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The Best-Loved Son cycle

 February, 23 2006

Anything dealing with this cycle of stories can be discussed here: Andra and Boromir as a couple, the Denethor/Imrahil/Andrahar rivalry, the politics of Gondor in the last days of the Third Age.

Hi Isabeau,

I don't know where to best address comments to the chapters you've posted for the current writing project, but since Imrahil, Denethor & Andrahar feature heavily, this seemed like a good place.

I saw that you put in a caveat at the top of the third chapter, that you weren't too sure about Denethor. I thought the confrontation between him and Imrahil was very well done. It was nice to see a more aggressive, edgier side to Imrahil -- barking at the clerk, having to hold himself in check lest he throttle Denethor.

And who else but Imrahil could give a realistic assessment of the Steward: that he was no longer a warrior in any real sense, that he hadn't seen to the practical matters of defending Gondor in the months and years leading up to the war, that he allowed his pride or insecurity to dictate some of his moves, which included sending a son whom he really did love to certain death. In the Princes of Dol Amroth discussion I remarked that I don't get the sense that you indulge in much foreshadowing, but here I think you did a fine job showing that Denethor wasnt' just a mean-spirited lunatic, but was an intelligent, lonely, and heavily burdened man who was out-of-touch with the world around him, and the practical aspect of the danger that approached. I don't know if I'd call that foreshadowing, or just illustrating the likely earliest manifestations of Denethor's final descent into madness and despair, but however you look at it I thought it well done.

Unless I misread RoTK, one of Denethor's greatest feats perhaps proved to be his undoing. If nothing else, perhaps Denethor's confrontations with Sauron via the palantír overwhelmed him and blinded him to the necessity of preparing against the smaller, less powerful beings who would actually be acting against Gondor on Sauron's behalf. Denethor did seem to see himself as locked in a struggle "a deux" with Sauron -- the armies and defenses of each seemed to be almost afterthoughts to him. His worry about what the Enemy would think if Osgiliath and the Pelennor were undefended are perhaps a symptom of that. And Imrahil would rightly be baffled by such thoughts -- who gives a fig what the Enemy thinks? But it's not unreasonable given Denethor's experiences, which only he really knows about. Kind of the story of the guy's life. Difficult to like him -- I don't -- but you can't make him out to just be a bullying, insecure, power-mad lunatic. I subscribe to Altariel's theory that from an early age Denethor was probably misunderstood and unappreciated by the people around him, including his father. Gotta feel sorry for the guy, but there are limits, as Imrahil points out.

My typically long-winded way of saying I thought it fit well.

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