The Redemption of Faramir
“Wise and learned in the scrolls of lore and song, and yet a man of hardihood and swift judgment in the field. Less reckless and eager than Boromir, but no less resolute.”
“I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the men of Numenor.”
“Yet he [Frodo] felt in his heart that Faramir, though much like his brother in looks, was a man less self-regarding, both sterner and wiser.”
It is passages like those that Tolkien gave us to describe the character of Faramir, a favorite of many in The Two Towers. He is the quintessential man: Intelligent, strong yet kind, noble and wise. He doesn’t jump to conclusions, and treats those around him, Frodo, Sam, and Gollum included, with the utmost respect. As depicted in the books, Faramir reminds one more of Aragorn in character than his brother Boromir.
The movie version of The Two Towers, however, shows us a different Faramir. This Faramir is harsh in his treatment and questioning of Sam and Frodo, and suspicious of the two. Upon finding Gollum, he orders him to be beaten. The books are contradicted entirely by his taking Frodo, along with the ring, to Osgiliath. In the book, he states, “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.” Why the change?
I did some digging and found the answer. It all goes back to the drafting of the scripts, and the decision to put the Shelob sequence into The Return of the King, instead of The Two Towers. If the struggle with Shelob was not part of Sam and Frodo’s journey in The Two Towers, where would they be going? Without a conflict of some sort, their whole passage through the second movie would seem rather pointless.
Enter Faramir, the conflict. Since Frodo and Sam were traveling to seemingly no end in The Two Towers movie, the writers had to find somewhere for them to go. The only thing that they found could plausibly work was to change the character of Faramir, to tweak it slightly, so that our heroes would end up somewhere, at some “end” by the end of the movie. The result: a mean, relatively unlikable Faramir. Upon seeing this change on the big screen, I, along with Tolkien fans around the world, was understandably infuriated. The adaptation of Faramir’s character, however, eventually works itself out for the good of the story.
Had Faramir been all that we had known him to be throughout the duration of both The Two Towers and The Return of the King, we would have been stuck with a fairly boring character. He wouldn’t have had any room to evolve and develop. The character as we knew him was almost too perfect. The first movie spends much of its time trying to tell the audience that the Ring is the most evil thing ever made. It has consumed the mind of Frodo and has reduced Smeagol to the creature that he is. How would a character on which the Ring has absolutely no effect help the story? It wouldn’t.
As a result, we have a Faramir who wants to take the Ring, and does, but not for completely corrupt reasons. He simply wants to prove himself to his father. In the Extended Edition of the film, we also see Faramir redeem himself by leading the hobbits safely out of the city after seeing the adverse effects the Ring has on those who come into contact with it, his own brother included. This Faramir continues to develop in the third film, showing us a man who desperately wants to do what is right, and please his father as well. Had Faramir’s character remained true to the book, we would have seen a duller story on film. Tolkien purists may not appreciate it, but I rather like the way the story works itself out.
~ The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
~ The Two Towers special features, “From Book to Script.”