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…