Forum: Deconstructing Denethor

Discussing: Did Denethor love Finduilas?

Did Denethor love Finduilas?

In the "Faramir's name" thread, Denna asked: From my original post: This is more for the defence of specific aspects of his character often under attack by The Society of Pessimistic Denethor Interpreters. So, our next order of business perhaps... The idea often used in fanon that "he loved her in his own fasion" must mean that Denethor abused Finduilas (physically, verbally, etc.) throughout their marriage. Any thoughts on this??? I think this deserves its own thread. Anyway, I have a major problem with Denethor being abusive in any context. Whether it's of Faramir or Finduilas or anyone else, he's just too controlled of a personality to hit anyone. Or even do verbal abuse. I always assumed this means that Denethor just wasn't good at expressing his emotion. He loved people, he just stunk at showing that love. My $.02, at least... Marta

 

 

Re: Did Denethor love Finduilas?

Ah, but when a controlled personality breaks the dam of control, the floodgates of passion, of anger or love or both, can break through... I don't think Denethor physically abused Finduilas physically - he would have died rather than hurt her. But I can easily see him cutting her with hurtful remarks, very rarely, and perhaps not always realizing that he is hurting her, but because he was angry, or in pain. It's more likely that he held onto Finduilas tightly, displayed jealousy and wanted her all to himself, emotionally. More often than not, I think Denethor and Finduilas' marriage was happy, the happiest time in his life. I wish JRRT had come up with a more specific cause of her death than pining away for the sea; but that's what he said and we have to respect that - I interpret it as Finduilas' death having psychological causes; or perhaps a greater sensitivity to Mordor's toxic proximity due to her elven blood...I can't think of Finduilas as a shrinking maiden-type; except in AU stuff.... I think Denethor definitely had the capacity to abuse - to say hurtful things. His last two conversations with Faramir come close to what I would call "verbal abuse", especially in the physically weakened condition that Faramir was in at the time. Obviously, Denethor was furious with Faramir over the latter's decision to allow the hobbits to take the Ring off to Mordor, and was controlling himself not to say worse, but in my opinion, Denethor comes off as being cold to downright mean. The term "verbal abuse" is iffy in this context; because even when exhausted, Faramir was himself no pushover and was not a child or helpless (as his retort, made when his own restraint gave way, shows). But Faramir is definitely in a more helpless position - as the Steward's son and Captain, he has to stand there and pretty much take it. I do think Denethor inflicted emotional pain on his son, and that he fully knew that he was doing so - possibly in Denethor's mind, Faramir deserved far worse; and/or their dialogue was complicated by the presence of Gandalf, who triggers Denethor's Thorongil/Ecthelion "issues", especially in light of Faramir's having seemingly followed Gandalf's path rather than the way his father would have preferred. I don't think Denethor loved too many people - Finduilas was the person he loved the most in his life, after her it was Boromir, and then, I believe, Faramir a poor third. (but he did love both his sons; it's just that he loved one more than the other and showed it) I could see Denethor striking young Faramir once, in a moment of great stress or anger (perhaps after Finduilas died) - and then, absolutely horrified at his own lack of restraint, never laying a hand on him again. RAKSHA THE DEMON

 

 

Re: Did Denethor love Finduilas?

I wish JRRT had come up with a more specific cause of her death than pining away for the sea; but that's what he said and we have to respect that - I interpret it as Finduilas' death having psychological causes; or perhaps a greater sensitivity to Mordor's toxic proximity due to her elven blood...I can't think of Finduilas as a shrinking maiden-type; except in AU stuff.... Well, JRRT presented a "historical account" which gave "pining for the sea" as the explanation for Finduilas's death. We don't know wherethat explanation came from in M-e itself. Maybe she had some medical condition that was not widely know and this was the easiest way for the people around at the time (or afterwards) to account for her decline and death when they didn't know the truth? Maybe it was a comforting lie told to her sons? Or it was a bit of "romanticising" of the story in the same way Barahir clearly romanticised the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen? Cheers, Liz

 

 

Re: Did Denethor love Finduilas?

I tend to take the Tale of Arwen at face value, except for some of the dialogue at the end...A lot of LOTR is romanticized, and if I start trying to figure out what is romanticized to the point of obscuring the truth, then the entire narrative can be made suspect. Just a personal preference. In a recent fanfic ("Sea Longing"), a writer theorized that Finduilas' elven blood rendered her susceptible to a bad case of sea-longing, which caused her to wither away in the bleaker environment of Minas Tirith, despite the love of husband and sons.... Which makes as much sense as anything else I've read abou the cause of Finduilas' death. RAKSHA

 

 

Re: Did Denethor love Finduilas?

Which makes as much sense as anything else I've read abou the cause of Finduilas' death. True, but I've never been particularly satisfied by the sea longing explanation. I've seen fanfic that suggests she had some terrible wasting disease and was never going to live very long anyway. I suppose that's plausible. I always just assumed that Finduilas had an especially severe case of post-partum depression and never truly recovered from it. Sea longing is definitely a far more polite way of portraying her death.

 

 

Re: Did Denethor love Finduilas?

I think that people need to take into account how situations around Denethor would have effected the way he acted. I'm really tired of the 'Denethor was always an abusive loony with no heart' stereotype. Think about it... if your country were under seige, and your son had died, and oh, not to mention that you've been using this thing called a Palantir and seeing visions of your country and everyone you love burning... You're probably not at the peak of your game. I've always thought that Denethor progressed slowly to the low point at which we see him in ROTK. He is obviously a somewhat capable ruler, as he has been able to hold his country together for so long. I believe that it got worse quickly towards the end, perhaps the last two years or so especially. Still, I see no reason why it's not possible for Denethor's family to have been fairly happy when Finduilas was alive. Just because Denethor isn't the most teddy-bear person doesn't mean he's a horrible and abusive person...

 

 

Re: Did Denethor love Finduilas?

While I don't think Denethor was a horrible person, I think he could been an emotionally/verbally abusive person - he verbally pounds on Faramir with great ease, and no one suggests that Denethor never said such things before or didn't have a sharp, cutting tongue. Denethor was not a villain, but I don't think of him as a great hero either, he was something in between, worthy of sympathy and respect. One of the biggest tragedies in Denethor's downfall is the degree to which he is responsible for it. Denethor decided to look in the Palantir and look into it frequently, despite knowing the force of the much-more-than-human malevolent Power at the other end - he dared to regularly challenge that Power. He never deputized anyone else to look into it - which might have confused Sauron slightly, and at least given Denethor a respite; and he's been doing it since he first became Steward, long before there was an overt threat. Why couldn't Denethor have asked Imrahil to look into the palantir, or Boromir when Boromir grew up, or even Mithrandir on one of his visits? He couldn't trust anyone else to - he wouldn't trust anyone else. Denethor chose, or at least had significant input into the decision of which son was going to Imladris, despite Faramir's having had the dream. If Boromir had stayed in Minas Tirith, there's a good chance he would have lived, at least until a few days past the point at which Gandalf and Pippin arrived. And it's Denethor who prods, then orders Faramir into going out on a mission almost certainly doomed. Denethor also chose to send Faramir out with not even a word of kindness, much less a farewell from a commander-in-chief to a captain. I think these elements, the horror of knowing his own responsibility in his sons' fall, must have really helped break down the last walls of his sanity after Faramir returns apparently mortally wounded. That's the point where I have the most sympathy for him, and where he had to have been playing the 'what-if' game in a destructive loop in his head... If you look at Denethor's words during the PYRE chapter (possibly the SIEGE chapter as well, I don't have the text in front of me at the moment), he agonizes as much, if not more, about his own feelings than he does his sons' and his City's destruction - there's a lot of 'me-me-me' and 'mine-mine-mine' - and I don't think that comes from the palantir; I think it's essential Denethor, and essential Denethor wants to keep all his toys to himself and doesn't like sharing. He may not have been that way always, or at least, while Finduilas and even Boromir lived, he might have kept the grabby egoist inside him under tighter control. Denethor's tragedy, to me, is so heartbreaking because Denethor is also a man gifted with considerable talent, intelligence, strength of will and courage. Gandalf might not always like him or get along with him, but it's obvious that Gandalf respects him, as do many others. But unfortunately, Denethor's pride and desire for sole control over all that is important to him, seems to become uppermost in his personality to the point of finally taking over... To some extent, Denethor functions as a mirror to Aragorn - they are both exemplary men, stern and proud and capable, and Ecthelion is a father-figure to both. And, when Denethor falls, it is Aragorn who comes to rescue and renew both Denethor's City and Denethor's son. Denethor is a mirror to Theoden as well; to a lesser extent, since they are not alike in character. They lose their sons on the same day; and Denethor and Theoden die on the same day as well a few weeks later. Also, Denethor is indirectly responsible for Theoden's death - because Denethor is determined to burn himself and Faramir alive, Gandalf rides to Rath Dinen instead of the Pelennor after the Witch-King flies off to attack the just-arrived Rohirrim - Gandalf had a good chance of preventing the Witch-King from killing Theoden, but without Gandalf on the field to hold the Black Captain in check, countless others fell to the Witch-King's power... The problem with cutting Denethor slack because his realm was under siege and his son had died was that he took great pride in being Steward of the House of Anarion, and a Steward, unlike lesser men, was supposed to be a bulwark of strength to his people in their darkest hour, not hide in the dark and then light a match to oneself and one's son. He probably wasn't the only one who had lost a son, or who knows that things are really bad and going to get worse. Faramir fights on in Ithilien knowing that they have very little hope, even while mourning for his brother. Theoden, who has lost his only child and probably knows he screwed up royally by letting Wormtongue gain such ascendancy, doesn't sit back and cry about the Fall of the Sons of Eorl, he gets out and fights, even if the odds are against them. Eowyn, who is very depressed, finds herself on the battlefield facing the Lord of the Nazgul over her uncle's wounded body - she is terrified, and weeping, but she doesn't back down, and, with Merry's help, pulls off one heckuva Great Deed. I think Denethor and Finduilas were at least fairly happy in their marriage - he did love her. Perhaps the last year or two of her life was more painful, if he realized that he was going to lose her, the pain would have been excruciating. Roh wyn - would Finduilas' post-partum depression have lasted five years? I'm assuming that you're speaking of post-partum depression over Faramir's birth... RAKSHA THE DEMON, who is apparently a member of the Society of Pessimistic Denethor Interpreters, but who is neither a Denethor Apologist nor a card-carrying member of the Denethor's A Pervy Wife-Beater Society.

 

 

Re: Did Denethor love Finduilas?

All very good points. I agree with what you said about the real tragedy of Denethor being the fact that he falls despite all of his stengths... It would be interesting to see what would have gone differently had Denethor been in his right frame of mind. You get the impression that if he was on the ball, he'd be absolutely amazing. One of the interesting things about the relationship between Denethor and Finduilas is how different they seem... but how they both manage to succumb to the same force in the end- to the Shadow. However, Finduilas wastes away... and Denethor goes out in flames. To me, that says how different, and yet alike, they must have been.

 

 

Re: Did Denethor love Finduilas?

Roh wyn - would Finduilas' post-partum depression have lasted five years? I'm assuming that you're speaking of post-partum depression over Faramir's birth... Raksha- There's no indication that Denethor and Finduilas had any other children, so the depression has to be a result of Faramir's birth. Severe cases of post-partum depression (more correctly post-partum psychosis) can last for years after the actual birth...and of course, when compounded with other stresses, the condition becomes much harder to treat. To be fair, Finduilas isn't an actual person (it's so easy to forget that this is fiction sometimes)...so this is all wild speculation. But IMO, the post-partum depression is at least as plausible as the various abusive husband/loveless marriage/homesickness/sea longing theories out there.

 

 

Re: Did Denethor love Finduilas?

Interesting! I've read a lot of 'Finduilas gets sick after Faramir is born' stuff, and some of it just doesn't work for me, but that seems like a plausible theory. Maybe it's good that Tolkien wasn't that specific... because if he was, we wouldn't get to speculate. Returning to the original topic, it seems like the general (unanimous) opinion is that Denethor DID love Finduilas. Hmm... I wonder if it was true vice versa? (But I digress!)

 

 

In Forums

Discussion Info

Intended for: General Audience

We're sorry. This is a closed discussion. Content is available only to invited readers.

« Back to Deconstructing Denethor