The Siege of Gondor
Gondor has long been the defender of the lands behind it, standing against the Mountains of Shadow, keeping vigilance over Mordor. The Stewards know this: Boromir said as much at the Council of Elrond, and Denethor has referenced it on multiple occasions before the presence of Pippin. This long and laborious task has fallen on the men on Minas Tirith, and Denethor muses on what it has been worth:
“We who have lived long under the Shadow may surely listen to echoes from a land untroubled by it? Then we may feel that our vigil was not fruitless, though it may have been thankless.”
There is certainly a strength in these words of Denethor, and most certainly a pride, almost a bitterness. The Stewards have long been focused on the defend of Gondor, assuming that Middle-earth’s fate depended solely on its resistance and its failing. There is no question that the city of kings is a stronghold for good, and that its defense has long kept other lands to the West from terror. Yet Denethor forgets – or more likely discounts – the hard work of others, of Elves, and Dwarves, and other men – to resist the work of the Enemy, wherever it may appear.
How different is Denethor’s perspective on the burden of defending the defenseless when compared to his long sundered kinsmen, Halbarad, ranger of the North:
“A little people, but of great worth are the Shire-folk. ‘Little do they know of our long labour for the safekeeping of their borders, and yet I grudge it not.”
For Aragorn and his kin, the defense of those unable to defend themselves is an inherently good act, not requiring praise or thanks or even acknowledgement. They sacrifice themselves for the sake of the Shire because it is a good and true and beautiful place, full of hobbits and others of great worth. Their flourishing in peace and little fear is in and of itself the choice fruits of the long vigil, worthy of living long under the Shadow.
As such, we should ask ourselves: do we trend more toward Denethor or Halbarad? When we defend defenseless things – by our words, our actions, our service, our care – do we expect the praise and the glory? Do we feel resentful and bitter when thanks is not given? Do we take on the burdens before us frustrated by now experiencing their fruits? Or do we instead find hope and comfort in our sacrifices, appreciating the good, true, and beautiful even when we cannot have them for ourselves.
For the world is full of many Shires worth saving, and many Shadows that would terrorize them. The fruits of our labors are never fairest when they exist only for ourselves, and when the prize is not given to us now, then, according to our Lord, is our reward greatest in the Kingdom to come.