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.