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Old 04-15-2005, 02:15 AM   #1
Bywaters
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Eye Bard & The Master Vs Aragorn & the House of Stewards

I was wondering if anyone noticed the similarities between the story of the Bard and the Master of Lake town in The Hobbit to the relationship between Aragorn and the House of Stewards in LotR?

In The Hobbit we see how the men of Esgaroth are ruled by the Master who is not heir to the throne of Dale where as the Bard is. In LotR we have a similar situation where the rightful king of Gondor (Aragorn) in not on the throne and Denethor is. In both cases the current ruler seems less keen to fight for "his people" where as the true heir is and does.

Any comments?
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Old 04-15-2005, 04:01 AM   #2
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Right off the cuff, I see one difference and one thing in common. First the difference: Denethor is a Numenorean and is much concerned with his name and lineage and reputation, whereas the Master is a mere commoner concerned with lining his pockets. The thing in common is that both are tyrants rather than rightful kings; a recent letter of Tolkien I read (sorry, can't remember the number) has JRRT comparing tyranny versus rightful kingship; so that stuck out to me.

I find it interesting what it took to unseat each tyrant. Can't go into it now for lack of time, but maybe others could?
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Old 04-15-2005, 06:56 AM   #3
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How is Denethor a tyrant? Yes, he is not the king, but the stewardship is a hereditary title, and as such he is entitled to it, and is entitled to exercise his stewardship as he sees fit, until such a time as the King returns.

Could we call him a tyrant if he was democratically elected?

He could easily be called a tyrant if he had 'taken' control, by use of economic or military power, overthrowing another ruler or government, but if his title is hereditary surely he is allowed to rule as he sees fit?

Or do you mean a tyrant in that he is not keen on the idea of relinquishing his stewardship on the emergence of Aragorn? For myself, I would have said that he willingly gives up his claim in any case, and spares Aragorn the trouble of removing a tyrant, so could he be said to have been a tyrant anyway? Or am I running this idea round in circles?
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Old 04-15-2005, 07:13 AM   #4
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lmp, I reckon notes to Auden's review of LoTR (L183) is the one you had in mind?

Quote:
Denethor was tainted with mere politics: hence his failure, and his mistrust of Faramir. It had become for him a prime motive to preserve the polity of Gondor, as it was, against another potentate, who had made himself stronger and was to be feared and opposed for that reason rather than because he was ruthless and wicked. Denethor despised lesser men, and one may be sure did not distinguish between orcs and the allies of Mordor. If he had survived as victor, even without use of the Ring, he would have taken a long stride towards becoming himself a tyrant, and the terms and treatment he accorded to the deluded peoples of east and south would have been cruel and vengeful. He had become a 'political' leader: sc. Gondor against the rest.

But that was not the policy or duty set out by the Council of Elrond. Only after hearing the debate and realizing the nature of the quest did Frodo accept the burden of his mission. Indeed the Elves destroyed their own polity in pursuit of a 'humane' duty. This did not happen merely as an unfortunate damage of War; it was known by them to be an inevitable result of victory, which could in no way be advantageous to Elves. Elrond cannot be said to have a political duty or purpose.
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Originally Posted by LalwendŽ
Or do you mean a tyrant in that he is not keen on the idea of relinquishing his stewardship on the emergence of Aragorn?
I suppose, yes, that's the one. And probable consequences as given above

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Old 04-15-2005, 09:47 AM   #5
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Tolkien

Actually, H-I, I - um - haven't gotten that far. I'll have to go back and take a look. But thanks for the great quote anyway! It's nice to have one's notions verified. But to answer Lalwendť myself, insofar as Denethor's rule was unjust. Tyranny existed long before modern democratic government. Tolkien's standard of comparison was, I think, medieval (pre-feudal) kingship, such as ∆lfred and his earls.
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Old 04-15-2005, 10:15 AM   #6
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Thumbs up

Good points.
In both cases the events of the stories allow for the rightful King to return without a major confrontation between the parties involved. In LotR it would have been a whole different story if Boromir had'nt died. In the film as he is dying, he tells Aragorn that he would follow him but this is'nt in the book. With his father dead he would be Steward. Would he give the throne to Aragorn? Then again, I dont think that Denethor would have killed himself if Boromir was still alive!
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Old 04-15-2005, 02:27 PM   #7
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Quite, Bywaters, and a belated welcome to the Downs!

I found the Letter and quote. It's #144. Tolkien says:

Quote:
The story is cast in terms of a good side, and a bad side, beauty against ruthless ugliness, tyranny against kingship, moderated freedom with consent against compulsion that has long lost any object save mere power, and so on...
I'd quote more but that would send this thread careening into yet another discussion of that most recalcitrant of enigmas, TB. And if you don't know what those letters stand for, don't worry, you'll find out soon enough. Count on it! ::LMP ducks::
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Old 04-15-2005, 04:07 PM   #8
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I can agree that Denethor was certainly on his way to becoming a tyrant. It is simply circumstance which prevents him becoming a full blown tyrant - the return of Aragorn and then his own death. The death of Boromir could easily have pushed him into some kind of reign of terror, but as it was, it pushed him deep into despair and thus towards his own death.

But I do wonder what might have happened if Boromir had not died. I think again, that if he had returned either with or without the ring, then this too would have pushed Denethor into tyranny. Without the ring he would have been furious and determined to prove himself in some other way, and with it he would have caused something dire to happen.

So Denethor, whichever way the circumstances had gone, was always one step away from being a tyrant, but was he quite there yet? I think he was on the brink of it, and that it was inevitable. I like this thought as it makes his story all the more threatening; and it also makes his death more palatable of course.

Aragorn is the rightful king and heir, but the difference between him and the 'sitting tenant' is that Aragorn proves himself, and wins the support of the people. I think that while Denethor was spoiled by politics, Aragorn showd how skilful use of the same could actually be of benefit. I wonder what the result might have been had someone like Faramir been steward at the time?
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Old 04-15-2005, 09:16 PM   #9
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I wonder what the result might have been had someone like Faramir been steward at the time?
The same thought occurred to me, LalwendŽ, as I read your post. I was thinking that content of character makes all the difference, and that Faramir surely made a good steward during the reign of Elessar. Also, his refusal of the Ring demonstrates how he would have ruled as Steward of Minas Tirith in the dire circumstances Denethor faced.
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Old 04-16-2005, 09:57 PM   #10
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Quote:
In the film as he is dying, he tells Aragorn that he would follow him but this is'nt in the book.
Bywaters, Jackson uses different wording then Tolkien, but the main idea is still there. Boromir has accepted the fact that Aragorn is the rightful heir..."Go to Minas Tirith and save my people! I have failed."

Quote:
Aragorn is the rightful king and heir, but the difference between him and the 'sitting tenant' is that Aragorn proves himself, and wins the support of the people.
Lalwende, this brings me to an important point. The Stewards took their duties very seriously. They weren't just about to hand the throne over, it took more than "lineage" to get the throne (as seen in Arvedui's claim). It took Boromir until his deathbed when he realized Aragorn had proven himself. Faramir had mentioned to Frodo that if a person should claim the throne they would have to prove themself. So why should Denethor bow to a man that hasn't proven himself, to the people of Gondor (yet)? Would he have done if he was still alive at the end? It's just a matter of a coin flip. Denethor's actions may seem like he just wants to stay in control (and he may have well been), but the Stewards were quite serious when dealing with who to hand the throne over to. I am also one to believe that no matter how powerful a Steward became he would have never been able to claim the title of "King," and have the powers of the King. Since, Pelendur's actions seemed to prevent the Stewards from ever claiming "Kingship."

Pelendur and the Council decided the throne belonged only to a male heir from Anarion's line, completely excluding Isildur's line, which would exclude Pelendur and the Stewards to follow.
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Old 04-17-2005, 03:19 PM   #11
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Pelendur and Arvedui the comparison, perchance?

Quote:
"Girion was lord of Dale, not king of Esgaroth," he [the master] said. "In Lake-town we have always elected masters from among the old and wise, and have not endured the rule mere fighting men. Let 'King Bard' go back to his own kingdom- Dale is now freed by his valour, and nothing hinders his return. And any that wish can go with him, if they prefer the cold stones under the shadow of the Mountain to the green shores of the lake. The wise will stay here and hope to rebuild our town, and enjoy again in time its peace and riches."
-"Fire and Water", from The Hobbit

You, I got to think that there is a LOT of similarity between what the Master says here and Pelendur's reply to Arvedui. After all, Arvedui's claim, as Heir of Isildur, was rejected by Pelendur, who basically said that Isildur had forfeited his claim to the throne of Gondor. (Which is why Aragorn stresses his position as the Heir of Elendil. If Arvedui had been rejected, then why should his Heir have a better claim?)

Let's rewrite this quote from The Hobbit, as if it were Pelendur speaking to Arvedui, and not the Master to Bard:

"Isildur was King of Arnor, and forfeited the Kingship of Gondor," he [Pelendur] said. "In Gondor we have always been ruled by Kings from the line of Anarion, and have not endured the claims of any others. Let 'King Arvedui' go back to his own kingdom- Arthedain is still free by his valour, and nothing hinders his rule. And any that wish can go with him, if they prefer the cold stones under the shadow of the Angmar to the green fields of the South. The wise will stay here and hope to rebuild our kingdom, and enjoy again in time its peace and riches."

A parallel perchance?
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Old 04-18-2005, 04:01 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Boromir88
Bywaters, Jackson uses different wording then Tolkien, but the main idea is still there. Boromir has accepted the fact that Aragorn is the rightful heir..."Go to Minas Tirith and save my people! I have failed."
The different wording between film and book reveal a subtle but important difference between Tolkien's and Jackson's vision. The "My Captain, My King" of the movie is quite dramatic and moving; it speaks of a good heart turned to the truth, and thus loyalty expressed. By comparison, "Go to Minas Tirith and save my people! I have failed" reveals a kind of spritual apotheosis: Tolkien's Boromir has discovered his own limitations. The loyalty to his people remains, but it has found its appropriate context. Tolkien's wording presents a moral change of heart, which is deeper; the badness, the evil, has been recognized and acknowledged, and confessed; and by this, Boromir dies well. I suppose this is an example of how LotR is consciously Catholic....

I found Formendacil's redaction (is that the right word?) of the quote to be fascinating; shows how Tolkien's themes run across his works.
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Old 04-18-2005, 02:49 PM   #13
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Quote:
I found Formendacil's redaction (is that the right word?) of the quote to be fascinating; shows how Tolkien's themes run across his works.
I've only read LotR and the Hobbit so cannot comment so broadly on how Tolkien's themes run through his work (it's only a matter of time!) but I see examples of this.

It seems that characters who fight on the side of good will end up being rewarded one way or the other. Like Aragorn being returned to the throne of Gondor and the Bard have Dale back to rebuild. Also, I suppose the same can be said for Boromir as he is granted forgiveness for what he did and his name will remain honourable.
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Old 04-20-2005, 01:33 PM   #14
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It seems that characters who fight on the side of good will end up being rewarded one way or the other. - bywater
Yes, if you're willing to include a decent funeral as a reward. Consider Theodred, Boromir, Theoden, and many others who lost their lives in the War. Tolkien explodes the wild assertion that fairy story is unrealistic.
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Old 04-21-2005, 10:40 AM   #15
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Yes I agree with you LMP. At the end of the day nobody of a sane mind wants to die, but at the end of the war their countries have won and their people are free from the evil that had been upon them for so long.

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It seems that characters who fight on the side of good will end up being rewarded one way or the other. - Bywaters
I was mainly referring to the Bard and Aragorn! The point I am making about Boromir is if he had taken the ring off Frodo he would have been seen by future generations (if there were to be any) as a bad or weak person like Isildur (even thought they were obviously very skilled on the battlefield). As things turned out though, he had a chance to redeem himself and his honour. Honour being very important to these noble men of high ranking positions within their communities.
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