Meditation of the Day
In a footnote to a draft letter to an unidentified “Mr Thompson” (Letter 180), Tolkien lets slip the confidence that of all his characters, he identifies most strongly with Faramir: “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.” We should expect to see in Faramir, then, the embodiment of the highest religious and moral aspirations that Tolkien, as Sub-creator, wished to communicate through his myth-making and storytelling.
There are several ways in which Faramir is unique among the characters of The Lord of the Rings. The most notable is that of all the great leaders we encounter in the story, he is the only one who experiences no temptation to appropriate the One Ring. “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” (Bk4 Ch5). Although even Galadriel and Gandalf, wisest and noblest of the Wise, experience some vulnerability to the Ring’s seductive power, Faramir does not. He is absolutely free of self-seeking. Unlike his brother Boromir, he has no desire for glory, and no love for warfare, although he is a supremely skilled warrior and leader of men. Faramir’s absence of personal ambition is epitomized in his first words to Aragorn, upon awaking from his sickness: “My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?” (Bk5 Ch8).
A second distinguishing feature is that Faramir and his men are the only characters who are shown recognizably praying: “Before they ate, Faramir and all his men turned and faced west in a moment of silence. Faramir signed to Frodo and Sam that they should do likewise. ‘So we always do,’ he said, as they sat down: ‘we look towards Númenor that was, and beyond to Elvenhome that is, and to that which is beyond Elvenhome and will ever be'” (Ibid.). Although this Standing Silence is only a simple grace before meals, and comprises no spoken words, it is noteworthy in a work that deliberately omits any reference to overt religious practice. We also observe the same tripartite temporal reference—to what was, what is, and what will be—that characterized Galadriel’s practice of contemplation. Faramir is a pure Númenórean not only in his flesh but in “spirit and truth” (John 4:23).
A third unusual trait in Faramir is that his depth of learning and maturity of judgment have been acquired in a very short time: he is only in his thirty-sixth year, making him younger than all the hobbits in the Fellowship except Pippin. He speaks and acts as a ruler or loremaster with decades of experience, as one who would be welcome in the circle of the Wise. There must be a secret to this exceptional wisdom.
What illuminates all these unique features of Faramir’s character is the Biblical principle that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). Here is the secret to his exceptional wisdom: “I understand more than the ancients, / Because I keep Your precepts” (Psalm 119:100). It is his piety and moral integrity that have allowed Wisdom to pervade his mind and heart. We get glimpses of his virtue in various brief remarks he makes to Frodo and Sam: “I would not snare even an orc with a falsehood”; “I do not slay man or beast needlessly, and not gladly even when it is needed. Neither do I talk in vain.” We may conclude that, long before meeting Éowyn, his “woman of valour” (Prov. 31:10), and being the catalyst for her transformation into a radiant icon of the Mother of Christ, Faramir was wedded to Lady Wisdom (see Prov. 3:13-18; 9:1-6).
What shall bring me forward in the narrow way, as I live in the world, but the thought and patronage of Mary? What shall seal my senses, shall tranquilize my heart, when sights and sounds of danger are around me but Mary? What shall give me patience and endurance, when I am wearied out with the length of the conflict with evil, with the unceasing necessity of precautions, with the irksomeness of observing them, with the tediousness of their reception, with the strain upon my mind, with my forlorn and cheerless condition, but a loving communion with you!
You will comfort me in my discouragements, solace me in my fatigues, raise me after my falls, reward me for my successes. You will show me your Son, my God and my all. When my spirit within me is excited, or relaxed, or depressed, when it loses its balance, when it is restless and wayward, when it is sick of what it has, and hankers after what it has not, when my eye is solicited with evil and my mortal frame trembles under the shadow of the tempter, what will bring me to myself, to peace and health, but the cool breath of the Immaculate and the fragrance of the Rose of Sharon?
St. John Henry Card. Newman
- In their encounter with Faramir, Frodo and Sam witness all seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit in operation. It could be a fruitful exercise to pick out the details which reveal each gift, and to ask Our Lady, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, to obtain an increase of them all in us.
To Go Deeper
- Thoughtful article on Faramir by “Varda”
- BibleProject Podcast – “Proverbs: Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly“