Character Development Case Study #4 – Merry and Pippin (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien)
(There will be spoilers!)
Lumping these two in together, because they don’t really have a separate identity at first – and even by the end of the books, it’s difficult to imagine one without the other.
Merry and Pippin in many ways exemplify what it is to be a Hobbit. They like to eat, drink and be merry. They are simple folk with simple needs, though both possessed of a streak of mischief much larger than the average Hobbit.
It’s been a very long time since I read the book, so forgive me for any movie-based inaccuracies. But I did once know the entire script of the first Lord of the Rings film by heart, and could quote it back and forth with my cousin. My memory of this is much better than that of the books. (And, sacrilege coming right up here: I thought the films were better.)
Merry and Pippin aren’t really motivated by anything at the start – thrown into a situation by accident, they end up going along for the ride out of some sense of loyalty and friendship to Frodo and Sam.
As they come more into their own, however, they become motivated by the war that’s going on around them. Merry and Pippin almost follow a ‘coming of age’ style plot arc. They start out ignorant and happy, come to realise the problems they face and grow up in order to do their part to face them. Both find loyalty to their own causes – Merry to Rohan, Pippin to Gondor – and both find their own glory in battle, despite their smaller stature.
But it’s the Shire that is at the heart of all they do – a desire to return someday, a desire to protect it, to keep it the paradise world that it was when they left it. And in the book, they have to fight off Saruman to achieve this, utilising everything they’ve learned on their adventures before.
An interesting thing that happened in the book that was missed out of the unextended versions of the films (the extended versions were not better…) was that Merry and Pippin, while in the care of Treebeard the Ent, drink some magical water that actually makes them grow bigger. When they return to the Shire, they’ve physically grown in size – mirroring their growth in personality.
I said at the beginning that these two come pretty much as a pair, but the bulk of their character growth actually happens once they’ve been separated, Pippin taken away to Gondor by Gandalf, and Merry left behind. Pippin’s impulsive decision to repay the life debt he owes Boromir by swearing into the service of Gondor’s Steward Denethor demonstrates his growth as a character – he understands that there is risk and loss and that war is dangerous, and he wants to play his part for his friends and for those who he’s already lost. Merry’s desire to ride into battle reflects much the same thing, and he finds his own way with the help of Eowyn. They follow similar paths, but by their own means, and both prove their worth as members of the Fellowship, and as fighters for the freedom of Middle Earth.