Favorite Fictional Characters, #126: Faramir
Faramir, Captain of Gondor, spends too much time in the shadow of Aragorn and Boromir and the litter of hobbits during the Lord of the Rings. And yet he might be the best of all of them. This is a man virtually cast aside by his father, denigrated as less able than his older brother. As Tolkien himself puts it: "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." Faramir labors to earn Denethor's respect and even love, but he toils in vain.
Tolkien confessed that Faramir was the character who most closely resembled himself, in particular the dark, brooding awareness of "darkness unescapable" that gives Faramir such gloomy resignation. Faramir knows it's probably all going to go bad, and yet he perseveres. His bravery is that of the doomed man who fights anyway. His character's arc is one of tragic striving, until a chance encounter with Frodo gives him the chance to prove his true worth.
Everything he ever sought comes within his grasp. Power, renown, the regard of his father. All he has to do to eclipse his brother Boromir, indeed all men, is to seize the Ring and defeat Sauron. He is tempted, but he resists, showing his true fiber. Faramir's compassion and humility don't lessen him, they ennoble him. His choice is the pivotal moment in all of the trilogy, the moment when men show they can find the courage and strength to choose mortal struggle over the easy seduction of evil.
Things work out for Faramir, as they tend to in Tolkien's Manichean world. He winds up as Steward of Gondor, and he hooks up with Eowyn the Shieldmaiden of Rohan (more on her later). Not too shabby. And I'll admit it, I like to see the little brother make good.