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Old 08-21-2005, 11:35 AM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Palantir-Green LotR -- Book 5 - Chapter 07 - The Pyre of Denethor

Interestingly, this chapter begins at the same point in the story as the previous chapter, and the end of Chapter 4 - the Witch King leaves the gate of Minas Tirith as the horns of Rohan sound. However, we switch points-of-view; here, we are looking through Pippin's eyes, seeing the battle from within the city.

The first question that occurs to me is: Why does Pippin go through so much effort to save Faramir's life? Do we have any back story that would explain that? And why does Gandalf choose to save him instead of the others whom he must necessarily neglect? Why is Faramir so important?

Connected to that is the second aspect - what would have been different if Denethor had not tried to take Faramir's life, at least? Would Gandalf have been able to save Théoden? He claims that he 'might' have. Would that have made a difference to the further storyline? Speculative questions, of course, but since when have we ever let that spoil a discussion?!

We have several mentions throughout the chapter of the will of the Enemy, at work in the heart of the city. Do you think the palantír came as a surprise to Gandalf, or did he suspect that all along? Sauron's influence is most sharply felt in divisiveness, even to the point of killing friends instead of foes. What is your opinion on Beregond's role in this unhappy event? Should he have acted differently?

Gandalf speaks of the "heathen kings" and their "pride and despair"; both of the latter traits are evident in Denethor. What is the difference between that kind of suicide and the voluntary giving up of life such as Aragorn's later on, following the gift given to the Númenoreans? Could Denethor still have changed his mind and aided his city and people, and what effect could that have had on the outcome of the battle?

Denethor announces the coming arrival of the Corsair ships - did you catch that brief mention at first reading, and did that raise the suspense for you?

Tolkien often mentions the theme of change, and we see that Denethor resists any change, wishing all to remain as it is. Is that his greatest failure? What do you think of his accusations to Gandalf?

Imrahil plays a small yet vital role again - how do we account for his position that makes him a candidate for temporary ruler?

What role did the palantír play in all of this? Do you think Denethor had the right to use it?

The chapter ends with a note on the weather - the combination of fire and rain results in smoke. Do you see any significance in that?
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'Mercy!' cried Gandalf. 'If the giving of information is to be the cure of your inquisitiveness, I shall spend all the rest of my days in answering you. What more do you want to know?' 'The whole history of Middle-earth...'
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Old 08-21-2005, 11:52 AM   #2
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But Pippin rose to his feet, as if a great weight had been lifted from him; and he stood listening to the horns, and it seemed to him that they would break his heart with joy. And never in after years could he hear a horn blow in the distance without tears starting in his eyes.
This immediately struck me, because its about the ‘after-effect’ of the Eucatastropic experience. The memory of it remains with one. Its not simply an experience that happens & is then gone & forgotten, Once the individual has had the Eucatastrophic experience it can be ‘triggered’ again in other times & places. Its as if the experience involves stepping outside normal time into ‘eternity’. It is as much a ‘state’ as an experience. The horns of the Rohirrim opened a doorway for Pippin & ever afterwards the sound of a horn remained a ‘key’ to that door for him. Crying is the result of a sudden uprush of emotion, & Tolkien later speaks of tears as ‘the very wine of blessedness’. The eucatastrophic experience or ‘state’ is bound up very closely with a feeling of ‘blessedness’, of something ‘breaking through’ into one’s awareness.

Quote:
Something terrible may happen up there. The Lord is out of his mind, I think. I am afraid he will kill himself, and kill Faramir too. Can't you do something?'
Gandalf looked through the gaping Gate, and already on the fields he heard the gathering sound of battle. He clenched his hand. 'I must go,' he said. 'The Black Rider is abroad, and he will yet bring ruin on us. I have no time.'...
'Can't you save Faramir?'
'Maybe I can,' said Gandalf; 'but if I do, then others will die, I fear.
I know this is something we’ve discussed before - did Gandalf feel that it was his task to confront the WK? Was it his task? From his words it seems that he was about to follow the WK & continue the confrontation, & felt that if he didn’t go the deaths of others would follow as a consequence. Maybe its not so simple though. What we see is almost a repetition of the situation on the Bridge of Khazad dum. There Gandalf had to face the Balrog in order to save his companions. He defeated his enemy but ‘died’ in the process. The Fellowship was saved. It was a sacrifice, but a ‘simple’ one - ie the Fellowship was not split into two groups with Gandalf forced to choose which to help & which to sacrifice. Here he must do just that. If he goes onto the field in pursuit of the WK he knows that Faramir will be burned alive. If he goes to the aid of Faramir (& by extension Denethor) then ‘others’ will die at the hands of the WK. What Gandalf does is choose to help Faramir because there is no-one else to do that. He does what is necessary & trusts that things will work out for the best. This is a theme that runs right through LotR.

I want to return to Gandalf’s confrontation with Denethor later but a few things struck me on reading the early drafts.

Quote:
'Authority is not given to you, Steward of Gondor, to order the hour of your death,' answered Gandalf. 'And only the heathen kings, under the domination of the Dark Power, did thus, slaying themselves in pride and despair, murdering their kin to ease their own death.'
In this final version Gandalf uses the past tense to speak of ‘heathen kings’. In an earlier draft he uses the present tense & speaks not of the ‘Dark Power’ but of the ‘Dark Lord’. The passage as we have it could refer to either the ‘kings’ of the First Age under Morgoth or those of the Second Age under Sauron. The earlier version refers specifically to the Easterlings & Southrons who were attacking the city at that time. As to why the change was made, I wonder. The early passage makes a comparison between Denethor’s behaviour & that of his enemies, the earlier one between Denethor & rulers of the ancient past.

Quote:
'He calls,' said Gandalf, 'but you cannot come to him yet. For he must seek healing on the threshold of death, and maybe find it not. Whereas your part is to go out to the battle of your City, where maybe death awaits you. This you know in your heart.'
In an earlier draft Gandalf adds:

Quote:
For unless you go out into the battle of your city putting away despair & risking death in the field you will never speak again with him in the waking world.
This is an interesting turn of phrase - Denethor will ‘never speak again with Faramir in the waking world.’ Tolkien seems to be associating life with the ‘waking world’ & (supposedly) death with the ‘sleeping’, or dreaming, world.

Finally for now:

Quote:
And he beheld with the sight that was given to him all that had befallen; and when Eomer rode out from the forefront of his battle and stood beside those who lay upon the field, he sighed, and he cast his cloak about him again, and went from the walls.
Gandalf ‘beheld with the sight that was given to him’. This seems to be equivalent to the ‘Second Sight’. Gandalf is seeing events whish have occurred on the field while he has been confronting Denethor & saving Faramir. The words ‘that was given to him’ are interesting. Do they mean that Gandalf had this ‘gift’ as a ‘permanent’ ability - can he see into the past at will - or is it a vision gifted to him now, as a one off thing? I’d go for the former - its an ability that Gandalf has always had. It seems to function along the lines of the Palantiri - he can see distant events & past events. I don’t know if this is a form of Sanwe or not, or if the ‘power’ Gandalf is making use of is similar to that sometimes used by the Elves. What makes me doubt this is the clear statement that the ‘sight’ was given to him. It seems to be an innate skill which the Palantiri were created to mimic.

I wonder if this is pointing up a difference between Gandalf & Denethor. Gandalf’s ‘sight’ is an ability that has been ‘given to him’ & so is ‘natural’, Denethor has used the Palantir, an unnatural, artificial, means of ‘seeing’. Gandalf sees clearly & truthfully, what Denethor sees is unclear, confused & misleading. Gandalf was given his ‘sight’, Denethor took his.
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Old 08-23-2005, 04:24 AM   #3
Estelyn Telcontar
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An excellent lecture on "The Good, the Bad, and the Static: Wise Wanderers and Tired Travellers in Middle-earth" by Marjorie Willetts at 'Tolkien 2005' last week prompted me to think more deeply about Denethor's "I would have things as they were" speech in this chapter.

I know we've had past discussions about the theme of change in Tolkien's works. The events of the LotR ring in the Fourth Age, a major change in the history of Middle-earth. "Stopping change is stopping growth", Ms. Willett said, and I'm sure Tolkien would have agreed. In the context of this discussion, I will limit myself to the Steward and his failure - and/or unwillingness - to change.

Change has both a physical aspect (wandering, leaving the place where one is to go to another) and a psychological/spiritual aspect (being able to see from a different viewpoint, open to new experiences). Denethor identified himself so strongly with the one role he had to play as Steward that he was unwilling to change that role, fearing to jeopardize his identity in doing so. As so often happens, tragically, he accomplished precisely what he didn't want to - he jeopardized himself to the point of taking his own life rather than to change.

He stayed in one place, not even willing to leave his fortified city for the sake of battle. That gave him a very limited point of view - though the palantír gave him an additional one, unfortunately biased and twisted. He was not willing to see another point of view, in this case, that of Gandalf, which was the realistic one - he could have changed, could have gone out and fought. Gandalf says:
Quote:
your part is to go out to the battle of your City
(my emphasis)
But he denied himself that option. Despair resulted from his decision to remain static, though there could have been hope. (In contrast, Théoden arose, went out, and looked from a different viewpoint - and gained hope and purpose!) Choosing to stay rather than to move resulted in 'nothingness', a personal Void; he says:
Quote:
But if doom denies this to me, then I will have naught
Denethor prides himself on the knowledge he has, but knowledge is not enough. Without the experience and wisdom that comes from growth and change, he cannot profit from it.

Not only that, he takes it upon himself to make the same decision for his son Faramir! He will not allow him to make any changes. Gandalf's words are wonderful here:
Quote:
at the least you shall not rob your son of his choice
Later on, we see that Faramir decided to allow for change in his life and his office as Steward, and in doing so, he retained his identity and his task, achieving growth and wisdom.

Denethor stands in sharp contrast to Gandalf, the ultimate wanderer of Middle-earth, who has gained wisdom and experience, has a balanced point of view, and is willing to change even to the point of leaving Middle-earth when his task there is fulfilled.


PS - davem's signature quote is quite appropriate to this discussion!
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'The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water & breeds reptiles of the mind'...William Blake
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Last edited by Estelyn Telcontar; 08-23-2005 at 04:28 AM.
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Old 08-23-2005, 08:10 AM   #4
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Davem, I have always been intrigued by the "Gandalf ‘beheld with the sight that was given to him" paragraph as well. Maia vision or perhaps a touch of omnipresense? Of particular note for me was the sentence before that paragraph:

Quote:
......and there like a figure carven in white he stood in the new sun and looked out.
The most famous alliterative symbolism rearing its ugly head again.

also

Quote:
He <Gandalf> lifted up his hand, and in the very stroke, the sword of Denethor flew up and left his grasp and fell behind him in the shadows of the house;...
I wondered why that trick wasn't used on the WK.
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Old 08-23-2005, 12:24 PM   #5
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Denethor's tragedy seems to have its root in his desire for the impossible - whatever happens he will not get what he wants. He wants things to be as they were in the past. Whether Sauron achieves the victory or Aragorn returns in triumph, Denethor loses. As Esty says he has effectively 'painted himself into a corner'. He cannot move, because he has nowhere to go.

Its kind of an 'Elvish' desire - he wants to embalm the past & fix it immobile & unchanging. Only death provides a way out. Symbolically the Elves make the same choice. Once the Rings pass they can no longer hold things in stasis, so they too have no option but to leave the world. Denethor's words could have come from the mouth of any Elf:

Quote:
'What then would you have,' said Gandalf, 'if your will could have its way?'
'I would have things as they were in all the days of my life,' answered Denethor, 'and in the days of my longfathers before me:
The similarity of Denethor's death with that of Feanor is perhaps deliberate. Both are victims of pride, desirous of absolute control & contemptuous of any who are not with them.

Quote:
. But if doom denies this to me, then I will have naught: neither life diminished, nor love halved, nor honour abated.'
I can't help thinking 'doom' here is meant to echo the Doom of the Noldor.
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Old 08-24-2005, 09:38 PM   #6
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Once again Estelyn, a good introduction to the discussion!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar
Imrahil plays a small yet vital role again - how do we account for his position that makes him a candidate for temporary ruler?
You know, at this point in the story I wasn't wondering why Imrahil was given command. I wondered on what point of law or legal right Gandalf could take that decision upon himself to give a military command. What authority does Gandalf have to assign Imrahil the command?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Estelyn
What role did the palantír play in all of this? Do you think Denethor had the right to use it?
The point which I find absolutely fascinating here is the suggestion that the palantir survives the pyre of Denethor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tolkien
Casting the pieces into the blaze he bowed and laid himself on the table, clasping the palantir with both hands upon his breast. And it was said that ever after, if any man looked in that Stone, unless he had great strength of will to turn it to other purpose, he saw only two aged hands withering in flame.
What grounds for an RPG, eh?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Estelyn
The chapter ends with a note on the weather - the combination of fire and rain results in smoke. Do you see any significance in that?
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Old 08-25-2005, 12:43 AM   #7
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Eye So many themes, so little time

To take up Estelyn's first point in the introductory post: Why would Faramir be so important to Pippin and to the story? I don't know if it would be considered a backstory or not, but through Pippin's eyes we are shown more of Faramir's nature.

Although we readers have met Faramir and have already seen his fortitude in refusing to take the Ring from Frodo, Pippin knows nothing of this. He is 'introduced' to Faramir by Gandalf's description of him, and the praise of Beregond. The reader is thus given more insight into the nature of Denethor's younger son.

Gandalf:
Quote:
"He [Denethor] is not as other men of this time...by some chance the blood of Westernesse runs nearly true in him; as it does in his other son, Faramir, and yet did not in Boromir whom he loved best."
Beregond:
Quote:
"But things may change when Faramir returns. He is bold; more bold than many deem, for in these days men are slow to believe that a captain can be wise and learned in the scrolls of lore and song, as he is, yet a man of hardihood and swift judgement in the field. But such is Faramir."
We see in both these quotes the start of a pattern in which Faramir is constantly compared to his older brother, either favorably (by Gandalf and Beregond and even Sam in TTT) or unfavorably (by Denethor).

The importance of Faramir may be that he does compare so favorably with his father and brother. So far, Gondor's ruling family has been represented largely by Boromir's pride and dependence on physical prowess and Denethor's pride and dependence on his mental and political abilities. Then Pippin gets his first sight of Faramir.

Quote:
Yet suddenly for Faramir his heart was strangely moved with a feeling that he had not known before. Here was one with an air of high nobility such as Aragorn sometimes revealed, less high perhaps, yet also less incalculable and remote: one of the Kings of Men born into a later time, but touched with the wisdom and sadness of the Elder Race. He knew now why Beregond spoke his name with love. Here was a Captain that men would follow, that he would follow, even under the shadow of the black wings."
Faramir has the gift of inspiring instant devotion in his troops, he is described as both wise and courageous and in his determination to do his duty to Gondor ("unblessed" by his demanding father, no less!) we see a further example of his nobility. Perhaps Tolkien wanted to show someone besides Aragorn who could demonstrate the best of traits of the Numenorians. Or from a political standpoint, as the heir to the Stewardship Faramir was in a position to inspire resistance to Aragorn's claim to the throne of Gondor, which his father would certainly have done. With Faramir as the Steward, however, the stage is set for an orderly transfer of power into Aragorn's hands.


Also, here is a little tidbit to consider about the sons of Denethor. Boromir dying to save Pippin and Merry probably ended up saving his brother's life. Pippin swore fealty to Denethor inspired by his liking for Boromir and his gratitude for Boromir's sacrifice. Denethor kept Pippin near him as a reminder of Boromir. When Denethor decided to burn himself and Faramir, a Gondorian soldier might not have thought to question Denethor's orders or seek help from Gandalf, as Pippin did.
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Old 08-25-2005, 01:41 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Esty
Why does Pippin go through so much effort to save Faramir's life? Do we have any back story that would explain that?
I think this sentiment goes back to when Pippin first saw Faramir. He realized why Beregond spoke of his Captain with so much love and reverence, and found out for himself that Faramir is indeed the kind of leader anyone would follow even unto death. Since he has become a 'Man' of Gondor, it is his duty to look after its welfare; seeing that the ruling steward has turned pyromaniacally suicidal and is about to bring his son - his only remaining 'heir' - to the pyre with him, he knew he had to take action.

Quote:
Sauron's influence is most sharply felt in divisiveness, even to the point of killing friends instead of foes. What is your opinion on Beregond's role in this unhappy event? Should he have acted differently?
That brings me to wonder whether or not I agree with Gandalf in this:
Quote:
'Work of the Enemy!' said Gandalf. 'Such deeds he loves: friend at war with friend; loyalty divided in confusion of hearts.'
Sauron's work, as I see it, was in Denethor alone, yet it created a ripple effect that Beregond was caught up in. While Beregond's deed is not completely of Sauron's making, it was an inevitable effect. But come to think of it, did his killing of the porter bring more good than harm? If he did not resort to that, what would have happened to Faramir, and to Gondor ultimately?

Quote:
The chapter ends with a note on the weather - the combination of fire and rain results in smoke. Do you see any significance in that?
Hmm...smoke is the 'aftermath' of the rain drenching the fire. False hope? Darkness clouding the light to take away hope? A temporary truce? Can fire be rekindled from smoke?

That's all for now, folks.
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Old 08-25-2005, 11:28 AM   #9
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'Since when has the Lord of Gondor been answerable to thee?' said Denethor. 'Or may I not command my own servants?'
Denethor again shows that he believes himself to be absolute monarch of Gondor - or perhaps something more. He seems to believe that his position gives him power of life & death over his servants, There is no room on their part for moral choices. Whatever Denethor says is Law & his servants must obey. Power has gone to his head. The slaves of the Dark Lord slay themselves at the command of the WK, & it seems that Denethor demands no less. The oath sworn by Pippin (& one assumes by the others in the service of Gondor/Denethor) is very precise:

Quote:
'Here do I swear fealty and service to Gondor, and to the Lord and Steward of the realm, to speak and to be silent, to do and to let be, to come and to go, in need or plenty, in peace or war, in living or dying, from this hour henceforth, until my lord release me, or death take me, or the world end.
In Denethor’s mind at least this oath is little better than an ‘oath’ of slavery. Once sworn it gives Denethor power to command whatever he will & obliges (as far as he is concerned) his servants to obey his will without question. He cannot seem to get free of this idea - even when his ‘power’ extends to the life & death of his son. He simply cannot understand how anyone in his service could question any of his commands.

The interesting thing is that when he is confronted with the outcome of his command to Faramir he is broken by it. He commanded his son to undertake what was effectively a suicide mission, but when his son is apparently mortally wounded as a result of his order, he snaps. He claims the power of life & death over others, but he cannot accept the consequences. Shockingly, he still cannot break himself of using that power. He has seen the result of its use first hand & yet he is still driven by his pride to command his servants to commit murder. Like Saruman, he has looked into the Palantir & striven with Sauron. Saruman surrendered, Denethor did not, but it seems that in some way both of them ended up by ‘imitating’ Sauron in the way they treat their servants.

What’s interesting in this context is the way Denethor’s servants seem to accept this power. They don’t seem (apart from Beregond) to question Denethor’s will. They seem little better than robots, apparently feeling that the oath they swore removes their own moral responsibility & they can claim that whatever they do they we’re ‘only obeying orders’. We see how far Gondor has fallen.

Finally, Denethor’s comment is interesting:

Quote:
'Hope on then!' laughed Denethor. 'Do I not know thee, Mithrandir? Thy hope is to rule in my stead, to stand behind every throne, north, south, or west.
Denethor accuses Gandalf of desiring to replace him and to ‘stand behind every throne’. Denethor betrays his true sense of himself here - he, Denethor, should rightfully stand behind every throne - not Gandalf. He can only think in terms of rule, power, control. In his mind Gandalf can desire no more than to replace him - what higher aim could he have? Saruman has accused Gandalf of the same desire & no doubt Sauron believes the same thing. Once exposed to the mind & will of Sauron it seems that the individual is infected by his mindset - whether they surrender & offer fealty or not.
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Old 08-25-2005, 12:46 PM   #10
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Imrahil plays a small yet vital role again - how do we account for his position that makes him a candidate for temporary ruler?
Quote:
You know, at this point in the story I wasn't wondering why Imrahil was given command. I wondered on what point of law or legal right Gandalf could take that decision upon himself to give a military command. What authority does Gandalf have to assign Imrahil the command?
I suppose it might seem a bit presumptuous for Gandalf to go around appointing people and such, but seeing as he is a person of importance in the city (he was a seventh circle regular, a royal advisor, and was given clearance to come and go as he pleased) he might as well give orders, especially since he knew what was best.

For instance, when my friends and I play a game of football, I don't hold any sort of legal power, but when I say "Ok, here's what we're going to do..." my friends don't argue with me. They believe that I am properly qualified to lead them and make decisions so I really don't need to "pull rank" on them.

I think the same thing goes for Gandalf. He is qualified to lead and make decisions and he is powerful and everyone knows it, so why not give orders?
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Old 08-25-2005, 12:57 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the phantom
I suppose it might seem a bit presumptuous for Gandalf to go around appointing people and such, but seeing as he is a person of importance in the city (he was a seventh circle regular, a royal advisor, and was given clearance to come and go as he pleased) he might as well give orders, especially since he knew what was best.

For instance, when my friends and I play a game of football, I don't hold any sort of legal power, but when I say "Ok, here's what we're going to do..." my friends don't argue with me. They believe that I am properly qualified to lead them and make decisions so I really don't need to "pull rank" on them.

I think the same thing goes for Gandalf. He is qualified to lead and make decisions and he is powerful and everyone knows it, so why not give orders?
Because Mithrandir has a dubious reputation in several places over Middle-earth and it is only readers who have a complete trust in him. And Pippin and the hobbits. Make that only these particular hobbits.

My question isn't really so much about 'pulling rank' as asking how and why characters in M-e come to have 'authority.' Or even simply, 'what is authority?'--which is I think one of the larger issues in this chapter especially in light of Beregond.
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Old 08-25-2005, 02:15 PM   #12
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how and why characters in M-e come to have 'authority.'
Oh, that's an easy one. According to Dennis the peasant, the authority comes from "a mandate from the masses".
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Old 08-27-2005, 07:05 AM   #13
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Pipe The Palantír, foreshadowing, heathen kings and 'Beowulf'

I'm of the opinion that a farcical aquatic ceremony is the only legitimate means of conferring true authority.

Now that my jest is guaranteed an intelligible context, here are a few brief thoughts on this chapter.

In her excellent introduction, Estelyn posed the question:
Quote:
Do you think the palantír came as a surprise to Gandalf, or did he suspect that all along?
I think that we can approach an answer by looking at an earlier passage. In Minas Tirith, Beregond tells Pippin:
Quote:
And the Lord Denethor is not like other men: he sees far. Some say that as he sits alone in his high chamber inm the Tower at night, and bends his thought this way and that, he can read somewhat of the future; and that he will at times search even the mind of the Enemy, wrestling with him.
If this rumour, which was obviously current among the guards of the Citadel, reached Gandalf's ears, I doubt that he would have found it very difficult to put together 'he sees far' and the meaning of Palantír. In fact, I think it very likely that Gandalf knew that there was a Palantír in Minas Tirith, and feared that someone might be tempted to use it.

The reference to 'wrestling' with Sauron naturally brings to mind the earlier contest which Aragorn initiated using the Palantír of Orthanc, which he won only by the narrowest of margins. The events of this chapter are, then, foreshadowed much earlier in the narrative and only at this point explained as they come to a head.

The reference to 'heathen kings' reminds me of a passage from Beowulf, one of the narrator's many Christian comments on the events in the narrative:

Quote:
Hwilum hie geheton æt hærgtrafum
wigweorþunga, wordum bædon
þæt him gastbona geoce gefremede
wið þeodþreaum. Swylc wæs þeaw hyra,
hæþenra hyht; helle gemundon

in modsefan, metod hie ne cuþon,
dæda demend, ne wiston hie drihten god,
ne hie huru heofena helm herian ne cuþon,
wuldres waldend.

Sometimes at pagan shrines they vowed
offerings to idols, swore oaths
that the killer of souls might come to their aid
and save the people. That was their way,
their heathenish hope; deep in their hearts
they remembered hell. The Almighty Judge
of good deeds and bad, the lord God,
Head of the Heavens and High King of the World,
was unknown to them.

Lines 185a-173a. Translation by Seamus Heaney.
The appeal of both of these comments is to an awareness of the superiority of present faith over the untutored heathendom of the past. Gandalf is appealing to Denethor's cultural vanity by comparing him with the untutored forebears of Men. The implication is that there is a higher power than temporal strength at work in the world, but Denethor's pride will never allow him to see it. He has been considering the struggle in terms of military strength and political alliance, so that he succumbs to despair just as his fortunes are about to revive. Those who hope on against all odds, whom he considers to be deluding themselves, are eventually justified.

I'm afraid that I don't have time to give any more than those very brief ideas, but I hope that they are of some use.
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Old 08-27-2005, 08:15 AM   #14
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Hmm, Gandalf taking charge never seemed strange to me, although I suppose there isn't a clear "authorization" from the Gondorian leadership of the moment for him to do so. But if not Gandalf, who is left to take charge? Denethor is not behaving rationally and Faramir ill, so there's no one in the House of Stewards that I'm aware of who could take charge. The Prince would be a candidate as another prominent leader, but he too goes to Gandalf for guidance. I suppose he could have implied permission from Aragorn, who will be the last word in Gondor once he reclaims the throne.

With regard to the weather, I thought it was interesting that the wind specifically brought the rain, given the importance of winds as messengers (the song as Boromir is sent down the river, the West wind rejecting Saruman after his death, etc). I also don't remember if rain is always grey. Frodo's grey rain-curtain as he reaches the West was the first image that came to mind on this re-reading.
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Old 08-29-2005, 09:08 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by The Squatter of Amon Rûdh
(Denethor) has been considering the struggle in terms of military strength and political alliance, so that he succumbs to despair just as his fortunes are about to revive.
I think that Denethor saw this as a lose-lost situation for him. Either Sauron wins and D's out of power, losing his whole city in the bargain, or the forces of good win, the King returns to take his throne, and again D's out of power, now as a vassal to the true and rightful king.

For one so filled with pride as Denethor, this would be an untennable situation.

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Old 08-30-2005, 02:12 AM   #16
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The Squatter of Amon Rudh said
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I'm of the opinion that a farcical aquatic ceremony is the only legitimate means of conferring true authority.
Right, you can't go around saying you're king just because some watery tart threw a sword at you. <pausing for fond contemplation of 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'>

Okay, to get back on topic: I have always thought that Gandalf was able to take up authority in Gondor after the battle of Pelenor Fields simply because he was on the spot and started taking care of things that needed to done, starting with sending Faramir to the Houses of Healing. And really, there aren't any other candidates available right after the battle: Denethor, dead; Faramir, at death's door; Prince Imrahil, busy on the battlefield plus he's not actually Gondorian -- he's part of the Steward's family by marriage; Aragorn, not willing to take on the leadership of the city officially; Eomer, certainly not Gondorian and busy with his own people. Of course, Gandalf isn't Gondorian either, but he is at least sane, healthy and not as tired as the rest of the leadership is after fighting for most of the last 24 hours.

As Gandalf isn't making a bid for permanent power and is trying to get things under control, why not let him run things for awhile?
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Old 09-04-2005, 12:01 PM   #17
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'Ever your desire is to appear lordly and generous as a king of old, gracious, gentle. That may well befit one of high race, if he sits in power and peace. But in desperate hours gentleness may be repaid with death.’

‘So be it,’ said Faramir.

'So be it!’ cried Denethor. ‘But not with your death only, Lord Faramir: with the death also of your father and all of your people, whom it is your part to protect now that Boromir is gone.’

From 'The Siege of Gondor’, The Return of the King
This passage from a chapter we earlier read, haunts me when reading the ‘The Pyre of Denethor’. And brings two or maybe three impressions. Besides the conversion dissolving into being a rather a textbook example fathering techniques to avoid a short sentence later, this I think shows not only Denethor judgment of his son, but his own worry. He is worried that Faramir’s gentleness will be repaid in death, he expects it. I think that this is one reason why he was drawn to Boromir, for he was more bold than gentle, and also why Denthor was so willing to believe Faramir was not going to recover. What he feared was coming true despite his best effort. And ironically Denethor was bringing about this end himself with a mad sort of tenderness.

It was also interesting to note that he mentions that his son’s behavior should cause not only the death of his people but of his father also. Is this the logic of Denethor as he orders the pyre constructed? For gentle Faramir he believes is dying, and his people also are dying, must Denethor therefore die too?

The emphasis in this chapter for me is how the will of Sauron is bring carried out in the stronghold though Denethor. I doubt that a more effective agent could have been used, even spies or moles in the city would not have had this deeply felt effect! I know that I am no doubt in the minority, but I have always liked Denethor, though I despised the way he treated his sons. It is tragic how such a bright man, unwittingly, was so used without realizing it. Even in the end he seems to think his death is in defiance, when it is in reality a victory for the Dark Lord. How much more dispiriting to the people to have a leader kill himself, then to die fighting like Theoden. And what a contrast between what is happening in the lower city where the enemy is recognisible, to what is happening at the top levels where the enemy's intent is disguised and it's protective armor is the oath of service the the city and its Lord.

As for Gandalf’s decision to help Faramir, I believe there is a clue back in the chapter ‘Minas Tirith’

Quote:
Gandalf is speaking:
‘But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come.
I submit that Gandalf viewed Faramir a such a one.
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Old 09-05-2005, 02:13 AM   #18
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Of Pippin's plea for Gandalf to save Faramir, the wizard had this to say:
Quote:
'Maybe I can,' said Gandalf; 'but if I do, then others will die, I fear. Well, I must come, since no other help can reach him. But evil and sorrow will come of this.'
These words reminded me of a not-so-similar situation that involved Aragorn, a few chapters before:
Quote:
'I have no help to send, therefore I must go myself,' said Aragorn. 'But there is only one way through the mountains that will bring me to the coastlands before all is lost. That is the Paths of the Dead.'
They both were the only persons who could somehow amend their respective situations, and their decisions have their respective downsides. But they sensed the urgency and were willing to lay aside any doubts or inhibitions - in Aragorn's case maybe losing his own life, and with Gandalf, losing someone else's.

As for evil and sorrow, these others felt in response to Aragorn. The latter was expressed by Éomer and Théoden...
Quote:
'Alas! Aragorn my friend!' said Éomer. 'I had hoped that we should ride to war together; but if you seek the Paths of the Dead, then our parting is come, and it is little likely that we shall ever meet again under the Sun.'
Quote:
'You will do as you will, my lord Aragorn,' said Théoden. 'It is your doom, maybe, to tread strange paths that others dare not. This parting grieves me, and my strength is lessened by it; but now I must take the mountain-roads and delay no longer. Farewell!'
...and the former by his companion, Gimli.
Quote:
'The Paths of the Dead!' said Gimli. 'It is a fell name, and little to the liking to the Men of Rohan, as I saw. Can the living use such a road and not perish?'
Later Pippin and Gandalf, on Shadowfax, made their way to where the Steward is.
Quote:
They passed on; and as they climbed and drew near to the Citadel they felt the wind blowing in their faces, and they caught the glimmer of morning far away, a light growing in the southern sky. But it brought little hope to them, not knowing what evil lay before them.
It is interesting that in the previous chapter (or the one before it?) Merry and Théoden's observations and their corresponding emotions completely mirrored this scene. They were initially filled with dread, fearing the worst as they found that they had arrived too late. But later on, Merry felt the wind on his face; they saw the same light glimmering and took great hope in the same morning that lay beyong them.

Quote:
But Gandalf sprang up the steps, and the men fell back from him and covered their eyes; for his coming was like the incoming of a white light into a dark place, and he came with great anger.
I experience almost everyday having to squint my eyes upon waking up; the sudden bright light just feels so painful after 'seeing darkness' for so long as I slept. The pupils of the eyes, which are involuntarily dilated in the dark to allow the passage of more light (not sure if this applies in sleep, though) cannot contract rapidly enough to control the amount of light that enters the eyes. Thus, for a moment, I seem to be blinded, and would have to wait until my pupils are adjusted.

In Denethor's case here, though, he seemed to be in perpetual blindness. It's as if his eyes have never seen light ever since Boromir died. Gandalf came and tried to 'enlighten' him, even giving his 'eyes' a chance to 'readjust' to his light. But sadly, Denethor was too deep into his own darkness that he shunned the light - and it was this darkness that brought him to his death.

Quote:
'I would have things as they were in all the days of my life,' answered Denethor, 'and in the days of my longfathers before me: to be the lord of this City in peace, and leave my chair to a son after me, who would be his own master and no wizard's pupil.'
Tapos papagalitan mo si Faramir?

Oops. I just found it ironic that Denethor said those words after saying these to Faramir in the Siege chapter:
Quote:
'I know you well. Ever your desire is to appear lordly and generous as a king of old, gracious, gentle. That may well befit one of high race, if he sits in power and peace. But in desperate hours gentleness may be repaid with death.'
Do these explain Denethor's less preference for Faramir?
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Old 09-05-2005, 09:39 AM   #19
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"I would have things as they were in all the days of my life," answered Denethor, "and in the days of my longfathers before me: to be the Lord of this City in peace, and leave my chair to a son after me, who would be his own master and no wizard's pupil. But if doom denies this to me, then I will have naught: neither life diminished, nor love halved, nor honour abated."
Several people have commented on this passage; I'd like to compare it to another: one of Faramir's -
Quote:
"For myself," said Faramir, "I would see the White Treee in flower again in the courts of the kings, and the Silver Crown return, and Minas Tirith in peace: Minas Anor again as of old, full of light, high and fair, beautiful as a queen among other queens (...)"
We are told several times how similar Faramir and Denethor are, and I think this is a very good example. Both are shown to be idealists, and both want things to be as they were and not as they are. This is probably the end of the similarities, though, and probably the reason for strife between the two of them. Denethor is very selfish; he looks at things in terms of himself. A good example is how he seems to view Gondor in terms of himself, as davem as stated so many times. This selfishness turns those three things he lists (neither life diminished, nor love halved, nor honour abated) from honorable sounding things to the corrupted rantings of a man in despair. Just to look at the words, they seem to be quite reasonable and very idealistic, even honourable. However, Denethor means these things in terms of himself: to him, the diminishing on life is the life in which a king not a steward rules; he wants all the love of his son, his knights, and "his" country to belong only to him; and he wants all the honor to remain steadfast to him. If life can't be as it was, he doesn't want there to be any life at all. Faramir, on the other hand, looks further back than just the stewards. He wants things to be as they were in the days of Numenor, or, barring that, the days of the kings. Instead of viewing his ideals from the perspective of himself, he sees his city in the days of glory, and desires peace under the rule of a king. Denethor, who only wants power for himself, cannot understand this.

Quote:
Could Denethor still have changed his mind and aided his city and people, and what effect could that have had on the outcome of the battle?
Given Denethor's personality, I'm not sure that he could. He had built himself a wall of selfishness and pride so high that I'm not sure that he would have been able to knock it down. It would have required an immense change of heart for Denethor to go out and aid his people. Cf.:
Quote:
"He uses others as his weapons. So do all great lords, if they are wise, Master Halfling. Or why should I sit here in my tower and think, and watch, and wait, spending even my sons? For I can still wield a brand."
Quote:
"Yet the Lord of Gondor is not to be made the tool of other men's purposes, however worthy."
I don't doubt that Denethor would see the possibility of going out to lead his troops as going "because Gandalf told him to."
Quote:
"I will not step down to be the dotard chamberlain of an upstart... I will not bow to such a one."
Then there's all that he says about fighting being in vain... Denethor is very deep in, and I honestly don't think that he could go out to fight if he wanted to, and he certainly won't after Gandalf has told him to.

Of brief interest is the use of fire - from the chapter "Minas Tirith:"
Quote:
and now Pippin saw a likeness between the two, and he felt the strain between them, almost as if he saw a line of smouldering fire, drawn from eye to eye, that might suddenly burst into flame.
I'd say that this strain bursts into flame in this chapter... both figuratively and literally.

Quote:
Sauron's influence is most sharply felt in divisiveness, even to the point of killing friends instead of foes. What is your opinion on Beregond's role in this unhappy event? Should he have acted differently?
I think that Beregond had one of the hardest roles in this chapter, if not the hardest. He had not been released from his post as Pippin had, and he was not allowed to leave it. Following orders is a large part of the military and those who don't can be punished severely. He has a choice: does he follow his orders, leaving Faramir to his death, or does he disobey in hopes of saving Faramir, the captain whom he loves? Denethor has proven that he no longer has the right to rule, and I think that Beregond can hardly be blamed for leaving his post. Ultimately, he makes the best choice that he probably could have in this situation and does what he thinks is right. A bible verse comes to mind: in Acts, the apostles say, "We must obey God rather than men." While there is not a god in question here, Beregond has to obey either what he thinks is right or what Denethor (indirectly) has ordered him to do. As for killing the porter, Beregond has to make another extremely difficult choice: either the porter dies and Faramir (could) live, or the porter lives and Faramir does die. This is not a fair choice for Beregond to make; it should not be up to him to decide whether Faramir's or the porter's life is "more valuable," which is in essence what he has to do. For Faramir to live, the porter had to die. The same goes for the servants that he killed, except that by this time he knew that Faramir was still alive. What it came down to was Beregond's loyalties, and those were to Faramir and what he considered right. There were no real right choices to make, but he did the best he could in a difficult situation.
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Old 09-07-2005, 04:30 AM   #20
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I was listening in my second 'school' last night to a lecture on the proper way to give correction. The main points included the use of wisdom (the example given was that of the prophet Nathan telling a parable to convict King David of murdering Uriah and getting his wife, Bathsheba, for himself - from 1 (or 2?) Samuel), gentleness, and love. Naturally I thought of Gandalf, how he dealt with Denethor in the final days of his life. Not that I'm accusing Gandalf, but can we say that he erred in the way he rebuked Denethor's faults? And going further, can we even say he is partly responsible for the Steward's death?

Feel free to stone me for thinking such.
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Old 09-11-2005, 12:29 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alphaelin
Okay, to get back on topic: I have always thought that Gandalf was able to take up authority in Gondor after the battle of Pelenor Fields simply because he was on the spot and started taking care of things that needed to done, starting with sending Faramir to the Houses of Healing. And really, there aren't any other candidates available right after the battle: Denethor, dead; Faramir, at death's door; Prince Imrahil, busy on the battlefield plus he's not actually Gondorian -- he's part of the Steward's family by marriage; Aragorn, not willing to take on the leadership of the city officially; Eomer, certainly not Gondorian and busy with his own people. Of course, Gandalf isn't Gondorian either, but he is at least sane, healthy and not as tired as the rest of the leadership is after fighting for most of the last 24 hours.

As Gandalf isn't making a bid for permanent power and is trying to get things under control, why not let him run things for awhile?
I'm not challenging Gandalf's authority; I'm not saying he shouldn't 'run things for awhile'. I am rather more interested in how Tolkien depicts the development of Gandalf's authority.

For the record, the scene I referred to between Imrahil and Gandalf occurs before Denethor's death. Imrahil does not know what occurs in the dark back room of the Steward's rule. While we readers thoroughly no doubt concur with Gandalf doing something, how is it that Tolkien has characters, who are not privy to our knowledge courtesy the narration's omniscience, submit to Gandalf?

What makes intellectual domination possible? What forces spark Imrahil's imagination and those of others to submit to Gandalf's authority? Is it simply a matter of 'weaker' characters submitting to someone who acts and speaks as if he knows what's going on? It is a will to find some order in the chaos?

I suppose I am asking because I am very intrigued by the differences between Gandalf the Grey and Gandalf the White. We know, we are told, that Gandalf has been given carte blanche to deploy all his powers after he returns from his fight with the balrog. But what does this mean? Can he use his words and eloquence the way Saruman does? So how do those who willingly submit know that he is right? How is his use of his powers different from the way that, say, Saruman deployed his abilities? Is it simply that by definition Gandalf is one of the good guys and so he can establish his dominion--I won't say domination--without question? Or does the side of good use different strategies to produce choice among followers?

This question no doubt requires reference to far more than this scene in this chapter, but I find it interesting. In part, it is answered by the way Gandalf proceeds in "The Last Debate", but that occurs after this scene with Imrahil.
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Old 10-07-2005, 01:08 PM   #22
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Eye In response to Beth's question...

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how is it that Tolkien has characters, who are not privy to our knowledge courtesy the narration's omniscience, submit to Gandalf?
Perhaps those who are the most noble and good can somehow sense the nobility and goodness of Gandalf?

Faramir is without a doubt the purest, if you get what I mean, of the Steward's household (Denethor, Boromir, Faramir), and notice that he is the one who is accused of being a "wizard's pupil".

Also, what about the hobbits of the Shire? You don't see Ted Sandyman or Lotho Baggins being chummy with Gandalf, do you? No, you see Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin following him- the best of the hobbits.

It seems to me that Gandalf (particularly Gandalf the White) has only a thin veil over his nature, which is undoubtedly "good", which means that his goodness can be sensed by anyone with a halfway perceptive heart and mind. Therefore, those who are both good and perceptive are likely to follow him without much hesitation.

To see how this works, simply look at the way the hobbits react to Aragorn when they first meet him and don't know if they should trust him. Which hobbit is the first to give Aragorn the benefit of the doubt? Frodo- the most perceptive of the hobbits. Frodo senses Aragorn's goodness. Frodo said this to Aragorn-
Quote:
'I believed that you were a friend before the letter came,' he said, 'or at least I wanted to. You have frightened me several times tonight, but never in the way that servants of the Enemy would, or so I imagine. I think one of his spies would- well, seem fairer and feel fouler, if you understand.'
Eomer also senses Aragorn's nature when he first meets him. Like Frodo, he trusts Aragorn enough to essentially place his life in Aragorn's hands. He even says it-
Quote:
In this I place myself, and maybe my very life, in the keeping of your good faith. Do not fail.
Eomer also liked Gandalf. When he learned of his death he said this-
Quote:
'That is heavy tidings,' said Eomer. 'At least to me, and to many; though not to all, as you may find, if you come to the king.'
As you can see, certain characters, such as Eomer and Frodo, just know who to trust. It must be a result of them perceiving the true nature of others.

In Gandalf's case, his true nature is probably less hidden than most. He is the white rider, sent by the Valar and then sent back by Eru himself! He is the very symbol of opposition to Sauron. Because of this, I'm not at all surprised that Sauron's opponents find it easy to take orders from Gandalf.
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Old 10-15-2005, 04:44 PM   #23
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A very late afterthought to this discussion on what authority Gandalf could take command in Minas Tirith:
Well, it was Denethor himself who "authorized" him, in a way!
In "the Siege of Gondor", after Faramir had been brought back wounded and unconscious and Denethor was sitting at his bed:
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Men came to the door crying for the Lord of the City.
"Nay, I will not come down," he said. "I must stay beside my son. He might still speak before the end. But that is near. Follow whom you will, even the Grey Fool, though his hope has failed. Here I stay."
So it was that Gandalf took command of the defence of the City of Gondor.
Wherever he came, men's hearts would lift again, and the winged shadows pass from memory.
Why shouldn't they feel it right to follow him, if he had that rousing influence on people! Besides, he went about the City accompanied by the Prince of Dol Amroth.

I must say, I wondered too about Denethor's servants - that they would obey him so blindly, to the degree of actually helping to kill him and Faramir ! ( "Kadavergehorsam" this is called in German) Can't understand the doorwarden either, who would rather fight to the last than let Beregond- who after all was not an enemy! pass.
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Old 11-22-2008, 09:29 AM   #24
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Found a couple of mentions of staff-breaking by a Steward (Worcester) in Shakespeare (Richard II)

Quote:
GREEN
We have: whereupon the Earl of Worcester
Hath broke his staff, resign'd his stewardship
,
And all the household servants fled with him
To Bolingbroke.
&

Quote:
HENRY PERCY

No, my good Lord; he hath forsook the court,
Broken his staff of office and dispersed
The household of the king.
For what it's worth.... Certainly it seems that Tolkien is tapping a primary world tradition in having Denethor break his staff when he surrenders his office.
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Old 11-29-2008, 11:53 PM   #25
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I suppose I am asking because I am very intrigued by the differences between Gandalf the Grey and Gandalf the White. We know, we are told, that Gandalf has been given carte blanche to deploy all his powers after he returns from his fight with the balrog. But what does this mean? Can he use his words and eloquence the way Saruman does? So how do those who willingly submit know that he is right? How is his use of his powers different from the way that, say, Saruman deployed his abilities? Is it simply that by definition Gandalf is one of the good guys and so he can establish his dominion--I won't say domination--without question?
Well, to answer your second question: yes, yes he can, provided that the White Wizard does not overstep the bounds set by the Valar over all the Istari: not to use Power against the Dark Lord in the East, and not to dominate Elves nor Men.

Through the use of this Power, the Voice, Saruman swayed men to his dominion, such as the men of Dunland who rose up against the Rohirrim at the Battle of the Hornburg. This is because Saruman wanted Domination, and it is for this reason that he was deposed by Gandalf, being stripped of staff and color. However, Gandalf, through the use of the White Voice, if you will, is not seeking dominion, or Domination, of the minds of Men or Halflings: he wishes for Minas Tirith to be held against the forces of the Enemy. This is why Gandalf deserves this carte blanche: he is not taken by the desires which have long gnawed at the heart of Saruman, and this is why he was even allowed to come back from the battle with the Balrog.

This all being said, there is no place where any of those who listen to the counsels of Gandalf remark that they feel they are being swayed by leechcraft, except perhaps Theoden, when he is healed by Gandalf. This could be because they are not aware of his spellwork, as they were when they had the parley with Saruman at Isengard. However, I myself doubt this. It is not in Gandalf's character (so far as we the reader know) to manipulate maliciously.


((This is fun! I might come back and read with youse more often. ))
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Old 11-30-2008, 10:40 AM   #26
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Some people are picking up very old threads. Does that necessitate reading them over again to see what's what?

Guinevere's quote is excellent for pointing out the significant effect of Gandalf's presence, the inspiring sense of hope. It is a very Obama-like situation. And Strongbow--welcome to the Downs--will your posts be as a good libation?--is spot on that Gandalf does not operate to gain power for himself.

Yet in so many other situations Gandalf did not inspire hope, but suspicion. What changed to bring hope into Gandy's presence here and now at the Seige?

by the by, it is interesting to note that Denethor does not seem to acknowledge the White in Gandalf, as Denethor calls him the Grey Fool.
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Old 10-23-2018, 11:52 AM   #27
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Does it not bother anyone else that every time there is some surprise revelation Gandalf goes "Oh yeah, I knew that for a long time!". I think the only one he admitted to not knowing or suspecting was the Balrog. It bothers me, like he has to show that he knows best even though he didn't do anything about it when there was still a chance to prevent something. Denethor's palantir gazing was a topic of rumour as far as Rohan, though no one actually suspected a palantir (except know-it-all Gandalf of course). So if Gandalf thought this was the source of Denethor's knowledge and also his madness, could he have not used his suspicion to convince Denethor he is not all-knowing and all-powerful? Convince him that Gandalf can know something too, and through his own cleverness rather than a magic item? It's debatable if Denethor could have been scared or humbled into sanity or at least submission, but could Gandalf have at least tried? I'm not making a case against Gandalf here, but it just bugs me that - once again - he claims he suspected the thing after it happens.
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Old 10-23-2018, 12:15 PM   #28
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Does it not bother anyone else that every time there is some surprise revelation Gandalf goes "Oh yeah, I knew that for a long time!". I think the only one he admitted to not knowing or suspecting was the Balrog. It bothers me, like he has to show that he knows best even though he didn't do anything about it when there was still a chance to prevent something. Denethor's palantir gazing was a topic of rumour as far as Rohan, though no one actually suspected a palantir (except know-it-all Gandalf of course).
Heh, that's actually something I like about Gandalf's personality (maybe because in my younger days I affected the same trait on occasion ).

In The Hobbit there's that line about Gandalf not minding explaining his cleverness more than once, and that's just the way he rolls, so to speak. I cut him some slack: he's an immortal being wearing a mortal form and subject to bodily constraints; he has to use guile and persuasion (with the very limited expression of raw power) to induce lesser beings more concerned with their own problems to pay attention to Sauron; and he also must deal tactfully with the big egos who think they should be the leaders against Sauron's menace. Maybe pointing out when he's right is an effort to put across the idea of "See? I was right again. When will you bloody listen to me?"

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So if Gandalf thought this was the source of Denethor's knowledge and also his madness, could he have not used his suspicion to convince Denethor he is not all-knowing and all-powerful? Convince him that Gandalf can know something too, and through his own cleverness rather than a magic item? It's debatable if Denethor could have been scared or humbled into sanity or at least submission, but could Gandalf have at least tried? I'm not making a case against Gandalf here, but it just bugs me that - once again - he claims he suspected the thing after it happens.
Gandalf seems particularly rankled by Denethor's arrogant assumption that he's pulling a fast one on everyone, friends and enemies alike, with too much trust in his own abilities and authority. I'm pretty sure Gandalf overtly telling Denethor he knew about the Stone would have been counterproductive, since D was already suspicious of Gandalf and his motives, and the death of Boromir didn't exactly raise Gandalf's status with him either.
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Old 10-23-2018, 02:11 PM   #29
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Heh, that's actually something I like about Gandalf's personality (maybe because in my younger days I affected the same trait on occasion ).
I'm the opposite, I guess. Knowing something bad that you can prevent and not speaking up or doing anything about it just frustrates me so much. "Sorry your pie burned. I could tell it was burning in the oven for an hour now because of the smell and smoke and fire alarms, but I was not 100% sure and I preferred you to discover it for yourself." Gee thanks.

I do agree that there probably wasn't much Gandalf could reasonably have achieved with Denethor even if he tried. It's more the know-it-all attitude after the thing happened that annoys me.
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Old 03-10-2019, 06:53 AM   #30
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Before thinking about my reread, in response to the ancient questions above about Gandalf's authority to put Imrahil in command, it seems to me that the context of their conversation is missing: Gandalf doesn't have to convince Gondor that Imrahil is in command, just Imrahil. As noted above, Imrahil is disposed as "a good person" to trust Gandalf--and in case we have any doubt that this new, minor character is a good person, we just saw him (albeit in what will be his future) effectively saving Eowyn and being leagued with Aragorn and Imrahil.

So if Gandalf convinces Imrahil to take command, I think he's all set. Argue, if you will, whether it would be within the scope of the prince's authority to take charge of Gondor's military, but I don't think there's any doubt that he would be obeyed if he gave orders--unless someone arrived with the Steward's authority to gainsay him, and the Steward has been AWOL for days. "The Siege of Gondor" shows that when Denethor abandons care for the defences that it's Gandalf and Imrahil going about motivating the troops. Quite apart from that, however, he's the highest ranked noble in the city and brother-in-law to the Steward (and I think we can say that his presence in the city's hour of need--as the Lord of Belfalas--is telling when Gondor's south is so threatened, and thus so unable to send significant numbers--is telling of his close loyalty to the Steward).

As for the reread... "The Pyre of Denethor" is a favourite chapter of mine. The tragedy of the House of Denethor is one of my favourite bits, engaging in its own right and a perfect answer to anyone who says Tolkien wrote only in black and white.

Beregond's dilemma and choices are equally grey, even if his own character is far more clear-cut. Following orders is not a minor matter for a soldier in war and slaying the doorwarden is as murky a moral.choice as anything Gollum does.
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Old 03-10-2019, 09:46 AM   #31
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I always assumed Gandalf "gave" Imrahil command fairly informally; Imrahil seems to have been wise enough to have recognised Gandalf's good sense, and as Formendacil has said, he alone needed to be convinced, perhaps even just informed; Imrahil was (by position at least) possibly the second most important man in Gondor after Denethor himself.

(Prince of Dol Amroth seems to have been one of the highest positions in the realm; his ancestor had been "chief" of Cirion's companions at the swearing of the Oath of Eorl, and one of only four men (along with Cirion and Eorl themselves, and Eorl's own Chief Captain Éomund) who decided on the boundaries of Rohan.)

It was probably Imrahil's responsibility in the chain of command to take charge at that point, and simply needed someone better-informed than himself at that time, who he respected, to tell him that he needed to take on that role.
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Old 03-10-2019, 11:06 AM   #32
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I agree; Imrahil was the Senior Surviving Officer, both given the elevated status of the Principality of Dol Amroth as the premier peerage of the realm, as well as his being Denethor's and Faramir's nearest living kinsman

Gandalf just had to elbow him in the ribs to remember his cue (in part because Imrahil was expecting Aragorn to step up on the spot).
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