The Return of the King
How we cite our quotes:
"A Halfling," answered Gandalf. "Nay, not the one that was spoken of," he added seeing the wonder in the men's faces. "Not he, yet one of his kindred."
"Yes, and one who journeyed with him," said Pippin. "And Boromir of your City was with us, and he saved me in the snows of the North, and at last he was slain defending me from many foes."
"Peace!" said Gandalf. "The news of that grief should have been told first to the father." (5.19-21)
Pippin, didn't your mother ever tell you to think before you open your big fat mouth? Guess not. Even now, after surviving some extremely tricky situations with his fellowship companions, Pippin's impulse to blurt everything out rears its ugly head. But you have to admire his loyalty. He is proud to have known Boromir, and he doesn't try to hide it. He blabs as a gesture of love and respect, so hey, at least he meant well.
Be careful of your words, Master Peregrin! This is no time for hobbit pertness. Théoden is a kindly old man. Denethor is of another sort, proud and subtle, a man of far greater lineage and power, though he is not called a king. But he will speak most to you, and question you much, since you can tell him of his son Boromir. He loved him greatly: too much perhaps, and the more so because they were unlike. But under cover of this love he will think it easier to learn what he wishes from you rather than from me. Do not tell him more than you need, and leave quiet the matter of Frodo's errand. (5.1.44)
Gandalf's warning to Pippin about Denethor's crafty nature means that we distrust Denethor even before we meet the manipulative old sod in person. While this description of Denethor as "proud and subtle" appears in Gandalf's mouth as a piece of dialogue, it is also an example of direct characterization, in which the novel is basically coming out and telling us that Denethor is a powerful guy, but also bad news in many ways. To prove this assertion of Denethor's manipulativeness, Gandalf tells Pippin that Denethor will try to use his own love of Boromir (which is genuine, for what that's worth) to get information out of Pippin. That's just tacky.
Filled suddenly with love for this old man, he knelt on one knee, and took his hand and kissed it. "May I lay the sword of Meriadoc of the Shire on your lap, Théoden King?" he cried. "Receive my service, if you will!"
"Gladly will I take it," said the king; and laying his long old hands upon the brown hair of the hobbit, he blessed him. "Rise now, Meriadoc, esquire of Rohan of the household of Meduseld!" he said. "Take your sword and bear it unto good fortune!"
"As a father you shall be to me," said Merry.
"For a little while," said Théoden. (5.2.49-52)
Shmoop admits it: we're having some trouble figuring out the tone of this oath-swearing scene between Merry and Théoden. When Pippin promises his loyalty to Denethor, Denethor accepts because Pippin "touched his heart, as well as [...] pleasing his humor" (5.1.93). So there is some mockery, but Denethor is also moved by Pippin's oath. In this case, Merry is clearly moved with love for Théoden. He even tells Théoden that he will be as "a father" to Merry. But whether the king is mostly touched or mostly amused is unclear. And what does he mean by that bleak, "For a little while"? Does Théoden foresee his own demise? Does he not want to be a father to Merry, or at least not for long? What do you think Théoden's feelings are in this scene?