Forum: Hands of the King

Discussing: Ch. 18 - Threat

Ch. 18 - Threat

Threat Denethor POV. To welcome in the new year, I have a new chapter. Lots of things happening in this chapter. Denethor is thinking too much. Borondir and Beregar make themselves useful. The cat puts in a few appearances. And then there is the ending... Happy New Year! Ang

 

 

Re: Ch. 18 - Threat

A Happy New Year to you, too! That was a great way to start it, but - how dare you leaving us with such a cliffhanger?! I liked the summary of sorts you gave us on Denethor's line of thought, re Thorongil, the kingship, and the weel of Gondor. And I just must repeat how disgusting I find Beruthiel and her machinations. Her brother isn't exactly an innocent with regard to scheming, but at least his ethics are much less questionable than hers. Can't say my respect for the Steward has grown, either. Turgon obviously had been of another calibre. I'm under the impression that Denethor's grandfather had been an important and much more positive presence in his life. It didn't feel as if handling the palantir was that much of a strain, which I believed it would be. Apart from the slight giddyness it caused, Denethor seemed pretty much unaffected by its use. [Addendum: I should have re-read the chapter before posting this, since you explicitly stated he was affected by it. Sorry! *sheepish smile*] It's also interesting that in your LotR universe, he used the Seeing Stone rather early. My own idea had always been that he only did after he became Steward or maybe even after Finduilas's death. It's probably no real news, since I've already confessed to being a hopeless romantic, but seeing Denethor trying to keep his feelings for Finduilas in check is just heartwrenching!

 

 

Re: Ch. 18 - Threat - Palantir notes

That was a great way to start it, but - how dare you leaving us with such a cliffhanger?! When you read the next chapter, you may wish you'd not gone beyond the cliffhanger... As per the palantir - This was a plot point I werestled with for some time. Tolkien says this (sorry for the long quote):
"Gandalf should have been reported as saying that he did not think that Denethor had presumed to use it, until his wisdom failed. He could not state it as a known fact, for when and why Denethor had dared to use the Stone was and remains a matter of conjecture. Gandalf might well think as he did on the matter, but it is probable, considering Denethor and what is said about him, that he began to use the Anor-stone many years before 3019, and earlier than Saruman ventured or thought it useful to use the Stone of Orthanc. Denethor succeeded to the Stewardship in 2984, being then fifty-four years old: a masterful man, both wise and learned beyond the measure of those days, and strong-willed, confident in his own powers, and dauntless. His 'grimness' was first observable to others after his wife Finduilas died in 2988, but it seems fairly plain that he had at once turned to the Stone as soon as he came to power, having long studied the matter of the palantiri.. During the end of the rule of his father, Ecthelion II, he must have greatly desired to consult the Stone, as anxiety in Gondor increased, while his own position was weakend by the fame of 'Thorongil'... At least one of his motives must have been jealousy of Thorongil, and hostility to Gandalf, to whom, during the ascendency of Thorongil, his father paid much attention; Denethor desired to surpass the 'usurpers' in knowledge and information, and also if possible to keep an eye on them when they were elsewhere."
I've played on the uncertainty over the exact date of when Denethor would first have ventured the Stone - it is near the end of Ecthelion's rule, Denethor wants to keep tabs on the wizard, and he certainly would not pass up an oportunity to gain more knowledge or dare new things. I've read other portrayals of how Denethor comes to look in the Stone that stress the malicious intent, to spy on Gandalf & Thorongil, but I wanted to emphasize how the scholar and adventurer in Denethor would have been thrilled by the experience of the Stone as such. He starts out with a utilitarian purpose, but swiftly loses himself in the joy of perceiving Gondor in a new way. As for the strain, I think there is strain which manifests itself in the dizziness and disorientation - it made him pass out the first time, after all. But he is also someone with a disciplined mind, and who would quickly become used to manipulating it *under nonrmal circumstances*. Now, I can't think that ordinary users of the palantiri prior to the Morgul Stone coming to Sauron were left aged and decrepit when they used them. That's not the sense one gets from the essay. I imagine that using the stones leave the monotors tired and a little disoriented, and that they could do harm to those who are not legitimate users or who do not possess strong mental discipline (see footnote 13 in the essay). The extreme effects - wearing him out, premature aging, becoming mentally unbalanced - these are all symptoms of wrestling directly with Sauron's will in the converse of the Stones. So, at this point in time, Denethor has not encountered Sauron in the Stone. Sauron probably doesn't know it is once more in use, so is not looking for anyone, not as he was during the Ring War. The encounter of Denethor and Sauron does happen sometime, of course, but I posit that Denethor had *some* time & occasion in which to get used to using the Stone, so that when he *does* finally come psyche to psyche with Sauron, he has the skill and knowledge (not to mention force of will and legitimacy of use) to resist. So, though Tolkien is favoring the idea that Denethor first used the Stone after Ecthelion's death, I put it a few years earlier. The rest of the writings on the palantir will bear out. Family Politics - Turgon was a powerful influence on Denethor, having messed it up royally with Ecthelion. I have much the same conceit in HotK as I have in the Shire stories - the rise of Sauron and his return to Barad-dur exacerbates the darker impulses of Men. Pre-Sauron, the Sackville-Bagginses are simply annoying busy-bodies; after his return, you get Lotho selling out the Shire to Saruman and inviting in thugs. That's how I see the mess in the Stewards House. Maiaberiel is clearly in the mode of Queen Beruthiel. Her most wicked inclinations are encouraged by the Shadow. Ecthelion is an ordinary man, reasonably intelligent, but weak in many ways, and he despairs at Sauron's return. Gandalf & Thorongil keep trying to steer him right, but then you get the nice Oedipal swamp that is his relationship with his children and there's not much to do over that. In the end, he does not stoop to the brutality of Maiaberiel. This will be *very* important. Can't say more because of spoilers. It's probably no real news, since I've already confessed to being a hopeless romantic, but seeing Denethor trying to keep his feelings for Finduilas in check is just heartwrenching! There will be a few more chapters of this. I see theirs as an incredible love, one as important to the unfolding of fate as Aragorn and Arwen's, but tragic instead of triumphal. They have each other for only 12 years, and they live under the Shadow the entire time without respite. Compare this to Aragorn and Arwen who are betrothed for about 40 years and then are married for 120 or so. I'm writing thte new stuff as fast as I can. I hope to get one more chapter done before I head to the Northwest to visit with the family. Ang

 

 

Re: Ch. 18 - Threat - Palantir notes

I'm writing thte new stuff as fast as I can. I hope to get one more chapter done before I head to the Northwest to visit with the family. I suppose it would be too Beruthiel-like to say "you'd better!" and bluster and threaten if you don't? I can't help feeling that you're stacking the deck against Aragorn, but of course that won't stop me reading, just makes me hope you'll redeem him eventually. It does give the impression that Denethor is an older man than Thorongil, or a far more clever one, or both. And I'm glad you won't have Ecthelion as a complete write-off, because I think that will be harder to accept/believe. I caught only one typo: The three of them followed the lieutenant over to the storehouse, where a dozen soldiers waited. Beregar tugged Denethor’s sleeve and nodded at one [of] the men. I also was rather startled by "Are you raped?" as the way Denethor would ask the question. Assuming it's meant to be as blunt as the rest of his interaction with Lark, would it be more likely as "Were you raped?" Lyllyn

 

 

Re: Ch. 18 - Threat

Typo noted. I'm about half-way through the next chapter, but I write slowly during the week. I'm trying to get it done! I can't help feeling that you're stacking the deck against Aragorn, but of course that won't stop me reading, just makes me hope you'll redeem him eventually. It does give the impression that Denethor is an older man than Thorongil, or a far more clever one, or both. In what way is this "stacked against" Aragorn/Thorongil? Denethor *is* older, both chronologically and psychologically, than Aragorn, and he is more intellectual. In a discussion I had with Julie & Meg some time back, I said that the two of them are both very intelligent men, but that their modes of thinking are substantially different. Aragorn will look at a situation and be willing to rely on intuition and leaps of faith, along with some good common sense, to arrive at a course of action. Denethor is going to analyze, compare/contrast, and mentally review every possible previous instance of a similar situation. He'll end up with much the same solution. Odly enough, he's also more likely to be stupidly impulsive, as you will see in the next few chapters. Kind of like his elder son. And, yes, I'm writing a story deeply sympathetic to Denethor and not cutting Thorongil much slack. We know he "wins" in the end, but what is the cost of this divine king to those who are supporting players? Aragorn's presence causes problems, particularly because *he's* not sure why he's there. And I'm glad you won't have Ecthelion as a complete write-off, because I think that will be harder to accept/believe. He'll get worse before he gets better, but there will be something in him that is redeemed in the end. I've ended up feeling sad for him, actually, because he's just not up to the time in which he lives. And, again, Denethor learned to be himself from the people who surrounded him. Both his compassion and his cruelty have deep familial roots. I also was rather startled by "Are you raped?" as the way Denethor would ask the question. Assuming it's meant to be as blunt as the rest of his interaction with Lark, would it be more likely as "Were you raped?" No, I meant "Are you raped?" in the way you would ask someone "Are you injured?" Odd locution, but it's how he would phrase it. Toodles - Ang trying to get through one more scene before bed...

 

 

Re: Ch. 18 - Threat

This is one of my favorite chapter so far...It's a wonderful notion that Denethor, after figuring out that Thorongil is the Heir of Isildur, does not immediately start snarling and scheming to send the Northerner packing; but instead, plans to groom the interloper for kingship - Denethor casting aside his love for Finduilas and expectations of the rule of Gondor to become a Kingmaker and help Thorongil take all he holds dear - Finduilas and the rule of Gondor - this is a fascinating turn and shows Denethor's complexity. I always thought that Denethor and Thorongil might have had, originally, a high regard for each other before Ecthelion's favoritism and patronage of Mithrandir muddied the waters. I'm not quite sure why Denethor wants to wean Thorongil away from Mithrandir's influence, unless he just distrusts Mithrandir because of his closeness to Ecthelion... "Aragorn will look at a situation and be willing to rely on intuition and leaps of faith, along with some good common sense, to arrive at a course of action. Denethor is going to analyze, compare/contrast, and mentally review every possible previous instance of a similar situation. He'll end up with much the same solution." This description of Denethor reminds me a LOT of Faramir. Actually, your mention of Aragorn's willingness to take a leap of faith reminds me of Faramir as well; since he does take a leap of faith in allowing two small hobbits and an untrustworthy guide to journey toward Mordor carrying Sauron's secret weapon....Now that I think of it, Faramir is, philosophically and tempermentally, the son of both Aragorn and Denethor.... Denethor is only Aragorn's chronological elder by a year. Aragorn is more emotionally self-sufficient than Denethor (or practically anyone); and Denethor is far more sophisticated in his social/political skills, because he's been raised as a prince of men in the greatest city/state on Middle-earth rather than in an Elven retreat. I loved Denethor's use of the Palantir - it made sense that he didn't immediately feel Sauron's presence and was delighted by the knowledge the seeing stone gave him. Seeing-stone - of course it would give him a new way of seeing his world. I have the feeling that Sauron may have felt Denethor using the Stone, but held back, waiting for a future time to start trying to corrupt the future Steward. Sauron would be able to tell that Denethor was not someone to take at first grab, a subtle and powerful mind like Denethor's would have to be suborned slowly and delicately. It's to Denethor's credit that he resisted corruption for so many years, especially after Finduilas' death. JRRT also said in UNFINISHED TALES that Denethor had the legal right to use the palantir, and, because of his status as Steward and therefore the lawful deputy of the absent King, probably might have been able to overcome Saruman if they touched via the Stones, since Saruman was using his unlawfully. It definitely wasn't the palantir usage by itself that eventually facilitated Denethor's downfall, it was the manipulation of Sauron, through the Palantir... Looking forward to seeing how the tale unfolds. RAKSHA THE DEMON, wondering how you would write Faramir

 

 

Re: Ch. 18 - Threat

Shame on me. I have been reading this wonderful story for quite some time now and enjoying it just about as much as I have ever enjoyed any fanfiction piece I've ever read. And its taken me this long to tell you so. In fact, I have been reading all of these posts for quite some time now so I really have no excuse. So out of the shadows I come to thank you greatly and praise you muchly, for anyone who can make me squeal in delight when I receive an update message in the middle of the night when my parents think I'm asleep and have already warned me to shut the computer off after 11PM is certainly worthy of it. And yes, I got in big trouble and no, I didn't care. Denna.

 

 

Re: Ch. 18 - Threat

No, I meant "Are you raped?" in the way you would ask someone "Are you injured?" Odd locution, but it's how he would phrase it. I liked he phrased it that way. When I first read this -- and I may have missinterpreted his direct intention -- it gave a flavor of more permanence, as in "Are you blind" or -- better -- "are you maimed?" (the injury can't heal). By which usage, I read the subtext as: "Have you permanently lost your ability to speak coherantly?", because he wants her to stop being upset and answer questions. -- A good example of him being coldly logical. Julie PS: I agree with you Denna. I'm doing alpha reading for this story and I often wake up earlier than I should just in case Ang has more for me to read!

 

 

Re: Ch. 18 - Threat

So out of the shadows I come to thank you greatly and praise you muchly, for anyone who can make me squeal in delight when I receive an update message in the middle of the night when my parents think I'm asleep and have already warned me to shut the computer off after 11PM is certainly worthy of it. Oh, I hope you weren't in *too* much trouble! I'll do my best to make the trouble worth your while. Ang

 

 

Re: Ch. 18 - Threat

It's a wonderful notion that Denethor, after figuring out that Thorongil is the Heir of Isildur, does not immediately start snarling and scheming to send the Northerner packing; but instead, plans to groom the interloper for kingship - Denethor casting aside his love for Finduilas and expectations of the rule of Gondor to become a Kingmaker and help Thorongil take all he holds dear - Finduilas and the rule of Gondor - this is a fascinating turn and shows Denethor's complexity. I always thought that Denethor and Thorongil might have had, originally, a high regard for each other before Ecthelion's favoritism and patronage of Mithrandir muddied the waters. It suits this Denethor better to plot rather than to oppose. In later years, after he had held rule directly, this could not happen. Above all, Denethor is loyal to Gondor, knowing he must do what is right for the realm. Even with the conflicts brought about from various others, there is a great deal of respect between these two, even an unspoken affection. The "might-have-been" aspect of their association is a major theme of HotK. Denethor does *not* want Thorongil to leave, period. OTOH, he's not exactly pleased at the possibility of having to reliquish his own authority. There's the fundamental tension in how Denethor approaches the once and future king. How to keep him here but not destroy what I hold dear? Thorongil doesn't want to leave, having no where else to go, really, but is slowly brought to undertand that he cannot remain, not under current conditions. The letter he wrote to Ecthelion is known through the appendices. What makes me curious is what he will say to Denethor to explain his departure. Why does Denethor want to cut out the Wizard? Because he deeply distrusts anything the Maiar do in Middle-earth. Recall Denethor's speech with Finduilas, that the powers treat mortals like playthings. Quite aside from Mithrandir's cozy relationship with Ecthelion, Denethor is wary of having any dealings with these inhuman creatures from beyond the Sea. This will become more pronounced as the story goes on. I have to say Denethor is not entirely wrong on this count. Denethor is only Aragorn's chronological elder by a year. I make it closer than that - barely three months difference. Denethor born on December 25th, Aragorn born the following March 1. There is clearly a large difference in their wordliness which exaggerates the sense of an age difference, as well as Denethor's very stern and haughty manner, which makes him seem older than he is. Gandalf is surprised, when they meet, that Denethor is so young. The fact that Thorongil must remain subservient to the Warden reinforces the elder/younger position. I also think Thorongil does look up to Denethor (even as he must want to give him a swift kick in the pants every so often), and tries to learn as much as he can. In my thinking right now, Sauron has no idea the Anor Stone is in use, which makes sense as no one has dared to use it since the death of Ondoher. This gives Denethor the vital time he needs to become familiar with the Stone before the Enemy *does* cotton on to the fact that someone is playing with it. The palantir plays an important role through the rest of the story, and I hope to offer some explanations for why so-and-so couldn't just do X. When you think about it, the palantir is a bad plot device because there is so much someone can do with it. Why didin't Denethor simply look north and find Imladris? Why wouldn't Sauron have spent time searching for Isildur's Heir and wiping him out? Or searched Ithilien himself for the halflings? Wouldn't Saruman have kept closer tabs on Gandalf? And so forth. There have to be more limits on the powers of the Stones than are in the Palantiri essay, but those limits have to be in keeping with what is laid out there. "Aragorn will look at a situation and be willing to rely on intuition and leaps of faith, along with some good common sense, to arrive at a course of action. Denethor is going to analyze, compare/contrast, and mentally review every possible previous instance of a similar situation. He'll end up with much the same solution." This description of Denethor reminds me a LOT of Faramir. Actually, your mention of Aragorn's willingness to take a leap of faith reminds me of Faramir as well; since he does take a leap of faith in allowing two small hobbits and an untrustworthy guide to journey toward Mordor carrying Sauron's secret weapon....Now that I think of it, Faramir is, philosophically and tempermentally, the son of both Aragorn and Denethor.... I would say, rather, that Faramir should give us insight into what a younger Denethor must have been like. And, given the many years of exposure of Thorongil to Denethor, I suspect that ceratain similarities between Faramir and Aragorn (and what they share with Boromir) may have a common origin. But Faramir never falls into the deep grief that afflicts Denethor, which may be why he can look into hearts with compassion and pity, rather than scorn (and, I daresay, fear - Denethor fears to recognize his own weaknesses in others). Denethor of HotK *might* have been able to release Frodo and Sam, but I doubt it. I will write a little bit of Faramir towards the end of HotK, as a young child. He will be very much himself, even at five years of age. I think I can present the distance between father and son as something besides dislike, scorn, opposition, etc. Denethor and Faramir were always somewhat at odds because they are both intelligent, head-strong, self-governing men, but I simply cannot believe that there is the kind of abuse, brutality, hatred, alienation, and so forth that is the stock and trade of much Faramir writing. I feel about that characterization as many others feel about evil, abusive Thranduil and poor little Legolas tales. There is too much affection between Denethor and Faramir, even in their worst conflict, for them to be so at odds. Hmm, maybe there will be a Faramir story in my future. Toodles - Ang

 

 

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