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.