32

During the siege of Gondor:

Faramir is gravely injured by a southron (Haradrim) dart while trying to hold Osgiliath.

When he is brought back to Gondor, there is this passage:

The Prince Imrahil brought Faramir to the White Tower, and he said: 'Your son has returned, lord, after great deeds,' and he told all that he had seen. But Denethor rose and looked on the face of his son and was silent. Then he bade them make a bed in the chamber and lay Faramir upon it and depart. But he himself went up alone into the secret room under the summit of the Tower; and many who looked up thither at that time saw a pale light that gleamed and flickered from the narrow windows for a while, and then flashed and went out. And when Denethor descended again he went to Faramir and sat beside him without speaking, but the face of the Lord as grey, more deathlike than his son's.
The Lord of the Rings Book 5 Chapter 4: The Siege of Gondor

I've emphasized the portion relating to my question: what did Denethor go up there for? Did he do anything special in the secret room? What was the secret room for, anyway? It seems a bit strange that in a time of such great grief he'd decide to visit some random secret room, so I'm guessing there was something particularly special about it that he needed.

  • 5
    What was the secret room for? Two words: Elf Pinups. – Omegacron Apr 3 '15 at 16:10
  • 5
    He was polishing his Palantir. – Valorum Nov 22 '16 at 20:47
  • 3
    Deleting his palantir history. – Organic Marble Nov 22 '16 at 23:59
76

I just discovered canon support for DVK's answer that Denethor was looking into his Palantir.

Starting with the words of Gandalf:

"Though the Stewards deemed that it was a secret kept only by themselves, long ago I guessed that here in the White Tower, one at least of the Seven Seeing Stones was preserved. In the days of his wisdom Denethor would not presume to use it to challenge Sauron, knowing the limits of his own strength. But his wisdom failed; and I fear that as the peril of his realm grew he looked in the Stone and was deceived: far too often, I guess, since Boromir departed. He was too great to be subdued to the will of the Dark Power, he saw nonetheless only those things which that Power permitted him to see. The knowledge which he obtained was, doubtless, often of service to him; yet the vision of the great might of Mordor that was shown to him fed the despair of his heart until it overthrew his mind."

"Now I understand what seemed to strange to me!" said Pippin, shuddering at his memories as he spoke. "The Lord went away from the room where Faramir lay; and it was only when he returned that I first thought he was changed, old and broken."

"It was in the very hour that Faramir was brought to the Tower that many of us saw a strange light in the topmost chamber," said Beregron. "But we have seen that light before, and it has long been rumoured in the City that the Lord would at times wrestle in thought with his Enemy."

"Alas! then I have guessed rightly," said Gandalf.
The Lord of the Rings Book 5 Chapter 7: The Pyre of Denethor

And so has DVK; when Denethor withdrew to the secret room under the Tower, he was looking into the Palantir, and in it he saw primarily the forces of Sauron amassing (as well as the ships that had been captured by Aragorn, though Denethor thought they belonged to the Enemy still).

53

I don't have canon proof, but most likely, he was looking in the Palantír of Anárion.

The fact that he came back all dispirited and suppressed, as the quote above notes, seems to confirm the guess, for that was precisely the effect the Palantir (which showed him the bad things Sauron wished to show) on Denethor.

4

Looking the Palantir, without doubt.

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