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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.
I have nothing against your making Imrahil and the Swannies fine horsemen - it makes sense to me, and would, I believe, be in line with Tolkien's intent.
Who would Denethor have allied with against Sauron? It's true that his options were limited. But what bugs me is that there is no mention of his ever even trying to ally with anyone else. Denethor knew quite early in his Stewardship, through palantir-viewing, that Sauron was going to make a major attempt to conquer Middle-earth within his lifetime, and that it was at Gondor that the hammer would fall. He knew (or should have known) that Gondor was under-populated, under-manned, and that the Enemy had an unknown and possibly greater number of orcs, with Corsairs (whewn they eventually rebuilt their ships; Thank You, Thorongil) and Southrons and Easterlings happy to add to the ranks.
Denethor could have tried to at least coordinate some mutual defense buildups with the Men and Dwarves and Elves of Dale; Dale and Laketown were prosperous and had, I believe, some good archers. Denethor could have tried to contact the Dunedain of the North; to at least find out how many were left, and if some of them might like to come live in the warmer and more civilised Gondor and swell the ranks of the frontline defense against Sauron; or at least sought them out to see how they were faring against the orcs up north. And Denethor knew who Elrond was. Don't you think, in Denethor's shoes, you might have at least sought the counsel of the fellow who was Gil-Galad's herald the last time the West battled Sauron?
And Gandalf. Gandalf could have been a tremendous resource. Denethor could have put aside his resentment and tried to cultivate the wizard's goodwill and pick his brain; and at least use him as an envoy to parts of Middle-earth the Steward couldn't personally visit.
More Gondorian cavalry, as I said: One of Sauron's few weaknessses was a lack of cavalry. If Denethor had started working with Theoden 30 years earlier on a joint program of training and intensified breeding, they might have added several hundred more horsemen at least...
Denethor could also have continued his father's policy of opening Gondor's ranks to talented foreigners. He needed men of ability and skill.
And what about trying to find some Elves, or even a Wizard, to beef up the gates of Minas Tirith by laying on a magic spell, or runes of protection or something; since Denethor knew that Sauron, a big bad Dark Lord with tremendous sorcerous powers, was going to be sending his minions to knock on it?
Now it could well have been that none of this would have prevented the forces of Mordor from breaching the Great Gate - but what bothers me is that Denethor didn't even attempt any of these efforts. He trusted himself, his ability to wrest secrets from Sauron via palantir, and the might of Gondor. And he should have known that it wouldn't be enough...
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