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What if Faramir had gone instead of Boromir?


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Feb 19, 2018
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I'm not sure we can say for certain that he'd have not caved like his brother (Boromir held out a long time against the temptation of the Ring before trying to seize it. He was with Frodo for a month or so (maybe more, cannot recall how much time passed, but they left sometime in winter from Rivendale and arrived at the Falls of Rauros sometime in Spring. And I think the Fellowship stayed some time in Rivendale after the Council and before they left, so he had the temptation there too. He also saw the seeming death of Gandalf in Moria and the fair land of Lothlorien and knew what, along with Gondor, would be lost if the Ring would fall into the hand of Sauron (which seemed all too likely as they were going into Mordor itself.) Also, it may have occurred to him as well that even if the quest succeeded, that Lothlorien would fade away as the power of the Three Rings might be broken as well. Also, he was facing the end of his family's control of Gondor once Aragorn took over. (In this, I think Faramir was proven to take it better than he would have as was proven in Return of the King.)

Faramir, by contrast, was only with Frodo a few days and only knew that the Ring was there for a fraction of that time. Also, by this point, he'd already learned how the lust for the Ring had brought his brother to ruin. Also, he'd seen Gollum and learned that Gollum had borne the Ring for a long time, thus could perhaps see that Gollum's long ownership of the Ring had contributed to his wretchedness. As far as I know, Boromir never saw Gollum.

Also, would Faramir have gone with Frodo and Sam, meaning that Rohan wouldn't have been saved from Saruman or at least prevented Merry and Pippin from being taken, also leading to Rohan falling to Saruman? Would Frodo and Sam have also been captured by the orcs thus sending them through Rohan and Gondor (and likely leading to lots of trouble by bringing the Ring there)? Would Faramir have fallen to the lust of the Ring like his brother had and the end result been the same?


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Aug 19, 2019
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Externally, Faramir was a later addition, "appearing" in Ithilien when Frodo, Sam (and Gollum, but he was away looking for food) were there (so after deciding to try Cirith Ungol and give the Black Gate a pass), as JRRT mentioned in a letter to his son Christopher, who must have been in South Africa for RAF training at the time (so perhaps 1944). JRRT already "knew" that he was Boromir's younger brother, but still had to "discover" much about him. So substituting Faramir for Boromir at Rivendell would have entailed massive re-writing.

And I also think that the breaking of the Fellowship was too established by then. Faramir going with Frodo and Sam would not have worked, as the whole point is that three Hobbits, Frodo, Sam, and the ruined Gollum were what caused Sauron's downfall. No matter how good a ranger, Faramir could never have matched the Hobbits for stealth. I mean, he would never have been able to navigate parts of the Dead Marshes that the much smaller and lighter Hobbits barely made it through. And once again, Henneth Annûn is a kind of "Homely House", a refuge along the way like Rivendell and Lothlórien, to give the Fellowship, here the Ring-relevant remnant, a breather. (In a perverse way, the same could almost be said of the Tower of Cirith Ungol). Boromir at Henneth Annûn would have made no sense, as he was supreme field commander of Gondor, so would have stayed close to Minas Tirith (in that sense one could wonder why Denethor ever let him go the Rivendell, except that he could not deny his older and much the favorite son a wish, however tactically senseless it might be (and never mind that the dream had come to Faramir far more often and earlier)).
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Squint-eyed Southerner

Skulking near Archet
Apr 9, 2018
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Virginia, USA
Yes to much of this. I believe Faramir would not have succumbed to the Ring; he was a "wizard's pupil", as Denethor sneeringly put it, and would not have doubted the wisdom of Gandalf and Elrond. I can't imagine him making a speech like Boromir's: 'These elves and half-elves and wizard's, they would come to grief perhaps. . .True-hearted Men, they will not be corrupted'. Faramir was all too aware of Man's fallibility.

The point, or one of them, of Faramir's character is to draw a contrast -- a "contrasted parallel", to use Shippey's term -- with that of Boromir. I mentioned Paradise Lost on another thread as an example of a similar situation; Boromir is, from one point of view, the ideal hero-leader: fearless, commanding, capable of great feats, drawing the admiration of many, including the Rohirrim, as Eomer's dismay shows. I wonder if many of them even knew who Faramir was.

But from the point of view of what we might call the "order of nature" -- the unspoken "Rules" of Arda, he is a mock-hero, in the same way as Milton's Satan. Faramir fought when he had to, but not for the love of fighting itself. It was, at least in part, Boromir's very obsession with martial prowess, with seizing the main chance, using any weapon, with "great alliances and glorious victories", that led to his downfall.

Part of the sense of loss we feel from the downfall of a tragic hero is due to a vision of what might have been, and Faramir gives us the counter-example: "if only. . ." is part of the tragic arc. Despite the author's struggle to finish the book, "here he came, walking out of the woods of Ithilien"; that is, even though Tolkien "didn’t want him", he was structurally necessary to the story, so the story itself created him. Boromir already had a "contrasted parallel" in Aragorn, but he is a Romance-hero; to put the difference in Northrop Frye's terms, he is "superior in degree, both to other men, and to his environment". Boromir is a hero of the High Mimetic mode, "superior in degree to other men, but not to his environment", making him "subject to both moral and social judgement", that is, a classic tragic hero. As such, he needed a High Mimetic character as a contrast.

I find it interesting that, as Aragorn completes his transition from Romance hero to High Mimetic King, so Faramir seems to change to something like a Romance character: certainly there's a fairytale-like quality to the suddenly blossoming love with a "princess", and the withdrawal to the Eden-like land of Ithilien gives the same sort of feeling. Other elements come to mind, but I'll leave it there, except to note that the Romance image of an "Eden restored" has its Low Mimetic counterpart in the Shire, the geographic opposite, and the restorations are presumed to be happening simultaneously, after the end of the Quest.

JRRT already "knew" that he was Boromir's younger brother
I wonder about this; how soon did the author "know" Faramir's identity? My impression, both from text and letter, is that he appeared, and "revealed himself" as Boromir's brother in the course of writing, for the reasons I outlined above. I don't suppose we'll ever know.
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