Burial – Denethor POV – 1 of 2
In which Denethor contemplates beauty, reflects on sacrifice, prepares for boredom, and argues with a bird.
So, a question to be answered in HotK is just how did Denethor become the person he is? Too often the starting point for characterizations of him is A) Thorongil/Aragorn is the good guy, B) Denethor doesn’t like the hero, therefore C) he must be eeeviiillll (or at least an awful person). There’s not a lot of thought given to what his own upbringing might have been, who he interacts with on a daily basis, who his relatives are and how they affect him, and so forth. This chapter and the next one are attempts to give Denethor a background as rich and complex as what Thorongil can claim. Chief among these will be his siblings and his parents. We’ve already met Aiavalë and had a glimpse of Emeldir. Now is time for Denethor to interact with Maiaberiel and Ecthelion.
The children of Ecthelion as a group are trouble. They are also all outstanding in their own way. Overachievers-R-Us. Maiaberiel and Denethor take swipes at each other throughout the story. This was just a taste of sibling savagery to come. It will follow a very dark path.
I have written Ecthelion very much against fanon type. It never made sense to me that he could be this bland, avuncular guy and have a son as extreme as Denethor. So, after reading one-too-many stories with Ward & June Cleaver raising the Spawn from Hell™, I decided to make him as tough and manipulative as Denethor – after all, the boy learned it somewhere. However, there’s also a history to Ecthelion. He’s not a Bad Guy. To anyone outside his immediate family, he *is* thoughtful, wise, just, dependable, etc. His ugly side is reserved for his intimates, whom he believes have failed him – cold wife, deformed daughter, duplicitous son. Also, I gave him a flaw, lust, which is not in and of itself a horrible thing, but which cannot help but affect the realm, given his station. There’s a lot of father-son issues that will ooze their way to the surface in subsequent chapters. Overall, he is a man poorly matched to his time, but who is doing the best he can.
There are going to be developments for the character that will take some time to play out – there’s further for Ecthelion to fall, but also a hope for some kind of redemption.
Redemption is at the core of LotR.