Steward's Sons, The
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How Many Years?: 2. Author's Notes
They made a stone stair from the fringe of the woods up to the crown of the hill; and Isildur said: "Up this stair let no man climb, save the King, and those that he brings with him, if he bids them follow him." Then all those present were sworn to secrecy; but Isildur gave this counsel to Meneldil, that the King should visit the hallow from time to time, and especially when he felt the need of wisdom in days of danger or distress; and thither also he should bring his heir, when he was full-grown to manhood, and tell him of the making of the hallow, and reveal to him the secrets of the realm and other matters that he should know.
After the kings passed away, the Stewards decided that they too had the right to visit the hollows:
If then Mardil had exercised the authority of the King in his absence, the heirs of Mardil who had inherited the Stewardship had the same right and duty until a King returned; each Steward therefore had the right to visit the hallow when he would and to admit to it those who came with him, as he thought fit.
After the Battle of Gladden Fields the steward Cirion gave Calenardhon to the Éothéod as an independent kingdom; this land became Rohan. This was not the first time Gondor's borders had changed, but it was the first time that Gondor had willingly ceded territory. Amon Anwar was no longer at the centre of Gondor but instead on its border with Rohan. Cirion decided to move Elendil's casket to "the Hallows of Minas Tirith."
In my mind this could be one of at least two places. Rath Dínen is clearly described as "the hallows," so Cirion could simply have interred Elendil there. Yet these are not the only hallows in Minas Tirith:
But Gandalf took Aragorn out from the City by night, and he brought him to the southern feet of Mount Mindolluin; and there they found a path made in ages past that few now dared to tread. For it led up on to the mountain to a high hallow where only the kings had been wont to go. And they went up by steep ways, until they came to a high field below the snows that clad the lofty peaks, and it looked down over the precipice that stood behind the City. ("The Steward and the King," Book VI, The Return of the King)
I believe when Unfinished Tales speaks of "the Hallows of Minas Tirith" it is referencing these hallows on Mindolluin.
The other inspiration for this story was Faramir's comment to Frodo,
"And this I remember of Boromir as a boy, when we together learned the tale of our sires and the history of our city, that always it displeased him that his father was not king. 'How many hundreds of years needs it to make a steward a king, if the king returns not?' he asked. 'Few years, maybe, in other places of less royalty,' my father answered. 'In Gondor ten thousand years would not suffice.'"
Did Denethor really believe this answer, or did he only say it because he could not risk other men finding out that he no longer hoped for the king's return or that he thought himself worthy to be called king? If Denethor had any political rivals, such a comment could endanger his position of power. After all, the House of Húrin's rather undisputed claim to the rule of Gondor came from the fact that they were ruling in the name of Elendil's line. They were certainly not the only noble line, and if they no longer ruled "until the king returned" why should the House of Húrin and not some other noble family rule Gondor?
I hope you enjoyed this piece. My sincerest thanks to Tanaqui, Gwynnyd, and Lady Aranel for their in-depth beta; to Larry Kuenning for our discussion of Earendil's orbit in post-Downfall Middle-earth and other issues related to this story; and to RiverOtter, Elena Tiriel, AmandaK, and Nerwen Calaelen for their helpful comments at my forum.
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