The Return of the King
How we cite our quotes:
Already it seemed years to Pippin since he had sat there before, in some half-forgotten time when he had still been a hobbit, a light-hearted wanderer touched little by the perils he had passed through. Now he was one small soldier in a City preparing for a great assault, clad in the proud but sombre manner of the Tower of Guard.
In some other time and place Pippin might have been pleased with his new array, but he knew now that he was taking part in no play; he was in deadly earnest the servant of a grim master in the greatest peril. The hauberk was burdensome, and the helm weighed upon his head. (5.4.22-3)
Once a hobbit always a hobbit? Not so much, apparently. The way that the narrator says Pippin was once a hobbit "in some half-forgotten time [...] a light-hearted wanderer" but now he is "one small soldier" suggests that being a hobbit is a lot like being a child. Now that Pippin is growing up, he is becoming less hobbit, more man. But still, he's a little fellow, and his smallness and relative lack of experience make the huge war going on around him all the more terrifying and massive in scope. By making our heroes (Frodo, Sam, Pippin, and Merry) physically smaller than the other characters, Tolkien emphasizes the gravity of the huge odds facing them, which makes their perseverance in the face of those odds all the more impressive.
Merry wanted somebody to talk to, and he thought of Pippin. But that only increased his restlessness. Poor Pippin, shut up in the great city of stone, lonely and afraid. Merry wished he was a tall Rider like Éomer and could blow a horn or something and go galloping to his rescue. (5.5.4)
We're just going to come right out and say it: Merry has too much time on his hands and too little to do. With all of this spare time, all he can do is feel restless, worried, and vaguely useless. No wonder he thinks of Pippin, who is probably seeing more action over in Minas Tirith. He assumes that Pippin must be scared witless and in need of rescuing. Of course, Pippin is both of these things, but the fact that Merry's mind goes there also indicates how lonely and afraid he is, and how much he probably wishes that someone would come galloping to Merry's own rescue. But part of perseverance, Merry must learn, is waiting patiently until the time is ripe for action. That's something our Aragorn knows quite a bit about.
Éowyn it was, and Dernhelm also. For into Merry's mind flashed the memory of the face that he saw at the riding from Dunharrow: the face of one that goes seeking death, having no hope. Pity filled his heart and great wonder, and suddenly the slow-kindled courage of his race awoke. he clenched his hand. She should not die, so fair, so desperate! At least she should not die alone, unaided. (5.6.17)
Merry finds himself unable to stand and face the Lord of the Nazgûl until he sees Éowyn doing so, alone, strong and teary-eyed. In a weird way, he draws the courage to keep fighting from the pity he feels for her, since he sees that she has no hope. But our question is: is this chivalry on Merry's part? Would he have stood up this way at Éomer's side, too? And why does it matter that she's "fair"?