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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Who is the best tactican in LOTR?
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Fionnan2
Rivendell

Jun 20 2007, 11:54pm

Post #1 of 34 (319 views)
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Who is the best tactican in LOTR? Can't Post

There are a few candidates who would be worthy enough for this honour but I do think that the worsed tactican would have to be the Witch-king of Angmar.It would be interseting to hear different views about why youre candidate is the best tactican
in LOTR.

Fionnan


Penthe
Gondor


Jun 21 2007, 2:11am

Post #2 of 34 (188 views)
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Well, I think that's a bit harsh. [In reply to] Can't Post

He totally crushed the northern kingdom of Arnor, and took great advantage of their own internal problems. Sounds pretty sensible tactics to me.

Poor old Witch King. He might be evil, but he wasn't a complete dill. In my opinion.

I vote for Denethor. Sitting and waiting to be crushed by a wildly superior enemy with no strategy at all seems to me to be very poor tactics indeed.


Atlas
Bree


Jun 21 2007, 6:35am

Post #3 of 34 (164 views)
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Tactics or Strategy? [In reply to] Can't Post

Strategy is retreating to Helm's Deep. Tactics is choosing to assault the fortress instead of waiting for a siege to succeed. There is, of course, some overlap at the edges where the one becomes the other, but I'd say Denethor really had very little to do with Gondor's tactics. He did not choose a very wise strategy, though, that's for sure.

"The grand scheme of God is inscrutable; the object of life is virtue, not pleasure; and obedience, not liberty, is the means of its attainment." ~Russell Kirk


Atlas
Bree


Jun 21 2007, 6:42am

Post #4 of 34 (152 views)
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Interesting [In reply to] Can't Post

Aragorn is probably the best candidate for best tactician. He manages a small group with wildly disparate martial skills (the Fellowship) as well as large land and sea-borne armies (the Pelennor Fields and the assault up the river on the captured Corsair fleet) quite well. He has wide experience fighting in all kinds of conditions all over the known world. Also, he lives through what was probably an amazingly dangerous military career fighting the minions of Sauron all over the world. I don't think he'd be my pick for best strategist, however.

"The grand scheme of God is inscrutable; the object of life is virtue, not pleasure; and obedience, not liberty, is the means of its attainment." ~Russell Kirk


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 21 2007, 11:51am

Post #5 of 34 (161 views)
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Meriadoc Brandybuck. [In reply to] Can't Post

The Battle of Bywater is the only battle in LotR which has a tactical plan, as far as I can tell, and Merry seems to be the primary tactician. Every other battle is just force against force in various settings. Usually the good guys are seriously outnumbered, but because they are defenders (always an advantage) and have some heroic fighters among them, they hold out until reinforcements arrive. But there is no attempt to take the high ground, flank the enemy, keep troops in reserve, use decoys, hit and run, ambush, or other fancy troop maneuvers. Everything is just a frontal assault.

Or perhaps Providence is the best tactician in LotR. After all, it is Providence that sends Merry and Pippin off to Isengard as a decoy, and then sends them to Treebeard to rouse the ents. It is Providence that arranges for the orcs of the Tower of Cirith Ungol to kill each other over Frodo's mithril coat. It is Providence that arranges for a West Wind to blow away Sauron's Great Darkness. Providence, or the Higher Powers, or luck, as they call it in Middle-earth.


squire
Valinor


Jun 21 2007, 1:06pm

Post #6 of 34 (172 views)
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Facing a "wildly superior army"? what good will tactics or strategy do then? [In reply to] Can't Post

Denethor is doomed and he knows it. All his effort is put into fighting the best possible fight and postponing the inevitable, a strategy which every wise person on Middle-earth agrees on. But all also agree that with or without the Ring, Sauron is about to take over the entire Western world through pure military force.

Denethor's tactics are fine, until his mental collapse. In the only detailed example given, he holds back the rescue sortie until Faramir is so close to the city that his pursuers will be trapped by the cavalry. The enemy is slaughtered and Faramir's force saved, yet Denethor calls his knights back before they go too far and are cut off themselves.

The city is well prepared for a long siege, light forces have been stationed in Ithilien to harass the mobilization of the enemy and give advance warning of an attack, and the allies have been summoned to help break the siege. The fortifications are repaired first where they will be most needed; and Denethor's instincts are to hold the river, hold the outwalls, hold the field as long as harm can be inflicted on the enemy. He harasses the attackers whenever possible and delays their advance.

What he does not seem to have anticipated, even with the Palantir, is that Sauron has enough forces assembled to set a second army in Rohan's path and to attack the southern fiefs, as well as assault Minas Tirith; while keeping an even larger reserve in Mordor for the subsequent conquest of the lands further west and north. Only through the nearly miraculous intervention of Gandalf and Aragorn does Minas Tirith, under Denethor's desperate leadership, survive the first assault.

Imrahil mocks Denethor's strategy as hiding in a sandcastle to stop the oncoming tide - but Gandalf corrects him that the only alternative was to "march out" and be slaughtered in the open field by Mordor's unstoppable armies.

The only strategical weakness we might assign to Denethor is that he cannot agree with Gandalf's gambit of sending the Ring to Mordor to be destroyed (and can you blame him, really?). But it is in the interest of the story's own realism that Denethor's tactics should be as sound as possible, in order to emphasize the tragedy of his inner collapse.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 21 2007, 2:42pm

Post #7 of 34 (163 views)
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What about sending Faramir to retake Osgiliath? [In reply to] Can't Post

While there is some precedent for a quick counteroffensive against a seemingly victorious force (William the Conquerer in the Battle of Hastings, the Germans on the Western Front in the winter of 1944-45), in this case everyone recognized that it would be the death of Faramir, and that it had no tactical or strategic value. And I think Denethor himself later realized that he had acted out of lethal anger at Faramir for surviving when Boromir had not, and that realization of his murderous intent against his own son is what sent him over the edge, and perversely caused him to again try to murder his own son.

Up until he ordered Faramir to attack Osgiliath against the advice of all his counsellors and when Faramir was clearly ill, it could be argued that Denethor was hard with Faramir, but always with the best interests of Gondor in mind. For example, as you note, holding back the rescue sortie until the last possible moment is hard on Faramir, but does route the enemy. But when Denethor orders a seriously-ill Faramir into a hopeless battle against everyone's advice, it almost seemed as if Denethor wanted Faramir to die, like David sending Uriah the Hittite to the front lines, and that testing Faramir's love (will you die for me?) was more important than defending Gondor.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 21 2007, 3:25pm

Post #8 of 34 (158 views)
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Not in the book. [In reply to] Can't Post

In the book, Denethor does not send Faramir to retake Osgiliath, only to hold the near side, already in Gondor's possession, as long as possible against the assault. Here's a previous thread (2004) on the subject; and if I may be so bold as to repost my own comments:


Quote
N.E. Brigand, Thu, 3/25/2004 at 19:47 EDT
(In Reply To: Defense of the riverfront)
Denthor's compromise? (long)

I have read a suggestion that when Tolkien wrote about the Rammas Echor that he may have been thinking of the Maginot Line, the defenses in eastern France that the Germans simply circumvented in World War II. Gandalf urges the men repairing the Rammas to leave their trowels and sharpen their swords. Denethor refuses to simply abandon the wall they worked so hard on. In the event it fails to hold back the enemy (although they go through and over it, not around it). And it looms as a potential hindrance to the efforts of the cavalry of Rohan to lift the siege. This suggests that Tolkien doesn't think much of Denethor's strategy.

Then again, Tolkien writes that all the captains agree that the city's forces cannot win without outside assistance. And no character specifically says that they are trying to keep the enemy from the city until the arrival of the Rohirrim. So maybe no one thinks that's a possibility. However, reducing the number of the enemy, to ease the lifting of the siege later, may be a worthwhile goal, and that may be easier to do at a specific points like the river crossing in Osgiliath and at the causeway over the Rammas than once the enemy is spread round the city walls.

And yet, Imrahil is on the right track when he says that the enemy may also defeat the garrison at Cair Andros and come at the Rammas from the north: this indeed happens. Then Gandalf's wisdom applies, for the wall alone cannot hold the enemy back, and it is too long to be successfully defended.

So I see three possible strategies under consideration, all based on the premise that the city can only achieve victory after the hoped-for arrival of the Rohirrim:

1. Faramir's: hold everyone at the city and wait. Minimal loss to the enemy before the siege, but more men to help when Rohan arrives.

2. Imrahil's: defend both the route from Osgiliath to the causeway forts, and Cair Andros. This delays the enemy the longest, but leaves the fewest men for the siege.

3. Denethor's: abandon Cair Andros but defend Osgiliath-to-causeway. Viewed this way, Denethor could be offering a compromise option.

Of course, Imrahil can be seen as leaning to Faramir's position. He says defend Cair Andros "if Osgiliath is defended." Still, he does raise the possibility of defending both.

In any case, I think that the captains hoped to hold the city itself for some days or more—-many sieges do, and that possibility is explicitly raised: they might lose by being starved out. The defenders don't count on the despair that the enemy could bring to bear, nor on a ram that could actually break the mighty gates. So I believe none of the captains' plans was meant to leave the city wills impossibly undermanned.

There may simply be no sure best plan. And I think it is important that when Denethor makes his decision, and Faramir reluctantly accepts, nothing is said of Imrahil or the other captains disagreeing. If they felt certain that the mission was hopeless and without merit, I feel someone would have spoken up. I don’t think Tolkien thought that obeying bad orders unswervingly was a good thing, and he presents Faramir and Imrahil as honorable men, who I think would do the right thing.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Discuss The Children of Húrin in the Reading Room, June 11-October 14.


Wynnie
Rohan


Jun 21 2007, 3:25pm

Post #9 of 34 (149 views)
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He never did [In reply to] Can't Post

in the book, only in the movie.

I'll play N.E.Brigand for a moment, and cite a post from old TORn. (relevant excerpt copy-pasted below in case the old post won't open for you)

    Nick: Bilbo's Heir (Registered User)
    Date/Time: Thu, 11/25/2004 at 17:46 EDT
    Browser/OS: Netscape Navigator V4.0 Custom using R1 1.5)
    In Reply To: "Good general" in that he made an effort. [11/25/2004 @ 13:01] (2/5)
    Subject: The objective was not to retake Osgiliath...

    Message:
    ...it was to defend the West Bank and "make the enemy pay for the crossing": an entirely legitimate military strategy. Landing armies are always vulnerable under such circmumstances. An immediate retreat to MT without defending either the landing or the Rammas (outer wall - we're talking book here) would be to refuse the chance to do considerable damage to your enemy (imagine the Germans not defending the Normandy beaches).

    Of course it was risky because the subsequent retreat back to MT would be perilous for the defenders - but less than suicidal. Much MUST be risked in war, and many forces in wars throughout the ages have been asked to do what Faramir was asked (ordered).





None such shall return again.



N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 21 2007, 3:31pm

Post #10 of 34 (146 views)
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Wait, if you're playing... [In reply to] Can't Post

me, what was I doing? ;-)

Interesting that we both went back to 2004.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Discuss The Children of Húrin in the Reading Room, June 11-October 14.


Wynnie
Rohan


Jun 21 2007, 3:34pm

Post #11 of 34 (137 views)
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2004, the year of [In reply to] Can't Post

all those great TORn Movie-board battles over Faramir's charge. I wonder whatever happened to Bilbo's Heir.





None such shall return again.



Curious
Half-elven

Jun 21 2007, 3:39pm

Post #12 of 34 (158 views)
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Ambiguity, always ambiguity. [In reply to] Can't Post

Your way of reading it fits the facts, but I would argue that my way of reading it also fits the facts. Denethor's plan was not so irrational that anyone could rebel against it or that Faramir could refuse to obey, but I still think that Denethor was foolish to sent Faramir anywhere when he was so ill.

And I think Denethor did so despite the risk not because he had the best interests of Gondor in mind (Denethor had had long ago despaired) but as a test for his remaining son, to see whether he would die for Denethor rather than handing the war over to Gandalf now or Aragorn later. And when Denethor saw what he had done and why he had done it, that is when his mind cracked, and he chose to finish the job himself.

But there is no way of proving my theory or yours, because Tolkien deliberately maintained ambiguity about the reasons for Denethor's decisions and Faramir's obedience.

By the way, I stand corrected about Denethor ordering Faramir to retake Osgiliath as opposed to defending the near shore, but I don't think the movie's version changes the argument much. A sudden counteroffensive still could be defended as a rational strategy in that situation, and still would have put Faramir's life into jeopardy when he was seriously ill. If anything I think the movie downplayed the seriousness of Faramir's illness at that point.


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 21 2007, 3:39pm

Post #13 of 34 (123 views)
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See my response to N.E.B./ [In reply to] Can't Post

 


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 21 2007, 3:46pm

Post #14 of 34 (144 views)
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The movie played up... [In reply to] Can't Post

the suicidal nature of the charge in the filming of Faramir's departure, with the funereal music and lighting, the flowers, and the sad faces. In the book, Faramir is just gone, with some grumbling about him being worked too hard, and then a flashback to the debate I tried to summarize above.

But I'll agree that Denethor's motivation is unclear.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Discuss The Children of Húrin in the Reading Room, June 11-October 14.


Wynnie
Rohan


Jun 21 2007, 3:50pm

Post #15 of 34 (140 views)
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I agree [In reply to] Can't Post

with Cressida:
    Nick: Cressida (Registered User)
    Date/Time: Fri, 1/7/2005 at 14:58 EDT (Fri, 1/7/2005 at 12:58 CST)
    Browser/OS: Microsoft Internet Explorer V6.0 using Windows NT 5.0
    In Reply To: If that is correct [1/7/2005 @ 14:48] (1/1)
    Subject: Because it's not suicide in the book.

    Message:
    Basically, Denethor says he wishes Faramir is dead, and Faramir agrees to try to make his wish come true.

    No. In the book, Faramir accepts an order for an extremely dangerous mission, but not a suicide mission. He was ordered to prevent the enemy forces from crossing the river for as long as possible, not to storm an already-taken city.

    And book-Faramir always says "If I return" before a battle. He uses the same words to Frodo and Sam in TTT. It's his recognition that a soldier can never make assumptions.

    In both versions Gandalf tells Faramir not to throw away his life rashly and that his father does love him.

    The movie adds the word "so" to Gandalf's line, which to me gives it a slightly different meaning.

    The book version of the line is "Do not throw your life away rashly or in bitterness." I interpret that as "I know you're in pain, but don't become careless of your life out there. Don't fight carelessly or try to get yourself killed." Gandalf then adds, "You will be needed here for other things than war."

    The movie line is "Do not throw your life away so rashly," which translates to "Don't go out there."







None such shall return again.



N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 21 2007, 4:01pm

Post #16 of 34 (124 views)
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So! We can write a long footnote about every word that Tolkien never wrote. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Discuss The Children of Húrin in the Reading Room, June 11-October 14.


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 21 2007, 4:32pm

Post #17 of 34 (136 views)
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It may not be suicide, [In reply to] Can't Post

but it also may be motivated by something other than Gondor's best interests. The movie tries to make it clear that Denethor has already lost his mind; in the book we just don't know. I really did not mean to defend the movie here. I'm just making a point about the book.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Jun 21 2007, 5:08pm

Post #18 of 34 (130 views)
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I agree that the book is brilliantly ambiguous [In reply to] Can't Post

The movie takes one interpretation and sells it up to the hilt. The other interpretation is that Denethor is still in full control of his senses, and is putting extreme but justifiable strain on Faramir for good strategic reasons. The book never makes it clear just where the truth lies. Personally I see many small hints that Denethor is cracking, and that his people are losing faith in him. I also see hints that Denethor is jealous of Faramir's popularity with the people (as well as of his love for Gandalf), which may be another subconscious spur to his heartless treatment of his son. And although, as NEB points out, the other captains don't object when Faramir accepts Denethor's command, they are clearly very uncomfortable about Denethor's strategy:

"...But I will not yield the River and the Pelennor unfought - not if there is a captain here who will do his lord's will." Then all were silent...

The silence speaks volumes, I think.

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 21 2007, 5:56pm

Post #19 of 34 (122 views)
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Yes. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
The silence speaks volumes, I think.


The silence speaks volumes -- ambiguously. Smile


weaver
Half-elven

Jun 21 2007, 11:18pm

Post #20 of 34 (110 views)
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Gandalf... [In reply to] Can't Post

If you count the folks who sent him as the strategists, Gandalf pulls of a variety of great tactics to carry out their mission -- he takes a long-term view, cultivates leadership, is open to opportunity, acknowledges and learns from his mistakes, etc. As Aragorn says in the Last Debate, "let none now reject the counsels of Gandalf, whose long labours against Sauron hcome at last to their test. But for him all would long ago have been lost."

I assume that somewhere someone has written an article or more on leadership in LOTR...there are so many great examples of good and bad leadership styles in the book, that if I ran a big company with lots of managers I'd make it required reading...

Weaver



Penthe
Gondor


Jun 22 2007, 12:54am

Post #21 of 34 (127 views)
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What about Faramir? [In reply to] Can't Post

You could say that the strategy in Ithilien is Denethor's (although we don't really know this for sure), but the tactics are Faramir's.He planned the ambush against the Southrons coming along the road to Mordor, and seems to have successfully used guerilla or 'outlaw' tactics against the armies massing against Gondor. I'd argue that this says that his battles are shown to have had a plan. We don't see much of it because we are seeing it through Sam's eyes mostly, and he doesn't understand what he's seeing, but the evidence is there.

I'd also argue that Saruman has quite a good tactical plan against Rohan, because he is not simply aiming to overrun them, but to destablise the kingdom and delay the collapse until it also suits Sauron's needs further south. He just forgot the Ents, as Gandalf says. That seems tactically and strategically sound generally (old wives' tales not included).

And I was being very flippant up above because I don't know much about any of these issues. I'm surprised that people responded so strongly. Sorry from the bottom of my only occasionally flippant heart.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 22 2007, 2:01am

Post #22 of 34 (110 views)
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Flip often works in the Reading Room. [In reply to] Can't Post

Don't sweat it. You got some interesting rebuttals, and I don't think anyone was offended.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Discuss The Children of Húrin in the Reading Room, June 11-October 14.


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 22 2007, 2:35am

Post #23 of 34 (104 views)
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I forgot about Faramir's hit and run ambush. [In reply to] Can't Post

You are quite right, that did involve some tactics.

I don't think Saruman is a tactician, though. He isn't close enough to the battles to maneuver the troops. And I don't think he is a good strategist either, since he really should not have forgotten about the ents. After all, he is quite aware that the ents are real, and not old wives' tales.


orcbane
Gondor


Jun 22 2007, 3:19am

Post #24 of 34 (102 views)
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Ugluk [In reply to] Can't Post

Good question!

I think assaults on Helm's Deep, Osgiliath & Minas Tirith were tactically well concieved, and were initially successful. They were all finally defeated only by unexpected arrival of relief forces. So Saruman & WitchKing rate high in my book.

Also think Ugluk didn't do too bad in his trek accross Rohan.


Fionnan2
Rivendell

Jun 22 2007, 5:35pm

Post #25 of 34 (74 views)
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Sauraman was close to some battles [In reply to] Can't Post

I think in diguise he was present,there is some evidence to suggest this.It is some time since I last read TTT but I think it was either Gandalf or Eomer who hinted at that particular notion.I think to make sure his forces were doing as he ordered.For me personally I believe Gandalf to be techinally the best tactican in middleearth at that time.

Fionnan

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