Ch. 83 – Lost

Lost – Finduilas POV – 1 of 1

In which fate and free will, pride and faith, and the solace of eternity are addressed.


Why do the Powers insist that the Children are in need of redemption?

This chapter takes place from December 2986 through November 2987. It is the last time we will hear directly from Finduilas in the story.

This is mostly a philosophical chapter, with few events, just some domestic scenes and a bit of political maneuvering in the early part. It belongs with the other strongly philosophical chapters, Mortality, Belegaer, Fate, and Speculation. Finduilas is coming to terms with her own mortality, though not with her imposed fate. She and Denethor have different perspectives on the big philosophical topics and the role of thte Powers. He argues with them on how they use (or abuse) their power, treating them as equals. She takes on their bad faith and challenges their motives, rejecting claims of equivalence. Finduilas’ perspective is less oppositional but more subtle and subversive than his.

It is also a chance to bring Faramir into the story a bit more. He’s four and very mature for his age. He gets two significant scenes, the most important of which is with Denethor. Even at this young age, Faramir is butting heads with his father, but not in a pernicious way, and Denethor is secretly pleased at his younger son’s independent streak. It is possible to reprimand without being hateful or cruel, and disobedience is not always rooted in resentment or abuse.

We finally get something of Brandir’s perspective on what happened in Anórien, and we return a final time to the Swan dreams, both Finduilas’ and Imrahil’s.

Two more chapters after this.


15 thoughts on “Ch. 83 – Lost”

  1. Wow, a lot of things discussed more openly, more layers peeled back… to reveal even deeper things underneath.

    I’m left with somewhat of the same feeling from reading Tolkien… terribly good, joyfully sad, so weighty I can’t really comprehend it. But undeniably your own philosophy.

    Glad Finduilas gets some last “You go, girl!” moments. I do wonder if she and Denethor will get to clear the air about Thorongil? Don’t know if that would be good or bad…

  2. “We have been made part of a story whose tellers cannot comprehend what has been created within it. ” — That is a very good rant, and Laanga is a better listener than Gandalf. It would be a frightening world where deities are actively involved and mortals know that for truth. Not nice, especially when there are strong fates involved.

    She also gave a good lecture to Gandalf as well, that he was being cruel. It isn’t a cannon thing, but it reminds me of the problems we had about the Scouring, and this is on a similar level. Gandalf was seemingly aware when he turned aside that the hobbits would find trouble in the Shire, but it was for them to grow up suddenly, though Ellessar would attempt to close off the Shire (& much of the East/West road) afterwards, bleh.

    I started rereading this batch with chapter 80, which started with a sad Finduilas scene. She’s feeling the weight of fate alone — she doesn’t talk because if she talks she’ll cough, and she doesn’t want the hovering — it’s sad she has to find this peace alone. Lots of details I don’t remember, I didn’t reread these chapters as often, though I do remember a lot of the kid’s antics. The scene with the mariner was more creepy than I remember (not he’s being cruel, but the unsettled bits because it’s difficult for a mortal to talk to a power and vise versa — and those mortals she loves can’t deal with the reality of her dying and she doesn’t want to deal with the pain she would have to inflict to get to the point that they’d accept enough that they could give her comfort. She even pushed Luinil away and Luinil let her. What else to say but I have a sad? 😦

  3. Hi Wheelrider,

    Sorry for the radio silence. I’ve been running around like crazy the last few days trying to wrap up a work project before the end of the year.

    It’s turtles all the way down in this universe. It is a philosophical challenge to JRRT, done seriously because he himself is thinking seriously. He points out in a letter that LotR is not about Good and Evil, but is about mortality. He makes the very daring move to eliminate sin from the Ardaverse and to emphasize faith and submission over salvation. Salvation is always guaranteed. Since there is no sin, there can be no Hell – except for the mortal life itself. Existence is recast as a hell that all incarnate beings must endure, a passage they cannot elude, and a harrowing (death) that is the price for a (potential) immortality. In the end, however, he cannot accommodate free will in any meaningful way – free will is always already deliberate submission to your preordained destiny. You are “free” to accept your fate or to fight it, never to determine it. And that is no kind of freedom at all.

    Only two more chapters, so you’ll find out quickly if she has a final, fateful chat with Denethor about a certain captain.

    Thanks for reading!


  4. {{Julie}}

    You’re reading the saddest parts of the story. 😦

    Gandalf is, frankly, an asshole to everyone at every stage in every story. The irony of Gandalf lecturing other people about being prideful has always been one of my pet peeves. Though, actually, I’m not so certain that it is specifically pride as arrogance – I know better than you so you should just do as I say. Pride is a little more distant – aren’t I cool? Everyone admire what I do. 

    In RotK, Gandalf makes no appeal to anything specific to Denethor when the man is in suicidal despair, but upbraids him for being prideful and tells him to get out on the battlements and die.  Not a frickin’ word of hope, not a dash of compassion, just being a bossy, officious, know-it-all demi-god who would really prefer this guy just go die.

    I had not realized until I actually wrote this scene down just how sadistic Gandalf is. He can stand there and claim he’s just trying to help, but what he does is demonstrate how hopeless the situation is, mocking them. If he knew of this healer, why didn’t he offer his services when it would have done some good? The way he tries to suborn Faramir is also important. It is like the way he manipulates Thorin and Bilbo to do what he wishes done without admitting his own intentions. It seems like just an old guy indulging a little kid – until you see that what he wants is unobserved access to Denethor’s archive office.  He says Finduilas must ride for three months, even as he knows full well that there is an Elven haven that she could sail to and take two months out of the journey, plus immediately be in the presence of Elves to help strengthen her for the remaining leg.

    Gandalf is powerful and a Power, with goals and objectives that really don’t give mortals any say in how he makes use of them. He demands that mortal rulers humble themselves to him before he will give them any aid, and offers nothing but “Because I said so!” in return. He does not get to pull this shit with Elrond and Galadriel, since they are powerful in their own right, and so has to work with them.

    This is why it’s important to bracket him with the mariner on one side and Laanga on the other. Ulmo really, honest to Eru, is in a position to direct fate, and he grieves that he must do so. He takes no pleasure in what he does, though he delights in the Children, and he does not taunt or bully – he challenges, but he also simply says “Here’s the deal, you are screwed, and we set you up.” He doesn’t apologize for doing so (his is the voice of God in the Book of Job), but neither does he try to recast his actions as anything except the exercise of power. I am power, like a whale in the ocean.

    Laanga is the Maia who has lost his will to power. All places are the same, and he just tries to relieve the suffering. When he does get high and mighty with Finduilas (forbidding her a poison to make her sterile), they both regret their battle. He is what Gandalf pretends to be, a humble servant of the West. He has chosen to share the suffering of the Children.


  5. Considering that Denethor doesn’t kill himself in the 1st draft, I think Gandalf is worse at the Pyre than elsewhere. That was, in my opinion, JRRT deciding he had to take Denethor off the chessboard because he didn’t want to full-write the scene he outlines between Denethor & Aragorn after the seige was broken because the plot was getting too complicated. I can’t think of any other plot change from the drafts that seemed to be JRRT-driven rather than character-driven. That is to say, Gandalf as well as Denethor is out of character, though Denethor moreso. Or the extremes you have to go to in HotK to make it in character.

    PS: I also tried to put a comment on ch. 75, but it wouldn’t go through.

  6. Hi Julie,

    Not sure what’s going on with the comments. I didn’t see anything “stuck” in Ch. 75.

    Yeah, the pyre scene is very out of whack with the rest of LotR. I’d argue that you don’t have to distort Gandalf much at all to make the scene work, but the character of Denethor is just so at odds with almost every other person who isn’t explicitly evil in the story that you’re left with a “Huh, WTF just happened?” moment. Suicidal impulses are aligned with battlefield stupidity throughout JRRT. OTOH, it does make for a much richer character than, say, Théoden.

    The Professor had written himself into a bit of a logical corner. His kings (north or south) aren’t very good at keeping the kingdoms together, while the southern Stewards seem to have done a pretty good job of it under arguably worse conditions. Aragorn is an inspiring *leader* but doesn’t know shit about being king (i.e., the political head of a large nation), so why should the Stewards surrender to this putz from nowhere?

    Even as the pyre is horrifying, it is also one of the most important moments in the story, where the authority and claim to right of the West/Powers/the divine is deliberately and decisively rejected by one of the “believers”. It’s not a mistake that Gandalf invokes “pagan” rulers as the comparison to Denethor’s acts. However, it’s not like Denethor is turning to worship something/one else, nor that he is rejecting the existence of the Powers. He is simply saying you are all fucked up, Sauron and Powers alike, and I refuse to go along. Bite me.

    Hence, HotK.


  7. Hm, I don’t think of the pyre as being out of character for Denethor… yes, it’s pretty extreme for LoTR, but right in line with the Silmarillion. There’s a fine line between righteous glory in certain defeat and that classic combo of “pride and despair” leading to an epic downfall. There’s also the Tolkien concept of (to paraphrase because I can’t search right now) “the higher they reach, the harder they fall.”

    However, I will admit to a lingering disappointment with the quick and neat way the rulership of Gondor is wrapped up. But writing that scene between Denethor and Aragorn might have made things too murky and drag on too much, or made the subsequent everything’s-fine happy ending that much harder to swallow. I’m always reluctant to second-guess based on early drafts, simply because if that happened to me, as a writer, I’d be inclined to come back and *haunt* whoever did it. (Plus the possibly-too-neat ending has given fanfic writers a lot of material and motivation!)

    Much of HotK has become head-canon to me because I’ve found Denethor admirable — in some ways — and sympathetic, and at the very least one of the more interesting characters in the original. This story pays tribute to him.

  8. Hi Wheelrider,

    Nope, the pyre is right down Mr. Snarly’s alley as far as I am concerned, but it can’t be motivated just by a selfish pretend king who doesn’t want to give over the crown, nor just someone driven to suicide by Sauron (Denethor is too in control of himself at the end for that), so what can explain the mix of psychotic whackatude that makes it a believable (if horrifying and whiplash inducing) moment for this character?

    He is in keeping with the most tragic, infuriating, awesome, miserable and self-absorbed of JRRT”s cavalcade – Fëanor, Turin, etc. That’s one of the reasons he dominates LotR in my opinion. He fills the mythic space with his towering rage and self-destructive hubris. His fall is his own and it is damn spectacular. It is a Silmarillion scene in a more mundane tale.

    The pyre is a disruptive presence. It rips its way through the narrative in a way few other scenes do. Everything else that is tragic has a redeeming element – Gandalf falls to the Balrog, but is reincarnated, Boromir tries to seize the Ring, but dies defending Merry and Pippin, Théoden dies, but “on his feet” and fighting evil, Gollum seizes the Ring, but falls into the volcano, etc. Denethor – dies. Horribly. Unredeemed. Unrepentant.

    It’s a weird, discordant moment and it is brilliant, a moment when the author wrote better than he knew, contradicted himself, confirmed himself, brought out all the tensions humming under the surface and dropped it on the unsuspecting readers like a ton of bricks. The too-neat ending would have made *logical* sense, but it also would have resulted in a diminishment of both Denethor and Aragorn.

    So, yeah, I hate the pyre, but only because of what the pyre brings out in the story.

    Thanks for reading and for your too-kind words on HotK.


  9. “Denethor is too in control of himself” — Just thought of another thing that had occurred to me late last night… Denethor’s job was comparable in a lot of ways to Frodo’s, and in that sense, he also made it *almost* to the end but then couldn’t finish. I’ve begun to see that not as a failing of Denethor’s, necessarily, but as a measure of how difficult — one could say impossible — the job had become. Frodo was offered “grace” from his inevitable failure in the end by way of his previous forgiveness…which Denethor can’t give.

  10. Ah, you pick up on that, too. Yes, both of them fail at the last moment, but Frodo is allowed some redemption because of his ability to forgive and because he simply staggers forward. Remember an earlier comment of mine (can’t remember which post it’s attached to) where JRRT makes clear in a letter that Frodo *cannot* succeed; he will always fail at the end, but his fortitude and humility before then will earn him the grace to not have the quest fail, even as he personally can’t fulfill it.

    This is why Denethor’s strength and inability to forgive (relent, repent, acknowledge and accept weakness) doom him in the end, yet it isn’t clear that he could have had that capacity and still have been the total hard-ass he needed to be to be the last ruling Steward in the face of Sauron’s return.

    And then, there is the part of him that simply didn’t want to live in that world anymore. And that’s the last chapter of HotK.


  11. Heh, I was typing that out and just after I hit “post” I recalled the earlier post of yours about Frodo… Yeah, the “soft” strategy only works because it can go unnoticed, thanks to hard-asses attracting attention — none more so than Denethor.

    (Really I just want to hide here and not think to hard about the chapter you just posted and the one left…)

  12. I mean the strategy of creeping about to destroy the Ring (“folly”) only goes unnoticed because others are using the usual fanfare and swords, even well before the march to the Black Gate… maybe there is only enough spare grace to prevent one key actor’s fall. Make sense? Sorry, I need to go to bed!

  13. Oh, that made perfect sense! I was apologizing for the grimness of the last few chapters.

    But that is an interesting point about only so much grace to spare. Hmm…

  14. “quick and neat way the rulership of Gondor is wrapped up.” — which is why I wrote “The Steward and the King”, an AU, where this is a transfer of power from the Stewards to the King, rather than Aragorn filling a power vacuum, but then I cheated a bit also but not (in my opinion) as bad as the Pyre.

    I guess the pyre is in keeping with Silmarillion, but I don’t know that cannon very well, not as appealing to me as Shire, Rivendell & Gondor. I hadn’t noticed the connection between Frodo & Denethor on not quite getting to the finish, thanks.

    I tried again, and I was able to make the post that got refused on Tuesday. (it was for 72, not 75, I remembered wrong)

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