Claims – Finduilas POV – 2 of 3
In which Finduilas has to think about claims made, what someone claims is so, what counts as a claim, how one can be claimed, and how the claims of the past weigh upon the choices for the future. Not necessarily in that order…
A lot of Thorongil and Denethor in this chapter, and a major cliffhanger at the end. Ivriniel and Luinil also have major appearances, and we get to see Denethor show off his archival chops yet again. A lot of gap-filling going on. In some ways, this is a chapter about Thorongil/Aragorn, and Finduilas just happens to provide the perspective.
I am trying to show him as something other than a totally in-control, stable, noble, settled, kingly, etc., person at this stage in his life. Most people believe the rumor that he is Ecthelion’s bastard son, so most don’t go poking around into his past. Or else (like Ecthelion, Beruthiel & Brandir), they know he isn’t, and they just think he’s a charismatic guy from the North. They don’t have eyes to see. What Denethor and Finduilas share is the sense that there is much more to Thorongil than that, but they are not sure what to do about it. Whatever platitudes Ecthelion may mouth, these two *know* the powers of the world are up to something, and they understand that “Doom is near at hand”. Dreams must be attended, things out of myth appear on the doorstep, eternal powers are gearing up again for war, and so on. This is the quality Gandalf (too late) sees in Denethor, and why he now understands he has been courting the wrong Steward. Something that struck me as I wrote this chapter was that, at this point in the unfolding of events, Aragorn doesn’t know who he is. His encounters with these two is as much about gaining self-knowledge as dealing with Gondorian politics. A major reason why he could hide in plain sight is because of a fundamental ignorance about who he should/could be. Finduilas does this to him (to Denethor, too) by asking him open-ended questions about himself – what would you have me know of you? He calls his childhood in Imladris “A dream” – cut short by the reality of “love”, which is his wake-up call to adulthood and all the messy stuff that goes with it. You can see what is going through his mind as he flirts with Finduilas: This is real, this is love, this is attainable, this is what I should be doing. If he is listening, he will learn from her that he must be able to give an account of himself that is true if he is to win a true heart. He must risk his very life and soul to win another. Which, of course, he does, but it takes a long time in the wilderness (so to speak) before he can do so.
Aragorn is relatively unformed when he goes off on his sojourns, and that he is changed for the better when he is done with them. He is good at fighting, he has strong natural leadership skills (being the true king and all…), and he is an honorable man. But he knows nothing of articulated human societies, nothing of politics, and is not sufficiently practiced in ethical ambiguity. Nor is he well versed in human lore, though the Elves sure did drum poetry into him. This leaves him with a huge gap in understanding the people he would rule. Finally, he’s not an intellectually curious person, not the way Denethor is, so, unless prompted or ordered, he’s not going to go and look this stuff up.
Does he realize that he is attracted to Finduilas because she is a substitute for Arwen? Yes and no. He is consciously aware that she looks like the Elf chick. He knows he fell for Arwen. He also has some massive mental defense mechanisms working over-time trying to tell him *that* was a dream, *this* is real, and he’d better be in love. So, he doesn’t see it that way. Also, he really *is* attracted to Finduilas, just as Denethor, should he have seen Arwen, would be powerfully attracted to *her*. It is not mere substitution. If there weren’t real feelings involved, then it would mean Thorongil is incredibly shallow and opportunistic. He isn’t. It is actually reasonable that he would fall in love with Finduilas. Had he shaken Finduilas’s hand first, it probably would have worked, and the history of Middle-earth would have been far different. Even so, his social naivety is being manipulated with regards to the girl, and he *is* being tempted by the short, easy route to kingship, which is paved with good intentions, a pretty girl, and lots of adulation. It’s not even, at some level, a dishonorable choice, but it would be the wrong one. He has to have the choice, however, in order to understand it – there must be real temptation placed in his path.
At this point, Thorongil doesn’t have Elrond’s challenge – be the king of it all with the enemy defeated or no girlie – so there is nothing to keep him from entertaining this route. If anything, Gandalf has brought him to Gondor to become king after Ecthelion, seeing a need for a king since Sauron (not just Nazgûl) rules Mordor. The wizard doesn’t know, either, what the right path is. The One Ring has been found, but no one knows it, and in the absence of that, strategy is uncertain.