LOTR: Why can Gandalf help Theoden, but not Denethor?


One of the most successful techniques that Tolkien uses in his works is the use of dichotomies within opposing characters to demonstrate what their choice will lead to. Throughout the Lord of the Rings trilogy, there are many examples where two characters are given the same choice, and one makes the wrong decision, acting as a cautionary tale showing the terrible devastation of this wrong decision, while the other chooses the right one. the path, and ends in triumph and triumph.

The best examples of this are Boromir and Faramir, both sons of Gondor, both people who are given the opportunity to try to take the One Ring and use it to protect their people. On the one hand, Boromir succumbs to this terrible temptation, tries to take the ring from Frodo and eventually loses his life because of this. On the other hand, Faramir has the same choice when Frodo ends up in his hands in Ithilien, but Faramir makes the right choice, releases Frodo and eventually saves Middle-earth, allowing the ring keeper to complete his quest to destroy him.

And it’s not just men who face this choice, these dichotomies go from the smallest creatures (hobbits) to the most powerful creatures (wizards). Another pair of opposites that shows what it means to succumb to desire and arrogance is Gandalf the Grey and Saruman the White. Saruman himself confronts Gandalf with a choice: they must join forces and serve the dark lord, and also try to seize the ring of power for themselves.

At this point, Saruman has already plunged into darkness, and his greed is hopeless, which leads to him eventually losing Isengard, running to come up with an evil plan in the Shire, and then being killed by Grima Gniloust. On the contrary, Gandalf prefers to remain loyal to his friends and his mission Istari to help rid the world of evil, for which he is given the opportunity to return as Gandalf the White, and eventually he becomes the hero of many people. lives.

Gandalf is the savior of most of the key characters in one form or another, but perhaps his most notable destruction of evil is the liberation of King Rohan Theoden from the terrible clutches of Saruman. Theoden himself represents a different dichotomy of characters, his counterpart is Denethor of Gondor. So why then can Gandalf save and redeem one, but not the other? It is clear that both rulers of the respective kingdoms suffer from a terrible disease of the mind.

When the audience first meets Theoden in “Two Towers”, he represents a withered man, aged beyond his years, who abandoned his beloved and nephew and seems indifferent to the death of his only son. He is clearly being manipulated by his perverted and cunning advisor Gniloust, who poisoned his thoughts and body with Saruman’s magic. Fortunately, Gandalf manages to rid him of this terrible curse by a stunning display of power in his new white wizard form, and Theoden returns to himself and his senses and rises to become the king his people needed him to be.

In contrast, Denethor, who also clearly suffers from mental illness, as his paranoia and complacency bring both his sons to the brink of death. However, when Gandalf arrives and tries to help Denethor the same way he tried to help Theoden, he cannot get through to the Steward and cure him of his madness and illness. He tries to beg Denethor to accept help, both his own and others, but Denethor is too proud and strong to admit that he and his rule are failing.

Both Denethor and Theoden are poisoned by external forces, for Theoden it is Saruman, for Denethor it is the whisper and terrible premonitions of Sauron through the Palantir in the highest towers of Minas Tirith. But, as with all Tolkien’s themes and messages, it all comes down to their choice and the path they follow. The difference between them and the reason why Gandalf can save one and not the other is simply that Theoden wants to be saved and Denethor does not.

Theoden chooses the path of hope, the path of action, he decides to fight side by side with his people, knowing that perhaps he will not come out on the other side, but will help shape a better future for the generations that will come after him. He decides to accept the help and guidance of Gandalf and ends his story with death on the battlefield as a brave hero who will be honored forever, and his legends will be passed down through the ages. Denethor, on the other hand, rejects Gandalf’s help and advice, believing that he, as a Steward, knows better. He succumbs to despair and decides that he would rather die than trust others to come to his defense, and eventually ends his story as a coward, throwing himself off the ramparts and leaving Faramir and Aragorn to pick up the pieces of his forgotten kingdom.


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