The portrayal of Faramir has been a long-standing debate between my husband and I (stretching back into our dating days, resurrecting itself shortly after we became engaged, and continuing even now into our marriage).

I, being the literature nerd that I am, love how Tolkien originally wrote Faramir in Two Towers, the book. Beloved Husband, being the movie buff that he is, prefers Peter Jackson’s interpretation of Faramir in the movie.

See, where the movie falls down, in my opinion, is that section where Faramir decides to take the Ring from Frodo, drags him to Osgiliath, and they have that whole “Ooh, look! A Nazgul!” scene where Frodo does the hypno thing and nearly hands the Ring over. I insist that that never happened in the book, and thus, does not belong. Beloved Husband insists that that scene is crucial to the unfolding of the movie. This is where our debate begins.

After months of going ‘round and ‘round on the issue – him talking about movie structures, visual cues, and character development, and me waving my arms, citing the original source, and bringing up continuing themes – we discovered that the problem was with Faramir himself and that we were looking at his character from two completely different angles.

I argue that Faramir is written as Tolkien’s answer to Boromir. See, in the book, Faramir briefly considers taking the Ring, but ultimately decides against it after hearing about his brother’s fate. Boromir, even though he sees the Ring in Rivendell, sees its evil and the elders’ fear of it, he still wants it and is unable to control his lust for it. In the end, he tries to take it, breaks the Fellowship, and dies. This is the favored son, the best Gondor has to offer, and he fails. Faramir is the least favored son, the one sent on the reject missions, yet he is able to withstand the Ring’s Temptation. I see this as a continuation of the theme “All that is gold does not glitter”.

The way I figure it, Tolkien has had a trend going for the entire trilogy:

  • Aragorn, Heir to Isildur, is scorned as nothing but a Ranger, while Denethor, Steward of Gondor, is respected by all. Yet it is Aragorn who has the strength to resist the Ring and let Frodo go.
  • Gandalf the Grey is cursed as a bringer of ill news throughout the lands, while Sarumon the White who is renown for his wisdom and good council. And yet, it is Gandalf who withstands the Enemy’s temptations.
  • The Elves themselves could not destroy or contain the Ring, while the Hobbits – least important of all the races of Middle Earth – were not only able to withstand it, but destroy it.

Faramir fits into this trend perfectly as one who is not thought highly of and has no great glory attached to his name, and yet is so much stronger than all the ones thought most likely to succeed. By having him try to take the Ring, Peter Jackson effectively destroys this contrast and makes Faramir just as weak as his father and brother, thus eliminating the need for him to be there.

Wait…  I’m supposed to have my own unique personality?

The Beloved Husband takes a different tack. He looks at Faramir as a foil for Boromir’s character – existing to give Boromir more depth and show how Denethor’s favoritism harmed both sons. He says that Faramir is still the stronger of the brothers because he never wants the Ring for himself or for its power; he only wants to retrieve it to impress his father. This desire to give the Ring to another and not keep it for himself, he says, is enough to set Faramir apart from his brother.

I disagree, saying that Boromir wanted to use the Ring on behalf of his people, so technically, he didn’t want it for himself either. Faramir’s temptation brings in more character depth, according to the Beloved Husband, and to some extent, I can see that. However, I counter that Faramir did not have to succumb to the temptation to have depth of character – after all, Gandalf, Galadriel, Aragorn, and Sam didn’t.

I suppose it all depends on what you want Faramir to be. I love his character because he did withstand the Ring, while the Beloved Husband likes him because he fell – if ever so briefly. What do you all think?