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The name Denethor refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Denethor (disambiguation).
Denethor II
"Lord Denethor" by Peter Xavier Price
Biographical Information
TitlesRuling Steward
BirthT.A. 2930
RuleT.A. 2984 - 3019 (35 years)
Death15 March, T.A. 3019[1] (aged 89)
Rath Dínen, Minas Tirith
HouseHouse of Húrin
ParentageEcthelion II
Siblings2 older sisters[2]
ChildrenBoromir and Faramir
Physical Description
WeaponrySword and knife
GalleryImages of Denethor II

Denethor looked indeed much more like a great Wizard than Gandalf did, more kingly, beautiful, and powerful; and older.

Denethor II was the twenty-sixth and penultimate Ruling Steward of Gondor. He succeeded his father Ecthelion II at his death in T.A. 2984. Denethor was described as appearing noble and powerful, even to rival the lordliness of Gandalf. He was proud, tall, wise, far-sighted, and valiant; "more kingly" than any of his predecessors for a long time. He proved a masterful lord and a great ruler, seeing to all things large and small under his command.[3]


Early life

Denethor was born the third child and first son of Ecthelion II, Ruling Steward of Gondor, in T.A. 2930.[2]

A northerner known as Thorongil came to the service of his father. He was the same age as Denethor and appeared like the Kings of Gondor of old. He was a war genius and won Ecthelion's and the people's trust and affections, and many Gondorians saw him and Denethor as rivals. The stranger talked in favour of Gandalf whom Denethor didn't trust at all; it is possible that Denethor figured out that Thorongil was really Aragorn II. If Denethor knew that the stranger was the Heir of Isildur, he could have thought that he would conspire with Gandalf to supplant him. Thus, Denethor was not sorry when Thorongil vanished to the east.[3]

Denethor and Finduilas by Catherine Chmiel

In 2976 he married Finduilas, daughter of Prince Adrahil of Dol Amroth, whom he loved deeply. She gave birth to two sons: Boromir and Faramir. He doted upon his eldest son, Boromir, while Faramir, his second son, with his actions and friendship with Mithrandir, often displeased his father.[3] In the meantime, Faramir studied the lore of Gondor, including the archives that only he and his father could access. Part of his studies were devoted to the lore of the palantíri.[4]

Early stewardship

Eight years after Denethor's marriage, Ecthelion died and he became Ruling Steward. Denethor was not viewed very highly in the eyes of his people in comparison to Thorongil, but Denethor proved a masterful ruler. He listened to counsel, said little, and followed his mind, holding everything in his own hand.

Only four years after the death of Ecthelion, Finduilas died as well. Denethor was grief-stricken, and became more grim and silent. Moreover he anticipated Sauron's assault during his time and desperately needed knowledge. Being proud and overconfident in his willpower, Denethor looked into the long-forbidden Anor-stone to seek knowledge.[3]

The palantír showed him much of what he wanted to see, and his knowledge grew exceedingly, so that he was wondered at by the people. But eventually Sauron, looking into the captured Ithil-stone, discovered that Denethor was using the palantír.[4] Sauron attempted to wrench the Anor stone to his will, but failed due to Denethor's strength of will, his integrity, and his right to the use of the stone.[4] But this caused even greater stress upon the steward's already weakened body, coupled by the apparent invincibility of Sauron shown him by the stone and the manner of his viewing[4] and aged prematurely.[3]

Looking into the Stone by Anna Kulisz

Denethor, meanwhile, looked not only at Mordor, but also probably to Saruman, and extracted information from the wizard to his benefit, which Sauron was helpless to prevent. He also sought to surpass Thorongil and Gandalf in wisdom, and to keep an eye on them. [4]

In all debatable matters of importance domestic, or external, however, even Denethor held Council, and at least listened to what the Lords of the Fiefs and the Captains of the Forces had to say.[5] But he became blind to all struggles save that of him and Sauron, his people and Sauron's Orcs. He mistrusted all his allies who were not under his own rule, and though he cared for his nation, his concerns were largely political; he feared and opposed any potential rivals in the nobility, regardless of their intent, and despised lesser men.[3][6] He wore mail under his robes, to prevent himself from getting soft in his old age.[7]

Stirring of trouble

Faramir, his younger son, began to have dreams, speaking of Imladris and Isildur's Bane. Boromir convinced his father to send him instead of his brother and in the end Denethor gave in. Boromir did not return from his quest; he was shot by Uruk-hai on Amon Hen and Faramir and Denethor both heard the horn of Gondor. Several days later his horn was found by watchers below the Entwash, cloven in two. It was brought to Denethor; desperate after the death of his Heir, he looked in the palantír more often than usual and so it grew his despair.[3]

Knowing of the coming stroke of Mordor, Denethor called in the Captains of the Outlands to defend Minas Tirith. Nazgûl began to fly over the city, out of view but still casting shadows of fear.[8]

Thirteen days after Boromir's death, Mithrandir arrived with the hobbit Peregrin Took. Denethor openly vented his rage at first, but at the same time was curiously attracted to the hobbit, a witness of his son's death, questioning him closely and suspiciously. When Peregrin offered his service in return for Boromir's sacrifice, Denethor was pleased and amused. After examining Pippin's barrow-blade, he accepted the hobbit's service courteously. He then confronted Gandalf. While they supped, Gandalf told of the fall of Isengard. Denethor hinted at his own abilities to see what happened in the world. He racked the hobbit with questions for an hour, and then gave his guests lodging.[8]

Siege of Gondor

Soon after, the Rammas was surrounded and Gondor placed under siege. Faramir returned from errands in Ithilien, and told the story of his encounter with Frodo Baggins, two days before, and of his journey to Cirith Ungol. At the name of this place, Gandalf himself seems to be extremely uneasy.

A discussion on the matter followed between Denethor, Gandalf, and Faramir, in which Denethor revealed he had guessed more than was said by his son. He noticed that Faramir had looked at Mithrandir to understand if he was saying too much. Denethor knew about the Ring and he was aware of Frodo's mission. He accused Faramir of condemning his people to certain death and told Gandalf that on this matter he would not have destroyed the ring, instead wishing to hide it without using it. Noticing his son's weariness, Denethor allowed Faramir to rest for the night. Denethor never said explicitly that he would have liked for Boromir to live and Faramir to die: when asked by Faramir, he said that he would have liked for their places to be exchanged, as if Boromir was in Ithilien he would have brought him a mighty gift (the Ring).[7]

In a council held the next day, Faramir was sent to strengthen the garrison of Osgiliath.[9] The decision was not taken by Denethor himself, but by the Council, led by Denethor but to which Faramir took part, agreeing in the end with his father's will.

Faramir recovered the lost ground all the way back to the Anduin, but soon faced fresh troops from Minas Morgul and Harad, led by the Witch-king, a master strategist and one of terrible presence. Faramir was driven back to the Causeway Forts, but these fell, and Faramir was forced to retreat, having lost a third of his men. The retreat was dogged by the Nazgûl, and Faramir was almost killed by a wound from a southern arrow, thought to be a poisoned dart.[7]

The Pyre of Denethor by Anke Eißmann

After Imrahil had brought him the body of Faramir, nearly dead, Denethor gave in to despair and seemed not to be interested into anything but his son's life. While the outer defences of the Pelennor Fields collapsed at many points, he looked into the palantír; he found the Enemy stronger than ever on all fronts and feared that the Ring was in his hands; he sees a black sky and Frodo captured in Mordor.

Denethor suddenly seemed to have aged by many years, and his will was snapped. He abandoned leadership of the city to Gandalf and Imrahil, staying by his son's side in the White Tower, thinking that everything was lost for his family, his city, and his people. Rohan had been cut off and could not come to their aid; the first circle was also in flames: the latter piece of information was the final trigger for Denethor's suicide.[7]

He prepared a pyre for him and Faramir in Rath Dínen. He was hampered in his aim by Beregond, one of his own Guards of the Citadel, and Gandalf, who removed Faramir from the pyre. When Faramir called his name, Denethor seemed willing to abandon his suicidal designs, but suddenly he raised up the palantír and prophesied the doom of Gondor, acknowledging that a new enemy was about to arrive: the pirates from Umbar. In a final speech to Gandalf, he said that he would have liked for things to be as they had always been in his life: to be a ruling Steward of a free city, ruling in peace and with his sons masters of their own will. But if he had to see his city in the hand of an illegitimate King and his son turned into the pupil of a wizard, then he preferred to have nothing and to decide how to end his own life:

Better to burn sooner than late, for burn we must. Go back to your bonfire! And I? I will go now to my pyre. No tomb for Denethor and Faramir! No long slow sleep of death embalmed. We will burn like heathen kings before ever a ship sailed hither from the West. The West has failed. Go back and burn!

He took the white rod of his office and broke it on his knee, casting it into the flames, symbolising the end of his stewardship and the end of the rule of the Stewards. He then laid himself down on the table with the palantír on his breast and so perished.[10]


Faramir did survive, and the city did not fall due to the timely appearance of the Rohirrim and the Dúnedain with Aragorn II.[11] Faramir kept the title of Steward, but not of Ruling Steward, for he recognised Aragorn's right to take the throne. Using Athelas to save the lives of Faramir, Éowyn, and Merry, Aragorn was first acknowledged as King by the people of Minas Tirith before he could actually claim the title. Faramir's reaction to his father's death is not recorded, but it is said that the news of his death wasn't given to him during the first days of his recovery, in order not to grieve him.


Denethor was named after the Nandorin chieftain of the First Age. The name is Nandorin fit into the Sindarin sound range, and is said to mean "Lithe and lank".[12]


Princes of
Dol Amroth
2855 - 2953
2917 - 3010
Ecthelion II
2886 - 2984
2950 - 2988
2930 - 3019
two daughters
2978 - 3019
2983 - Fo.A. 82
b. 2995

Portrayal in adaptations

Denethor in adaptations
Denethor in The Return of the King (1980 film)
Denethor in The Lord of the Rings (film series)
Denethor in The Lord of the Rings Online

1955: The Lord of the Rings (1955 radio series):

The voice of Denethor is provided by Robert Farquharson.

1979: The Lord of the Rings (1979 radio series):

The voice of Denethor is provided by Tom Luce.

1980: The Return of the King (1980 film):

William Conrad is the voice of Denethor. His role is essentially reduced to presaging the doom of the arrival of the Black Ships (as he has seen in the palantír) to Gandalf and Pippin, and then calling for his own execution.

1981: The Lord of the Rings (1981 radio series):

The voice of Denethor is provided by Peter Vaughan.

1992: Der Herr der Ringe (1992 German radio series):

Denethor is played by Heinz Schimmelpfenig.

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers:

Denethor, played by John Noble, appears in a flashback in the film's Extended Edition. He appears at Osgiliath shortly after Boromir completes his successful defence of the city against Sauron's forces and tells Boromir of the One Ring being found, urging his son to go attend the Council of Elrond in Rivendell and try to persuade them to bring it back to Gondor so as to use it in defence of their homeland against Sauron. Denethor also makes known his preference of Boromir over Faramir, which would further play out in the next film.

2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King:

Denethor appears almost entirely devoid of hope and highly irrational after learning of Boromir's death. He demands his remaining son go on essentially a suicide mission to reclaim enemy-captured Osgiliath and stubbornly refuses to light the warning beacons of Gondor to call for the aid of Rohan (Pippin lights it instead at Gandalf's behest). Denethor then claims Théoden betrayed him when Sauron's armies begin attacking Minas Tirith). In the book, the danger of his madness is that it seems to follow a certain logic; Sauron does have vastly superior forces, all of which he has surely shown to the Steward in the palantír. His actions, however, do not immediately proclaim his insanity; the Osgiliath mission is less obviously suicidal, as the city has not yet been overrun, and the warning beacons have indeed been lit, although Denethor expects little help.
When Faramir is brought back from Osgiliath on his horse into the throne room, seemingly dead, Pippin attempts to stop Denethor from cremating his son (and himself with him), who he is sure is still alive. After Denethor throws Pippin out, the Hobbit rushes back to the battle to find Gandalf and stop the wanton murder of Faramir. When Gandalf and Pippin return astride Shadowfax, Denethor snatches a torch and (after a cynical monologue about Sauron's power in the extended edition) lights the pyre himself. Gandalf rides in, throwing Denethor off the pyre. Pippin jumps in to pull Faramir off and douses the flames on his body. A maddened Denethor attacks Pippin, but just then, Shadowfax kicks him back onto the pyre. And it's from there that he sees Faramir showing signs of life. Consumed by madness and flames, Denethor screams and flees to the precipice of the citadel, throwing himself off it and plummeting to his death.

2003: Pán prsteňov (2001-2003 Slovak radio series):

The voice of Denethor is provided by Marián Slovák.

2015: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Denethor's role in the game is relatively minor, as, by the time the player reaches Minas Tirith, Faramir already lies wounded and the Steward's will is failing.


Denethor II
House of Húrin
Born: T.A. 2930 Died: 15 March, T.A. 3019
Preceded by:
Ecthelion II
26th Ruling Steward of Gondor
T.A. 298415 March, 3019
Followed by:
Faramir (de jure)

The Southern Line and the Heirs of Anárion
Kings of Gondor: Elendil (S.A. 3320 - 3441) · Isildur (S.A. 3441 - T.A. 2) and Anárion (S.A. 3320 - 3440) · Meneldil (T.A. 2 - 158) · Cemendur (158 - 238) · Eärendil (238 - 324) · Anardil (324 - 411) · Ostoher (411 - 492) · Rómendacil I (492 - 541) · Turambar (541 - 667) · Atanatar I (667 - 748) · Siriondil (748 - 830) · Tarannon Falastur (830 - 913) · Eärnil I (913 - 936) · Ciryandil (936 - 1015) · Hyarmendacil I (1015 - 1149) · Atanatar II Alcarin (1149 - 1226) · Narmacil I (1226 - 1294) · Calmacil (1294 - 1304) · Rómendacil II (1304 - 1366) · Valacar (1366 - 1432) · Eldacar (1432 - 1437) · Castamir the Usurper (1437 - 1447) · Eldacar restored (1447 - 1490) · Aldamir (1490 - 1540) · Hyarmendacil II (1540 - 1621) · Minardil (1621 - 1634) · Telemnar (1634 - 1636) · Tarondor (1636 - 1798) · Telumehtar Umbardacil (1798 - 1850) · Narmacil II (1850 - 1856) · Calimehtar (1856 - 1936) · Ondoher (1936 - 1944) · Eärnil II (1945 - 2043) · Eärnur (2043 - 2050)
Stewards of Gondor: Húrin of Emyn Arnen (c. T.A. 1630s) · Pelendur (before T.A. 1944 - 1998) · Vorondil (1998 - 2029) · Mardil Voronwë (2029 - 2080) · Eradan (2080 - 2116) · Herion (2116 - 2148) · Belegorn (2148 - 2204) · Húrin I (2204 - 2244) · Túrin I (2244 - 2278) · Hador (2278 - 2395) · Barahir (2395 - 2412) · Dior (2412 - 2435) · Denethor I (2435 - 2477) · Boromir (2477 - 2489) · Cirion (2489 - 2567) · Hallas (2567 - 2605) · Húrin II (2605 - 2628) · Belecthor I (2628 - 2655) · Orodreth (2655 - 2685) · Ecthelion I (2685 - 2698) · Egalmoth (2698 - 2743) · Beren (2743 - 2763) · Beregond (2763 - 2811) · Belecthor II (2811 - 2872) · Thorondir (2872 - 2882) · Túrin II (2882 - 2914) · Turgon (2914 - 2953) · Ecthelion II (2953 - 2984) · Denethor II (2984 - 3019) · Faramir (T.A. 3019 - Fo.A. 82) · Elboron (Fo.A. 82 onwards)
Kings of Gondor: Elessar (T.A. 3019 - Fo.A. 120) · Eldarion (Fo.A. 120 onwards)
Non-ruling stewards are in italics
The Lord of the Rings film series
Source material: The Hobbit · The Lord of the Rings
Films The Fellowship of the Ring (extended editionThe Two Towers (extended edition) · The Return of the King (extended edition)
Music The Fellowship of the Ring (The Complete Recordings) · The Two Towers (The Complete Recordings) · The Return of the King (The Complete Recordings) · "May It Be" · "Gollum's Song" · "Into the West"
Tie-in books Official Movie Guide · The Making of the Movie Trilogy · Complete Visual Companion · Gollum: How We Made Movie Magic · There and Back Again: An Actor's Tale · Weapons and Warfare · The Art of The Lord of the Rings · Sketchbook
The Fellowship of the Ring Visual Companion · The Art of The Fellowship of the Ring
The Two Towers Visual Companion · Photo Guide · The Art of The Two Towers
The Return of the King Visual Companion · The Art of The Return of the King
Video games The Two Towers · The Return of the King · The Third Age · Tactics · Conquest · Aragorn's Quest · Lego The Lord of the Rings
Characters Frodo · Bilbo · Gandalf · Sam · Merry · Pippin · Gandalf · Aragorn · Boromir · Legolas · Gimli · Elrond · Galadriel · Théoden · Éomer · Éowyn · Saruman · Sauron · Witch-king · Denethor · Faramir · Gollum · Gríma · Treebeard · Celeborn · Haldir · Lurtz · Sharku · Grishnákh