Forum: Hands of the King

Discussing: Ch. 20 - Pride

Ch. 20 - Pride

Pride Denethor POV, 3rd of 3. Several intereactions with Thorongil and a great deal of Denethor being introspective. Not a pretty sight. A fairly large number of secondary characters present and offering their opinions on things. Small warning for description of burns caused by Dragon Fire. Kind of icky but not too graphic, I think. How does Denethor deal with losing his position as Captain-General? As always, please note down any typos, continuity errors, and/or oddities you find. My thanks to everyone who is sticking with this monster of a story, and especially to those who have been commenting. I appreciate the feedback. Ang

 

 

Re: Ch. 20 - Pride

Oh, that was a good one. Only spotted one typo and didn't write it down. Will have to go back and look for it. Oh darn! You know we love the angst-ridden introspection. Bring it on and then some. Loved the waterfall scene. But am for the most part incoherent, and thus will say little else at this point. But I'll return for the typo patrol in a while.

 

 

Re: Ch. 20 - Pride

Only spotted one typo and didn't write it down. Will have to go back and look for it. Poor thing. ;-) I think I know which one and just fixed it: "a soft voice spoking out of the fever" should be "speaking". There's another one in there, though, that I can't find now. You know we love the angst-ridden introspection. Bring it on and then some. Loved the waterfall scene. I shift back to Finduilas in the next chapter, and she gets to watch (and listen to) Denethor's reaction, now that he's back in the City. She helps him get over of the worst of it. How? Well, you'll just have to wait and see. The waterfall scene was a sudden addition to the story, one of those accidents of imagination that demands to be written. It has a terrible "What if?" in it, one that repeats 40 some years later when he faces another fire while at the edge of despair and blaming himself for bringing about ruin. What brings him back from that suicidal impulse in this case, and what failed in the last? In reading the pyre scene, I keep returning to the moment when Faramir calls for Denethor, and it *almost* draws the Steward from his self-destructive madness. Then a few sentences later, Denethor looks on Faramir again and it's right *there* - why did he reject that claim? That is the moment in which he is both like Lear and like Othello, loving not wisely, but too well. It is not accidental that he runs into an irate wizard in both situations, of course. Denethor is not the only one who needs to rein in his pride. Toodles - Ang

 

 

Re: Ch. 20 - Pride

Typo patrol! > He traveled a eerie road that glowed greenish-white in the grey mists, turning to cross a bridge carved with tortured beasts. "an eerie", should be. >The whores brought water to wash with and some rags to scrub away most of the mess and then stew, which the healers devoured gratefully, washing it down with wine. The transition from mess to stew is sort of sudden and I had to read it a couple times. Not a typo, just a jarring thing. It's correct as is, but abrupt. I really like Denethor's response of relief, when all is said and done, to be stripped of his rank. I find myself wishing that he could indeed just leave, just go north, go adventuring, wander and discover more of the world, instead of being trapped as he is in Minas Tirith waiting for the end. (I love his thought that he would go North to tend what Thorongil had abandoned.) >Halmir knew he knew some of the tapping code, but suspected they were silent more due to Thorongil than himself. I think you need to specify that Denethor is the one suspecting. I think Halmir knows why he is silent. Hm, somewhere there was a typo saying 'her' where it meant 'he' but I couldn't find it this read-through. You might've found it already. Ah well. I continue to love this story and eagerly await updates. It is a fascinating piece and captures my imagination, and I spend more time thinking now upon this fascinating era of M-e history from a different perspective. Fascinating to consider, really, and Denethor is such an excellent character. Thank you for writing it.

 

 

Re: Ch. 20 - Pride

>she gets to watch (and listen to) Denethor's reaction You tease.

 

 

Re: Ch. 20 - Pride

I'm correcting typos in the Word files, and will fix the online chapters in a massive update at a later time. No doubt introducing more errors, sigh... I really like Denethor's response of relief, when all is said and done, to be stripped of his rank. I find myself wishing that he could indeed just leave, just go north, go adventuring, wander and discover more of the world, instead of being trapped as he is in Minas Tirith waiting for the end. (I love his thought that he would go North to tend what Thorongil had abandoned.) It's not the only time he has this thought. I have a very evil AU lurking in the back of my brain where it is *Denethor* not Boromir who answers the dream summons. Much trouble ensues. But the sense of relief at shedding the enormous burden is real here. In too many fanfic stories, Denethor's rule is portrayed as him simply grasping after power, with no attention to the context of his rule. Frankly, Tolkien himself does it, too. There has to be more to the story than just "Denethor is a greedy bastard who wants power and tries to keep the rightful king off the throne." Uh, no. Denethor has earned his rule through service and sacrifice. He guided Gondor through the worst period of its history - when it is physically weak, facing a resurgent demi-god enemy, and with no allies in sight except the Rohirrim who are led by an increasingly decrepit king. The wise don't bother to let him in on their counsels, where he might have drawn some hope, the king returned in disguise and then disappears without a trace, and every person he most loves is ripped away from him. The guy has plenty of flaws, to be sure, but point to what he has done that is so wrong or bad. Claiming that he killed his wife or beat his kids doesn't count. His hope fails at the last, and with more than enough reason. He's ready to kill himself and Faramir in despair, and Gandalf can't offer a single word of support or give a solid reason why he himself has hope - all he can do is scold, bully, and criticize. To reduce Denethor's madness and grief to wanting to kill his son because he himself fears death is reductionistic, cruel, and simply *wrong*. Anyway, as you can tell, I don't particularly care for JRRT's, Peter Jackson's, or most fanfic writers' interpretations of Denethor. They make him into a moral monster to side-step the fact that he is the single most screwed-over character in the story. He did everything right and has lost everything that matters to him, no matter the outcome of the Ring War. Ang

 

 

Re: Ch. 20 - Pride

I have a very evil AU lurking in the back of my brain where it is *Denethor* not Boromir who answers the dream summons. Much trouble ensues. I'll bet! I'd love to see it though. Several intereactions with Thorongil and a great deal of Denethor being introspective. Not a pretty sight Actually, I really liked this chapter for that reason. Denethor has never really "made sense" to me, so this gave me a framework to understand him better, particularly within this story, but also in general. I really enjoyed the brief exchange between Halmir and Denethor when Denethor is departing for the North. Snicker. When reading this chapter, it occurred to me as part of why Denethor is determined to send Faramir to hold Osgiliath - the memory of the sacrifices made there, including to some extent his own judgement in using the dragon fire. Typos and possible typos: Not sure about this one, may be an archaic way of saying it: He thought for a moment of slipping (out the) City and going to Osgiliath. The words came out (evehly), [evenly] matter-of-fact. Again, may be intentional: …(wrapped him) more food to carry on the road, putting it into a small pouch he slung over his back. I note the dash here: It was not long before Adrahil emerged from the fog, leading one-hundred riders And thought at first it might be a typo, but I see it in other places so I'm assuming it's a style choice. And the elusive he/her which I had spotted then forgot where: He imagined (her) heard a soft voice speaking out of the fever: Fascinating look into Denethor, for which I thank you! Lyllyn

 

 

Re: Ch. 20 - Pride

Ah, you found it! I've been looking for "evehly" in the story, but couldn't find it to fix. Thanks for the other typos. I'll have to re-read a few places to see if I meant to use a strange locution or not. Yes, I do tend to hyphenate things like good-bye and one-hundred. That AU will be waiting a long time. I have a "Denethor lives (well, he doesn't die in the pyre)" AU that takes precedence, plus I think I need to return to the Shire. Actually, I really liked this chapter for that reason. Denethor has never really "made sense" to me, so this gave me a framework to understand him better, particularly within this story, but also in general. I really enjoyed the brief exchange between Halmir and Denethor when Denethor is departing for the North. Snicker. When reading this chapter, it occurred to me as part of why Denethor is determined to send Faramir to hold Osgiliath - the memory of the sacrifices made there, including to some extent his own judgement in using the dragon fire. Halmir & Denethor will continue to have brief, laconic exchanges that are snort worthy. Yes, Denethor has a history with Osgiliath that is physical, ethical, emotional, and historical. It isn't just ruins or a place to defend - he knows what it *should* be. Faramir, being more like than unlike Denethor, will understand this, and is probably more willing to try to hold it because he knows what it means. I would go so far as to say he has his own attachment to it, but less mystical and emotionally fraught than Denethor's. I don't think that Faramir acts out of either fear or a desparate need to please his father. There's a more complex play of power and love between the two of them, so Faramir would be willing to do things that are unwise for reasons that have little to do with military strategy, though it is worth remembering that his troops *did* slow the attackers somewhat, perhaps making the difference between the Rohirrim arriving before the City was occupied vs. afterwards. In later chapters, I spend a good deal of time looking at Denethor's strange obsession with stone and buildings and foundations. To my mind, it is inseparable from his experience of continuous loss of people - the shocking mortality of humanity is counter-balanced by the persistence of stone and place. Even inanimate things rot and weather away, however. Ang

 

 

Re: Ch. 20 - Pride

"Anyway, as you can tell, I don't particularly care for JRRT's, Peter Jackson's, or most fanfic writers' interpretations of Denethor. They make him into a moral monster to side-step the fact that he is the single most screwed-over character in the story. He did everything right and has lost everything that matters to him, no matter the outcome of the Ring War" I will try to make a longer post later, as I only have about ten minutes now, but this comment spurred me to reply. I commend you for a very sophisticated and thoughtful look at the latter years of Ecthelion's reign and the lives of Denethor, Finduilas and Ol' Eagle-Star. This is a good story and I intend to continue reading it. I wasn't wild about Jackson's treatment of Denethor either; particularly when they had such an attractive and capable actor for the role. To reduce him to a crazy guy and have Gandalf hitting him repeatedly with the staff to shut him up was pathetic, not to mention the flaming nosedive off the keel... But I take exception to your objection to JRRT's interpretation of Denethor. JRRT created Denethor! JRRT had the right to make Denethor a monster, a snivelling corrupter like Grima, or a power-hungry jerk - his epic, his character. The fact is, JRRT created a very complex and interesting character in Denethor, a character he respected (several times mentioning how knowledgeable and proud Denethor was and how he had the blood of Westernesse, even Gandalf voices admiration for Denethor); as witness the fact that people are still trying to figure out why such a noble man would try to burn his only remaining son alive; and good stories like this one are still being written about the 26th Steward. JRRT did write Denethor as someone who declined in wisdom and duty and fortitude at the very end, for complicated reasons, he failed the test of those horrendous last days. You may not like it, you may sympathize (who wouldn't, Denethor suffered a lot over the course of his life) with Denethor, but it was JRRT's call to make, and his is the verdict that must be respected; it is not "an interpretation". JRRT made Denethor and orchestrated the choices the character made - as was his right. While I appreciate stories that tell how Denny evolved from that wise, capable younger Captain into the sad and bitter old man of ROTK, I think your assertion that JRRT made Denethor into a moral monster to side-step Denethor's being the single most screwed-over character in the story is a bit much. JRRT never made Denethor into a "monster", the horror we feel during the pyre chapter is that of a noble man ruined to the point where he does monstrous things. But it seems to me that you might be finding it hard to accept that JRRT intended Denethor to be flawed and, sadly, at the end, a failure. And at least from what I can tell, JRRT never portrays Denethor as a greedy bastard lusting for power that isn't his. For JRRT's Denethor, who is the true Denethor, it is never, ever a matter of greed. It's about control. He is not going to cede control of Gondor, which is his charge, to some ragged upstart. JRRT gives a backstory in the appendices to show some history in between Ecthelion's son and the ragged upstart - I think JRRT wanted to clarify that Denethor had a personal history with the ragged upstart from the North, that it definitely wasn't a matter of Denethor wanting to hog the rule of Gondor and keep it from a rightful claimant. Also, at the very end, for Denethor, it's still about control. He does not want to see Faramir (in Denethor's eyes) come under the control of Gandalf during THE SIEGE OF GONDOR, although Faramir looks as much to his father as to Gandalf, if not more. And at the very end, it's still about control - Denethor will die rather than concede control of his burning city to the hordes of Mordor, and when all he has left to control is his dying son, he tries to kill that son with fire and then with a knife rather than cede him to anyone else, even those who might help him. I rather think that Denethor had the tendancy to want to control things and people dear to him all his life, but in his earlier years it was held in abeyance by his own judgement and perhaps his love for Finduilas when he married her. And by the time that sad PYRE OF DENETHOR chapter comes, JRRT shows with considerable empathy how Denethor has been worn to a point where all he has left is perhaps three instincts - obedience to the duty of Stewardship, and his desire to control, and love for Faramir that he can finally express. Unfortunately, the desire for control wins in its fight for Denethor's mind at that point. Much has been made of Denethor's burning Faramir and himself to save them from torture/mutilation by Orcs - but there's very little about that in the PYRE chapter, at least from Denethor, and more about his hatred of the Ranger from the North and Mithrandir's stealing the love of Denethor's knights and Denethor's son. That's why I, and I believe JRRT, did not intend for the main reason for Denethor's decision to kill himself and his son to be the more laudable motive of saving them from torture and desecration. Denethor's motives for the terrible last decision of his life are complex and multi-faceted. JRRT made Denethor a multi-faceted and interesting character, far more interesting in my opinion than the other ruined king-type, Theoden, who managed to redeem himself and become a great leader again and die gloriously. To say that you don't care for JRRT's interpretation of Denethor - when JRRT did not interpret Denethor, he created Denethor - and that JRRT emphasized his character's moral decline in order to excuse his having screwed Denethor over - is, I believe, to overlook JRRT's tremendous achievement in creating Denethor as such a complex character who is neither completely evil nor, sadly, a hero. It is also a negation of JRRT's rights, as an author-creator, to make any character and have the final word on him/her/it. We can and should write Denethor stories. But I don't think it's right to throw JRRT's original and true version of Denethor in with later interpretations by PJ and fanfic writers. Whether you like JRRT's Denethor or not; that is the true template for the character; all else is counterfeit or a talented and respectful reproduction, depending on one's viewpoint. I've rambled on enough. I will try to comment more later about some other interesting stuff you said. I also thought your notion of Denethor's wanting to go to the North and take up what Thorongil abandoned to be credible and fascinating. What a great AU that would make - I hope you write it! RAKSHA

 

 

Re: Ch. 20 - Pride

Two main comments on the above replies. I too love the thought of Denethor bein 'released' from the burdens upon him. It would be such fun to see him able to laugh and breath easily - though I think he would soon be bored with it all. And his love for Gondor would not allow it - I think. I love the architecture idea and what Osgilith meant to Denethor - haunting! I do not agree that it was a suicide ride to Osgiliath - if you note the quote from JRRT below - he sent Faramir to hold till the last moment - time was needed - Rohan still had not shown up - time was needed! And so Faramir - knowing this himself - agreed to do what he could to stem the tide for a little longer - all the while, IMHO, trusting that his Steward would send help to extricate them. And then a trumpet rang from the Citadel, and Denethor at last released the sortie. Drawn up within the shadow of the Gate and under the looming walls outside they had waited for his signal: all the mounted men that were left in the City. Now they sprang forward, formed, quickened to a gallop, and charged with a great shout. And from the walls an answering shout went up; for foremost on the field rode the swan-knights of Dol Amroth with their Prince and his blue banner at their head. ROTK (bolding is my own-not JRRT's)

 

 

Re: Ch. 20 - Pride

"great deal of Denethor being introspective. Not a pretty sight." Hahaha, it looks rather lovely to me... ::grins:: "A fairly large number of secondary characters present and offering their opinions on things." Still looking lovely... "description of burns caused by Dragon Fire. Kind of icky but not too graphic, I think." Also, strangely...lovely. I liked the Thorongil/Denethor conversations, and near the beginning of the chapter found myself wishing Thorongil would put his foot down and take charge. A sort of "you got it, now deal with it!" kinda thing. When he put his foot down and told him "no!" I was sorta relieved. As for snort-worthy conversation, you've no idea what you're doing to my sense of humor. Halmir is terrific. Also, I simply adore Brandir. "You look terrible." "Funny, I feel worse" ::cracks up:: Mmm. Lovely. The Gandalf/Denethor conversation was perfect. The waterfall scene...superb. I don't even wanna know what kind of dreams Findy's having now. Or do I? ::raises eyebrows:: Did I ever mention that I adore the Lay of Leithian? Sadly, I've never been able to read the entire thing, as my library has no copy and I currently (as usual) have no money. Sometimes I cheat and use Amazon.Com's "search inside this book " feature to read pages at a time...so bad, I know. Anyway, every time you use some more of it I'm thrilled. As for typos, by the time I got here to post everyone else had already found the ones I spotted. You made me scream again, too. And still, it was worth it. This time my mom only rolled her eyes, which was a good alternative to trouble if not slightly demeaning. Ah well, can't complain. Mmm...I've reread the chapter about 10 times now. Much more lovely than studying for my philosophy exam. Very bad girl, I know. And speaking of evil AUs, I am continuously haunted by a Finduilas lives AU that is perpetually screwing with my head and if ever given in to has the potential to expand into a monster like this . Grrr. Although now that you mention it, Denethor going to Rivendell, hmmm, you've definitely piqued my interest.

 

 

Re: Ch. 20 - Pride

"It is not accidental that he runs into an irate wizard in both situations, of course. Denethor is not the only one who needs to rein in his pride." Here, here. Aloha, D.

 

 

Re: Ch. 20 - Pride

I think your assertion that JRRT made Denethor into a moral monster to side-step Denethor's being the single most screwed-over character in the story is a bit much. JRRT never made Denethor into a "monster", the horror we feel during the pyre chapter is that of a noble man ruined to the point where he does monstrous things. I've done this riff several times before (starting long before HA & HASA). It started out when I read through the LotR drafts in HoME. I've started an essay about it, but it didn't get finished, but I'll use some parts of it here. When I read LotR Denethor burning himself and trying to kill his son I got a "I don't want to believe this" reaction. Something didn't seem right, something felt inconsistant. When I read HoME I understood my reaction: in the first notes about the seige of Minas Tirith, Faramir was near death, but Denethor didn't kill himself. There's a conversation outlined (I wish it had been full written!) between Denethor & Aragorn, see here for quotes from HoME & LotR. There are two reasons that the change in the Denethor thread felt pertinant to me: 1. It echoed with something I got a negative reaction to in the finished LotR. 2. This change was of a different sort than the other evolution in the plot. Different JRRT quotes I have read, as well as my impression reading portions of texts in HoME, give me the impression that he is the kind of writer that would say "the characters tell me what to write": I remember a statement (from a letter) about how Faramir was a surprise, that if he continued to take up so much time that Tolkien would have to cut him out of the story. Many writers tell similar stories. It's happened to me (writing fanfic), it's happened to my husband (writing original fic). In HoME or Letters or one of the biographies (I can't remember where now, it's been years ago) I remember a discussion about how JRRT was concerned (the publisher was concerned) about how long the "hobbit story" had become. He was about to write about the Pelannor Fields battle, Frodo and Sam were still crawling toward Mt. Doom, and JRRT didn't know how much plot there was left, but he needed the resolution to happen quickly. If Denethor took himself off the chessboard then Aragorn could step into the power vacuum without complecation. The reasons to not have power politics would be: 1. Short chapter. 2. If Aragorn has to negotiate or fight (if only verbally) to get his crown he might look bad to a modern audience. 3. It makes the "Scouring of the Shire" more shocking & effective, if there's a trouble-free, fairy tale Return of the King. Instead of a "Happily Ever After" triumphal return home for Frodo (& the plot seems to be going that way) -- there is smoke & ruin & the Party Tree Is Cut Down. It's realistic war aftermath, Frodo can't stay & Grey Havens. But, I believe, JRRT got there by (IMO) having Denethor's actions be plot-driven rather than letting the character take charge, as he did with so much else. I'm not saying JRRT's reason for making the change weren't valid. I'm saying that the subplot doesn't work for me. Rather than convincing me that Denethor was a complex, tragic character, he confused me. I couldn't define why the scenes didn't convince until I read the drafts. Then I realized what felt lacking in the whole Aragorn-gets-the-crown thread was that Tolkien was doing a lot of expert hand-waving to "side-step" or deflect the audience's attention to the fact that there should have been, realistically, some high-powered politics happening there, for one House (Ruling Stewards) to transfer power to another (Returned King). JRRT simplified things by making it that Aragorn filled a power vacuum, and held back the messy realistic stuff for the Scouring. There's two fanfic ways to react to this. 1. Me: have a discussion of why the scene feels strained and try to work out different AU(s) where's a real transfer of power (or not). 2. Ang: do a deconstruction "interpretation"/patch gapfiller that explains why it happened that way, explaining Denethor ... but also examining how Gandalf acts. Julie

 

 

Re: Ch. 20 - Pride

Mmm...you've given me much to think about. My first thought however is this: You've expressed a feeling I've been trying to articulate or at least explain to myself for a long time now. Upon first reading HoME, I completely dropped the book in shock when I read some of the drafts pertaining to Denethor. Finally, it was making sense, and something inside me just shouted: "Why in the world didn't it happen that way?" The fact of JRRT "side-stepping" Denethor and letting him become plot-driven, explains also how I was completely shocked when I went to the theatre to watch ROTK. I had just recently read parts of the book, especially the Denethor/Faramir/Gandalf interactions as a friend had reccommended them. Not once had I gleaned from the text a sense that Denethor was evil or that he hated his son. Sure the guy was little...out there...but evil? Hate-filled? No. So you can imagine my confusion when confronted with Jackson's interpretation and John Noble's (wonderful but unsettling) performance. Its certainly been quite some time now (it feels like ages) and I've sorted through most of it and made my own trail through it all. But, I'll never forget sitting in the theatre that night though and thinking "Man, did I miss something here?" In the end of course, I don't think I really missed anything, the movie's version of events was...well...out there a bit. But, in any event, (IMHO) there has to be at least a little more to my reaction than it being simply an "overly optimistic" approach to the character of Denethor on my part. Although, of course, I am a slightly over-dramatic American teenager. So shoot me. Rather than convincing me that Denethor was a complex, tragic character, he confused me. I couldn't define why the scenes didn't convince until I read the drafts. Then I realized what felt lacking in the whole Aragorn-gets-the-crown thread was that Tolkien was doing a lot of expert hand-waving to "side-step" or deflect the audience's attention to the fact that there should have been, realistically, some high-powered politics happening there, for one House (Ruling Stewards) to transfer power to another (Returned King). JRRT simplified things by making it that Aragorn filled a power vacuum, and held back the messy realistic stuff for the Scouring. Once I began to dig deeper and deeper into it, this became my general opinion as well. In fact, its kinda weird to hear thoughts so similar to my own come out of someone else's mouth. It was always like everyone was all, "Oh yay! Aragorn's so wonderful! Big smiles everyone!" Meanwhile I'm like, "Uh, excuse me! What the heck just happened here?"

 

 

Re: Ch. 20 - Pride

JULIE'S COMMENT (long): "Re: Ch. 20 - Pride When I read LotR Denethor burning himself and trying to kill his son I got a "I don't want to believe this" reaction. Something didn't seem right, something felt inconsistant. When I read HoME I understood my reaction: in the first notes about the seige of Minas Tirith, Faramir was near death, but Denethor didn't kill himself. There's a conversation outlined (I wish it had been full written!) between Denethor & Aragorn, see here for quotes from HoME & LotR. There are two reasons that the change in the Denethor thread felt pertinant to me: 1. It echoed with something I got a negative reaction to in the finished LotR. 2. This change was of a different sort than the other evolution in the plot. Different JRRT quotes I have read, as well as my impression reading portions of texts in HoME, give me the impression that he is the kind of writer that would say "the characters tell me what to write": I remember a statement (from a letter) about how Faramir was a surprise, that if he continued to take up so much time that Tolkien would have to cut him out of the story. Many writers tell similar stories. It's happened to me (writing fanfic), it's happened to my husband (writing original fic). In HoME or Letters or one of the biographies (I can't remember where now, it's been years ago) I remember a discussion about how JRRT was concerned (the publisher was concerned) about how long the "hobbit story" had become. He was about to write about the Pelannor Fields battle, Frodo and Sam were still crawling toward Mt. Doom, and JRRT didn't know how much plot there was left, but he needed the resolution to happen quickly. If Denethor took himself off the chessboard then Aragorn could step into the power vacuum without complecation. The reasons to not have power politics would be: 1. Short chapter. 2. If Aragorn has to negotiate or fight (if only verbally) to get his crown he might look bad to a modern audience. 3. It makes the "Scouring of the Shire" more shocking & effective, if there's a trouble-free, fairy tale Return of the King. Instead of a "Happily Ever After" triumphal return home for Frodo (& the plot seems to be going that way) -- there is smoke & ruin & the Party Tree Is Cut Down. It's realistic war aftermath, Frodo can't stay & Grey Havens. But, I believe, JRRT got there by (IMO) having Denethor's actions be plot-driven rather than letting the character take charge, as he did with so much else. I'm not saying JRRT's reason for making the change weren't valid. I'm saying that the subplot doesn't work for me. Rather than convincing me that Denethor was a complex, tragic character, he confused me. I couldn't define why the scenes didn't convince until I read the drafts. Then I realized what felt lacking in the whole Aragorn-gets-the-crown thread was that Tolkien was doing a lot of expert hand-waving to "side-step" or deflect the audience's attention to the fact that there should have been, realistically, some high-powered politics happening there, for one House (Ruling Stewards) to transfer power to another (Returned King). JRRT simplified things by making it that Aragorn filled a power vacuum, and held back the messy realistic stuff for the Scouring. There's two fanfic ways to react to this. 1. Me: have a discussion of why the scene feels strained and try to work out different AU(s) where's a real transfer of power (or not). 2. Ang: do a deconstruction "interpretation"/patch gapfiller that explains why it happened that way, explaining Denethor ... but also examining how Gandalf acts. Julie" MY REPLY (also long!): Perhaps I'm more credulous. I had no internal objection to the pyre scene in the book; and felt that it was incredibly gripping and convincing and downright haunting. Especially since Denethor is not painted as an utter loony monster; the whole process is heart-rending; there are moments where he wavers, and we see his agony, and of course there's the 'do not take my son from me, he calls for me!' which is sooooo poignant. I didn't feel that Tolkien was doing any hand-waving to deflect the audience's attention from Aragorn's easy accession to the throne of his ancestors. I thought JRRT set it up in a very realistic way. 1. Denethor's death doesn't come from out of the blue. He could have died on the walls or on the Pelennor during those days of battle where the City was attacked and burned. He had been under severe stress, and was showing signs of it; prior to Faramir's return in a comatose state, so his decline was not a shock to me. But it's not far-fletched that Denethor dies; his city is under attack; other lords die... 2. When Aragorn enters the City after the Battle of the Pelennor, it is very reasonable that he be acclaimed as King. Think about it. The Steward is dead, his heir is dying; and the only other Lord with standing (and 500 formidable Swan Knights) to challenge Aragorn's claim, Prince Imrahil, is his comrade from the field and just can't wait to spread the news that the King has Returned. Faramir, who is the actual Steward of Gondor, beats his uncle to the punch in terms of formal recognition. Oh yes, the lost Heir heralds his Return with a great PR move - bringing his greatest legal rival, Faramir, back from the brink of death. But who would have said No to Aragorn's Kingship at that point anyway? The capital of Gondor was damaged, the Gates destroyed, Mordor's forces retreated but still dangerous, and Aragorn's new best friend, the King of Rohan, is camped on the field encircling the City with a few thousand Rohirrim. And Mithrandir, who the people of Gondor trust or at least respect as a powerful fellow, is the Returned King's counselor and is soon put in charge of more or less everything having to do with the War against Sauron. Anyone wanna protest the Heir of Isildur's benign coup? 3. After Aragorn leaves with a good chunk of the military, Faramir, who is one of Aragorn's new best friends or at least devoted fans, takes up his duties. That would have been the time for Faramir, or anyone, to foment rebellion against He of the Many Names; but all are too busy worrying about when Sauron's forces are going to swoop down and kill them some more. JRRT set up Faramir's wish to live under the restored Crown back in TTT; Faramir has made his decision and lives with it; credibly I think. 4. Most of Gondor would probably have been too caught up in the joy of surviving the end of the Ring War, not to mention averting the end of their world, to suddenly think about ditching the Returned King. And even if they did; hello, who's got the biggest armed force among Men at his back at Cormallen? And with Faramir and Imrahil in the King's corner, who is going to give an opposition movement the credibility it would need? 5. JRRT also has Faramir go to the trouble of announcing Aragorn's qualifications to the assembled people in a way that stresses the Heir's connection to Elendil rather than Isildur, and asks the people if Aragorn should be crowned, instead of just announcing that the Heir of Isildur has come to take up the Kingship (that once was the property of the Heirs of Anarion). He, and JRRT, do this to provide multiple justification to Aragorn's assumption of power. Unlike the movies, this isn't just a matter of the guy with the heirlooms and the biggest army coming in and taking over (though that helps!); there is justification by precedent and law and lineage. 6. Given what JRRT set up, and in my opinion set up very convincingly, there wouldn't be too many thoughts of opposition until well after the coronation and fairytale wedding. Then there might have been some Lords who suddenly, as peace sank in, realized, hey, any power or influence they might have wielded under Denethor and Ecthelion was gone and there's a stranger running Gondor, a stranger with the Elves whispering in one ear and the Grey Pilgrim whispering in the other, who has a 3000-year-old bride, and it might seem a bit too much. But by then I think that Aragorn could handle opposition or even rebellion, especially with Imrahil and Faramir's help. When I read a book, I only start to question the plot if it doesn't make sense to me, or if it appears to totally stretch credibility. Nothing in Aragorn's assumption of power makes me hackle. Now the fact that the Heirs of Isildur apparently survived several hundred years in the dangerous North, hunted by Orcs and Nazgul and whatnot, and Orc-hunting themselves, and produced only one male heir per Heir, definitely strains my credibility. I think the Valar must have been watching out for them, or each Heir had a distant cousin named as understudy. How the heck was Aragorn's dad allowed to sit around unmarried until the age of 60 when he found Miss Right? You'd think the Dunedain would have declared a national holiday rather than some of them worrying whether Gilraen was a bit too young, and then rushed them through the wedding, plied Arathorn with oysters and thrown him into Gilraen's bridal bed. And prayed to the Valar for a new little Heir of Isildur! RAKSHA THE DEMON

 

 

Re: Ch. 20 - Pride

Just a small comment; I came across the following passage while doing my own research on Denethor: Denethor was tainted with mere politics: hence his failure, and his mistrust of Faramir. It had become for him a prime motive to preserve the polity of Gondor, as it was, against another potentate, who had made himself stronger and was to be feared and opposed for that reason rather than because he was ruthless and wicked. Denethor despised lesser men, and one may be sure did not distinguish between orcs and the allies of Mordor. If he had survived as victor, even without use of the Ring, he would have taken a long stride towards becoming himself a tyrant, and the terms and treatment he accorded to the deluded peoples of east and south would have been cruel and vengeful. He had become a ‘political’ leader: sc. Gondor against the rest. --“Notes on W.H. Auden’s review of The Return of the King”, 1956, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, p. 241 Anglachel-Enjoyed the new chapter! Hope we get another one soon. My brain is always churning after I read one of your chapters! Elemmíre (SSP-Ch2 of Toward the Sunrise, which deals with Aragorn's battle with the Corsairs & departure from Gondor, is finally up. I'd appreciate comments on my Denethor!)

 

 

Re: Ch. 20 - Pride

Rashka's Comments: "2. When Aragorn enters the City after the Battle of the Pelennor, it is very reasonable that he be acclaimed as King. Think about it. The Steward is dead, his heir is dying; and the only other Lord with standing (and 500 formidable Swan Knights) to challenge Aragorn's claim, Prince Imrahil, is his comrade from the field and just can't wait to spread the news that the King has Returned. Faramir, who is the actual Steward of Gondor, beats his uncle to the punch in terms of formal recognition. Oh yes, the lost Heir heralds his Return with a great PR move - bringing his greatest legal rival, Faramir, back from the brink of death. But who would have said No to Aragorn's Kingship at that point anyway? The capital of Gondor was damaged, the Gates destroyed, Mordor's forces retreated but still dangerous, and Aragorn's new best friend, the King of Rohan, is camped on the field encircling the City with a few thousand Rohirrim. And Mithrandir, who the people of Gondor trust or at least respect as a powerful fellow, is the Returned King's counselor and is soon put in charge of more or less everything having to do with the War against Sauron. Anyone wanna protest the Heir of Isildur's benign coup? 3. After Aragorn leaves with a good chunk of the military, Faramir, who is one of Aragorn's new best friends or at least devoted fans, takes up his duties. That would have been the time for Faramir, or anyone, to foment rebellion against He of the Many Names; but all are too busy worrying about when Sauron's forces are going to swoop down and kill them some more. JRRT set up Faramir's wish to live under the restored Crown back in TTT; Faramir has made his decision and lives with it; credibly I think. 4. Most of Gondor would probably have been too caught up in the joy of surviving the end of the Ring War, not to mention averting the end of their world, to suddenly think about ditching the Returned King. And even if they did; hello, who's got the biggest armed force among Men at his back at Cormallen? And with Faramir and Imrahil in the King's corner, who is going to give an opposition movement the credibility it would need? 5. JRRT also has Faramir go to the trouble of announcing Aragorn's qualifications to the assembled people in a way that stresses the Heir's connection to Elendil rather than Isildur, and asks the people if Aragorn should be crowned, instead of just announcing that the Heir of Isildur has come to take up the Kingship (that once was the property of the Heirs of Anarion). He, and JRRT, do this to provide multiple justification to Aragorn's assumption of power. Unlike the movies, this isn't just a matter of the guy with the heirlooms and the biggest army coming in and taking over (though that helps!); there is justification by precedent and law and lineage." *** Not to be contrary or difficult or a "tough sell" here, (), but really, all of that stuff you just mentioned contatins some really lovely reasons why I believe the way I do, too. Where you see Credible & Rightful Ascension of Returned King, its not that I don't see one there as well. But mingled in with it, at least in my mind is the knowledge that all of that stuff makes it really easy for Aragorn to make his return, which is really my point here (and I think, Julie's, too). The fact that it his return is made SO easy and that Gondor is SO perfectly poised for a Returning King is (in my mind at least) a perfect display of Tolkien having simplified matters. And perhaps not for the worst. I mean, let's face it--taking Denethor out off the picture does help strengthen Aragorn's case. Not only did Denethor die of his own hand (which makes a change of power look at least a pinch more attractive to the people of Gondor, I would think) but also, now things are looking a whole lot easier on the No One to Rival Aragorn front (esp. when taken in conjuction with Boromir's timely demise), the chapter comes out a lot smoother and lot quicker than something addressing some sort of power struggle within the Return would and now, Tolkien is free to quickly move on to What Really Needs to Be Addressed At This Time, aka the Shire and All That Jazz. So, yes, its a wonderful plot device to get rid of Denethor and makes everything that much more warm and fuzzy. I'm not saying I'd really like Tolkien to have ended it any other way. Truth be told, I like it the way it is, the Plot-driveness In Denethor's Final Days doesn't ruffle my feathers too much, and it certainly makes AUs all the more wonderful and intriguing. Osheen Nevoy's "Boromir's Return" is a wonderful example of Denethor completely side-stepping the pyre (though that's not the main focus of the story) but, in the end, this author, too, gets rid of him to make way for Aragorn and Co. because the truth is, even in an AU, Denethor's attitude makes him just about the only noncompatible piece of Gondor left. Because, hey, Denethor's not exactly innocent in all this either. Its not simply everyone else's fault it makes things easier to Just Get Rid of Him. How the heck was Aragorn's dad allowed to sit around unmarried until the age of 60 when he found Miss Right? You'd think the Dunedain would have declared a national holiday rather than some of them worrying whether Gilraen was a bit too young, and then rushed them through the wedding, plied Arathorn with oysters and thrown him into Gilraen's bridal bed. And prayed to the Valar for a new little Heir of Isildur! Amen to that! Cheers, D.

 

 

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