Faramir often gets a bad rap in the Tolkiendil community – especially by those who have never read the book or don’t care enough about him to look into who he is and deeply into his character. (Silly people.)
On the outside, Faramir almost looks like a wimp. After all, he’s mean to Smeagol (who’s playing the pathetic card at the moment), nearly gets killed in battle, then nearly killed by his dad (and a three foot Hobbit has to save him), then that’s basically all we see of him. Can you say, “Yawn”?
This is when I scream, “Either read the book or watch the extended edition, you filthy little maggot!!!” And then I smash them with my dogeared, coverless copy of the book.
So what is it that makes Sam say to him in the book, ‘“You…showed your quality: the very highest. You have an air too, sir, that reminds me of, of—well, Gandalf. Of wizards.”’?
Faramir, in my humble opinion, is the best thing since pints of ale at the Prancing Pony. He’s my favorite character in the entire trilogy. Period. Exclamation mark.
Why? Well! I’m happy you asked!
Faramir is five years younger than Boromir, and he’s spent basically his entire life living in the shadow of his older brother’s greatness. (Much like Thor and Loki. But I digress.) While Boromir was being trained by the best swordsmen and tutors that could be had – all under the watchful eye of his doting father, Denathor – Faramir has been left by the wayside. Fortunately, he learns a lot of what he knows from Gandalf, who says of him, ‘“By some chance the blood of Westernesse runs nearly true in [Denethor]; as it does in his other son, Faramir, and yet did not in Boromir whom he loved best.”’
While Boromir is being taught how to be strong in battle and lead men, Faramir is being taught different, but not less important, things, such as music and what is in the old scrolls. Tolkien says of Faramir in the Appendices, ‘Faramir the younger was like [Boromir] in looks but otherwise in mind. He read the hearts of men as shrewdly as his father, but what he read moved him sooner to pity than to scorn. He was gentle in bearing, and a lover of lore and of music, and therefore by many in those days his courage was judged less than his brother’s. But it was not so, except that he did not seek glory in danger without a purpose. He welcomed Gandalf at such times as he came to the City, and he learned what he could from his wisdom, and in this as in many other matters he displeased his father.’
When we first meet Faramir, he’s traipsing through the woods with his men, shooting some Wild Men, and scaring the coneys out of Sam’s pot. In the Extended Edition of the movie *hack-cough* (which will now be capitalized because of it’s hightened level of awesomeness), he has this totally amazing line after he shoots a Wild Man: “The enemy? His sense of duty was no less than yours, I deem. You wonder what his name is, where he came from. And if he was really evil at heart. What lies or threats led him on this long march from home. If he would not rather have stayed there … in peace. War will make corpses of us all.”
Faramir takes Frodo and Sam (and, unknowingly, Smeagol) under his care. Yes, he was tempted to take the Ring, but ONLY because he’s been put under pressure from his father, Denathor, to be as great as his older brother. Denathor, who has almost completely overlooked Faramir and only believed that he had one son who was worth something. As Boromir says in the movie (the higher greatness of the extended edition, once again), “You give him no credit and yet he tries to do your will. He loves you, Father.” And Denathor has the audacity to reply, “Do not trouble me with Faramir. I know his uses and they are few.” (It took all of the Riders of Rohan to keep me from smashing my television screen when I saw this for the first time a few weeks ago.)
After a moment of temptation – which, might I add, even Boromir felt strongly – he says in the book, ‘“I would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway. Not were Minas Tirith falling in ruin and I alone could save her, so, using the weapon of the Dark Lord for her good and my glory. No, I do not wish for such triumphs, Frodo son of Drogo. … Not if I found it on the highway would I take it I said. Even if I were such a man as to desire this thing, and even though I knew not clearly what this thing was when I spoke, still I should take these words as a vow, and be held by them. But I am not such a man. Or I am wise enough to know that there are some perils from which a man must flee.”’ (Am I converting you to a Faramir fan now???)
Then, to add to his awesomeness, Faramir lets them go. As it happens in the movie (one of the few lines taken directly from the book), the Ithilien Ranger whose name escapes me says, “You know the laws of our country, the laws of your father. If you let them go, your life will be forfeit.”
Faramir replies: “Then it is forfeit. Release them.”
(Okay, if you’re not converted now…. Read on, Lizzie.)
The next time we see Faramir, he’s fighting in the Battle of the Hornburg. Boromir isn’t here to save the day, however, and they have to retreat, which makes his status go even lower in his father’s eyes. (And, yeah – apparently that’s possible.)
Even Eowyn, ‘saw the grave tenderness in his eyes, and yet knew, for she was bred among men of war, that here was one whom no Rider of the Mark would outmatch in battle… this tall man, both stern and gentle….’
For the rest of the trilogy, Faramir is constantly trying to please his father. Faramir, who doesn’t ‘“slay man or beast needlessly, and not gladly even when it is needed.”’ Faramir, who ‘“would not snare even an orc with a falsehood.”’ Faramir, who Aragorn – the king of Rohan, may I remind you – says of him ‘“he is a man of staunch will, for already he had come close under the shadow before ever he rode to battle on the out-walls.”’ He appears to be “a man without fault” (even though I would be the first to say that, yes, even he is tempted by the Ring and, yes, he gets so obsessed with striving to gain his father’s approval that he abandons all reason and basically goes on a suicide mission in order to achieve this life goal).
Speaking of his suicide mission…. It’s really sad to think that, even though they accomplished some things, Faramir took his men out into battle so that he could show his father how worthy he was of his father’s love. Thousands of men died. Faramir was the only one left – brought back into Minas Tirith by being dragged behind his horse. Not his finest moment. (It’s at this scene when the waterworks start. And they don’t end ’til Frodo and the Gray Havens.)
Now we come to The Funeral Pyre. This is the moment when you see that Denathor has truly gone off his rocker. He’s so shaken over the death of his son – isn’t it weird that people don’t really appreciate things until they’re gone? – that he decides he would be better off dead, too. Hence, The Funeral Pyre. I needn’t go into this scene any more besides saying that the shot where they’re laying Faramir down onto The Pyre always makes me cry – always – and that my younger sister constantly reminds me that her favorite character saved my favorite character.
In the Extended Edition, one of my favorite scenes from the book is included – the House of Healing. While we don’t see Faramir healed, we witness the powerful picture of loveliness that is the healing hands of a king. (“Weep, weep – all weep!”) Eowyn gets up from her bed, goes outside, and meets the more lovely eyes of Faramir. BOOM. Romantic plot line #2. Which, in my ‘umble opinion, is better than the first. Below, you’ll see my reasons.
First, the book’s account. When ‘[Faramir] looked at her, and being a man whom pity deeply stirred, it seemed to him that her loveliness amid her grief would pierce his heart.’ Later, he says, ‘“Then, Éowyn of Rohan, I say to you that you are beautiful. In the valleys of our hills there are flowers fair and bright, and maidens fairer still; but neither flower nor lady have I seen till now in Gondor so lovely, and so sorrowful. It may be that only a few days are left ere darkness falls upon our world, and when it comes I hope to face it steadily; but it would ease my heart, if while the Sun yet shines, I could see you still. For you and I have both passed under the wings of the Shadow, and the same hand drew us back.”’
Let’s all just pause and ponder those words, spoken from this wizard’s pupil. This is why he needed to be so learned in the “scrolls of lore and song” – so he knows how to eloquently encourage people and change their lives forever. Don’t believe me? Read on.
‘[Eowyn] looked at him and saw the grave tenderness in his eyes, and yet knew, for she was bred among men of war, that here was one whom no Rider of the Mark would outmatch in battle… this tall man, both stern and gentle….’ This is when Eowyn starts to change. Faramir says, ‘“What do you wish? … If it lies in my power, I will do it.”’ She ‘for the first time doubted herself.’ ‘“But I do not desire healing,” [Eowyn] said. “I wish to ride to war like my brother Eomer, or better like Theoden the king, for he died and has both honor and peace.”’
Faramir’s reply completely rocks her world. ‘“It is too late, lady, to follow the Captains, even if you had the strength,” said Faramir. “But death in battle may come to us all yet, willing or unwilling. You will be better prepared to face it in your own manner, if while there is still time you do as the Healer commanded. You and I, we must endure with patience the hours of waiting.”’ I won’t quote the whole scene. Basically, Faramir ‘smiles, though his heart [is] filled with pity,’ gives the Warden a command to change Eowyn’s room so that her window faces eastward and asks her to keep him company while he’s waiting, too. Eowyn, in return, does ‘not answer, but as he looked at her it seemed to him that something in her softened, as though a bitter frost were yielding at the first faint presage of Spring.’
Fast forward to a few weeks later, during which Faramir and Eowyn talk and sit together, both waiting. After Faramir confesses his love to Eowyn, she changes and says that she ‘“will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, no take joy only in the songs of slaying. [She] will be a healer, and love all things that grown and are not barren.” And again she looked at Faramir. “No longer do I desire to be a queen,” she said.’ Later comes one of the most romantic passages in The Lord of the Rings (which is saying a lot):
‘And [Faramir] took [Eowyn] in his arms and kissed her under the unlit sky, and he cared not that they stood high upon the walls in the sight of many.’
Well, there you have it.
This is basically my favorite scene in the entire Extended Edition. Eowyn says, staring out into the field in front of Minas Tirith where she recently engaged in a war, “The city has fallen silent. There is no warmth left in the sun. It grows so cold.” Faramir looks out into the field where he nearly died, looks back at Eowyn, and encourages her with a smile, saying, “It’s just the damp of the first spring rain. I do not believe this darkness will endure.” ‘Nuff said.
Sadly, this is basically the last scene in which Faramir appears in the movie. The very last scene in which he appears is my favorite – after Aragorn gets crowned, he walks in front of some of his subjects. Eowyn and Faramir are there, together, clapping along with everyone else and smiling at each other like they haven’t a care in the world.
In the book, Faramir has one last amazing scene where he is passed on his father’s position as Steward of Gondor by Aragorn and basically officiates Aragorn’s crowning. It’s a great scene, one which I wish had been in the movie.
This is FARAMIR. I hope you’ve understood why he’s my favorite character, and I hope you think better of him now.
I’ll close with Pippin’s first impression of Faramir, as told in Return of the King.
‘When he saw the pale face of Faramir he caught his breath. It was the face of one who had been assailed by a great fear or anguish, but has mastered it and now is quiet. Proud and grave he stood for a moment…and Pippin gazing at him saw how closely he resembled his brother Boromir—whom Pippin had liked from the first, admiring the great man’s lordly but kindly manner. Yet suddenly for Faramir his heart was strangely moved with a feeling that he had not known before. Here was one with an air of high nobility such as Aragorn at times revealed, less high perhaps, yet also less incalculable and remote: one of the Kings of Men born into a later time, but touched with the wisdom and sadness of the Elder Race. He knew now why Beregond spoke his name with love. He was a captain that men would follow, that he would follow, even under the shadow of the black wings.’
(This post originally appeared on inklings press here)