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Denethor: "The West has failed"

noWizardme
Half-elven


Sat, 6:38pm

Post #1 of 5 (150 views)
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Denethor: "The West has failed" Can't Post

Denethor's speech with Gandalf just before he (D) kill himself is too long to quote here. His complaints are that
a) Sauron is unbeatable (as shown by the D's palantir) and;
b) Gandalf plans to supplant Denethor with Aragorn

One would think that (b) becomes irrelevant if (a) is true, but there you go. But I notice that Denethor also says, as part of his rant that "The West has failed"

Who is included in 'The West' do you think?- just the Middle-earth powers (Gondor, Rohan, maybe Rivendell - the usual assorted opponents of Sauron)? Or is Denethor going a bit Feanor-ish and rejecting the Valar too?

~~~~~~
"You were exceedingly clever once, but unfortunately none of your friends noticed as they were too busy being attacked by an octopus."
-from How To Tell If You Are In A J.R.R. Tolkien Book, by Austin Gilkeson, in 'The Toast', 2016 https://the-toast.net/...-a-jrr-tolkien-book/


Asger
Rivendell


Sat, 6:46pm

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Middle-Earth powers [In reply to] Can't Post

I think for Denethor the Valar are just myths, a religion for common folk.

"Don't take life seriously, it ain't nohow permanent!" Pogo
www.willy-centret.dk


CuriousG
Half-elven


Sat, 11:38pm

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Agree with Asger [In reply to] Can't Post

I think Denethor meant Elves + Men in the West. Though if we grant him any spirituality or mysticism, it wasn't like that vision that came to his sons and Boromir's subsequent trip to Imladris brought any (obvious) help to Gondor and in fact robbed him of Boromir, so in that sense, the West did fail him.


Quote

‘In that dream I thought the eastern sky grew dark and there was a growing thunder, but in the West a pale light lingered, and out of it I heard a voice, remote but clear, crying:

Seek for the Sword that was broken: (etc)



noWizardme
Half-elven


Sun, 11:07am

Post #4 of 5 (95 views)
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Yes, quite likely [In reply to] Can't Post

Perhaps that's another difference between Denethor and his standing-silence-observing son Faramir? (The standing silence looks rather like a religious observance.)

When LOTR was first published, and when I first read it (1970s) 'The West' had an everyday current-affairs meaning - one of the sides in the Cold War. So maybe that also makes several of us absorb a political meaning for the term? (I imagine that Tolkien would get impatient if I were suggesting LOTR as an allegory for real-world history, but I'm not suggesting that. I'm saying that I found it easy to take the term as a metaphor).

~~~~~~
"You were exceedingly clever once, but unfortunately none of your friends noticed as they were too busy being attacked by an octopus."
-from How To Tell If You Are In A J.R.R. Tolkien Book, by Austin Gilkeson, in 'The Toast', 2016 https://the-toast.net/...-a-jrr-tolkien-book/


noWizardme
Half-elven


Sun, 11:27am

Post #5 of 5 (96 views)
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Ohhh - nice! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
if we grant him [Denethor] any spirituality or mysticism, it wasn't like that vision that came to his sons and Boromir's subsequent trip to Imladris brought any (obvious) help to Gondor and in fact robbed him of Boromir, so in that sense, the West did fail him.


I hadn't ever thought of that, so I'm delighted by it. It does add some salt to Denethor's situation (and further twists to Tolkien's story). And then still more salt if he reflects that he might 'have been supposed to' send Faramir instead of Boromir.

That pesky prophecy keeps kicking the Stewards' shins, doesn't it - I remember when we discussed The Breaking Of The Fellowship. I became convinced that a major thing tipping Boromir over the edge into claiming the Ring is that his prophecy-driven mission looks likely to end in complete failure. (That's because he thinks Aragorn is going to go to Mordor with Frodo, and so abandon his responsibility to Gondor.)

Some critics (Ursula Le Guin, for one, I think) have suggested compare/contrasting Theoden and Denethor. I can see that - both are aging leaders who lose a son yet are challenged to rally and do their duty. In that analysis Theoden succeeds and Denethor fails. But I'm now thinking that fate (or whatever we think is behind 'how things work out') is especially unkind to Denethor. The duty to which Theoden rallies leads to him dying what I think his people would consider an excellent death, with the satisfaction of handing the crown to his chosen successor. The duty that Theoden refuses could have led to 'a good death', I suppose, but he's also got to hand over to his rightful successor, rather than his chosen one.

In that way I'm wondering if he's actually a bit like Frodo - both are instruments for achieving something, rather than personally achieving it the way heroes often do. And neither can accept it (Denethor not at all, and Frodo not completely).

I'm thinking here of Tolkien's point Frodo's state of mind after his return to the Shire:


Quote
I think it is clear on reflection to an attentive reader that when his dark times came upon him and he was conscious of being 'wounded by knife sting and tooth and a long burden’ it was not only nightmare memories of past horrors that afflicted him, but also unreasoning self-reproach: he saw himself and all that he [had] done as a broken failure. 'Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same, for I shall not be the same.’ That was actually a temptation out of the Dark, a last flicker of pride: desire to have returned as a 'hero’, not content with being a mere instrument of good. And it was mixed with another temptation, blacker and yet (in a sense) more merited, for however that may be explained, he had not in fact cast away the Ring by a voluntary act: he was tempted to regret its destruction, and still to desire it. 'It is gone for ever, and now all is dark and empty’, he said as he wakened from his sickness in 1420.

Tolkien - Letter 246


~~~~~~
"You were exceedingly clever once, but unfortunately none of your friends noticed as they were too busy being attacked by an octopus."
-from How To Tell If You Are In A J.R.R. Tolkien Book, by Austin Gilkeson, in 'The Toast', 2016 https://the-toast.net/...-a-jrr-tolkien-book/

 
 

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