Disclaimer: I own no Tolkien characters and this is simply my interpretation of the source of the animosity between Denethor and Faramir, which is seen in both the books and the movies. I also thank Nienna-of-the-Valar for the article “Denethor son of Ecthelion” – I found it most helpful in understanding this character a bit better. I must again show my gratitude to the contributors of the encyclopaedia; it is such a helpful source for quick access to info about characters and places so I don’t have to drag out all my Tolkien books. So read and enjoy, and also comment if you like!

Minas Tirith, a stronghold of the realm of Gondor, housed the sacred plant of the White Tree. A young man, Denethor, also dwelled within the beautiful tiered citadel that reminded one of a lovely wedding cake set by the beautiful White Mountains. Despite living in such a fortress and being rather wealthy, he felt doomed. His father, Ecthelion, was the Steward of Gondor, which meant the family was prominent in the land, although not royalty (even though they would like for everyone to think such!). As the only son, Denethor was destined to follow in the footsteps of his father and become steward after him, although he had no desire to do such. He preferred studying; in fact, if his parents found him to be missing, the first place they would look was the library.
“Where is Denethor?” his mother would wonder.
“Have you checked the library?” Ecthelion typically replied. Then they walked hand in hand towards the room, where he sat there in his own world, devouring books on both the history of Gondor and that of Middle Earth.
“Denethor, you have missed your supper yet again!” his mother scolded, happy that her son enjoyed learning yet at the same time worried about him, since he did not socialize much and missed more meals than she could count.
“I lost track of time, Mother! I am sorry!” Remorseful, he could hardly look into his mother’s eyes, knowing this conversation happened almost every single day.
“I know, my son. Here, I brought you something to eat. Try not to stay up too late!” With a kiss on the cheek, she and Ecthelion left him alone, tired of fighting him. Only on the rare occasion could they persuade him to do something else.
If Denethor was not in the library, he could be found either in the stables preparing for a horseback ride, or sparring with a friend in order to practice their swordsmanship. Although all these skills would make him an even better steward than Ecthelion, Denethor despised the idea of ruling others and leading them in battle; he much preferred to stay in the background. Besides, as an introvert he enjoyed being alone, yet as Steward of Gondor he would be required to be in contact with people the majority of the time, a thought which made him rather uncomfortable.
To make matters worse, a young man just a year younger than himself, called Thorongil, gained Ecthelion’s trust and approval. No one knew whence he came nor how exactly the relationship started; he gradually wormed his way into their lives. This man, very much a skilled warrior, showed great potential in the leadership area. Denethor felt like he had to measure up to his standard yet could never quite reach it. Soon he stopped trying altogether; if he tried with all his might and could not achieve such lofty standards, he might as well not waste his time and energy trying to do the impossible. His decision led to his becoming more bookish, and he spent more time studying than anything else. However, the two men tended to relate well together; after all, Thorongil and Denethor both were simply being themselves and allowed Ecthelion to choose them. Fortunately for Denethor, the true identity of Thorongil was hidden; in actuality, he was Aragorn, the rightful King and ruler of Gondor. If Ecthelion knew about that, he would have placed him on the throne immediately so as to not cause dissention among them. Thorongil, humble, gained satisfaction simply by aiding his country and tried to stay in the background as much as possible, although Ecthelion used him as a confidant and counsellor more regularly as the years passed by. Denethor did not allow this fact to upset him and was glad there was someone to help his father, since he obviously could do nothing to aid his father.
Much to his parents’ chagrin, Denethor did not see fit to court any of the women in Minis Tirith, nor did he find them the least bit attractive. Perhaps for this reason Ecthelion considered naming Thorongil his heir; yet custom dictated that his son would follow him, except for in an extreme situation such as Denethor’s death, highly unlikely. However, all this would change in Denothor’s 44th year.
One day, Ecthelion summoned his son to the Tower of Ecthelion, from where he ruled. Denethor, rather nervous, dreaded the possibility of a larger rift being drawn between him and his father. He knew Thorongil was much more suited to be Ecthelion’s son than himself, and he feared it was some matter about this man likely taking his place, as strange and uncustomary as it may be.
“Denethor, it is high time you wed someone,” the Steward started, for he was one to quickly get to the point and not mince words.
“Father! There is plenty of time for that. I have no desire to wed.”
“Yes, I know. However, if our family is to continue stewarding Gondor you must have a wife so my grandson can take your place when you pass on.”
“Yes, Father.” The young man knew when to submit to his father’s authority, and from the stern tone in his voice defiance would prove rather detrimental at this point.
“Now tell me, have any of the young ladies here struck your fancy?”
Denethor laughed. “You know I spend almost all my time in the library. However, the young ladies I have seen have not been appealing.”
“Well then, I think I shall simply have to arrange your marriage. The princes in Dol Amroth have always been cordial to us and I think perhaps one of the young princesses would do for you. So first thing in the morning I shall send word to Prince Adrahil, the highest prince in that area. You knew this day would have to come eventually so do not argue with me. My word is final. You are dismissed!” With a wave of his hand, Ecthelion shooed his son outside, now a dejected man. He could not even please his father on the relational level.

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