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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.

Raksha writes: I've always thought it a bit peculiar that Denethor figured out very early that Sauron was going to make his move on Minas Tirith at some point during his stewardship, yet hadn't seemed to have physically shored up the White City's defenses at the time of ROTK ... Denethor's preoccupation with mano-a-mano Palantir-wrestling with Sauron might explain his lack of attention to trying to physically defend Minas Tirith, not to mention Ithilien and the rest of Gondor.

Yes, I asked in Altariel's blog what the nature of communication via palantír is, because things like this don't make sense if the palantír shows the user whatever he or she wishes to see. Good case in point raised by Amy in The Princes of Dol Amroth thread:

Amy writes: How come Saruman doesn't know about the Heir of Isildur? Why didn't Sauron see, in the palantir, the Fellowship coming down the river in their boats?

I'd been thinking that maybe the palantíri were kind of videophones (very loose analogy) wherein one user could only see things shown to him/her by another user. That was contested and it probably isn't the right way to think about the palantíri, but I still can't make sense of why there were such limitations on the knowledge of users of the palantíri, if in fact the stones could show a skilled user anything.

Anyway, whatever the nature of palantír-facilitated communication, it seems to me that it was one of Sauron's greatest tools in the Third Age. I wonder if Saruman would have been snared into Sauron's web if he hadn't attempted to use the palantír at Orthanc. I think the fact that Denethor managed to at least resist "going over to the dark side," despite years of struggling against Sauron via a palantír, attests to his strength of character. Perhaps Saruman already had malice or a hunger for power in his heart, and that's why he was susceptible while Denethor managed more or less to resist. Or maybe malice was the only difference between Denethor and Saruman, because it seems pretty clear that Denethor had a lust for power... Poor, unlikeable Denethor!

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