Movie!Faramir’s lost honour
1. Movie!Faramir's lost honour
Why do I think that Movie!Faramir lost his honour? To understand that we have first to understand how honour is defined in the classical sense [http://dict.die.net/honour/]:
That which rightfully attracts esteem, respect, or consideration; self-respect; dignity; courage; fidelity; especially, excellence of character; high moral worth; virtue; nobleness; specif., in men, integrity; uprightness; trustworthiness; in women, purity; chastity.
A nice sense of what is right, just, and true, with course of life correspondent thereto; strict conformity to the duty imposed by conscience, position, or privilege.
In my opinion Book!Faramir is a man who definitely strives for male honour in the dictionary’s sense and he was allotted this kind of honour by his men and compatriots. But we still need a better idea what honour is about.
A more extensive explanation [http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=honor]:
Synonyms: honor, homage, reverence, veneration, deference
These nouns denote admiration, respect, or esteem accorded to another as a right or as due. Honor is the most general term: The hero tried to be worthy of the honor in which he was held. Homage is often in the form of a ceremonial tribute that conveys allegiance: “There is no country in which so absolute a homage is paid to wealth” (Ralph Waldo Emerson). Reverence is a feeling of deep respect and devotion: “Kill reverence and you've killed the hero in man” (Ayn Rand). Veneration is both the feeling and the reverential expression of respect, love, and awe: Her veneration for her mentor never wavered. Deference is courteous, respectful regard for another that often implies yielding to him or her: The funeral was arranged with deference to the family of the deceased.
Nowhere in the movie do we hear of the people’s veneration for Faramir. No, in the movie there is no Beregond but only the lamentably not evacuated populace of Minas Tirith mourning silently the knights doomed to die. Nowhere in the movie do we hear the Ranger’s vocalized deference for Faramir as was described by Tolkien. Thus, Movie!Faramir is from the outset already a very diminished personality. Nevertheless, the words he speaks over the fallen Southron or to the Hobbits seem to show a sense of honour. Therefore there is still a small hero’s honour that must be destroyed so that Movie!Aragorn can appear the more heroic as the saviour king.
Though Tolkien’s universe is certainly more Christianized than Homer’s Iliad the Iliad shows us the original understanding of a hero’s honour.
Exerted from the Netshot The Classical Origins of the Western World by Roger Dunkle [http://ablemedia.com/ctcweb/netshots/homer.htm#hero] we find the:
The code which governs the conduct of the Homeric heroes is a simple one. The aim of every hero is to achieve honor, that is, the esteem received from one's peers. Honor is essential to the Homeric heroes, so much so that life would be meaningless without it. Thus, honor is more important than life itself. As you will notice in reading the Iliad, when a hero is advised to be careful to avoid a life-threatening situation in battle, his only choice is to ignore this warning. A hero's honor is determined primarily by his courage and physical abilities and to a lesser degree by his social status and possessions. The highest honor can only be won in battle. Here competition was fiercest and the stakes were the greatest. Two other heroic activities, hunting and athletics, could only win the hero an inferior honor. An even lesser honor was won by the sole non-physical heroic activity, the giving of advice in council (1.490; 9.443). Nestor, who is too old to fight, makes a specialty of giving advice since that is the only heroic activity left to him (1.254-284).
The heroic ideal in the Iliad is sometimes offensive to modern sensibility, but what is required here is not the reader's approval, but understanding of these heroic values. One can only understand the Iliad, if one realizes what motivates action in the poem. Indeed, Homeric heroism is savage and merciless. Thus the hero often finds himself in a pressure-filled kill-or-be-killed situation. Success means survival and greater honor; failure means death and elimination from the competition for honor. But victory in battle is not enough in itself; it is ephemeral and can easily be forgotten. Therefore, the victor sought to acquire a permanent symbol of his victory in the form of the armor of the defeated enemy. As you will notice, furious battles break out over the corpse as the victor tries to strip the armor and the associates of the defeated warrior try to prevent it. Occasionally, prizes from the spoils of war are awarded for valor in battle as in the cases of Chryseis and Briseis, who belong respectively to Agamemnon and Achilleus. The importance of these captive girls as symbols of honor is evident in the dispute which arises in Book 1. The Homeric hero is also fiercely individualistic; he is primarily concerned with his own honor and that of his household,6 which is only an extension of himself. As is particularly true of Achilleus, the Homeric hero is not likely to be as concerned about his fellow warriors as he is about himself and the members of his household. Loyalty to the community or city had not yet achieved the importance it was going to have in later times.
The moral pressure which ensures compliance with this heroic code is simply what peers will think and say. The Homeric hero is supremely concerned with the reaction of his fellow heroes to his actions, since ultimately it is they alone who can bestow honor. When Hektor's wife urges him not to re-enter the war, he answers (6.441-443):
...yet I would feel deep shame
before the Trojans, and the Trojan women with trailing garments,
if like a coward I were to shrink aside from the fighting.
Hektor is not free to walk away from the war. His fear of adverse public opinion forces him to ignore the pleas of his wife and risk his life for the sake of honor. Therefore, one must fight courageously, whatever the cost. …
In the more Christianized world of Tolkien’s imagination Faramir strives not for his own honour but for the survival of his people. Nevertheless, he strives honourably. In my opinion he would not use dishonourable means to fulfil his goal. Moreover, for a people’s defender the wanton and useless sacrifice of knights bound by their honour to their leader would be a most dishonourable deed. Thus, Tolkien gives Faramir a much more honourable mission: he is to hold the Pelennor open as long as possible for the Rohirrim and the Gondorian fugitives. In contrast, in the movie the only excuse for the suicidal attack is that a weak Faramir refrains to counter his mad commander’s, i.e. his father’s, wishes.
I still wonder why he made such a bad decision to lead his men in broad front under glaring sun to bunkered arrow-shooting orcs. Why did he (i.e. the script writer) not choose another battle plan, which would ensure that 2/3 of his men would survive - perhaps stealthy attack in the night? Probably Movie!Faramir had compassion for his men but was either too incompetent or not strong enough to object to his mad father’s orders. After Movie!Faramir decided to lead his men into certain death simply to honour his commander’s expressive wish, he should do anything in his might to force the end to come as soon as possible.
But the remorse Movie!Faramir probably felt for his men is really only a minor point. I think he would feel much more remorse to be still living when all his men died (moreover because of his incompetence). He would do anything he could do to hasten his own slaying by the orcs. Any leader of warriors would be counted as a craven coward came he back as the sole survivor after a completely unsuccessful campaign. That fate he would fear the most in my opinion! (The captain doesn't leave the sinking ship!) Where is Movie!Faramir's honour? It is completely destroyed when he survives alone. No ancient warrior could have held his head up again proudly after such a fiasco.
I would think a person with Faramir's able mind would find enough words to entice any orc to slay him there and then on the battlefield. In result he might be unconscious after an incomplete slaying. A failed slaying maybe because the horse bolted. The horse then might drag Faramir with it over the Pelennor, which has to be sandy and grassy enough to ensure that Faramir still lives after 17 miles or 27 km bumping his head on the ground. Then one would still need an explanation why the orcs didn't kill the horse with an arrow.
I read a fanfic story (unfortunately remember neither title nor author) where an orc captain finds Faramir unconscious and realizes from the armour that this human must be a very high-ranking Gondorian knight. He sends the unconscious Faramir back. This concurs with the warrior code of honour as Faramir can do nothing against it, and it is the most deeply wounding action the orc could think of to send the leader back as the sole survivor. It is destroying to the mind of a noble warrior. After thousands years of war even orcs would be aware of the human code of honour.
For me Gondor's culture is a Roman-Germanic-Egyptian-Byzantine mix with honour codes comparable to that of Norse warriors, Roman soldiers and Christian knights (see my essay still in preparation named Time-line of Gondor and Rohan with respect to European history). So, Roman generals would fall into their swords after loosing all of their men. Norse warriors would seek death to avoid returning without their honour. Christian knights? I think they would go on a quest to redeem themselves and to search for honourable tasks as perilous as possible (as self murder is not allowed).
Not one of those codes would allow the surviving commander to come back from the field to the Houses of Healing. Thus in movie!verse as in book!verse only an unconscious (severely wounded) Faramir can come home without (after) his men. And he has to be unconscious before any horse or swan-knight takes him to Minas Tirith. Otherwise he could not be standing in the sidelines of Movie!Aragorns wedding. In book!verse he got at least 2/3 of his man back to Minas Tirith, nevertheless he has to be nearly unconscious before he can be taken from the battle field. And he comes in as the last, born by his uncle who served in his stead to bring the men home. As a commander he could leave the battle with his honour intact only if the Steward would call him back. And losing all his men while still living leaves surely not much honour for Movie!Faramir. Yes, I think this one of the many (intended?) blunders of the film-script. In contrast to the movie, in any lay or saga about Movie!Faramir, Movie!Faramir would not return to Minas Tirith.
Moreover, in an heroic tale Eowyn could not fall into love with Movie!Faramir. But to be fair to the script writers, the movie nowhere shows a Faramir-Eowyn kissing scene, even in the extended version. An uninitiated movie viewer might perceive their relationship as simple friendship. The predominant love story of Tolkien’s LOTR is shrivelled beyond recognition. Consequently, the movie ending - concentrating on Aragorn and Sam - leaves the slayer of the Nazgul lord (Eowyn) and Tolkien’s “alter ego” (Faramir) without the recompense Tolkien valued most, marriage and children.
I think that Movie!Faramir's honour is only besmirched by the fact of the stupid attack, but severely endangered by losing all his men (that is already devastating) and then destroyed by being the sole survivor (this is absolute tragedy). Would not even a modern captain have a really bad conscience when he has lost all his men he himself lead to death, and him being the sole survivor, even if his general had ordered knowingly a suicide attack? I would think even a modern captain would hope to find some tasks to redeem himself. So maybe a modern captain, lacerated severely by machine-gun fire would think on how he could avenge his men vowing for future deeds more effective against the enemy. Otherwise he must hope for a fast death or forgiveness from all the mothers whose sons he could not save. In my opinion one who has no hope for forgiveness would plunge into deep depression or 'shell shock'. Would one not ask a modern captain, why is it that you live and all your men died? Although public honour is not an important value anymore in our rational world (which is a fact I very much welcome when I think of the still prevailing honour killings of female kin rumoured to have besmirched the clan’s honour), we nevertheless have not a high opinion of a captain who lost all his men and survives.
In my opinion the suicidal attack of Movie!Faramir is a useful means to reduce another noble Gondorian (Movie!Denethor is a case much alike) by incompetence to a non-entity just to give Movie!Aragorn more screen-power.
In my opinion the real shortcoming of the movie is that scruffy Movie!Aragorn, in contrast to the book, never changes from the insecure ranger into a regal Numenorean with all the paraphernalia of a mythical saviour king (healing stone etc.). Thus, instead of shaving, this human ranger merely grows the journey's three-days-beard into a full beard to demonstrate his regal maturity. To compensate for these movie shortcomings any other Numenorean has to be reduced in his impact. Unfortunately the script writers Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens use for this goal rather crude means (ineptness, madness). As for me the since centuries enduring Gondorians belong to the real heroes of the Ring story, this downgrading of the Gondorians in the movie for me results in a major disappointment with the movie. Only slightly less is my disappointment with the childishly portrayed Hobbits. If Sam's mature thoughts about war and death are given to Movie!Faramir to show Movie!Faramir as a noble and thoughtful being at our first acquaintance with Movie!Faramir, this shows only how much maturity the Hobbits have lost and how much of Book!Faramir's real knowledge and eloquence never shows up in the movie.
By dishonouring Movie!Faramir the very human looking and fallible acting Movie!Aragorn is the last noble human standing and thus the only human we can attach to as our hero.
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My very personal views about the ideal Book!Faramir and the inept Movie!Faramir are influenced by the following books about myth and it's relevance for today’s coping with reality as acted out by our contemporary humanity:
Robert A. Segal, Myth - A very short introduction;
Lord Raglan, The Hero - A study in Tradition, Myth and Drama;
Dean A. Miller, The Epic Hero
Many of the thoughts expressed in this essay result from a forum discussion with Raksha, to whom I want to convey my thanks herewith. Many thanks also to Imhiriel, who corrected many errors. All remaining errors are mine.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.