3. Pearls of Wisdom
"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!" The Wizard sighed and fell silent.
Pippin was puzzled. "But Gandalf, I thought you knew Feänor and saw the Trees. You cannot remember?"
The Maia-in-disguise was taken aback. "Why would you think I saw those things, Pippin? That time was before the rising of the very Sun!"
Pippin continued merrily. "After the dinner, the night before Elrond's Council, I saw you sitting with Elrond and Glorfindel, and I wondered how old you were. All Hobbits know you were a friend of the Old Took, and he died nigh on a century ago. And Bilbo told us long ago that you looked almost exactly the same when you used to give fireworks for Gerontius' birthday parties as you do now, or at least as you did before ... Moria." The Hobbit shivered at the memory.
"So, we all knew you were not a Man. But after seeing you you at Elrond's table... well, begging your pardon, you look so much older than the Elves, you know! So, I asked Bilbo whether you were perhaps an older kinsman of Elrond. I thought perhaps Half-Elves might age. Elrond looks older than Glorfindel, you know, though they say he is not."
Pippin continued. "One of the serving-Elves happened to be passing by and overheard us. She popped in and said that no, you were not a kinsman of Elrond. She would say no more, but I must tell you, Gandalf, she looked rather insulted!" War and Doom notwithstanding, the Hobbit laughed at the memory.
Gandalf's eyebrows bristled threateningly but he did not otherwise answer.
Pippin continued. "Bilbo seemed to regard the matter as a secret on the order of the ... the reason we are on this blasted Quest, but finally I pried out of him that you were the oldest being I've ever seen, perhaps even older than Bombadil!"
"And another day Erestor, of all people, told me what seemed a yarn, about a Maia named Olorin who visited him and his friend Celebrimbor, Feänor's grandson, one day when they were cutting some pearls in half. Olorin saw them and solemnly said 'He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.' But the thing was, Celebrimbor had a closet-full of them! It seems they were gifts from some uncle of his or another, who was a King of the Sea-Elves, and was basically drowning in the things, and the King gave Celebrimbor a cartload full for his fiftieth birthday even though he wasn't particularly fond of him!"
"I got lost in all the names, but you later said 'He that breaks a thing...', and I immediately thought, you must be Olorin! Erestor's mimicry was perfect! And of course you can not sit in Elrond's Hall of Fire for long without hearing about Feänor. He was beloved of Ah-ul, wasn't he? Before his marring? So, if you knew Celebrimbor, surely you knew his grandfather, because he was still alive at the time. I guess I need never ask again, how old are you, Gandalf?" The Hobbit laughed again.
Gandalf smiled. His 'secret', which the Valar had for some reason seriously believed would keep, had been unmasked about a thousand times, but never before by a foolish Hobbit, a pedantic Elf, and his own overeagerness to dispense wisdom!
The two famous Gandalf quotes are, of course, from LOTR.