405 – The Window on the West

The Window on the West

In this chapter we learn a lot more about Faramir, brother of Boromir.  From Tolkien’s letters, we learn that he was an unexpected addition dating to 1944:

“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.”[1]

Unlike the film, Tolkien chose to define him as someone still true to the ancient traditions of Numenor.  A man who can set out what Tolkien sees as the right political ideals.  Including being content with a secondary role if that is what fate has given him, whereas Boromir always wanted more.  And the man sees the faults in Gondor’s decayed values, which his father Denethor will unfortunately be typical of.

The hobbits only learn this gradually.  They see him first as leader of a small army of at most 300.  In modern military terms, this would make them larger than a Company but much smaller than a Regiment.

Faramir questions them before his men, who are gathered round to watch:

“Faramir had come back. He had brought many men with him; indeed all the survivors of the foray were now gathered on the slope nearby, two or three hundred strong. They sat in a wide semicircle, between the arms of which Faramir was seated on the ground, while Frodo stood before him. It looked strangely like the trial of a prisoner…

“Sam soon became aware that the Captain was not satisfied with Frodo’s account of himself at several points: what part he had to play in the Company that set out from Rivendell; why he had left Boromir; and where he was now going. In particular he returned often to Isildur’s Bane. Plainly he saw that Frodo was concealing from him some matter of great importance.”

One oddity I noted – nothing is said about anyone being wounded, which you’d expect even after a decisive victory.

Regardless, he is curious about ‘Isildur’s Bane’:

“’But it was at the coming of the Halfling that Isildur’s Bane should waken, or so one must read the words,’ he insisted. `If then you are the Halfling that was named, doubtless you brought this thing, whatever it may be, to the Council of which you speak, and there Boromir saw it. Do you deny it? ‘

“Frodo made no answer. ‘So! ‘ said Faramir. `I wish then to learn from you more of it; for what concerns Boromir concerns me. An orc-arrow slew Isildur, so far as old tales tell. But orc-arrows are plenty, and the sight of one would not be taken as a sign of Doom by Boromir of Gondor. Had you this thing in keeping? It is hidden, you say; but is not that because you choose to hide it?’”

Frodo then chooses to invoke what he sees as higher authority.  :

“’No, not because I choose,’ answered Frodo. `It does not belong to me. It does not belong to any mortal, great or small; though if any could claim it, it would be Aragorn son of Arathorn, whom I named, the leader of our Company from Moria to Rauros.’

“’Why so, and not Boromir, prince of the City that the sons of Elendil founded? ‘

“’Because Aragorn is descended in direct lineage, father to father, from Isildur Elendil’s son himself. And the sword that he bears was Elendil’s sword.’

“A murmur of astonishment ran through all the ring of men. Some cried aloud: ‘The sword of Elendil! The sword of Elendil comes to Minas Tirith! Great tidings! ‘ But Faramir’s face was unmoved.

“`Maybe,’ he said. `But so great a claim will need to be established and clear proofs will be required, should this Aragorn ever come to Minas Tirith. He had not come, nor any of your Company, when I set out six days ago.’

It might seem odd to call Boromir a prince, since the Stewards are not kings.  But the words have separate origin, and ‘prince’ can be used informally for any notable man.  Likewise ‘princess’ for women.

It is interesting also that there is popular rejoicing at the possible arrival of an heir of Elendil with Elendil’s sword.  A view that might evolve into support for a restored monarchy.  This helps explain Denethor’s later suspicion when Gandalf arrives – particularly since Pippin guided by Gandalf is not open about Aragorn in the way Frodo was with Faramir.

Here, Frodo hopes that Boromir might support him – he and Sam left before the Orc attack and assumes that the others are still safe.  That they might now be travelling with Boromir, which had always been considered:

 “’Boromir was satisfied of that claim,’ said Frodo. `Indeed, if Boromir were here, he would answer all your questions. And since he was already at Rauros many days back, and intended then to go straight to your city, if you return, you may soon learn the answers there.”

Frodo holds back that he had to flee from Boromir, which he could hardly explain without giving away his entire mission.  But Faramir spots that Frodo is saying less than he knows. He then tests just what the deception is:

“Frodo’s tone was proud, whatever he felt, and Sam approved of it; but it did not appease Faramir.

“`So!’ he said. `You bid me mind my own affairs, and get me back home, and let you be. Boromir will tell all, when he comes. When he comes, say you! Were you a friend of Boromir?’

“Vividly before Frodo’s mind came the memory of Boromir’s assault upon him, and for a moment he hesitated. Faramir’s eyes watching him grew harder. ‘Boromir was a valiant member of our Company ‘ said Frodo at length. ‘Yes, I was his friend, for my part.’

“Faramir smiled grimly. `Then you would grieve to learn that Boromir is dead?’

“’I would grieve indeed,’ said Frodo. Then catching the look in Faramir’s eyes, he faltered. ‘Dead?’ he said. `Do you mean that he is dead, and that you knew it? You have been trying to trap me in words, playing with me? Or are you now trying to snare me with a falsehood?’

“`I would not snare even an orc with a falsehood,’ said Faramir.

“`How then did he die, and how do you know of it? Since you say that none of the Company had reached the city when you left.’

“’As to the manner of his death, I had hoped that his friend and companion would tell me how it was.’

“`But he was alive and strong when we parted. And he lives still for all that I know. Though surely there are many perils in the world.’

“`Many indeed,’ said Faramir, `and treachery not the least.’”

Faramir has now realises something of what has happened.  We later learn that he no longer suspects Frodo of having betrayed Boromir: that it was probably Boromir who was at fault.  But with a large audience, most of whom would rate Boromir even higher than Faramir, he uses a general remark about treachery to divert attention.

Sam, often hasty, responds bravely and foolishly:

“Sam had been getting more and more impatient and angry at this conversation. These last words were more than he could bear, and bursting into the middle of the ring, he strode up to his master’s side…

“Let’s come to the point before all the Orcs of Mordor come down on us! If you think my master murdered this Boromir and then ran away, you’ve got no sense; but say it, and have done! And then let us know what you mean to do about it. But it’s a pity that folk as talk about fighting the Enemy can’t let others do their bit in their own way without interfering. He’d be mighty pleased, if he could see you now. Think he’d got a new friend, he would.’

“`Patience!’ said Faramir, but without anger. `Do not speak before your master, whose wit is greater than yours. And I do not need any to teach me of our peril. Even so, I spare a brief time, in order to judge justly in a hard matter. Were I as hasty as you, I might have slain you long ago. For I am commanded to slay all whom I find in this land without the leave of the Lord of Gondor. But I do not slay man or beast needlessly, and not gladly even when it is needed. Neither do I talk in vain. So be comforted. Sit by your master, and be silent! ‘”

You see here that he is a reluctant warrior, and with a code of ethics.

He then reveals how he knows Boromir is dead:

“Faramir turned to Frodo again: … `Do you remember aught of special mark that the Lord Boromir bore with him among his gear?’

“Frodo thought for a moment, fearing some further trap, and wondering how this debate would turn in the end. He had hardly saved the Ring from the proud grasp of Boromir, and how he would fare now among so many men, warlike and strong, he did not know. Yet he felt in his heart that Faramir, though he was much like his brother in looks, was a man less self-regarding, both sterner and wiser. ‘I remember that Boromir bore a horn,’ he said at last.

“`You remember well, and as one who has in truth seen him,’ said Faramir. `Then maybe you can see it in your mind’s eye: a great horn of the wild ox of the East, bound with silver, and written with ancient characters. That horn the eldest son of our house has borne for many generations; and it is said that if it be blown at need anywhere within the bounds of Gondor, as the realm was of old, its voice will not pass unheeded.

“’Five days ere I set out on this venture, eleven days ago at about this hour of the day, I heard the blowing of that horn: from the northward it seemed, but dim, as if it were but an echo in the mind. A boding of ill we thought it, my father and I, for no tidings had we heard of Boromir since he went away, and no watcher on our borders had seen him pass. And on the third night after another and a stranger thing befell me.

“’I sat at night by the waters of Anduin, in the grey dark under the young pale moon, watching the ever-moving stream; and the sad reeds were rustling. So do we ever watch the shores nigh Osgiliath, which our enemies now partly hold, and issue from it to harry our lands. But that night all the world slept at the midnight hour. Then I saw, or it seemed that I saw, a boat floating on the water, glimmering grey, a small boat of a strange fashion with a high prow. and there was none to row or steer it.

“`An awe fell on me, for a pale light was round it. But I rose and went to the bank, and began to walk out into the stream, for I was drawn towards it. Then the boat turned towards me, and stayed its pace, and floated slowly by within my hand’s reach, yet I durst not handle it. It waded deep, as if it were heavily burdened, and it seemed to me as it passed under my gaze that it was almost filled with clear water, from which came the light; and lapped in the water a warrior lay asleep.

“`A broken sword was on his knee. I saw many wounds on him. It was Boromir, my brother, dead. I knew his gear, his sword, his beloved face. One thing only I missed: his horn. One thing only I knew not: a fair belt, as it were of linked golden leaves, about his waist. Boromir! I cried. Where is thy horn? Whither goest thou? O Boromir! But he was gone. The boat turned into the stream and passed glimmering on into the night. Dreamlike it was. and yet no dream, for there was no waking. And I do not doubt that he is dead and has passed down the River to the Sea.’”

This presumably is some Higher Power at work.  Setting up Faramir for a test, but also giving him clues as to the right answer.  It also has echoes of Arthurian legend, though I can think of nothing that closely matches it.

Frodo explains that the belt came from Lorien.

“’Alas!’ said Frodo. ‘That was indeed Boromir as I knew him. For the golden belt was given to him in Lothlorien by the Lady Galadriel.[2] She it was that clothed us as you see us, in elven-grey. This brooch is of the same workmanship.’ He touched the green and silver leaf that fastened his cloak beneath his throat.

“Faramir looked closely at it. `It is beautiful,’ he said. ‘Yes, ’tis work of the same craft. So then you passed through the Land of Lórien? Laurelindórenan it was named of old, but long now it has lain beyond the knowledge of Men,’ he added softly, regarding Frodo with a new wonder in his eyes. `Much that was strange about you I begin now to understand. Will you not tell me more? For it is a bitter thought that Boromir died, within sight of the land of his home.’

“’No more can I say than I have said,’ answered Frodo. `Though your tale fills me with foreboding. A vision it was that you saw, I think, and no more, some shadow of evil fortune that has been or will be. Unless indeed it is some lying trick of the Enemy. I have seen the faces of fair warriors of old laid in sleep beneath the pools of the Dead Marshes, or seeming so by his foul arts.’

“’Nay, it was not so,’ said Faramir. ‘For his works fill the heart with loathing; but my heart was filled with grief and pity.’

“`Yet how could such a thing have happened in truth? ‘ asked Frodo. ‘For no boat could have been carried over the stony hills from Tol Brandir; and Boromir purposed to go home across the Entwash and the fields of Rohan. And yet how could any vessel ride the foam of the great falls and not founder in the boiling pools, though laden with water? ‘

“’I know not,’ said Faramir. ‘But whence came the boat? ‘

“`From Lórien,’ said Frodo. ‘In three such boats we rowed down Anduin to the Falls. They also were of elven-work.’

He and the other hobbits had also naively trusted Lorien.  Frodo had seen the dangerous side of Galadriel, but also she had passed that test.  Faramir for his part knows a lot more, and expresses before his men the general fear of elves felt in Gondor:

“’You passed through the Hidden Land,’ said Faramir, `but it seems that you little understood its power. If Men have dealings with the Mistress of Magic who dwells in the Golden Wood, then they may look for strange things to follow. For it is perilous for mortal man to walk out of the world of this Sun, and few of old came thence unchanged, ’tis said.

“`Boromir, O Boromir!’ he cried. `What did she say to you, the Lady that dies not? What did she see? What woke in your heart then? Why went you ever to Laurelindorenan, and came not by your own road, upon the horses of Rohan riding home in the morning?’

Note that he uses the old name of Lorien, the one Treebeard also mentioned.

He then explains more:

“Then turning again to Frodo, he spoke in a quiet voice once more. ‘To those questions I guess that you could make some answer, Frodo son of Drogo. But not here or now. maybe. But lest you still should think my tale a vision, I will tell you this. The horn of Boromir at least returned in truth, and not in seeming. The horn came, but it was cloven in two, as it were by axe or sword. The shards came severally to shore: one was found among the reeds where watchers of Gondor lay, northwards below the infalls of the Entwash; the other was found spinning on the flood by one who had an errand in the water. Strange chances, but murder will out, ’tis said.

“’And now the horn of the elder son lies in two pieces upon the lap of Denethor, sitting in his high chair, waiting for news. And you can tell me nothing of the cleaving of the horn?’

“’No, I did not know of it,’ said Frodo. `But the day when you heard it blowing, if your reckoning is true, was the day when we parted, when I and my servant left the Company. And now your tale fills me with dread. For if Boromir was then in peril and was slain, I must fear that all my companions perished too. And they were my kindred and my friends.”

Faramir, who has had a long time to ponder the matter, can reassure him on this:

“`For me there is no comfort in our speech together,’ said Faramir; `but you surely draw from it more dread than need be. Unless the people of Lorien themselves came to him, who arrayed Boromir as for a funeral? Not Orcs or servants of the Nameless. Some of your Company, I guess, live still.”

He then explains why they must be kept prisoner, regardless:

“’Now you, Frodo and Samwise, will come with me and my guards,’ said Faramir. `You cannot go along the road southwards, if that was your purpose. It will be unsafe for some days, and always more closely watched after this affray than it has been yet. And you cannot, I think, go far today in any case, for you are weary. And so are we. We are going now to a secret place we have, somewhat less than ten miles from here. The Orcs and spies of the Enemy have not found it yet, and if they did, we could hold it long even against many. There we may lie up and rest for a while, and you with us. In the morning I will decide what is best for me to do, and for you.’

But alone with them, he gives a much wider viewpoint:

“’I broke off our speech together,’ said Faramir, ‘not only because time pressed, as Master Samwise had reminded me, but also because we were drawing near to matters that were better not debated openly before many men. It was for that reason that I turned rather to the matter of my brother and let be Isildur’s Bane. You were not wholly frank with me, Frodo.’

“`I told no lies, and of the truth all I could,’ said Frodo.

“`I do not blame you,’ said Faramir. ‘You spoke with skill in a hard place, and wisely, it seemed to me. But I learned or guessed more from you than your words said. You were not friendly with Boromir, or you did not part in friendship. You, and Master Samwise, too, I guess have some grievance. Now I loved him dearly, and would gladly avenge his death, yet I knew him well. Isildur’s Bane – I would hazard that Isildur’s Bane lay between you and was a cause of contention in your Company. Clearly it is a mighty heirloom of some sort, and such things do not breed peace among confederates, not if aught may be learned from ancient tales. Do I not hit near the mark?’

“`Near,’ said Frodo, ‘but not in the gold. There was no contention in our Company, though there was doubt: doubt which way we should take from the Emyn Muil. But be that as it may, ancient tales teach us also the peril of rash words concerning such things as – heirlooms.’

“’Ah, then it is as I thought: your trouble was with Boromir alone. He wished this thing brought to Minas Tirith. Alas! it is a crooked fate that seals your lips who saw him last, and holds from me that which I long to know: what was in his heart and thought in his latest hours. Whether he erred or no, of this I am sure: he died well, achieving some good thing. His face was more beautiful even than in life.

He also apologised for his initial suspicion:

“`But, Frodo, I pressed you hard at first about Isildur’s Bane. Forgive me! It was unwise in such an hour and place. I had not had time for thought. We had had a hard fight, and there was more than enough to fill my mind. But even as I spoke with you, I drew nearer to the mark, and so deliberately shot wider. For you must know that much is still preserved of ancient lore among the Rulers of the city that is not spread abroad. We of my house are not of the line of Elendil. though the blood of Numenor is in us. For we reckon back our line to Mardil, the good steward, who ruled in the king’s stead when he went away to war. And that was King Earnur, last of the line of Anarion, and childless, and he came never back. And the stewards have governed the city since that day, though it was many generations of Men ago.”

Though this is not said, he seems to accept that whatever Aragorn chose must be respected.  He is not yet aware that Gandalf had also been with them.  Logically Frodo should have said ‘I am on a mission set by Gandalf and Lord Elrond’, since from the Council of Elrond he knows that those names are respected in Gondor.

Frodo also neglects to warn this Captain of Gondor that Saruman had imprisoned Gandalf and is working with Sauron.  Such a warning might have been vital, for all Frodo knows.  But he has come from the peaceful Shire and is presumably not thinking in those terms.  Or you might decide that Tolkien did not want to re-introduce that story element in a place where it did not matter.

Within the framework of the story, Faramir is willing to accept Frodo might have been right.  He mentions how Boromir was not content with the high position he was entitled to.

“’And this I remember of Boromir as a boy, when we together learned the tale of our sires and the history of our city, that always it displeased him that his father was not king. “How many hundreds of years needs it to make a steward a king, if the king returns not? ” he asked. “Few years, maybe, in other places of less royalty,” my father answered. “In Gondor ten thousand years would not suffice.” Alas! poor Boromir. Does that not tell you something of him? ‘

“’It does,’ said Frodo. `Yet always he treated Aragorn with honour.’

“’I doubt it not,’ said Faramir. `If he were satisfied of Aragorn’s claim as you say, he would greatly reverence him. But the pinch has not yet come. They had not yet reached Minas Tirith or become rivals in her wars.”

There are real-world parallels.  Charles Martel was functionally King under the final kings of the Merovingian dynasty, but remained ‘Mayor of the Palace’ and did not call himself a king.[3]  His son Pepin got the Pope to agree that the last Merovingian should be deposed and he should become king.  And Pepin’s son was Charlemagne, who became powerful enough to be recognised as Emperor.

It happened elsewhere.  Most people know of Japanese Shoguns taking power with the Emperors as puppets.  On one occasion, the Shoguns also became puppets.  And the great conqueror Timur had a descendant of Genghis Khan as nominal ruler for the first part of his realm.  This was also the trend in England under Edward the Confessor, with Harold Godwinson having most of the power and being sometimes called the ‘Underking’.  There’s a nice historic novel by Alfred Duggan, The Cunning of the Dove, which shows Harold as a thug and Edward cunningly using him.

In Tolkien’s world it is different: the monarchy of Gondor is too sacred for anyone not descended from the former Kings of Numenor.  But on the other hand, none of the Stewards had accepted that Isildur’s heirs had the right to rule Gondor.  Denethor later explicitly denies it.  And they might have argued that the line had failed to preserve Arnor, and that some had turned to evil, whereas Gondor under the Stewards had been preserved much better.

Had the party without Sam and Frodo not been attacked by orcs, they might well have gone to Minas Tirith with Boromir.  Aragorn might have been accepted as a useful ally yet still subject to the authority of the Stewards while in Gondor.  Or it could be the occasion for rivalry, since some in Gondor might support the claim of Isildur’s heirs.  And Aragorn does hope to rule Gondor, as the only way he can win Arwen.

All of this was also apparently an issue when Denethor’s father was Steward and Aragorn became well-known under a false name.  We get this in the Appendices.  The forthcoming Amazon dramatization will cover either this or events in the Second Age: both stories have been floated.

Faramir then reveals that he knows Gandalf – and is naturally very upset to learn that he too is apparently dead:

“We in the house of Denethor know much ancient lore by long tradition, and there are moreover in our treasuries many things preserved: books and tablets writ on withered parchments, yea, and on stone, and on leaves of silver and of gold, in divers characters. Some none can now read; and for the rest, few ever unlock them. I can read a little in them, for I have had teaching. It was these records that brought the Grey Pilgrim to us. I first saw him when I was a child, and he has been twice or thrice since then.’

“’The Grey Pilgrim? ‘ said Frodo. ‘Had he a name?’

“’Mithrandir we called him in elf-fashion,’ said Faramir, ‘and he was content. Many are my names in many countries, he said. Mithrandir among the Elves, Tharkun to the Dwarves; Olorin I was in my youth in the West that is forgotten, in the South Incanus, in the North Gandalf; to the East I go not.’

“’Gandalf!’ said Frodo. ‘I thought it was he. Gandalf the Grey dearest of counsellors. Leader of our Company. He was lost in Moria.’

“’Mithrandir was lost! ‘ said Faramir. ‘An evil fate seems to have pursued your fellowship.”

He knew that Gandalf was investigating something, and guessed what:

“This Mithrandir was, I now guess, more than a lore-master: a great mover of the deeds that are done in our time. Had he been among us to consult concerning the hard words of our dream, he could have made them clear to us without need of messenger. Yet, maybe, he would not have done so, and the journey of Boromir was doomed. Mithrandir never spoke to us of what was to be, nor did he reveal his purposes…

“Now Faramir’s voice sank to a whisper. ‘But this much I learned or guessed, and I have kept it ever secret in my heart since: that Isildur took somewhat from the hand of the Unnamed, ere he went away from Gondor, never to be seen among mortal men again. Here I thought was the answer to Mithrandir’s questioning. But it seemed then a matter that concerned only the seekers after ancient learning. Nor when the riddling words of our dream were debated among us, did I think of Isildur’s Bane as being this same thing. For Isildur was ambushed and slain by orc-arrows, according to the only legend that we knew, and Mithrandir had never told me more.

“`What in truth this Thing is I cannot yet guess; but some heirloom of power and peril it must be. A fell weapon, perchance, devised by the Dark Lord. If it were a thing that gave advantage in battle, I can well believe that Boromir, the proud and fearless, often rash, ever anxious for the victory of Minas Tirith (and his own glory therein), might desire such a thing and be allured by it. Alas that ever he went on that errand! I should have been chosen by my father and the elders but he put himself forward. as being the older and the hardier (both true), and he would not be stayed.

“’But fear no more! 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, Frodo son of Drogo.’

“’Neither did the Council,’ said Frodo. ‘Nor do I. I would have nothing to do with such matters.’”

He then states his ideal – unlike his father Denethor, he does not seek just to preserve what is.  He has hopes for a better future:

“`For myself,’ said Faramir, ‘I would see the White Tree in flower again in the courts of the kings, and the Silver Crown return, and Minas Tirith in peace: Minas Anor again as of old, full of light, high and fair, beautiful as a queen among other queens: not a mistress of many slaves, nay, not even a kind mistress of willing slaves. War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but 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; and I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom. Not feared, save as men may fear the dignity of a man, old and wise.”

It is notable that in Tolkien, good people do not form empires unless they are falling into evil.  Two separate peoples should respect each other, or else merge into a single people, like the breeds of hobbit and elf and like the Numenorian exiles with the other peoples of Gondor.  Or manage to be separate but equal, as at Bree: but this is noted as unique.

Having stated his good intentions, Faramir must also follow the Law of Gondor and blindfold them before they enter a hidden stronghold.  Frodo is reminded of their entrance to Lorien.

“So they passed on, until the woodlands grew thinner and the land began to fall more steeply. Then they turned aside again, to the right, and came quickly to a small river in a narrow gorge: it was the same stream that trickled far above out of the round pool, now grown to a swift torrent, leaping down over many stones in a deep-cloven bed, overhung with ilex and dark box-woods. Looking west they could see, below them in a haze of light, lowlands and broad meads, and glinting far off in the westering sun the wide waters of the Anduin.

“’Here, alas! I must do you a discourtesy,’ said Faramir. “I hope you will pardon it to one who has so far made his orders give way to courtesy as not to slay you or to bind you. But it is a command that no stranger, not even one of Rohan that fights with us, shall see the path we now go with open eyes. I must blindfold you.’

“`As you will,’ said Frodo. ‘Even the Elves do likewise at need, and blindfolded we crossed the borders of fair Lothlórien. Gimli the dwarf took it ill, but the hobbits endured it.’

“`It is to no place so fair that I shall lead you,’ said Faramir. ‘But I am glad that you will take this willingly and not by force.’”

When they have their blindfolds removed, they find themselves in a place that is beautiful as well as useful, as is normally the case in Tolkien.  A set of caves behind a waterfall.

“They stood on a wet floor of polished stone, the doorstep, as it were, of a rough-hewn gate of rock opening dark behind them. But in front a thin veil of water was hung, so near that Frodo could have put an outstretched arm into it. It faced westward. The level shafts of the setting sun behind beat upon it, and the red light was broken into many flickering beams of ever-changing colour. It was as if they stood at the window of some elven-tower, curtained with threaded jewels of silver and gold, and ruby, sapphire and amethyst, all kindled with an unconsuming fire.

“’At least by good chance we came at the right hour to reward you for your patience,’ said Faramir. `This is the Window of the Sunset, Henneth Annun, fairest of all the falls of Ithilien, land of many fountains. Few strangers have ever seen it. But there is no kingly hall behind to match it. Enter now and see! ‘

“Even as he spoke the sun sank, and the fire faded in the flowing water. They turned and passed under the low forbidding arch. At once they found themselves in a rock-chamber, wide and rough, with an uneven stooping roof. A few torches were kindled and cast a dim light on the glistening walls. Many men were already there. Others were still coming in by twos and threes through a dark narrow door on one side. As their eyes grew accustomed to the gloom the hobbits saw that the cave was larger than they had guessed and was filled with great store of arms and victuals.

“’Well, here is our refuge,’ said Faramir. `Not a place of great ease but here you may pass the night in peace. It is dry at least, and there is food, though no fire. At one time the water flowed down through this cave and out of the arch, but its course was changed further up the gorge, by workmen of old, and the stream sent down in a fall of doubled height over the rocks far above. All the ways into this grot were then sealed against the entry of water or aught else, all save one. There are now but two ways out: that passage yonder by which you entered blindfold, and through the Window-curtain into a deep bowl filled with knives of stone. Now rest a while, until the evening meal is set.’

“The hobbits were taken to a corner and given a low bed to lie on, if they wished. Meanwhile men busied themselves about the cave, quietly and in orderly quickness. Light tables were taken from the walls and set up on trestles and laden with gear. This was plain and unadorned for the most part, but all well and fairly, made: round platters, bowls and dishes of glazed brown clay or turned box-wood, smooth and clean. Here and there was a cup or basin of polished bronze; and a goblet of plain silver was set by the Captain’s seat in the middle of the inmost table.

A big place, able to take some 300 men without being crowded.  Though some are out on patrol, bringing both good news and bad.  No spying orcs, but a mysterious stranger likely to be Gollum

“Faramir went about among the men, questioning each as he came in, in a soft voice. Some came back from the pursuit of the Southrons; others, left behind as scouts near the road, came in latest. All the Southrons had been accounted for, save only the great mumak: what happened to him none could say. Of the enemy no movement could be seen; not even an orc-spy was abroad.

“’You saw and heard nothing, Anborn?’ Faramir asked of the latest comer.

“`Well, no, lord,’ said the man. `No Orc at least. But I saw, or thought I saw, something a little strange. It was getting deep dusk, when the eyes make things greater than they should be. So perhaps it may have been no more than a squirrel.’ Sam pricked up his ears at this. ‘Yet if so, it was a black squirrel, and I saw no tail. ‘Twas like a shadow on the ground, and it whisked behind a tree-trunk when I drew nigh and went up aloft as swift as any squirrel could. You will not have us slay wild beasts for no purpose, and it seemed no more, so I tried no arrow. It was too dark for sure shooting anyway, and the creature was gone into the gloom of the leaves in a twinkling. But I stayed for a while, for it seemed strange, and then I hastened back. I thought I heard the thing hiss at me from high above as I turned away. A large squirrel, maybe. Perhaps under the shadow of the Unnamed some of the beasts of Mirkwood are wandering hither to our woods. They have black squirrels there, ’tis said.’

“`Perhaps,’ said Faramir. `But that would be an ill omen, if it were so. We do not want the escapes of Mirkwood in Ithilien.’ Sam fancied that he gave a swift glance towards the hobbits as he spoke; but Sam said nothing.

Gollum had in fact earlier escaped from Mirkwood, though I can’t see how Faramir could have known about that.

We now see one of the few quasi-religious observances in the book:

“They were led then to seats beside Faramir: barrels covered with pelts and high enough above the benches of the Men for their convenience. 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 Numenor that was, and beyond to Elvenhome that is, and to that which is beyond Elvenhome and will ever be. Have you no such custom at meat? ‘

“`No,’ said Frodo, feeling strangely rustic and untutored. `But if we are guests, we bow to our host, and after we have eaten we rise and thank him.’

“’That we do also,’ said Faramir.”

They have a good meal, and then Faramir explains some more.  Including a lack of long-term hope; words given to Boromir in the film:

“’But tell me now of your own fortunes,’ said Frodo, turning the matter aside once again. `For I would learn more of Minas Ithil and Osgiliath, and Minas Tirith the long-enduring. What hope have you for that city in your long war? ‘

“’What hope have we? ‘ said Faramir. ‘It is long since we had any hope. The sword of Elendil, if it returns indeed, may rekindle it, but I do not think that it will do more than put off the evil day, unless other help unlooked-for also comes, from Elves or Men. For the Enemy increases and we decrease. We are a failing people, a springless autumn.

“`The Men of Numenor were settled far and wide on the shores and seaward regions of the Great Lands, but for the most part they fell into evils and follies. Many became enamoured of the Darkness and the black arts; some were given over wholly to idleness and ease, and some fought among themselves, until they were conquered in their weakness by the wild men.

“`It is not said that evil arts were ever practised in Gondor, or that the Nameless One was ever named in honour there; and the old wisdom and beauty brought out of the West remained long in the realm of the sons of Elendil the Fair, and they linger there still. Yet even so it was Gondor that brought about its own decay, falling by degrees into dotage, and thinking that the Enemy was asleep, who was only banished not destroyed.

“’Death was ever present, because the Numenoreans still, as they had in their old kingdom, and so lost it, hungered after endless life unchanging. Kings made tombs more splendid than houses of the living, and counted old names in the rolls of their descent dearer than the names of sons. Childless lords sat in aged halls musing on heraldry; in secret chambers withered men compounded strong elixirs, or in high cold towers asked questions of the stars.”

Gondor is in decline, and knows it.

The talk turns to elves.  Most men now suspect them, and even Faramir feels a need for care:

“`You don’t say much in all your tales about the Elves, sir,’ said Sam, suddenly plucking up courage. He had noted that Faramir seemed to refer to Elves with reverence, and this even more than his courtesy, and his food and wine, had won Sam’s respect and quieted his suspicions.

“`No indeed, Master Samwise,’ said Faramir, `for I am not learned in Elven-lore. But there you touch upon another point in which we have changed, declining from Numenor to Middle-earth. For as you may know, if Mithrandir was your companion and you have spoken with Elrond, the Edain, the Fathers of the Numenoreans, fought beside the Elves in the first wars, and were rewarded by the gift of the kingdom in the midst of the Sea, within sight of Elvenhome. But in Middle-earth Men and Elves became estranged in the days of darkness, by the arts of the Enemy, and by the slow changes of time in which each kind walked further down their sundered roads. Men now fear and misdoubt the Elves, and yet know little of them. And we of Gondor grow like other Men, like the men of Rohan; for even they, who are the foes of the Dark Lord, shun the Elves and speak of the Golden Wood with dread.

“`Yet there are among us still some who have dealings with the Elves when they may, and ever and anon one will go in secret to Lorien, seldom to return. Not I. For I deem it perilous now for mortal man wilfully to seek out the Elder People. Yet I envy you that have spoken with the White Lady.’

“`The Lady of Lorien! Galadriel!’ cried Sam. `You should see her indeed you should, sir. I am only a hobbit, and gardening’s my job at home, sir, if you understand me, and I’m not much good at poetry – not at making it: a bit of a comic rhyme, perhaps. now and again, you know, but not real poetry – so I can’t tell you what I mean. It ought to be sung. You’d have to get Strider, Aragorn that is, or old Mr. Bilbo, for that. But I wish I could make a song about her. Beautiful she is, sir! Lovely! Sometimes like a great tree in flower, sometimes like a white daffadowndilly, small and slender like. Hard as diamonds, soft as moonlight. Warm as sunlight, cold as frost in the stars. Proud and far-off as a snow-mountain, and as merry as any lass I ever saw with daisies in her hair in springtime. But that’s a lot o’ nonsense, and all wide of my mark.’

“’Then she must be lovely indeed,’ said Faramir. `Perilously fair.’

Sam now blunders again:

“`I don’t know about perilous,’ said Sam. `It strikes me that folk takes their peril with them into Lorien, and finds it there because they’ve brought it. But perhaps you could call her perilous, because she’s so strong in herself. You, you could dash yourself to pieces on her, like a ship on a rock; or drownd yourself, like a hobbit in a river. But neither rock nor river would be to blame. Now Boro – ‘ He stopped and went red in the face.

“`Yes? Now Boromir you would say? ‘ said Faramir. `What would you say? He took his peril with him?’

“`Yes sir, begging your pardon, and a fine man as your brother was if I may say so. But you’ve been warm on the scent all along. Now I watched Boromir and listened to him, from Rivendell all down the road – looking after my master, as you’ll understand, and not meaning any harm to Boromir – and it’s my opinion that in Lorien he first saw clearly what I guessed sooner: what he wanted. From the moment he first saw it he wanted the Enemy’s Ring! ‘

It’s not actually that big a revelation.  Faramir already suspected that Isildur’s Bane was something that Isildur took from the hand of Sauron.  Which could be some evil hammer or dagger, but Faramir would also know the basics of the One Ring.  He now has the full answer:

“`So that is the answer to all the riddles! The One Ring that was thought to have perished from the world. And Boromir tried to take it by force? And you escaped? And ran all the way – to me! And here in the wild I have you: two halflings, and a host of men at my call, and the Ring of Rings. A pretty stroke of fortune! A chance for Faramir, Captain of Gondor, to show his quality!”

And that answer is still to refuse it.  If Gandalf thought it too dangerous to use, Faramir supposes that he was right.

Frodo now explains his full mission:

“’I was going to find a way into Mordor,’ he said faintly. `I was going to Gorgoroth. I must find the Mountain of Fire and cast the thing into the gulf of Doom. Gandalf said so. I do not think I shall ever get there.’”

The chapter ends with Sam seeing the similarities between Faramir and Gandalf.

“`Ah well, sir,’ said Sam, `you said my master had an elvish air and that was good and true. But I can say this: you have an air too, sir, that reminds me of, of – well, Gandalf, of wizards.

“’Maybe,’ said Faramir. `Maybe you discern from far away the air of Numenor. Good night!’”

It is unlikely that Faramir realises that Gandalf is an ancient spirit in human form.  The common view was that the wizards were men with unusual magic power.  And he’d suppose them another branch of the Numenorian tradition.


[1] The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien: Letter 66.

[2] More accurately Lothlórien rather than Lothlorien, etc..  But I do not use accents or other diacritical marks.  In the past, I have all too often seen computer software turn them into something meaningless.

As to why this flaw exists, see https://gwydionmadawc.com/030-human-dynamics/ascii-an-unhappy-legacy-for-computers/

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Martel