Forum: Hands of the King

Discussing: Ch. 38 - Found

Ch. 38 - Found

Ch. 38 - Found

Second of three Denethor POV chapters. Warnings for some battlefield gore, and explicit erotic scenes.  Extended scenes with Thorongil and Finduilas, important scene with Ecthelion. And Telperien give us her perspective.

Many things are sought, and some things are found. Things unthought and unknown are revealed. Denethor ponders deception and love,  and wrestles with trust - to trust and to be trusted.  

Special thanks to Julie, Nath and RohWyn for their beta reading help.

Ang 

 

 

Re: Ch. 38 - Found

I can see the hint of a coming thaw with Ecthelion, and I look forward to it!

I like the moment of ambivalence when he found Finduilas behind the screen, that rang very true to me.

The situation with Thorongil is more difficult for me. I still have trouble with the idea that Denethor would help him be king. I can see Denethor bowing to the inevitable, or accepting it as the price of saving Gondor. That he would actively plan his education is more puzzling, even though he would enjoy being the one with knowledge to dispense.

Looking forward to the next!

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: Ch. 38 - Found

The way I react to it, Oaths are very strong in Tolkien's world. The stewards have been promising "until the King return" for how many generations? Under those circumstances, 'the King isn't ready, he needs to be trained' is both true ... and a stalling technique.

I have Faramir describe it in my AU story, "the Oath sang in my heart on first sight" -- I think that's happening in different ways to different characters in HotK.

 

 

Re: Ch. 38 - Found

I can see the hint of a coming thaw with Ecthelion, and I look forward to it!

Don't get too attached. In a few chapters, there's a slight set back. Ecthelion has a lot to answer for.

I like the moment of ambivalence when he found Finduilas behind the screen, that rang very true to me.

It was a close thing. He was very tired and feeling jerked around.

The situation with Thorongil is more difficult for me. I still have trouble with the idea that Denethor would help him be king. I can see Denethor bowing to the inevitable, or accepting it as the price of saving Gondor. That he would actively plan his education is more puzzling, even though he would enjoy being the one with knowledge to dispense.

Denethor is caught. On the one hand, he knows (and privately acknowledges)  the formal claim Thorongil has on the throne. On the other, he is sworn to defend Gondor, which may mean defending her against her own feckless rulers. As Julie mentioned, there is a supernatural compulsion at work where he wants to obey this divinely chosen ruler. At the same time, the distance between Thorongil and Denethor's legitimacy as ruler of Gondor is razor thin. Denethor IS a legitimate ruler, as is Ecthelion. He understands his obligations to the kingdom (and also resents the usurper waltzing in at this late time), and is not willing to just hand things over. And, in the unfolding of the Ardaverse, if Aragorn fails, his understudy is Denethor.

His ambivalence finds a perfect home in his desire to tutor the vagabond who would be king. He serves, yet he controls; he protects, yet he possesses. There is a lot of self-deception happening, of course, but Denethor is sincere that he wants to train the captain. There is also the political side - if he does not coopt the captain, then Thorongil is left with no natural "ally" except Maiaberiel. That cannot be allowed. So, it is not just training, but also patronage that is at stake. This will become a very big issue in a later chapter.

There's also the matter-of-fact need for Thorongil to be taught how to run a complex, highly articulated and ancient society that is under attack by an ancestral enemy.  People are really not understanding the degree to which Thorongil doesn't have a clue about how to govern. That's why kings have stewards. The naturalistic view, that somehow childhood with the Elves and the blessing of the Valar is sufficient; that Aragorn/Elessar will magically know how to do the right thing just doesn't wash. There is a functional difference between a leader and a ruler (or, to use modern terminology, between a figurehead and an executive). The most successful leaders are also good managers, and vice-versa. Thorongil has spent the majority of his life lying under a tree waiting for Orcs. Denethor may exaggerate the state of Thorongil's ignorance, but it would not sting were there not a good deal of truth to it. It's not that Thorongil can't be a good ruler - it's just that there's a lot of ground to cover before he gets there, and there is no better teacher in all of Middle-earth than Denethor.

Talk about training your job replacement... 

By the time Denethor takes the Black Chair, the window of opportunity is gone for Thorongil. I don't think Denethor would ever have served as a mere Steward once he had been a ruling Steward. As long as Denethor never holds the White Rod in his own right, there is a chance he will accept another ruler.  It is possible that Ecthelion will surrender rule to Thorongil before his death. If he dies without confirming Denethor (hereditary inheritance is the custom, not the law), then there are two contestants for the throne. Denethor is determined that there will be no more Kin-strife style faction in Gondor, and Thorongil does not appear to be restrained in the same way. The populace may very well support the brigand. There is more on this in future chapters, too, as Denethor tries to psych himself up for the return of the king.

Toodles - Ang 

 

 

Re: Ch. 38 - Found

I think there's a contradiction in what Denethor and Finduilas are discussing about Thorongil's concerns. First, Denethor says, "He does not think about Gondor as a piece of rock, a length of dirt, a stand of trees, a village of simple folk."

But, a little later, he himself shows the same attitude towards the North: "By his own admission, there is naught left there. He is chieftain of nothing, if he is even that."

Doesn't this dismiss too easily what is left? Okay, Denethor doesn't know any details, but he does know about the Lost, he knows settlements do exist, Dúnedain culture still endures. He accuses Thorongil of neglect of or lacking commitment to Gondor without taking into consideration that he has other responsibilities (especially as they know he is Heir of Isildur and head of the Northern Dúnedain) that should not be simply brushed aside because Gondor is more visible and presumably stronger, that they may have good reasons for abiding in secret as they have for so many generations.

That's one example of how both Denethor and Finduilas often look down on Aragorn and how they categorize him too easily as a bit rustic and simple or awkward in dealing with Gondorian political and administrative realities and problems.

It's where I actually have the most problems with your portrayal of Aragorn. I don't think Elrond's rearing would have left him lacking, backwards or awkward in socio-political knowledge and skills, and even if he had lived his whole life "merely" among his Dúnedain kin like his ancestors, I do think he would have known how to lead and govern a people and its place in M-e. His further education in Rohan and Gondor would merely hone it further and give opportunities for more practical application on a broader scale, with "mentors" actually dealing with the various and varied permutations of everyday ruling.
I understand your wish to show how he grows up and how he is influenced by what he sees and learns in Rohan and especially Gondor with such a fine example of a statesman as Denethor (and your so eqally strong and capable Finduilas), but he is too ignorant and blundering for my taste in regard to the intrigues of Maiaberiel and, to a lesser extent, his crush on Finduilas. As to the latter, I grant he would not have much opportunity to develop a more confident and knowledgable "take" on women and relationships to them.

I believe this is actually the first time I comment on HotK. I thoroughly enjoy it, it's so carefully considered and crafted. The take on Gondorian society, politcs, government, culture is often unusual, but though I admit I sometimes have to put aside my own notions on certain matters, these things are so well drawn that I can take them as presented and just "enjoy the ride". Your so complex, shaded characters and relations are particularly intriguing, even if so many of the characters are, paradoxically, rather unsympathetic and unpleasant. And I have very seldom read a story where the day-to-day living, governing and warring in Gondor was depicted in such realistic details, down to the least minutiae like storage of crops, care for widows, specific battle strategy. And I simply love Denethor communing with the stones of the various cities of Gondor.

Can't wait for the time when the riddle of Finduilas's visions are finally solved; I confess most of them go right over my head, although I did recognize the allusion the tale of the Seven (?) Swans (I love Andersen's tales!).

Oops, that turned out a lot longer than intended and veered wildly away from my commenting on the present chapter - sorry for that. I guess I was making up for not commenting on the previous 37 chapters .

Imhiriel

 

 

Re: Ch. 38 - Found

I don't think Elrond's rearing would have left him lacking, backwards or awkward in socio-political knowledge and skills, and even if he had lived his whole life "merely" among his Dúnedain kin like his ancestors, I do think he would have known how to lead and govern a people and its place in M-e.

Not speaking for Ang, just offering my own opinion...

I have exactly the opposite view of Aragorn's upbringing by Elrond. I think he would have a gentleman's education: i.e. classical education in literature, science and statecraft. But reading about something and actually experiencing/doing it are very different things. At best, Aragorn has only a rudimentary knowledge of what it is to govern, and to lead as a king. And I would go as far as to say that while he probably has the sophistication of the Elves, he has very little of the shrewdness and the political acumen needed to survive in a place like Gondor.

Aragorn leaves the North when he is very young, so he certainly has not had time to lead the Dunedain in his capacity as their Chieftain. In his time in Rohan and Gondor, he is acting primarily as a soldier, a battlefield leader of men...and this too is not sufficient to provide him with any real political training.

This is not intended in any way as a criticism of Aragorn. Rather, to me, these things all point to why he leaves Gondor soon after the victory over Umbar. In my mind, he has seen enough to know that he's not quite ready yet. It is the subsequent years of leading the Dunedain that help him prepare for his ultimate role as King.

That's my $2 (inflation and all, wouldn't you know!)

 

 

Re: Ch. 38 - Found

What fun! I cannot resist jumping in the ring on this one. First, I think Anglachel's storyline as it relates to Aragorn, succeeds only insofar as she is able to convince us to suspend our disbelief in relation to a whole lot of things that Tolkien (and this reader) saw him to be.

On the last two postings to this forum I want to put forward a personal view. Aragorn did not go to Minas Tirith to learn to be a solider. He went specifically to learn more about the geopolitical reality of world within which he would assume leadership, which would be necessary if he is to reach his goal—assuming kingship, uniting the two kingdoms, and inspiring the necessary alliances and loyalties that would make the defeat of Sauron possible (which would not be done through a coup or political backroom dealings). I don't think he left Gondor because "he's not quite ready" but because he has other things to do particularly in the North and in collaboration with Gandalf.

Secondly, I do not buy Aragorn as Elvish dilettante—although in Tolkien's world his steeping in the history and traditions of the Ages past are no insignificant part of his preparation. This brings me to Elrond: whoI donot buy as the pompous, somewhat irrelevant character of movie verse (if that had been the case he would long hence have sailed West after his wife), but a leader of men and elves who has withdrawn from direct involvement in the political machinations of men after the Last Alliance and chosen another method to intervene. His has taken as his primary task the preservation of the line of Isildur/Elendil and to do what he is able to prevent the mistakes of history from being repeated. I don't see him raising an effete, poetry-writing kid, confused as to whether he is man or elf, and then throwing him out there be trampled by administrative efficiency.

I hope the above doesn't sound too heated. I defend anyone's right to write his or her story. I recently came across a quote I like a lot: "The problem with defining a canon for Tolkien is that no one wants to share your canon." --Michael Martinez, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Canon," 17 March 2001

 

 

Re: Ch. 38 - Found

I don't see him raising an effete, poetry-writing kid, confused as to whether he is man or elf, and then throwing him out there be trampled by administrative efficiency.

Well, I agree with that. I think Aragorn is well trained, just severely lacking in experience. There's a difference between reading Machiavelli's "Prince" and actually being a Prince. As an analogy, you wouldn't want to be operated on by a physician who hadn't done at least a surgery rotation...even if he/she went to the best medical school on the planet and had parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins and best friends who were physicians!

Nothing that Tolkien says makes me think Aragorn was born knowing everything there was to know. There is a great deal for him to learn, not on an intellectual level, but on a practical one. He may know of the failings of the past political leaders of Men, but he can't possibly know what he would do in the same circumstance.

Also, I don't find it hard to believe at all that Elrond might have tried to shelter Aragorn from the world, if only to protect him. After all, he isn't even told of his true identity until he is old enough to understand it.

As far as suspending belief re: Aragorn, Thorongil is far younger (and presumably less mature) than the Aragorn you finally encounter in Fellowhship of the Ring. Is it really so far-fetched to assume that he wasn't always the man he is when he is in his 80s (and has a lifetime of real life experience behind him)?

 

 

Re: Ch. 38 - Found

Thanks for responding, and so quickly too!

Re: Is it really so far-fetched to assume that he wasn't always the man he is when he is in his 80s (and has a lifetime of real life experience behind him)?


I absolutely buy that. And do believe he was looking for "real life" experience. There are just some things about Aragorn in this story that "my canon" Aragorn would not have done, or thought or been. (But then it is not my story!) Also, neither Aragorn nor Denethor are all that young on her timeline. I hope that I didn't sound as though I don't enjoy/respect your comments—I would never have responded if I didn't. I don't doubt that my eyes might glaze over at such a detailed economic discussion as Anglachel describes in the latest chapter, but I wonder if Aragorn's would have. His motivation would have been a great deal stronger than mine. (A nagging "don't underestimate this man," that is harder and harder for me to supress, just seems to be creeping in for me more and more frequently.) On the other hand, one of the things that draws me back to this story again and again is my fascination with the political intrigues Jeffrey Archer-style that Anglachel so carefully draws and my fascination with what "her Aragorn" is going to do next. Also, not by way of apology, but just for your information, I am way out my element here, as I often tell Aragorn-experts. I am just this moment writing my first scene that contains him.

Oshun

 

 

Re: Ch. 38 - Found

I think one thing that maybe makes characterizations in this story more difficult to swallow for some is that you're only getting Denethor's or Finduilas's POV.

It's not very surprising that Thorongil, seen through Denethor's eyes, might come across as less than perfect. Also, in the context of this story at least, Finduilas does have reason to question Thorongil's ability to lead, esp. considering he has (at least in Fin's opinion) allowed himself to be manipulated by those who would use him to advance their own interests.

Oh, and don't worry about hurting my feelings. I have pretty thick skin. I'm a lawyer...I have to!

 

 

Re: Ch. 38 - Found

Your POV point is well taken.

Despite the fact that I've worked with lawyers a lot, and on and off at law firms for years, I'll restrain myself from any bad lawyer jokes! Some of my best friends are lawyers.

Oshun

 

 

Re: Ch. 38 - Found

Hey kids,

Checking in for just a second before I collapse. I'm reading comments (Thank you for posting them!), but between a serious illness in the family and an unexpected rush job at work, I can't jump in. OTOH, you seem to be having a great conversation without me, so I'm happy to sit this round out.

Toodles - Ang 

 

 

In Forums

Discussion Info

Intended for: General Audience

This forum is open to all HASA members. It is read-only for the general public.

Membership on HASA is free and it takes only a few minutes to join. If you would like to participate, please click here.

If you are already a member, please log in to participate.

« Back to Hands of the King

Stories linked to the forum