Faithful – Denethor POV – 2 of 2
In which Thorongil gets nosy, Denethor gets a message, Finduilas gets a prime seat, Ecthelion gets ticked off, Denethor gets in trouble, Thorongil gets his wish, and Denethor gets wet.
This chapter continues the exploration of Denethor in the context of his relationships – to family, to friends, to Thorongil and to Finduilas. It starts with the first extended scene between Denethor and Thorongil interacting only with each other. How do they behave when no one else is around?
The scene is not just a hot-house of emotionally fraught and overly “subtle” contemplation of each other. It is over one of the great secrets of the kingdom – a missive from the Faithful in Umbar. It is a test of each other’s character, and they both fail to a certain degree, but for good reasons. It also shows that, at some level, they trust each other completely, without needing to exchange a word.
Then, we see Denethor in a similar situation with Ecthelion, dealing with the same missive. It demonstrates how the two simply don’t communicate, and how Denethor can wilfully misunderstand what the Steward is trying to do. Ecthelion uses silence as a way to cover up his own indecision and to test loyalty – things Denethor himself does and will do. At root, the Steward has given up in the fight against Sauron, which is why Gandalf spends so much time & energy on him when the wizard ordinarily had nothing to do with the Stewards. Ecthelion believes resistance is futile, has given in to despair, and does not wish to expend resources in what he thinks is pointless. Better to enjoy what little good time is left to us and let the end come when it will. His answer to Denethor is reasonable (We can’t attack them there, so we must wait for them to come within our grasp) until you realize that he has no contingency plans and no intention of exploring other possibilities. There is a very real possibility that without Denethor & Thorongil pushing hard, Ecthelion might abandon all substantial defense of Gondor.
The situation is exacerbated by the hatred between father and son. To some degree, Ecthelion chooses a plan of action based on whether it will piss off Denethor, jealous of his son’s brilliance and military successes. Thorongil is both smart and decent enough a person that he won’t exploit this division to get the Steward to do things his way. Mostly. Except when he does.
In Ecthelion’s words, I think you can hear some of Gandalf’s counsel coming through, though filtered by the man’s own resentments and misgivings. Ecthelion is never simply wrong or bad. We see him through Denethor’s prejudices, but part of what we’re seeing are those prejudices and how they do harm to both men and to Gondor. While the Steward may behave like a jerk at times, the Warden is not without fault himself.
Then there is Thorongil, who is trying to keep the situation from going into total meltdown. There are things he admires and respects in both of these men and he knows picking sides will only make matters worse.
So, the dynamic between these three has been created, one that will play out through the invasion of Umbar and beyond. Who is being faithful, and to what?