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Discussing: Ch. 44 - Touched

Ch. 44 - Touched

Ch. 44 - Touched

First of two Finduilas POV chapters.  Warnings: graphic sex, creepiness, character illness.

All about the meaning of touch - healing touches and a touch of evil, being a bit touched in the head and having one's heart touched by something unexpected.  A long anticipated event happens, but not the way you would think. Scenes with Thorongil, Marlong and Lhûn, and another with a surprise character. Most scenes are with Denethor.

I recommend re-reading the last section of chapter 43, North,  before diving into 44 as it will make much more sense of the opening paragraphs.

Thanks to Julie, Nath, Roh Wyn and DL7 for beta reading and comments on the chapter. Also big thanks to my HASA family for your love and support the last few weeks.

Ang 

 

 

Re: Ch. 44 - Touched

I like this very much - the parallels that Finduilas finds between Denethor and Thorongil and Isildur and Anarion, and the ambiguous effects of a divine presence, however essentially benevolent. Does the reference to hope that endures have anything to do with Thorongil? It is interesting in the last few chapters how Denethor and Finduilas are beginning to think of him as the king, and themselves, perhaps, truly as his steward and regent, until the time comes for him to come into his own.

 

 

Re: Ch. 44 - Touched

Hi Anna,

I'm glad you are enjoying the story so far. The parallels between Isildur/Anarion and Aragorn/Denethor  are too powerful to ignore, but the strange one was the connection between Miriel and Finduilas. Miriel is the last queen of the Dunedain before the Downfall, and was the actual ruler whose role was usurped/eclipsed by her consort. Looking at Finduilas as functionally if not legally the queen (highest ranking female, wed to the de facto ruler, socially and politically powerful) of Gondor, the question of who is the legitimate ruler becomes even fuzzier. Thorongil could not have made a claim to the throne against the wishes of the Steward's clan without a marriage to Finduilas, and Denethor's claim upon rule is cemented by his marriage to her, just as Pharazon probably could not have taken over in Numenor without his marriage to Miriel. Miriel's story will continue in future chapters.

The reference to hope enduring is partially to Thorongil, but is more a reference back to Denethor's original encounter with the mariner, which is itself explicitly modeled on Tuor's encounter with Ulmo at Vinyamar. Denethor's elision of hope and love, once he Sees Finduilas, is not precisely *wrong*, but the mariner's silent words to Finduilas are more tragic than anything. In her endures a kind of hope, but it is not hope within the world. There both is and isn't hope for Denethor in the fate that is unfolding before him, and there does not apepar to be any rift in that fate where he can elude a tragic end. Yet, even the Valar do not see all things, so perhaps...

It is interesting in the last few chapters how Denethor and Finduilas are beginning to think of him as the king, and themselves, perhaps, truly as his steward and regent, until the time comes for him to come into his own.

They definitely are, and it will continue in this vein. It is writing against the standard narrative (evil!resentful!jealous!Denethor hates the noble interloper and makes life hell for everyone, especially wimpy!frail!doormat!Finduilas), but makes for a more politically interesting story. There have to be possibilities, roads not taken, opportunities missed, and not due to a major character being some kind bad guy from central casting, but because of ordinary and reasonable actions. This brings in chance and, thus, hope, but also incredible pain because you can see what *might* have been if only you had said/done this instead of that, along with the realization that it will always be this way.  Jasper Griffin's review of the new translation of Gilgamesh in a recent New York Review of Books ('The True Epic Vision') captures this tension very well.

Thanks so much for the comments!

Ang 

 

 

Re: Ch. 44 - Touched

Peter Jackson's  vulgar, bastardised and utterly implausible (for one thing, if you come from a millennial culture, even descent into psychosis is not going to make you forget your table manners!) version of Denethor has done a great disservice to  interpretations of this character, in my opinion. One of the many reasons I am enjoying your fic so much is that  you portray Denethor consistently with Tolkien's own view of him. And how you make it so clear and sad and inevitable how Finduilas' early death is going to affect him.

The Finduilas/Miriel parallel is fascinating, and does make sense. Especially since the royalty of Elros' line comes from the  infusion of elvish (and divine) blood, and the Dol Amroth line is the only other one around that offically claims anything similar.

 

 

Re: Ch. 44 - Touched

Peter Jackson's  vulgar, bastardised and utterly implausible ... version of Denethor has done a great disservice to  interpretations of this character, in my opinion.

[rolls eyes] I had such hope, too, after the excellent treatment of Boromir in movie 1 and the phenomenal interpretation of Gollum in movie 2.  The bad interpretations of Denetor long preceed movie 3, however. I felt like I was watching the worst fandom stereotypes play out on the big screen. Tolkien himself treated Denethor very roughly (particularly when comparing his first drafts where Denethor lives to the final version) and was taking out a lot of understandable anger at the war "leaders" of his own time on the character of this proud and worldly ruler, but the Professor gave the Steward his dignity, if not his due. And managed to create one of the most compelling people in the book with just a few pages of description and dialogue.

One of the many reasons I am enjoying your fic so much is that  you portray Denethor consistently with Tolkien's own view of him. And how you make it so clear and sad and inevitable how Finduilas' early death is going to affect him.

Thank you! I appreciate  the time people have given to the story. I diverge from JRRT's view of in a number of ways. I'm trying to show Denethor as a Renaissance prince, someone who is respectful of the past and of ancestors, but who is a proto-modernist at heart,  which means fundamentally a person who questions everything, particularly authority, having confidence in the accuracy of his own judgments. That this means he detests having his *own* authority questioned should come as no surprise. ;-)  You can read HotK as an exploration of authority and legitimacy.

The Finduilas/Miriel parallel is fascinating, and does make sense. Especially since the royalty of Elros' line comes from the  infusion of elvish (and divine) blood, and the Dol Amroth line is the only other one around that offically claims anything similar.

Bingo. The peredhil of Dol Amroth make no sense in this world. They break pretty much every convention Tolkien built for relations between Men and Elves. They should not be, yet they are. They are cast wholly among men, yet generations later the Elven blood is strong enough for Legolas to see it in Imrahil's face.  Why didn't they get the choice of Elrond and Elros?  Maybe they did, and chose mortality.  It is more like Earendil and Elwing, where their status is uncertain while they are performing their great deeds, and their liminality is part of what makes it possible for them to do what they need to do. I explicitly compare Finduilas to Tuor, as well as to Arwen & Miriel, though it is an odd stretch, and I think of one who is marked for a fate that no one understands, even after the dust has cleared.

As always, thanks for the comments!

Ang 

 

 

Re: Ch. 44 - Touched

but who is a proto-modernist at heart,  which means fundamentally a person who questions everything, particularly authority, having confidence in the accuracy of his own judgments.

One can see why someone like would have some problems in a world that is ruled by real gods, and a real Fate.

 Why didn't they get the choice of Elrond and Elros? 

I recall a bit somewhere in the thickets of HoME where the question of Elf-Mortal hybrids comes up, and the Valar say that the smallest element of mortal ancestry makes a person mortal, unless the Valar decide to make other arrangements. And I think also that only for descendants of Luthien would the Valar offer alternatives; it's not said why in that text, but I rather assumed that it was because Luthien was a hybrid goddess and it was a courtesy to Melian by her colleagues (and also of course she died for real and therefore there were fewer elves in the world than there should have been, causing a need to make up the numbers somehow). This doesn't explain the choice given to Earendil, of course, or whatever it was that happened to Tuor, but I suppose the Valar could always adapt their policies to take account of special circumstances.

Speaking of liminality, I believe it was Tom Shippey who pointed out that in LOTR, the sons of Elrond are never described as either Elves or Men, but always explicitly as the Sons of Elrond. And I don't recall that Arwen is ever described as either an Elf or a Man either.

 

 

Re: Ch. 44 - Touched

I love the image of Aragorn and Denethor as Isildur and Anárion. Arnor and Gondor, Moon and Sun... Wonderful. Added to that, I admit I have a very soft spot for Anárion, and I regret that there are so few stories about him; so bringing him here in conjunction with such a lovely metaphor is a real treat for me.

You're drawing a nice parallel to Míriel. I wonder if Faramir's wave dream was somehow an inheritance of his mother's visions.

Yay for Gull! Good horse.

Regarding Thorongil's "norther herbs", my mind went whirring. I presume they are athelas? They need the King's healing hands to be fully potent, so if Thorongil's leaves again in 2980, they won't help Finduilas as well as they do know when he personally administer them. Which would result exacerbate her illness. And if Denethor should learn about this fact... Oh. My...

Naming the mariner "gift-giver" has rather surprised me. Do you intend this allusion to Annatar? Although I don't have the faintest idea who he is supposed to represent, I had always thought him a benign sign.

The ending is nicely ambiguous. Between those two, nothing can ever be simple, can't it? Just when Denethor is finally relieved of his doubts, Finduilas gets some, and about something so profound!

Imhiriel

 

 

Re: Ch. 44 - Touched

Imhiriel, 

I love the image of Aragorn and Denethor as Isildur and Anárion. Arnor and Gondor, Moon and Sun... Wonderful. Added to that, I admit I have a very soft spot for Anárion, and I regret that there are so few stories about him; so bringing him here in conjunction with such a lovely metaphor is a real treat for me.

There will be more, implicit and explicit. This is Finduilas's perception of them. Denethor will also be doing a comparison between himself, Thorongil and historical characters, but his characters are of more recent vintage and not nearly so appealing.

You're drawing a nice parallel to Míriel. I wonder if Faramir's wave dream was somehow an inheritance of his mother's visions.

Yes, Faramir gets his dreams from Finduilas, both the capacity to have them and the content of them. They are being warned about the same thing.

Yay for Gull! Good horse.

I like Gull and Telperien, the cat.  They play such good roles without speaking a word.  Sadly, I had a scene early on with Gaerhûl that I had to cut due to space and plot considerations. He has an interesting backstory.

Regarding Thorongil's "northern herbs", my mind went whirring. I presume they are athelas? They need the King's healing hands to be fully potent, so if Thorongil's leaves again in 2980, they won't help Finduilas as well as they do know when he personally administer them. Which would result exacerbate her illness. And if Denethor should learn about this fact... Oh. My...

Oh. Yes.  Oh, my, yes. And Denethor will find out, because he always does. At this point, however, I'm not sure that Thorongil himself is 100% aware of the difference he brings to the healing, nor do I think he is at his full healing powers. Even so, what he can do is beyond the other, more traditionally trained healers.

Naming the mariner "gift-giver" has rather surprised me. Do you intend this allusion to Annatar? Although I don't have the faintest idea who he is supposed to represent, I had always thought him a benign sign.

Ah, good, you caught that. Finduilas probably wasn't thinking of the connection when she said it, but would not retract her words if she saw the parallel later. No, the mariner is not benign, though he is not thereby evil. He is powerful and has his own agenda. Keep reading.

The ending is nicely ambiguous. Between those two, nothing can ever be simple, can't it? Just when Denethor is finally relieved of his doubts, Finduilas gets some, and about something so profound!

Nope, nothing is as it appears. She's right to be wary. Finduilas sees things more clearly than others around her, even Thorongil. However, I do allow her to put aside the conscious worries and have a little fun in the next chapter. Hmm, maybe more than a little... ;-)

Thanks for the comments!

Ang 

 

 

Re: Ch. 44 - Touched

There will be more, implicit and explicit. This is Finduilas's perception of them.

Yes, it's clear she has fallen hard for the sun of Denethor. I suppose it's rather unusual to have him as a symbol of warmth, but, I think, only natural - she married the guy ;).

Denethor will also be doing a comparison between himself, Thorongil and historical characters, but his characters are of more recent vintage and not nearly so appealing.

I like Gull and Telperien, the cat. They play such good roles without speaking a word. Sadly, I had a scene early on with Gaerhûl that I had to cut due to space and plot considerations. He has an interesting backstory.

Now you're being a tease! Please do tell!
I like the cat, too. She's a nice addition without overplaying the cutesy-factor or drawing too much attention to herself.

Oh. Yes. Oh, my, yes. And Denethor will find out, because he always does.

Thanks for kindly overlooking my appalling spelling errors in that paragraph of my comments . And yes, Denethor always does find out.

At this point, however, I'm not sure that Thorongil himself is 100% aware of the difference he brings to the healing, nor do I think he is at his full healing powers. Even so, what he can do is beyond the other, more traditionally trained healers.

That's how I have always seen it, too.

No, the mariner is not benign, though he is not thereby evil. He is powerful and has his own agenda. Keep reading.

Of course I will ;).

However, I do allow her to put aside the conscious worries and have a little fun in the next chapter. Hmm, maybe more than a little... ;-)

Good for them. And I'm curious if her "awakening", her breaking of the final sexual barrier between them, so they can "see" each other now, will also be the conception of Boromir.

Thanks for the comments!

You're very welcome!

Imhiriel

 

 

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