Forum: Research Questions

Discussing: Denethor's servants

Denethor's servants

JRRT wrote: 

  Pippin left him and called for the servants, and they came: six men of the household, strong and fair; yet they trembled at the summons.

 For there were the servants of Denethor with swords and torches in their hands; but alone in the porch upon the topmost step stood Beregond, clad in the black and silver of the Guard; and he held the door against them. Two of them had already fallen to his sword, staining the hallows with their blood; and the others cursed him, calling him outlaw and traitor to his master.

At length they came back to the Steward's Door, and Beregond looked with grief at the porter. 'This deed I shall ever rue,' he said; 'but a madness of haste was on me, and he would not listen, but drew sword against me.'  

Two servants 'fell, staining the hallows with their blood'- but are they dead? Or merely wounded?  Do they die later of gut wounds or do they heal? It seems that Beregond, a guardsman, would have been able to disarm and disable armed servants, who surely did not have his degree of training, without necessarily killing them, right?

Why does Beregond only regret the death of the porter?  The servants must have also drawn swords against him. They are standing there with 'swords and torches'. Or, by their actions in following Denethor's insane orders, have they lost all of his sympathy? Or are they still alive?

 That Beregond only regrets the porter's death leads me to believe that perhaps the servants were not wounded to the death.   Any thoughts?

 

 

Re: Denethor's servants

Hi Gwynnyd,

Interesting points. I'd always thought that Beregond killed those servants, but on thinking about it more closely I'm not so sure. Can you find the passage in Book VI about Beregond's judgment by Aragorn? I think (but can't verify--at work, no books) that the charge was leaving his post while the city was at war, rather than killing the guards.

If Beregond did kill the guards, is it possible that he regrets the porter's death in particular because he thinks of the porter as more of a civilian than Denethor's household men? Also, could it have been avoided if Beregond was not in "a madness of haste"?

Just my thoughts.

 

 

Re: Denethor's servants

Can you find the passage in Book VI about Beregond's judgment by Aragorn? I think (but can't verify--at work, no books) that the charge was leaving his post while the city was at war, rather than killing the guards.

But of course:

and last the captain of the Guard brought to him Beregond to be judged.


     And the King said to Beregond: 'Beregond, by your sword blood was spilled in the Hallows, where that is forbidden. Also you left your post without leave of Lord or of Captain. For these things, of old, death was the penalty. Now therefore I must pronounce your doom.


     'All penalty is remitted for your valour in battle, and still more because all that you did was for the love of the Lord Faramir. Nonetheless you must leave the Guard of the Citadel, and you must go forth from the City of Minas Tirith.'

 
He is judged for 'spilling blood in the Hallows' - but that could be the porter's death, and either the wounding or death of the servants, as the 'blood spilled' is not necessarily a fatal amount - and leaving his post.  So it's still a question open for debate.

 

 

Re: Denethor's servants

Very interesting indeed, Gwynnyd... I had not remembered that the servants were wounded? killed? Just remembered Beregond's sadness regarding the porter.

I'm wondering if this would say that the servants too had died.... same chapter - a little further down.

"Bear away from this unhappy place your comrades who have fallen. And we will bear Faramir, Steward of Gondor, to a place where he can sleep in peace, or die if that be his doom."

 

 

Re: Denethor's servants

A disarming wound--to the arm--should not make someone "fall."  He might have given them leg wounds, which would make them fall--but a wound that would put them down and keep them there in battle would be serious: major muscle damage with serious blood loss, tendon/joint damage that would be permanent if they survived.

My hard-core and historically minded fencing friend says the problem with duels is that it was hard to actually put someone out of action with a sword, especially in the heat of battle.  You have to deliver a lethal or near-lethal blow, or they just keep fighting (though they may die later).

If the servants fought with any determination, they probably died there, or soon afterwards.

 

 

Re: Denethor's servants

I'd have thought the best way to bring someone down by sword when you didn't actually want them dead would be to bash them over the head with the hilt of a reasonably heavy sword. But then, they wouldn't have spilled any blood that way. I always wondered if I was the only one who found Beregond's charges odd- the implication, I always thought, was strongly that Faramir's life was more valuable than those of the bystanders. Which is historically viable, but has bothered people before when I suggested such a thing could apply in Minas Tirith.

As I read it, perhaps he thought the porter less culpable because the porter wasn't acutally agressive- just a fussy old man who slowed things down by being overly wedded to rules and proceedures.

 

 

Re: Denethor's servants

to bash them over the head with the hilt of a reasonably heavy sword

True, Soubrettina!  But that's hard to do if they see you coming.  Wink

The charges against Beregond probably seem odd to you because Western cultures today generally do not see desecration (it's not spilling blood, per se, but spilling it in a sacred place, the Hallows) and deserting your post (and this is wartime, remember) as capital crimes.  We're more likely to consider the assault itself and standing by while murder is committed to be worse.  These things vary a lot between cultures and across time, even in a single culture.

 

 

Re: Denethor's servants

The charges against Beregond probably seem odd to you because Western cultures today generally do not see desecration (it's not spilling blood, per se, but spilling it in a sacred place, the Hallows) and deserting your post (and this is wartime, remember) as capital crimes.  We're more likely to consider the assault itself and standing by while murder is committed to be worse.  These things vary a lot between cultures and across time, even in a single culture.

And although Gandalf, et al, seem to approve more of Beregond's and Pippin's behavior than they do of the servants', and Beregond is pardoned at the end, I'm trying to grope my way towards how the servants themselves, and the general run of the commanders, felt about their actions afterwards.

(and I shake my fist at Juno - or hug her - for giving me the prompt about these 'circumstances in the citadel' that is running away with me. Another one of my 'drabbles' that runs over 5000 words - sigh.)

 

 

Re: Denethor's servants

And although Gandalf, et al, seem to approve more of Beregond's and Pippin's behavior than they do of the servants', and Beregond is pardoned at the end, I'm trying to grope my way towards how the servants themselves, and the general run of the commanders, felt about their actions afterwards.

I love this discussion! I must admit it had never occurred to me that the servants might be not dead, but merely wounded, but from the way it is phrased, it is possible (although I would think that had they survived, this would have been mentioned at the time of the judgement).

I'm especially interested because, as you know, my own Wip is largely concerned with exactly those questions, too.

I try to examine it from different angles. I think that different people might have completely different reactions to Beregond's actions and equally, or perhaps even more, to Aragorn's judgement.

There are Beregond's friends and family (especially Bergil, from his pespective as a 10-year old child) on the one hand, and the relatives of the slain servants on the other. There are the "officials", like Beregond's own superior, or other commanders. Then there is Faramir, who must feel ambiguous about it in his position as both steward who must uphold the law, and as the person who profited from Beregond's "crimes". And for Aragorn it can't have been easy, either, in his first weeks in office, trying to prove to the Gondorians that he is a just king, to reconcile the differing claims and rights.

I feel there is great potential ins exploring these issues, in whatever direction. If it is done well, you could justify any number of reactions and attitudes of the Gondorians.

I have written only 2 chapters so far, and I don't know if you would rather not read (respectively re-read: I gratefully remember your help with the 1st chapter) anything that might interfere with your own creativity, but if you'd like, take a look at:

The Heart of a Knight

I'm very, very much looking forward to reading this story once it is finished, Gwynnyd! In fact, I'm already wibbling in anticipation !

Imhiriel

 

 

Re: Denethor's servants

I love this discussion! I must admit it had never occurred to me that the servants might be not dead, but merely wounded, but from the way it is phrased, it is possible (although I would think that had they survived, this would have been mentioned at the time of the judgement).

I wondered if perhaps one of two wounded ones survived, but I think that might complicate things too much anyway.  I'm having a hard enough time writing one coherent explanation, much less five or six, as each servant must have had slightly different motivations for doing what they did.

I have written only 2 chapters so far, and I don't know if you would rather not read (respectively re-read: I gratefully remember your help with the 1st chapter) anything that might interfere with your own creativity, but if you'd like, take a look at:

The Heart of a Knight

Oh, I remember that. Yay!  How did I miss a new chapter?  [scurries off to read it]  VERY NICE!  I love Pippin in the kitchen and Beregond's bewilderment as he makes himself at home! 

No, there is little overlap, save in a few generalities.  Beregond is actually only a peripheral character in my story.

 

 

Re: Denethor's servants

I wondered if perhaps one of two wounded ones survived, but I think that might complicate things too much anyway. I'm having a hard enough time writing one coherent explanation, much less five or six, as each servant must have had slightly different motivations for doing what they did.

And you could also take into consideration that they are called "servants of the household". They are not guards or soldiers (as they are often portrayed in fanfic). Apparently they bear arms. But did they have weapons-training? Beregond seems to have been able to overcome them in the end, but it looks as if it was a hard fight. Was it because it was because he was outnumbered, or was it because they could wield the sword, too?

Oh, I remember that. Yay! How did I miss a new chapter? [scurries off to read it] VERY NICE! I love Pippin in the kitchen and Beregond's bewilderment as he makes himself at home!

Thank you! I'm glad you liked this chapter, too. Although to call it "new" might be slightly exaggerated - it's been 10 months already . And I'm still fiddling around with the next chapter which is not near to completed ...

No, there is little overlap, save in a few generalities. Beregond is actually only a peripheral character in my story.

Do you plan to concentrate on the servants themselves, then?

Imhiriel

 

 

Re: Denethor's servants

And you could also take into consideration that they are called "servants of the household". They are not guards or soldiers (as they are often portrayed in fanfic). Apparently they bear arms. But did they have weapons-training? Beregond seems to have been able to overcome them in the end, but it looks as if it was a hard fight. Was it because it was because he was outnumbered, or was it because they could wield the sword, too?

It was apparently six against one, because the description has all the servants with swords and torches. 

Someday someone can write that scene.  I imagine that Beregond must have tried to talk them out of helping Denethor immolate Faramir before he drew his sword on them.  They seem to have finished building the pyre and are all outside, with Denethor and Faramir inside.  There is no fire inside, nor means of making one, or Denethor would not have to go ask his servants for a torch.  As it is just dawn, and a brown and dim dawn too, I have no idea how Denethor saw anything inside the building.  I suppose the Steward's tombs had windows.


Do you plan to concentrate on the servants themselves, then?

Laugh out loud This is me writing!  So far the story is mostly Aragorn and how he feels about the circumstances (I started it for the prompt "C - certain circumstances in the citadel" after all) once he is back in the city.  Although one of the servants is showing up shortly and should have quite a bit to say for himself.

Gwynnyd 

  

 

 

In Forums

Discussion Info

Intended for: General Audience

This forum is open to all HASA members. It is read-only for the general public.

Membership on HASA is free and it takes only a few minutes to join. If you would like to participate, please click here.

If you are already a member, please log in to participate.

« Back to Research Questions

Stories linked to the forum