Mark Reads ‘The Return of the King’: Chapter 7

In the seventh chapter of The Return of the King, oh, now you’re just trolling me, Tolkien. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Lord of the Rings.

CHAPTER SEVEN: THE PYRE OF DENETHOR

This is so fucked up, y’all.

Sometimes, I feel as if Gandalf exists on such a different astral plane from all the other characters that he’s just constantly irritated by everyone else. You ever had a one of those friends or acquaintances who just operates on a different level of being and existence, and sometimes, it’s just impossible to have a conversation with them? That’s sort of how I feel about Gandalf. I understand that he’s in the battle of his life, that he has taken control of the city’s defenses in order to save lives, but his tone throughout this and the last book has always been one just short of downright annoyance.

But I do understand why he’s so upset here. There’s this massive battle raging on outside the walls of the city, and Denethor is busy distracting everyone with his incredibly irrational shenanigans. Like, for real, there is a war going on. LOOK AT YOUR LIFE, AND LOOK AT YOUR CHOICES. Poor Pippin, though. The dude is stuck in this impossible situation, knowing that Denethor is about to kill himself and his son, and there’s not much he can do about it. Gandalf reluctantly agrees to follow him. Hell, what else can Gandalf do? Let the two die? I suppose he could, but for the time being, at least the Rohirrim have arrived, providing much-needed support. Plus, Gandalf recognizes that this is the work of the Enemy. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know how Gandalf could know that. It’s true that the Enemy seems to have ways of manipulating people intentions and their thoughts, but how did he get to Denethor?

Bless Beregond, by the way, for leaving his post (which is illegal) in order to prevent the servants from setting the wood on fire. It provided the necessary stalling for Gandalf to come and stop the pyre from being lit. After Gandalf disarmed Denethor, I did feel a bit deflated. I mean… it was sort of anti-climactic, you know? The two argue with one another about power and purpose, and the threat of anything terrible happening disappeared pretty quickly.

Hahaha, oh, I’m a fool.

Then suddenly Denethor laughed. He stood up tall and proud again, and stepping swiftly back to the table he lifted from it the pillow on which his head had lain. Then coming to the doorway he drew aside the covering, and lo! he had between his hands a palantir.

Oh, fuck. Oh, this is the opposite of what I wanted. Holy shit, what has Denethor done? HAS HE USED IT? Well, of course he has, and it’s through this that he’s learned so many unfortunate things. And I say “unfortunate” only because the Dark Lord only chose to show Denethor things that he knew would sow discord, jealousy, and fury in him. One of those things? The fact that Aragorn is coming to claim the kingship. That’s convenient! It’s what leads to Denethor unraveling before these characters’ eyes. He’s so convinced that Gandalf has already stolen so much from him (and plans to scheme to steal more) that it’s far more reasonable for him to set himself on fire.

So he does just that.

Gandalf in grief and horror turned his face away and closed the door. For a while he stood in thought, silent upon the threshold, while those outside heard the greedy roaring of the fire within. And then Denethor gave a great cry, and afterwards spoke no more, nor was ever again seen by mortal men.

Just what the fuck. I am in shock. If anything, I just feel bad for Denethor. He lost one son, thought he lost another, and was tricked into believing that he’d lost his kingdom, too. And now he’s gone. How are they going to explain that to Faramir if he survives, by they way? They take his body to the House of Healing in the hopes that he’ll make it through, but that is going to be a terribly awkward conversation to have if it comes to it.

I do like the way that Tolkien gives us the same plot moments from different characters. It’s exciting to know that the great cry that Gandalf, Pippin, and Beregond hear is the death of the Nazgûl. It’s so fascinating that he jumps around to all these different characters to give us an in-depth feel for how this siege is happening. Truthfully, I didn’t think we’d make it to the end with any sort of victory. It’s a bittersweet one, though, and the speech that Gandalf gives to Minas Tirith reflects that. They may have beat back their foes, but they’ve all experienced such great loss in the process. He also shares the revelation that the strange light in the tower after Faramir was discovered was most certainly the palantir, meaning that he turned to that stone in the hour he was most lost. Which is really goddamn depressing, I might add.

I now know how ridiculously close Pippin and Merry are and my whole body is aching to find out if they will finally get to reunite. Tolkien, you’re just teasing me at this point. STOP IT.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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232 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Return of the King’: Chapter 7

  1. knut_knut says:

    I completely forgot Pippin was on a mission to find Gandalf. Where are you going, Pippin? Eowyn defeated the Witch-King and Aragorn is here! It’s all over!…wait…no….I actually have no where we are in the battle (is this happening after the last chapter or during it?) So, yea, thanks for that false sense of security, Tolkien. And we still have Frodo and Sam to worry about! This book is just never-ending stress! Also, that bit about seeing Denethor’s hands burning in the Palantirs- SO TERRIFYING.

    [Movie Spoilers] V’z xvaq bs nzovinyrag nobhg gur punatrf znqr gb Qrargube’f qrngu. V yvxr gung va gur zbivr Qrargube xvaq bs fancf bhg bs vg naq ernyvmrf gung Snenzve vfa’g qrnq naq ur’f gur bar jub vf xvyyvat uvz. Va gur raq, V srry onq sbe Qrargube. Abg gung V qba’g srry onq sbe uvz va gur obbx, ohg va gur zbivr V sryg ur pbhyq erqrrz uvzfrys juvyr va gur obbx uvf sngr sryg ubcryrff. Onfvpnyyl, V yvxr obgu.

    • stormwreath says:

      Chapter 4 ('The Siege of Gondor') ends at dawn, as the Lord of the Nazgûl rides in and the Rohirrim arrive.
      Chapter 5 ('The Ride of the Rohirrim') ends at dawn, as the Lord of the Nazgûl rides in and the Rohirrim arrive.

      Chapter 6 ('The Battle of the Pelennor Fields') begins at dawn, just after the Lord of the Nazgûl rode in and the Rohirrim arrived.
      Chapter 7 ('The Pyre of Denethor') begins at dawn, just after the Lord of the Nazgûl rode in and the Rohirrim arrived.

      • knut_knut says:

        Thank you! Ntu, naq gura jr’yy unir gb tb nnnnnnnnyy gur jnl onpx sbe Sebqb naq Fnz’f puncgref *jrrcvat* V’z tynq gur zbivrf jrer betnavmrq ol rirag/gvzr engure guna punenpgref. V’z abg rira fher ubj gurl jbhyq unir qbar vg vs gurl jnagrq gb sbyybj gur obbxf gung pybfryl.

        • sixth_queen says:

          I was confused until I read Gur Gnyr bs Lrnef va gur Nccraqvprf. V jbhyq arire unir svtherq vg bhg jvgubhg Gbyxvra'f qnl-ol-qnl nppbhag. V nyfb yvxr Vzenuvy'f yvar gung "va bar qnl obgu Tbaqbe naq Ebnua ner orersg bs gurve ybeqf." Znepu Svsgrra jnf n uryy bs n ohfl qnl va Zvqqyr Rnegu.

          • flootzavut says:

            I forget where I read/heard it, but I recall a comment that was made about how Tolkien takes the whole of FotR to get the fellowship most of the way to the borders of their respective targets and then rushes through a whole chunk of "stuff happening" in books 2 and 3. It amused me to realise that they had a point… we spend a whole book walking (well arguably, large chunks of TTT too) and then soooo much happens piled into the last book!

    • Jenny_M says:

      Gur Cnynagve qbrfa'g cynl vagb gur zbivr, evtug? Vg'f orra n juvyr fvapr V'ir jngpurq EBGX. V zrna, Qrargube'f Cnynagve. Boivbhfyl V xabj Fnehzna'f qbrf.

      • Alice says:

        No,it doesn't.

      • knut_knut says:

        Va gur zbivrf, Qrargube inthryl uvagf gung ur’f orra hfvat gur cnynagve (V guvax vg’f qhevat bar bs gur cler fprarf) ohg gung’f nobhg vg. V jvfu gurl xrcg zber bs gung va fb gur nhqvrapr xabjf sbe fher gung Qrargube jnf znavchyngrq ol Fnheba naq vfa’g whfg n greevoyr crefba.

        • flootzavut says:

          V gubhtug va gur RR gurer jnf zber fhttrfgvba gung vg jnf eryngrq gb gur Cnynagve, ohg V jbaqre ubj zhpu bs gung vf gur cher snpg gung, vs lbh'ir ernq gur obbx, lbh ernyvfr gung vf jung Qrargube vf gnyxvat nobhg. V'z tbvat gb unir gb jngpu gubfr ovgf bs gur svyz zber pybfryl gb frr ubj zhpu vf whfg zl vzntvangvba!

          • knut_knut says:

            Lrn, V guvax va gur RR ur jnf fubja ubyqvat vg be fbzrguvat, ohg V gubhtug znlor V whfg vzntvarq vg. V’z tynq V’z abg gur bayl bar vzntvavat Qrargube cnynagve fprarf! xD

            • flootzavut says:

              😀

              V guvax V nyfb graq gb gnxr "Gur Rlrf bs gur Juvgr Gbjre ner abg oyvaq" nf nyfb orvat na boyvdhr ersrerapr gb gur Cnynagve. V'z phevbhf gb tb onpx naq frr vs V unir vzntvarq gur fprarf ohg V'z fher gurer ner znal ersreraprf gb guvatf yvxr gung, fb jr znl or vzntvavat gur bowrpg vgfrys, ohg V qba'g guvax jr'er gbgnyyl ybfvat gur cybg YBY 😀

              • Alice says:

                "Gur Rlrf bs gur Juvgr Gbjre ner abg oyvaq" ezactly the same 🙂

              • trinityclare says:

                Nyfb jura Nentbea hfrf gur cnynagve va gur zbivr, V guvax ur'f va gur guebar ebbz, fb znlor bhe oenvaf ner zvkvat gung vagb vg gbb.

                • flootzavut says:

                  Nuuuuu lrf, gung jbhyq znxr frafr gung jr unir chg gung vagb gur zrygvat cbg. Vg'yy or vagrerfgvat gb er-jngpu vg jvgu guvf pbafvqrengvba va zvaq, V xabj V'z tbvat gb or ybbxvat sbe pyhrf… 🙂

            • thestaticinhersmile says:

              Va gur zbivr gurer ner bayl uvagf nobhg Qrargube hfvat vg gubhtu vg frrzf gurl qvq svyz ng yrnfg bar fprar jurer ur jnf fubj ubyqvat n cnynagve orpnhfr V erpnyy frrvat n fgvyy cubgb bs vg. Ubjrire gur fprar arire npghnyyl znqr vg vagb nal irefvba bs gur zbivr.

              • ADB27 says:

                Gurl boivbhfyl fubg gur fprar orpnhfr gurer vf n genqvat pneq fubjvat Qrargube (be fbzrbar va Qrargube'f pbfghzr; vg jnf sebz gur arpx-qbja) ubyqvat gur Cnynagve. Jurer vg svg va gur svyz naq jul vg vfa'g rira ba gur RR vf orlbaq zr.

    • Skyweir says:

      V ungrq gur punatrf gb Qrargube'f qrngu va gur zbivr, naq gur punenpgre va trareny jnf cerggl zhpu ehvarq va gur zbivr. V svaq uvz n snpvangvat naq pbzcyrk punenpgre va gur obbx, juvyr gur bar va gur zbivr vf n pnevpngher.

    • thestaticinhersmile says:

      V jnf svar jvgu ubj Qrargube jnf cbegenlrq va gur zbivr punenpgre-jvfr. V whfg qvqa'g yvxr gur jnl uvf qrngu jnf unaqyrq. Ba sver, ehaavat nyy gur jnl npebff gur pbheglneq naq bss gur rqtr? Gung gbbx vg sebz guvf njshy, gentvp zbzrag gb xvaq bs BGG evqvphybhf. (Nyfb whfg gbb znal punenpgref qvr ol snyyvat sebz n terng urvtug va gur zbivrf. Vg trgf n yvggyr gverq.)

  2. Jenny_M says:

    These chapters are infuriatingly short. Seriously, Tolkien – you give us 80 million pages at the Council of Elrond and you couldn't combine all the battle stuff into one long chapter? Didn't you know that Mark was going to be one day reading this a chapter at a time? COME ON!

    <img src="http://parkinglotconfessional.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/gob_bluth_come_on.jpg"&gt;

  3. Ryan Lohner says:

    It's quite something to see John Noble play a character even more mentally unstable than Walter Bishop.

  4. JustMalyn says:

    People operating on a whole other level just reminds me of Sherlock. "Dear God. What is it like in your funny little brains? It must be so boring." Such a good TV show/book series/everything.

    Anyway, Denethor. He is so terribly complex! I hate him a lot, for what he's done to Faramir over the years, for being manipulative, but this scene is still very sad. Especially knowing he was poisoned by the Palantir 🙁

  5. Darth_Ember says:

    Had Denethor been a less proud man, he'd not have thought he could use the Palantir safely – he'd have known that Sauron was too strong, and too likely to twist what was seen.

    But had he been a less proud man, would he have had the strength and self-possession to hold Gondor together until now, with Sauron returned in Mordor and dark things creeping in everywhere to menace the people?

    A two-edged sword, really.

    It may be part of what made Denethor so interesting; a strong man with many flaws, the strength of his younger days turned to despair and bitter pride in what seem to be the last days of his land.

    ——
    Also, Mark, I just want to say thank you. I made seeing your next Mark Reads update my short-term goal to get me through one of those spikes of misery that periodically afflict my somewhat-depressive self. I chose that as something I knew I could look forward to in the next few hours, and it helped, when I was struggling to find anything I knew I could look forward to in my immediate future. Thanks for your regular updates. Thanks for giving us this work from your time. I looked forward to this one. I'm still looking forward to your next Mark Watches update. They help, at a point I did sort of need them to anticipate.
    You're not just entertaining – you make a difference in some rather unexpected ways. 🙂
    I wouldn't usually just… put this out there, or talk about it somewhere like here out of the blue. But I thought you might like to know.

    • Hyaroo says:

      That's really the ingenious thing about Sauron; how he uses people's greatest strengths against them. The people of Gondor, even moreso the line of the Stewards, are noble, strong and brave people who genuinely want to do right by their country and are far too proud and self-assured to succumb to the threats of Mordor. Would Gondor have even managed as Mordor's next-door neighbour without being consumed if it hadn't been for Denethor and his like?

      And yet, this strength and pride ironically means that they're easily played by the manipulations, half-truths and corruptions Sauron is so good at. You saw it in Boromir; he was a good person who only wanted to protect his people, but his pride played against him to make him believe that he could resist the lure of the Ring and would only use it for the good of Gondor. There's something similar there with Denethor, but he's much farther gone, thanks to the manipulations against him being more direct and more sinister.

      • JustMalyn says:

        Next door neighbors! I definitely just pictured Sauron asking Denethor for a cup of sugar 🙂 And yes. It's really disturbing, how it works.

        • flootzavut says:

          Bwahahahahaha I love it 🙂 no wonder Denethor lost it, I mean, having Sauron come round demanding sugar would definitely be traumatising!

    • flootzavut says:

      "It may be part of what made Denethor so interesting; a strong man with many flaws, the strength of his younger days turned to despair and bitter pride in what seem to be the last days of his land."

      I think that's a rather wonderful summary.

      Reagrding your message to Mark – FWIW I (and I'm sure others) know exactly what you mean. I was abused as a child, and one of the reasons I've started to talk about this and find some relief and healing from it all is definitely the openness Mark has given us in all his reviews.

      Plus, also it's all bloody entertaining 🙂

    • I identify so hard with your last paragraph. Things need to be very special to become one of those 'things that helps you get through stuff' and Mark is magical.

    • babsspam says:

      Wow, your last paragraph so elloquently expresses the sentiments I could not seem to verbalize when I had the pleasure of meeting Mark on his tour. Although my situation is slightly different (2011 was a year that so sucked for me, oh let me count the ways…), Mark Reads became one of the few things I looked forward to each day and he inspired me to read some amazing books I problably would never have read.

      This is one of the few series that I have read (multiple times) before Mark and I am so enjoying reliving the first read experience. I also am so excited for him to see the movies and share the first viewing experience, too.

      So, Mark, I too so very much appreciate and enjoy what you do here!

    • JustMalyn says:

      I agree <3 It's something wonderful to wake up to (or go to bed to, depending on time zones) 🙂 I also know Mark's openness has helped me deal with issues (hello, anxiety) in the past. And this community is just splendid 🙂

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      well, shucks. Thank you!!

  6. rabidsamfan says:

    This chapter is probably my least favorite. I hate the delay in getting the people I care about back together, and I will never ever have any sympathy for Denethor. None. Zip. Nada.

    In fact, I'm really frustrated by the (perfectly understandable and well intentioned) restrictions on the use of certain words on this site because I want to use words which have extremely negative connotations in describing what Denethor chooses to do. No, no, I don't mean the giving into despair and immolating himself part. I mean the *thinking he's got the right to take his child with him* part.

    And don't give me "distraught". That's the word newspapers use to excuse the guys who murder their wives and children before they try for suicide by cop or kill themselves. The word that basically excuses them for thinking that they OWN the members of their family.

    And as for the palantir? Denethor is like someone who gets all their news from one source and thinks that's sufficient. How arrogant! And how just plain stupid for someone who is making decisions for an entire nation. (And btw, why can't Sauron find Frodo with that palantir he's got? Or is Sauron showing the black ships to Denethor because he's seeing them from Minas Morgul, having gotten closer to the battle? There are some serious "how do these things work?" questions to be answered here!)

    And then there's the whole question of honor and loyalty and Denethor misusing that loyalty in his servants to require them to participate in his little murder-suicide drama. Tolkien doesn't give those poor fellows names, but I imagine their nightmares are epic.

    *gah!* Give me the next chapter now, please, I need to get the taste of this one out of my mouth.

    • MasterGhandalf says:

      Sauron can't see Frodo and Sam because he's not looking for them- he can potentially see anywhere (as long as another power like Galadriel isn't blocking him) but he can't see *everywhere* at once and has to choose where to look. He's focused on the war, at least in part because he believes it's one of his enemies there (Gandalf or Aragorn, most likely) who has the Ring. The idea of sending the Ring into Mordor to be destroyed is entirely beyond his comprehension, so he never seriously considered it as a possibility (Gandalf points this out at the Council, and I believe again shortly after his return). If Sauron was aware of Frodo and Sam at all, he thought they were ordinary spies and his minions could deal with them.

      • stormwreath says:

        I think of it like this. Using Google Maps' satellite photos, you can find details as small as an individual car (if not, quite, an individual person). Suppose I described a particular car to you and told you it was "somewhere in Western Europe" but gave you no other information, and asked you to find that car using Google Maps. Could you do it?

        Sauron trying to find a single hobbit in Middle Earth using the palantír is much the same thing.

        On the other hand, to see the black fleet sailing up the River Anduin, Denethor only has to focus the palantír on the river once or twice a day to see if anything there has changed. I assume he also looks into Théoden's hall in Rohan and other such places… though probably people like Galadriel and Elrond are powerful enough to block the palantír from spying into their own realms.

      • Dreamflower says:

        There is also the distracting little tidbit of that hobbit Saruman had captured. Although he probably knows by now that Saruman doesn't have that hobbit, he may be aware that Gandalf does.

        If he thinks anything about hobbits, he probably still thinks Pippin has it! This would have lent extra urgency even above and beyond Aragorn's look into the palantir!

        • stormwreath says:

          I think Sauron currently believes something like this:

          1. Pippin had the Ring. Saruman captured him, and forced him to look in the palantír as a form of torture.

          2. Before Sauron could send a messenger to Isengard to get the Ring, the army of Rohan defeated Saruman and captured the Ring.

          3. Aragorn claimed the Ring, and in his arrogance declared himself to Sauron and challenged him.

          4. Sauron must now destroy Gondor and capture or kill Aragorn before he learns to master the power of the Ring.

          I don't think Sauron is *sure* of all this, but I suspect it's the most likely scenario in his mind right now.

          • sixth_queen says:

            Gurer'f guvf terng vagreivrj va gur EbgX RR jvgu Jvyyvnz Fvoyrl, V guvax (obbx gb zbivr), gnyxvat nobhg gur Cnynagve tvivat gur jebat vasbezngvba. Fvoyrl purpxf bss gur nyy jebat pbapyhfvbaf bs jub guvaxf jub unf gur Evat, ohg ng gung rknpg zbzrag, FNZ unf gur Evat, juvpu abobql xabj n'gnyy, rkprcg Fnz!

            • flootzavut says:

              Isn't it Brian Sibley? He's a really interesting guy, and yes, I remember the interview you're talking about. It's always really good to hear from people who have clearly read the books time and time again and have worked these things out and really have a good handle on how it all fits together. I'm pretty sure that my understanding of the books was hugely improved by listening to people like him talking about the books on the extras!

    • flootzavut says:

      "And then there's the whole question of honor and loyalty and Denethor misusing that loyalty in his servants to require them to participate in his little murder-suicide drama. Tolkien doesn't give those poor fellows names, but I imagine their nightmares are epic."

      Oh I know… you just think, OK, what are you guys thinking? But it is a real tighrope between doing what is right, or holding to the very serious oaths they have made. It's one of the things that makes Beregond's desertion of his post so strong and so interesting, because he has made a choice that what is right is more important. But ack, how could one be in any way involved in that and not come away unscathed? I'm sure that experience would never leave you alone, even for Beregond who at least can ease his conscience knowing that his actions helped save Faramir… *shudders* it's just a nightmare, all round.

      • rabidsamfan says:

        I think Beregond is amazing, and not only because he goes to try to save Faramir, but also because he expresses genuine regret at having fought and killed the porter.

        There's a difference between "this is mine and that means I must defend it" and "this is mine and that means that when it stops being mine I must destroy it" that is kind of crucial, really.

        • flootzavut says:

          Yes! Totally!

          Beregond really shows some of the strength and honour of Gondor that Boromir tries to impress on Aragorn, even though I don't even know if Beregond has any particularly noble blood or anything. (V unir ab vqrn vs ur unf nal Ahzraberna oybbq be nalguvat?)

          He is pretty darn awesome. I think his regret over killing the Steward is very telling. Even if his motives had in other respects been right, a similar character might easily have said, "Well, it's a shame, but hey ho," but you get the feeling Beregond is really, genuinely regretful and remorseful even though he knows that he really didn't have a choice. For such a minor character he is incredibly well rounded and genuinely awesome.

          • fantasy_fan says:

            Porter. He killed the porter. If he had really killed the Steward, I think the consequences would have been immediate and severe. 😉

            I love him, and the fanfic written about him.

    • Skyweir says:

      Gur Cnynagvev qb abg yvr. Qrargube fnj jung vf gehr: Tbaqbe pnaabg jva gur jne. Gurer vf ab jnl gb qrsrng Fnheba jvgu fgeratgu bs nezf, naq gur bayl bgure jnl gb jva (hfvat be qrfgeblvat gur Evat) vf orlbaq Qrarugbef cbjre gb qb. V punyyratr nalbar gb abg qrfcnve va gung zbzrag. Vg vf nf Qrargubef fnlf, inagvl naq cevqrshy gb svtug gb gur ynfg zna sbe n pnhfr gung vf ubcryrff.

      Nyfb, ur guvaxf Snenzve vf qlvat naq vf orlbaq urnyvat. Naq ur jbhyq unir qvrq, unq vg abg orra sbe Nentbea'f fhcre-urnyvat fxvyyf.

      • rabidsamfan says:

        But the cause isn't hopeless. Denethor sent for Rohan days ago, using two different methods of communication. He's planned for a frickin' siege, has supplies for months laid in, and he knows that the longer that Minas Tirith holds out, the longer every other part of Middle Earth has a chance to prepare. Boromir would have understood that. Heck, Boromir was faced with how many orcs at Parth Galen and STILL fought to his last breath to try to keep Pippin and Merry safe.

        Denethor doesn't just give up, he tries to tear down the possibility of winning to spite Gandalf and keep Aragorn from coming to power. It's not understandable, and it's not acceptable.

        • flootzavut says:

          I agree completely. Theoden, for example, says, "Well, we can't achieve victory here, but damnit, we're going to fight anyway." Denethor says, "We can't achieve victory, so I'm going to avoid potential suffering by killing myself and stuff the rest of you."

        • Skyweir says:

          There is no possibility of winning. Not without the Ring. Against the Power that no arises in the East, there can be no victory. They may win one battle, but what does that matter? IDenethor knows this, better than anyone, because of the Palantir. Theoden does not, but that is ignorance, not courage.

      • Dreamflower says:

        Ohg n znva gurzr bs guvf fgbel vf gung lbh pneel ba naq *qb jung'f evtug* va *fcvgr* bs qrfcnve. Gurbqra xarj gur Ebuveevz jrer infgyl bhgahzorerq jvgu ab punapr bs jvaavat jvgubhg ervasbeprzragf (naq ur xarj abguvat bs jung Nentbea jnf qbvat, vaqrrq cebonoyl gubhtug uvz ybfg), naq ur nyfb xarj uvf qrngu njnvgrq uvz; ur yrq uvf crbcyr gb onggyr naljnl. Unyonenq xarj gung uvf bja qrngu njnvgrq uvz vs ur sbyybjrq Nentbea– ur jrag naljnl. Zreel xarj ur jbhyq yvxryl qvr gelvat, ohg ur unq gb gel gb trg gb Cvccva naljnl. Sebqb jnf pbaivaprq abg bayl gung ur jbhyq qvr va gur Dhrfg, ohg gung gurer jnf arkg gb ab punapr gung ur'q fhpprrq va qrfgeblvat gur Evat. Ur arire fgbccrq gelvat, naq jnf erjneqrq jvgu gur anzr "Raqhenapr Orlbaq Ubcr". "Ubcr" jnf abg na vffhr sbe uvz, ur whfg arire tnir hc.

        Qrfcnve va naq bs vgfrys jnf abg Qrargube'f snvyher. Tvivat va gb vg naq snvyvat gb qb uvf qhgl naq svtug ba va fcvgr bs qrfcnve jnf.

      • castlewayjay says:

        good points all around, skyweir.
        addendum – my brother died when he was 16. My parents never recovered. The loss of a child is unimaginable and combined with the other things drove a flawed man over the edge.

        • Steve Morrison says:

          Neither did my parents, after my fifteen-year-old sister died. It was a very strange sensation for me to hear Théoden’s line to the effect that no parent should have to bury a child – many years after hearing my father say the same thing, almost word for word.

    • Eregyrn says:

      I feel a bit like this slow reread and reading others' thoughts has been giving me things to chew on, and while I'm not yet settled on the following, it's what's banging around in my head at the moment:

      Denethor's end is one thing, and there are perhaps reasons behind why he gives in to despair (death of his most beloved son, perhaps the realization that he drove his other son to 'death' as well, Sauron's manipulations, etc.).

      But I notice that Tolkien *has* given us all this peripheral information about Denethor, and the way he treats people, and the whole thing really doesn't add up to a good picture. (Perhaps a realistic picture, but I'm not sure a sympathetic one.) It's been noted in the comments of past chapters that the way he treats Pippin stands in fairly stark contrast to the way Theoden treats Merry. And I think it's kind of key here to note the way he decides to burn Faramir along with him, or the awful orders (and thus choices) he gives to the men who must help him carry out that wish, or the spite he feels towards Aragorn and Gandalf.

      I don't know. I do keep in mind that we never really got to see Denethor when he wasn't consumed with grief over Boromir's death and over the impending war with Mordor. So perhaps all his bad and selfish actions proceed from the way all of that weighs on his mind. But… there ARE hints of the way he was always kind of mean to Faramir, and it seems like there was really never a good excuse for that, so it makes you suspect that no… the guy was just kind of a dick.

      Tolkien shows us other characters who are put upon the point of that choice — characters who face death and despair. The key thing is always how they act when it happens, maybe especially how they act when they think things are hopeless. As someone else pointed out upthread… Boromir himself came to value the hobbits and their courage (even if he had the enforced time to get to know them, on the beginning of the journey, which Denethor didn't), and when the moment came, he didn't give up, but fought to extraordinary lengths even past the point of no hope for himself. He didn't just kneel down and say, "well, I suck, I tried to take the Ring, I deserve to be shot full of orc arrows, so go ahead, put me out of my misery" — he died trying to do something.

      So I guess I kind of think that Tolkien *is* trying to create a marked contrast in the way Denethor's actions are presented, and that maybe we really aren't supposed to sympathize with him very much. We've seen so many others in these books wrestling with similar despair, and we've seen the choices they've made and the actions they took. Denethor's choices/actions really do not come across well in contrast.

    • castlewayjay says:

      I see why you don't like this chapter, & it doesn't count as one of my favorites. But it was necessary. Tolkien would not have left this (Denethor's fate) a big loose end. Though all in all I would rather have more Radagast

  7. unefeeverte says:

    Somewhere on the DVD Extras, someone explains the timeline and that at the time Denethor looks into the palantír, Sauron has just captured Frodo. If he showed Denethor that, Denethor would think the Ring is back with Sauron, when really, SAM has the Ring.

    That would drive someone mad, with everything else going on.

    (I never checked the timeline myself, so I can just cite what they say on the DVD.)

    • Katarina_H says:

      Right, and it's also when Aragorn is playing his "HEY LOOK AT ME" with the other palantir, throwing Sauron off Frodo's trail. So everyone thinks that someone else has the ring, and Sam is the only one who knows that he's the one who has it.

      • flootzavut says:

        "Sam is the only one who knows that he's the one who has it."

        Hah, I LOVE this detail 😀 Humble little Gardener Sam of the Shire has THE ONE RING, and NO ONE ELSE EVEN KNOWS! It's just brilliant 🙂

    • sixth_queen says:

      Shoot, just posted that. I think it was William Sibley in Book to Movie, but I'm not sure.

    • Steve Morrison says:

      Tom Shippey made that conjecture in some of his books, although others, e.g. Hammond and Scull in the Reader’s Companion, disagree.

    • rabidsamfan says:

      If Sauron could see Frodo and Sam, they would never have made it to Mount Doom. He knows someone is trying to sneak in and spy, he knows that a hobbit has the Ring, and if he could "see" that the spy is a hobbit, presumably he's smart enough to figure out what the heck Gandalf has planned.

      Either palantirs have limitations we don't get, or someone is causing interference. And since nobody knew that the palantirs were even in play until Wormtongue tried to drop one on Gandalf's head and missed, I think it must be the former.

  8. drop_and_roll says:

    Now I can tell the story of where my screen name comes from! Movie spoilers…
    V jnf jngpuvat gur qiq bs EbGX jvgu fbzr sevraqf naq qhevat Qrargube'f qrngu fprar, jura ur'f ehaavat juvyr ba sver, V fubhgrq 'Qebc naq ebyy! QEBC NAQ EBYY!' ng gur fperra. Orpnhfr gung'f jung lbh'er fhccbfrq gb qb vs lbh'er ba sver. Vg znqr crbcyr ynhtu, naq fubegyl nsgrejneqf, jura V arrqrq n fperra anzr, gung cuenfr cbccrq vagb zl urnq.
    Gur nzbhag bs crbcyr jub gubhtug vg jnf fbzr xvaq bs pbzong znabrirher naq jbhyq tbz 'Qhpx naq pbire!' ng zr, gubhtu. FZU. Qba'g gurl xabj vg'f jung gb qb jura lbh'er ba sver.

  9. misterbernie says:

    To paraphrase Cleolinda, guhf cnffrf Qrargube, fba bs Rpguryvba… terng ybat-qvfgnapr ehaare.

    • Ryan Lohner says:

      Rfcrpvnyyl fvapr gur RR znxrf vg pyrne gung gur gbzo vf jnl va gur onpx bs gur pvgl, naq bss gb gur fvqr va gur zbhagnva.

      • flootzavut says:

        V guvax gung'f rira zragvbarq va bar bs gur pbzzragnevrf, whfg ubj snfg ur'q'ir unq gb eha 😀

    • babsspam says:

      I propose we get Mark to Read Lord of the Rings in 15, er, 45 Minutes!

      • trinityclare says:

        I think Mark should read all of Cleolinda's stuff (at least for the movies he's already seen), especially since he's practically doing the same thing in long form.

        (Actually, I really want someone to dig up the Very Secret Diaries. those are *ancient* in fannish years.)

        • Eregyrn says:

          Ah, the VSD. I really need to reread those. Even if I later soured on their author… in my memory at least, they were pretty damned awesome.

          • trinityclare says:

            I must have posted "Rirelbar xrrcf uvggvat ba zr. Pnaabg pbcr. Bss gb Zbeqbe" in comments three or four times in the last month alone. Between that and "Fgvyy abg xvat" I think they've earned their awesomeness. 😀

            • castlewayjay says:

              yep. earned their awesomeness. will live on in fandom along with other quotes from VSD no matter what about the author.

          • flootzavut says:

            Yeah, I remember first coming across those and they genuinely made me laugh.

      • Eregyrn says:

        Personally, I want to get everybody to read DM of the Rings, but definitely only after one has seen all of the movies.

        • flootzavut says:

          I'm really intrigued by the sound of this but your link seems just to go back to this review!

        • castlewayjay says:

          DM of the Rings is hilarious! I will try to find another link, but I know you can get to it through the Straight Dope's "If Someone Else had Written LOTR" parody thread.

          • Eregyrn says:

            DM of the Rings made me laugh until I cried on multiple occasions.

            Although… while not myself a dedicated tabletop RPGer, I'd done it a few times and know many people who do it pretty regularly, so I could also really appreciate that side of the satirical humor as well. I kind of wonder how it comes across to non-RPers?

            • JustMalyn says:

              I don't know. I've only done D&D a few times, but I deeply enjoy it 🙂 I think it largely would make sense and still be hilarious, minus one or 2 jokes.

            • misterbernie says:

              I only did a handful of online sessions of Call of Cthulhu once, but I picked up enough about RPing subculture via internet osmosis that it all made perfect sense.
              (Plus, it's not that different from MMORPGs except for the dice)

        • misterbernie says:

          DM of the Rings is the BEST.

  10. nanceoir says:

    now you’re just trolling me, Tolkien.

    You think he's just started trolling you? No, Mark, he's been trolling you for 50 chapters so far, and he's got another dozen or so more chapters of trolling left before we get to the Appendices.

    Come on, get with the program! *cg*

  11. settledforhistory says:

    I'm sure I had the exact opposite reaction I was supposed to have while reading this chapter.
    Here is the Steward, who wants to kill himself and his not yet dead son, because he has already given up hope for the kingdom and his position. However all I could do was laugh about Gandalf's attitude, he was so annoyed that he had to deal with Denethor's evilness, I could actually imagine him rolling his eyes the entire time.

    This is how I read it:
    "Gandalf, hurry, Denethor want's to burn himself and Faramir."
    "I have no time for this Pippin, don't you see the amazing battle outside?"
    "But Denethor wants to burn himself and Faramir."
    "Oh, there is so much action outside, I don't want to miss it."
    "He wants to burn him…" "Fine, but I'm not happy about this."
    They go to stop Denethor.
    "You used the palantir, you fool! This is why Muggles shouldn't play with magic."
    Denethor burns himself do death.
    "How annoying. Now I've missed all the cool fighting scenes."

    • flootzavut says:

      "You used the palantir, you fool! This is why Muggles shouldn't play with magic."

      LOL 😀

    • AmandaNekesa says:

      Hahaha…I like your version! 😀 I always find it amusing how Gandalf is so easily annoyed in this chapter. There's nothing in Middle-earth like Gandalf sass.

  12. Alice says:

    Pippin,Beregond and Gandalf suceed in saving Faramir from burning alive,while Denethor who seems to have fallen under despair by using another palantir and subcuming to Sauron's evil will,kills himself.Good!Sorry folks but I can't take pity on him,he did it to himself.
    Like they said in the dvd's extras : here we have two great leaders of men – Denethor and Theoden,who both lose their beloved son (although to be fair,unlike Theoden who's lost his chance to continue his bloodline,Denethor still has a son alive,even though he sees him to be unworthy) and by their deaths they kinda lose their hope that they had for the future,maybe their ambitions(most in the part of Denethor,who I think desired that maybe his elder son would succeed in that which he himself desired,I think, secretly – and that is to really rule,to really hold all the power. Not to be just a Steward,but a King.).I would have things as they were in all the days of my life . . . and in the days of my longfathers before me: to be the Lord of this City in peace, and leave my chair to a son after me, who would be his own master and no wizard’s pupil.
    But from this moment on,they chose different paths:
    – Denethor chooses to succumb to despair,refusing to see any signs of hope and refusing to bow down and accept the claim of the true heir.He knows he is coming. Naq V guvax ur nyfb thrffrq/erzrzorerq jub ur vf,orpnhfr vs lbh ernq va gur Nccraqvprf lbh frr gung ng bar gvzr,jura ur jnf lbhat,Nentbea yvirq gurer nf Gubebatvy sbe n juvyr,naq freirq nf n terng Pncgnva haqre Qrargube'f sngure, jub gernfherq naq erfcrpgrq uvz,naq ol gung nebhfvat Qrargube'f wrnybhfl. In the end,his pride led to his downfall,too. And giving in to despair,is one of the greatest sin in Tolkien's books despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not (FOTR quote)
    Gur arkg dhbgr vf sebz gur zbivr,V xabj,ohg V pna'g svaq gur grkg sebz gur obbx va ratyvfu,fb V unq gb vzcebivfr n yvggyr :p,ohg V xabj gung ur fnlf fbzrguvat fvzvyne va gur obbxf gbb:

    Lbh guvax lbh ner jvfr, Zvguenaqve, lrg sbe nyy lbhe fhogyrgvrf lbh unir abg jvfqbz. Qb lbh guvax gur rlrf bs gur Juvgr Gbjre ner oyvaq? V unir frra zber guna lbh xabj. Jvgu lbhe yrsg unaq lbh jbhyq hfr zr nf n fuvryq ntnvafg Zbeqbe naq jvgu lbhe evtug lbh jbhyq frrx gb fhccynag zr(…)V jvyy abg obj gb guvf Enatre sebz gur Abegu! Ynfg bs n enttrq ubhfr, ybat orersg bs Ybeqfuvc.

    – Theoden chooses not to succumb to his pain and loss,but to arise from the ashes and fight the darkness (of his soul,of the world), to fight for the future, and by his last great deed to stand proud among his ancestors,and not with shame,becoming a great leader revered in two kingdoms:Gondor and Rohan. I go to my fathers, in whose mighty company I shall not now feel ashamed. He finds hope in hopelessness and by doing so, he acknowledges Eomer as his true heir. Just like Tolkien said :"You can only come to the morning through the shadows."
    Sorry for my long post,I hope I didn't bored anyone :).

    <img src="http://www.tednasmith.com/lotr3/TN-The_Domes_of_the_Dead.jpg"width="600"&gt;
    Ted Nasmith – The Domes of the Dead (look,it's Beregond :D)

    <img src="http://www.john-howe.com/portfolio/gallery/data/media/21/sketchesDenethor.jpg"width="600"&gt;
    John Howe sketch – Denethor

    • Jenny_M says:

      Gandalf looks like he's skipping merrily off to a picnic in the Nasmith. I love his landscapes but lol his figure drawing sometimes…

    • flootzavut says:

      I really love a Gandalf quote from this chaper, which I think pretty much sums up my feelings towards Denethor when he wants to retain his throne no matter what:

      "To me is would not seem that a Steward who faithfully surrenders his charge is diminished in love or in honour," said Gandalf.

      • Skyweir says:

        No, Gandalf? Really? From ruler of an entire nation to what basicly amounts to a chamberlain? No diminished honor? Way to condescend. Your defenitions needs work, I think.

        And by the way, do we have any proof of Aragonr's lineage? The Elves and Gandalf say he is the last heir, but they are not exactly neutral in this debate. And even then, the claim of the House of Vanaldil to the Throne of Gondor is rather teneous. , the House of Hurin also have a claim through Eldacar I think.

        Denethor is pretty much right in all his claims here, he is just wrong about the intentions behind them.

        • calimie says:

          Silmarillion link (I'm not sure if it was already mentioned in the book or if it's explained later): Ur unf gur evat bs Onenuve juvpu vf n cerggl tbbq cebbs.

        • flootzavut says:

          I think it depends how you interpret the Stewardship, and how youdefine honour. If the Steward is “stewarding”, that means lookingafter the nation because the Kings are absent. I don't think itautomatically confers a right TO RULE.And honour is not necessarily linked to station or power. In fact, onecan bring honour to a position by faithfully fulfilling one's role:This is why we sometimes say that a person “brings honour” to aprofession. Honour can also mean knowing and doing what is morallyright, and to honour something or someone is either to pay respect to,or to keep an agreement (honouring the terms of a contract).In Gandalf's estimation, by faithfully fulfilling the role Denethorwas given, and then surrendering that charge to a rightful heir,Denethor would be behaving in an honourable manner and bring honour tothe role of Steward. Trying to hold on to power if an heir hasreturned (ignoring for this point how reasonable Aragorn's claim is)is NOT honourable, and his honour is not best served by behaving in away that brings dishonour to a noble position, ie the Stewardship ofthe nation.The only position in which Denethor has less honour in relinquishinghis claim is in terms of having greater esteem from those around himas a ruler, and that's only one definition of honour. And judging bypeople like Beregond, I don't think Denethor would be lessened in theesteem of his people by not trying to hold on to his power.In short, I can't agree that Denethor is right in his claims, or thathe would be diminished in honour by resigning the rule of Gondor to arightful heir. Is it understandable that he would doubt Aragorn'sclaims and be reluctant to relinquish his power? Of course. Is itsomehow more honourable to cling to his position and assume Aragorn'sclaim is false? Not as far as I can see.

        • stormwreath says:

          I've checked the Appendices, the LotR Wiki and Unfinished Tales and can't find a reference to the Stewards being descended from the Kings at all. Only that they were of "high Númenorean blood".Do you reember any more about where you red that?

          Proofs of Aragorn's lineage:

          1. Elrond and Gandalf say so.

          2. He's wearing Elendil's crown when he shows up at Minas Tirith ("upon his brow was the Star of Elendil") , and carrying Elendil's sword.

          3. He was able to pass the Paths of the Dead and command the army of the Dead, which only Isildur's Heir could do. Also use the Palantír.

          4. He's naturally charismatic. 🙂 (From the Greek χάρισμα, meaning 'a gift of divine grace'.)

          Elendil and Isildur were the first and second kings of Gondor, respectively. Aragorn is the direct descendant of both of them. Nobody currently alive in Gondor today can make that statement, so it seem to me Aragorn does have the best claim.

          • Tul says:

            That is info of the Internet since I don't have the book myself (Michael Martinez though, a reliable enough source), but I found that The Peoples of Middle-earth says that "the Hurinionath were not in the direct line of descent from Elendil, [but] they were ultimately of royal origin."
            Hurin of Emyn Arnen was the first of the line of the Stewards. So Denethor, Boromir and Faramir were all descendants of Elendil. What is important is that they weren't in the "direct line" (probably meaning they descended from a female), so they didn't have a strong enough claim.

            A lot of people in Gondor actually must have been descendant of Elendil, but none of them had a good enough claim that he could be accepted without a civil war, which would have been fatal at the time. So the Stewards kept ruling as stewards and that was it.

            Denethor says in this chapter: ‘I am Steward of the House of Anárion. I will not step down to be the dotard chamberlain of an upstart. Even were his claim proved to me, still he comes but of the line of Isildur. I will not bow to such a one, last of a ragged house long bereft of lordship and dignity.’
            Even if Aragorn is Isildur's heir, it doesn't make him King of Gondor: the last heir of Isildur that tried to claim Gondor was rejected by the current Council of Gondor and said that the Southern Throne belongs to the line of Anarion only, as Isildur gave the rule to his nephew and it has been so for many generation.

            • anghraine says:

              I have it!

              This is the full quote (203):

              "The names of these rulers are here added; for though the Hurinionath were not in the direct line of descent from Elendil, they were ultimately of royal origin, and had in any case kept their blood more pure than most other families in the later ages."

              There's also on 218:

              "These may be added, for though not in the direct line, the Hurinionath, the family to which Pelendur and Mardil belonged, were of Númenórean blood hardly less pure than that of the kings, and undoubtedly had some share in the actual blood of Elendil and Anárion."

              After so many centuries, Elendil frankly had tons of descendants on both sides. The distinction is between members of the "line" – the direct father-to-son line – and other descendants. Aragorn is a descendant of Anárion, but not of his line, because it's through a daughter and not a son. Presumably it's a similar case for the Stewards – so barring the heirs of Isildur from the throne served to bar the heirs of Húrin as well. Whoops.

              Though personally, I don't see the slightest indication that Denethor actually wanted to be a king. He sounded pretty horrified at the idea in TTT.

              …Also in TTT, even Faramir's response to Aragorn's claim was a less than enthusiastic "Maybe."

              And with regard to the heirs of Isildur, as you say, Denethor has legal precedent behind him. I kind of sympathize with him in that respect – no heirs of Isildur claimed the throne until Arvedui, that was half to do with his wife (because dudes ruling in place of their wives always works out really well), and it was decided, like, a thousand years back, anyway. And the Stewards have frankly been far more competent rulers than the kings were, too, including Denethor himself. (Looking into a palantír that he had every right to use, and used well for most of his tenure, doesn't begin to compare to some of the kings' shenanigans.)

              I think it's interesting that Tolkien gave Aragorn such an involved claim that Denethor could defensibly dispute. Aragorn is the right guy because he's the right guy, not because he has a watertight claim to the throne.)

              • Tul says:

                Thank you for the quotes!

                I don't think Denethor wanted to be King either! I'm repeating myself, but I think he took great pride in his humility – he didn't need all the glory of honor of being the King, he came from the line of the stewards, dutiful and steadfast. What he wanted was to rule Gondor, and that he was already doing.

                As for Aragorn's claim, he said here what he thought of it – it was invalid. He wasn't wrong as far as I am concerned. The only things that prove Aragorn is The Rightful King, appointed by the Powers or whatever, are his healing hands and perhaps also his finding the white tree – both of this happened after Denethor's death.

                Your two last paragraph – yes, exactly.

            • Steve Morrison says:

              I’ve verified the quote from PoMe; it’s on p. 203 of my copy. (Though I was never in real doubt, since I have great respect for MM’s knowledge of canon!)

              • Tul says:

                Thank you!

                MM's essays are great. He has a different style than Shippey, but they both say very interesting things. I love his speculations!

    • Skyweir says:

      But, Denethor does see the end without hope. He has used the Palantir and he knows that there can be no victory against Sauron. Gur Cnynagvev qb abg yvr, naq abg rira Fnheba pna znxr gurz qb gung. Qrargube unf frra gur nezvrf gung jvyy pehfu Tbaqbe, naq xabjf gung ab ivpgbel jvyy ynfg zber guna n srj qnlf ntnvafg gung zvtug.

      The only hope is based on the word of Gandalf, a wizard Denethor do not trust (perhaps wisely).
      Gandalf has not confided in Denethor, he has hidden his agenda from Denethor at every turn, never spoken of Aragorn to him nor the plan for the Ring before it was sent away. Denethor is being used as a shield against Mordor, and Gandalf is deciving him. Of course, he has reasons, but Denethor do not know what they are.

      The whole rather irrational idea of trying to destroy the Ring is based on the word of Gandalf and Elrond, and if you do not believe their words then the idea seems like utter folly.

      I find Gandalf rather insufferable in this chapter,actually. Arrogant and condecending.

      • Alice says:

        Znlor gur fgbarf qb abg yvr,ohg vg pna or gjvfgrq gb fubj bayl unys bs gur gehgu. Naq Fnheba unf n terng jvyy. Lrnu,znlor vg fubjrq Qrargube gur terng nezl ur unf, be gur fuvcf gung jvyy pbzr,ohg gur gval qrgnvy gung gur fuvcf ner abj haqre Nentbea'f pbzznaq,rfpncrf rira Fnheba.Fb gurl ner abg cbjreshy gbbyf bs xabjvat.
        Naq nobhg gur rneyvre pbzzrag,zl thrff vf gung fvapr nyy gur urvef bs Vfvyqhe'f fba,jrer envfrq ng Vzynqevf,zl thrff vf gung gur Ryirf xrcg fbzr erpbeqf bs gur yvarntr.

      • castlewayjay says:

        good points, skyweir. even Gandalf has his flaws, though his are due in some cases to his need for haste.

      • threerings13 says:

        I'm not sure I follow your argument. Since there is genuine cause to lose hope, Denethor is right to commit suicide and kill his son? The point is that lots of characters see the situation as hopeless, but they don't commit suicide and homicide, they try to do the most good they can in the situation.

        • Alice says:

          This.I think this is also the message that Tolkien tries to give us,the readers:never to give in to despair,no matter how dire the situation it may be,never lose hope because you never know how things might turn up, and always continue fighting.Living is also a continuous fight.If you give up that,you stop living.At least that's how I see it.

          • flootzavut says:

            *nods*

          • castlewayjay says:

            exactly. one of the themes that runs through the entire LOTR

            • Skyweir says:

              But in this case, Denethor KNOWS their cause is hopeless. That is the main point I am making. Tolkien himself says, through Gandalf, that despair is only for those who see the end without hope. And only Denethor does see this. He knows that they will lose the war against Sauron, and he do not know any other way for them to win. All others either:

              a) Do not know they will lose. This encompass nearly everyone without a Palantir or intimate knowledge of the armies of Sauron. They feel hopeless, but they do not know they will lose.
              b)KKnow of the quest to destroy the Ring, and so hopes that Frodo will make it.

              Denethor is the only one who really knows how useless the war is, but do not know that there is any other way to win. And, while I do not agree with homicide, I do believe that a person who knows that all his future holds is ruin, torture and a horrible death, can rationally make the decision to die. Tolkien was Catholic, and that is clear in this chapter. I tend not to agree.

        • flootzavut says:

          Yes, I think that's a great summation of my major problem with Denethor.

      • ARITHMANCER says:

        Qb gur fgbarf fubj gur shgher? V qb abg oryvrir fb; V jbhyq gnxr Tnynqevry'f pbzzragf ba ure Zveebe nf zber oebnqyl nccyvpnoyr gb nal zntvp va Zvqqyr Rnegu, naq fhttrfg vg vf abg cbffvoyr sbe nal zntvpny qrivpr va Zvqqyr Rnegu gb fubj gur shgher.

        Naq vs gurl qb abg, V qb abg frr ubj gur Fgbar pbhyq fubj Qrargube gung Fnheba pbhyq abg or qrsrngrq ol sbepr bs nezf. Qrargube znl unir frra uhtr nezvrf ur qvq abg guvax pbhyq or qrsrngrq, ohg ur pbhyq abg xabj jvgu pregnvagl, gung gurl jbhyq abg or.

  13. Dreamflower says:

    This is an incredibly dramatic and intense chapter.

    Here we see that Denethor has completely given up. In his pride, he thinks he knows better than Gandalf, and in his desperation he is ready to do the unthinkable– kill himself and his son along with him. He’s got all sorts of reasons: his city is under siege, he thinks they are already doomed, his son is dying (though not yet dead) and if the enemy reaches them he and his son can expect death at best, perhaps torture as well, and quite likely the desecration of their bodies. But as Gandalf points out– that’s not a choice he is at liberty to make. He has a responsibility as Steward to see his City and what remains of his people through this. He cannot in honor abandon them.

    But he’s in no mood to listen– he simply rants at Gandalf; he’s not prepared to fulfill the duties of a Steward, which include giving up the rule to the rightful King when he does return. There of course, is the rub. Denethor does not want to give Gondor up to anyone, but most especially not Aragorn. He accuses Gandalf of wanting to stand behind the thrones (which shows of course, how little he knows of Gandalf and his motives) and of wanting to supplant him with the “last of a ragged house long bereft of lordship and dignity”. (Bs pbhefr, jr nyfb ernyvmr gung ur nyjnlf fhfcrpgrq Gubebatvy’f vqragvgl, naq uvf wrnybhfl bs gur zna unf tbg gb pbybe uvf whqtzrag.) He’s indulging himself in personal tragedy at the expense of his country. He’s a prideful and jealous man, clutching at what he has at the expense of wisdom and dignity. I know that many readers like Denethor and excuse his actions, and point to what we discover at the last, the palantir, as Sauron’s manipulations. But if he had not been full of hubris and think he could handle it, he’d never have tried out that palantir in the first place. It ultimately boils down to his pride and the fact that he thinks he knows best.

    Here’s something I’ve been wanting to do for days: pointing out the parallelism of Denethor and Theoden. I don’t think my original formatting will hold here, so I’m doing it this way.

    Denethor: Steward of Gondor
    Theoden: King of Rohan

    Denethor: his heir, Boromir, is slain.
    Theoden: His heir, Theodred, is slain

    Denethor: is manipulated into despair by Sauron’s influence through the palantir.
    Theoden: is manipulated into despair by Saruman’s influence through Grima

    Denethor: dislikes Gandalf and never accepts his help
    Theoden: dislikes Gandalf, but later accepts his help and friendship

    Denethor: takes a hobbit, Pippin, into his service. He treats him rudely and like a servant.
    Theoden: takes a hobbit, Merry, into his service, and treats him kindly and like an honored esquire.

    Denethor: scorns his other heir, his younger son Faramir, disapproving of what he does.
    Theoden: after briefly imprisoning Eomer while still under Wormtongue’s influence he is reconciled and comes to appreciate him. He also appreciates his niece Eowyn enough to make her a secondary heir.

    Denethor: boasts of having kept fit, wearing his armor and bearing a sword, but doesn’t strike a blow in defense of his people.
    Theoden: after a lengthy time as an invalid recovers his strength and rides himself to battle, fighting for his own people at Helm’s Deep, and then to the aid of Gondor afterwards

    Denethor: seeks death by his own hand rather than let a foe take it, and decides to take his son with him in his pride.
    Theoden: accepts an honorable death leading his people against the foe, and doing his best to protect those he loves.

    There are a lot more parallels not only between the two men, but also between their two countries. I won’t go into those now, but those who’ve already finished the book know what I am talking about.

    Also, Gandalf is awesome in this chapter! “Sometimes, I feel as if Gandalf exists on such a different astral plane from all the other characters that he’s just constantly irritated by everyone else.” Jryy, bs pbhefr ur qbrf! Ur’f n Znvn, onfvpnyyl na natryvp orvat! V’z ebg.13’vat orpnhfr V qba’g ernyyl xabj jurer guvf snyyf ba gur fcbvyre zrgre. Vg’f arire qvfphffrq rira va gur Nccraqvprf va YbgE, ohg vg vf n fcbvyre sbe gur Fvyz. Lrg vg’f ernyyl xvaq bs vzcbegnag.

    But poor Pippin, it had to be a really dreadful experience for him on top of everything else! I just wish I could hug him.

    • plaidpants says:

      LOVE your analysis of Theoden v. Denethor. Theoden is just so amazing! ( and it helps that I love Rohan a ton already…)

    • Alice says:

      You forgot to rot13 something :p

    • Mairead says:

      I think the cultural differences are important here. For the Theoden and the Rohirrim, right conduct was very much a matter of personal honor. You did the right thing because it was right, but also because you gained honor and renown for doing it. This kind of mindset could cause its own problems, when the desire for personal glory leads to mistakes of "excess," as Tolkien refers to it, of thinking that you're stronger than you are,. Then bravery becomes recklessness and generosity becomes stupidity.

      For Denethor, his honor was derived from his position as Steward, and Gondor's honor from its preeminence among the lands of men. If those things were lost, or overshadowed by someone or something else, he would have nothing left. And yes, he's exactly like those men who think of their families or their countries as extensions of themselves, and can't conceive of their existence without him. His mistakes were not mistakes of excess, they were mistakes of narrowness. Narrowness and possessiveness.

      The society of Minas Tirith was much more hierarchical than than of Edoras. Denethor treated Pippin like a servant, because he was a servant. Everybody in Minas Tirith was a servant of somebody, and all the ranks were servants of the Steward; Denethor hated Gandalf because Gandalf couldn't be treated as a servant.

      As far as external evil influences, I think it's also worth remembering that Denethor was influenced by Sauron directly, while Theoden dealt with him at two removes, through Saruman via Wormtongue. Maybe the strength of the evil was diluted a little.

      Or maybe the form of the evil was better suited to Denethor than to Theoden. Theoden was being asked to go against his personal values, to seek safety at home rather than honor through battle, to deny the bonds of kin and the oath of alliance. Denethor was being confirmed in his personal opinions, that his servants had failed him, that he was Gondor and that there was nothing left of Gondor's glory, therefore nothing left for him.

      I don't like Denethor, but I do feel sorry for him.

      Of course, I feel sorrier for his son and his city and for poor Pippin.

    • flootzavut says:

      Re your last bit of ROT13 – Lrnu, V gubhtug gung jnf na nznmvatyl creprcgvir erznex sebz Znex, ur whfg unf ab vqrn ubj fcbg ba ur vf!

      I love your Denethor/Theoden comparison. I find it really interesting to see how many defend Theoden, but I struggle to find him sympathetic. His losses are huge, but the way he deals with them makes me angry.

      I just posted this above but feel it's also relevant here, a favourite quote from Gandalf:

      "To me is would not seem that a Steward who faithfully surrenders his charge is diminished in love or in honour," said Gandalf.

      And lastly: I SO WANNA HUG PIPPIN AT THIS POINT. :'(

    • Skyweir says:

      Bah, I completely disagree, but my replies in other parts of this thread contains most of my arguments.
      Bascily, Denethor is not wrong in any of his assertions:
      – Gandalf is trying to surplant him with Aragorn
      – Aragorn's claim is unproven, and the House of Valandil has at best a teneous claim to the throne of Gondor.
      – Gondor cannot win the war against Mordor.
      – A last stand, though nice in songs, is mostly just vanity and needless bloodshed. Taking others with them into death to ease your own suffering, like Gandalf is accusing Denethor of doing.

      Gandalf is arrogant and condecending in this chapter, assuming that Denethor do not know more than Gandalf has told him (which isn't much). Denethor has basicly been lied to for days, and he KNOWS it. "Authority is not given to you, Steward of Gondor…" Indeed, who has the authority then? This kind of preaching gets on my nerve.

      • Dreamflower says:

        "- Gandalf is trying to surplant him with Aragorn"
        "To me is would not seem that a Steward who faithfully surrenders his charge is diminished in love or in honour," Gandalf is right; that is not being supplanted, that is fufilling the rightful duty.

        -" Aragorn's claim is unproven, and the House of Valandil has at best a teneous claim to the throne of Gondor." The line of Elendil in direct descent is more than a tenuous claim, and there are no others left with a better claim. (And though Denethor doesn't know it, since the palantir is so selective in what it tells him) Aragorn is perfectly willing to wait to have his claims proven when the War is over.)

        "Gondor cannot win the war against Mordor." True. But since this is a War in which the Enemy is set upon destroying or enslaving everyone who's ever opposed him or seemed to oppose him or simply has not supported him, there is no point in not resisting as long as possible.

        "A last stand, though nice in songs, is mostly just vanity and needless bloodshed. Taking others with them into death to ease your own suffering, like Gandalf is accusing Denethor of doing." I'm not sure what you are saying here, so I am not sure about refuting it. Gandalf is simply asking Denethor to do his duty as Steward.

        Of course he doesn't realize that Denethor knows more than he does, as he doesn't know Denethor has a palantir. Gandalf has not lied, although he has tried to be circumspect.

        Who has the authority? Jryy, guvf vf Neqn. Tnaqnys xabjf jub unf gur Nhgubevgl. Va GUVF jbeyq gung nethzrag vf hc sbe qrongr. Ohg va GUNG jbeyq, vg'f cneg naq cnepry bs vgf rkvfgrapr.

        • bugeye says:

          Here is a bit over the top but to make a point: Denethor may garner some sympathy of he really believed the end was here and he needed to save all his people from slavery and torment by burning everything and everyone. But he only thinks of himself and his son. Denethor, with his unconscious son, will sneak out of the world and leave everyone else to whatever hell comes.

          Selfish, arrogant, and corrupted with power.

          • flootzavut says:

            THIS.

          • castlewayjay says:

            well put

          • blossomingpeach says:

            Agreed. His position as a leader of the city is to stay with his people until the very end and not desert them. Instead, he's willing to end his line and leave his people without king OR steward. That's pretty selfish and cowardly to me. Even though he's fairly certain there is no winning this war, which remains to be seen, he and we don't know when that will come. He still has women and children and valiant men looking for leadership. His place was to go out to battle and lead them, especially when his sons couldn't anymore.

            Pbagenfg guvf jvgu Nentbea, jub cerggl zhpu unf n ohyyfrlr ba uvf onpx–gur rnfvrfg "rarzl" sbe Fnheba gb gnetrg. Ur vf nyjnlf yrnqvat uvf crbcyr vagb onggyr. Ur arire fuvexf.

            V'yy oevat guvf hc ntnva gbzbeebj, ohg vg nyfb fgevxrf zr ubj Nentbea tbrf nzbat uvf crbcyr gelvat gb urny gurz (nsgre ur'f qbar jvgu bhe anzrq punenpgref), rira jura ur'f uneqyl erfgrq va qnlf. Ur vf n gehr yrnqre bs uvf crbcyr. Vs V jrer n Tbaqbevna, V'q svaq vg uneq gb tvir uvz nalguvat ohg zl hgzbfg ybir naq erfcrpg. Ur rneaf vg.

            • Skyweir says:

              Jryy, ur npghnyyl xabjf gurer vf ab ivpgbel va n jne ntnvafg Fnheba. Vg qbrf abg erznva gb or frra. Gurer ner bgure jnlf gb jva, ohg ur qb abg xabj bs gurz.

              Valiant men wanting to be lead to kill other valiant men in a futile battle? Sounds like a waste of time, leading only to more bloodshed. Last stands are the ultimate selfish act, in a way, taken the life of enemy soldiers fighting for a lost cause, just for spite.

              "I'm not sure what you are saying here, so I am not sure about refuting it. Gandalf is simply asking Denethor to do his duty as Steward. " I am saying that I do not condone valiant last stands. Denethor does not either. He does not think that a last stand where death and torture is the only outcome is something he has a duty to be a part of. I agree.

              Nobhg gur Nhgubevgl guvat, V guvax ur fgvyy unf gur evtug gb xvyy uvzfrys. Vg vf uvf yvsr, naq uvf jvyy. Gur Inyne naq Znvn ner abg crezvggrq gb gnxr njnl serr jvyy sebz bgure orvatf, rira gubhtu gurl ner frg nobir gurz va Neqn. Rnpu gvzr gurl gel, gur pbafrdhraprf ner qver.

              Also, direct decent from Elendil is like claiming direct decent from some Roman Emperor to claim kingship of Britain. The House of Hurin claim indirect decent from Anarion, which would be pretty much the same thing. The last thousand years have had Stewards as the lords of the realm, and noo ne from the North disputed this (though all the Chieftains had an equal claim). Also:
              Gur Pbhapvy bs Tbaqbe erwrpgrq gur pynvz bs Inynaqvy'f yvar jura Neirqhv frg vg sbegu. Gung vf, onfvpyl, n znaqngr sebz gur znffrf sbe gur Fgrjneqf gb ehyr. Gurer unf orra ab punatr va gur cbyvpl fvapr gura, gur pynvz jnf erwrpgrq ol Tbaqbe naq gur qverpg qrprag sebz Ryraqvy nethzrag unf ab zber jrvtgu abj guna vg unq gura.

              Qrprag sebz Nanevba va gur srznyr yvar vf zber inyvq, ohg gura Qrargube vf nyfb n pynvznag naq jub'f pynvz vf orggre vf eryngviryl uneq gb qrpuvsre.

    • JustMalyn says:

      I love it 🙂 And you make a good point about why Denethor would choose suicide, and really, not listening to Sassy Gandalf is ALWAYS a mistake. Can we all have a field trip to Middle Earth to hug Pippin?

  14. julianamoreli says:

    I believe that if Denethor hadn't used the palantir he wouldn't have acted like he did. He was a very proud man, but I think that he would have fought the battle.

    While reading, I was so scared that he would burn Faramir alive…it would be awful…

    Also, Gandalf has a great sight right? Like the eagles…too see Theoden dead under the horse and all…

    Movie stuff: Tbq…Qrargube jrag ernyyl qenzngvp jvgu gung pebff unun, naq gura funqbjsnk tvivat uvz n xvpx…njrfbzr!!! Naq Cvccva fb oenir, whzcvat va gur sver gb trg Snenzve…naq gura Qrargube frr gung ur vf nyvir, gur snpr gung ur znqr…qrfcnve naq cnva…naq gung cbjreshy fprar bs uvz snyyvat bs gur uvturfg cynpr va gur pvgl…

    • Dreamflower says:

      "I believe that if Denethor hadn't used the palantir he wouldn't have acted like he did. He was a very proud man, but I think that he would have fought the battle."

      Exactly. If he had not been so proud that he thought he could master the Stone in spite of Sauron, he would not have subjected himself to its influence. He thought he was "different", he thought he was "special" and that he would not succumb. So yes, it's still his fault that the palantir destroyed him.

      • Skyweir says:

        He did not succomb. The Stone showed himt he truth. He did not bow to the will of Sauron here, he just saw only what Sauron wanted him to see. Still: Gur Cnynagvev qb abg yvr.

        I do not believe that decisions based on incomplete information are better than ones based on more information. What you are saying is that if Denethor had less information, he would have made a more uninformed decision. If he had let Gandalf "trick" him into fighting to the last man in a war he could not win, that would have been better? But then, why not let Gandalf make all the decisions anyway? Why maintain the pretens that Denethor's opinion matter at all, if he cannot be trusted with the full knowledge of the war he is fightning in the front lines of?

        This is where I can clearly see where Joe Abercrombie's awesome Gandalf analog, Bayaz, First of the Magi, got his inspiration.

        • Dreamflower says:

          "I do not believe that decisions based on incomplete information are better than ones based on more information."

          What do you call the information he was getting from the palantir, if not incomplete? It certainly did not show him everything– and furthermore, what it did show him was all biased in Sauron's favor. As you say yourself "he just saw only what Saruon wanted him to see".

          Still: Gur Cnynagvev qb abg yvr.

          Dhvgr gehr. Gurl bayl bzvg, naq gur bofreire vf yvzvgrq gb jung ur pna *frr*. Lrg lbh ner jvyyvat gb pnyy vg "ylvat" jura Tnaqnys xrrcf fbzr guvatf gb uvzfrys!

          V qb pbasrff gung uvf unovg bs orvat "pybfr" vf naablvat, ohg uvf zbgvirf ner arire frysvfu, naq vg vf n funzr gung Qrargube pbhyq arire frr gung. Tnaqnys'f fbyr checbfr jnf gb uryc oevat nobhg Fnheba'f qbjasnyy. Vs Tnaqnys unq jnagrq gb or na rzvarapr tevfr nf Qrargube npphfrq uvz bs, ur jbhyq abg unir jvguqenja sebz Nentbea nsgre gur Jne naq gura yrsg Zvqqyr-rnegu ragveryl, nf ur qvq.

          • flootzavut says:

            Lbhe ynfg cbvag vf birenyy gur zbfg vzcbegnag. Qrargube qbrfa'g unir cnegvphyneyl nal ernfba gb XABJ gung Tnaqnys vf n Znvn/uvf bayl ebyr naq bayl qrfver vf gb uryc Neqn guebj bss Fnheba'f cbjre. Ur unf ab bgure zbgvirf, naq ur cebirf gung ng gur raq bs gur gnyr.

        • castlewayjay says:

          I think Gandalf and Denethor 's conflict goes way back; we are only seeing the culmination here. If anything it is better storytelling for Gandalf to make some mistakes. And I do think as you do that Gandalf made some misjudgements in how he handled Denethor.

          • Dreamflower says:

            Oh I do agree with you there. Gandalf tended to be far too impatient with people, for one thing, and far too "close" as the hobbits put it, with information. And clearly Denethor had been very jealous of Gandalf's influence on his son.

            V qb abg oryvrir Qrargube xarj jung Tnaqnys gehyl jnf, naq V qba'g guvax ur unq na vaxyvat bs ubj zhpu cbjre na Vfgnev pbhyq jvryq. Naq V oryvrir ng bar cbvag va gur Fvyz be HG be fbzrjurer, vg'f zragvbarq gung Fnehzna jnf va Tbaqbe zber bsgra guna Tnaqnys jnf. Fbzr bs gung wrnybhfl zvtug unir orra cynagrq ol uvz, gubhtu gurer vf ab rivqrapr nobhg vg bar jnl be gur bgure.

      • Steve Morrison says:

        He may not have known at first that Sauron had another palantír.

  15. rubyjoo says:

    Most books build up to one battle, the goodies win, end of book. Not Tolkien. We have a HUGE battle at Helm's Deep. Surely that has done the trick? Nope. We have just witnessed an EPIC battle on the Pelennor Fields where all the enemy are destroyed. Surely our heroes have won?

    Perhaps they have, but in this chapter, Tolkien makes us feel Denethor's despair in just a few, short, easy-to-miss sentences. "For a little space you may triumph on the field, for a day. But against the Power that now arises there is no victory. To this City, only the first finger of its hand has been stretched."

    What?! What?!! There's MORE?! They haven't destroyed all of Sauron's forces, but only a "finger"?! I remember that, when I first started this chapter, I thought it was near enough all over and I was shocked when I listened to the conversation between Denethor and Gandalf. How on earth are they expected to win against even more overwhelming odds?

  16. stormwreath says:

    A small point:

    Gandalf hears the shriek of the Lord of the Nazgûl being killed while he's walking through the courtyard of the Houses of Healing. After that, he goes up onto the city walls and looks out:

    "And he beheld with the sight that was given to him all that had befallen."

    And it's clear from what he says next that he knows who killed the Witch-King, and that Théoden is dead, and maybe that Éowyn is wounded. (Pbasvezrq va gur arkg puncgre jura ur xabjf jvgubhg nfxvat gung Zreel jnf vafgehzragny va gur J-X'f qrngu.)

    In other words, the 'sight that was given to him' isn't just keen vision like Legolas has: he can actually look into the past and watch events unfolding before him.

  17. Pearl_Took says:

    Sometimes, I feel as if Gandalf exists on such a different astral plane from all the other characters that he’s just constantly irritated by everyone else.

    LOL, he and the Doctor have a lot in common. 😀 And they're both awesome, and they both like humans. 🙂

    Denethor makes me angry (his attitude to Faramir, his selfishness in dragging Faramir onto the funeral pyre, etc.) BUT he was seduced mentally by Sauron. And his end is terrible. 🙁

    Oh, LotR, you are INTENSE. 🙂

  18. Lugija says:

    Something I actually thought for a first time now:

    Beregond wants to save Faramir.
    The guards are loyal to Denethor and act as he ordered, trying to prevent Faramir's rescue.
    The result: Three guards dead, one man rescued.

    Denethor's death was a very powerful scene when I read it for the first time, and I believe I made some (ugly) sketches of broken Steward's staff, palantír on the pyre and the destroyed building. Another often drawn moment was the Witch-King's meeting with Gandalf near the broken gate.

    Movie: Gura arvgure bs gurz jnf va gur zbivr. Bu, jryy.

    • Ryan Lohner says:

      Tnaqnys naq gur Jvgpu Xvat vf va gur RR.

      • Lugija says:

        Ohg gur Jvgpu-Xvat qvqa'g evqr guebhtu gur tngr. V jnf rkprcgvat gung, rfcrpvnyyl nsgre Tnaqnys'f "Jungrire pbzrf guebhtu"-fcrrpu. Vs V unq xabja gur jbeq gebyyvat V jbhyq unir hfrq vg. Gebyyvat jvgu gebyyf.

        Gur fprar va RR jnf njrfbzr, gubhtu, rkprcg sbe Tnaqnys'f fgnss. Gur erfg bs gur zbivr V xrcg guvaxvat "Ubj jvyy ur trg vg onpx fb ur pna unir vg va gur Terl Uniraf?". Jryy, vg ghearq bhg gung ur whfg unq vg.

  19. Hyaroo says:

    Interestingly enough, Tolkien himself said that of all the characters in LotR, Faramir was probably the one closest to Tolkien himself in personality. (He also claim that he didn't purposely invent Faramir; apparently the character just "came walking into the woods of Ithilien.") To Tolkien's credit, he did not make Faramir the biggest hero, make him do all the cool things and give him all kinds of wonderful stuff…. but at least he spared him the fate of being burned alive.

    I'm falling in love with Pippin all over again; he was always my favorite hobbit (Sam being in second place) and through these re-examinings of the chapters I'm reminded of why. He's so completely out of his depth here; not a warrior or a wizard, and he's painfully aware of it. But that doesn't stop him from giving it his all, and it's really thanks to him (and Beregond and Gandalf, natch) that Faramir lives. Go Pippin!

  20. rabidsamfan says:

    Zbivr Qrargube vf onfvpnyyl bhg bs uvf zvaq sebz gur fgneg, fvapr ur unfa'g frag sbe Ebuna lrg, naq unfa'g rira frag njnl gur jbzra naq puvyqera sebz gur sebag yvarf. Ur'f n zber rknttrengrq irefvba bs Obbx Qrargube, orpnhfr vafgrnq bs whfg fnlvat gb uvzfrys gung ur unf gur evtug gb qrfgebl uvf bja fbaf jura ur guvaxf ur'f tbvat gb ybfr gb Fnheba, ur'f jvyyvat gb qrfgebl uvf ragver pvgl orpnhfr ur guvaxf ur'f tbvat gb ybfr pbageby bs vg gb Nentbea. Gur "vs vg vfa'g zvar vg fubhyqa'g rkvfg" zragnyvgl vf fgnttrevat naq njshy naq …. gurer V tb, ehaavat vagb n jbeq V pna'g hfr urer ntnva. "Veengvbany" whfg qbrfa'g phg vg.

  21. Sadie_TARDIS says:

    All right, story time. Years ago, nerds that we are, my friends and I had a Lord of the Rings poem-writing contest, and this was mine. Written when I was about thirteen or fourteen, it's one of those things that I should feel an awful embarrassment about, but I don't know… I still kind of like it? There's definitely some mild influence from the films, but it deals specifically with these chapters, so I don't see anything particularly spoilery. Anyway, here it is.

    Denethor and Theoden

    Two man seated in seats of honor,
    two great men of Middle-earth
    one in Rohan and one in Gondor
    equal men of equal worth.

    Both men mourned a son that died;
    both ignored an heir they had.
    on their thrones they sat and sighed,
    and both were nearly driven mad,

    For one succumbed to Sauron's lies,
    and looked into a Palantir
    And what he saw through Sauron's eyes
    filled his mind with pain and fear.

    The other, weakened with grief and pain,
    gave heed to Wormtongue's poisoned words;
    constantly told that loss was gain,
    and that friends were deadly foes.

    To both of them the Wizard came,
    "Behold, a king returns to you!
    The son of Arathorn is his name,
    strong of heart he is, and true."

    And one cast off the shadows dark
    and knew himself and knew his name
    Theoden, Lord of the Mark
    and rode to victory without shame.

    But Denethor sneered and would not heed
    and to his throne would only cling
    and not surrender it willingly
    "Not to this upstart of a king."

    Both men had a Hobbit pledged to serve them,
    both men's nations rode forth to war:
    one led the charge and bravely perished,
    all his honor and hope restored.

    He fell to the king of Angmar dark
    standing there beside his men
    and shielding him, Eowyn fought
    and killed the wraith of darkness grim.

    But the other still sat alone and mourned
    ignoring his dying second son
    and in his hands he held the horn
    which had been carried by the other one.

    Finally his reason broke,
    and living seemed hopeless and dire
    and from the tombs a wisp of smoke
    rose as he built up a pyre;

    on which to burn his life away
    and escape the final doom
    for which he saw no remedy
    but to lay himself in the tomb.

    And since his line was ended now
    was ended and would not return
    (or so he thought), in his despair
    he brought his son to also burn.

    Although Pippin tried to help him,
    and Gandalf saved the son in time
    Denethor was lost in madness
    and darkness filled his twisted mind.

    He lept onto the funeral pyre
    clutching the Palantir in his hands
    and stood there burning in the fire
    amid the ruin of all his plans.

    ~~~~

    Both men died in the same hour,
    men of courage and fearlessness;
    They had both stood up to Sauron's power
    But oh, how different were their deaths!

  22. Saint Mercy says:

    Denethor could have used a Sassy Gay Friend.

  23. castlewayjay says:

    very powerful chapter. Funzr guvf jnf fb irel cbbeyl qbar va gur zbivr – bar bs Wnpxfba'f srj znwbe zvf-fgrcf. bs pbhefr gung'f zl bja uhzoyr bcvavba
    Tolkien gets in his Catholic opinion that suicide is immoral – having Gandalf say that it is not for us to choose the time or manner of our death. but he is not overbearing about it.
    I still feel sorry for Denethor, jerk though he was. His real sin was giving up, giving in to despair, not having faith.
    Love how Tolkien draws such strong characters – even minor ones like Beregond. And to think he gets criticized for having one-dimensional characters! Bah!

  24. threerings13 says:

    So in reading the comments here, there's one thing that keeps popping into my head.

    And that's how well Denethor's death illustrates exactly why suicide is pretty much always the wrong choice. Because like Denethor, people suffering depression or another type of mental illness often believe there is no hope, but their information is faulty. Relying only on your own point of view and your own prediction of what will happen in the future, especially while under the influence of mental illness, is just as much of a bad idea as basing your actions only on what you see in the Palentir. The nature of reality and human nature means we can't ever see everything that's going on, or know what is going to happen. And that's why suicide is always the wrong thing to do. You're not acting on accurate or full information. You've been biased in your worldview by the evil influence (Sauron or depression).

    Ok, mental health worker out.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      I'm really uncomfortable with this?

      I don't want to advocate suicide at all, but this reasoning suggests the root problem behind a reason why someone might want to end their life will always be wrong because of perspective. And that's really not a fair thing to say. My point of view as an abused, bullied kid was not wrong or skewed, and even thinking about it now, I really was in a hopeless situation without any support network. To say otherwise would deny the fact that those factors existed and affected the development of my depression.

      • fantasy_fan says:

        This is a very interesting comment. It sounds like you are saying that your pain was caused by your circumstances, and the depression was a consequence: perspective in your case was neither faulty nor the cause.

        In my own case of depression, in which i came close to suicide, the description is much closer to what threerings13 implied. The pain in both cases was very real and deserves validation. And yet, my despair was really very skewed: loss of perspective was quite intertwined with the feelings of hopelessness and depression and feels causative to me in hindsight. Abuse was not ongoing in my case, there were options I could not even bring myself to see much less hope for, and I had some very erroneous thought patterns about myself and my circumstances. The altered brain chemistry in my case did result in loss of perspective.

        In relation to this chapter of LOTR specifically, it's why I can feel some sympathy for Denethor despite the terrible things he tried to do to his son, his city and himself. The actions are terrible. Actions are something that we can condemn. The reasons for the actions are set out in the text relatively straightforwardly: grief for Boromir, the war going badly, the influence of the palantir, fear of loss of his position, cultural attitudes, etc., and we attribute those to pride, or some other weakness or moral failure. But if, and I allow it's a big if since we never get the view inside his head, if the physical brain chemistry of depression has resulted in a skewing of his perspective, I can feel sorry for him and feel that his motivations were not as evil as his actions made him seem.

      • Tul says:

        Perhaps a few years back I would have agreed with you, because I was rather uncomfortable with suicide, but now I can't. We discussed at school recently over the problem of euthanasia, and the people who asks for the "right to die with dignity". I think I would give them that, because sometime life really sucks and there is no way it is going to get better, and they know it. Why should they keep struggling along, if they can't find any joy in life any longer and can't find hope that it will change in future? They only should have the right to judge if they can endure more pain in this blocked situation, or if they don't see any sense to it. And we should respect that choice.
        A man's life should be his to do whatever he wants with it, as long as he doesn't have responsibilities to others, and as long as he doesn't step on another man's rights. Same for women. Also, it does take a form of courage to end your own life.

        This only my very humble opinion of course. I should precise nobody very close to me ever tried to end his life, so I'm perhaps not the best judge, but here it is.

        Edit: Sorry Mark, I meant to reply to the first post! Also, I'm sorry to learn you had a hard childhood…

    • Hidden_Hi says:

      Every suicide is a tragedy, and all people act with incomplete information, but I don't think that the two correlate the way you think they do.

      Some people's lives genuinely suck. And yes, if people knew everything, and someone knew that in a year or two their lives would be radically better, they might not commit suicide. But that doesn't make their pain any less, or mean that they should just suck it up because over the rainbow there's blue skies and a golden sun.

      I think that depression itself is a complicated phenomena and can't be simplified into something like 'The Parable of the Palantir'. I also don't think that suicide is always correlated with the disease of depression, let alone caused by it, although if you're a mental health worker you'd know more than me.

    • @MeagenImage says:

      I've been in that place once, where it seemed like I failed at everything and my life was going to be nothing but unending misery and it was all my fault, and the railtracks actually started to look quite inviting. It was only the one time and it only lasted a minute or so. (What brought me back from the brink, oddly enough, was wondering how my online friends would react to the news, if they ever found out.) I can only imagine what it would be to live with that for days or weeks or months.

      I maintain that suicide is a permament solution to a temporary problem. I don't judge those that do it, though. Not everyone, when faced with overwhelming despair, can stab it in the face after beheading the pterodactyl it rode in on.

      • msw188 says:

        I hate to make light of a subject such as this, but I will admit I laughed out loud when I read:
        "Not everyone, when faced with overwhelming despair, can stab it in the face after beheading the pterodactyl it rode in on."

    • msw188 says:

      I think the problem with this statement is that, as currently worded, you are implying absolutes about a problem with too many variables to be enveloped in any absolute statement. You claim that it is the nature of reality, and human nature, that "we can't ever see everything that's going on, or know what is going to happen". But this is an absolute that has nothing to do with someone's mental condition. From this point of view, everyone's choices at all times are ALWAYS the "wrong thing to do".

      My point is having perfect information cannot be the determining factor on whether a choice is right or wrong, because that would mean all choices ever are always wrong. I don't think it is possible to devise an absolute statement about choices being right or wrong that applies to all cases for all people.

      You also seem to imply that a person suffering depression is relying only on his or her own point of view, and that this is somehow a perspective that is more flawed than 'normal'; thus, you can call depression a "mental illness". Neither of these two things is absolutely true in all cases. It is perfectly possible for a person to suffer depression AS A RESULT of relying on other people's points of view, RATHER than his/her own. It is also quite possible that his/her perceptions are just as correct as they would have been if he/she were not depressed.

      Please please please, I'm not trying to say that suicide is right or wrong. I'm trying to say that, as written, your statement is not a good account on how to pass an absolute judgement on the concept of suicide. Indeed, as written, your statement seems to imply some absolute statements on the notions of mental judgement and depression that are simply not true as absolute statements. I'm sorry if this all sounds pretty judgmental of me, but it's just how your statement reads to me, even if it's not how you meant it to be taken.

    • rabidsamfan says:

      What's kept me from suicide, year after year, is seeing the damage that my uncle's suicide did to my mother and the rest of his family. Fifty years later they still grieve. He was on a shoebox full of medications for depression at the time, and my mother has always believed that they were a factor, but regardless of that, the damage was there. I honestly believe that if he had been able to think about the fact that his son would be the one to find him, he might have made it enough more days to come out of the slough. (His son, incidentally, went into the woods a long way from anywhere to kill *himself*, out of consideration for his daughters, but neglected to think of the people who would find *him*.)

      I have no philosophical objection to suicide — but I have more respect for persons who take that step with the full knowledge and agreement of the families (or friends) they are leaving behind. And none whatsoever for the people who choose to kill other people as a part of their own demise.

  25. arctic_hare says:

    I find it really hard to stir up much sympathy for Denethor, and much of it comes from a line of Gandalf's: "And at the least you shall not rob your son of his choice while his death is still in doubt." Denethor responds to that by taking out a knife and going towards Faramir with the intention to stab him to death with it. This selfish, monstrous fool, I can't even with him. It was prideful folly to use the Palantir, and to not realize that Sauron could manipulate him thus by leaving out information. Not to mention selfish cowardice to succumb to despair and not fight anyway. We've seen plenty of other people keep on in the face of despair and fear, most especially Frodo, who hasn't once given up in his quest to destroy the Ring despite the weight it exerts on him and the seeming hopelessness of the errand. Denethor thinks himself so above "halflings", but here especially I think a hobbit puts him to shame. And that's before we even get to the comparisons between him and Theoden. Denethor has chosen to try and take his son's agency and life from him, when there's a chance he could survive, and we see from his words that even though he does remember, as Gandalf said he would, that he loves Faramir, it's clear that he nevertheless is still the disfavored son because of his fondness of the wizard. I can't do anything but side-eye that. He's also power-hungry, wanting the rule of the city himself, and forgetting what the duty of the Stewards actually is. I'm on Gandalf's side in this one.

    Who I do feel sympathy for here, besides the obvious of Faramir, Pippin, and Gandalf, is Beregond. He did what he felt was the correct course of action and fought to save Faramir's life, yet technically he committed treason and took the lives of his countrymen. He feels such guilt about that too – the porter did draw his sword against him first, it is true, but that doesn't change that a life is lost, and how do you explain that to the family of the one you killed? I find myself wondering how life will be for him in the city afterwards, doubtless there are those who will despise him for killing their family members, yet in the end he saved their Steward, Faramir. It's a complex situation and I think he'll have a rough time of it for a while. Poor Beregond. 🙁 He did do the right thing, though, and that will be some comfort, at the very least.

    Movie stuff: Onpx ba Qrargube, zl gbgny ynpx bs flzcngul sbe uvz va gur obbx vf jul V pna'g trg gbb shffrq nobhg uvz va gur zbivr. Gb zl zvaq, gurl bayl rknttrengrq n yvggyr ovg, ur'f fgvyy gur fnzr nffubyr. Nyy gur guvatf gung znqr zr ungr uvz va gur obbx – uvf gerngzrag bs Snenzve, ubj ur gerngrq Cvccva, uvf njshy pubvprf urer, rgp. – ner fgvyy cerfrag. Nobhg gur bayl guvat gung punatrq vf gung ur qvqa'g yvtug gur ornpbaf uvzfrys orsber Tnaqnys naq Cvccva tbg gb Tbaqbe, naq gur ornpba-yvtugvat fprar vf njrfbzr rabhtu gung V ernyyl qb abg pner. Cyhf vg'f na rnfl guvat gb whfgvsl jvgu uvf Cnynagve hfr: ur'f frra gung Tbaqbe pnaabg jva gur jne guebhtu sbepr, naq ur xabjf gung Nentbea vf evqvat jvgu Gurbqra, fb ur'f guvaxvat obgu "jung'f gur cbvag?" naq "xrrc gung hfhecre gur shpx bhg bs urer". Gehr, gurl pbhyq'ir cebonoyl znqr uvf Cnynagve unovg n ovg zber rkcyvpvg, ohg gur uvagf ner gurer sbe gubfr jub'ir ernq gur obbxf fb V'z abg gbb obgurerq.

    Gur gbepu ehaavat VF uvynevbhf, gubhtu. V nyjnlf znxr pbzzragf yvxr "Url, pbhyq lbh nvz lbhefrys gb ynaq ba fbzr bepf? Gunaxf!" Cyhf vg'f fb fngvfslvat gb frr Tnaqnys junpx uvz bar jvgu uvf fgnss. Senaxyl, nsgre nyy Qrargube'f ohyyfuvg va obgu obbx naq zbivr, V ARRQRQ gung naq gur zbivr qryvirerq jurer gur obbx qvq abg.

    • blossomingpeach says:

      "Gur gbepu ehaavat VF uvynevbhf, gubhtu. V nyjnlf znxr pbzzragf yvxr "Url, pbhyq lbh nvz lbhefrys gb ynaq ba fbzr bepf? Gunaxf!" Cyhf vg'f fb fngvfslvat gb frr Tnaqnys junpx uvz bar jvgu uvf fgnss. Senaxyl, nsgre nyy Qrargube'f ohyyfuvg va obgu obbx naq zbivr, V ARRQRQ gung naq gur zbivr qryvirerq jurer gur obbx qvq abg. "

      Zl RKNPG gubhtugf rirel gvzr V frr gung fprar, un un! "Jryy, yrg'f ubcr ur gnxrf bhg n srj bs Fnheba'f sbeprf juvyr ur'f ng vg."

    • drippingmercury says:

      GUVF gb nyy lbhe ebg13. Gur zbivr qrsvavgryl qryvirerq zber sbe zr, gbb. V pna'g jngpu gung fprar jvgubhg ynhtuvat naq tyrrshyyl lryyvat "SHPX LBH QRARGUBE QVNS" (naq jung na rkpryyrag QVNS tvs vg vf)! V whfg ungr uvz fb zhpu, V pna'g uryc vg. Cyhf, va gur obbxf, gur snpg gung ur whfg yvrf gurer oheavat gb qrngu, shpxvat hc gur ubhfrf bs gur qrnq, gur cnynagve, naq whfg onfvpnyyl tvivat rirelbar gur svatre nyjnlf znqr zr ungr uvz rira zber. 1) V jnagrq zber rzbgvbany cnlbss naq 2) crbcyr ba sver ner JNL zber fpernz-l naq synvy-l, fb uvf zbivr-erfcbafr gb orvat ba sver frrzf n yvggyr zber nccebcevngr. Fher ur jbhyq unir qvrq orsber ur pbhyq whzc bss gur pyvss, ohg V jvyy tynqyl npprcg nal naq nyy rkphfrf sbe qenzngvp fjbbcvat fubgf bs Zvanf Gvevgu.

  26. Tul says:

    In Defense of Denethor…

    1) He wasn't really in a healthy mental state at the time, and I wouldn't blame him: he has been under immense strain for a long time, he has been shown evidence of the inevitability of their defeat, he was crushed by guilt and sorrow at the still recent death of his elder boy and soon-to-come death of his second boy. It's enough to drive anyone to folly, he no longer has anything to live for at this point.
    2) The only thing he still has at this point is his second son who shall never wake again unless a miracle happen (nf vg tbrf, n zvenpyr qbrf unccra: jr qvfpbire gur unaqf bs gur xvat ner gur unaqf bs n urnyre (byq jvirf' gnyrf gung ghearq gb or gehr), naq n Xvat unccra gb fubj hc nsgre n zvyyraavn bs nofrapr, pbagbhevat nyy gur nezl bs Zbeqbe hfvat n frperg ebnq fnvq vzcbffvoyr gb cnff naq pncghevat gur Rarzl'f fuvcf jvgu ybat qrnq zra, naq jvavat na harkcrpgrq ivpgbel ntnvafg sne fhcrevbe bqqf – Qrargube pna or sbetvira sbe abg sberfrrvat nyy guvf).
    3) When the city is taken (it isn't an "if" for him, and really, if not for the Rohirrim and Aragorn both using long forgotten or never-known secret roads – and ghosts! – to manage to come in time, it would have been), the orcs will do horrible things to them and their bodies, after or before killing them – the Steward and his heir are some of the greatest prize Sauron can have. If they are going to die, let them die with dignity (in a pyre so leaving nothing behind for the Enemy to spoil), and together. That last point is important to Denethor, particularly after what happened between them. And the wish to die with those you love isn't particular to Denethor: Eowyn wanted this to, Cvccva yngre guvaxf ur haqrefgnaqf Qrargube abj naq jbhyq engure qvr jvgu Zreel, naq Sebqb vf unccl gb or jvgu Fnz ng gur raqf bs guvatf. This was Tolkien's experience speaking.
    4) Also, he's not exactly depriving his son of his choice, since his son isn't in any state to make a choice. He can't choose if he prefers to burn with his father, slowly die of fever, or be given alive to the orcs later. Which would be how Denethor sees things at this point (ntnva ur vfa'g irel sne bss gur znex – vg onfvpnyyl gbbx n zvenpyr sbe gung abg gb unccra!)

    This isn't to excuse his choice, or demonstrate it was a perfectly reasonable decision: it was not, and this is the point. He just wasn't in his right mind, and it seems to me a little unfair to judge him so harshly over this.
    Personally I always saw the Pyre as an act of love and of defiance. The last wish of an old man who had lost everything that ever mattered in his life (or is convinced, not without reasons, that he will lose them soon) and wants to at least be able to end it as he chooses (not Sauron, not Gandalf, not that so called King), with the person he now holds most dear.

    • castlewayjay says:

      Wow – I can't agree with everything you say, but what a thoughtful post. lots to mull over. Denethor was certainly a great creation, if not a well-loved one.
      Once again let me say – my parents pretty much lost their minds when my brother died. I think that's what happened to Charles Lindbergh- I think he lost it after his first born child was murdered.

      • Tul says:

        So sorry for your brother…

        I don't know anybody who lost a child (thankfully!), let alone all their children. But I hear real life stories and in all the books or movies I've read and seen, those characters very often tend to lose it at least a little after that, or at least go through a very difficult period – there must be a reason it's portrayed that way!
        And I can imagine well enough how hard it must be, without speaking of books and movies…

        And thank you!

    • Eregyrn says:

      I just wanted to make this observation:

      It's enough to drive anyone to folly, he no longer has anything to live for at this point.

      This isn't strictly true, although I think you are right that he THINKS he no longer has anything to live for, that the city is also doomed.

      But the point I wanted to make was… well, he is a leader. He is a man who thinks in fact that he and his SHOULD be kings, not stewards. So, the proper answer is: he has HIS PEOPLE left to live for. He could rally them. He could speak comfort to them. Or he could — as monstrous as I think it would be — try to convince all of them to cheat the Enemy's coming victory by all commiting peaceful suicide and leaving the Enemy nothing to despoil.

      While his people still live and fight, though, his killing himself and his son says, IMO, some ugly symbolic things. First: that on some level he thinks it far more symbolically important that the Enemy not be able to lay hands on or despoil the Steward and his son (i.e. he sets his own and his son's importance far above that of his people). Second: that he is willing to check out early, and leave his loyal people to their messy, horrible fate.

      I guess, for me, it's a "the captain should go down with his ship" kind of thing. It may be understandable to quail in the face of trying to be the last one standing… but we judge a leader by the degree to which they respond to that choice by standing firm.

      (I'll also say this — I couldn't possibly love Eowyn's big moment more, I think it's one of the crowning moments of all LOTR… but I'm not unaware that her choice, too, was ultimately selfish, a choice to leave her people possibly leaderless. She's just lucky that the story gave her a role and deed of such superlative awesomeness that it overshadows for us the decision she made that brought her to that moment, which I honestly don't think is a decision to be admired. Again, understood perhaps, but not admired.)

      • Tul says:

        Interesting reply! ^^
        Mostly I agree, Denethor should have been here for his people, and he did fail as a leader in his last moments. He should have stayed with them until the very last moment, when the orcs are at the doors of his citadel. Then, he could have had his pyre!

        The worst in this situation is that his people trusted him. Bergil in the first chapter is confident that all of Sauron's army could never beat their lord, men on the walls refused to fight for the Grey Pilgrim and some of them went by themselves to seek Denethor out and ask him to take charge.

        But then, he was very focused on Faramir at this time, and viewed everything else as futile. He in fact did tell them to burn sooner than later, since they are going to die anyway. Or follow whomever else they wanted, even Gandalf.
        That is a direct result of his desperation and sudden mental illness I think, to be focused on one point of his life and not being able to see everything else. I don't think it is necessarily egoism – meaning it can happen to a rather selfless person too, to for example neglect one child if the other is ill or dead or whatever. Grief does that to people.

        So again, it shouldn't be excused, but I can forgive him?

        About Eowyn: I already said it elsewhere, but she didn't leave her people leaderless. Théoden let her rule in his absence while he was off fighting at Helm's Deep only because none of his marshals or captains or whatever wanted the job, and the doorwarden said the people would like her. That task ended when he came back after that battle.
        When he left for Gondor, he put Erkenbrand, lord of Westfold, in charge at home, who was a little old but had authority and dignity, and so could lead Rohan's force should they lose on the Pelennor (it's in UT). Nowhere is it stated Eowyn had any sort of role that wasn't decorative.

    • rabidsamfan says:

      If Denethor had fetched the wood and oil by himself alone, climbed up onto the table by himself alone, and lit the flames by himself alone, with no one else having to watch him die, I might see it as a final act of defiance. But taking Faramir with him an act of love? NEVER. Burning hurts. Lots. It's a dreadful way to die. And it isn't like Denethor couldn't have found ways to ease Faramir out of life without subjecting him to the pain of the flames. Heck, the bodies could have been burned after they were dead! Denethor certainly had servants who were loyal enough to do it.

      It is Denethor's delusion that he must die because he's not going to be the boss anymore, that he's got to take the son he just sent out on a flipping suicide mission a day ago to Osgiliath with him, and by the most painful way possible, because that son doesn't act like Denethor's the center of the universe and all wise, that's what renders him contemptible. Not his grief. The conceits he has about his own worth and what "belongs" to him predate his grief. Small wonder Gandalf is annoyed!

      • Tul says:

        Of course taking Faramir with him was an act of love, however misguided it was! Burning hurts, but it's the death he chose for himself too, whether you think it's the best way to die or not. Those people also didn't fear pain as much. Perhaps it was a question of dignity? And as far as he was concerned, Faramir was already burning. I'm not trying to make sense of it anyway, he was being irrational.

        Also, he doesn't kill himself because "he's not going to be the boss anymore", but because he lost or thought he had lost everything he had, and because he thought they were all doomed anyway since the Enemy had the Ring again! Tolkien's own words!
        (Even if he was unhappy about Aragorn, it certainly wasn't what sent him over the edge)

        About the suicide mission – It wasn't one, and Denethor's reasons are certainly far more complex than mere selfishness. You actually already said the same thing in answer to one of my post a few days ago, and I explained my position in a long enough reply. Check it out if you're interested in debating this with me, if not it doesn't matter.

        Denethor certainly has pride, like a good number of other characters in this book both good and evil, but (if you look at my other post), Tolkien says himself that it wasn't only personal and that he loved his country and loved his people.
        Reducing him to hubris is like looking at only one small facet of his very complex personality. And he has his good side!

        • div says:

          I don't like Denethor. However I do have a soft spot for the House of the Stewards. They stepped up to the plate in an impossibly difficult situation and ruled Gondor for centuries without any expectation of reward or benefits. Yes Aragorn's claim is rightful, however I am a bit irritated with the whole divine rights to rule thing that they seem to have going on and how Gandalf seems so dismissive of the Stewards especially since they are no longer needed. This inspite of the fact that I love Gandalf and Aragorn. I completely concur with Mark when he said that If Faramir wakes up, explaining his fathers death to him is going to be terrible. V nyzbfg jvfu Snenzve unq n tbg n ovt qnza ureb zbzrag va gur obbx fb ur pbhyq eho vg va uvf snguref snpr naq erpynvz fbzr bs uvf ubhfr'f gneavfurq erchgngvba. Nyfb xrcg gur snasvp jevgref sebz nyjnlf znxvat uvz bhg gb or jrnx naq varssrpghny whfg orpnhfr ur zvffrq gur Onggyr bs gur Cryraabe Svryqf.

          • Tul says:

            Reading the Appendices, or even only Faramir's short history lesson, lbh qvfpbire ubj zhpu orggre ehyref guna gur xvatf gur fgrjneqf jrer.
            Onfvpnyyl, gur xvatf obgpurq rirelguvat va Neabe, qvivqvat gur Xvatqbz va guerr, yrggvat gur Jvgpu-Xvat qrfgebl gurz, naq gurl arneyl obgpurq rirelguvat va Tbaqbe, jung jvgu gurve nyvrangvat nyy gur crbcyr va gur Fbhgu naq Rnfg, gur Xva-fgevsr naq rirelguvat…
            Gur fgrjneqf jrer nyy irel jvfr zra, jub, qrfcvgr univat gb qrny jvgu gur pbafrdhraprf bs gur qrrqf bs gurve cerqrprffbef, znantrq gb ehyr gur Xvatqbz va gur orfg jnl gurl pbhyq. Gurve snzvyl unq orra svtugvat sbe Tbaqbe sbe trarengvbaf ol gur gvzr bs Qrargube naq uvf fbaf. Obebzve naq Snenzve gbb fcrag gurve yvirf va qrqvpngvba gb gurve pbhagel, svtugvat sbe vg.
            Nsgre nyy guvf uvfgbel, nsgre zber guna unys n praghel bs fgrjneqfuvc fcrag svtugvat Fnheba naq cercnevat uvf pbhagel sbe Jne va Qrargube'f pnfr, ur whfg tvirf hc va gur ynfg zbzrag. Obebzve qvrf, Snenzve trgf jbhaqrq jvguva qnlf naq Qrargube ybfrf vg.
            Nentbea pna abj jnyx va ng gur ynfg zvahgr jvgu n zntvpny fjbeq, naq urer ur trgf nyy gur tybel, gjb Xvatqbzf naq gur uvturfg bs ryira-znvqra! Gung nyjnlf sehfgengrf zr gb ab raq. Jul qvq gurl unir gb raq yvxr guvf?

            Jryy, ng yrnfg Nentbea tvirf Snenzve Vguvyvra nf n Cevaprqbz va gunaxf, naq ur xrrcf gur Fgrjneq gvgyr.

            About Faramir – lrf, V nyjnlf jbaqrerq nobhg ubj naq jub jnf tbvat gb gryy uvz. Gurer unf orra fbzr snasvpgvbaf nobhg guvf.
            Vg nyjnlf obgurerq zr ubj Snenzve vf fb bsgra cbegenlrq nf n jrnxyvat va snasvpgvba. V guvax vg znl or creuncf va cneg orpnhfr bs gur zbivr. Va gur obbx, uvf zra cenvfrf uvz gb gur fxvrf naq Rbjla fnlf urefrys fur qbrfa'g guvax nal evqre bs gur Znex jbhyq or noyr gb qrsrng uvz – gung vapyhqrf ure oebgure, nzbat bguref.

        • rabidsamfan says:

          Had to go back to find your comment on the mission to Osgiliath, as I don't have an account and don't get notified of replies. Then I looked in the book, naturally, but I still think that Osgiliath itself was a lost cause. The causeway forts and the wall around the Pelennor were a better choice for the lines of defense, since Cair Andros was already gone.

          V znl unir orra nssrpgrq ol gur zbivr jura V fnvq "hggreyl qrfgebl" gur oevqtrf, nf V jnf guvaxvat bs gur zvqevire cvyynef.

          It did buy a day, since the attack didn't hit on the first one. But it was still an assignment which had a very high percentage chance of never coming back from. To ignore that percentage is to pretend he didn't say anything about spending his sons.

          But mostly it comes down to his definition of love being self-centered. Faramir isn't some teddybear that his father can hug on the way into the dark! And love of city and people doesn't mean a thing if Denethor is willing to abandon them for the sake of running away from his responsibilities.

          And yes, he is spiteful. Why else does he try to destroy the palantir? He thinks it is a great tool, after all. Why deny its use to Gandalf except for spite?

          • Tul says:

            “I still think that Osgiliath itself was a lost cause. The causeway forts and the wall around the Pelennor were a better choice for the lines of defense, since Cair Andros was already gone.”
            But Cair Andros wasn't yet gone! That is what Denethor argues: the isle is already full of men. It falls later, during the battle, and then Faramir retreats behind the Causeway fords and the wall, as you suggest.

            It was a risky mission, but then Faramir had been leading all the risky missions ever since Boromir left for Rivendell, since he's the best Captain out there. It wasn't a "suicide mission" since even if the retreat would be perilous (as they knew it, and this is why Denethor prepared for a sortie), they could yet make it. It went more badly than what was foreseen, but still a third of them returned.
            Denethor's line about "spending even his sons" is him thinking about how he must wait and direct things from the tower while both of them are on the battleground.

            Bs pbhefr, vs jr ner fcrnxvat bs gur zbivr, vg’f nabgure fgbel ragveryl. Gung jnf fheryl bar gur zbfg sbbyvfu naq hfryrff zvyvgnel zbir V’ir rire frra ba fperra, naq V oynzr rira Zbivrzve sbe guvf.

            “But mostly it comes down to his definition of love being self-centered. Faramir isn't some teddybear that his father can hug on the way into the dark! And love of city and people doesn't mean a thing if Denethor is willing to abandon them for the sake of running away from his responsibilities.”
            Why is Denethor's love for Faramir self-centered? Because he doesn't like his relationship with Gandalf? He has good enough reasons to be bitter about this!
            Love of his city and people means a lot, and he didn't abandon them "for the sake of running away from his responsibilities", but because he had no hope left for them, or for anything. Because he was broken mentally and emotionally. His last hours shouldn't change the fact he served his country all his life.
            (As an aside, I don't think people should be blamed for their despair. That’s just me.)

            “And yes, he is spiteful. Why else does he try to destroy the palantír? He thinks it is a great tool, after all. Why deny its use to Gandalf except for spite?”
            He is spiteful towards Gandalf, there is no denying that. And, what of it? Gandalf isn’t being the best of friends with him either, nor is he God. Why should not being a member of the wizard’s fanclub a crime? Sometimes people just don’t get along.
            As for the Palantír, he had no reason to leave it behind, as far as he was concerned, since everything was going to burn and fighting on was foolish. I don’t even know if he was trying to destroy it by taking it with him. As for why he didn’t let him use it before, 1) the Anor-stone was a secret known only by the Steward and his heir for generations, 2) Gandalf had no right to it and therefor wouldn’t be able to use it as well as him, 3) the last white wizard who looked into a palantír ended up betraying them, creating a very bad mess in the process.

  27. JustMalyn says:

    BAHAHAHAHA. I would watch it. That's hilarious.

  28. castlewayjay says:

    Perfect, just perfect!

    • Hyaroo says:

      We'd have to chuck continuity out of the window for it, of course, but it could include episodes like "Denethor's boss, King Aragorn, is coming to dinner, and everything has to be perfect — but Boromir has failed to aquire the Ring of Power Denethor needed in order to impress the King! As if this wasn't enough, Sauron and the Nazgul have decided to pick this very day to invade Denethor's home in order to test out their new war machines! Will Denethor's job survive the wacky hijinks that follow?"

  29. JustMalyn says:

    Reading them right now and dying of laughter. THANK YOU.

  30. Tul says:

    On Denethor and the Palantír (because lots of people spoke of this), I think the essay on the Palantíri in Unfinished Tales is really useful to better understand the situation.

    We learn in there that Denethor had long studied documents available to the Stewards only on the stones before daring to look into one. He judged that his strength was sufficient, and he was not wrong! UT says he could endure the general strain of using it, and he in fact did use it, for years, without it having an effect on his personality even if it did age him prematurely (the same effects are observable on Aragorn after his one try with the Orthanc-stone). It was continued confrontation of Sauron that would have had a “breaking strain”, and he could avoid this if he so desired, because he had enough strength to keep control of his stone and resist “Sauron’s attempt to ‘wrench’ the Anor-stone toward himself”. Also, Sauron wasn’t always there.

    A quote, if you are interested:
    “Saruman fell under the domination of Sauron and desired his victory, or no longer opposed it. Denethor remained steadfast in his rejection of Sauron, but was made to believe that his victory was inevitable, and so fell into despair. The reasons for this difference were no doubt that in the first place Denethor was a man of great strength of will, and maintained the integrity of his personality until the final blow of the (apparently) mortal wound of his only surviving son. He was proud, but this was by no mean merely personal: he loved Gondor and its people, and deemed himself appointed by destiny to lead them in his desperate time. And in second place the Anor-stone was his by right, and nothing but expediency was against his use of it in his grave anxieties.”
    [emphasis by Tolkien, in italic in the original]

    Another interesting bit: “Whether he ever thus made contact with the Orthanc-stone and Saruman is not told; probably he did, and did so with profit to himself. Sauron could not break in on these conferences […]. While two of the other Stones were in response, the third would find them both blank.”
    I want a fanfic about this!

    In the end, I fail to see why Aragorn risking a look at the stone in a risky situation is perfectly ok and even laudable, but it is so awful for Denethor. Gandalf himself admits the information he got must have been useful to him many times in the war. (Heck, even Boromir is forgiven for wanting the Ring!)
    You can argue he shouldn’t have tried, but why demonize him so much because of it?

    • I JUST posted about how Denethor was fundamentally good, but I had no idea that Tolkien himself actually wrote things to that effect! Thank you so much for posting this!

      • Tul says:

        You're welcome!

        As far as I am concerned, I'm persuaded Tolkien never intended for us to hate Denethor. He writes him with too much sympathy for that…all those moments he is described holding Faramir's hand, tears running down his face, desperate for some last words…and when he cracks up in this chapter and asks Gandalf not to take his son away from him…all this is heartbreaking to me!
        Also, he's constantly telling us of what a great man he is, how powerful, masterful and high…and in the side of good…his death is supposed to be a tragedy. I'm sure he meant to induce some sympathy, and meant for him to be viewed as a very complex character, a great man who could have been numbered among the great but the fell too hard for this.
        Well that's what I think anyway. I was rather surprised by how universally hated he was in the fandom!

        • I agree. I personally don't like Denethor, but I find him heartbreaking in a lot of ways (though admittedly when I was younger, I did despise him). Seeing all that he goes through, and considering just how much he goes through, it's amazing he was able to hold it together as long as he did. I don't think he deserves hatred. Questioning and restraint? Yeah, definitely. But hating him ignores everything that he did suffer (and honestly, he suffered a lot).

    • Dreamflower says:

      I think the dislike of Denethor and lack of sympathy for him is cumulative. It's not just the palantir. Yes, the Stewards had the right to use the Minas Tirith Stone, but he was the only one of them who chose to do so.

      But it's also his attitude towards others, his disdain to Faramir, his treatment of Pippin, his refusal to listen to advice…these things add up…

      He can be forgiven, and many readers do. And I have seen him written in ways in fanfic that temper my dislike and can even make me feel sorry for him sometimes. But his actions, whatever reasons he made for himself at the time, are not ultimately excusable!

      • Tul says:

        He was the only one of the Stewards to found himself in such a situation. And as Tolkien said “nothing but expediency was against his use of it in his grave anxieties.”
        I'd say it's "dislike" of Faramir, rather than "disdain". He was also in contrary ready to listen to Gandalf's advice, as he says and repeats, and that despite the fact that he deeply disliked him. But if you're speaking about the Pyre, I think it's a rather bad example.
        As for his treatment of Pippin, I seriously thought he rather liked the hobbit! He is even amused that he addresses him in the familiar form (which scandalized his servants – that amuses me too). What did he do to him?

        Anyway, that aside, I really don't blame people for disliking him and not feeling sympathetic. Peoples feel what they feel, that's all. But I don't understand the hate he receives from 99% of the fandom. I don't blame the haters either BTW. I just find it interesting to see things from another viewpoint, and debate?

        • Dreamflower says:

          I have been enjoying this debate. I do not "hate" Denethor, but as he is presented in the book, I dislike him very strongly. I reserve my "hate" for Sauron and the Ring.

          Gandalf, at least, has compassion for him, even though he was thoroughly angry with Denethor's actions. And I have seen fanfic stories that explain when and how Denethor fell from his wisdom.

          But I don't agree with your interpretation of his behavior– though I am not displeased that you disagree– it would be a very dull world if we all interpreted the text in the same way!

          • Tul says:

            "But I don't agree with your interpretation of his behavior– though I am not displeased that you disagree– it would be a very dull world if we all interpreted the text in the same way!"
            Yes, this. One of the best thing of a good debate is discovering how the same events are interpreted differently by the readers. Speaking for myself, I'm always interested in reading about others' reactions to books I love, even if they don't always match my own.
            Probably one of the reasons I'm so enjoying this blog! Mark's reviews are the best 🙂

  31. When I first read these books, I hated everything that Denethor did. Whenever he ordered Pippin around, whenever he was hateful to Faramir, when he holed up in his tower and refused to come out when there was a battle, forcing Gandalf to do what he should have been doing in the first place- I wanted someone to hit him in the face. And on re-reading that- I still want it to happen. He's a messed-up individual with enough psychiatric problems to make a therapist's head spin. And he's not a sympathetic character in the slightest.

    That said, I still find his death utterly heartbreaking.

    A lot of people have compared his actions to those of Theoden's and the contrast between the two is certainly worth exploring. But on this re-read and thinking about this chapter- I'm reminded of Saruman's fate and how far he fell from the person he had once been. I think Denethor's fall has a lot of parallels- except in the outcome. Where Saruman chose to, as Gandalf put it, 'gnaw at the ends of his old plots,' Denethor does not fall that far- he still recognizes Sauron's might and his war on Middle-Earth as evil, and no matter how hard those influence and images beat at him, he won't ever be deluded into thinking that Sauron's power is a good end in and of itself. But in terms of his power and his worth- Gandalf tells Denethor outright that there is much he could yet do; and he says similar things of Saruman. Yet both deride him, albeit for very different reasons. Both see resistance as folly, though not for the same reasons- Saruman sees becoming a new power on Middle-Earth as a viable option, while Denethor knows that that will do nothing. He knows that there is no hope for Gondor to come out of this unscathed, and like Saruman he sees no options other than using the same evils Sauron uses to fight. Yet because Denethor still acknowledges, still knows, that such a thing would be evil, he falls into despair, because he literally can see nothing else. His speech at the pyre is immensely powerful to me: "But against the power that arises, there is no victory." He can't see any other option, and given that Sauron has been saturating him with the images of his might and the dangers that beset Gondor on all sides- add to this the fact that Faramir is very likely dying and the entire city breaking apart (as far as Denethor knows)- I'm honestly not surprised that his mind ended up shattering. The fact that he was able to hold onto the little reason he had (one of the reasons his speech frightens me so much is that it is logical, given what he knows) even when waging a mind war with the Enemy, says a lot about the strength and wisdom that Denethor might have had, had he not fallen into despair. And while that despair doesn't excuse any of the atrocities he tries to commit here, I think they're key to understanding why he would do them.

    I'll probably never like Denethor. But I find him tragic in the way only a person who was good and who has fallen to evil through their very own flaws can be.

    • Mairead says:

      One last thing occurs to me about the contrasting portraits of Denethor and Theoden.

      It's true that both of them have lost a first-born son. And let me say up front that of course there's no good way for a parent to lose any child.

      Theoden grieves deeply for Theodred's death; as usual, the Beowulf poet and Seamus Heaney put it best:

      He gazes sorrowfully at his son's dwelling,
      the banquet hall bereft of all delight,
      the windswept hearthstone; the horsemen are sleeping,
      the warriors underground; what was is no more.
      No tunes from the harp, no cheer raised in the yard.
      Alone with his longing, he lies down on his bed
      and sings a lament; everything seems too large,
      the steadings and the fields.

      But Theodred died an honorable death in battle at the head of his troops, defending his homeland. Although not much is mentioned in the books, we can presume that he was given a proper funeral and that his people had the opportunity to mourn him according to their custom. It was a tragic death, Theoden's grief left him an easier prey for Wormtongue, but it was a, a customary death, an appropriate death according to the Rohan worldview.

      Boromir died far from home. His body was never recovered; all his father had, until Pippin arrived in Gondor with confirmation of Boromir's death, were visions and rumors. There was no time in the midst of the war preparations for any rituals of mourning or of comfort. Boromir died in what must have seemed to Denethor to be an inglorious scuffle, defending a group of which he was not the leader, allowing an insignificant person to take a powerful weapon into the lands of the Enemy, allowing the needs of Gondor to take second place to Gandalf's machinations.

      The whole thing must have seemed to Denethor to be completely meaningless, a wasted death of a beloved son, and one more piece of evidence that the world was broken.

    • jne says:

      I'm not a big Denethor fan, but let's remember that he fought the long hard fight RIGHT NEXT TO MORDOR while Aragorn whiled away the hours in the North. Sure, he slew some Orcs and got some schooling from Galadriel, Elrond and Gandalf, but he DID NOT accept the mantle of responsibility for the people of his kingdom. The tragedy of Denethor is that after standing against Sauron with almost superhuman resolve, he finally gave in to despair at the eleventh hour.

  32. flootzavut says:

    WANT! This would be fantastic! 😀

  33. evildevilgirl02 says:

    I’ve finally caught up to your LotR reviews! YAY!
    😀 8D

  34. Anonymous says:

    To quote Gandalf:
    "Thus passes Denethor, son of Ecthelion."
    Also, my mom had a fangirl crush on Faramir. One can only imagine what this chapter must have been like for her.

  35. lexypoo says:

    Two things:
    1.) I love how there's rarely any Rot comments at this point, we can speak pretty freely now that your realize how unprepared you were for this series.
    2.) I'm still addicted to reading your Twilight reviews. You are hilarious when you LOVE a series, and equally hilarious when you LOATHE a series.

    Keep on rockin' Mark — so excited for when you watch the movies…so…EX-CITE.

  36. jne says:

    To Mark and all the Writers of the Mark:

    Thank forever for helping me reconnect with the beauty of the language in these books!

  37. Tul says:

    I forgot to speak of that in my other post, but I believe Denethor thinks Sauron has the Ring. It was Tom Shippey's theory, but I don't have his book right now and can't remember his arguments exactly. Those are mine:

    1) The Timeline:
    – Tolkien gives us many clues through the end of Book IV and the start of Book V that permits us to situate and connect the two different story-lines. So maybe he wants us to make some rapprochement.
    – Frodo is captured on March 13th, Faramir is wounded later the same day, Denethor looks on the Palantír just after that. Again later, Aragorn captures the fleet at Pelargir with the Army of the Dead. Fnz qbrfa'g qryvire Sebqb sebz gur gbjre hagvy gur arkg qnl.
    – I can't find again right now the source, but I think Tolkien changed the timeline at one moment so that the events from above coincide, making the fact that Denethor saw Frodo on the palantír possible (there was something about Beregond saying "yestereve" and needing editing…heck I'll look for it another time).

    2) Reasons:
    – Denethor knew about the Ring, he knew where Frodo was going, and when he would be there (see first discussion with Faramir). Of course, he knew all their hope hang at the neck of those hobbits. Doesn't it seem logical he would be gazing toward there to try to locate them, follow their movements, and see if they managed to pass Cirith Ungol?
    – When Faramir’s body is brought before him, Denethor rose and was silent for a moment, then ordered them to take care of his son, “But he himself went alone into the secret room under the summit of the Tower; and many who looked up thither at that time saw a pale light that gleamed and flickered from the narrow windows for a while, and then flashed and went out. And when Denethor descended again he went to Faramir and sat beside him without speaking, but the face of the Lord was grey, more deathlike than his son's.”
    Obviously, he used the stone and what he saw is what dealt him the final blow. At this point, it was still too early for him to have seen the Corsair fleet on the Anduin; they were still fighting at Pelargir. Besides, he already had known about them for a long time, so they were nothing new to break him like that.
    But it makes sense that, after Faramir was returned to him injured, he thought of their parting, and why he was angry with him in the first place (Frodo and the Ring). Having perhaps lost his only remaining son, he would have wanted to check if he could still save his kingdom. And orienting the stone towards Cirith Ungol, he would have seen Frodo, alone and captured by the Enemy. Remember, a Palantir shows only the truth. If Sauron has the Ring-bearer, he has the Ring. So they’re all dead. Probably one of the first times Denethor was sad to be proven right!

    3) Denethor’s words
    “‘Comfort me not with wizards!’ said Denethor. ‘The fool's hope has failed. The Enemy has found it, and now his power waxes; he sees our very thoughts, and all we do is ruinous.’” What else could that mean but that Denethor thinks the quest failed (the "fool's hope") and Sauron has his Ring again?
    “Go now, and die in what way seems best to you. And with whom you will, even that friend whose folly brought you to this death” Again Gandalf’s folly.
    “But soon all shall be burned. The West has failed. It shall all go up in a great fire, and all shall be ended. Ash! Ash and smoke blown away on the wind!” He’s not speaking only of Gondor, but of the whole West that shall be burned.
    “Battle is vain”
    “’Pride and Despair!’ he cried. ‘Didst thou think that the eyes of the White Tower were blind? Nay, I have seen more than thou knowest, Grey Fool. For thy hope is but ignorance.’” Later he brings up the Corsairs as an example of Gandalf being cheated by his hope. But it isn’t the source of his despair. And then he repeats: “The West has failed.”

    The only counterpoint to that theory that I can think of is: Why wouldn’t Denethor have rubbed it at Gandalf’s face?
    Well, the old man wasn’t in his right mind, passing from one topic to another, so there is no way to know. If I was to try to conjecture, I’d say he LOVED having more knowledge than Gandalf. They both played that game from their first encounter in the Book: “I know what you think, and I know more than you do!” Perhaps he was feeling superior and did not feel the need to shatter the wizard’s hopes since they were going to shatter themselves anyway, now or in two days or a week or a month did not matter. At the end, he shall still think ‘Oh, Denethor was right, we are all truly dead men!’

  38. ARITHMANCER says:

    ALL THE THANKS for posting this link! I have not laughed so much in years…

  39. Wheelrider says:

    Ack, I'm traveling for work now and can't join in these wonderful intense discussions! And on this most intense chapter! I hope you guys won't mind if I chime in days later.

    But I would like to add another two cents on Denethor — I've wondered if he didn't "dislike" (or however you choose to phrase it) Faramir because he either is reminds him of his deceased wife, or because he may actually blame Faramir (even subconsciously) for her decline and eventual death.

    (Sorry if someone already mentioned this above.)

    Actually I must confess I'm looking at the title of this chapter alone and am feeling stress and despair myself… not even reading yet.

    • div says:

      We missed your comments Wheelrider. I always seem to miss commenting also since I am at work when the comments start flying hard and fast.

  40. Wheelrider says:

    Also have to call out this beautiful little bit about Pippin: "And never in after years could he hear a horn blown in the distance without tears starting in his eyes."

    Actually it's interesting how in these short, intense, battle-scarred chapters we get these little glimpses of the light at the end of the tunnel. There were people left to care enough to bury Snowmane. (Couple more examples I can't look for right now, but you get the idea.) During the not-so-bad parts, there was foreshadowing of worse yet to come, and now during the awful and terrifying scenes there's tiny bits of hope. Tolkien's storytelling style to me exemplifies yin and yang — a careful balance of light and dark.

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