Ch. 46 – South

South – Denethor POV – 1 of 3

In which Denethor and Thorongil both reflect on the ghosts of the north and the perils of the south.


Mr. Snarly and Prince Valiant do a little he-man bonding, and the Captain gets to be a caring “little brother” to the Warden.

Finduilas understands Thorongil’s inner struggles better than Denethor does, and warns her headstrong husband to be a little more circumspect when it comes to the captain’s devotion to the north. Obliquely, we begin to see the struggle between “Thorongil” and “Aragorn” which may be more difficult for Estel to navigate than the tension between the Captain-General and the High Warden.

What is his sojourn in Gondor doing to his sense of himself? The difference between the settlements of the north and Rohan is probably not so great (I always think of the years in Rohan as having been a time of contentment for Aragorn), but the contrast between the ruins of Arnor and the grandeur of Gondor (faded as it might be) would have been shocking. As Tolkien says in the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen when our future hero finally meets the Hot Elf Chick:

‘”Estel I was called,” he said; “but I am Aragorn, Arathorn’s son, Isildur’s Heir, Lord of the Dunedain”; yet even in the saying he felt that this high lineage, in which his heart had rejoiced, was now of little worth, and as nothing compared to her dignity and loveliness.”

I imagine a comparable feeling of inadequacy, though for different reasons, when he encounters Gondor. Both are his heritage, but how can bridge the gap between them? It is the turmoil in his heart over this contrast that Finduilas sees, and why she warns Denethor not to insult or shame the man for his impoverishment – not all riches can be measured in gold. I think that while most of his silence about his true identity during this time is simply intelligent self-preservation, at least part of it must stem from that moment when he pronounces his identity to Arwen, and she basically laughs at his declaration (having seen quite a number of Heirs trotting through Imladris over the years) and pats him on the head. Ouch!

He knows how threadbare he is, how he must appear to the nobles of Gondor (think back to Finduilas’s slap-down of him when he confronts her over the betrothal), how little like a king he is at this point in time – the ragged leader of a small band of mercenaries, forced to sell themselves to their kin to maintain what little they have in the north.

Then, there is Brandir. Poor Fool.


2 thoughts on “Ch. 46 – South”

  1. Ha! Mr. Snarly and Prince Valiant. I’m now going to be picturing Thorongil with a bowl haircut.

    I am starting to like him too, more, in this story. You said somewhere that Strider was cool but Aragorn was too perfect… I thought the same thing on first read. By the end of LoTR I was missing Strider as he was at the inn at Bree. On further reading I have teased out some more human moments — complaining about Gollum in Elrond’s council (pretty funny, really, a lot of “cheek”) and despairing of his leadership when the Fellowship is broken up — but they’re few and far between. By necessity, really. But this gives him a richer backstory, and makes him more sympathetic. He is getting a whole series of rude wake-up calls. But I love that you’ve given him opportunities for dry humor here… what I’ve come to consider Dúnadan wit.

    Poor Fool indeed… as with other relationships in this story, it’s very true to life. Sadly.

  2. Divinely chosen heroes are kind of dull. It’s one of the reasons why Denethor, despite only having a few pages of dialog and narrative, totally dominates the final book of LotR. He’s flawed, he’s crazy, he’s one nasty SOB, but he is totally there and engaged in the events of the world. Aragorn is an uncomfortably grafted late-comer to the tale, taking over from the much more engaging Strider.

    So, yes, I’m trying to put an actual human being inside that perfect king. His wake-up calls will just keep coming. I like that he has a humorous side. He’s going to need it.

    Brandir is the Holy Fool.


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