The Forbidden Pool
What are the virtues of Faramir, Captain of Gondor?
Dutiful with righteousness: Faramir holds true to his task and his quest, but is not enslaved by it. Just as Éomer was in Rohan, so too is Faramir able to understand the law he upholds by its spirit as well as its letter. He takes risks upon himself for the welfare of his guests. He holds his honor highly but ever in unyielding service of the good: “we are truth-speakers, we men of Gondor. We boast seldom, and then perform, or die in the attempt.”
Decisive with restraint: Faramir leads with authority but also with humility. He speaks with a firm softness, seeking the advice of his men and looking to the wisdom of the past to guide him. He does not delay or seek to avoid tough decisions: no matter the doom that must be handed down, he acts upon it without haste and without hesitation. Nevertheless, he has discipline enough to know his own weaknesses and limitations: “I am wise enough to know that there are some perils from which a man must flee.” Unlike his brother Boromir, he never tries to take the Ring from Frodo.
Brave with courage: long has Faramir led his men to defend his people from the darkness that would engulf them. Though his skill in battle is unquestioned, yet it is his philosophy of war that shows his quality, in one of the most valuable passages in the entirety of The Lord of the Rings:
“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 brave man can face the hordes of orcs from Mordor without swaying, as Boromir once did. It takes courage in the face of such evil to retain the belief that war is not a good end in itself, and that conflict only preserves its goodness when it stands between love and hate.
Just with mercy: Faramir holds to the old Socratic mantra, “It is never right to do wrong.” He will not violate oath or promise, even with warning in his heart. He understands the burdens of justice: “I do not slay man or beast needlessly, and not gladly even when it is needed.” Yet he shows compassion to Frodo and Sam, and mercy upon Gollum, even after perceiving the creature’s wickedness and potential for harm. As with Frodo, he is a clear disciple of the mercy of Mithrandir.
Serious with joy: Faramir has a grim and grounded understand of the times in which he lives. He neither underestimates the power of the Enemy nor overestimates the strength of his own people. He recognizes the weaknesses of men, the dwindling hope of success, the passing of beautiful things. Yet he still endures the struggle, meeting grief with laughter and a hope for a better future: “if ever beyond hope you return to the lands of the living and we re-tell our tales, sitting by a wall in the sun, laughing at old grief, you shall tell me then.” He rejoices in the goodness of past men and can still find laughing joy in the meeting of hobbits and the briefing passing of shadow.
In short, there is a reason Tolkien himself thought highly of the man, as he wrote, “as far as any character is ‘like me’ it is Faramir.” In Faramir, Captain of Gondor, we see modeled the ideas of good Christian life: the valiant struggle against evil external and internal, the qualities of chivalry, nobility, and discipleship exemplified. How well do we live as a Ranger of Ithilien, defending that which we love from corruption and destruction? How deeply do we long to see in our own place and times “the White Tree in flower again in the courts of the kings, and the Silver Crown return, and Minas Tirith in peace”?