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Archive for the ‘Faramir’ Category

They loved to fight, valiant horsemen with swords and horns and arrows.  But did they fight for her?  Sitting home, left behind to wait on a king who no longer thought of anyone or anything but darkness, watched by lustful eyes fueled in all his deceit by his selfishness – what good was it for strong men to fight if their homes crumbled in their absence?  Would this be her whole life, waiting for people to die, watching decay and singing of dirges?  How could a shieldmaiden ward off the subtly corrupting whispers that truly threatened her kingdom?  An enemy manifest, however terrible, is easier to defy than ghosts in the shadows.  And she yearned, for morning and for restoration and for love. 

A brother she had, whom she loved.  A king she had, like a father to her.  A people she had, who would follow her.  They that went with the puissant soldier on the paths of the dead went because they would not be parted from him.  She stood alone weeping as she watched him go, but he from whom she could not be parted was her uncle.  Where will wanted not, her way opened.  Disregarding formation, she rode close to him.  In the battle she learned that what she wanted more than death, more than glory, was to preserve the beloved lives of her friends.  Alone she stood, facing death, shielding self and kindred from his icy blows. 

And then she wasn’t alone.  Her little companion, brought out of sympathy, stood up and began a change in the woman.  Valiantly, for no other reason than that the desperate woman should not die alone, he reached up to stab at death.  Together they brought him down.  Together these two unlikely heroes suffered, both sleeping in the triage houses in the city.  More came, not for glory or to make whole again their human weapons.  The healers came to restore the broken, to call back the fevered wanderers. 

She woke in the middle of a journey.  No healer had she been; her hand ungentle, left to fight its own battles.  And here at last beside her, appointed also to stay at home, stood a man who could outmatch any of the revered men of valor she had known.  Yet he spoke not of the love of fighting, but of love for that he defended.  He did not love being a ruler, but loved that which he stewarded.  His own glory meant nothing, but he wanted to do what was wise and brave and therefore praiseworthy.  He would forfeit his life to keep an oath. 

Her reflection stood before her, cast in new light.  She also fought, stewarded, took pity, and offered her life.  Now she saw what it was for, and it went deeper than opposing the things she feared and hated.  As the days passed, the man grew to love her.  No more did she miss someone to stand for her, to speak for her, to plan for what pleased her.  He was there.  And her heart changed, or else at last she understood it: to be a shieldmaiden no more, but to be a healer and lover of all things that grow.  Turned from the dark battle and dirges to the life that had been crumbling, she found peace and love and bliss. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Marriage is like dancing with no music.  There is still an art, and still the beauty; there is also that dimension of more going on that you have in dancing.  But instead of the music being enough to give a girl an idea of where life is going, there is none; she must simply follow.  Give and take, go and come.  Trust.  Responsibility.  Cry for help.  Confidence.  Smile her delight.  Swing out, spin in.  Submit.  Dance. 
 
The hobbits watch in dreamlike fixation as a woman beautiful beyond their experience weaves her way around the table, in and out of the kitchen, gracefully dodging a man equally unique to the hobbits: big, clumpy, capering and energetic.  Styles so different, the two manage to make a fascinating dance of contrast and complement. How do they make it work?  What force prevents collision? 
 
Tom Bombadil sang about his lady when he thought no one was listening, and when he knew they were following, straining for his every word.  He praised her as beautiful and trusted her to be ready with hospitality.  Brave and free, each with few friends, the couple shared life and interests with each other.  Perhaps many nights were spent crafting a tale to spell his lady.  He gave her gifts and she did the washing.  They each remained who they had been before they met, but they sacrificed things and changed also, making a brand new life together.  When the hobbits asked Goldberry about her husband, she spoke with quiet respect, “He is the master.”  Perhaps there is no satisfying explanation of Tom Bombadil because he was a man who needed to be known rather than described.  There are no memorized steps of the dance with him.  Their house is full of the comforts of community: ready beds, generous tables, and long conversation by the fire.  Goldberry and Tom knew the value of relationship. 
 
Main characters in Lord of the Rings are unmarried.  Nine companions, the fellowship of the Ring, had the freedom to risk their lives and tramp across the world because they were not married.  A man or two was moving towards marriage, dreaming of the woman he’d left behind.  Tolkien was a real romantic, the kind who understood the pull of adventure and of chivalry, as well as of courting and of marriage.  This last is not too common in literature, that real married couples would be glimpsed in story and lifted up for their simple virtue and hard submission.  Immensely happy in marriage to Edith himself, this author did not shy away from representing marriage in his stories. 
 
Another example is found in The Fellowship of the Ring before the hobbits encounter Tom Bombadil.  Still in the Shire, they meet a hobbit couple, the honored Mrs. Maggot and her intimidating husband, Farmer Maggot.  It’s a dreadful name to inherit, let alone acquire, so Mrs. Maggot must have loved her husband, and made the most of it.  She too embodied hospitality.  Spin in.  Feeding a large working farm and family of sons and daughters, she didn’t mind at all to include three hungry strangers at her table, presenting them with heaping helpings of farm fare, mushrooms, and good homebrew.  Farmer Maggot was a good provider, a defender of his property – maybe less because of what it grew than of whom it harbored.  And when in the service of doing what was right he risked his own safety for newfound friends – this round hobbit reminiscent of the American rednecks – his wife stood at the door and cried out for her husband to be careful.  Swing out.  This isn’t just something people say.  Do you see women encouraging their husbands to do the right thing even though it is dangerous?  Do you hear people in unhappy marriages nervous about the other’s safety?  No, it comes from a heart of love, natural – yes, and common but only because the simple heart of marriage is common.  Isn’t that how it should be? 
 
There are other examples, men and women whose wedded bliss was interrupted by wars, disease, or accident.  Take Frodo’s parents.  Rumors ran wild that Drogo didn’t get along with his wife, and that she thought his girth was too large even for a hobbit.  They died together, though, out boating – and as far as the Gaffer was concerned, that was their only crime.  It left Frodo to the wildness of youth, an orphaned rascal living with an extended family too big to take good care of him and to teach him responsibility.  This again was the implication given by the sturdy gardener, who had carefully raised his own son under his eye and apprenticeship.  What an unlikely beginning for the Ringbearer, whose sense of responsibility called him into the darkness, surrendering forever the possibility of home!
 
Elrond’s marriage does not appear to have been happy.  His wife early (well, thousands of years into their relationship) grew weary of their home and left.  Why didn’t she stay for him?  Why didn’t he go with her?  Should he have gone, the Halfelven whose work was so large in preserving the Middle Earth for which his father had risked much more than happiness and comfort?  Should she have stayed, enduring without music, just for the following?
 
Many characters seem to have lost their mothers or fathers early, including Samwise, Frodo, Aragorn, Boromir & Faramir, and Eowyn & Eomer.  It was a hard time, and even marriage did not guard against sorrow and loss.  This is evidence that Tolkien’s ideal of marriage was not unrelated to the real world in which he moved.  His stories exemplify love and commitment in the midst of the hard times to which we can relate. 
 
Another splendid example of the exertions of marital love and the roles each person takes is the marriage of Earendil and Elwing.  Earendil, on behalf of his people, sought to reach the undying lands and plead for the help of the Valar.  He was lost at sea, hopeless, when his elven wife flew to him in the form of a white bird with a silmaril at her breast, and, lighting the way to Valinor, saved her husband and delivered his mission from doom.  He initiated risk, and she accepted the separation and the danger.  In this story the husband led the way on a mission to save the world (as all husbands should), and she supported him with strength of her own and encouragement.  I believe the story goes that the couple now above Middle Earth sails till time ends, in the heavens, her silmaril doomed to light the way for all men as the evening star. 
 
Many people in Tolkien’s tales are related to Luthien and Beren, who stole that silmaril from the crown of Morgoth.  Luthien was the daughter of Thingol (a high elf, one of the first to see Valinor) and Melian (a Maia).  Their marriage is another inspiration.  King Thingol loved Melian and worked his whole life to make her happy.  But he also respected his bride and took her advice.  This position Melian wielded to moderate her husband’s temper, thereby making him the best man, father, and king that he could be.  Ruling together, they preserved and protected a kingdom of peace, beauty, and, until fate started to unravel the spell of protection Melian had woven around Doriath, of justice. 
 
Thingol and Melian’s marriage is somewhat reminiscent of Celeborn and Galadriel, both strong and wise, with strong claims to the leadership of their people.  Yet they ruled peacefully side by side, together attending councils of the wise.  Again they both offer hospitality, but are cautious to protect their country against harm, for love both of land and of friends inside.  All the wives in Tolkien are beautiful, and all the husbands are valiant.  But not all the men are wise, nor are all women hospitable.  Celeborn and Galadriel represent together the best of Tolkien’s ideal.  They are happy and sad, serious and celebratory.  They are wise and strong, beautiful and kind.  People love them and follow them, not only in war, but also in peace.  Memory is important, and yet there is always curiosity to meet new things.  And so it ought to be in marriage.  Such I believe was Tolkien’s experience. 
 
My favorite marriage in Tolkien is one that hadn’t yet taken place.  Eowyn was independent; she was not free – not because she was a woman at home, but because she wanted things impossible for her to have.  Faramir pushed, and she took a small step away.  He pulled and she came close.  Before she knew what was happening, the simple steps were increasing in difficulty until she cried out, “My hand is ungentle!”  The princess grew frightened in the face of love and submission, though she had stood proud as the shieldmaiden of her king even against an enemy as terrible as the Lord of the Nazgul.  She cried out to one who seemed to know what he was doing, who was leading her into a place where she was less confident, where her only choice was to follow.  And the crying out was trust.  Her heart changed, or at last she understood it.  She chose freedom, stepped willingly away from her independence, and chose to love, like her partner, to see things grow well.  “Then I will wed with the White Lady,” he laughed.  She smiled her delight, and on the wall of the city their hands met and clasped, and they faced darkness and light together. 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn 

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Knight
Knight

Has it ever occurred to you that the poetic age of chivalry, so often counted as a part of the romantic past, is at odds with the philosophy of romanticism, with “happily ever after”? Let me quote,

“This woman is almost always unattainable by virtue of her social status or physical distance, and by her fear of social censure; it was, paradoxically, her vary distance that lent value to the lover’s patient suffering. The lady’s worth could be increased by dispensing merce (some token of her affection) to a worthy and deserving suitor, yet the Lady who submitted too soon would be condemned.”
from Order of the Grail

and from Everyday Mommy:
“When a knight found a maiden who caught his eye it was customary for him to ask if he might be her champion. Today, a champion is someone who bats over .400 or wins a wrestling match. But, in that time to champion was to fight for or defend a person or cause. If the lady accepted him as her champion she would present him with a token, such as a handkerchief. She may have chosen to drop the handkerchief, hoping the knight would retrieve it. If he did, he became her champion and he kept the token inside his armor.

“In that age of villains and ruffians, a maiden would derive protection from having a champion. The mere mention of his name, such as Sir William of Pembroke, would afford her a measure of safety. Anyone with any sense knew better than to harm a knight’s lady, because he would pursue them to defend her honor.”

The old code of chivalry used to baffle me. I appreciated the gentlemanly way knights behaved to ladies, that the champions fought battles and rescued princesses. But I was born romantic, I think, and have never liked a story without a happy ending. The tale of knights told by the history of chivalry said that often a man would choose a lady to whom to dedicate his victories, faithful to her, defending her purity. And when he had won many battles, he had very little hope of receiving the lady as his wife in return. She may even marry another, one of her class if she were a noblewoman. A princess delivered from harm would grace her hero with cheers and her favor, but not with her love. Something honorable was seen in this sacrificial chastity. I could not see it.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End came out this summer. Spoiler warning if you care: In the first Pirates of the Caribbean, we found that Will loved Elizabeth so much that he would die for her. The second movie opened with a wedding that never took place, both parties being arrested. Throughout this movie, the young couple had their issues, particularly involving communication and honesty, two things for which they had a bad reputation. In the last movie, At World’s End, Elizabeth proves she can fight and take charge like a boy, and Will realizes a conflict between his loyalty to his father and his lust for Elizabeth. For now we see that he’s not particularly interested in being there for Elizabeth, at her side, so much as he would like to kiss her and not watch her kissing anyone else. Yes, Elizabeth is a horrible example of a lady. When the movie finished, I was caught breathless by the poignant cost of their love. Will gave up his heart, sailing ten years without touching land, for the privilege of spending one day each decade with his wife. It makes a touching tale.

But it makes a pathetic marriage. “For better or for worse” carries more than a few days’ commitment. Marriage is about becoming one, joining lives. However, based on Elizabeth and Will’s relationship to the point of their wedding, they weren’t cut out for a marriage. Letting Will rescue her, and then moving on with life, maturing into a woman interested in a life built around another person, might have been better than the one day per decade marriage.

This conclusion from a negative example (what could happen if my romantic ideals had been gratified in the days of chivalry) helped me to finally embrace that non-romantic code. My friends agree: to be surrounded by good, courteous, self-sacrificing young men is pleasant and edifying. Obviously we are not going to marry every man who holds the door open, or who defends our lives in international wars. Such services are honorable, and we all benefit from and respect the men willing to do them.

Aragorn was such a knight. He had pledged his love long ago to a woman basically unconcerned in the military campaigns he led. Eowyn noticed his nobility when he arrived at Meduseld, spoke to her kindly and intelligently, and was respectful to her beloved uncle. Perhaps she was a romantic like me, assuming that happily ever after meant the knight who rides in on his white horse to rescue her automatically would fall in love with and marry her, or at least, in dark times, let her die with him. The kingly, weathered Aragorn had more wisdom and patient faithfulness than to surrender to romantic ideology. He refused Eowyn’s shadow-love in one of the tenderest scenes in the trilogy. In the end, each player in this saga found their place, and met it with fire-tested maturity. Aragorn became the people-serving king with his long-beloved Arwen at his side. Eowyn discovered love, hope, gentleness, healing and humility in her friendship with Faramir. Faramir himself took up his role as steward, a prince tending a garden-land and inspiring a weary people by his example. He was the husband who could be at Eowyn’s side for life.

In him Eowyn was choosing the ideal of her maturity. I love Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen for presenting everyone as human, and especially for vividly portraying this contrast in heroes alongside the transition in her heroine, Marianne. In the end Colonel Brandon was her choice, having belayed her attraction to every other childish crush, however honorable he was, like the prince described in the Three Weavers. Neither gratitude nor pity nor obligation are good reasons for marriage anymore than infatuation. Yet each of these has its good place in the world. So also chivalry has its place, and however the romantics may rail, the sensible woman will cherish the old code.

To God be all glory.

Disclaimer: I’m still a romantic. In no way am I saying that marriage should be shunned for the chivalric order. The point here is that marriage is so sacred that it should be entered only if the knight and lady are that and more.

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I can’t remember how many people I’ve told the story of Faramir and Eowyn, but I would like to make the best amends possible by publicly making available an apology, a retraction, a correction. The contextual imagery convinced my child’s mind years ago that “trothplight” meant marry. It does not. Through some annoying fluke of English, the word is a descriptive synonym of betroth. I don’t understand why Faramir and Eowyn would be publicly betrothed after she already said yes, he already kissed her, etc. Nor do I get why her hand was placed in his; that symbolism belongs to marriage. However, it seems inescapable that Tolkien did mean to indicate some courtly formal custom of public engagement rather than a marriage.

I am quite sure (from some appendix or timeline in some editorial posthumous publication) that Faramir and Eowyn were soon thereafter married. Hopefully you are reassured.

If there are any who heard me tell the story differently, based on a false impression of the indication given by the archaic “trothplight,” and they do not read this blog, it serves them right. Friends should read friends’ blogs. I do promise not to elsewhere perpetuate my misunderstanding any longer, however.

To God be all glory.

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One thing I admire about Faramir, something that makes him the hero he is, is his sense of duty. Aragorn urged obedience to duty when he spoke to Eowyn at Dunharrow. She cried out that too often she had heard of duty, and she wished to spend her life as she willed. “Few may do that with honour,” Aragorn told her. The Bible describes what a young man should be in (among other places) Titus 2: “Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.” In my experience the spiritually mature young men are those who are self-controlled and who recognize the serious nature of their choices. Therefore Faramir’s dedication to his responsibility made him a man mature and ready for stewardship in other areas.

Though a man of passionate conviction, who loved truth, Faramir was willing to submit to his father’s will that he be a ‘man of action’ and defend his country in its need. He gave up time, forsaking his own preference for studying lore, to accomplish his tasks. The fact that he is skillful with weapons shows that he has practiced, a diligent habit marking those possessing self-discipline. Without loving war and glory, Faramir risked and dedicated his life to strategy, ambush, and border-raids. In Boromir’s absence, his brother led the armies of Minas Tirith. While conflict heightened, and facing major stakes, it was Faramir who was holding the western shores of Anduin on the night when Boromir’s body floated down the river. Then, as his father’s sanity crumbled, the careful son held together the steward’s counsel and the empire by standing in his brother’s stead on top of his own.

As much influence as duty has on Faramir, it is not his master. There are higher claims, and ultimate responsibility to do what is right. “I should now take you back to Minas Tirith to answer there to Denethor, and my life will justly be forfeit, if I now choose a course that proves ill for my city,” he told Frodo and Sam in Ithilien. Ultimately, he did not do as law and duty would bid, but by his wisdom sent the ringbearer on his way, aided in his mission. The quote above reveals already that he was choosing a course not only based on his perceived duty, but on the basis of what was beneficial to his city.

Again there was conflict between his duty and his judgment when Denethor in his madness commissioned his son to retake Osgiliath. His submissive reply to his father was, “Since you are robbed of Boromir, I will go and do what I can in his stead – if you command it.” The test of that moment held another lesson we can learn about duty. Duty shouldn’t make you bitter. Duty requires selflessness. Selflessness by nature is not bitter; it can be grim, but it ought to be joyful and willing. Gandalf counseled Faramir before he rode away, “Do not throw your life away rashly or in bitterness.” That the dutiful son took Gandalf’s advice is evidenced by how he fought for life when wounded.

After his recovery, Faramir took up duty once more, faithfully fulfilling his role as a steward, preparing his city and his country for the long-awaited return of her king. Here as he answered Eowyn do we get another glimpse of his views on duty, “I myself am in the warden’s keeping. Nor have I yet taken up my authority in the City. But had I done so, I should still listen to his counsel, and should not cross his will in matters of his craft, unless in some great need.” On the day of coronation, his duty was recognized with further faith from his king: “That office [of stewardship] is not ended, and it shall be thine and thy heirs’ as long as my line shall last. Do now thy office!”

Performing duty earns trust, and blessing as well. After all, his faithfulness earned Faramir a princedom in Ithilien, purchased peace for his country, and won the heart of the stern shieldmaiden of the Rohirrim.

Luke 17:10, “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

To God be all glory.

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“The board is set, and the pieces are moving. One piece
that I greatly desire to find is Faramir, now the heir of Denethor…”
– Gandalf, quoted from Minas Tirith, Return of the King, Lord of the Rings

I am a thorough Lord of the Rings fan. Take that whichever way you want. The first few times I read the book I related best to Merry’s love for the dear old King Theoden and for Frodo and Sam’s struggle with the climactic celebration near the end. As I grew, I was able to understand things about good kings, about battles, and about sacrifice through the lens of Lord of the Rings. Eventually, I’d say in the last few years of high school onward, I delighted in the message of immortality and in the love story. Those of you who only saw the movie have no idea what I mean.

Faramir. Remember that younger son, the ranger who blended in, but was important enough to drive his father mad when the son fell ill? There’s so much more. A hero. A renaissance man. Faramir is an example of incredible character. Starting with this article, I’m going to set out some thoughts I’ve had on what made this man who he is.

When Gandalf and Pippin arrive at Minas Tirith, one of the first people for whom Gandalf looks is Faramir. Earlier, in the Two Towers, Faramir reveals that he has a history with the old wizard:

“… and I learned a little of him [Gandalf], when he would teach (and that
was seldom)… 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…”

This amazes me. A little boy, or a young man, gets to follow Gandalf and ask questions and be entrusted with a secret so important that the fate of the world rests on the faithfulness of the pupil. Gandalf found Faramir a willing learner, a faithful man, and somehow important enough to be taught. Faramir was only the second son. The wizard was on no mission to educate the future ruler of an important nation.

In addition, Gandalf entrusted Faramir with his names in different regions, including the West, Valinor, whence all the wizards came and Gandalf latest. Though he says his past is forgotten, he remembered enough to reveal the name Olorin. Translated to English, this means “dreams, memory, imagination.” Names in Lord of the Rings (and throughout most of our history) are significant. To tell a name is to reveal part of your identity, especially when accompanied with this explanation.

Gandalf’s other friends were friends of necessity. Elrond was a powerful member of the council of the wise. Aragorn, heir to both the northern and southern kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor, was also an important partner in defenses and quests. His leadership of the Dunedain, skill as a hunter, and reputation as a fosterling of Elrond recommended him to Gandalf’s confidence. Even the hobbits received notice for their usefulness (though they brought delight with their quirkiness). Bilbo was needed as a burglar (and lucky number). Frodo happened to own a very important Ring. The eagles repeatedly rescued Gandalf and his friends from wars or inprisonment. Faramir, however, seems to have been a friend by choice. Gandalf saw in him something very special, and chose him as a friend.

In the Council of Elrond, when Boromir explained his brother’s dream, did Gandalf picture the doughty scholar and understand why the vision would have come more readily, and seemed more urgent, to Faramir?

As he rode to Minas Tirith, either preparing for war or preparing for a long siege, no doubt Faramir was at the forefront of Gandalf’s thoughts. Now the heir of Gondor, little could Gandalf see how important his protege would be.

In the border-wars the brothers Boromir and Faramir had been at each others’ sides. Since Boromir left to seek for the sword-that-was-broken, Captain Faramir led the covert defenses of the territories such as Ithilien, and the vanguard at Osgiliath. When the army from Minas Morgul was already marching and darkness was spreading, though he had been assaulted already by ringwraiths, Faramir still went to hold the last outposts and walls blocking the enemies from his city.

Listen to how the chess piece describes himself:

“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.”

He had perspective of history and of the whole world, not of his own advancement or even the glory of his own country. Such a grasp of macro-strategy is essential for a chessman.

To God be all glory.

PS: Please pronounce Faramir with the ‘ar’ saying “air”, and the ‘ir’ saying “eer.” His name is not Farmer.

All quotations taken from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, published by Houghton Mifflin

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