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This scene has always bothered me, but I've never seen an attempt to explain it. In The Return of the King, when Gandalf rides out of Minas Tirith to save Faramir and his company from the Nazgul, he takes Pippin along with him.

I've never seen an explanation for this decision of Gandalf to take Pippin on this dangerous mission where he could only be a hindrance. In the books of course, this plays out very differently as Pippin is on duty with Beregond at the time.

Is there a story behind this? Was this scene originally supposed to occur as Gandalf and Pippin were arriving at Minas Tirith for the first time?

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You've hit the nail right on the head. According to Peter Jackson (in the film's commentary track), Pippin and Gandalf were originally going to have been just arriving at the city when they would have espied the riders returning. They would then have wheeled around and rode out to save them. Pippin, naturally would not have had time to dismount which is why he was on the horse with Gandalf.

Peter Jackson: So, this was a sequence where we had a little bit of trouble because we've put it in a completely to how it was shot, if you remember how Gandalf and Pippin arrive at Minas Tirith for the very first time and they get to the brow of the hill and stop and they look at the city.

What was going to happen was that they were going to see this retreat and they were going to intervene before they'd even gone into the city. We've now put the sequence in much later and had Gandalf leaving from the gates of the City itself.

Since those scenes had already been plotted, when the decision was made to have Gandalf arrive at the city and chat for a bit before riding out, it required him to collect Pippin again before he left, despite that not making a lot of sense in-universe.

  • Aha, thank you! I suspected it was something like this but never found the time to watch the commentary through. So I suppose the first set of Denethor-Gandalf interactions before this scene must have originally been scripted very differently, as it would have to work Faramir in as well. – Mark Peters Dec 15 '15 at 21:01
  • @MarkPeters - From what I can tell, that entire section was inserted largely to bulk out the film. There's certainly no special (plot) reason from Gandalf to have had more interaction with the leaders of the city. – user7812 Dec 15 '15 at 21:23
  • It can make some sense in-universe. Gandalf rides out specifically because Denethor refuses to. Gandalf may simply be protecting Pippin by taking him instead of leaving him with Denethor. If Denethor condemns his own son to die, what's stopping him from sacrificing Pippin at some point? – Flater Feb 21 '18 at 10:25
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In-Universe, there may have been any number of reasons why Gandalf took Pippin along with him to help the Gondorians.

Pippin had scarcely left Gandalf's side since they had arrived at Minas Tirith. Pippin had never been to a city of such size, the largest place he had been to was Edoras, which dwarfed in comparison. Maybe he didn't want to be left alone in such a big confusing place that he had only arrived at days earlier.

Likewise, perhaps Gandalf didn't want to leave him in such a place. Pippin was notoriously inquisitive and constantly getting himself into trouble (such as in the Mines of Moria, causing the Fellowship to get attacked when he knocked the skeleton into the well, or taking the Palantir and accidentally speaking to Sauron). It's possible that Gandalf didn't trust him to keep himself out of trouble whilst he was gone, thus thought keeping him close by would have been safer for him.

It's possible that Gandalf and Pippin were already on the way somewhere on the back of Shadowfax when they became aware of the soldiers fleeing Osgiliath, and he didn't want to waste anymore time getting Pippin off of the horse before going to the aid of Faramir & co.

Out of universe, it was so that Faramir could catch sight of Pippin for the first time in the presence of Gandalf, causing him to see the recognition in his eyes and coming to the conclusion that Faramir and Frodo had crossed paths at some point.

I can't remember how this interaction is approached in the books, but with the time constraints of the movies, I'm assuming that Gandalf learning the fate of Frodo needed to happen rather quickly, as it is in the following scene where Denethor is chastising Faramir for letting Frodo and the Ring go whilst Gandalf is present.

This scene would have made less sense if the audience had not seen Gandalf become aware of Frodo's fate beforehand, and was important to establish the relationship between Faramir and Denethor, who would realistically meet at the earliest opportunity, meaning that there would not have been the chance for another scene where Gandalf learns that Faramir has met Frodo before.

  • I had the same thought about this setting up the scene with Faramir seeing Pippin, but when I rewatched it, it actually made it more awkward, because Gandalf and Faramir have dialog before Faramir sees Pippin. So for that time Pippin had to be awkwardly hiding behind Gandalf's cloak. It would've been so easy to have Pippin greet Gandalf at the gate and avoid that. – Mark Peters Dec 15 '15 at 15:19
  • Those are some good options for in-universe explanations, though my main confusion is that it has to be balanced against this fact: the entire reason Gandalf brings Pippin to Minas Tirith is because Sauron thinks Pippin has the ring. So what does he do? Take Pippin in a head-first charge against multiple Ringwraiths, who are now on the lookout for hobbits. I guess Gandalf was just really confident that there was no danger. – Mark Peters Dec 15 '15 at 15:21
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    @MarkPeters Maybe his plan was actually to use Pippin as bait. Before that point Sauron didn't know he was in Minas Tirith, even if he found out Pippin's location through the Palantir he was in Rohan at the time. Gandalf could have gone and paraded a hobbit in front of the wraiths in order to distract them and make them more likely to divert more forces to Minas Tirith, giving Frodo more of a chance to slip into Mordor undetected. And the scene was a bit awkward and forced, but I think Faramir needed to see him close up so that he knew it was another hobbit and not mistake him for a child. – Mike.C.Ford Dec 15 '15 at 15:41
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A plausible reason we could invent, after the fact, is that Gandalf used Pippin as a decoy ring-bearer, similar to how in the book Aragorn revealed himself to Sauron, unfurled the king's flag in battle, etc. Since Pippin had looked in the Stone of Orthanc, we hear Merry say "The enemy thinks YOU have the ring!" So we might pretend that in this scene, Gandalf and Pippin are furthering the deception in a continuation of the basic strategy to clear the way for Frodo and Sam, by keeping Sauron's attention focused elsewhere. The Great Eye sees all, so presumably Sauron was watching Pippin during the rescue,

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In my opinion the fact that Pippin had looked into the Palantir was a huge factor in Gandalfs decision.

Gandalf needs to protect Pippin for a number of reasons:

  1. Sauron is now 'aware' of him and, desparate to get the ring may send the Nazgul to get him.
  2. As above, Gandalf also knows that Frodo and Sam are trying to sneak into Mordor and, Pippin revealing himself to Sauron (as a hobbit) will draw Saurons attention away from the borders of Mordor and deeper into Middle Earth.

So, Gandalf needs to keep Pippin close for protection. Gandalf will also feel responsible for the hobbits in a kind of 'proxy' way. Frodo and Sam were the only hobbits that Gandalf had 'officially sanctioned' into coming but, they are way beyond his influence. So, he's making sure that the hobbits he can protect are protected.

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