Dúnadan of Gondor, son of Denethor II, brother of Boromir. During the WotR he fell in love with Éowyn, married her and became Steward of Gondor and Prince of Ithilien.

Essay on Faramir son of Denethor: Captain of Gondor, Steward of Gondor, Prince of Ithilien

Faramir was born To Denethor II, son of Ecthelion, Steward of Gondor and Finduilas, daughter of Prince Adrahil of Dol Amroth, in TA 2983 – the same year Samwise Gamgee was born; and five years after his brother Boromir. The best description of Faramir is found in the Appendix to Lord of the Rings:

"So time drew on to the War of the Ring, and the sons of Denethor grew to manhood. Boromir, five years the elder, beloved by his father, was like him in face and pride, but in little else. … Faramir the younger was like him 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 at 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."

Tolkien admitted that Faramir stepped into the story uninvited and unlooked for. He wrote to tell his son Christopher about this unexpected development:

“A new character has come on the scene (I am sure I did not invent him, I did not even want him, though I like him, but there he came walking into the woods of Ithilien): Faramir, the brother of Boromir – and he is holding up the ‘catastrophe’ by a lot of stuff about the history of Gondor and Rohan (with some very sound reflections no doubt on martial glory and true glory): but if he goes on much more a lot of him will have to be removed to the appendices” Letter 66, 6th may 1944

Faramir’s involvement in the quest began before the summer of 3018. He had been troubled often by a dream in which he hear the words:

Seek for the Sword that was broken: In Imladris it dwells; There shall be counsels taken Stronger than Morgul-spells. There shall be shown a token That Doom is near at hand, For Isildur’s Bane shall waken, And the Halfling forth shall stand.

His brother Boromir also received the dream on one occasion, and together with Faramir they consulted Denethor. Boromir told the Council of Elrond: ”Therefore my brother, seeing how desperate was our need, was eager to heed the dream and seek for Imladris; but since the way was full of doubt and danger, I took the journey on myself. Loth was my father to give me leave…”

From the Appendices, we know that the decision was not born of any rivalry between the brothers:

“Yet between the brothers there was great love, and had been since childhood, when Boromir was the helper and protector of Faramir. No jealousy or rivalry had arisen between them since, for their father’s favour or for the praise of men. It did not seem possible to Faramir that any one in Gondor could rival Boromir, heir of Denethor, Captain of the White Tower; and of like mind was Boromir. Yet it proved otherwise at the test.”

Despite his father’s reluctance to send Boromir, and Faramir’s willingness to go (the dream had visited Faramir often, and Boromir only once), Boromir set off in July of 3018 for Rivendell, arriving 110 days later. The effect this had on the quest was crucial: Boromir was instrumental in causing Frodo to depart alone/with Sam. If Boromir had instead allowed Faramir to make the journey, the fellowship may not have been broken, or may have fared worse at the hands of Saruman’s Uruk-Hai?; and if they had escaped, would not have met Gollum (presumably Aragorn would have guilded them), would have met Boromir in Ithilien (who may have then tried to take the ring), and then what? There was no plan for how to get the ring to Mount Doom.

Instead, Frodo and Sam were alone in Ithilien. Even Sam’s accident with his cooking fire seems ordained – a part of the plan – set to introduce Faramir to the Ringbearer at last. The intelligence Faramir brought to Gandalf meant they knew how to proceed to Mordor - to create a distraction at the Black Gate while Frodo and Sam crept unseen to the slopes of Mount Doom.

Yet in Frodo’s eyes, (and Tolkien’s, when Faramir first appeared), the encounter held up the progress of the Ringbearers. Also, when Faramir turned out to be the brother of the man who tried to take the Ring from Frodo, nothing would have tempted the latter to reveal or even mention the Ring; but through Sam’s guilelessness, the secret is loosed. Thankfully for the two, Faramir is not like his brother. The text tells us that he does not lie, so can discern truthfulness in others. Faramir had previously told the hobbits that if Isilsur’s bane were there for the taking, he would not take it. His reaction to finding the Ring of Power within his grasp proves him to be a man of his word. The very act of saying he would not take it would have been enough to bind Faramir, even if he did not discern that to do so would be unwise. Faramir was not tempted to take the Ring to Gondor for even one moment.

Of course, this decision did not go down well when he reported the whole incident to his father Denethor, back in Gondor. Denethor grieves the loss of his eldest son, and wishes Faramir had gone to Rivendell instead (This is not proof that he wished Faramir had died in Boromir’s place. Denethor possessed great wisdom. He knew that once Boromir understood that Isildur’s Bane was the One Ring, he would counsel that it should come to Gondor, perhaps too forcefully: “Alas, alas for Boromir! … He would have remembered his father’s need, and would not have squandered what fortune gave. He would have brought me a mighty gift.”

In his heart, Denethor may have suspected his older son of bringing about his own doom; “I tried to take the Ring from Frodo, I am sorry. I have paid.” He now knew, if he did not know before, that Faramir would not have been so tempted.

Tolkien said: “Denethor was tainted with mere politics: hence his failure, and his mistrust of Faramir.” (Notes on W H Auden’s review of Return of the King)

Following this, Denethor sent his son into battle again, and he returned wounded by poisoned weapons. Denethor then knew that he loved Faramir, but his madness gave his love deadly expression. Faramir was rescued from his father and taken to the Houses of Healing where he met the wounded Eowyn, Princess and Shieldmaiden of Rohan. First he pitied her, and then he fell in love with her. Tolkien himself sums up the forces behind their relationship better than I could, in the following excerpt from a letter:

To a reader of LotR c 1963, Tolkien wrote:

“I think you misunderstand Faramir. He was daunted by his father: not only in the ordinary way of a family with a stern proud father of great force of character, but as a Numenorean before the chief the one surviving Numenorean state. He was motherless and sisterless and had a ‘bossy’ brother. He had been accustomed to giving way and not giving his own opinions air, while retaining a power of command among men, such as a man may obtain who is evidently personally courageous and decisive, but also modest, fair-minded and scrupulously just, and very merciful. I think he understood Eowyn very well. Also to be Prince of Ithilien, the greatest noble after Dol Amroth in the revived Numenorean state of Gondor, soon to be of imperial power and prestige, was not a ‘market-garden job’ as you term it. Until much had been done by the restored King, the Prince of Ithilien would be the resident march-warden of Gondor, in its main eastward outpost – and also would have many duties in rehabilitating the lost territory, and clearing it of outlaws and orc-remnants, not to speak of the dreadful vale of Minas Ithil (Morgul). …it was made clear that there was much fighting, and in the earlier years of A.’s reigh expeditions against enemies in the East. The chief commanders, under the King, would be Faramir and Imrahil; and one of these would normally remain a military commander at home in the King’s absence. … Aragorn re-established the Great Council of Gondor, and in that Faramir, who remained* by inheritance the steward (or representative of the king during his absence abroad, or sickness, or between his death and the accession of his heir) would [be] the chief counsellor. Criticism of the speed of the relationship or ‘love’ of Faramir and Eowyn. In my experience feelings and decisions ripen very quickly (as measured by mere ‘clock-time’, which is actually not justly applicable) in periods of great stress, and especially under the expectation of imminent death. And I do not think that persons of high estate and breeding need all the petty fencing and approaches in matters of ‘love’. This tale does not deal with a period of ‘Courtly Love’ and its pretences; but with culture more primitive (sc. Less corrupt) and nobler.”

Faramir and Eowyn were wed in the presence of the noblest and greatest of Middle-earth. No more is told of them, but in 1430, Peregrin Took’s wife, Diamond of Long Cleeve, gave birth to a son, who was also named Faramir.

There is a glimpse of Tolkien himself in Faramir, to whom the professor “bequeathed [his] own dream: (a Great Wave, towering up, and coming in ineluctably over the trees and green fields) to Faramir.” Letter 163 to W H Auden, 7.June.55 “This dream is also linked with the Downfall of Numenor” (draft letter to Mr Thompson, 14.Jan.56) The scene is the gardens of the House of Healing, where Faramir waits with Eowyn for news from the Black Gate: “A sound like a sigh went up from the lands about them; and their hearts beat suddenly again. ‘It reminds me of Numenor,’ said Faramir, and wondered to hear himself speak. ‘Of Numenor?’ said Eowyn. ‘Yes,’ said Faramir, ‘of the land of Westernesse that foundered and of the great dark wave climbing over the green lands and above the hills, and coming on, darkness unescapable. I often dream of it.’

Through Faramir, Tolkien displays the differences that can either unite or divide brothers. The inspiration for the Faramir/Boromir? relationship is not given, though the story of Mary and Martha came to my mind when I read of Faramir’s relationship with Gandalf. The story, which Tolkien was certainly familiar with, is in the Christian New Testament – two sisters, one who spent all her time being busy and one who sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to his wisdom. In the end, it was the one who sat at the master’s feet who was the only person to understand the later situation (John 12), not the one given to activity. It was in sitting at Gandalf’s feet, learning his lore and wisdom, that Faramir became the person who had the wisdom to risk his father’s wrath rather than hinder Frodo and Samwise on their quest.

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