Hands of the King

This post is for general comments about the story. http://www.romenna.net/story.cfm?stid=2

Hands of the King took me seven years to write. I didn’t mean to write that much.

Originally, it was an eight to ten chapter story on how Denethor and Finduilas fell in love, and was supposed to end with their betrothal. Then it took on a life of its own, with the characters demanding to be written and not always as I had intended.

I hadn’t touched it or re-read it in a long time until I rebuilt Rómenna, so it’s a bit of an amazing re-discovery. I had forgotten a lot of the details, particularly in these early chapters.

My goal when I set out with the story was to offer, if you will, a secular humanist take on Denethor, one that refuses to demonize him, but who treats him as a tragic character who would not accept the fate set for him. He dared to challenge the divine.

With the current state of religious fanaticism in the world, I grow increasingly revolted by the pietists who promote a vision of their deity that excuses the various acts of inhumanity they choose to perform and/or allow. I read LotR and am entranced by the world building and horrified at the philosophy. HotK is a rebuttal of that treatment of the world and the mortals who inhabit it.



4 thoughts on “Hands of the King”

  1. Thank you so much for putting HotK up again! I enjoy reading it so much, especially as this time I take my time reading it chapter by chapter so that I pick up on a lot of details and subtleties I might have missed the first time.

  2. You’re welcome! You’re not the only one finding things. I haven’t re-read the story in so long, *I’m* finding things I’d forgotten were there!


  3. I think it important that you hear an opposing view on the nature of god.

    Tolkien was a Catholic; and LOTR posits a god who creates, consistent with Catholicism, an imperfect world; a testing ground for the battle of good against evil – both the evil of others and the evil of our own hearts. Denethor by forsaking god with his rebellion and despair forfeits the joy of seeing Mordor overcome. His despair and anger also forfeits the lives of others and nearly costs the life of his son. Rebellion against god is not the solution to your horror of the acts of those who use the name of god to justify their evil acts. Or those who use religion to further evil or create false religions to promote a social order of misogyny and hate. I think you miss the point of LOTR; it is not God that should horrify you; but, the acts and choices of individuals. For instance, the holocaust was not the act of true Christians — it was the acts of those purporting to be Christian; and those hiding their pathology and commitment to evil under the mantle of Nazi glamor and power. Before you abandon God, I urge you to think about the Catholic prayer which asks that “god protect us from the glamor of evil”. Evil seduces in fair and glamourous cloaks, and through appeals to our narcissism and drive for power. You are a person of talent (a talent that is a gift from God)….. be thankful for that talent and turn away from the seduction and rewards of narcissism.

    And, before you respond with a refutation or justification; please don’t. It is not necessary. I only suggest that your thoughts need reexamination. I cannot argue you to faith or away from hate; I can only suggest to you that you reexamine your own heart.

  4. John,

    I and my husband are from Catholic families and are surrounded by devout family members. People we love dearly. People whose faith we respect. Pope Francis is a person we both admire, though the admiration has a critical edge. The church still considers me a member. I know Christianity and Catholicism quite well. I’m familiar with all the major branches of Christian thought, from the most instrumental and venal to the most profound and deeply moving. I stand outside your faith, though, and so the exhortations of what “God” wants or plans for me are not persuasive. HotK is a commentary on the contradictions in that mode of belief.

    It makes me curious that you describe my critical perspective as “hate”. What I am doing is challenging the very claim you make – that any being, even God, has the right to “test” my faith. No. That also is what Finduilas challenges, not just Denethor. How dare you make of my life something that is for you, not me? This is not hate. It is a profound love. It is saying to Eru, their god, of whom they have no doubt – You have placed me in this world and I will act in your image and make of it and me something that will please me. Not something evil, not something pathological, but something true to you, though it may not be what you envisioned. Why do you make my life a trial of my faith? This is, at base, the ethical challenge to any concept of a creator who also reserves to him/her/it/themselves a claim of power over the created beings. If I am a being, how can you make of me a means, not an end? Refer to your Kant.

    Why do YOU call creation “evil” and “rebellion”? Denethor is not a Nazi. Denethor is of the Faithful. How do we know? He can be Seen. Ecthelion is the one who has despaired, though he gives the outward appearance of submission. Think again of the scene where Thorongil takes the Steward to task for claiming that the powers would actively punish anyone, even an orc. Ecthelion is the apostate. Denethor would never claim that. He makes an ethical claim – you place us here and then you watch. Like we’re an experiment. Stop it. We are your creations and we love you and each other. He understands, when he is granted the vision of Tol Erresea, that the Númenóreans were drawn by love and a deep desire to be joined with this thing of goodness. In that moment, he pitied them. Never once did he think they were right to try to seize it by force. He turned his love, instead, to what was mortal, flawed, dying (Gondor, Finduilas, the West) and he sought the divine in that.

    Why are you calling me evil and narcissistic for saying such things? Why are you so quick to accuse me of hate? I do no more than Job and a long line of critical thinkers have done, arguing that even claiming to be doing something for my benefit does not compel my agreement that you have done so. I’m arguing the flip side of the Athrabeth, that I do not believe that all that has been done has resulted in the good of the Children. As Oscar Wilde said, do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you. You may not have the same tastes.

    In your eagerness to condemn Denethor (and me) for failing to be submissive to power, you are ignoring the tragic flaw of the character, one that, no matter how Faithful, no matter how righteous, he may be, is his true undoing – his inability to forgive. In my interpretation of the Ardaverse (which is not JRRT’s and is done as a counterpoint to the Professor’s argument), Denethor is more at fault for this than for any imagined “evil” or “narcissism”. Why? Because the inability to forgive is the inability to make a new path through the tangle of fate. The mariner keeps trying to get his stubborn favorite to understand this alone will open the rift through which he may pass. He won’t let go the resentment over the unfairness, and this both hones him into a weapon against Sauron and guarantees that he will fail. It is tragic, not Christian. JRRT did not like tragedies. Hannah Arendt notes that forgiveness is the only thing that will unmake the world and allow us to chose a different path, a less destructive way, to remove (or set aside) the things we as creators bring into the world, things that, perhaps, would have been best left uncreated.

    May I suggest you read the web comic Daughter of the Lilies? This is a far more humane and, frankly, Christian argument than yours. The most current chapter deals with faith, despair, guilt, penance and forgiveness. It is moving, challenging, and persuasive in a way that your lecture is not. It does not make me wish to be a believer, but it does remind me that there are virtues that a true Christian embraces that I respect and honor. Alas, what you have presented is the same power-pretending-to-be-love that drove me out of the fold in the first place.

    It’s called free will. If there is a God, I don’t think I’ll be penalized for having used it to argue that we should all be more ethical, more humane, more decent, more forgiving. She might even be amused by her cantankerous creation’s stubborn refusal to go along to get along. I don’t think there is such a being, certainly not as set down in any religious text I’ve encountered, so I’ll settle for living a life worthy of the divinity I see in the world around me rather than worry if I’m being sufficiently subservient to please the God Squad.

    The heavens without end, amen.


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