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Old 10-15-2002, 08:45 AM   #1
The Perilous Poet
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Pipe A Rough Draught Of A Topic

The homophone is deliberate, I assure you.


There are food-stuffs and potables within Middle-Earth that have a mysterious effect upon body and soul. Lembas and orc draught are the two most often mentioned and it is the latter of these I wish to highlight. Not so much its regenerative powers or even its dubious recipe (although that will doubtless form part of any prospective discussion) but the reactions of Meriadoc and Peregrin to its libation. Incidentally, there are enjoyably light-hearted discussions of these 'performance-enhancing chemicals' here and here, although nothing too serious.

The short term effects of the orc draught appear similar to those of lembas, although a little more rough on the drinker.

Uglśk thrust a flask between his teeth and poured some burning liquid down his throat: he felt a hot fierce glow flow through him. The pain in his legs and ankles vanished. He could stand.

Perhaps more like a dram of brandy to the traumatised victim than lembas. In any case, we discover later (sticking to TTT here) that the effects are quite remarkable. The Hobbits keep up with a terrible pace and show startling stamina (mayhaps I should laud their inherent and hitherto unexpected strength at this point)...yet more than all this, they show a layer of cunning beyond that which had been evident before. From this point in the tale, they become far less hapless than before. I find it tricky to describe precisely what I am driving at, but if you bear with me, I shall endeavour to clarify.

The two seem more, for wont of a better phrase, orc-like. More akin to the twisted ones, as it were. Pippin has the cunning to slip away from the guards at one point - an action that of which he had previously not appeared capable. Then they deceive the unfortunate Grishnįkh with quite some skill. There is an additional dark undertone:

For a moment Pippin was silent. Then suddenly in the darkness he made a noise in his throat: gollum, gollum. 'Nothing, my precious,' he added.
This is clever deceit, a capacity not seen prior to the orc-draught incident. Tolkien adds to the confused nature of the substance when he questions its recipe -
Merry got up. 'Yes,' he said. 'I can manage it. Lembas does put heart into you! A more wholesome feeling, too, than the heat of that orc-draught. I wonder what it was made of. Better not to know, I expect. Let's get a drink of water to wash away the thought of it!'
- when just previously, they had refused the "strip of raw dried flesh" because they "dared not guess what creature" had supplied it. Leaving it to our imagination, the author allows us to imagine some quite foul orgins for the draught. The blood of some fell creature perhaps. This suggests to me that the substance is something considerably different to a strong shot of alcohol. What then? For it has, as we have seen, a tremendous effect on our diminutive heroes.

Am I imagining things? Or do they appear a little less 'merry' than before? Perhaps I am being overly playful - an experience such as they had been through would be a sobering experience for anyone - yet I cannot escape the thought of the draught and a subsequent change in their personalities.

[ November 22, 2002: Message edited by: Rimbaud ]
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