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Discussing: Ch. 27. - Belegaer

Ch. 27. - Belegaer

Belegaer

The many men so beautiful
And they all dead did lie!
And a million million slimy things
Liv'd on - and so did I.

Denethor POV. He travels to Dol Amroth, which is a tale in itself, and is reunited with Finduilas. Several beta readers said that the chapter was disturbing, so fair warning. There is no violence, sex or character death, but does address mortality very seriously. My thanks to Julie, 2 Flower, RohWyn, DL7, Nath and Denna for their great editing advice and interesting discussions. Ang

 

 

Re: Ch. 27. - Belegaer

It's late, dearest, and I've printed it out. I'm going to hit the sack with a glass of wine and enjoy. Will add comments tomorrow. Thank you! Agape

 

 

Re: Ch. 27. - Belegaer

The chapter was disturbing. Not only because a frightened Denethor is quite an unusual thing, but also because I didn't really know what to make of his strange experience. *wink* Maybe I'm dense and/or not well versed enough in Tolkien, but - whom or what exactly did he see /meet? Ulmo himself? The only thing I'm sure of is that he caught a glimpse of the Undying Lands. And why did almost everybody gave him strange looks or seemed to be so much in awe afterwards? *is clueless* As to his betrothal to Fin, I've been wondering what will cause the wedding to take place so much earlier than planned. A good thing, though, or those two would have had even less time together.

 

 

Re: Ch. 27. - Belegaer

The chapter was disturbing. Not only because a frightened Denethor is quite an unusual thing, but also because I didn't really know what to make of his strange experience. *wink* Maybe I'm dense and/or not well versed enough in Tolkien, but - whom or what exactly did he see /meet? Ulmo himself? The only thing I'm sure of is that he caught a glimpse of the Undying Lands. And why did almost everybody gave him strange looks or seemed to be so much in awe afterwards? *is clueless* Denethor met the mariner. As to who or what that is, you know as much as Denethor. The Tolkien references for this would be Tuor in Vinyamar and then his arrival in Gondolin (Both Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales versions) and the Athrabeth. It takes a lot to frighten Denethor, which is a mixed blessing. As to his betrothal to Fin, I've been wondering what will cause the wedding to take place so much earlier than planned. Next chapter, which will have the betrothal itself. Things get... complicated. Toodles - Ang

 

 

Re: Ch. 27. - Belegaer

I too am looking forward to how the wedding is going to be so much earlier than Denethor is thinking. Should be fun! Also, I had thought it was Ulmo himself that Denethor saw. I will re-read. And the part with folks looking at him surprised kind of reminded me of Moses when he saw God in the burning bush. I could accept it. I love the part in Pelargir... very much so. Agape

 

 

Re: Ch. 27. - Belegaer

I too am looking forward to how the wedding is going to be so much earlier than Denethor is thinking. Should be fun! Well, I don't know if *fun* is exactly the word I would use to describe how things get worked out, but, yes, it becomes a matter for debate. Also, I had thought it was Ulmo himself that Denethor saw. I will re-read. It could be. It depends on how you understand the claim that the Valar withdrew into Arda after the breaking of the world and will not emerge again until the end. That seems to say that it could not be Ulmo himself, any more than Gandalf could have been Manwe, though some believed it to be so. As for me, the story hasn't yet made clear who this being is, though Finduilas is certain and Denethor is wary of providing a name. And the part with folks looking at him surprised kind of reminded me of Moses when he saw God in the burning bush. I could accept it. Reflected divinity. Something has affected Denethor deeply and others cannot help but notice. It does fade within a day.
The wedding-guest sate on a stone, He cannot chuse but hear: And thus spake on that ancyent man, The bright-eyed Marinere.
Thanks for the comments! Ang

 

 

Re: Ch. 27. - Belegaer

Once more--loved the chapter. The scene with Denethor seing the towers is very Tolkienesque. Tolkien's people (and LotR readers) feel both joy and sadness when they get a glimpse of the elven world--something visible, but beyond mortals' grasp. You re-create this particular emotion very well. Of course, like most Denethor's emotions, it is very intense Maybe, he is so affected by the sight of the towers because Numenor blood runs nearly true in him? Numenoreans were highly susceptible to the lure of the Undying Lands. I hope that the mariner's words that Denethor "will swim" do not mean that Denethor's personal history is written down in the Ineffable Plan to the smallest detail. I just like to think that he has a good fighting chance

 

 

Re: Ch. 27. - Belegaer

The scene with Denethor seing the towers is very Tolkienesque. Tolkien's people (and LotR readers) feel both joy and sadness when they get a glimpse of the elven world--something visible, but beyond mortals' grasp. You re-create this particular emotion very well. Of course, like most Denethor's emotions, it is very intense Maybe, he is so affected by the sight of the towers because Numenor blood runs nearly true in him? Numenoreans were highly susceptible to the lure of the Undying Lands. Ah, with Denethor, it is either On or Off - no moderation. Yes, he is the last Numenorean, and he sees things others cannot. It is important that he understands that the root of the Numenoreans defiance was not *at first* a desire for immortality, but love, to be with something that deserved to be loved, and then the understanding of the distance between what could be perceived (the towers) and what could be grasped (mortal lands). I hope that the mariner's words that Denethor "will swim" do not mean that Denethor's personal history is written down in the Ineffable Plan to the smallest detail. I just like to think that he has a good fighting chance. It is and it isn't. He has a fate, which is *not* to bring salvation from Sauron, but to prepare the way for the one who will and/or to salvage what remains if the chosen one should fail. There is no rift through which Denethor may pass. The particular events may change (he might have one son, not two; his wife may live longer or shorter; he may die in battle), but the broad narrative will not change. Except... the human role in the grand narrative is to do the unexpected and to bring into being what was never intended - for good and ill. Thus the mariner's last words "Forgive, child. Forgive," handing Denethor the key to what *might* unravel the fate before him and allow something else to be in its place. Can he forgive and let go the deep resentment that ungirds his acts? Can he, most importantly, forgive himself for "breaking troth" with what he has assumed must be his fate and reaching for love and hope? ‘Yet only hope may discern hope. You still have eyes to see, if you have the heart to look.’ The mariner will not intervene in what lies before the character, whether to help or to harm. It is for Denethor to chose - even as all choices may appear equally futile. In some ways, HotK is about the choices that could have been made, but were not. That's not to say "If only Denethor had done X, there would have been a happy ending." I don't think happy endings are in the cards for this character, but there might have been something less horrifying. That the outcome of the Ring War was anticipated long before as can be seen in the things like the prophesy of Malbeth the Seer or Aragorn's preternaturally long life. Even so, there is something less than predestination in operation. So, where are the points where the grand narrative is open to emendation, and in what ways? Can something truly miraculous - unforseen by anyone, even Eru - come to pass? Without at least that possibility, this is a patomime, treating beings, as Denethor would say, as playthings. Ang

 

 

Re: Ch. 27. - Belegaer

this is a patomime, treating beings, as Denethor would say, as playthings. Reminds me of Aeneid's Boromir!Lives fic Adraefan, where the Valar leave Beefy alive after Amon Hen, mostly for their own entertainment. The poor sap spends the rest of the story in excruciating pain, psychotically depressed and drunk out of his mind. I think, at least on this issue, Denethor is right. It is all just a grand jest and neither he nor anyone else can wield the power to change it. Only the Powers can do that and they definitely have their own agenda. In an earlier chapter, Denethor tells Fin that fate will always find a tool to hand...and that's it. They're all just tools in the larger game played by the Powers.

 

 

Re: Ch. 27. - Belegaer

Thus the mariner's last words "Forgive, child. Forgive," handing Denethor the key to what *might* unravel the fate before him and allow something else to be in its place. Can he forgive and let go the deep resentment that ungirds his acts? I had misinterpreted the mariner's words "forgive..." as "I am sorry for the mess we higher forces make of your life and of your country history in general". I hadn't questioned the sentiment, though I probably should have Now I see what he means, of course.

 

 

Re: Ch. 27. - Belegaer

I had misinterpreted the mariner's words "forgive..." as "I am sorry for the mess we higher forces make of your life and of your country history in general". I hadn't questioned the sentiment, though I probably should have Now I see what he means, of course. It can cover both situations. Denethor is not forgiving, least of all of himself, though he is darn rough on everyone. The mariner is warning him of where his greatest danger lies. He is also, kind of, asking for forgiveness for what the clash of mortal and immortal desires does to the world they share, though he is not asking forgiveness of his own acts, which he sees as necessary. Denethor may see the intervention of the powers as equally illegitimate, but that does not mean the powers accept his perspective. You can be sorry for the results of an act yet not be sorry for the act itself. Breaking eggs to make an omlette, and all that... Ang

 

 

Re: Ch. 27. - Belegaer

I've been following this since I discovered fanfiction, early this year. It's terribly impressive. I liked this chapter very much. It is such a logical next step from the last few chapters. Actually, from the point where Finduilas realises she is having prophetic/clairvoyant dreams, and suddenly myths and legends and fate start looking like non-fiction, fo to speak. I thought it was a very important insight for Denethor, to realise why the Numenoreans went crazy over having Tol Eressea always there on their horizon (one of the instances where the Valar showed that they really had No Clue about human nature). I liked the way that this moment of mercy in his understanding of them led up to the sailor's injunction to forgive. The discussion of mortality was fascinating. I wonder what his reaction would be to meeting an elf? There's nothing in the book to say whether he did or didn't. I've never thought of the Valar as game-playing Powers. More like people trying to get as good outcomes as they can in difficult and uncertain circumstances. But of course the point of mortals was to introduce uncertainty into the universe. This is a bit awkward for mortals, of course, since the uncertainty extends to what if anything happens to them after they die. But the One, as creators tend to be, has always struck me as being quite a bit more ruthless in dealing with creation than the Valar.

 

 

Re: Ch. 27. - Belegaer

Glad you are enjoying the story! I don't think Denethor ever met an Elf (or a Dwarf, for that matter) and I don't plan on having him do so within HotK, but you're right, it *would* be interesting to see it happen. Anybody want a cute little nuzgul? Free to good home... As for game playing, it is perspectival. To Denethor, they hold all the cards and all the power. In particular, the presence of Sauron angers him. He does not really contest that Men die; what angers him is the conditions under which they are made to live - in the face of semi-divine evil and possessed by a love for something they are forbidden to approach. Love replaces knowledge as the apple in this garden. In my thinking, Aragorn and Denethor represent the two great inheritances of Numenor - the Elven/immortal and the Edain/mortal. In Denethor's case, it comes with this great empathy for the works and ways of his ancestors, to the point where he can be overwhelmed by the weight of what has been. Aragorn's inheritance is, in some ways, more simple to bear - he is the redeemer, come to wipe clean the failings of the past and to refound the (holy) rule. Denethor is the memory of all that has been, including the failures, the falling away, and the trangressions. He wants to valorize this in the face of the looming conflict between Good and Evil presaged by the return of Sauron. Whether Evil or Good triumphs, what has been will be destroyed - like Beleriand or Numenor itself. He also is working himself up into righteous anger against the Powers for their interventions in Arda. This is a world where the gods are visible and their existence cannot be doubted. But they are becoming less fearsome - Denethor can hold the knowledge of Aman as a fact and can speak to Gandalf as he would speak to any mortal. Something has to shake him up:
Can you draw out Leviathan by a fishhook
Can you press down his tongue by a rope?
Can you put a ring through his nose,
Or pierce his jaw with a barb?
Will he plead at length with you?
Will he speak soft words to you?
Will he make an agreement with you
To be taken as your lifelong slave?…
Lay a hand on him,
And you will never think of battle again.
40:25, Book of Job
Denethor is having one of these moments right about now. He has to understand that he is *not* on par with the divine. His own rebellion is nothing compared to the might and will of the One. The mariner is going to compound this sense, but then offer some kind of solace - that which is most fearsome is also that which will be your salvation. The mariner is trying to show Denethor a different way of viewing both loves that frighten and fascinate him - love of the divine/eternal and love of the mortal/temporal. Denethor *does* get it at one level - he does see that the motive force behind the Downfall was the desire for divine, and that this desire is part of proper nature of Men. When frustrated, however, it flows into darker paths. What Sauron corrupted, what Morgoth corrupted, was love. And he senses that love within the mortal world is preparation for a kind of transformation brought about by death, yet Denethor cannot help but love - deeply, passionately, fully - what is right here and right now, even in the face of knowing it will all end. While Denethor philosophically understands that the temporal world is not "true" and that there is more beyond certain knowledge, still he demands that the mariner acknowledge that death/ruin is *an end* to something that is good in and of itself, with no reference to what the One desires or plans. The ability of Men to create something new and introduce uncertainty underpins their restlessness - the sense that they don't belong to Arda - but also makes them possessive of what is, as they see themselves as creators. They remake the world in their own image, introducing both a sense of ownership and a certain degree of narcissism. It is love, subject to hallowing and to corruption in equal measure. In The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the narrator kills the Albatross because it is something he desires, but it is beyond his grasp. Then there is this strange passage:
He lov'd the bird that lov'd the man
Who shot him with his bow.
The man killed the bird that loved him, but was beyond his grasp. The bird in turn was loved by a creator figure, who punished the man for the denial of love that could not be possessed:
Quoth he the man hath penance done,
and penance more will do.
The man sees his shipmates die around him, in a passage I quoted earlier in this thread:
The many men so beautiful,
And they all dead did lie!
And a million million slimy things
Liv'd on - and so did I.
This is much the condition Denethor lives in. He sees ruin and death, and sees himself and his house (wrongly) as having caused it (or at least having failed to prevent it), unworthy, surviving and left among the ruin. This is his Albatross. He loves it, hates it, wants to crush it to him forever and desperately wishes to be rid of it. There is redemption in the form of the King, but will Denethor relinquish the Albatross? In LotR, he does not. In HotK, I look at what it would take for him to do so. The first act of penance for the man is that he blesses the water-snakes (the slimy things), and looks upon them with love. In the doing, the albatross falls from his neck. He admits of the possibility that he (another slimy thing) might also deserve to be loved. The second act of penance is the recounting of the tale and making clear his own complicity in the ruin. The entire poem is an instance of this, as the framing device is a traveler on his way to a wedding is waylaid by the man/mariner who tells him the story. The third implicit act of penance is *to forgive himself* for his crime. Only that can undo the mistakes of the past. It is not clear in the poem that the man will ever achieve this - to forgive himself for being mortal and fallible. As to how the penance does or doesn't map on to Denethor, I leave for the readers to decide. Toodles - Ang

 

 

Re: Ch. 27. - Belegaer

There is redemption in the form of the King, but will Denethor relinquish the Albatross? In LotR, he does not. I would love to see some time that AU which you thought about writing. I bet that there--he does.

 

 

Re: Ch. 27. - Belegaer

He loves it, hates it, wants to crush it to him forever and desperately wishes to be rid of it. He may not find redemption in RoTK, but he does find an end. I actually think Denethor doesn't want to be redeemed. He's engaged in a brand of self-loathing that's quite unique in the Tolkien universe. There are so many opportunities for Denethor to "do penance," as you suggest. That he avails of none of them is very telling, in my opinion.

 

 

Re: Ch. 27. - Belegaer

There is redemption in the form of the King, but will Denethor relinquish the Albatross? In LotR, he does not. I would love to see some time that AU which you thought about writing. I bet that there--he does. In how I imagine it, I don't think he does. He's a stubborn SOB, after all. He becomes more like Frodo, losing everything he desired to preserve not by having it be destroyed, but by it being denied to him to enjoy within the circles of the world. I have a difficult time seeing Denethor be reconciled to any of it before his death though I can see him being very effective in getting Gondor restored to greatness despite the "upstart" and his wars. But he would always be angry, always be resentful, always be on the edge of rebellion. Ang

 

 

Re: Ch. 27. - Belegaer

Yet ironically Denethor is, in one rather significant sense, "on par", if not with the One, then with the Powers. He is one of the Children, proceeding directly from the thought of the one just as the Valar do. He is their sibling, not their creature, however much younger and weaker. And therefore feels that he has the right to be angry at them for what he thinks they have done or allowed in the world. "While Denethor philosophically understands that the temporal world is not "true" and that there is more beyond certain knowledge, still he demands that the mariner acknowledge that death/ruin is *an end* to something that is good in and of itself, with no reference to what the One desires or plans." He wants respect! For himself, and for the mortal world and its works. I rather agree that he would never have been reconciled to the coming of the King. He would have had to yield too much of himself. There's a story of a Westerner looking at one of those ferocious Tibetan Buddhist paintings, showing a gigantic, hideous monster trampling a small, struggling, human figure. When he asks what it represents, he is told "That is Enlightenment, seen by someone who has not yet achieved it."

 

 

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