This is such a creepy and horrible chapter. I have a great fear of dying in a fire, so yeah... ugh. Not pleased at all by Denethor here. That whole image of him lying down in the middle of the fire, and the fact that anyone who ever looked at the palantir after that would see "only two aged hands withering in flame" (p. 836) -- that is one of the creepiest images I've ever encountered. Blech.
A big theme here all of a sudden is how The Enemy is working even in the midst of The Good Guys. Beregond has to slay a doorkeeper to keep Denethor and his guards from killing Faramir, Denethor has gone mad because of what Sauron has shown him in the palantir, etc. It reminds me of how we are never safe from our spiritual enemy -- Satan will enter our very minds and hearts and deceive us with lies and half truths. He'll get us to disagree with other believers in an effort to turn people away from faith... talk about creepy!
But at least the chapter ends fairly well. Faramir doesn't get burned up after all! Whew.
So Pippin poured out his tale, reaching up and touching Gandalf's knee with trembling hands (p. 832).
Then Gandalf revealed the strength that lay hid in him, even as the light of his power was hidden under his grey mantle (p. 834).
"To me it would not seem that a Steward who faithfully surrenders his charge is diminished in love or in honour," said Gandalf (p. 836).
Possible Discussion Question:
Denethor accuses Gandalf of wanting to rule Gondor, "to stand behind every throne, north, south, or west" (p. 835). What does this tell us about Denethor himself?