Ch. 12 – Mortality

Mortality – Denethor POV – 1 of 3

In which Denethor faces his worst fear, is scolded by Brandir, and believes he has uncovered his part in the tale.


All of the quoted poetry is from the Lay of Leithian, in Tales of Beleriand, as was most of the verses in Ch. 10, Proof. It is not a mistake that I parallel Denethor and Finduilas to that story, which is usually the bailiwick of Aragorn and Arwen tales. It is the only way for Denethor to address what he is feeling and why.

It is a struggle to figure out how to allow Denethor his emotional side – which is powerful – but not make him go over-board and get all mushy. He can’t talk to Finduilas except in words of rule, power, and princes. But she does not object, and will introduce a quiet language of love into that will transform him. It is a small miracle that they end up together. Before he can get to that point, he has to be able to speak to himself, and to do that he reaches for the stories and poetry, but also the history, that he loves.

In this chapter, Denethor has to face the conflict between his loves, and admit to himself a deep desire to abandon his first and (until now) greatest love, which is Gondor itself. He is jealous of Thorongil’s ability to get to the end of his service and just…leave. It leads him (almost unconsciously) to a clever solution, his own Lady-or-the-Tiger conundrum.


2 thoughts on “Ch. 12 – Mortality”

  1. “Even if he loved, it was but a chain upon him, and showed where sacrifice must needs be made.” Such a great line, set up so well in “Burial.”

    Of course Denethor would find expression in poetry…distilled sadness mixed with joy.

  2. It was a long build up, but I knew where that thought had to go.

    The drunken supper with the two women is when it all (subconsciously) clicked, and then he became conscious of these feelings a few days later. He admits he loves Finduilas but cannot bring himself to make this known to her – why? The standard explanation is that he’s a cold bastard who can’t talk to women, unable to deal with the mushy stuff. As I’ve set it up, there’s two more subtle things in play:

    1. Loss. He is losing everything he loves (“All I love is in ruins”) and he’s getting to the end of his emotional rope with having stuff taken away from him. The dreams and visions all point to Finduilas ending up with Thorongil, and this is too much to bear. It would destroy him to have her reject him in favor of the captain, as so many others have done. Thus, he is creating a situation in which that cannot happen – if she is destined for Thorongil, he will not put himself in a situation where he may be rejected. Quite the opposite, as the mental maneuvers in Anórien will show.

    2. Power. Always in the back of his mind is the marriage of his parents, and their detestation of each other. Also, he has the model of his father’s sexual misconduct, where the man sought out and demanded sex from women. Denethor *is* a romantic through and through, and the idea of marital relations that are not based on love horrify him. He will not use his power (as Aiavalë has advised) to force a marriage of state on anyone, especially not Finduilas. Moreover, this mixes with his own ambivalence towards marriage at all, and Denethor becomes extremely reticent to do anything that would influence her in his favor. To the degree he wants a wife, it has to be based on love and nothing else.

    The darker side of power is that he wants her to choose *him* of her own accord. She is the one who must ask that this union exist, must put herself in the position of the suitor. It’s a game he plays very well, and most cruelly in his last few exchanges with Faramir – I won’t order you, but we both know what I expect you to do. Very manipulative. He wants proof of loyalty and devotion, and does not take kindly to divided attentions. Hence, his growing anger at Adrahil for favoring Thorongil, and his own curtness with Finduilas when she shows no more than common courtesy to the captain. To slight him in any way borders on betrayal.


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