Ten Thousand Years will not Suffice
Third Age - 2937
He had meant to give Denethor the horn on his sixth birthday, but after
last year’s debacle with the bullfrog, Ecthelion ascertained that the
child had not been ready. So lo, this past year, he had spent
‘toughening’ him up. He had taken him out of the nursery suite and
placed him in a room alone. His sisters were quartered at one end of
the long hallway and Denethor’s room was at the other end. He forbade
the girls to let Denethor sneak into bed with them. Morwen and Indis
were most distressed by this order. But there was no speaking to their
father. It was so very hard for them to say no to their brother when he
came begging at their door. The boy’s eyes filled with tears every
night. And as they closed the door on him, they clung to each other and
sobbed. They were not even allowed to walk him back to his room. The
corridor was dark and always chilly. The girls’ hearts broke. But
Ecthelion was adamant; his orders were not to be disobeyed. The boy was
to be Steward. He was already a year behind in the plan that Ecthelion
had devised for his training. Nothing could shake this foreboding in
his heart. He must prepare Gondor and, because of Turgon’s refusal to
listen to his fears, the only choice he had was to prepare his son. It
was in Denethor’s lifetime that the darkest of evils would befall
Gondor; he was sure of it.
So Denethor had found the library and snuck books from it to read
during the long, lonely nights. At first, some of them were very hard
to understand, but he was of Númenórean blood and through
much diligence came to understand many things. After the first few
months and the discovery of the library, Denethor was not so miserable.
His favorite books were those of the sea-faring captains of Gondor.
Someone had taken the old manuscripts and rewritten them to preserve
them. He had found them and became quickly enamored. He was spellbound
at the tales of their great voyages.
His favorite was of Captain Vëantur, under King Minardil. The
Captain’s descriptions made him feel as though he were actually sailing
on the sea. He would close his eyes and imagine he could feel the waves
rocking the great ship, feel the wind blowing against his body, the
spray of water on his face. He read of voyages to the Gray Havens, the
Elven dwelling and of Círdan, Shipwright and Lord of Mithlond.
In his imagination, he rode with the great captain from the mouth of
the Anduin, the Great River, south to the Bay of Belfalas, then further
south to the port cities of Umbar and west to Dol Amroth and Edhellond.
He found maps that showed these great cities and reveled in their
names. He felt the captain’s need to sail even further west; but also
felt the fear of doing such a thing. Mayhap someday, when he was a
great captain, he would sail west to wherever it was that Captain
Vëantur wanted to sail. Just the thought of it made him catch his
breath and the hairs on his arms to stand up.
The captain wrote of strange creatures, half the size of men, whom he
called Periannath, Little People, who dwelt in hillsides and meadows.
He wrote of great towers far to the west built by Elves. There were
terrible encounters with Orcs when they were ambushed north of
Mithlond. Then, Denethor read of the death of his captain along with
King Minardil by the Corsairs at the Battle of Pelargir. And he vowed
he would avenge him.
Ecthelion noted the change in Denethor and assumed that he was growing
up due to his devices. So he began arrangements for the first ceremony
of many in preparation for Denethor’s becoming Steward. He dispatched
riders with invitations to Fengel, King of Rohan (Prince Thengel was
already in Gondor’s service), Prince Angelimir of Dol Amroth, and
various dignitaries from Lossernach, Lebennin, and Lamedon. He even
invited Curunír of the White Council.
At year’s end, the guests started arriving; for three days, the
festivities ran. There was feasting and singing, dancing and fireworks,
along with sporting events and exhibitions of sword fighting, archery
and axe throwing. During one lull, Prince Thengel took Ecthelion aside
and asked him why the ceremony - usually performed at a son’s tenth
birthday - should be performed at Denethor’s seventh. Ecthelion, much
as he loved Thengel, was curt.
‘There are things you do not know, nor can you grasp. I have had a
premonition -- I must abide by it. Soon, all Gondorian males will begin
military training at the age of six. My son will be an example of the
sacrifice that Gondor requires of its people. Do not question me again.’
At last, the time had come. At the end of the third day, Denethor was
summoned to the Citadel. He spent the morning with the Captain of the
Guard. He had brought with him his new garments and the Captain helped
him dress. He first put on the long gray shirt, then his hose, then the
aketon, and his hauberk, and over that a silk tunic and vambraces for
his arms. Finally, over all, was the black surcoat with the White Tree
embroidered on the front. There was no sword for him to wear yet.
Another ceremony, much later, would be held for the conferring of his
When he was dressed, he was led into the Great Hall. His grandfather
sat on the Steward’s Chair and his father stood beside him. As always,
the throne above the Chair was empty. The hall was filled with lords
and ladies. Denethor was frightened. He had never seen so many people
in the Great Hall and it seemed as if all eyes were upon him. For the
last three months, the Captain of the Guard had gone over the ceremony
with him. Denethor had spent all his nights remembering the words, some
of which were in the Noldorin tongue, but finally, he had the ceremony
memorized and the Captain informed Ecthelion that all was ready.
Quickly he started to walk towards the Chair and his grandfather when,
suddenly, his face grew red. He remembered he was to walk slowly. What
would his father say? He remembered the count he was to use to time his
steps. He slowed his gait and counted – one...two...three..four,
one...two...three...four. He saw his father nod his approval. He
remembered to keep his head high, his eyes looking forward and his back
straight, but the mail shirt was heavy and the hall was very long for a
seven year old. Once again he wished his legs were longer. Sweat
started pouring down his face, but he knew he must not wipe it away. He
bit his lip quickly to remind himself that he must be strong. Many
times his father had gone over how very important this day was.
Finally, he reached the Steward’s Chair. He bowed low to his
grandfather, then turned and bowed to his father. How stern he looked.
Had he done something wrong? The ceremony had hardly started. Was
something amiss with his attire? He didn’t know what to do, so he
turned back to Turgon, bent one knee and looked into his grandfather’s
kindly face. The smile upon it lifted his spirits.
How he loved his grandfather! There were so few times when they could
be together, but every moment was special. Even during this last year
of preparation, Turgon would find him and bring him sweets and sit him
upon his knee to tell him funny stories of strange creatures called
oliphants and dolphins and terrifying stories of trolls and orcs.
Denethor felt suddenly unafraid and he was so very glad that it was to
his grandfather that he was to make this pledge and not to his father.
‘In ages long past,’ Turgon began, ‘the great Steward Vorondil the
Hunter came upon a massive kine and slew it. He cut one of the horns
from the beast and brought it to the smithy where it was bound and
tipped with silver. Ancient runes were carved upon it. Finally, it was
hung on a baldric. And thus the Great Horn of Gondor was made. Vorondil
passed this horn on to his son. Ever after have the Stewards of Gondor
passed this horn down from one generation to another, always to the
firstborn son. Today, we betoken this event by the bequeathing of this
first horn – a replica of the Great Horn - upon commencement of
training of the twenty-sixth Steward of Gondor.’
‘Do you accept this horn until it is replaced with the Great Horn?’
‘I do accept this horn,’ Denethor stated.
‘Will you commence training for your duties as future Steward of Gondor?’
‘I shall commence training for my duties to Gondor.’
‘Will you serve the King when he returns?’
‘I shall gladly serve the King when he returns.’
Turgon stood. ‘Let it be known that Denethor the Second, son of
Ecthelion, son of Turgon, of pure Númenórean blood, has
been deemed fit to train for his role as Steward of Gondor.’
He turned again towards Denethor and said, ‘I pass this horn to you --
a replica of the Great Horn -- and bid you wear it at all times to
signify your allegiance to Gondor and to the Return of the King. The
Great Horn and the title Steward of Gondor will be yours upon the death
of the reigning Steward.’
‘Aaye, Turgon! By Oromë of the Valar, before whom this horn is
holy, I, Denethor II, swear to be faithful and true to Turgon, Son of
Turin II. To love all that he loves, and shun all that he shuns,
according to Gondor’s law and according to Númenórean
principles and never, by will or by force, by word nor by work, do
ought of what is loathful to him; on condition that he keeps me as I am
willing to deserve. I now submit to him and chose his will.’
Ecthelion was startled. What had Denethor said? He spoke in the tongue
of the Noldor; the entire oath was correct. But where had he heard of
Oromë? He turned towards the Captain of the Guard who shook his
head. He had said nothing to Denethor of the great Hunter whose name
His grandfather had continued the ceremony, not noticing the words of
Denethor. He brought Denethor to the table with the Steward’s Book upon
it. Denethor wrote his name in the book and under it, Turgon wrote his
name and placed the Seal of the Stewards upon it.
He then placed his hands on Denethor’s shoulders and turned him towards
those assembled. There was polite applause. The Steward sat again in
his chair. Ecthelion held his hand out and shook Denethor’s and
congratulated him. One by one the attending lords came forward and did
the same. Even the wizard came and congratulated him. Denethor was
shaken by the power he felt flowing from that hand. He quickly looked
to the floor and muttered his thanks.
At last, the time had come and he was allowed to leave the Hall. He had
never been so glad to leave a place. He found his friend, Amdir, in the
stables and they giggled and laughed about the people from Dol Amroth
and how very serious they were. They were amazed at Fengel, King of
Rohan. He did not look like a king at all.
‘Do you suppose the King of Gondor, when he returns, will look like
that -- with fur all over him and smelling of horses?’ Amdir asked.
‘I am not sure, Amdir, but I am very glad that Thengel does not smell like that!’
Denethor told him about the wizard and how funny it felt when he shook
his hand. Amdir begged Denethor to stay away from him. ‘Wizards are
scary people,’ he said, ‘and it isn’t good to spend time with someone
you can’t understand.’
Denethor laughed. ‘I will remember that, Amdir, but now, let us eat. I am starving!’
The story of the Horn from LOTR – JRRT
Oath paraphrased from one on dragonbear.com
Seal of Stewards from Encyclopedia of Arda, based on the design by J.R.R. Tolkien
With many thanks for much help – Linaewen, you rock!