Do the Palantíri have powers to lure?

[The Palantíri ], in one direction, could see for leagues, with the farthest places showing the least clarity. Their vision was not based on obstacles, but on darkness; they could see through things, but would only see shadow- nothing within could be discerned. This was actually a method of security, called 'shrouding,' which protected the sight of the surveyor. Magnification was also possible for those with great will; this was a very tiring process, and only the most powerful and determined could accomplish this feat. They could not pierce minds, for the transference of thought depended upon the wills and intentions of those communicating.


Pippin, in the Peter Jackson movie The Return of the King, found the Palantír of Orthanc after Saruman was killed (I realize this probably differs from the book, as I believe in the novel Saruman and Wormtongue did a lot of wandering around Middle-earth/The Shire prior to Saruman's death.). He seemed captivated by it in the movie and rather begrudgingly gave it to Gandalf at Gandalf's insistence. Later, Pippin took the Palantír from the sleeping Gandalf and saw Sauron, who mistakenly concluded that Pippin was in possession of the One Ring.

Pippin seemed very drawn to the Palantír; it didn't seem like anyone else was. Should I conclude, then, that the Palantíri did not have any powers to lure beings into picking them up and looking into them? Or is there canon information available that indicates the Palantíri are able to lure beings into viewing them? The sentence above from the Wikia indicates the Palantíri could not pierce minds, but could they create an alluring energy that attracted others to want to interact?


4 Answers 4


These words of Gandalf suggest they did:

"Who knows where the lost Stones of Arnor and Gondor now lie buried, or drowned deep? But one at least Sauron must have obtained and mastered to his purposes. I guess that it was the Ithil-stone, for he took Minas Ithil long ago and turned it into an evil place: Minas Morgul, it has become.

"And how it draws one to itself! Have I not felt it? Even now my heart desires to test my will upon it, to see if I could not wrench it from him and turn it where I would to look across the wide seas of water and of time to Tirion the Fair, and perceive the unimaginable hand and mind of Fëanor at their work, while both the White Tree and the Golden were in flower!" He sighed and fell silent.

Aside the topic, one curious thing is revealed in this passage: Palantiri can look into the past.


It is not quite spelled out this way, but Tolkien does imply that Pippin was not only drawn to the Stone simply due to inquisitiveness and Took foolishness:

Driven by some impulse that he did not understand, Pippin walked softly to where Gandalf lay. <...> But Gandalf made no sign; and drawn forward once more, half against his will, the hobbit crept up again from behind the wizard's head. (The Two Towers, Chapter 11 The Palatir)

Gandalf also confirms that this was driven by Pippin touching the Palantir before:

He ought never to have touched it in Isengard, and there I should have been quicker.


There is no canon evidence to suggest it was the Palantir was luring Pippin in. However there is noted as being perilous

Not specific to the Palantir

In the Lord of the Rings books, in the specific exchange about Pippin, there is strong evidence to believe it was in fact Sauron's domination of his will that led Pippin back to the Stone and not a trait of the Palantir (the film seems to be open for said interpretation, although more subtly).

When Pippin first picks up the Stone it is still glowing bright as it did when he later picked it up again. This suggests that Sauron was still communicating with the Stone when Pippin initially picked it up and tested Pippin.

At that moment a heavy shining thing came hurtling down from above… the rail rang and snapped. The stair cracked and splintered in glittering sparks. But the ball was unharmed: it rolled on down the steps, an globe of crystal, dark, but glowing with heart of fire.
The Two Towers, Book III: Chapter 11 - The Palantír

The glowing ball seems to suggest Sauron was perceiving through it, as later when Pippin looks through again we get a descfription of it being dark, however as Sauron appears it begins to glow red.

.. At first the globe was dark, black as jet.... Then there came a faint glow and stir in the heart of it, and it held his eyes, so that now he could not look away. Soon all the inside seemed on fire; the ball was spinning, or the lights within were revolving. Suddenly the lights went out.

In the second time, Sauron is clearly testing Pippin's will and has been able to dominate him.

He gave a gasp and struggled; but he remained bent, clasping the ball with both hands. Closer and closer he bent, and then became rigid; his lips moved soundlessly for a while. Then with a strangled cry he fell back and lay still....

He seems to be controlled by Sauron and commanded by him and speaking his command, possibly because Sauron believes Saruman has captured the Hobbit with the One Ring

'It is not for you, Saruman!' he cried in a shrill and toneless voice shrinking away from Gandalf. 'I will send for it at once. Do you understand? Say just that!' Then he struggled... but Gandalf held him gently and firmly.

Later when telling Gandalf what had happened, Pippin outlines what the words he called out above meant, that it was Sauron speaking through him to Saruman as Sauron was under the impression they had found the Hobbit with the Ring.

'"So you have come back? Why have you neglected to report for so long?"

'I did not answer. He said: "Who are you?" I still did not answer, but it hurt me horribly..., so I said: "A hobbit."

'Then suddenly he seemed to see me, and he laughed at me. It was cruel.... I struggled. But he said: "Wait a moment! We shall meet again soon. Tell Saruman that this dainty is not for him. I will send for it at once. Do you understand? Say just that!"

From this it seems clear that Sauron had been communicating with Saruman initially through the Palantir when Pippin first picked it up. His natural curiosity (as mentioned in other answers) as well as the draw from Sauron and the mystery of what he'd seen that pulled him back.
"Pippin felt again its weight in his hands, and saw again the mysterious red depths into which he had looked for a moment"
After looking in again Pippin witnesses Sauron's strength and domination until being released by Gandalf.

The perilous stone

Objects which are of greater power than a person are noted by Gandalf later in the same chapter as being a danger.

’Perilous to us all are the devices of an art deeper than we possess ourselves.’
The Two Towers, Book III: Chapter 11 - The Palantir

Gandalf is referring to the power and magic possessed in the Palantir which draws all to discover their arts as none are great enough to possess the art of the Palantir themselves, although this wouldn't necessarily cause one to be drawn to the stone like Pippin was, it was cause one to be curious of it's strength which may have contributed to Pippin, although Gandalf notes that without touching the Stone, Pippin would never have felt the need to touch it again.


I just read the chapter about Palantiri in "Unfinished Tales", and didn't find anything about attraction, so Pippin was either attracted by Sauron or his Tookishness (or both).

I did find some interesting related passages:

It must be remembered that the Stones were originally 'innocent', serving no evil purpose. It was Sauron who made them sinister, and instruments of domination and deceit.

And regarding mental aspects:

But this 'concentration' [zooming in on something] was very tiring and might become exhausting.

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