Characters: Faramir




`Nay! Not Elves,' said the fourth, the tallest, and as it appeared the chief among them. `Elves do not walk in Ithilien in these days. And Elves are wondrous fair to look upon, or so 'tis said.'

     'Meaning we're not, I take you,' said Sam. …

     The tall green man laughed grimly. `I am Faramir, Captain of Gondor,' he said. `But there are no travellers in this land: only the servants of the Dark Tower, or of the White.'

squire: A. Why does Faramir identify himself only as “Captain”?

Menelwyn: [modded up!] Well, it is his rank, after all.  And if they are enemies, it might not be the best idea to identify himself as the son of the Steward.  He needs to let them know that he's in charge, but he would want to limit the information he might give to suspected spies.

dernwyn: Meeting halflings halfway Faramir has just met two strangers: stature notwithstanding, he's not about to give his full heritage to anyone.  All they need know, is that he's the man in charge.

N.E. Brigand: Hard handstrokes. Meaning I'm wearing down, trying to come up with responses to all your questions.  I'm not complaining that you ask too many; I ask plenty myself.  It's just hard to find the time.

A. Why does Faramir identify himself only as “Captain”?

Doesn't stand on ceremony?


squire: B. “laughed grimly” – who else is “grim” or “laughs grimly”? What does “grim” mean to Tolkien? Does Faramir turn out to be one of the grim guys after all?

Menelwyn: [modded up!]  Two people come to mind: Aragorn and Bard from The Hobbit (who we have at other times discussed as a proto-Aragorn).  The connection of Faramir with these two guys is clear.

dernwyn: Tolkien uses "grim" quite a lot in describing a somber, serious attitude, with a bleak outlook.  The Dúnadain are grim; the Haradrim marching to battle are grim; Aragorn especially is "grim" after looking in the Palantír.  Faramir appreciates Sam's response to his observation; but now is not the time for outright laughing at jests.

Wynnie: Lots of people are grim

Gandalf laughed grimly. "You see? Already you too, Frodo, cannot easily let it go, nor will to damage it."

"I don't," said Gandalf grimly. "It is some time since I last heard the sound of your shears."

They halted, wondering what to do. "First check!" said Pippin, smiling grimly.

The hobbits did not understand his words, but as he spoke they had a vision as it were of a great expanse of years behind them, like a vast shadowy plain over which there strode shapes of Men, tall and grim with bright swords, and last came one with a star on his brow.

"Too much; too many dark things," said Strider grimly.

"The lesson in caution has been well learned," said Strider with a grim smile.

"I am glad," said Frodo. "For I have become very fond of Strider. Well, fond is not the right word. I mean he is dear to me; though he is strange, and grim at times."

"There was a door south-west of Caradhras, some fifteen miles as the crow flies, and maybe twenty as the wolf runs," answered Gandalf grimly.

"I do not know which to hope," said Boromir grimly: "that Gandalf will find what he seeks, or that coming to the cliff we shall find the gates lost for ever."

In the dark at the rear, grim and silent, walked Aragorn.

"We will make them fear the Chamber of Mazarbul!" he [Aragorn] said grimly feeling the edge of his sword, Andúril.

For the grim years were removed from the face of Aragorn, and he seemed clothed in white, a young lord tall and fair.

At that moment Boromir reappeared. He came out from the trees and walked towards them without speaking. His face looked grim and sad.

Aragorn walked behind him, grim and silent, stooping now and again to scan some print or mark upon the ground.

When he had forced a drink from his flask down the hobbit's throat, cut his leg-bonds, and dragged him to his feet, Merry stood up, looking pale but grim and defiant, and very much alive.

The hobbits were left with the Isengarders: a grim dark band, four score at least of large, swart, slant-eyed Orcs with great bows and short broad-bladed swords.

"Old and weary you [Gandalf] seem now, and yet you are fell and grim beneath, I deem."

He [Wormtongue] laughed grimly, as he lifted his heavy lids for a moment and gazed on the strangers with dark eyes.

"The guilty shall bring the guilty to judgement," said Théoden, and his voice was grim, yet he looked at Gandalf and smiled and as he did so many lines of care were smoothed away and did not return.

For a staring moment the watchers on the walls saw all the space between them and the Dike lit with white light: it was boiling and crawling with black shapes. some squat and broad, some tall and grim, with high helms and sable shields.

"Most of them [troops leaving Isengard] were ordinary men, rather tall and dark-haired, and grim but not particularly evil-looking."

"That had a queer effect on the Ents. They had been boiling over; now they became cold, grim as ice, and quiet."

"He [Treebeard] seemed rather grimly delighted with the business and was laughing to himself when he went to get his bathe and drink."

"They lie in all the pools, pale faces, deep deep under the dark water. I saw them: grim faces and evil, and noble faces and sad."

"I did," said Frodo. His face was grim and set, but resolute.

The tall green man laughed grimly. "I am Faramir, Captain of Gondor."

Faramir smiled grimly. "Then you would grieve to learn that Boromir is dead?"

He [Frodo] even smiled grimly, feeling now as clearly as a moment before he had felt the opposite, that what he had to do, he had to do, if he could ...

"And then we can have some rest and some sleep," said Sam. He laughed grimly.

Sam laughed grimly. "Cobwebs!" he said. "Is that all?"

Sam smiled grimly at this description of himself.

"Yet a Halfling still," said Denethor grimly, "and little love do I bear the name, since those accursed words came to trouble our counsels and drew away my son on the wild errand to his death."

Pippin pulled such a grim face that the boy stepped back a pace, but at once he returned with clenched fists and the light of battle in his eye.

Behind him [Forlong] marched proudly a dusty line of men, well-armed and bearing great battle-axes; grim-faced they were, and shorter and somewhat swarthier than any men that Pippin had yet seen in Gondor.

From Lamedon, a few grim hillmen without a captain.

"Stout men and lordly they [the Rangers of the North] are, and the Riders of Rohan look almost as boys beside them; for they are grim men of face, worn like weathered rocks for the most part, even as Aragorn himself; and they are silent."

But Merry had eyes only for Aragorn, so startling was the change that he saw in him, as if in one night many years had fallen on his head. Grim was his face, grey-hued and weary.

In some other time and place Pippin might have been pleased with his new array, but he knew now that he was taking part in no play; he was in deadly earnest the servant of a grim master in the greatest peril.

They are strong: battalions of Orcs of the Eye, and countless companies of Men of a new sort that we have not met before. Not tall, but broad and grim, bearded like dwarves, wielding great axes.

Hard fighting and long labour they had still; for the Southrons were bold men and grim, and fierce in despair...

Sam's plain hobbit-face grew stern, almost grim, as the will hardened in him, and he felt through all his limbs a thrill, as if he was turning into some creature of stone and steel that neither despair nor weariness nor endless barren miles could subdue.

     Fearless hobbits with bright swords and grim faces were a great surprise.

But however grim they [the ruffians] might be, they seemed to have no leader among them who understood warfare.


Lots of people in LotR are described as "grim": bad guys as well as good guys, hobbits as well as men.  Of specific named characters, Gandalf and Sam tie for second place at 4 grims apiece, but Aragorn takes the prize with 8.

Dernwyn: Incredible... I had not realized how often Tolkien used "grim"! 

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary,

O.E. grimm "fierce, cruel," from P.Gmc. *grimmaz (cf. Ger. grimm, O.N. grimmr, Swed. grym "fierce, furious"), from PIE *ghrem- perhaps imitative of the sound of rumbling thunder (cf. Gk. khremizein "to neigh," O.C.S. vuzgrimeti "to thunder," Rus. gremet' "thunder"). A weaker word now than once it was; sense of "dreary, gloomy" first recorded c.1175. It also had a verb form in O.E., grimman (class III strong verb; past tense gramm, p.p. grummen). O.E. also had a noun, grima "goblin, specter," perhaps also a proper name or attribute-name of a god, hence its appearance as an element in place names. As a noun meaning "a form of bogey or haunting spirit," first recorded 1628.

I see the name "Gríma" in there; I wonder what other fascination this word may have held for him.

squire: Grimly impressed Yes, I had no idea 'grim' was used so often, although none of those quotes was unknown to me!

In a way, the word as used by Tolkien seems to connote what we might call "realism", a lack of illusions about the world and the danger it is in. Sort of a medieval equivalent of what the communists used to call objectivism. Since the world is in considerable danger in this story, and there are a considerable number of wise people in it, there is no lack of grimness.

Still, just as "love" seems to belong to Frodo and Sam despite its other users, I think "grim" belongs to Aragorn - perhaps because of all the characters he needs most to keep a 'realistic' outlook if he is to live up to his responsibilites and achieve his goals.

Faramir, being a lesser Aragorn-type, certainly has to keep a certain 'grimness', too.

What I like the most is the 'grim laughter' - an oxymoronic gesture that takes some thought to imagine, and some work to pull off. A 'grim laugh' is all by itself about as close as these men ever get to cracking a joke.

We talked about Sam's carefree laughter - and its occurrence elsewhere in the book. 'Grimness' seems to me to be the opposite of laughter in Tolkien, not tears.

nefisa3: but it seems a rather English trait.. doesn't it, to be both grim and laughing at one and the same time?

That rather dark humor in the face of bad odds...that's "grim laughter"...

I don't think of it as an american or european characteristic much...

And when Tolkien was writing LOTR, the War years: there must have been a lot of grim laughter in England.

N.E. Brigand: "Grim" risks becoming Túrin-like.


`But we are neither,' said Frodo. `And travellers we are, whatever Captain Faramir may say.'

     'Then make haste to declare yourselves and your errand,' said Faramir. 'We have a work to do, and this is no time or place for riddling or parleying. Come! Where is the third of your company? '

     `The third? '

     'Yes, the skulking fellow that we saw with his nose in the pool down yonder. He had an ill-favoured look. Some spying breed of Orc, I guess, or a creature of theirs. But he gave us the slip by some fox-trick.'

squire: C. When Faramir says Gollum, the ‘third of your company’, is an Orc or such like, isn’t he pretty much accusing Frodo of being the same?

dernwyn: Faramir's not accusing Frodo of being "an Orc or such like", but he is informing him that he's suspicious of Gollum's nature, and therefore suspicious of those who would associate with such.

N.E. Brigand: Well, he wants to know why Frodo has dealings with someone like that.  Sam does the same thing to Gollum, accusing him (with some accuracy) of dealing with orcs.  I'm also reminded of Treebeard, who briefly mistakes Merry and Pippin for orcs.




Faramir by Bautista

dernwyn: By the way, that Bautista sketch is very nice.


Decision Making


‘…They were Aragorn; and Boromir, who said that he came out of Minas Tirith, a city in the South.’

     ‘Boromir!’ all the four men exclaimed.

     ‘Boromir son of the Lord Denethor?’ said Faramir, and a strange stern look came into his face. ‘You came with him? That is news indeed, if it be true. Know, little strangers, that Boromir son of Denethor was High Warden of the White Tower, and our Captain-General: sorely do we miss him. Who are you then, and what had you to do with him? Be swift, for the Sun is climbing!’

     ‘Are the riddling words known to you that Boromir brought to Rivendell?’ Frodo replied.

          Seek for the Sword that was Broken.

          In Imladris it dwells.

     ‘The words are known indeed,’ said Faramir in astonishment. ‘It is some token of your truth that you also know them.’

squire: D. What is that “strange stern look” about? Why does he not inform us he is Boromir’s brother?

Menelwyn: [modded up!]  The stern look is the beginning of his suspicion that Frodo might have something to do with Boromir's death--Faramir does, after all, have reason to think Boromir is dead.  Someone who was traveling with Boromir might be involved in killing him, or betraying him to those who did.  As for not identifying Boromir as his brother, it's that same thing about keeping information from spies.  Bad guys might reasonably know who Boromir of Gondor was--Captain-General, a great warrior, son of the Steward.  To identify as Boromir's brother is equivalent to saying that Faramir is the son of Denethor.

dernwyn: That "strange stern look" of Faramir's: okay, now he's starting to have a freak-out.  He's seen this vision of his brother, dead, and now here's a stranger who claims to have known him.  Again, because he does not know to whom he is speaking, he says nothing of his relationship to Boromir.

N.E. Brigand: He wants information on Boromir's (apparent) death, and doesn't want to give his opponent in the upcoming interrogation any edge.


squire: Boromir’s title given here is “Captain-General”, implying he was Captain Faramir’s military superior in rank.

E. Is this consistent with Faramir’s later rank and status during the Siege of Minas Tirith? How many Captains did Gondor have?

Menelwyn: [modded up!] Sure, it's consistent.  Someone has to be the number-one person in charge of the army, and that person was Boromir.  Of course Boromir outranked his younger brother.  Now, at this point Denethor doesn't know 100% for sure that Boromir is dead, so he hasn't appointed a new Captain-General yet (and what are the chances he would pick Faramir if he did decide to do so?).  By the time Denethor does know for sure that Boromir is dead, he doesn't really have the chance to name someone else to the job before the battle starts.  Faramir remains Captain, probably one of several although I don't think anyone else is specifically named as such. 

N.E. Brigand: There's a meeting of the captains before Faramir is sent out to defend the fords.  Is Faramir sent on that mission because he's the best?  I'd guess that each company of Minas Tirith (there are at least three, right?) has a captain, plus more in the fiefs.  Húrin of the Keys is probably a captain.


‘Aragorn whom I named is the bearer of the Sword that was Broken,’ said Frodo. ‘And we are the Halflings that the rhyme spoke of.’

     ‘That I see,’ said Faramir thoughtfully. ‘Or I see that it might be so. And what is Isildur's Bane?’

     ‘That is hidden,’ answered Frodo. ‘Doubtless it will be made clear in time.’

     ‘We must learn more of this,’ said Faramir, ‘and know what brings you so far east under the shadow of yonder-,’ he pointed and said no name. ‘But not now. We have business in hand. You are in peril, and you would not have gone far by field or road this day. There will be hard handstrokes nigh at hand ere the day is full. Then death, or swift flight back to Anduin. I will leave two to guard you, for your good and for mine. Wise man trusts not to chance-meeting on the road in this land. If I return, I will speak more with you.’

     ‘Farewell!' said Frodo, bowing low. ... May the light shine on your swords!

     ‘The Halflings are courteous folk, whatever else they be,’ said Faramir. ‘Farewell!’

squire: F. Is Faramir’s speech excessively formal for the situation?

dernwyn: "Wise man trusts not to chance-meeting": Faramir is emphasizing that he is not yet certain of the intentions of these two; but with Frodo's willingness to talk with him, he's willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, and provide for their safety - and safekeeping.  I don't find the speech "formal", but rather of a different style: like the difference between the speech patterns of King's English and the drawl of a Yankee.


squire: G. ‘You are in peril’ ‘For your good and for mine’ – why is he so courteous and considerate of these two trespassers/spies?

Menelwyn: [modded up!] These questions [F & G] almost contradict each other.  Formal is appropriate for people he's not completely sure of yet, and moreover people he doesn't really know.  On the other hand, by this point he's not completely sure they're bad either.  They were, after all, traveling with Boromir, and were aware of the riddle, something Boromir would not have shared with just anyone.  They are even mentioned in the riddle, although their role is not clear: "The Halfling forth shall stand" doesn't necessarily mean anything good or bad.  (Association with "Isildur's Bane" and "doom" doesn't sound good, but the point of the riddle is that the solution to Gondor's problems lies with what happens at Imladris, including the action of the Halfling.)  At any rate, Faramir doesn't know enough one way or the other about how to treat them.  So he is formal, careful; but he is also courteous to someone who might just be helpful.  Faramir is playing the game very well.

N.E. Brigand: Setting them up for later interrogation?


How his men see him


‘The road may pass, but they shall not! Not while Faramir is Captain. He leads now in all perilous ventures. But his life is charmed, or fate spares him for some other end.’


…men were yelling and screaming, and one clear loud voice was calling Gondor! Gondor!


‘There they go! Our men after them, and the Captain leading.’


‘But the Captain will return, if he is unhurt; and when he comes we shall depart swiftly.’


Mablung laughed. ‘I do not think the Captain will leave you here, Master Samwise,’

squire: H. What other great leaders have led ‘charmed’ lives, in their men’s estimation? Where do such legends come from?

N.E. Brigand: Actually, all I can think of now is Sean Connery in the film of The Man Who Would Be King.


squire: I. Is Faramir the one yelling “Gondor”? How do you know?

dernwyn: Faramir'd better be the one yelling "Gondor"!  It's like sounding the "Charge!": it would be inappropriate for anyone other than the leader to give the command. 

N.E. Brigand: Presumably, because he's leading the charge, but maybe he's got a deputy with a strong voice.


squire: J. Why do the guards refer to Faramir as ‘the Captain’?

dernwyn: Interesting that they call him "the Captain" rather than "Captain Faramir", maybe because it's fewer syllables, maybe to emphasize their respect for his leadership.  But it's clear that they believe he may be being "saved" from harm, for some future event that only the Valar know of.  But there's always doubt: Faramir's "if I return", and that "will return, if he is unhurt".


Who is this Faramir?


squire: K. Is the Faramir of this chapter really the same guy we later get to know in Henneth Annun and back at Gondor? If you see differences, how do you account for them? If not, try to show the points of identity.

Menelwyn: [modded up!] well if no one else is going to answer I don't mind talking at length about one of my favorite characters!

Starting with your last question:

Is the Faramir of this chapter really the same guy we later get to know in Henneth Annun and back at Gondor?   I think so.  He's in a difficult position here and he has to deal with different things here than he does later on.  So obviously we're going to see different aspects of his character at this time.  In this scene he's on duty, dealing with suspected spies, in territory where he knows that there are enemy armies (he's about to fight one!).  The man is responsible and knows his job, whatever his father may think.  He cannot possibly show the same gentleness that we may see in him at other times.  Here, perhaps the closest parallel scene is the one where he is judging Gollum.  Same kinds of issues to deal with (suspected spies or bad guys), although his decision later gets much more complicated.  This leads me to some of your other questions.

N.E. Brigand: "I think you misunderstand Faramir." Not meaning you personally, but I thought a part of Tolkien's description of Faramir's character, from Letter #244 might be applicable to your questions:

"He had been accutomed 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."

Quite the description!  In Letter #180, Tolkien writes:

"As far as any character is 'like me' it is Faramir--except that I lack what all my characters possess (let the psychoanalysts note!) Courage."


squire: We’ve talked a lot during our LotR discussion about parallels between Book III and Book IV. One I’m thinking of here is the contrast between the meeting of Frodo and Faramir in Ithilien, and the meeting of Aragorn and Eomer in Rohan. Did this ever occur to you, before reading about it in a learned post or critical essay? (It never did to me, but then that’s why I hang around TORn: to learn stuff like this.)

N.E. Brigand: I think this one vaguely occured to me, but possibly I learned it from Shippey, whose book has so many key revelations like that.

squire: L. That said, what are the similarities and differences between the two scenes? How does Faramir here (not later in Henneth Annun) compare to Eomer?

dernwyn: Now, for a comparison between two meetings.  Both Éomer and Faramir use a "common speech" in addressing the strangers.  Éomer "thought they were Orcs"; Faramir and his men are looking for an orc-like creature.  Éomer notes that the three have "sprung out of the grass", and asks if they are Elvish folk; Frodo and Sam spring up from the fern, and Faramir notes that they are most definitely not Elves.  But both know legends concerning Halflings.  Both sets of travellers startle their captors when mentioning where they came from: Lórien to Éomer, and Rivendell to Faramir.  Both demand to know whom the strangers "serve": Aragorn replies by saying he pursues the servant of Sauron, Frodo by saying he is a friend to all enemies of The Enemy.

And for differences.  Éomer demands that Legolas and Gimli speak; Faramir does not insist that Sam say a word, although it was Sam who first spoke to him - in a retort reminiscent of Gimli's challenging words to Éomer.  And where the Three Hunters are given horses, Frodo and Sam are given guards.

There are doubtless other similarities/differences, but these will do for now!


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