Raksha The Demon
19 Apr 05 10:52 AM
Reply To: 40420
IMO, Denethor puts a lot more faith in what he sees in the palantir, a tool influenced by an extremely powerful and malevolent entity, then in rational intelligence.
But the events of LOTR are
a testament to the triumph of faith and hope! Perhaps that's Tolkien's Catholic faith talking, but the instinct to cherish hope and faith is a powerful one. If one looks coolly and rationally at the plot, at the situation, one would think that Sauron's triumph is pretty much inevitable and that two hobbits have almost no chance of surviving until they get to Mount Doom, let alone accomplishing their mission. If Faramir had relied totally on reason, he'd have grabbed the ring and tried to take it to Mount Doom himself, or brought it home for safekeeping...Faramir's decision seems to me to be a combination of faith and reason - because reason was making it clear that Sauron's triumph was inevitable, and the only thing they had left was this tiny chance that the two hobbits could sneak through Mordor, if their guide didn't kill them first...In other words, Faramir, who had run out of hope by then, made a decision combining reason (the idea that the small and stealthy hobbits could manage to destroy the Ring which had a tendancy to corrupt Men) and a desperate, final surge of the hope he'd disavowed...In the absence of a reasonable strategy that would assure Gondor's survival, Faramir chose a strategy that relied on a faint hope and a certain amount of faith, which seems to me very human and 'reasonable'...
As to Aragorn's being guided by hope and faith, well, his existence was a testament to it, not to mention his original name. Hope and faith was all that the Northern Dunedain had, for years. Aragorn had lived most of his life in hope and faith in his role and in his fate; that, and luck, and skill and intelligence, kept him alive in a world where some very powerful forces wanted to annhiliate him.
I think JRRT's message might be more along the lines of 'when reason fails, you have to cherish hope and faith', rather than 'when reason fails, give up hope and fall apart', or 'Faith trumps Reason'. I think both are necessary. The plan to send a hobbit into Mordor with the One Ring does have a rational basis as well as one of hope/faith - a small, stealthy creature had a lot better chance of getting there than a force of hundreds of Men. And hobbits had greater immunity to the Ring's lure than did Men, though they were still vulnerable to it.
Rationally, even if Minas Tirith could have been saved by the combined forces of Gondor and Rohan, Sauron had a far greater number of troops. Orcs were evidently easy to breed and grew quickly, and he had a huge supply. And the Nazgul were unkillable by most means - the WitchKing might have been vulnerable to hobbits and women, but there's no indication that the other RingWraiths were. Inevitably, Sauron would have worn down Gondor/Rohan's defenses, or at least kept them in constant war until both realms dwindled into shadows of their former greatness (which is, to some extent, what happened to Gondor) and the people would have ended up on the run and hiding in the wilderness with the Northern Rangers...And Reasonably, trusting to an army of dead, accursed traitors to destroy the Corsairs doesn't make much sense - but it was the best option that Aragorn had. Not being a fool, he took it.
To me, Denethor himself turned away from Reason as well as Hope - rationally, he should not have relied on the palantir as his main source of information - even if it had shown him true things before, he should have remembered that it was tainted by Sauron's mind, and held on until the ships came and it was revealed that the Corsairs weren't in them. But by then, he was well along on the path of mental disintegration, too much stress over many years, Boromir's death a crushing blow to his sanity, and Faramir's imminent death the last straw.
Denethor's main flaw was his pride, not his reliance on Reason - if he'd been more willing to reach out to cement old alliances and make new ones instead of trusting only in his own strength (considerable as it was), he might have found ways to lessen Sauron's strength in earlier years...He might have had the Corsairs eliminated, or stalled, years ago. He might have made up with Gandalf (even if he hated the guy, Gandalf has his wrinkled fingers on the pulse of Middle-earth and knows what's going on all over, and is friends with Elves and Dwarves, all of whom were potential allies or at least sources of useful intelligence/info), but, because of his dislike of Gandalf, he chose to distrust him and consult or at least prefer Saruman...If I had been in Denny's position, I'd figure that even if Gandalf wanted to push my House out of power in favor of a scruffy Ranger, better for that to happen than Gondor fall to Sauron, and swallow my pride.
Things might have been different if Finduilas had lived, though as I recall, it was indicated that Denethor was a self-willed and prideful fellow before he married, too...
RAKSHA THE DEMON