Ch. 63 – Abandoned

Abandoned – Denethor POV – 1 of 2

In which Denethor tries to fill the hole in his heart and make the world less dim.

*****

Brandir should just have left town. He keeps choosing love.

I kept trying throughout the chapter to make Denethor less awful, but he would not relent. There is no logic, only emotional and unconscious reactions. He’s angry, he’s scared, he wants to hurt people, he wants to be comforted, he is grieving for his lost king, he’s feeling betrayed, he’s terrified that it is just him defending Gondor against Sauron, he’s guilty that he has driven away Gondor’s hope, and everything is spinning out of control, even as, on the surface, he has “won” the contest with Thorongil.

Anglachel

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4 thoughts on “Ch. 63 – Abandoned”

  1. I kept reading and wanting Denethor to be less awful, but that’s just how he is, how he has been forced to be. And I can see already how much worse it will get in a few years when he’s really alone…

  2. Sometimes, the logic of the character will not allow you to give them any respite from themselves. And who Denethor is will drive him to even worse things. It’s why he is a tragic character and not merely an unfortunate one like, say, Théoden. What makes him great is also what makes him ghastly.

    Denethor has always been between the Devil and the deep blue sea, and has tried to avoid choosing for as long as he could. Was there ever another option? Should he have killed his sister? When does political obligation trump personal ethics? Can it ever? He did what his character was capable of doing in that moment. Whether that was the right thing to do I leave as an exercise for the reader.

    One of my long time readers said at the time this chapter was first published –

    “You really manipulated your readers here, Ang. I have been waiting since the second chapter, when Beruthiel went after Wren, to see her get her just rewards, and you delivered. I felt sick to my stomach reading that scene. You made me look at what I wanted done to her. Could I really cheer on Denethor doing this? Could I really want my favorite character in all of the fandom to torture someone else?”

    Then, there’s Brandir. Dear, gentle, amoral, falsely innocent, implacably truthful Brandir. Why didn’t he just take Maiaberiel and flee?

    Anglachel

  3. Brandir *should* have just taken her away. No doubt he’ll be thinking that the rest of his life.

    I had a bad feeling when Denethor set up to get Maiaberiel but didn’t have a plan beyond that…

    Been thinking about this a lot… Denethor and Maiaberiel are like chemical analogues, similar but with a few crucial differences that cause different effects. Or even enantiomers — structurally the same but mirror images, again sometimes with very different results. But then again maybe the results are not so different…

    “*I kept your secret, even when…* The memory of the contest in the palantír made Denethor shiver. ”
    This hadn’t occurred to me… Denethor could have revealed Thorongil then, or later. *shiver*

    Brandir’s words are piercing. He’s kind of right, and I find myself agreeing with him, even as I feel sympathy for Denethor and agree with him too (“my very life threatened, for not having the courtesy to die when they find it convenient”). The very heart of tragedy.

  4. Hi Wheelrider,

    Yes, Brandir will keep thinking that. And other things.

    Brandir has been such a good counterbalance to Denethor’s stubborn obsessiveness. But at some point, this had to happen. He either had to abandon them all and flee for his own sanity, hew closely to the demands of honor and challenge Denethor for the harm done to Maiaberiel, or figure out some way to keep them apart. I think he has decided there is nothing he can do to intercede between Denethor and Ecthelion, but also that something has happened to the Steward as a result of this Pyric victory. It will be good for Brandir to escape the intrigues of the City. Remember what his family standard is – a badger. Brandir does not give up easily. How he and Denethor manage to negotiate their relationship is one of those things that I couldn’t plan, it just rose out of the story. It all happens for a reason that I didn’t understand until a late scene of the very last chapter.

    When Denethor went in there without a plan, anything could have happened. It almost did. There’s a few moments when he came perilously close to stepping over the line. Yes, he and Maiaberiel are very similar. Finduilas noted early on that she is like a perfect female copy of her brother, at least outwardly. And now you’ve made me go look up a new word – thank you! Enantiomer. Maiaberiel, in a way, is the fanonical version of Denethor. She’s selfish, cruel, greedy, ambitious, ruthless, and puts herself before all else. That she is trying to seduce/control Thorongil rather than drive him away doesn’t really change how she sees him – a tool for her own use. Even so, the differences between her and Denethor are razor thin, a matter of emphasis rather than of kind. The key is that he puts Gondor before all else, until Finduilas appeared and taught him to love.

    Of course, it’s the love that makes him so ferocious in his rejection, too. The rage against Maiaberiel comes form the same place as the fear and despair over being abandoned by his king. Had he found Thorongil in Ithilien and had the captain refused to explain himself or work with him, that rage would have been unleashed. When he tries to kill Faramir, he talks about not wishing to live with “love halved”, another manifestation of his fury and grief over being found unworthy of love and being abandoned.

    And, yet, to the last, he defends and protects his king. Even Sauron cannot pry the secret form him.

    Yes, Brandir speaks the truth about Denethor. The Fool sees more clearly than anyone what Denethor is doing to himself and to the ones he loves. He is like the Fire, possessing and consuming everyone around him. Thorongil could have withstood it, though. Brandir was wrong about that. Of course, it was the clueless captain who tossed the match into the barrel of Fire that is Denethor when he bolted.

    Anglachel

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