held under some form of compulsion to use the stone. Later in the same conversation with Pippin he says:

Easy it is now to guess how quickly the roving eye of Saruman was trapped and held; and how ever since he has been persuaded from afar, and daunted when persuasion would not serve. ...How long, I wonder, has he been constrained to come often to his glass for inspection and in instruction, and the Orthanc-stone so bent towards Barad-dur that, if any save a will of adamant now looks into it, it will bear his mind and sight swiftly thither? And how it draws one to itself! Have I not felt it? [and so into the quote I used in my initial post...]

So this section can be read that the corrupted palantir emanates some kind of mental influence from Sauron which persuades, daunts, compels and draws. If you accept that reading, it follows that the Ring might work similarly.

Though, of course, this is not completely clear. From Gandalf the White's encounter with Saruman at the siege of Isenguard (the Voice of Saruman chapter), its very clear that wizards at least can throw mental influences at each other from a distance without a palantir being needed. When Saruman tries to terminate the discussion with Gandalf, this happens:

'Good day!' He turned and left the balcony.
'Come back, Saruman!' said Gandalf in a commanding voice. To the amazement of the others, Saruman turned again, and as if dragged against his will, he came slowly back to the iron rail, leaning on it, breathing hard.

That looks like some kind of tele-compulsion to me. So you could argue that Sauron has been operating a similar kind of mind-control to get Saruman to the palantir when required, and the palantir is not involved in that: it remains only a telecommunication device (albeit locked onto Sauron's channel). Or that the palantir only helps Sauron to do this, so that he can get at Saruman, better than at Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel etc.

And again, you could insist that it is really only Saruman's subconcious that persuades, daunts, compels and draws, or even that it is pure psychology that makes him return to Gandalf with a considerable internal struggle. But I don't read it that way.

However, it's probably of note that Pippin is compelled and drawn to the palantir, even though he is not Sauron's original target, has no idea what the palantir is, and there is no evidence that Sauron is aware of him (until the looks in the palantir). Moreover, when Pippin does look in the palantir, Sauron initially mistakes him for Saruman, and then misunderstands why Pippin is visible in the palantir. So it doesn't seem likely that there is any specific compulsion being aimed at Pippin. That suggests to me that some kind of general evil force is emanating from the palantir now, and I'm further persuaded of this by Gandalf's initial concern, once he discovers Pippin, that Pippin has sustained some ongoing harm from the experience of handling it, and that it must now be hidden from him in case he feels further compulsions.

So how does this help us with the Ring?
Observation - Sauron is able to persuade, daunt, compel and draw at a distance (most likely, by means of the palantir once he has corrupted it)
Extrapolation - the Ring may also be able to persuade, daunt, compel and draw at a distance

Its not all "red contact lenses", however. Note that Saruman "must bear the blame". It's his pride, arrogance and competitiveness which make him keep the palantir as his own secret weapon, and so leads to his troubles. And some of Saruman's secretive palantir use happened before his stone was infected with Sauron's malware. Once again, we see that if there is an evil force it operates upon or through a person's weaknesses.

Or, is it sometimes the other way around: the victim rationalizes the evil force as being down to his or her weaknesses? - Pippin steals the palantir after a most out-of-character speech about being taken for granted and deserving more information from Gandalf. Hard to say whether this is a grievance he's had for a while (and which the palantir is perhaps now exploiting), or whether an evil compulsion from the palantir comes first, and Pippin is trying to rationalize it later. But I don't recall any other evidence that Pippin feels unappreciated, and so prefer the second idea. Perhaps this justification is a little like Smaegol's idea that he deserved to get the Ring as a birthday present, or Bilbo's lie to the dwarves that he won it.

So the new noWizardme thesis is:
  • Sauron is able to corrupt a palantir so that it emanates an evil force drawing one to use it.
  • The force is not specifically tailored to a given victim: we see this in that it operates on people Sauron is not expecting (Pippin)
  • The attractive force either operates through weaknesses in its victim, or the victim (becoming aware of an uncharacteristic urge) explains it in terms of their weaknesses (being taken for granted, wanting to wrest the device away from Sauron...). Or, sometimes it is one and sometimes the other.
  • Actual use of the palantir can lead to longer-term harm (which Gandalf initially fears for Pippin)
  • But the results of some contact with the palantir are varied. Pippin at least claims that he is free from any wish to use it again, whereas Saruman (probably over a longer period of use) has become a palantir-aholic.
Sounds like the Ring to me, at all points.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....
Feel free to meddle in the affairs of noWizardMe by agreeing or disagreeing (politely...) with my posts! I may not be subtle, but at least I'm usually slow to anger...

Subject User Time
How The Ring tempts noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jan 27 2013, 5:02pm
    Get thee behind me, Ring! CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 28 2013, 12:36am
    Loyal evil Mim Send a private message to Mim Jan 28 2013, 1:54pm
        I like your conclusion CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 28 2013, 4:45pm
        How "intelligent" is the Ring? noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jan 28 2013, 5:07pm
            The power of the ring... elevorn Send a private message to elevorn Jan 28 2013, 6:06pm
                There was only One Ring, but CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 28 2013, 6:50pm
            Not so sure about the Palantir. Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Jan 28 2013, 10:42pm
                Corrupted palantirs, an insight into Sauron's powers and methods? noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jan 29 2013, 1:05pm
                    still not sure about the palantir... telain Send a private message to telain Jan 30 2013, 7:09pm
                        Imbued vs contaminated? CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 30 2013, 9:11pm
                            "When can an object be evil?" May be a promising question noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jan 31 2013, 11:05am
                                Some objects are "evil" in Tolkien's world, but he explains what that means in terms of his story. squire Send a private message to squire Jan 31 2013, 2:37pm
                                    Very interesting answer: thanks! // noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jan 31 2013, 2:40pm
                                    Very well said! // Voronwë_the_Faithful Send a private message to Voronwë_the_Faithful Jan 31 2013, 2:52pm


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