Kingdom of Ashes

Author: Linda Hoyland

Nominator: Darkover

2011 Award Category: Character Study: Gondorians - First Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: Teen  ✧  Reason for Rating: Mature Language/Themes

Summary: From the moment he first beheld him, Thorongil was a thorn in Denethor's side.

Read the Story  ✧  Backup Story Link

Reviewed by: Virtuella  ✧  Score: 10

Dear Linda, I like a good Denethor fic, and they tend to be few and far between. I am very glad you tackled this project and have shown such insight into one of the most tragic characters in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. You show very cleverly on how many levels Thorongil was a thorn in Denethor’s side. To think that the woman he loved only accepted his suit because Thorongil’s heart was not free! To think that the rival would spot his wife’s illness and suggest a cure, especially one so little to Denethor’s taste! To be wounded in battle and owe his healing, his very life to the rival! All and everything he does is a provocation to Denethor. And yet it wouldn’t have to be, it is first and foremost a question of perception and interpretation. I am reminded of Hardy’s “The Mayor of Casterbridge” and the way things seem to conspire to make it look as of Farfrae was out to get Henchard. Aragorn has no intention to slight, hurt or insult Denethor, but his very existence and the way events develop seem to leave no option for Denethor – given Denethor’s character! - but to hate him. It is a sad study about how somebody’s obsession with their power and status can lead to their deep unhappiness and ultimate desctruction.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 10

A powerfully written portrait of Denethor spiralling down through the years towards his final madness. From the moment Thorongil enters Denethor's orbit, the Northerner assumes a larger and larger influence on Denethor's thoughts and in his life, sparking first mild annoyance, then suspicion, anger, and jealousy entwined with fear. Denethor is written as a proud man who cares strongly for his father and his land; and who assumes that he is entitled to the lion's share of their love. Wary of any rival, Denethor's psychic hackles are raised by his father's growing affection for the wanderer of unknown lineage. It is very telling that in this story, Denethor can observe Thorongil's actions and the reactions to him, but cannot completely understand them. It is Denethor's suspicions of Thorongil, even after the Eagle of the Star leaves Gondor, that help lead him to the regular usage of the Palantir. Linda plays on the physical resemblance between Denethor and Thorongil through Ecthelion's comments and his championing the outland-born captain as if he were a son of his own, thrusting Denethor and Thorongil into a contest for Ecthelion's favor that seems gentle and harmless, but is deadly serious in Denethor's eyes and only sharpens Denethor's nascent insecurities about his place in his father's affections. The cry of of an onlooker to the return of Denethor and Thorongil's triumphant return to Minas Tirith, hailing them as "the twin eagles", is a nice touch, linguistically and psychologically. One gets the feeling that fate had intended Thorongil to come to Minas Tirith and become a sort of brother to Denethor, that they should have formed a bond of mutual respect and trust, so close were they in skill and natural gifts and likeness. Faramir's resemblance to the hated Thorongil gives Denethor another reason to emotionally distance himself from his younger son; and the distance broadens as Faramir harkens to Mithrandir and hopes for the return of the long-gone Kings of Gondor. And, when Boromir leaves on the errand to Imladris, and the events of LOTR unfold, Denethor's festering distrust of Thorongil flowers into full-fledged paranoia in the convincing climax of the story. The last part is particularly bitter, since we know that Denethor did not have to die.

Reviewed by: Darkover  ✧  Score: 9

This story is written in a near-prophetic style and is packed with emotion. It is the story of how Denethor's resentment of his self-made rival, Captain "Thorongil," took over his life and became an obsession, to the point that it contributed to his final madness. The author also demonstrates how Denethor's obsessive jealousy affected his relationships with everyone: his father, his lady wife, the people of Gondor, and both of his sons, especially Faramir. The author also suggests that this is the primary reason why Denethor always resented and disliked Mithrandir; he suspected that the wizard and his old rival were colluding against him. In this as in other aspects of the story, the author deftly weaves canon in with her own original ideas. One such idea is the suggestion that perhaps Denethor wished to immolate Faramir as well as himself, not just because Denethor did not want either of them becoming the thralls of the Dark Lord, but because Denethor refused to step down for his old rival, and did not wish to see any son of his surrender the White Rod to the man Denethor hated so much. This story is wonderfully written, and the final line sums it all up.

Reviewed by: obsidianj  ✧  Score: 5

This is a great character study of Denethor. His rivalry with Thorongil, his joy at his marriage and his sons, until his descend into madness. There is one thing that leads through the whole story. That is his self-centeredness. He puts himself into the middle of his universe and evaluates everything by the good it does himself. In the light of this character trait, some would call it a flaw, he cannot see anything good in Thorongil and he cannot admit that a king might be good for Gondor. If he is not the most important person in the realm, nobody else can be it. I think this hits the nail on the head from how I see Denethor also.

Reviewed by: Ellynn  ✧  Score: 4

As always, Linda gives us a great story about Aragorn. It was written for Teitho challenge and got one of my votes. Aragorn and Denethor are perfectly describe. I would like to emphasize the dark atmosphere in the last chapter which I really like - atmosphere that matches so well with darkening of Denethor's mind and soul. And the last line is so perfect! So well done.