The Monday meeting of the Defenders of Denethor is now in session. I commented over there, but I’m putting this here because Stephen’s got a serious discussion going on, and this gets less serious the more I think about it.
Where I think we both ended up is, Denethor is doing the right thing according to his reason. His proposed course of action is entirely defensible, all his priorities are well established, he’s acting within his authority, and if anything went wrong his CYA package was in order. Unfortunately, he’s operating outside the theater of reason alone. The circumstances require faith in Something much greater than the works of Men, which Denethor doesn’t have, or hasn’t found use for in government.
Here in our world, any christian (and large numbers from other religions) will tell you we have Scripture to tell us about that Something. Nothing of the sort exists in Gondor. I suppose the Steward could go ask Elrond, which is kind of what Boromir is doing at the Council. Or he could ask Galadriel and Celeborn, since they were around for even more of the backstory. Or Círdan would have an interesting perspective. But these people all have their own interests, their own motives. He’d never be sure they were telling him everything. If you really want Denethor to take supernatural powers into his calculations, you’d have to give him something in writing.
What if Denethor got hold of a copy of the Letters? Would that have the same theological impact as the Epistles of St. Paul have in ours? After all, Middle Earth has an omniscient creator (he’d say “subcreator”) who knows and sees all, and has a Plan for the world.
The book would contain the creator’s secret thought, his intentions that didn’t make it into the obvious plot. It contradicts itself in some places, and is frustratingly silent when it gets to some things you really need to know. Some parts would make no sense at all to a character from LotR. It has all the trappings of the foundational text of a religion.
Somehow, though, I don’t see the Men of Gondor accepting it that way.