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The Siege of Gondor V -- “Alas, alas for Boromir!”
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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Sep 26 2008, 9:43pm

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The Siege of Gondor V -- “Alas, alas for Boromir!” Can't Post

This post covers the chapter’s fifth section.

Faramir reports to his father on his mission in Ithilien and his encounter with Frodo, Sam, and Gollum. He assures Gandalf that Sauron’s darkness has nothing to do with the hobbits. Denethor is unhappy with Faramir for letting Frodo take the Ring to Mordor. He argues with Gandalf that it would have been better to have locked the Ring away.

Questions
1. The conversation takes place in Denethor’s “private chamber” with chairs placed around a “brazier of charcoal”. Only Denethor, Faramir, Gandalf, and Pippin are mentioned by name, but the following section begins with, “All now took leave of the Lord”, and the next morning, Imrahil will say that “Faramir has told us” of activity across the river. How many people are in the room now?

2. Gandalf has been eager to see Faramir, but as Faramir reports on his command in Ithilien, Gandalf “seemed at first to be asleep”. What?

3. As Faramir narrates his meeting with Frodo and Sam, “now and again his glance strayed to Pippin, as if to refresh his memory of others that he had seen” (emphasis added). As if? If not for that reason, then why?

4. Gandalf starts at Faramir’s news, and Pippin almost cries out. Denethor, noting their reactions, “nodded his head, as though in sign that he had read much there before it was spoken”. What does Denethor know, before Faramir reports? Did he perhaps see Faramir and the hobbits together?

5. After assuring Gandalf that the darkness overhead appeared before the hobbits could have reached Minas Morgul, Faramir asks for his father’s approval on his decisions. Denethor replies that Faramir has “spoken skillfully” but with “your eye fixed on Mithrandir, seeking whether you said well or too much”, and that he, Denethor, has divined “what you have half said or left unsaid”. So what did Faramir tell him? For instance, did he mention the Ring? And isn’t he obligated to tell the Steward everything?

6. Denethor also says that Gandalf “has long had [Faramir’s] heart in his keeping”. How is that possible? Gandalf has only been to Minas Tirith three or four times in Faramir’s entire life.

7. Faramir wishes that he had Denethor’s advice when he had to decide what to do about Frodo. Is he accusing Denethor of keeping valuable information secret? Denethor asks, “Would that have availed to change your judgement?” Would it?

8. Denethor accuses Faramir of acting based on a desire to look kingly, and reminds him that such generosity may lead to his death and also the death of his people. How does this connect to Tolkien’s ideas about Beorhtnoth or Beowulf?

9. Concerning Boromir, Faramir asks Denethor, “Do you wish then … that our places had been exchanged?” Is he deliberately setting his father up for the reminder that it is Denethor who sent Boromir abroad?

10. Gandalf then tells Denethor that if Boromir had “it”, then Denethor “would not have known” him on his return. What would have happened if Boromir came to Minas Tirith bearing the Ring?

11. Why does Denethor refer to Gandalf’s “webs”?

12. Denethor realizes that it would be “perilous” to use the Ring, but feels that to send it to Mordor is “madness”. He would prefer it be locked away in Minas Tirith so that if Sauron recovered it, that would mean that everyone in Gondor was dead anyway. Gandalf counters that there is more to save than Gondor, but Denethor notes that Gondor is the strongest opponent to stand in Sauron’s way, and would be still more secure in the knowledge that the Ring was safely stowed. Not so, responds Gandalf: desire to use it “would burn your mind away”. So, who’s right?

13. In that argument, Denethor says “we would not shake with dread under this gloom” if the Ring were safe. Is he shaking with dread now?

14. The point is moot, Denethor concedes, because the Ring has gone to Mordor, they cannot recall it, and its fate soon will be revealed: “In what [time] is left, all who fight the Enemy in their fashion be at one, and keep hope while they may, and after hope still the hardihood to die free.” An excellent speech! But has he really accepted the situation?

15. I think this section has some great dialogue, and would welcome any thoughts you have on “I know the answer to many riddles. Alas, alas for Boromir”, or “But in desperate hours gentleness may be repaid with death”, or “Stir not the bitterness in the cup that I mixed for myself”, or “You found Boromir less apt to your hand, did you not”, or “And for me, I pity even his slaves” or other passages I skipped. (A question about the last example: my book has “And for me” but some online citations give “As for me”, and until preparing for this chapter, that’s how I remembered the line. What’s in your copy?)

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We're discussing The Lord of the Rings in the Reading Room, Oct. 15, 2007 - Mar. 22, 2009!

Join us Sep. 22-28 for "The Siege of Gondor".

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dernwyn
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Sep 27 2008, 2:05am

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1. Only Denethor, Faramir, Gandalf, and Pippin are mentioned by name, but the following section begins with, “All now took leave of the Lord”, and the next morning, Imrahil will say that “Faramir has told us” of activity across the river. How many people are in the room now?
Just those four; else, I doubt Faramir would have revealed the information regarding the Ring. "All" refers to any number of three or greater.

2. Gandalf has been eager to see Faramir, but as Faramir reports on his command in Ithilien, Gandalf “seemed at first to be asleep”. What?
Hobbit's-eye view (aka Red Book). Gandalf is listening in the way I prefer to listen to a speaker: with eyes closed, so I can concentrate on the words only. But it does make it seem to others that you're dozing off.

3. As Faramir narrates his meeting with Frodo and Sam, “now and again his glance strayed to Pippin, as if to refresh his memory of others that he had seen”. As if? If not for that reason, then why?
I suspect he was also keeping track of Pippin's reactions.

4. Gandalf starts at Faramir’s news, and Pippin almost cries out. Denethor, noting their reactions, “nodded his head, as though in sign that he had read much there before it was spoken”. What does Denethor know, before Faramir reports? Did he perhaps see Faramir and the hobbits together?
What Denethor sees in his palantír is tainted by Sauron, so I doubt he would have seen Faramir and the hobbits. But he is keeping track of Gandalf's reactions. He knows about the Fellowship from his earlier interrogation of Pippin; even though Pippin kept silent on the subject of the Ring, he would have known there were four hobbits, and that only two were taken by the Uruk-hai. What of the other two? So they have been in Ithilien - why does that seem to alarm Gandalf, and why does he want Pippin to keep his mouth shut? He nods his head: now the full story must be revealed.

5. After assuring Gandalf that the darkness overhead appeared before the hobbits could have reached Minas Morgul, Faramir asks for his father’s approval on his decisions. Denethor replies that Faramir has “spoken skillfully” but with “your eye fixed on Mithrandir, seeking whether you said well or too much”, and that he, Denethor, has divined “what you have half said or left unsaid”. So what did Faramir tell him? For instance, did he mention the Ring? And isn’t he obligated to tell the Steward everything?
Yes, Faramir had to mention that potential "mighty gift"; Denethor and Gandalf then refer to it as a "thing", not daring to mention "Ring", as if the walls could hear and reveal it to unfriendly ears, or as if it were a word in Black Speech. And Denethor is acting paranoid about things left "unsaid"; I think he thinks Faramir and Gandalf have somehow been in cahoots, and thinks there's far more going on than there actually is.

6. Denethor also says that Gandalf “has long had [Faramir’s] heart in his keeping”. How is that possible? Gandalf has only been to Minas Tirith three or four times in Faramir’s entire life.
Again, this is Denethor's paranoia, and faulty logic in believing that because Faramir enjoys learning and lore, he must therefore prefer those who are learners and lore-masters.

7. Faramir wishes that he had Denethor’s advice when he had to decide what to do about Frodo. Is he accusing Denethor of keeping valuable information secret? Denethor asks, “Would that have availed to change your judgement?” Would it?
Actually, Faramir was merely saying this to be polite in an attempt to stave off his father's wrath.

9. Concerning Boromir, Faramir asks Denethor, “Do you wish then … that our places had been exchanged?” Is he deliberately setting his father up for the reminder that it is Denethor who sent Boromir abroad?
A set-up? No, Faramir's starting to loose his "restraint" in dealing with his father's unjust accusations. Faramir's no dummy; unlike Denethor, he knows Boromir was too weak to not give in to desire for the Ring.

10. Gandalf then tells Denethor that if Boromir had “it”, then Denethor “would not have known” him on his return. What would have happened if Boromir came to Minas Tirith bearing the Ring?
Well, after the current Steward would have suffered an untimely death - probably by poison in his wine (now there's "bitter dregs"!) - Boromir would have taken the reins of command, and the rest is downhill from there.

11. Why does Denethor refer to Gandalf’s “webs”?
The "webs of wizards" versus the "patient spider"! He does not think much of the plans Gandalf has designed.

12. Denethor realizes that it would be “perilous” to use the Ring, but feels that to send it to Mordor is “madness”. He would prefer it be locked away in Minas Tirith so that if Sauron recovered it, that would mean that everyone in Gondor was dead anyway. Gandalf counters that there is more to save than Gondor, but Denethor notes that Gondor is the strongest opponent to stand in Sauron’s way, and would be still more secure in the knowledge that the Ring was safely stowed. Not so, responds Gandalf: desire to use it “would burn your mind away”. So, who’s right?
Yeah, right, Denethor's going to lock the Ring away, as securely as he's got that palantír locked up. And he obviously feels that Gondor is the "policeman" of Middle-earth...

13. In that argument, Denethor says “we would not shake with dread under this gloom” if the Ring were safe. Is he shaking with dread now?
Him? He's so p****d about the Ring slipping from his grasp, he's nearly livid with rage!

14. The point is moot, Denethor concedes, because the Ring has gone to Mordor, they cannot recall it, and its fate soon will be revealed: “In what [time] is left, all who fight the Enemy in their fashion be at one, and keep hope while they may, and after hope still the hardihood to die free.” An excellent speech! But has he really accepted the situation?
He's accepted the futility of it. Fine words from a man who is losing hope and will die enslaved to selfish and paranoid egotism.

15. A question about the last example: my book has “And for me” but some online citations give “As for me”, and until preparing for this chapter, that’s how I remembered the line. What’s in your copy?
Both my Second Edition and 50th anniversary edition use "And".


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

"It struck me last night that you might write a fearfully good romantic drama, with as much of the 'supernatural' as you cared to introduce. Have you ever thought of it?"
-Geoffrey B. Smith, letter to JRR Tolkien, 1915


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Sep 27 2008, 3:05am

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What if Denethor looks in the palantír when Sauron is busy elsewhere? [In reply to] Can't Post


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What Denethor sees in his palantír is tainted by Sauron, so I doubt he would have seen Faramir and the hobbits.


Denethor does get good news from the palantír: he knows of the victory at Helm's Deep and the destruction of Isengard before Gandalf on the fastest of horses brings him that news. And one of the most famous interpretations of this very chapter has Denethor seeing something that Sauron probaby does not know about.

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We're discussing The Lord of the Rings in the Reading Room, Oct. 15, 2007 - Mar. 22, 2009!

Join us Sep. 22-28 for "The Siege of Gondor".

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(This post was edited by N.E. Brigand on Sep 27 2008, 3:05am)


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Sep 27 2008, 6:22am

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I'll get this out now [In reply to] Can't Post

and return with a longer answer tomorrow (erm, later today).

15. ...“And for me, I pity even his slaves” or other passages I skipped. (A question about the last example: my book has “And for me” but some online citations give “As for me”, and until preparing for this chapter, that’s how I remembered the line. What’s in your copy?)

The copy I'm using has "And for me," It's the one volume deal that was published in 1978 in concert with the release of Bakshi's LOTR.

I'm thinking this is an idiomatic qualifier similar in meaning to "For my part." (as spoken to Film Faramir by Film Frodo in response to the question, "You and Boromir were friends?")

Both phrases mean "this is my opinion, others may disagree." Sort of IMHO.

Sorry but this is all I have for now... my memory of Denethor is refeshed, my opinion changed, and I have to get past the shock of it all before tackling your other questions.


Elizabeth
Half-elven


Sep 27 2008, 8:11am

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1. The conversation takes place in Denethor’s “private chamber” with chairs placed around a “brazier of charcoal”. Only Denethor, Faramir, Gandalf, and Pippin are mentioned by name, but the following section begins with, “All now took leave of the Lord”, and the next morning, Imrahil will say that “Faramir has told us” of activity across the river. How many people are in the room now?

None, they all left. Before that, only those four. I agree that Faramir wouldn't have discussed Frodo before a larger group. But it's also reasonable to assume that there were other meetings with Imrahil and the other Captains to discuss the war in general.

2. Gandalf has been eager to see Faramir, but as Faramir reports on his command in Ithilien, Gandalf “seemed at first to be asleep”. What?

I agree that he's closed his eyes to concentrate better.

3. As Faramir narrates his meeting with Frodo and Sam, “now and again his glance strayed to Pippin, as if to refresh his memory of others that he had seen” (emphasis added). As if? If not for that reason, then why?

Not at all. He's thinking, "OMG, another one! What's up with these Halflings?"

4. Gandalf starts at Faramir’s news, and Pippin almost cries out. Denethor, noting their reactions, “nodded his head, as though in sign that he had read much there before it was spoken”. What does Denethor know, before Faramir reports? Did he perhaps see Faramir and the hobbits together?

It's possible that Denethor saw them, but unlikely, and there's no real evidence. More likely he's quick to pick up on the fact that Gandalf and Pippin obviously know what this is all about, and it feeds his paranoia about Gandalf. He was quite certain Gandalf and Pippin hadn't told him everything they knew in their first meeting; he wants desperately to get the whole story.

5. After assuring Gandalf that the darkness overhead appeared before the hobbits could have reached Minas Morgul, Faramir asks for his father’s approval on his decisions. Denethor replies that Faramir has “spoken skillfully” but with “your eye fixed on Mithrandir, seeking whether you said well or too much”, and that he, Denethor, has divined “what you have half said or left unsaid”. So what did Faramir tell him? For instance, did he mention the Ring? And isn’t he obligated to tell the Steward everything?

Faramir probably gave all the basic facts, but omitted the fact that Boromir had made a grab for the Ring. That would have sent Denethor into a towering rage, IMO, mostly directed at Faramir on the assumption that he made it up to justify himself and slander his brother.

6. Denethor also says that Gandalf “has long had [Faramir’s] heart in his keeping”. How is that possible? Gandalf has only been to Minas Tirith three or four times in Faramir’s entire life.

Do we know that? We know of a few visits, but Tolkien hasn't accounted for all Gandalf's time, by any means. He might have spent a lot of time in Minas Tirith. The Steward's sons would obviously be important to Middle Earth, and Gandalf would care about them greatly.

7. Faramir wishes that he had Denethor’s advice when he had to decide what to do about Frodo. Is he accusing Denethor of keeping valuable information secret? Denethor asks, “Would that have availed to change your judgement?” Would it?

It's always good to have a second opinion. It isn't always necessary to follow it, and if you don't that doesn't mean it wasn't helpful. Sometimes an opinion you end up disagreeing with helped you focus your own mind.

8. Denethor accuses Faramir of acting based on a desire to look kingly, and reminds him that such generosity may lead to his death and also the death of his people. How does this connect to Tolkien’s ideas about Beorhtnoth or Beowulf?

Sorry, out of my league here.

9. Concerning Boromir, Faramir asks Denethor, “Do you wish then … that our places had been exchanged?” Is he deliberately setting his father up for the reminder that it is Denethor who sent Boromir abroad?

It's an outburst from a man who is near the end of his tether and simply can't stand one more negative comparison with the saintly Boromir. This is a critical moment. IMO Denethor does not realize how deeply his response will cut: he's incredibly insensitive. He's thinking strategically, that he wishes at this moment he had his son the dutiful Great General instead of his other son the intellectual wonk with dubious loyalties.

10. Gandalf then tells Denethor that if Boromir had “it”, then Denethor “would not have known” him on his return. What would have happened if Boromir came to Minas Tirith bearing the Ring?

He'd have had Denethor declared incompetent, and declared himself King, for starters.

11. Why does Denethor refer to Gandalf’s “webs”?

Pippin saw Denethor as a spider. Frodo met a spider. Lots of spidery images. They suggest entrapment and conspiracy.

12. Denethor realizes that it would be “perilous” to use the Ring, but feels that to send it to Mordor is “madness”. He would prefer it be locked away in Minas Tirith so that if Sauron recovered it, that would mean that everyone in Gondor was dead anyway. Gandalf counters that there is more to save than Gondor, but Denethor notes that Gondor is the strongest opponent to stand in Sauron’s way, and would be still more secure in the knowledge that the Ring was safely stowed. Not so, responds Gandalf: desire to use it “would burn your mind away”. So, who’s right?

Gandalf, of course. Denethor's argument is quite reasonable, but he doesn't know nearly as much about the Ring and its evil as Gandalf does.

13. In that argument, Denethor says “we would not shake with dread under this gloom” if the Ring were safe. Is he shaking with dread now?

You bet he is. And it's going to get worse.

14. The point is moot, Denethor concedes, because the Ring has gone to Mordor, they cannot recall it, and its fate soon will be revealed: “In what [time] is left, all who fight the Enemy in their fashion be at one, and keep hope while they may, and after hope still the hardihood to die free.” An excellent speech! But has he really accepted the situation?

Not really. It won't sink in until tomorrow night.

15. I think this section has some great dialogue, and would welcome any thoughts you have on “I know the answer to many riddles. Alas, alas for Boromir”, or “But in desperate hours gentleness may be repaid with death”, or “Stir not the bitterness in the cup that I mixed for myself”, or “You found Boromir less apt to your hand, did you not”, or “And for me, I pity even his slaves” or other passages I skipped.

All wonderful, and all worthy of discussion. But it's late...

(A question about the last example: my book has “And for me” but some online citations give “As for me”, and until preparing for this chapter, that’s how I remembered the line. What’s in your copy?)

"And". But I also have "As" in my mind, mainly because that is how we would phrase it. IMO this is one of those phrases like "Play it again, Sam" that were never uttered where you think, but everyone remembers (I'm sure Darkstone can think of many others).





Danielle and Tiger, 8/31/08

Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Sep 27 2008, 12:26pm

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"...my opinion changed, and I have to get past the shock of it all..."

Yes, indeed, welcome to the Reading Room - wherein you'll make amazing new (and surprising) discoveries about books which you once thought you knew so well!

If you can take a while to read through some of the past discussions, it is well worth it. And - be prepared...


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

"It struck me last night that you might write a fearfully good romantic drama, with as much of the 'supernatural' as you cared to introduce. Have you ever thought of it?"
-Geoffrey B. Smith, letter to JRR Tolkien, 1915


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Sep 27 2008, 12:32pm

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Good point about Faramir not mentioning Boromir's Ring-grab to their father: Faramir knows Denethor well, and knows how touchy that would be!

I wonder what was going through Faramir's mind as Denethor was insisting that Boromir would bring the "mighty gift" to him...


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

"It struck me last night that you might write a fearfully good romantic drama, with as much of the 'supernatural' as you cared to introduce. Have you ever thought of it?"
-Geoffrey B. Smith, letter to JRR Tolkien, 1915


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Sep 27 2008, 12:44pm

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But such things are dangerous. [In reply to] Can't Post

Sauron, even if not "present", still holds some sway over that palantír. If he is looking into his palantír at the moment Denethor is looking into his own, can he see what the Steward sees?

Denethor could use it to check up on events in Ithilien; but Faramir's skirmishes and ambushes would matter little to Sauron. Finding Hobbits there, though...if Denethor had seen them (in the open with the Rangers; the palantír cannot see into Henneth Annûn, and I think Denethor would have been incapable of following the trio once they left), would it have been possible for Sauron to see them as well?

Which raises another question: how well could Sauron "see" into Denethor's thoughts, if at all, or could he only use his control to "play" with the Steward's mind?


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

"It struck me last night that you might write a fearfully good romantic drama, with as much of the 'supernatural' as you cared to introduce. Have you ever thought of it?"
-Geoffrey B. Smith, letter to JRR Tolkien, 1915


FarFromHome
Valinor


Sep 27 2008, 2:44pm

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Denethor the hollow man [In reply to] Can't Post

1. The conversation takes place in Denethor’s “private chamber” with chairs placed around a “brazier of charcoal”. Only Denethor, Faramir, Gandalf, and Pippin are mentioned by name, but the following section begins with, “All now took leave of the Lord”, and the next morning, Imrahil will say that “Faramir has told us” of activity across the river. How many people are in the room now?

Just the four, and the other three "all" take leave of Denethor at the end of the meeting. It seems that Faramir took part in some other briefings before the next morning, but those would have only dealt with the military situation, not the rest of Faramir's story.

2. Gandalf has been eager to see Faramir, but as Faramir reports on his command in Ithilien, Gandalf “seemed at first to be asleep”. What?

Gandalf is rarely what he "seems". This is the story as later recounted by Pippin, no doubt. I suspect that Gandalf is having to keep a very close check on his impatience at this point - he's been so anxious to hear from Faramir, and now the moment of truth is close, but first he has to sit through these preliminaries. The wait must be almost unbearable. I think this is another hint that Gandalf is expecting (or at least hoping) to hear about Frodo from Faramir. Yet what he does hear, about Cirith Ungol, fills him with dread. I wonder what he was hoping for?

3. As Faramir narrates his meeting with Frodo and Sam, “now and again his glance strayed to Pippin, as if to refresh his memory of others that he had seen” (emphasis added). As if? If not for that reason, then why?

Again, we're only seeing what Pippin sees. Faramir's glances seem to be a way of refreshing his memory, but maybe he's also watching Pippin closely to see what his reaction is. In fact I doubt if he needed to refresh his memory, since he had got to know Frodo and Sam very well so recently. More likely, with his appreciation for the two hobbits he knows, he's interested in Pippin for himself.

These small details, in which we are given only a supposition about what Gandalf and Faramir are thinking, are subtle reminders of the ongoing storytelling technique that permits us to see things not from the perspective of an omniscient narrator, but only through the eyes of one character, most often a hobbit.

4. Gandalf starts at Faramir’s news, and Pippin almost cries out. Denethor, noting their reactions, “nodded his head, as though in sign that he had read much there before it was spoken”. What does Denethor know, before Faramir reports? Did he perhaps see Faramir and the hobbits together?

I've always thought that it was as a lore-master that Denethor had made most of his progress. He knew the words of the prophecy in Faramir's dream, and knew that a halfling (but not Pippin, as Gandalf had already made clear) was involved in the events surrounding "Isildur's Bane". Faramir may not have figured out what Isildur's Bane was, but it's pretty clear that Denethor knew exaclty what it was. Once Faramir reports seeing a halfling in Ithilien, everything starts to fall into place.

5. After assuring Gandalf that the darkness overhead appeared before the hobbits could have reached Minas Morgul, Faramir asks for his father’s approval on his decisions. Denethor replies that Faramir has “spoken skillfully” but with “your eye fixed on Mithrandir, seeking whether you said well or too much”, and that he, Denethor, has divined “what you have half said or left unsaid”. So what did Faramir tell him? For instance, did he mention the Ring? And isn’t he obligated to tell the Steward everything?

Yep, the Ring is the elephant (oliphaunt?) in the room. Faramir was presumably trying to speak in a code Gandalf would understand, without coming right out and mentioning the Ring openly. But Denethor knows more than they think - he has also figured out the riddle of Isildur's Bane, so not only understands what Faramir so carefully didn't say, but also understands why he didn't say it.

6. Denethor also says that Gandalf “has long had [Faramir’s] heart in his keeping”. How is that possible? Gandalf has only been to Minas Tirith three or four times in Faramir’s entire life.

How many times did he visit the Shire in Frodo's life? He seems to be able to win over those he takes an interest in, and keep their affection despite long absences. He's one of those life-changing people, isn't he? Once you've gained the insights they can give, you never forget either the lessons or the teacher.

7. Faramir wishes that he had Denethor’s advice when he had to decide what to do about Frodo. Is he accusing Denethor of keeping valuable information secret? Denethor asks, “Would that have availed to change your judgement?” Would it?

Is Faramir specifically asking why Denethor didn't tell him what he knew about the Ring? If so, it would surely have changed his judgement, although probably not for the better. After all, Faramir made his boast about not taking Isildur's Bane if he found it by the roadside before he knew what it was. And his memory of this vow is what keeps his purpose strong when he finally finds out what it is. If he'd known all along what Frodo carried, would he still have been strong enough to resist it?

8. Denethor accuses Faramir of acting based on a desire to look kingly, and reminds him that such generosity may lead to his death and also the death of his people. How does this connect to Tolkien’s ideas about Beorhtnoth or Beowulf?

It seems to me that Denethor is twisting the facts. Tolkien, in terms of his ideas about Beowulf (to the extent I understand them) would surely agree that the desire for glory and "kingliness" can lead to folly and downfall. But it's Boromir who cared for glory, and Denethor who is so hung up on looking powerful and heroic that he even wears full armour while hiding in his own chamber. Denethor is criticizing Faramir for being gentle and gracious, which are not at all the kingly attibutes that Tolkien criticizes in Beowulf.

9. Concerning Boromir, Faramir asks Denethor, “Do you wish then … that our places had been exchanged?” Is he deliberately setting his father up for the reminder that it is Denethor who sent Boromir abroad?

It doesn't seem like that to me. It seems more as if he's still hoping for reassurance that Denethor sees some value in him. But it doesn't happen, and Denethor instead makes it clear that he really would rather have lost Faramir to save Boromir. It's only then that Faramir's self-control wavers, and he reminds his father that it's not his fault that he's not dead.

10. Gandalf then tells Denethor that if Boromir had “it”, then Denethor “would not have known” him on his return. What would have happened if Boromir came to Minas Tirith bearing the Ring?

I suppose Boromir would either have been broken by Sauron and would come to destroy his own city, or if he somehow kept control of the Ring, he would be acting out the fantasy he imagined on Amon Hen. Boromir would become a tyrant in his own right.

11. Why does Denethor refer to Gandalf’s “webs”?

I guess they're both consummate webmasters!

12. Denethor realizes that it would be “perilous” to use the Ring, but feels that to send it to Mordor is “madness”. He would prefer it be locked away in Minas Tirith so that if Sauron recovered it, that would mean that everyone in Gondor was dead anyway. Gandalf counters that there is more to save than Gondor, but Denethor notes that Gondor is the strongest opponent to stand in Sauron’s way, and would be still more secure in the knowledge that the Ring was safely stowed. Not so, responds Gandalf: desire to use it “would burn your mind away”. So, who’s right?

Considering that desire for the Ring is burning Denethor's mind away already, Gandalf must be right.

13. In that argument, Denethor says “we would not shake with dread under this gloom” if the Ring were safe. Is he shaking with dread now?

He's a mass of suffering and doubt under that "carven" exterior, I think. Like his city, he's a magnificent shell that's all but decayed inside.

14. The point is moot, Denethor concedes, because the Ring has gone to Mordor, they cannot recall it, and its fate soon will be revealed: “In what [time] is left, all who fight the Enemy in their fashion be at one, and keep hope while they may, and after hope still the hardihood to die free.” An excellent speech! But has he really accepted the situation?

He sounds like a typical politician to me. The more they harp on about "freedom", the less they seem to believe in it. Gandalf would never indulge in platitudes like this, instead he'd be working to make these values a reality.

15. I think this section has some great dialogue, and would welcome any thoughts you have on

“I know the answer to many riddles. Alas, alas for Boromir..."

Denethor knows about the Ring. But still he doesn't understand the Ring. He still thinks that if only Boromir had survived the orc attack, he could have brought the Ring to Gondor.

“But in desperate hours gentleness may be repaid with death

In Middle-earth, that's just plain wrong. If Frodo had thought like Denethor, Gollum would be dead and the Quest would have failed.

“Stir not the bitterness in the cup that I mixed for myself..."

A wonderful line, made all the more powerful for me by the memory of Denethor literally drinking from that cup in the film.

“You found Boromir less apt to your hand, did you not..."

Denethor got that right - Boromir second-guesses Gandalf several times on the Quest.

“And for me, I pity even his slaves”

I suppose Gandalf means only the Men who fight for Sauron. He's clear-sighted enough to know that no Men are entirely evil, and that they may be redeemed.

(A question about the last example: my book has “And for me” but some online citations give “As for me”, and until preparing for this chapter, that’s how I remembered the line. What’s in your copy?)

All my copies have "And for me..." Maybe those online citations were from memory?

Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship’s beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
beyond the sunset leads my way.
Bilbo's Last Song



N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Sep 27 2008, 3:06pm

Post #10 of 65 (1469 views)
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Can the palantír not see inside Henneth Annûn? [In reply to] Can't Post

As long as there's a light inside, I don't see why not: it's a room like any other. But you have to know where to look, and presumably Sauron doesn't, or Henneth Annûn would have been sacked by now. Does that mean that Denethor couldn't have seen there either, because Sauron didn't show it to him? I don't think so: if Denethor couldn't see inside his own fortress, I think he'd get pretty suspicious about how the Stone was operating. So what Gandalf says later, about Denethor seeing "only those things which that Power permitted him to see", is probably wrong; certainly Denethor did see things that didn't serve Sauron's purpose of driving him to despair: the defeat of Saruman and Saruman's armies. Based on Gandalf's comments at the end of "The Palantír", it seems he himself has never used one of the Stones, so in "The Pyre of Denethor", he's guessing about how they work. Gandalf also says in that chapter that Denethor was "too great" for Sauron to subdue, but that would imply that Denethor was greater than Saruman. In Tolkien's "Palantíri" essay later published in Unfinished Tales, he writes that control of the stone is a matter of both strength and rights, something Gandalf never mentions.

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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Sep 27 2008, 3:10pm

Post #11 of 65 (1466 views)
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How many times has Faramir met Gandalf? [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Gandalf has only been to Minas Tirith three or four times in Faramir's life.
Do we know tht? We know of a few visits, but Tolkien hasn't accounted for all Gandalf's time, by any means. He might have spent a lot of time in Minas Tirith.



In "The Window on the West", Faramir says of Gandalf: "I first saw him when I was a child, and he has been twice or thrice since then."

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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Sep 27 2008, 3:14pm

Post #12 of 65 (1444 views)
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If Denethor knows what that Isildur's Bane is the Ring [In reply to] Can't Post

...why does he never refer to the "Ring"? He only calls the Ring "it" or the "thing".

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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Sep 27 2008, 3:23pm

Post #13 of 65 (1444 views)
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Does Sam sound like a politician? [In reply to] Can't Post

Sam in Ithilien:

Quote
But it's a pity that folk as talk about fighting the Enemy can't let others do their bit in their own way without interfering. He'd be mighty pleased, if he could see you now.



Denethor here:

Quote
In what is left, let all who fight the Enemy in their fashion be at one



Why is Denethor's resigned speech is any more a platitude than any other character's argument in favor of unity, hope, and endurance?

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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Sep 27 2008, 3:34pm

Post #14 of 65 (1465 views)
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Is Treebeard's gentleness repaid with Lotho's death? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for responding to all those quotes!


Quote
But in desperate hours gentleness may be repaid with death
In Middle-earth, that's just plain wrong. If Frodo had thought like Denethor, Gollum would be dead and the Quest would have failed.


And if Gandalf had thought like Denethor, Gollum wouldn't have killed any babies in Mirkwood.

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FarFromHome
Valinor


Sep 27 2008, 4:33pm

Post #15 of 65 (1440 views)
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Yes, this is Sam the politician [In reply to] Can't Post

He's trying his best to convince Faramir, but it's not this way that Faramir will be convinced. It's only when Sam's heart speaks that things start to come right.

Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship’s beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
beyond the sunset leads my way.
Bilbo's Last Song



FarFromHome
Valinor


Sep 27 2008, 4:42pm

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Yes. [In reply to] Can't Post

Sometimes gentleness may lead to innocent deaths (so I suppose Denethor's statement is true to that extent). But the message of LotR seems to be, dare to be gentle anyway, because self-righteousness will lead to greater harm than compassion. Despite all the great battles in the high-heroic part of the story, the real victory of LotR is won by forbearance and forgiveness.

Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship’s beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
beyond the sunset leads my way.
Bilbo's Last Song



FarFromHome
Valinor


Sep 27 2008, 5:05pm

Post #17 of 65 (1499 views)
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Two can play at that game! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
...why does he never refer to the "Ring"? He only calls the Ring "it" or the "thing".



If Faramir and Gandalf refuse to name it, why should Denethor do so? He's nothing if not subtle. He could be bluffing, I suppose, and only know that "it" is some mighty weapon. There are many such things that we, who only know what Pippin knows, can never be sure of. But Denethor's reaction to "it" makes me think that he does know what it is that he's lost. And by this point the Ring seems to have become 'that-which-cannot-be-named' - Frodo, Sam and Gollum often avoid using its proper name, too. I don't know if it's because they are afraid of revealing their secret to some eavesdropper, or because its fearsome power has made it taboo. Here's a bit that always strikes me for the fact that no-one is willing to pronounce the terrible word 'Ring':

"They've taken everything, Sam," said Frodo. "Everything I had. Do you understand? Everything!... The quest has failed, Sam..."

"No, not everything, Mr. Frodo. And it hasn't failed, not yet. I took it, Mr. Frodo, begging your pardon. And I've kept it safe. It's round my neck now, and a terrible burden it is, too." ... "But I suppose you must take it back."

"You've got it?" gasped Frodo. "You've got it here? Sam, you're a marvel!" ...

"Give it to me!" he cried, standing up, holding out a trembling hand. "Give it me at once! You can't have it!"


Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship’s beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
beyond the sunset leads my way.
Bilbo's Last Song



(This post was edited by FarFromHome on Sep 27 2008, 5:06pm)


Elizabeth
Half-elven


Sep 27 2008, 6:45pm

Post #18 of 65 (1426 views)
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Must have been "quality time" then. / [In reply to] Can't Post

 





Danielle and Tiger, 8/31/08

Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Sep 27 2008, 6:57pm

Post #19 of 65 (1459 views)
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*re-reads UT* [In reply to] Can't Post

Hm, that must be what had me think a palantír couldn't see into that hideout, the ability to "shroud" a place from being viewed by a Stone. But it can't be determined if Henneth Annûn had been built at a time when the "shrouding" technique was still known. So, then, it would have been possible for Denethor to see the hobbits there! But not the Ring, which was never revealed.

So if Denethor did know about Frodo and Sam, and Sauron did not, then Gandalf was wrong about how much control over his palantír Denethor actually had...or he was deliberately covering up something. Sounds like it's time for another Darkstone conspiracy theory...


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

"It struck me last night that you might write a fearfully good romantic drama, with as much of the 'supernatural' as you cared to introduce. Have you ever thought of it?"
-Geoffrey B. Smith, letter to JRR Tolkien, 1915


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Sep 27 2008, 7:07pm

Post #20 of 65 (1495 views)
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Head... clearing... slightly... [In reply to] Can't Post

Questions
1. The conversation takes place in Denethor’s “private chamber” with chairs placed around a “brazier of charcoal”. Only Denethor, Faramir, Gandalf, and Pippin are mentioned by name, but the following section begins with, “All now took leave of the Lord”, and the next morning, Imrahil will say that “Faramir has told us” of activity across the river. How many people are in the room now?


There must have been some attendants… I mean Tolkien refers to Sam as “[Frodo’s] servant,” hardly the mood or place to mention people lower on the totem poll that were likely in the room.

2. Gandalf has been eager to see Faramir, but as Faramir reports on his command in Ithilien, Gandalf “seemed at first to be asleep”. What?


He was resting his eyes while, as Tolkien points out, Faramir recounts “such matters as had often been heard before… small things… that now seemed useless and petty…” However, Gandalf was listening all the same.

3. As Faramir narrates his meeting with Frodo and Sam, “now and again his glance strayed to Pippin, as if to refresh his memory of others that he had seen” (emphasis added). As if? If not for that reason, then why?


He might have been trying to gauge whether Pippin was going to blurt out something about the ring which he studiously avoided mentioning. Or as Denethor accuses further on, perhaps he was looking for confirmation that he wasn’t revealing too much.

4. Gandalf starts at Faramir’s news, and Pippin almost cries out. Denethor, noting their reactions, “nodded his head, as though in sign that he had read much there before it was spoken”. What does Denethor know, before Faramir reports? Did he perhaps see Faramir and the hobbits together?


Surely there were messengers among the garrison, Denethor’s spies, that slipped away to give Denethor news of the ring. Or perhaps he had used the Pallentir.

5. After assuring Gandalf that the darkness overhead appeared before the hobbits could have reached Minas Morgul, Faramir asks for his father’s approval on his decisions. Denethor replies that Faramir has “spoken skillfully” but with “your eye fixed on Mithrandir, seeking whether you said well or too much”, and that he, Denethor, has divined “what you have half said or left unsaid”. So what did Faramir tell him? For instance, did he mention the Ring? And isn’t he obligated to tell the Steward everything?


It seems to me that he did not mention the ring at all. Whether obliged by his station, Denethor is still his father, and it would seem acceptable to leave some things out to avoid upsetting him. This too may underline his realization that Denethor may not be sound of mind in rule, and that for the sake of the people, Faramir needed to sift orders from time to time.

6. Denethor also says that Gandalf “has long had [Faramir’s] heart in his keeping”. How is that possible? Gandalf has only been to Minas Tirith three or four times in Faramir’s entire life.


To this I wonder how many times Gandalf had been to the Shire in Frodo’s life time?

7. Faramir wishes that he had Denethor’s advice when he had to decide what to do about Frodo. Is he accusing Denethor of keeping valuable information secret? Denethor asks, “Would that have availed to change your judgement?” Would it?


I don’t believe it would have… For all intents and purposes he was helping the cause that Boromir had agreed to as a member of the Fellowship. This is Faramir choosing who to follow.

8. Denethor accuses Faramir of acting based on a desire to look kingly, and reminds him that such generosity may lead to his death and also the death of his people. How does this connect to Tolkien’s ideas about Beorhtnoth or Beowulf?

Uh… TBC




N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Sep 27 2008, 7:56pm

Post #21 of 65 (1460 views)
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Denethor's spies? [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Surely there were messengers among the garrison, Denethor’s spies, that slipped away to give Denethor news of the ring.


Does Denethor have soldiers among Faramir's Rangers, reporting directly to him on his son's activities? I don't know. If there are, can they sneak off and travel 75 miles back to the city to give Denethor the information without Faramir noticing? Hmm. And who in Henneth Annûn knew about the Ring, besides Faramir, Frodo, Sam, and Gollum? When Sam slips up and mentions the Ring, the two hobbits are with Faramir in a semi-private chamber at the back of the cave. Faramir also names it at this time, but "very softly". This is followed by a moment of excitement that his men notice, but the narrator tells us then that "Men turned back to their drink and their talk, perceiving that their captain had had some jest or other with the little guests, and that it was over." And Faramir tells the Hobbits not to mention the Ring (which he calls "this thing") again.

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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Sep 27 2008, 7:56pm

Post #22 of 65 (1423 views)
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Nice! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Sep 27 2008, 8:11pm

Post #23 of 65 (1444 views)
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Also, could you elaborate [In reply to] Can't Post

...on the differences between your impression of Denethor before this discussion, and now?

And here's some explanation on the Beorhtnoth / Beowulf question, for those who are interested. In Tolkien's 1953 essay titled "Ofermod", that appeared as an appendix to his short play, The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth, Beorhthelm's Son, he discusses the heroic attitude of pre-Christian northern peoples, and how its postive aspect --the refusal to surrender no matter how hopeless the cause-- could be tainted by the desire for the glory of fighting against overwhelming odds, so that one might forget one's obligations. Beorhtnoth allows the Viking enemy to cross a narrow causeway, so that he can have the glory of beating them in a fair fight, and is killed and defeated, leaving his people open to the Viking ravages. Beowulf fights the dragon alone, and is mortally wounded in the process of killing it, also leaving his people open to foreign invasion. Beowulf was similarly reckless in his youth, but then he had no obligations. Beorhtnoth's men fight on to the last over his body, and that too is admirable. These are Tolkien's views. Similarly here, when Denethor tells Faramir that his "gentleness may be repaid with death", Faramir replies "So be it" -- he is willing to accept his death as a consequence of his decision. But Denethor reminds him that's not where it stops: he has responsibilities to others and should have considered their welfare also. What's interesting here is that Tolkien is putting his own opinions in Denethor's mouth.

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SirDennisC
Half-elven


Sep 27 2008, 8:12pm

Post #24 of 65 (1451 views)
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Spies are spies [In reply to] Can't Post

and do what they do. What does semi-private imply? It's hard to imagine that Faramir would have been alone without guards with suspected enemies of Gondor. It seems too (from section V) that Tolkien doesn't bother to mention the servants and attendants that would be expected to be hovering around according to the custom of English Lords. But then, I'm no expert as I am just rediscovering the text after many years and the heavy influence of the films.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Sep 27 2008, 8:22pm

Post #25 of 65 (1446 views)
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No experts in the Reading Room! [In reply to] Can't Post

We're all readers muddling through, and I hope you're enjoying this discussion.

You mention English lords: I wonder if they would have been the model for the court of Gondor? The Rohirrim are apparently modeled on the Old English -- though Tolkien denied it. But as to Faramir's servants in Ithilien: in "The Window on the West", after dinner in Henneth Annûn, Tolkien writes: "When all was done Faramir led them to a recess at the back of the cave, partly screened by curtains; and a chair and two stools were brought there." That's what I meant by "semi-private". The larger room holds some 300 soldiers, but Faramir takes the hobbits to this little alcove for some conversation apart.

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