1. A Matter of Definition
It was during the coronation feast of Aragorn, and Faramir was nearly out of sight in a corner, quietly watching the festivities. The dancers swirled with joy and laughter, and his beloved Eowyn was among them, but Faramir's joy was not so boistrous and he was content to be a wallflower. There were others around the walls and by him, but none of them had yet spoken to him, and he was not paying attention to them.
"So," said a nearby voice, and Faramir realized that it was Eomer, who had been several yards away before but had suddenly gotten very close to him. "So, Lord Steward," he continued, his face unreadable, "I understand from my sister that you wish to marry her."
Faramir had not intended to discuss this there and then, but he would not drop any opportunity. "I do so wish," he answered, hiding a sudden slight nervousness under his usual mask of civility.
Eomer nodded slowly, watching his every move. Faramir was only just now noticing how very tall Eomer was, especially for the Rohirrim, and how strongly built.
"Lord Steward," began Eomer again, and his tone was that of a man performing a carefully planned speech, "You appear to me to be a mostly typical man of the South: one of high Numenorean blood, as I think your folk put it, and proud of it. Now, were it not for the fact that we rescued your city in battle recently, I am sure I would have received some very haughty looks by now. Your people, in general, seem to think themselves above us in the North. But, I am a man who does not make judgments swiftly. I met your brother, and he treated me as he would any other man, and we were friends. I will be honest however, and say that you look more like a man who might disdain our culture, perhaps not greatly, but enough. What say you to this?"
Eomer had spoken very slowly, very deliberately, with his eye fixed on Faramir all the time. But Faramir was unfortunately uncomfortable. He remembered a conversation he had had with Frodo Baggins, about the High Men and the Middle, using Gondor and Rohan as examples. While he judged each man individually, he could not honestly say that he thought both cultures entirely equal.
"I would never presume to downplay your men, Eomer King," said Faramir with what he hoped was an easy laugh. "I hold great respect for you and your sister especially. There has not been such valiance as you have shown in my country since Boromir departed; and such horsemanship among your people is unmatched in Gondor, to be sure."
Eomer nodded, saying nothing, but with a slightly satisfied glint in his eyes. "So then, Lord Steward, you do not entertain any notions about being a more superior culture?"
Faramir was distinctly uncomfortable now. He could not respond truthfully and tactfully at the same time. He breathed out, and responded:
"I hesitate, Eomer King, to answer your question without knowing whether we agree on the definitions of the words we use," he said. Eomer's brows lifted questioningly. "You see, Eomer King, how you think of superiority and how I think of it may be two very different things. Perhaps you would indulge me and explain more fully what your question means."
Eomer looked rather suspicious, but he shrugged his shoulders. "Superior means greater. For a man to claim himself superior, I would say he must be better in all things. A better warrior, a better leader, a better man. The matter of his birth, or whatever lineage he might possess, would seem to me a reason that is without weight."
Faramir nodded. "I am glad that I asked, Eomer King, for now I can answer your question truthfully without fearing misunderstanding."
Eomer's brow contracted a little, but he let Faramir continue without comment.
"Now, according to your definition, I would be foolish and arrogant indeed to claim superiority for my people. I do not believe any culture could claim so, unless they were speaking in relation to Orc hordes, for the country a man is raised in does not automatically make him a certain way. Each of us is an individual, and can choose to be greater or lesser. You agree with me so far, I see."
Eomer nodded. "Continue, please, Lord Steward. This is quite interesting." His tone was just slightly dark.
Faramir swallowed before continuing, but made an admirable show of being natural. "Now, I could not call my people superior using your definition. But, if I am perfectly honest with you, I could possibly do so using my own definition. Superior, in my mind, relates not to individuals, but to the overall nature of a culture. Just as there will be a mixture of characters in a family, so much more so is the diversity in a nation. Yet, I am sure that you would agree that there is a tone, an air, an attitude, about many countries."
Eomer did not dissent. Faramir continued:
"For instance, in Rohan I have noticed an air of independence and passion, of firm loyalty and honest dealings. Such things are not universal in Rohan, I know, nor are they entirely lacking in Gondor, but it is a recognizable feature. I do not know what you would say of Gondor, but I know that when I discern an air about her, I would call it Elvish and thoughtful, scholarly and thorough, even occasionally to excess.
"Now, I believe that these things are great and superior. In my opinion, without such things, without philosophy and history, a nation, no matter how worthy, cannot reach its full potential. Those who do not understand the past, those who do not have a sense of their purpose in life, those who do not give attention to those deep matters that are not urgent; those people, I would say, are inferior. It is a harsh word, and one that does not fully comprehend my meaning, but if you put the question in such a way, so I must answer it if I am to be honest."
Eomer's face had changed many times during this speech, from anticipation, to warning, to irritation, and finally to a grudging understanding.
"Well, Lord Steward," he responded. "I see you have thought much on these matters, which is a fair proof of your point. I will never say that my people are inferior to anyone, but I will concede that a man who has thought deeply is a better man than one who has not. What I will not concede is that there are more of those men in Gondor than in Rohan, as you imply. A man may be a scholar in name, and yet have a mind as shallow as a peasant in the field. And though we in Rohan are warriors mainly, do not imagine that we never discuss deeper matters."
"A very good point, Eomer King," said Faramir, laughing in his relief. "And one that I shall gladly concede to you. I never meant to offer criticism."
Eomer then grinned, and the sight was like a quick sunbeam darting through clouds. "I think I like you, Lord Steward. At first I was inclined to think you stuffy and proud, but I like you. I am glad that my sister has found so worthy a man."
"I am honored, Eomer King," responded Faramir with a bow and a smile. "To gain your respect, when I hold you to be a most honorable man, is almost as satisfying as gaining your approval for my marriage with your sister."
"Almost," said Eomer with a twinkle.
"Almost," repeated Faramir with an answering twinkle. "I must, of course, be perfectly honest."
Eomer laughed heartily, and the evening continued very pleasantly for the two men.
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.