Man with bowed head

Failed Counsel

You think you are wise, Mithrandir. Yet for all your subtleties, you have not wisdom. Do you think the eyes of the White Tower are blind? I have seen more than you know. With your left hand you would use me as a shield against Mordor. And with your right you`d seek to supplant me. I know who rides with Théoden of Rohan. Oh, yes. Word has reached my ears of this Aragorn, son of Arathorn. And I tell you now, I will not bow to this Ranger from the North, last of a ragged house long bereft of lordship.



The argument continues with Denethor disrespecting and belittling Gandalf. Denethor does not give Gandalf the benefit of the doubt of having an altruistic reason for bringing him and Théoden together. Denethor does not stand for losing his pride and position in this kingdom, and he does not allow anyone else to even question his authority on the matter. He fancies himself a king rather than a simple caretaker and a dormant one at that. 

He takes Gandalf`s role in the entire scheme as one of conspirator and manipulator. The fact that he cannot see any other reason for Gandalf`s visit and his genuine concern for Mankind gives us an insight into the mind of Denethor himself. 

To rule alone a great city like Minas Tirith with all its privileges and solitude is to delve ever deeper into one`s own thoughts, without having anyone there to refute or challenge them. Too much arrogance and self-confidence in his own faulty abilities have brought Denethor to his present state of mind. There is no one, not even one of the Maiar who could break this stream of faulty reasoning and leadership. It is hopeless. 

Stubborn and insecure

Gandalf: “Authority is not given to you to deny the return of the king, steward.”

Denethor: “The rule of Gondor is mine and no other`s.”

With one simple statement, he reveals the most important belief he holds, the reign over Gondor. The coming of the king is not something anyone is capable of denying. It is a right greater than any rule written or proclaimed. It is a rule of blood and one that in itself carries an obligation not only to the designated person but also to the people of Gondor. They deserve to have a king that will fight for them, bring them hope and with whom they might enjoy prosperity rather than hopelessness. 

Denethor is acting childish. All that he has ever accomplished is threatened. Although not being a rightful king, or any king for that matter, to let go of his position is unthinkable, especially when it comes from an outside source.

The analogy of a child with a toy it won’t share is appropriate here. In Denethor’s mind, no one has the right to supplant him, and even if his rule is poor he won’t give it up. If he lost his position as the steward, albeit in his eyes as the king, he would lose everything he thinks he is.

Denethor is insecure in his own abilities, which is why he so desperately clings to his imaginary right to rule. Losing Boromir only deepens this feeling of insecurity, given the fact that he himself projected Boromir’s strength and character onto himself.

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Sympathy misplaced

Come. All has turned to vain ambition. He would even use his grief as a cloak. A thousand years this city has stood. Now, at the whim of a madman it will fall. And the White Tree, the tree of the king will never bloom again.


Denethor’s demeanor when Gandalf and Pippin approached him was, in essence, grieving and solemn. He was legitimately in emotional pain over the death of his son. The conversation steered in that direction as soon as Denethor spoke. He wanted his son’s death explained, and an answer he got. However, as soon as Gandalf took over their interaction and stated the lighting of the beacons, Denethor’s demeanor changed. His gaze shut up from the horn of Gondor in his lap and turned from sorrow to anger in the blink of an eye.

As the topic of conversation moved to what he should do and how he should rule, his reactions became dismissive and disrespectful. He gained their sympathies with the grieving countenance, thereby invoking empathy and guilt in Pippin. Gandalf did not engage this representation of grief. He remained strictly on the topic of his coming. However, this only sparked fury in Denethor driving him into an enraged stating of his beliefs. 

For all his using of grief over painful events to gain sympathy, the pain and grief over the loss of his son cannot be denied. Yes, he turned into a vain, superficial, ambitious and unreasonable man, but his son’s death has had and is still having a profound influence on him. It will continue to influence his behavior and actions until his own end. 

Gandalf is frustrated with both Théoden and Denethor, which is why he storms off. He cannot influence either one of the rulers. It will have to be a different approach that will influence the decisions of both Denethor and Théoden. 

Hoping beyond hope

Pippin: “Why are they still guarding it?”

Gandalf: “They guard it because they have hope. A faint and fading hope that one day it will flower. That a king will come and this city will be as it once was before it fell into decay. The old wisdom borne out of the West was forsaken. Kings made tombs more splendid than the houses of the living and counted the old names of their descent dearer than the names of their sons. Childless lords sat in aged halls, musing on heraldry or in high, cold towers, asking questions of the stars. And so the people of Gondor fell into ruin. The line of kings failed. The White Tree withered. The rule of Gondor was given over to lesser men.” 

Through all the history the White City and its inhabitants endured, guiding the Tree has remained a tradition that has kept the hope alive, the hope that it may be as splendid as it once was. 

The ruin that befell this once prosperous city has given way to arrogant, self-indulging egomaniacs who use their power for their own purposes. It is a sad commentary on the downward spiraling de-evolution of the race of Men. 

Photo by Felix Bacher on Unsplash

An ever-present threat

Pippin: “Mordor.”

Gandalf: “Yes, there it lies. This city has dwelt ever in the sight of its shadow. A storm is coming. This is not the weather of the world. This is a device of Sauron`s making. A broil of fume he sends ahead of his host. The Orcs of Mordor have no love of daylight, so he covers the face of the sun to ease their passage along the road to war. When the Shadow of Mordor reaches this city, it will begin.”

To lie on the border with the Black Land is to live in an ever gnawing threat. The enemy might have been idle for a long time, but once he rises, Gondor is its first victim. It is no wonder Osgiliath has turned into more of a sight of ancient ruins than a city in its own right. It has lost all of its structural integrity, as the enemy tried ceaselessly to penetrate its walls to Minas Tirith.

This is a land inhabited by constant fear, fear of attack, fear of loss. 

Pippin: “Well, Minas Tirith very impressive. So where are we off to next?”

Gandalf: “Oh, it’s too late for that, Peregrin. There’s no leaving this city. Help must come to us.” 

There isn’t anything Gandalf can do at this point but wait for their companions to cross their path. Pippin, as much as he is impressed by the majesty of his surroundings and the imminent danger that stares down at him from the sky, he is ready to leave. He does not want to have anything to do with war or any kind of conflict. All he wants is to see his friends again. 

Although not too far away from Pippin, Frodo and Sam do not try to escape the black fumes building in the sky. Moreover, they wish to enter its starting point.

Read on in my next post.

Feature photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

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