Ch. 44 – Touched

Touched – Finduilas POV – 1 of 2

In which Finduilas experiences touch – healing touches and a touch of evil, being a bit touched in the head and having one’s heart touched by something unexpected.

(If you have taken a break between chapters, I recommend re-reading the last section of chapter 43, North, before diving into 44 as it will make much more sense of the opening paragraphs.)

*****

The Valar are such bastards. Finduilas does not name the mariner the gift-giver, an echo of Sauron’s title Annatar (lord of gifts), by mistake, even if it was an accident.

The chapter marks the introduction of a story within the story, namely the tale of Míriel, last Queen of Númenor. Finduilas has been dreaming about her obliquely up until now, and the poisoned mists of the Pelennor have set loose a few things.

The parallels between Isildur/Anárion and Aragorn/Denethor are too powerful to ignore, and have appeared before, but another parallel is the connection between Míriel and Finduilas. Míriel is the last queen of the Dúnedain before the Downfall, and was the actual ruler whose role was usurped/eclipsed by her consort. Looking at Finduilas as functionally if not legally the queen (highest ranking female, wed to the de facto ruler, socially and politically powerful) of Gondor, the question of who is the legitimate ruler becomes even fuzzier. Thorongil could not have made a claim to the throne against the wishes of the Steward’s clan without a marriage to Finduilas, and Denethor’s claim upon rule is cemented by his marriage to her, just as Pharazôn probably could not have taken over in Númenor without his marriage to Míriel.

Denethor will end up with an historic doppelgänger in addition to Anárion, though that one will be of more recent vintage.

As for what the hell the mariner is up to, all I can say is it is a long game. The Tree has done something to mess with fate (frelling pesky mortals…), and Ulmo has to shake it up again. The reference to hope enduring is partially to Thorongil, but is more a reference back to Denethor’s original encounter with the mariner, which is itself explicitly modeled on Tuor’s encounter with Ulmo at Vinyamar. Denethor’s elision of hope and love, once he Sees Finduilas, is not precisely wrong, but the mariner’s silent words to Finduilas are more tragic than anything. In her endures a kind of hope, but it is not hope within the world. There both is and isn’t hope for Denethor in the fate that is unfolding before him, and there does not appear to be any rift in that fate where he can elude a tragic end. Yet, even the Valar do not see all things, so perhaps…

Anglachel

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3 thoughts on “Ch. 44 – Touched”

  1. “I recommend re-reading the last section of chapter 43, North, before diving into 44 as it will make much more of a mindfuck of the opening paragraphs.” Perhaps that’s what you meant…

    And then even more of a mindfuck later, holy cow.

    So I have questions but once again I’m not sure they should be answered just yet. A certain amount of ambiguity is always good in a story. Still, I’ll type some out so maybe they won’t keep me up late at night, again. Feel free to simply give an evil grin in lieu of answers.

    – “The Tree has done something to mess with fate…” who is the Tree? I thought from Finduilas’ earlier vision that that referred to Thorongil…
    – What exactly is the fate and what is the swerving from it? (That is probably a central question of the story)
    – I figured it would be a Good Thing when Finduilas has finally willed herself, but this seems almost like it was against her will… is it just that it was brought about too soon by this mariner? From how she had been with Denethor from early on, the touches of others sickening her, etc. it seemed like it was Meant to Be, but then stuff like this makes me think maybe otherwise…

    She is really afraid of the mariner and what he does, which is understandable. Still, I was taken aback by her reaction. But also couldn’t help but think “You go, girl” once again. She is not afraid to literally kick her husband out of bed. And I love that my earlier offhand comment about orgasms is kind of right… but not really. (Is it a coincidence?)

  2. Heh. Double-heh.

    Just what the hell the mariner did and why will not become clear until the last two chapters of the story, if even then. Here are a few hints in answer to your questions.

    – The Tree – yes, this is Thorongil/Estel/Aragorn. The tree on the banner of the Elendil, the symbol of the ruling house, the dead skeleton in the court before the Tower, the sacred burned object that poisons the air of Númenor, the strange vision she has on the Sea, the hole in the world, the thing that is missing and which must return to make the Faithful whole once more. Keep an eye on any and all White Tree symbols in HotK.

    – Their fate is the story, but the mariner has already told Denethor – ‘There is hope beyond thy sight, child, though it is not for you to bring it, nor does Fate hold a rift through which thou mayest pass.’

    – She *has* already willed herself. Denethor has Seen her before – in his dreams where her heart is there for him to See. But, to try to explain the metaphysics:

    • Being open to love/partner is a dangerous thing, because there is some connection of the soul.
    • Denethor is an actor picked by the (demi) gods to fulfill a particular fate, and that fate has a bad end.
    • Finduilas has *chosen* to share that fate by extending her compassion to him – giving her hand – when she might have given herself to the other fated actor, Thorongil.
    • Implicitly, Manwë has command of Thorongil as the vehicle of a certain fate, while Ulmo has Denethor. The actors do not need to obey, but defiance leads to bad things.
    • Finduilas is necessary to Denethor to fulfill his role in the drama, just as Arwen is necessary to Thorongil/Aragorn, and the obverse is also true – the women need the men to do what *they* need to do.
    • The danger is that what Denethor needs is destructive to her – draining Finduilas emotionally and physically.

    Yeah, Finduilas will not hesitate to kick his sorry ass out of her bed if he gets on her nerves. (And your comment about orgasm is spot-on…) But what made her furious? The mariner’s gift, which she has already told Denethor she doesn’t want around her. When Denethor thinks it is harmful, he will abandon the protection of the gift; when he realizes that he can See her – has his heart’s desire – he does a 180 and looks on the lanyard as a blessing. The mariner interceded to show her to him. Finduilas, OTOH, is wary through all of it, understanding better than Denethor that the gift is a thing of power with its own purpose. This is the fundamental mistake he makes about *all* objects of power. He sees them as things to be mastered, rather than as things that allow themselves to be used to further their own ends. He sees the lanyard as dangerous *to her* if she touches it directly, but fails to understand that it may be even more dangerous to himself.

    Anglachel

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