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Princes of Dol Amroth
February, 25 2006
Questions about the life and times of Imrahil and his family can be asked here, including questions about Ultimatums, Kin-Strife and the shorter stories. Discussions about Brand can go either here or in the Best-Loved Son thread, since his stories sort of overlap both cycles.
From this she decends into despair strong enough to commit suicide, and struggles even to protect her children. I know part of it is probably related to being so close to the Shadow of Mordor. And the day-by-day worsening of hers and Denethor's relationship was likely gradual enough that she didn't realize for some time just how badly it had gotten. And surely she felt it was her duty to stand by Denethor during such dark times.
Well, yes, there's the Shadow. Living under a state of constant fear and helpless waiting would definitely set one up to be anxious and depressed. As Pippin later discovered while waiting in that very city for the long-dreaded moment.
Denise, I also agree with your sense that the deterioration of the relationship between Finduilas and Denethor was probably very gradual. I wonder if, even as an infant, Faramir exhibited qualities that set Denethor on edge? For parents who are actually involved in their children's upbringing (rather than leaving them to the care of others), each addition to the family changes the chemistry of the family. As Altariel has observed, Denethor was very jealous of the love of those he loves. Would things have gone so badly if Faramir had been a girl, I wonder?
Given the close relationship with her father and brother, and their own power and standing relative to Denethor, I think it unlikely that the souring of the relationship between Finduilas and Denethor was sudden or blatant. And it seems likely to me that she was complicit in it, in some ways. For example, if she had been a very sympathetic and active supporter of Denethor in the early years of her marriage, taking on Thorongil and being an active political force in her own right ala Soledad, it would have been very confusing and disorienting to suddenly find herself having to oppose her husband in his dislike of their younger son (assuming the dislike manifested early in Faramir's life). One psychological theory holds that our identities are comprised of the roles we play in different contexts and with different people; I imagine that, for Finduilas, letting go of the idea that she was her husband's right hand and strongest supporter would have been very difficult to do, even if love of their youngest son required it of her. I imagine there would have been much rationalizing on her part, thinking of reasons why she could excuse cruelty from Denethor this time and failing to take into account that this time had happened many times already. Making excuses while living in the Shadow of Mordor was probably pretty easy.
I'm no expert in the psychology of absued women (child development is my specialty) but from what I understand it can in some ways be likened to Stockholm Syndrome, wherein a prisoner or kidnapped person comes to identify with his/her captors.
I do like that Faramir gave Hethlin one of Finduilas' books. I enjoy that connection between Imrahil's beloved sister and the woman he loves now. I think it's another irony that the book's first owner gave in to despair, while the last owner has undergone such horrific trials and has never given in yet.
Isn't it funny, here again you and I see Hethlin very differently, Denise! Finduilas's abuse came from one very close to her, with whom she very closely identified. She was bruised and psychologically tormented by Denethor, but I doubt he ever overtly threatened her life. Did he drive her to it? Quite possibly. But he didn't slaughter anyone, or repeatedly rape her and leave her for dead in a river. Hethlin's torments were much more overt, more intense but of shorter duration. There was no possibility that she would ever come to identify with her orc captors. That's one of the things about orcs as villains -- there are no nuances, there is nothing to sympathize with or rationalize. They are evil through and through and must be killed on sight. Sure, Hethlin was physically and psychologically scarred by the orcs. But, unlike Faramir or Finduilas regarding Denethor, Hethlin didn't have to psychologically disentangle herself from the orcs.
I don't think one can easily compare the trauma of being victimized by violent strangers to being victimized by someone you know and love. Both are awful, and I'm not suggesting that one is worse than the other. But I'd imagine that, if one is strong enough to survive the former, the road to recovery would be much more straightforward.
Another fundamental difference that I see between Hethlin and Finduilas (and Nimrien, for that matter), is that while F&N had to sit on the sidelines and wait for the blow from Mordor to fall, or in Finduilas's case, wait for Denethor to fall into another black mood, Hethlin was in a context where she was constantly and directly acting against her enemy. She could see the immediate effects of her actions, on her own well-being, and on the enemy. Did her arrow hit an orc? Did the Rangers' camouflaging work? Did she run fast enough?
The psychological effect of living in helpless fear and anxiety must be very high. Finduilas's fear had two distinct sources: the Enemy and her husband. Hethlin was fighting orcs. Sure, they were all aware that behind the orcs lay a much greater and more deadly foe, but Hethlin wasn't looking out her window at a growing menace that she could never hope to hold back; she was holding her own in daily engagement with a difficult, but manageable, enemy. She *could* act. She *did* act. And she wasn't contemplating the whole threat every day. She wasn't worried about whether her children would live to have children of their own. The situations that Finduilas and Hethlin faced were very, very different, in my view.
I think Finduilas can be better compared with Eowyn, and I get the sense that this was clear to Faramir. Unlike Hethlin, Eowyn existed and survived as a woman playing a woman's role (most of the time), in a climate of oppression and fear. Whereas Hethlin's survival involved erasing her sex in order to have a small place of security among men. When they were safely hidden within their secret headquarters, the Rangers of Ithilien had the psychological space to relax and feel at ease. (Except their Captain, who could feel his father's shadow even at that distance.) Eowyn was in a position to contemplate and face the threat of evil on a large scale -- eventually Saruman's orc army coming to obliterate her people, but even before that, the growing dread that hung over Edoras as Saruman's influence grew. She managed to navigate through the treachery of Wormtongue's hold on her dear uncle. She endured the loss of her parents at a young age, and an uncertain future for herself. When she was on the verge of succumbing to despair, she figured she'd at least take out the Witch King while she was at it.
I think that part of the reason why Faramir loves Eowyn is that he, correctly, perceives that she would be a staunch partner and ally but would never allow herself to be abused. She is savvy and feminine, but she has a survivor's instinct that Finduilas lacked. When Eowyn chose to risk death on the Pelennor, it was her decision made on her terms -- not something she was driven to. In fact, as brave as Hethlin is (and of course leaving aside the question of Eowyn going AWOL), I think that not even she matched Eowyn's singular bravery in going into battle as she did.
I'd like to see the scene where Imrahil learns that Heth has it, in fact.
Funny, here again we see things differently. I guess because I see Finduilas as being so essentially different from Hethlin, I don't think that there are significant parallels to be drawn between them. I get the sense that Imrahil is still a bit unclear about what went wrong with Finduilas -- he's never going to understand exactly what happened, or why it was allowed to happen. Hethlin's case is much more cut-and-dry; there's nothing for anyone to feel guilty about (except, perhaps, her maternal grandparents, but let's not go there now!).
In fact, the way I see things (which is perhaps not the way most people, and most importantly Isabeau, see them), I imagine that discovering the little treasure from Faramir in Hethlin's possession would be an uneasy reminder for Imrahil of a) how close Hethlin and Faramir are, and b) how and why she loves/loved Faramir. But that's just me!
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