Ch. 58 – Unsaid

Unsaid – Denethor POV – 1 of 2

In which we observe a day in Denethor’s life, and what he finds unspeakable.

*****

What is the price for keeping your silence? What are the uses of words unspoken? How do fear and hope conspire to make us keep thoughts to ourselves? If only Denethor had spoken, or Thorongil held his tongue…

There is a good deal of happiness in Denethor’s life, even so. He adores his son. I’m out to break down another fanonical assumption that Denethor would not have anything to do with the baby unless Boromir was clean and quiet. Hello? Denethor is used to chopping up Orcs and sleeping in the dirt and would not understand what deodorant is for. He lives in the midst of a society in which dirt and smell is a constant. A grubby baby is pretty nice compared to a high summer battlefield.

Ecthelion continues to try to be a better father/grandfather. It may be working. Denethor is not the only one in the family who knows how to bluff, and the old man is awfully good at faking sincerity.

The afternoon is for the shadow of the past to stretch out across the plans for the future. The invasion of Umbar is the return of Eldacar is the partition of Arnor is the empty seat in the doubled throne…

In the evening, Denethor delivers a reality check to the would-be king – payable in about 120 days.

The day ends with more of the dream that has been consuming Denethor – his own Swan dream, if you will – with the lord of Emyn Arnen (an unnamed ancestor) defending Gondor against Castamir while the king abandoned the land and fled north. Now, the king has returned, and Denethor’s ancestor walks through the street painted with the blood of his people, slain by the golden barbarians the king brought to defeat the rebels.

The whole questions divine sanction, if not divine demand, of the slaughter of innocents. That is what goes unsaid through most of Tolkien. His tales are awash in blood of people who would really rather be sitting down to second breakfast. This is the price inflicted by the gods on their creations.

Denethor knows that Thorongil must shed blood, not of Haradrim or Orcs, but of Dúnedain (however fallen), if he is to rule. Denethor has lived in Umbar. He knows them and the city well, and he loves it, despite the darkness it holds. He knows what neither the Steward, blinded by his retreat into spirit, nor Thorongil, blinded by unrequited love, will see with clear eyes – you will kill people who should not die. That Denethor would still do so is the part Tolkien (and others) won’t accept – that adding a layer of divinity does not make butchery more palatable, nor does the absence of divine favor absolve you from acting to defend other innocents.

It’s still butchery.

Anglachel

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2 thoughts on “Ch. 58 – Unsaid”

  1. Soooo I’m wondering at this “bright spot” on Finduilas’ heart? Not the mariner’s doing? A result of Denethor’s serious infraction, for which he has yet to be forgiven at this point? (Once again, don’t answer if it would spoil things…) You said earlier it would take until the last couple of chapters to reveal exactly what the mariner did, so it might be that…however I would think Thorongil would notice before now, and recognize it, if it was simply Seeing a heart (as Denethor thought as well)… hmmmmm. But I agree with Denethor at this point — he can’t start explaining one deep thing without going all the way, and it’s not time yet.

    But then… what if he had–!

    I am beginning to like Ecthelion as well, even if it’s not wise to do so. At least I admire how he can flip-flop with absolute certainty and authority, using quiet words instead of bombast.

    “That is what goes unsaid through most of Tolkien. His tales are awash in blood of people who would really rather be sitting down to second breakfast. ”
    Great point, but I’m not sure that Tolkien would entirely disagree with your second part — “That Denethor would still do so is the part Tolkien (and others) won’t accept – that adding a layer of divinity does not make butchery more palatable, nor does the absence of divine favor absolve you from acting to defend other innocents.” I see it as a constant conflict in Tolkien — at times the slaying is glorified with song, at times going to lengths to avoid it and even proscribing against it (Frodo).

  2. Hi Wheelrider,

    Yes, the mark is the mariner’s doing. What it is and why will not be known until the end of the story.

    If he starts talking, Denethor won’t be able to stop and Thorongil would listen to every word. They would both be different people at the end.

    Yeah, Ecthelion manages to endear himself despite everything. At least one of his children will be able to forgive him.

    The Professor does go back and forth on battle. I think his own deepest impulse is reflected in Sam’s thoughts in Ithilien:

    It was Sam’s first view of battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. He was glad he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man’s name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather stayed there in peace –

    In the end, though, JRRT believed in just holy war, with a divine king killing and laying low the wicked who would not submit to the good. Denethor does as Gandalf and Aragorn do, but without the sanction of Manwë et. al., and so is merely prideful and arrogant. No one is allowed to succeed or thrive if they trust to their own strengths. Mostly, though, he hates mortal political officials (and not without some reason), and this deep resentment tarnishes the blessed heroes of battle because they simply are not believable human beings. They become vehicles of divine will. Frodo does not do harm except for absolute self-defense (like Bilbo), and whatever grace he has gained through his suffering is horrible to see.

    Mind you, I share more than a little of JRRT’s contempt for many (if not most) political leaders because they are corrupt, bloodthirsty, greedy, avaricious, unethical, bigoted, fucktards. Dick Cheney is nothing less than a modern day Sauron. I just don’t exempt the gods from that judgment, either.

    Anglachel

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