When Pippin... um... 'borrows' the Palantir taken from Orthanc, he hears (for lack of a better word) Sauron say the following in his head:

Tell Saruman that this dainty is not for him. I will send for it at once. Do you understand? Say just that!

And when Pippin is shaken out of the trance-like stupor caused by the Palantir, he says:

It is not for you, Saruman! I will send for it at once. Do you understand? Say just that!

This puzzled me a bit, but Gandalf's analysis cleared up a few issues. I understand now that Sauron thought Saruman had captured Pippin, and was forcing the hobbit to use the Palantir; and it was always pretty obvious that Sauron assumed Pippin had the Ring. It hadn't occurred to me that Sauron knew nothing of Saruman's twin defeats at Helm's Deep and Isengard, but Gandalf's exposition made that clear as well.

I think I have figured out some of the other parts of this passage that confused me at first. For instance, Sauron gave Pippin a message for Saruman, obviously, but for a moment I was perplexed by the message that Pippin actually delivered. Then I guessed that Pippin repeated more of Sauron's instructions than he was supposed to - correct me if I'm wrong, but Sauron didn't want Pippin to say the "Do you understand? Say just that!" part. Sauron wanted Pippin to say "It is not for you, Saruman! I will send for it at once." Then Sauron tried to make sure Pippin knew what he was supposed to say, so Sauron asked Pippin "Do you understand? Say just that!" Pippin is kind of dumb, so he parroted everything Sauron had told him (a bit like the oath-taking scene in Animal House, where the frat president says "Repeat after me: 'I - state your name'" and the pledges say "I - state your name").

And I always figured that Sauron assumed that the hobbit in the Palantir was the hobbit with the Ring, of course, but I am curious as to what Sauron was referring to when he said "This dainty". At first, I had a brain fart and thought the "dainty" was the Palantir, then I kicked myself for being stupid and thought more sensibly.

But I am still torn between two possibilities as to what the "dainty" is: It could be (and I tend to think it probably is) the Ring itself, which Sauron assumes is in Pippin's possession. However, the "dainty" could be Pippin himself. "Dainty", in modern parlance, means something like "petite/small/delicate thing", which aptly describes both the Ring and the hobbit.

Since Sauron thinks Pippin has the Ring, and he doesn't want Saruman to fiddle with it, and he wants both Pippin AND the Ring, it doesn't really matter which Sauron is referring to as "this dainty" - he's planning on taking both of them anyway. But I'm still curious - was the "dainty" Pippin, or was the "dainty" the Ring?

And again - correct me if I am wrong in assuming that Pippin repeated more of Sauron's statement than he was supposed to.

  • 1
    It could mean either; since we never get any more connection with Sauron, I don't see a way to distinguish between the possibilities. May 15, 2015 at 17:26
  • 3
    I absolutely agree - your analysis there is spot-on. Pippin misplaced a quotation mark. Sauron apparently wanted him to interpret the statement as Tell Saruman: 'This dainty is not for you. I will send for it at once.' Do you understand? Say just that! but he interpreted it as Tell Saruman: 'This dainty is not for you. I will send for it at once. Do you understand? Say just that!' May 15, 2015 at 17:41
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    @Wad Cheber: He's in shock (not dumb!), so he's re-living the experience, instead of just describing what happened.
    – jamesqf
    May 15, 2015 at 17:45
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    It may be that the mind of Sauron is not equipped to work well with the mind of Hobbits. In a way this might be an echo of the ineptitude of the ring at controlling the Halflings. It may also speak well to the innocence of that Took. Remember also that, in this, he took from Sauron's mind the intent to burn Gondor. I like the idea that a person of truth both resists the will and sees through the intentions of the darkness. May 15, 2015 at 17:52
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    @Festeringsore: Sauron has a physical form and thus did have vocal cords, but he (and everyone, really) did have telepathic ability, which was facilated by the palantir.
    – Shamshiel
    May 15, 2015 at 22:33

4 Answers 4


Sauron believed that Saruman had captured "Baggins" (or possibly "Bilbo Baggins," since that is the only name Gollum got, and therefore passed to Sauron when captured and tortured at Barad-Dûr), possessor of the One Ring. The reason "this dainty" [Pippin] is not for him [Saruman], is because Sauron does not want Saruman to obtain the Ring.

As a noun "dainty" means "delicacy"—especially food. Synonyms include: "tidbit, fancy, luxury, treat; nibble, appetizer; confection, bonbon, goody" (Webster's American English Thesaurus).

Since Gollum described Baggins as belonging to a race of small and unheard-of people, Sauron doubtless deems them small of stature and unimportant (contrast with how Gandalf has always felt about the Hobbits). Hence, the Hobbit with the ring is some literally and metaphorically diminutive person whose purpose is to serve as a plaything to the powerful. And since Sauron knows Saruman is powerful (having had his ass kicked by Saruman back at the end of Sauron's stint as the Necromancer), Sauron assumes that like himself, Saruman deems those low of stature to be playthings, diversions, tidbits... dainties.

Of course, Sauron's misinterpretation of the events at Isengard—including Pippin's contact, Aragorn's subsequent contact, etc.—are precisely where he fails, and where Gandalf the White's prognostication regarding the turning of the tide from a few days earlier under the eves of Fangorn when he reunited with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli really manifests for the whole War of the Ring.

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    +1. I was thinking more along the lines of the adjective definition: dain·ty ˈdān(t)ē/ adjective 1. delicately small and pretty. "a dainty lace handkerchief"
    – Wad Cheber
    May 15, 2015 at 18:22
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    @WadCheber In the grammatical construction "This dainty is not for you," "dainty" can only serve as a noun as (1) it is referenced by a definite article, (2) is not modifying any noun, and (3) is the subject for the verb 'to be' ("is") in that sentence. So, no, "dainty" is not an adjective here, although dainty is much more commonly used as an adjective. But that's Tolkien's writing style for you. :)
    – Lexible
    May 15, 2015 at 18:25
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    @WadCheber OMG! Sauron was totes talking about lengerie!!! I am so gonna reread that line with that interpretation from now on. :D (Not being sarcastic: just having fun. :)
    – Lexible
    May 15, 2015 at 18:43
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    @Lexible Just to get the technicalities completely right, dainty is not referenced by a definite article here, but modified by a demonstrative (or it modifies a demonstrative, if you subscribe to that view of the world). The difference is important here: had it been a definite article, dainty could have been a (nominalised) adjective, though it would most likely have been plural then: “The dainty are not for you”—which is swerving dangerously close to “The dainties are not for you, Saruman! You so can’t pull off that look with your hips.” May 15, 2015 at 20:34
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    Obviously I am not saying that Sauron was looking for panties, merely that "dainty" can conceivably refer to an object that isn't food. :)
    – Wad Cheber
    May 15, 2015 at 20:50

I've just read further evidence from LTR, - Sauron was referring(OK,OK! possibly they quote their master's words exactly,eg read from a document?) to the ring in a similar manner earlier (in addition to being skilfully politic), From the FOTR "the Council of Elrond" ;

"As a small token only of your friendship Sauron asks this," he said: "that you should find this thief," such was his word, "and get from him, willing or no, a little ring, the least of rings, that once he stole. It is but a trifle that Sauron fancies..."

  • Pretty sure Sauron knows that Saruman is savvy about rings of power.
    – Lexible
    Oct 21, 2021 at 1:44

Sauron's wording is deliberately ambiguous

Sauron's words (as repeated by Pippin) are

“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!”

The Lord of the Rings Book Three, Chapter 11: The Palantír
Page 593 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Single Volume 50th Anniversary Edition)

The question asks whether "dainty" refers to Pippin or to the Ring.

Gandalf tells us that Sauron wanted Pippin to be brought to him in the Dark Tower.

If he had questioned you, then and there, almost certainly you would have told all that you know, to the ruin of us all. But he was too eager. He did not want information only: he wanted you, quickly, so that he could deal with you in the Dark Tower, slowly.

The Lord of the Rings Book Three, Chapter 11: The Palantír
Page 594 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Single Volume 50th Anniversary Edition)

On the face of it, this suggests that the "dainty" must be Pippin himself. However, Sauron must wonder if Pippin has the Ring. He knows that Saruman also wants the Ring, but he doesn't know how much Saruman knows. The possibilities that Sauron must consider are:

  • Pippin does not have the Ring. In this case, he wants to interrogate him to find out what he knows of the Ring and he doesn't want Saruman to have time to interrogate him.
  • Pippin has the Ring and Saruman knows it. This is very bad for Sauron as Saruman would be a powerful new Ringlord. All Sauron can do is try to intimidate him and to strike before Saruman has learned to wield the Ring effectively.
  • Pippin has the Ring but Saruman doesn't know that. In this case, he wants Pippin (and the Ring) to be sent to him as soon as possible, but he doesn't want to let Saruman know that Pippin has the Ring.

Sauron's message to Saruman (sent through Pippin) ambiguously uses the word "dainty". If Pippin has the Ring and Saruman knows it, Saruman will assume that "dainty" refers to the Ring and that Sauron knows it is there, so he will view "I will send for it at once" as a credible threat. Otherwise, Saruman will assume that "dainty" refers to Pippin.


I think that @Lexible's answer is nearly right, but needs expansion. (I won't go into detail on the parts that IMO don't need expansion.)

First, as noted in one of the comments, Pippin was still in the Palantir trance (or mentally reeling from having encountered Sauron) and does not carry out Sauron's orders exactly, saying a bit more than Sauron apparently intended. But close enough. (I would not hope to be coherent after having encountered a being as powerful as Sauron.)

The meat (so to speak) of the question is about what Sauron meant by "this dainty":

Tell Saruman that this dainty is not for him. I will send for it at once. Do you understand? Say just that!

While Pippin as a Hobbit was small in body, I don't think that's the main point from Sauron's PoV. Sauron dealt in domination and specifically mental domination: He made people do his will through mental persuasion or simply the overwhelming force of his being. Had Pippin been seven feet tall, he would still have been easy meat for Sauron. What Sauron assumed was that Pippin was small in spirit. (He might well have been wrong in this. As Gandalf notes:

as far as I know there is no Power in the world that knows all about hobbits. Among the Wise I am the only one that goes in for hobbit-lore: an obscure branch of knowledge, but full of surprises. Soft as butter they can be, and yet sometimes as tough as old tree-roots. I think it likely that some would resist the Rings far longer than most of the Wise would believe.)

Shortly after Pippin delivers Sauron's message, Gandalf says clearly what Sauron meant:

If he had questioned you, then and there, almost certainly you would have told all that you know, to the ruin of us all. But he was too eager. He did not want information only: he wanted you, quickly, so that he could deal with you in the Dark Tower, slowly.

Sauron likes to dominate. Gandalf again:

The Enemy, it is clear, thought that the Stone was in Orthanc - why should he not? And that therefore the hobbit was captive there, driven to look in the glass for his torment by Saruman. That dark mind will be filled now with the voice and face of the hobbit and with expectation: it may take some time before he learns his error.

Sauron apparently knew that Pippin was a hobbit -- possibly was the Hobbit -- and in his arrogance and haste to torture him, Sauron neglected to confirm his beliefs via Palantir. (Also, he probably didn't want Saruman to learn anything.) So he leapt to a conclusion and took a fatal shortcut to his own pleasures:

'Strange powers have our enemies, and strange weaknesses!' said Théoden. 'But it has long been said: oft evil will shall evil mar.'

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