CotW, LOTR, Book 5, Chapter 7 - The Pyre of Denethor

29 views
Skip to first unread message

Sean McFee

unread,
Jan 16, 2005, 10:57:38 PM1/16/05
to
Chapter of the Week: The Lord of the Rings, Book 5
Chapter 7 - The Pyre of Denethor

To check out the other Chapters of the Week or to sign up to do a
chapter of your own, go to http://parasha.maoltuile.org

_____________________

In this chapter Gandalf, Pippin, and Beregond save Faramir from
Denethor, who has descended into madness. Although this choice causes
Gandalf to leave the battle, it is through this choice that he is able
to discover Denethor's possession of a palantir, and how Sauron had
insidiously softened up Minas Tirith for a crushing attack.

_____________________

CHAPTER SUMMARY :

In the previous chapter the battle of the Pelennor Fields is won, but
here the action returns to Gandalf right after his confrontation with
the Witch King, as the Rohirrim are to charge into battle. Pippin has
earlier (Chapter 4) tried to convince Beregond to prevent Denethor from
killing his son, and now finds Gandalf and relays to him the tidings.
Gandalf realizes that helping Faramir may negative impact the battle,
but reasons that if he does not help him, nobody else can. He finds
Prince Imrahil and bids him lead the defenses of the city, and rides
with Pippin to the Citadel. They leave Shadowfax and rush to the House
of Stewards, where they find Beregond holding the entrance against
Denethor's men, who have torches. Two lie slain.

Denethor himself arrives at the entrance, angered by the delay. Gandalf
and Denethor exchange words, and seeing that reasoning is futile,
Gandalf, Beregond, and Pippin rush past Denethor and find Faramir, weak
in fever but alive. Denethor wishes to reach his son but is prevented.
Gandalf says Denethor is needed on the field. Denethor questions
Gandalf's jurisdiction in this family affair. Gandalf attempts to shame
him into defending his city. Denethor wavers for a moment.

Then he laughs, and brandishes a palantir. He reveals his knowledge of
the corsair fleet arriving from the South, and his belief that defeat
is certain. Gandalf points out the self-fulfilling nature of despair.
Denethor is angered, and accuses Gandalf of using Pippin to spy on him,
and Denethor himself as a shield against Mordor while Aragorn waits in
the wings to replace him. He dismisses Aragorn's claim to the throne.
Gandalf asks what he would have. Denethor says he would have his days
end in peace, with an heir not under the influence of Gandalf-- and
failing that, death. Gandalf forbids him from killing his son, and
Denethor attempts to approach Faramir with a weapon, but is stopped by
Beregond. Foiled in his despair, Denethor grabs a torch and runs inside
the Tomb, where he sets himself on fire.

Gandalf orders the remaining guards to bear away their dead, choosing
words to remind them that Faramir is their new Lord. Gandalf, Beregond,
and Pippin take Faramir to the Houses of Healing.

The battle ended, Gandalf reflects upon the evil of the choice thrust
upon him, and that he had guessed that the stewards had a palantir,
though it was a secret. He feels that Denethor succumbed to it only
after Boromir's death, and though his strength of will was too strong
for Sauron to subdue, he nonetheless was influenced by what Sauron
allowed him to see, and despair entered his heart.

The talkathon over, he sends Beregond to withdraw from the tower guard,
with the request that he be allowed to guard Faramir in the Houses, and
then goes with Pippin to the lower levels of the city.

_____________________

COMMENTS AND DISCUSSION:

The most obvious point of discussion revolves around Gandalf's choice.
Is the life of one man worth impacting the outcome of the battle? If
so, for the reasons that Gandalf gives or for others? Does Tolkien's
world present a moral framework in which Gandalf's choice is moral or
immoral? Gandalf himself believes that some of the Witch-King's evil
might have been undone had he not been diverted to the Citadel. Might
Theoden have lived?

Should Beregond's moral impulse supersede his oath?

There is a typo on both copies of my book; on the second-last page, the
phrase "since Boromor departed" appears. We know the big lug a bit
better as Boromir. Anyone have a copy of the book that is correct here?

Denethor has some great lines in this chapter. He gets to just unload
on Gandalf at the end, with the "Didst thou think that the eyes of the
White Tower were blind?" speech, then his attack on Gandalf, Aragorn,
and Faramir which is both poetic and wrathful. Denethor has been a bit
of a mystery up to this point, and his motivations come out and hit the
reader like a jackhammer. In the face of his fire Gandalf has no
answers, twisted as the data may be that has led Denethor to his
conclusions.

Tolkien's text does it for me 99.9% of the time. However I find he
sometimes gets a bit wordy in the dialogue. I can picture Pippin
waiting for the old windbag to finish his soliloquy so that they can
ride to the top of the Citadel. Yes, my tongue is firmly in cheek with
this "criticism", but sometimes the length of such passages bely the
urgency of the situations in which they occur. Or do they?

In the Tolkien documentary on one of the movie DVDs, some experts refer
to Tolkien's belief that there should be a word "eucatastrophe",
meaning an unexpected and cataclysmic reversal of fortune FOR THE GOOD.
Gandalf refers to the slaying of the Witch-King "beyond all hope".
Surely this, and the destruction of the ring to come, are moments of
eucatastrophe in the book. Are there others that match it?

Any feedback appreciated. I have another one of these in a few weeks,
so with the wise counsel of the newsgroup readership it might be better
than this one.

Regards,
Sean

R. Dan Henry

unread,
Jan 17, 2005, 4:08:56 AM1/17/05
to
On 16 Jan 2005 19:57:38 -0800, "Sean McFee" <se...@nexus.carleton.ca>
wrote:

>In this chapter Gandalf, Pippin, and Beregond save Faramir from
>Denethor, who has descended into madness.

Which I still insist is not necessarily mental illness. Here "madness"
is a broader term that can include simple folly. Beregond calls his
own behavior "madness" and Gandalf calls the fighting guards behavior
"madness", although it stems from two conflicting, but plausible,
interpretations of their duties.

Denethor suffers from great pride and despair due to highly credible,
but false, intelligence about the hope for victory. He also suffers
from suspicion of Gandalf's motives, due in no small part to the fact
that Gandalf *is* secretive and manipulative, which prevents any
possibility of Gandalf persuading him to change his mind.

>to discover Denethor's possession of a palantir, and how Sauron had
>insidiously softened up Minas Tirith for a crushing attack.

I think Gandalf gives Sauron too much credit here. He's a bit
Sauron-obsessive, after all, and he doesn't seem to have a clue as to
the real reason for Denethor's despair.

>Then he laughs, and brandishes a palantir. He reveals his knowledge of
>the corsair fleet arriving from the South, and his belief that defeat
>is certain. Gandalf points out the self-fulfilling nature of despair.
>Denethor is angered, and accuses Gandalf of using Pippin to spy on him,

A dubious charge, but other charges are correct. Gandalf did order
Pippin to withhold information. Gandalf himself has been far from
open. Denethor's distrust of Gandalf is not without foundation. Things
might perhaps have gone differently if Gandalf had ceased his usual
secretiveness and laid out the situation to Denethor.

>and Denethor himself as a shield against Mordor while Aragorn waits in
>the wings to replace him.

Not an unfair charge.

>He dismisses Aragorn's claim to the throne.

Nor is this an unreasonable position. Aragorn's line has been
previously denied such a claim and the relative states of Arnor and
Gondor do suggest that the Ruling Stewards have a better record of
leadership.

>Foiled in his despair, Denethor grabs a torch and runs inside
>the Tomb, where he sets himself on fire.

It takes a strong will to burn yourself alive. A lesser man would have
fled the flames, like a wimpy Peter Jackson movie character.

>The battle ended, Gandalf reflects upon the evil of the choice thrust
>upon him, and that he had guessed that the stewards had a palantir,
>though it was a secret. He feels that Denethor succumbed to it only
>after Boromir's death, and though his strength of will was too strong
>for Sauron to subdue, he nonetheless was influenced by what Sauron
>allowed him to see, and despair entered his heart.

If Denethor had enough sense not to point the palantir towards
Barad-dur (and wouldn't he?), what exactly could Sauron do about it?
It is not the view of Mordor's military might, as Gandalf seems to
think, that pushes Denethor to despair. Denethor has seen that before.
It is that "The fool's hope has failed. The Enemy has found it..." But
he drops his hints mainly in front of poor Pippin, who cannot be
expected to grasp the meaning of Denethor's words. He has clearly seen
Frodo held prisoner in the Tower of Cirith Ungol. (And I do not think
that Sauron knows this and what is going on in the Citadel or his
attention would have been shifted to Cirith Ungol to learn what had
cracked Denethor.)

>COMMENTS AND DISCUSSION:
>
>The most obvious point of discussion revolves around Gandalf's choice.
>Is the life of one man worth impacting the outcome of the battle?

He was the only one who could save Faramir, as he said. The battle
could be fought by others, and was. Maybe the Witch-King would have
got lucky if Gandalf had fought him and greater disaster come from
that.

>Gandalf himself believes that some of the Witch-King's evil
>might have been undone had he not been diverted to the Citadel.

Yes, things *might* have been better on the field. But Gandalf was
faced with a choice between certainly abandoning Faramir to die (one
guard wasn't going to hold things up forever) or maybe catching the
Witch-King and taking him out on the field. However, even meeting him
is doubtful as Shadowfax is very fast, but he cannot fly. So, I think
Gandalf is right to take care of what he must and trust to hope in the
rest.

>Might Theoden have lived?

Unlikely. Unless Gandalf abandoned hunting the Witch-King and
immediately took Theoden to the Houses of Healing, maybe. By the time
Gandalf has listened to Pippin, it's probably to late to stop the
Witch-King from going aloft and after that, not much could have
changed Theoden's fate. Eowyn might not have suffered her wounds, but
those led to her healing.

>Should Beregond's moral impulse supersede his oath?

That is a decision he must make for himself. It is a shame he didn't
have a good knock-out punch to use on the poor gatekeeper. Who died
without even making your summary, poor fellow.

>There is a typo on both copies of my book; on the second-last page, the
>phrase "since Boromor departed" appears. We know the big lug a bit
>better as Boromir. Anyone have a copy of the book that is correct here?

No, it is in mine as well.

>Any feedback appreciated. I have another one of these in a few weeks,
>so with the wise counsel of the newsgroup readership it might be better
>than this one.

Go not to the newsgroups for wise counsel, for they will tell you
"yea" and "nay" and light great flames and offer you a chance to MAKE
MONEY FAST.

R. Dan Henry
danh...@inreach.com

Michele Fry

unread,
Jan 17, 2005, 11:46:19 AM1/17/05
to
In article <1105934258....@f14g2000cwb.googlegroups.com>, Sean
McFee <se...@nexus.carleton.ca> writes

>There is a typo on both copies of my book; on the second-last page, the
>phrase "since Boromor departed" appears. We know the big lug a bit
>better as Boromir. Anyone have a copy of the book that is correct here?

In my edition - UK HarperCollins p/b edition first published in 1993,
previously published by Grafton in 1991, it's spelt correctly - Boromir.

Michele
==
"A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have
possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you
pass it on you are enriched threefold."
- Henry Miller 'The Books In My Life' (1969)
==
Now reading: The Woman's Companion to Mythology
==
Commit random acts of literacy! Read & Release at Bookcrossing:
http://www.bookcrossing.com/friend/Sass-80

lightbulb

unread,
Jan 17, 2005, 2:44:50 PM1/17/05
to

"Michele Fry" <mic...@sassoonery.demon.co.uk> wrote in message
news:a1VjIIAb...@sassoonery.demon.co.uk...

> In article <1105934258....@f14g2000cwb.googlegroups.com>, Sean
> McFee <se...@nexus.carleton.ca> writes
>
> >There is a typo on both copies of my book; on the second-last page, the
> >phrase "since Boromor departed" appears. We know the big lug a bit
> >better as Boromir. Anyone have a copy of the book that is correct here?
>
> In my edition - UK HarperCollins p/b edition first published in 1993,
> previously published by Grafton in 1991, it's spelt correctly - Boromir.

It is spelled correctly in mine.
I have the 50th anniversary edition published in the United States by
Ballantine Books New York, 79th printing, April 1987.


Sean McFee

unread,
Jan 17, 2005, 9:57:06 PM1/17/05
to
R. Dan Henry wrote:
> >Then he laughs, and brandishes a palantir. He reveals his knowledge
of
> >the corsair fleet arriving from the South, and his belief that
defeat
> >is certain. Gandalf points out the self-fulfilling nature of
despair.
> >Denethor is angered, and accuses Gandalf of using Pippin to spy on
him,
>
> A dubious charge, but other charges are correct. Gandalf did order
> Pippin to withhold information. Gandalf himself has been far from
> open. Denethor's distrust of Gandalf is not without foundation.
Things
> might perhaps have gone differently if Gandalf had ceased his usual
> secretiveness and laid out the situation to Denethor.

Since Denethor was not willing to cede authority of Gondor, I consider
Gandalf to have guessed rightly in not confiding in him.

> >and Denethor himself as a shield against Mordor while Aragorn waits
in
> >the wings to replace him.
>
> Not an unfair charge.

No, not at all.

> >He dismisses Aragorn's claim to the throne.
>
> Nor is this an unreasonable position. Aragorn's line has been
> previously denied such a claim and the relative states of Arnor and
> Gondor do suggest that the Ruling Stewards have a better record of
> leadership.

It is an understandable position from the perspective of Denethor, at
any rate. I assume the previous denial of claim also took place during
the time of the Stewards? (It would make little sense earlier but I
don't remember offhand).

> If Denethor had enough sense not to point the palantir towards
> Barad-dur (and wouldn't he?), what exactly could Sauron do about it?
> It is not the view of Mordor's military might, as Gandalf seems to
> think, that pushes Denethor to despair. Denethor has seen that
before.
> It is that "The fool's hope has failed. The Enemy has found it..."
But
> he drops his hints mainly in front of poor Pippin, who cannot be
> expected to grasp the meaning of Denethor's words. He has clearly
seen
> Frodo held prisoner in the Tower of Cirith Ungol. (And I do not think
> that Sauron knows this and what is going on in the Citadel or his
> attention would have been shifted to Cirith Ungol to learn what had
> cracked Denethor.)

I saw a discussion of this on one of the movie DVDs. One of the
"Tolkien scholars" was intersted in the idea of misinformation
presented at that point of the story. Denethor thinks Sauron has the
ring, Sauron thinks Pippin or Aragorn has it, Frodo doesn't know who
has it and at that point the only person who knows its whereabouts is
Sam. Anyway I never caught this myself, so thanks.

> He was the only one who could save Faramir, as he said. The battle
> could be fought by others, and was. Maybe the Witch-King would have
> got lucky if Gandalf had fought him and greater disaster come from
> that.

Maybe. :)

> >Should Beregond's moral impulse supersede his oath?
>
> That is a decision he must make for himself. It is a shame he didn't
> have a good knock-out punch to use on the poor gatekeeper. Who died
> without even making your summary, poor fellow.

It's a thankless job. His, that is.

Regards,
Sean

Michael Ikeda

unread,
Jan 18, 2005, 6:29:15 PM1/18/05
to
"Sean McFee" <se...@nexus.carleton.ca> wrote in
news:1106017026.6...@c13g2000cwb.googlegroups.com:

> R. Dan Henry wrote:

(snipped)

>> Nor is this an unreasonable position. Aragorn's line has been
>> previously denied such a claim and the relative states of Arnor
>> and Gondor do suggest that the Ruling Stewards have a better
>> record of leadership.
>
> It is an understandable position from the perspective of
> Denethor, at any rate. I assume the previous denial of claim
> also took place during the time of the Stewards? (It would make
> little sense earlier but I don't remember offhand).
>

It took place just before.

The last king of Arthedain (Arvedui) made a claim for the throne of
Gondor. He was denied in favor of Earnur, the last king of Gondor.

--
Michael Ikeda mmi...@erols.com
"Telling a statistician not to use sampling is like telling an
astronomer they can't say there is a moon and stars"
Lynne Billard, past president American Statistical Association

T.M. Sommers

unread,
Jan 22, 2005, 2:34:47 AM1/22/05
to
Sean McFee wrote:
>
> There is a typo on both copies of my book; on the second-last page, the
> phrase "since Boromor departed" appears. We know the big lug a bit
> better as Boromir. Anyone have a copy of the book that is correct here?

It is correct in the 4th printing of the 2nd edition by Houghton
Mifflin, copyright 1965.

--
Thomas M. Sommers -- t...@nj.net -- AB2SB

AC

unread,
Jan 22, 2005, 1:11:59 PM1/22/05
to
On 16 Jan 2005 19:57:38 -0800,
Sean McFee <se...@nexus.carleton.ca> wrote:
>
> The most obvious point of discussion revolves around Gandalf's choice.
> Is the life of one man worth impacting the outcome of the battle? If
> so, for the reasons that Gandalf gives or for others? Does Tolkien's
> world present a moral framework in which Gandalf's choice is moral or
> immoral? Gandalf himself believes that some of the Witch-King's evil
> might have been undone had he not been diverted to the Citadel. Might
> Theoden have lived?

I think Gandalf was probably still of a mind that Faramir *and* Denethor
could be saved. I don't think he knew the full extent of Denethor's fall
until he saw him.

>
> Should Beregond's moral impulse supersede his oath?

Yes, a man's life is at stake

<snip>


--
Aaron Clausen
mightym...@hotmail.com

AC

unread,
Jan 22, 2005, 1:31:12 PM1/22/05
to
On 17 Jan 2005 18:57:06 -0800,
Sean McFee <se...@nexus.carleton.ca> wrote:
> R. Dan Henry wrote:
>> >Then he laughs, and brandishes a palantir. He reveals his knowledge
> of
>> >the corsair fleet arriving from the South, and his belief that
> defeat
>> >is certain. Gandalf points out the self-fulfilling nature of
> despair.
>> >Denethor is angered, and accuses Gandalf of using Pippin to spy on
> him,
>>
>> A dubious charge, but other charges are correct. Gandalf did order
>> Pippin to withhold information. Gandalf himself has been far from
>> open. Denethor's distrust of Gandalf is not without foundation.
> Things
>> might perhaps have gone differently if Gandalf had ceased his usual
>> secretiveness and laid out the situation to Denethor.
>
> Since Denethor was not willing to cede authority of Gondor, I consider
> Gandalf to have guessed rightly in not confiding in him.

Well, Denethor did have tradition on his side, and to a certain point one
can see Denethor's point of view. The Northern Line had really fallen on
hard times, and there was precedent for rejecting a descendant of Isildur.

Tolkien makes it clear in Letters that Denethor was essentially a political
leader, a man whose purpose, so far as he was concerned, was solely the
preservation of the state of Gondor. In that mindset, some man claiming to
be of a royal line that hadn't really been royal since the collapse of the
last northern Numenorean kingdom was hardly acceptable.

Here we really have two strains of thought on the matter; the older,
semi-mythical notion of the Arthurian right to rule (a very keen idea in the
Middle Ages), versus a very modern notion of political precedent. What
Aragorn is essentially doing is rather like the Queen walking into
Australia, Canada or Jamaica, telling the Governor General to take a hike.

It must be noted that *we*, the readers, know that Aragorn is a great guy
who will probably make a right decent king. Pippin and Gandalf also know
this. Aragorn is an honorable, noble man who has used his gifts and talents
to aid in the war against Sauron, sacrificing much to his duty as the Heir
of Elendil.

What Denethor probably sees through the Palantir is Thorongil (remember that
there is some history to all of this) running around as Gandalf's errand
boy, a shabby rogue ("all that is gold does not glitter") who is being used
by a crafty old wizard to seize power based on what seemed a dubious royal
claim. This crafty old Merlinesque wizard has wormed his way into Faramir's
heart, thus assuring that, at some point, there will be little resistance to
an official claim for the throne. I'm not saying its right, but it only
takes that difference in outlook for the coloring of the events leading up
to Gandalf and Pippin's arrival to see why Denethor feels the way he does.

the softrat

unread,
Jan 22, 2005, 7:00:25 PM1/22/05
to
On 22 Jan 2005 18:31:12 GMT, in rec.arts.books.tolkien AC
<mightym...@hotmail.com> wrote:

>What
>Aragorn is essentially doing is rather like the Queen walking into
>Australia, Canada or Jamaica, telling the Governor General to take a hike.
>

Not quite, since the Queen appoints the Governors General in the first
place. (Of course, with the advice and consent of HM Government and
the governments concerned.)

the softrat
"Honi soit qui mal y pense."
mailto:sof...@pobox.com
--
When I'm not in my right mind, my left mind gets pretty crowded.

north5

unread,
Jan 22, 2005, 7:08:02 PM1/22/05
to

lightbulb wrote:

> It is spelled correctly in mine.
> I have the 50th anniversary edition published in the United States by
> Ballantine Books New York, 79th printing, April 1987.

And in my 1986 Unicorn UK edition - but incorrectly in my 1969 George
Allen & Unwin edition.

FWIW. :-)
Al .-.

R. Dan Henry

unread,
Jan 27, 2005, 2:18:51 AM1/27/05
to
On 22 Jan 2005 18:31:12 GMT, AC <mightym...@hotmail.com> wrote:

>What Denethor probably sees through the Palantir is Thorongil (remember that
>there is some history to all of this) running around as Gandalf's errand
>boy, a shabby rogue ("all that is gold does not glitter") who is being used
>by a crafty old wizard to seize power based on what seemed a dubious royal
>claim. This crafty old Merlinesque wizard has wormed his way into Faramir's
>heart, thus assuring that, at some point, there will be little resistance to
>an official claim for the throne. I'm not saying its right, but it only
>takes that difference in outlook for the coloring of the events leading up
>to Gandalf and Pippin's arrival to see why Denethor feels the way he does.

And Gandalf's instincts to secrecy support this viewpoint. He *acts*
like he's conspiring -- as Steward it is surely Denethor's business to
know that a claimant to the throne is on his way. In fact, he probably
would have recognized Aragorn if things had gone in much they way they
did with him dead. Aragorn's healing powers, especially when applied
to Faramir, would have done much to convince him that Aragorn is more
than a ragged leader of half-wild men. The public response would have
influenced his political side, which would have bowed to the
inevitable and lead to his giving Aragorn his support as soon as it
was clear his claim would be accepted. He likely never would have
*liked* handing over the reins of power to someone other than his son,
but he would have adjusted.

Meanwhile, however, there is an unfortunate tension and Gandalf's
behavior is suspicious (he is trying to hide information) and
insulting (he thinks he's so clever he *can* hide it) from Denethor's
viewpoint. It pricks his pride and stiffens him in his established
position, where a more open and respectful approach might have at
least got a better cooperative arrangement with the understanding that
Aragorn's claim won't be pressed until after the war -- he has, after
all, no interest in being King if Gondor falls. Then perhaps Gandalf
could have saved Denethor. But Gandalf ignores his own advice: "It is
difficult to deceive him, and dangerous to try."

R. Dan Henry
danh...@inreach.com

Morgil

unread,
Jan 27, 2005, 9:40:45 AM1/27/05
to
R. Dan Henry wrote:


> Meanwhile, however, there is an unfortunate tension and Gandalf's
> behavior is suspicious (he is trying to hide information) and
> insulting (he thinks he's so clever he *can* hide it) from Denethor's
> viewpoint. It pricks his pride and stiffens him in his established
> position, where a more open and respectful approach might have at
> least got a better cooperative arrangement with the understanding that
> Aragorn's claim won't be pressed until after the war -- he has, after
> all, no interest in being King if Gondor falls. Then perhaps Gandalf
> could have saved Denethor. But Gandalf ignores his own advice: "It is
> difficult to deceive him, and dangerous to try."

Couldn't it also be that Gandalf and Denethor both know that
they both know what they know, but neither of them wants to
bring it out in the open, to avoid an open confrontation while
Gondor is under attack? Sure, Denethor later accuses Gandalf
of just that, but it might be only a rhetorical point.

Morgil

Alexey Romanov

unread,
Jan 27, 2005, 10:29:10 PM1/27/05
to
On 22 Jan 2005 18:31:12 GMT, AC <mightym...@hotmail.com> wrote:

With, of course, the difference that the Governor General knows that
the Queen exists and *is* the Queen.

>It must be noted that *we*, the readers, know that Aragorn is a great guy
>who will probably make a right decent king. Pippin and Gandalf also know
>this. Aragorn is an honorable, noble man who has used his gifts and talents
>to aid in the war against Sauron, sacrificing much to his duty as the Heir
>of Elendil.
>
>What Denethor probably sees through the Palantir is Thorongil (remember that
>there is some history to all of this) running around as Gandalf's errand
>boy, a shabby rogue ("all that is gold does not glitter") who is being used
>by a crafty old wizard to seize power based on what seemed a dubious royal
>claim. This crafty old Merlinesque wizard has wormed his way into Faramir's
>heart, thus assuring that, at some point, there will be little resistance to
>an official claim for the throne. I'm not saying its right, but it only

Don't forget that when Boromir got to travel with Gandalf, Gandalf
disappeared and Boromir was killed...

Natman

unread,
Jan 28, 2005, 1:18:50 AM1/28/05
to
On Wed, 26 Jan 2005 23:18:51 -0800, R. Dan Henry
<danh...@inreach.com> wrote:

>On 22 Jan 2005 18:31:12 GMT, AC <mightym...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>
>>What Denethor probably sees through the Palantir is Thorongil (remember that
>>there is some history to all of this) running around as Gandalf's errand
>>boy, a shabby rogue ("all that is gold does not glitter") who is being used
>>by a crafty old wizard to seize power based on what seemed a dubious royal
>>claim. This crafty old Merlinesque wizard has wormed his way into Faramir's
>>heart, thus assuring that, at some point, there will be little resistance to
>>an official claim for the throne. I'm not saying its right, but it only
>>takes that difference in outlook for the coloring of the events leading up
>>to Gandalf and Pippin's arrival to see why Denethor feels the way he does.
>
>And Gandalf's instincts to secrecy support this viewpoint. He *acts*
>like he's conspiring -- as Steward it is surely Denethor's business to
>know that a claimant to the throne is on his way. In fact, he probably
>would have recognized Aragorn if things had gone in much they way they
>did with him dead.

Denethor would have certainly recognized Aragorn, but as Thorongil,
the name Aragorn used when he was a captain of Ecthelion, Denthor's
father years earlier.

R. Dan Henry

unread,
Jan 29, 2005, 1:18:11 AM1/29/05
to
On Fri, 28 Jan 2005 06:29:10 +0300, Alexey Romanov <alex...@mail.ru>
wrote:

>Don't forget that when Boromir got to travel with Gandalf, Gandalf
>disappeared and Boromir was killed...

"Oh, sure, you come back from the dead, but do you bother to bring my
son with you? Selfish, that's what you are!"

R. Dan Henry
danh...@inreach.com

Belba Grubb From Stock

unread,
Feb 4, 2005, 8:39:52 AM2/4/05
to
[Note: Please excuse this double posting (which was sent several days
ago), if it has already come through on RABT. Google Groups isn't
bringing it there up for some reason, though I did send it to RABT as
well as AFT...BB]

On 16 Jan 2005 19:54:10 -0800, "Sean McFee" <se...@nexus.carleton.ca>
wrote:

>Chapter of the Week: The Lord of the Rings, Book 5


>Chapter 7 - The Pyre of Denethor
>
>To check out the other Chapters of the Week or to sign up to do a
>chapter of your own, go to http://parasha.maoltuile.org
>
>_____________________
>

>In this chapter Gandalf, Pippin, and Beregond save Faramir from

>Denethor, who has descended into madness. Although this choice causes
>Gandalf to leave the battle, it is through this choice that he is able

>to discover Denethor's possession of a palantir, and how Sauron had
>insidiously softened up Minas Tirith for a crushing attack.
>

>_____________________
>
>CHAPTER SUMMARY :
>
>In the previous chapter the battle of the Pelennor Fields is won, but
>here the action returns to Gandalf right after his confrontation with
>the Witch King, as the Rohirrim are to charge into battle. Pippin has
>earlier (Chapter 4) tried to convince Beregond to prevent Denethor from
>killing his son, and now finds Gandalf and relays to him the tidings.
>Gandalf realizes that helping Faramir may negative impact the battle,
>but reasons that if he does not help him, nobody else can. He finds
>Prince Imrahil and bids him lead the defenses of the city, and rides
>with Pippin to the Citadel. They leave Shadowfax and rush to the House
>of Stewards, where they find Beregond holding the entrance against
>Denethor's men, who have torches. Two lie slain.
>
>Denethor himself arrives at the entrance, angered by the delay. Gandalf
>and Denethor exchange words, and seeing that reasoning is futile,
>Gandalf, Beregond, and Pippin rush past Denethor and find Faramir, weak
>in fever but alive. Denethor wishes to reach his son but is prevented.
>Gandalf says Denethor is needed on the field. Denethor questions
>Gandalf's jurisdiction in this family affair. Gandalf attempts to shame
>him into defending his city. Denethor wavers for a moment.
>

>Then he laughs, and brandishes a palantir. He reveals his knowledge of
>the corsair fleet arriving from the South, and his belief that defeat
>is certain. Gandalf points out the self-fulfilling nature of despair.
>Denethor is angered, and accuses Gandalf of using Pippin to spy on him,

>and Denethor himself as a shield against Mordor while Aragorn waits in

>the wings to replace him. He dismisses Aragorn's claim to the throne.
>Gandalf asks what he would have. Denethor says he would have his days
>end in peace, with an heir not under the influence of Gandalf-- and
>failing that, death. Gandalf forbids him from killing his son, and
>Denethor attempts to approach Faramir with a weapon, but is stopped by

>Beregond. Foiled in his despair, Denethor grabs a torch and runs inside


>the Tomb, where he sets himself on fire.
>

>Gandalf orders the remaining guards to bear away their dead, choosing
>words to remind them that Faramir is their new Lord. Gandalf, Beregond,
>and Pippin take Faramir to the Houses of Healing.
>

>The battle ended, Gandalf reflects upon the evil of the choice thrust
>upon him, and that he had guessed that the stewards had a palantir,
>though it was a secret. He feels that Denethor succumbed to it only
>after Boromir's death, and though his strength of will was too strong
>for Sauron to subdue, he nonetheless was influenced by what Sauron
>allowed him to see, and despair entered his heart.
>

>The talkathon over, he sends Beregond to withdraw from the tower guard,
>with the request that he be allowed to guard Faramir in the Houses, and
>then goes with Pippin to the lower levels of the city.
>
>_____________________
>

>COMMENTS AND DISCUSSION:
>
>The most obvious point of discussion revolves around Gandalf's choice.

>Is the life of one man worth impacting the outcome of the battle? If
>so, for the reasons that Gandalf gives or for others? Does Tolkien's
>world present a moral framework in which Gandalf's choice is moral or

>immoral? Gandalf himself believes that some of the Witch-King's evil
>might have been undone had he not been diverted to the Citadel. Might
>Theoden have lived?

One has to view it from the point of view of Gandalf's mission since
being returned to life. In a way, it's a big test. He is the Enemy
of Sauron, and one would think that role would require him to go out
and find and fight the Witch-king, come what may to the Steward and
his family. Yet here, via a hobbit's plea, he is faced with the
choice between fighting Sauron traditionally, where he stands at least
a chance of winning, and answering the evil of Sauron with compassion,
which shows no guarantee of success and runs the risk of losing the
battle being fought outside on the plain. He chooses the latter with
great difficulty; I think he is acting on faith here (Providence
again) and doing what is right and only later when he says

Alas! but now I perceive how his [Sauron's] will was able to
enter into the very heart of the City.

does he realize that he made the right choice and passed the test.

It has to be one of the toughest choices any character in the story
makes. Only Frodo's struggle with the Ring is a worse one, IMO.

Theoden might have lived if the Witch-king had not descended on the
battlefield but Eowyn's life would still have been darkened.

>Should Beregond's moral impulse supersede his oath?

Is it a moral impulse or love of Faramir? And is he really stepping
outside his oath to defend the man who is the rightful Steward of
Gondor, given that Denethor is obviously out of his mind?

>
>There is a typo on both copies of my book; on the second-last page, the
>phrase "since Boromor departed" appears. We know the big lug a bit
>better as Boromir. Anyone have a copy of the book that is correct here?

They got it right in the third printing of the 1965 edition, too.

>Denethor has some great lines in this chapter. He gets to just unload
>on Gandalf at the end, with the "Didst thou think that the eyes of the
>White Tower were blind?" speech, then his attack on Gandalf, Aragorn,
>and Faramir which is both poetic and wrathful. Denethor has been a bit
>of a mystery up to this point, and his motivations come out and hit the
>reader like a jackhammer. In the face of his fire Gandalf has no
>answers, twisted as the data may be that has led Denethor to his
>conclusions.

I disagree here. Gandalf is acting exactly as a trained counselor
would when faced with somebody who has gone over the edge; he's got
answers but is letting the crazed man vent ("What then would you have,
if your will could have its way?"), trying to direct him toward those
answers himself, constantly bringing forth the role of Steward that
Denethor has rejected in his grief and despair (calling him "my lord"
and addressing him as "Steward of Gondor") and pointing him toward
reality and what is expected of him ("...your part is to go out to the
battle of your City, where maybe death awaits you. This you know in
your heart."). This is vital, of course, given the overall situation,
but Denethor refuses it all and insists on killing himself and his
son. It's interesting that Gandalf saves Faramir and thus certainly
has it in him to leap up on the table after Denethor and bring the man
out of there, with Denethor only suffering at the most some burns and
smoke inhalation; likely he could have prevented the steward from
breaking the staff, too. Yet he did not; he stood in "grief and
horror" outside the door in thought until Denethor finally yelled just
before he died. Then he calls Faramir the Steward of Gondor.

The most charitable view of Gandalf's actions here is that they are
consistent with a respect for Free Will and its consequences. This is
borne out by his telling Denethor that he will not rob his son of
choice while his death is still in doubt. A darker view could be
taken of Gandalf's motives here, though: he likely knows that Aragorn
is sailing up the River and unfolding his standard right about now,
and given Gondor's past history of civil war and Denethor's ability to
command loyalty even in his madness (as shown by some of the servants'
reactions to his commands), the wizard may be thinking that Denethor's
passing might not be such a bad thing at this juncture. However, I do
think he stood there waiting for Denethor to cry for help -- the
flames wouldn't have hurt Gandalf the White and the wizard would have
gone in; but Denethor never asked for his aid.

>Tolkien's text does it for me 99.9% of the time. However I find he
>sometimes gets a bit wordy in the dialogue. I can picture Pippin
>waiting for the old windbag to finish his soliloquy so that they can
>ride to the top of the Citadel. Yes, my tongue is firmly in cheek with
>this "criticism", but sometimes the length of such passages bely the
>urgency of the situations in which they occur. Or do they?

They work for me all right -- they help ease the transition from the
intense emotional peak to the next scene and keep the larger picture
in view.

>In the Tolkien documentary on one of the movie DVDs, some experts refer
>to Tolkien's belief that there should be a word "eucatastrophe",
>meaning an unexpected and cataclysmic reversal of fortune FOR THE GOOD.
>Gandalf refers to the slaying of the Witch-King "beyond all hope".
>Surely this, and the destruction of the ring to come, are moments of
>eucatastrophe in the book. Are there others that match it?

That term comes from "On Fairy-stories" and I believe he was referring
solely to the happy ending; Troels has been offering powerful evidence
that in this story it occurs several times and I'm currently thinking
it over (BG). Here is what JRRT had to say about it:

But the "consolation" of fairy-tales has another aspect than the
imaginative satisfaction of ancient desires. Far more important
is the Consolation of the Happy Ending. Almost I would venture to
assert that all complete fairy-stories must have it. At least I
would say that Tragedy is the true form of Drama, its highest
function; but the opposite is true of Fairy-story. Since we do
not appear to possess a word that expresses this opposite-I will
call it Eucatastrophe. The eucatastrophic tale is the true form
of fairy-tale, and its highest function.

The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or
more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous "turn"
(for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is
one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well,
is not essentially "escapist," nor "fugitive." In its
fairy-tale-or otherworld-setting, it is a sudden and miraculous
grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the
existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the
possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it
denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final
defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of
Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.

It is the mark of a good fairy-story, of the higher or more
complete kind, that however wild its events, however fantastic or
terrible the adventures, it can give to child or man that hears
it, when the "turn" comes, a catch of the breath, a beat and
lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears, as
keen as that given by any form of literary art, and having a
peculiar quality.

Even modern fairy-stories can produce this effect sometimes. It is
not an easy thing to do; it depends on the whole story which is
the setting of the turn, and yet it reflects a glory backwards. A
tale that in any measure succeeds in this point has not wholly
failed, whatever flaws it may possess, and whatever mixture or
confusion of purpose.

>Any feedback appreciated. I have another one of these in a few weeks,
>so with the wise counsel of the newsgroup readership it might be better
>than this one.

This one is excellent, and we're looking forward to the next one!

Barb

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages