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The Two Towers: Novel Summary: Book IV - Chapter 5

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Summary: On their way to the secret meeting place of Faramir and his men, the Captain of Gondor asks many questions of Frodo and Sam. "In particular he returned often to Isildur's Bane," trying to discern what those enigmatic words he (like his brother Boromir) heard in a dream might mean. Frodo steers the conversation away from the subject as much as possible. He learns from Faramir that Boromir has died: Faramir had a vision-like sighting of Boromir in the funeral boat (see Book III, Chapter 1)-"Dreamlike it was, and yet no dream, for there was no waking"-and Boromir's horn returned on the river, broken, to Minas Tirith-"The horn. returned in truth, and not in seeming." For his part, Faramir is able to conclude that Isildur's Bane, whatever it might be, was a cause of contention between Frodo and Boromir (see Book II, Chapter 10).
Faramir blindfolds the hobbits as he and his men take them to Henneth Annen, their "headquarters," a grotto behind a waterfall. As they rest, Frodo hears Anborn, one of the Captain's men, reporting to Faramir that he has spied something "like a shadow on the ground." Anborn does not know it, but Frodo and the readers do: he has spotted Gollum.
As Faramir continues to converse with Frodo and Sam, the latter inadvertently reveals that Frodo is carrying the Ring. For a moment, it seem as though Faramir, like his brother, will attack Frodo for the Ring. He does not, however. In his wisdom, he knows that the Ring cannot be used to defend Minas Tirith. He understands that, however good his intentions and noble his purpose, he cannot fight evil with evil.
Analysis: Faramir's words regarding warfare may well be taken as a reflection of Tolkien's own, at least as readers may glean it from The Lord of the Rings. Warfare is not to be loved as an end in and of itself; indeed, it is not to be loved at all. Nevertheless, to fight is sometimes one's duty in order to defend the good and the right. (Readers aware of Tolkien's Christian faith might also note how Faramir's words echo the words of Ecclesiastes 9:11. Like the biblical author, Faramir knows that human strength is not to be loved above all else.) This is one scene in the chapter in which Tolkien shows us Faramir's wisdom, giving credence to Frodo's judgment that Faramir is "a man less self-regarding than [his late brother], both sterner and wiser." Notably, Faramir "sprang upon" Tolkien unexpectedly as he was writing the story: in one of his letters, Tolkien reports, "A new character has come on the scene (I am sure I did not invent him, I did not even want him, though I like him, but there he came walking into the woods of Ithilien): Faramir, the brother of Boromir-and he is holding up the 'catastrophe' [i.e., in this context, the crisis of the plot] by a lot of stuff about the history of Gondor and Rohan (with some very sound reflections no doubt on martial glory and true glory) (Letters, p. 79, emphasis added). Thus, although Tolkien did not consciously plan on Faramir, the character was (ultimately!) welcomed by him because he recognized that Faramir could speak his own (that is, Tolkien's own) thoughts on the pressing issues of war and "heroism" as commonly understood, both then, in the midst of World War II, and now.
Faramir knows that ultimate hope cannot be placed in human strength because, as he tells Frodo, "We are a failing people, a springless autumn. We are become Middle Men, of the Twilight." Although he will fight to defend his home land of Gondor, he thinks he may only be delaying the inevitable; and, at any rate, he seems to understand, as so many characters throughout The Lord of the Rings, that the world as they know it is temporary and ultimately ephemeral. Again, Christian Scripture may inform Tolkien's development of this theme (see 1 Corinthians 7:31). At any rate, Faramir exemplifies the Norse heroic ideal that Tolkien has incorporated into his own personal mythology: the good fight must be fought, even when the outcome seems hopeless and no ultimate victory is assured.


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