Musings regarding Faramir, Mythology, and Artistic License

by DoctorGamgee

With all due respect, those who are championing the work of PJ in LOTR, we seem to be in the midst of a factioning of our board, between those who dislike the changes, and those who are supporting PJ's efforts (as if these two were mutually exclusive). One can be a fan of the films, and yet critical as well. In fact, if a work of this kind was universally loved or universally hated, that would not be in the spirit of Tolkien. He created a work of art, and as such, it challenges us to think. And where thought if found, debate should be riding its heels.

In regards to the changes in Faramir shown on screen, I think there is more to it than just some "people [having] in their heads what TTT was going to be like, and they were angered when they found out they were wrong."

While I agree that this may be the case for some, and perhaps some of the more vocal critics of the film here on the board, there are many of us who were upset, yet went in having girded our loins against the "it must be like the book" phantoms which haunt us.

I have been a fan of LOTR for over twenty years now, and have read and re-read them during different times in my life, and am delighted that each retelling of the tale, even in the same format, sometimes plucks different heart-strings and moves me in new and different ways. I am also a creature of the stage. I have performed many roles from great literature which had to be changed in some aspects just to make them work in a new format. And being an opera singer, where many changes have to be made with regards to musical considerations, I feel that I am familiar enough with dramatic changes and their necessities to discuss them. In my coursework for my doctorate, I wrote a paper on three Othellos: Shakespeare's, Rossini's, and Verdi's in terms of plot changes and comparitive analysis of their adhearance to the Bard's original. When I go into a film of a great book, I strive to be somewhat forgiving when changes occur.

I understand why the changes in Osgiliath had to happen: Frodo's journey in TTT is more a spiritual than an exciting physical one, especially when one removes the "The Stairs of Cirith Ungol" from the film in an effort to keep the timeline consistant. To be honest, I don't know that the timeline consistancy PJ demanded needed to be so strictly enforced, but having given the matter much more thought than I have, knowing the entire screenplay from front to back, and cutting out the Scouring of the Shire, had he stuck to the format of the book, Frodo would have appeared for 13 1/2 minutes of ROTK, and it would have been somewhat lopsided. When you look at Frodo's part, in terms of pages, the first half of the ROTK is all about the rest of the world and Gondor. Frodo appears for three chapters in the final book, and the quest is over and the rest aftermath. By keeping to the timeline, it is possible for PJ to give us the story's heghtened sense of urgency and tension, and making three movies more equal in length, and not completely overwhelmed by the battles of the fellowship and little screentime of Frodo.

The move to Osgiliath was necessitated by PJ's removal of the surprise of the Palantir in the first film. Since Gandalf knew it was there with Saruman, he would not be so negligent as to let Pippin come ANYWHERE near it should it be thrown by Wormtongue as it was in the book. In the books, Gandalf was sleeping and musing the true purpose of the stone when Pippin stole it from him. If Gandalf had been holding what he KNEW to be a palantir, the chances of Pippin getting his hands on it would have been Slim or None (and Slim was on a bus out of town!). In the books, it was the sudden silence of Saruman and the face of Pippin that brought the focus of the eye away from Mordor, followed Aragorn's use of the stone, wrested from Sauron's control, which started the anschluss against Minas Tirith. He thought that the Ring was in the control of men, and he needed to strike before they were ready. As this was not going to occur in the film, the focus had to be brought towards Minas Tirith by the sidetrip to Osgiliath, as if the Ring was going to/from Gondor, and now Sauron has impetus to send his forces there for the third and final film.

Having recognized this, however, the treatment of Faramir and the sidetrip to Osgiliath still bother me. Not in terms that will ruin the movie for me, but rather in terms that don't distinguish Faramir and Boromir. With fear of offending Boromir fans, he was not able to contain himself when faced with the Ring. He did redeem himself when Frodo fled and he regained his senses, but when near the Ring, he was overwhelmed. This can not be argued, though some may try to interpret this fact with more emotionalism than I have. I admire his final revelation and his attempts to save Merry and Pippin from the orcs, where he gave his life, and give him great credit and respect for his humanity which finally embodied him, but I also recognize that he failed the test of the ring.

In the book, Faramir realized all of this too. He knew and loved his brother well, and knew that it would consume him as it did. Faramir knew that the Ring could not be used as a weapon by Gondor, and that it should continue on its way unhindered. Knowing what it did to so great a man as Boromir, he feared what it would do to the men of Gondor, especially as they were beset with war. Who among us would not pick up a weapon such as this when faced with an army of Orcs and worse, headed by Nazgul who were slaves of the Ring?

Yet, in the movie, Faramir decides to risk it, and take it to his father in Minas Tirith. This is where many of us are having the difficulty: he knows the danger, and still goes the way of lesser men. Which seems to be a theme in this movie with the exception of Aragorn. From the Prologues giving rings to men, "who crave power above all else", to Elrond's treatment of men in the first movie as he was talking to Gandalf in Rivendel, to the august Faramir suddenly becoming less than he should be, I object to this. It paints humans as weak, and while we do have our downfalls, there are plenty of us who are not kings of Numenor who are not just craving power. Some of us really just want good to succeed, and recognizing this desire, would send Frodo on his way, without taking them to Gondor.

Had this been the determination of Faramir, and then the party (Hobbits and all) was blown off course to Osgiliath by a roving band of Orcs, the scene in Osgiliath would not bother me half as much. This way, however, where all men are too stupid to realize the danger, or too craven to make thier own decisions without the need of a battle to force them to see their folly, Humans are relegated to second-class citizens of Middle-Earth, with a king like Aragorn to *rule* us wisely as our only hope. This was not the ME that Tolkien painted, and it is to THIS that I object, not some lame disappointment that PJ didn't meet MY expectations.

On the matter of Tolkien's work being treated as Myth, one must realize that Myths (even modern day ones) are passed down as an oral tradition; in many cases for centuries/generations. Not all of Greece or Rome, nor Celts, Norse, or Indians could read, and the proliferation of these myths would change slightly with the retelling, until codified and written down, and even then, they were still passed down in the form of oral tradition. If you chose one random child from each of the fifty states, and have them sing the alphabet song, you would discover that while they all list the letters in correct order, the words and rhythms in the song after 'lmnop' would vary. Having moved from Ohio to the Texas border of Mexico, I have heard three so far (though I have not made a study of it nationally!). This is a song that is taught via oral tradition from generation to generation, which shows how changes occur. Even modern day urban legends are passed this way. I still receive emails from people who are telling me that Congress will remove all shows which mention God because of M. M. O'Hare, which has been circulating since the Landmark Case over 20 years ago. It is nonsense, but it has morphed into "CBS will remove "Touched by and Angel" because it mentions God in every episode. Before it was Little House on the Prarie for similar reasons. Ths story changes as times move on, but it all comes down to the story of "Christian Rights are being abused."

Tolkien, on the other hand, DID codify his myth when he put it on paper and published it. He did many rewrites, but the story we know as LOTR is a work which, having been codified, is tough to mess with when there is an authoritative statement of the story . . . Tolkien's Books. Had he really wanted it to proliferate mythlike, he would have either passed it along as an oration, leaving much of the story out (who would sit through a 12-day story telling. . . OK we ALL would, but only if HE was telling it!, and tickets would prohibit it from gainging such popularity), or given away the rights of authorship, and allowed it to be freely rewritten and published by others. This did not happen, and the estate is ADAMANT that it NOT happen, so where is the wish of the professor being honored?

In comparing it to Star Wars and the Hero tale, I am not sure that it fits the arguement. Are both stories derivative, ABSOLUTELY! Eowyns defeat of the Witch-King who need fear "no man" (but She was a woman)is the same sort of oracle misunderstanding found in Greek Tragedies like Oedipus Rex, who was destined to Kill his father at the crossroads and marry his mother (His father, the king, put him out on a hill to die, but he was raised by another family as their child, became a highwayman, and robbed/killed the rich stranger (his father), and married the queen (his mother)). This sort of thing goes back thousands of years. And changes like the omission of Bombadill and removal of the Scouring of the Shire, do not alter the main thrust of the story greatly in terms of the overall storyline. Adding Elves to the battle at Helms Deep, and the weakening of Faramir, however, cast a pall on humankind which Tolkien didn't write, and to this I object.

Tolkien did create his own mythology for ME, but it has little connection with our own world. The story of Persephone explains why the seasons change. The light of the two trees is eloquent, beautiful, and wonderful to hear, but doesn't really illuminate our own world. As to his languages, I am amazed at what he accomplished, and know many people who have studied Elvish. However, it is (I would imagine) a dead language (like Latin). Elvish speakers have no linguistic way to describe "an automobile with an internal combustion engine complete with an onboard Pentium processor and wireless ISP connection." One can't describe this in Latin either and be universally understood by all Latin Scholars.

And, just for the record, I AM a fan of PJ and the films. I like them so far, and am willing to reserve judgement until I see the story in its full scope. Nevertheless, I also reserve the right to differ with PJ's representation of the story. We are both fans of the book, he and I, as are many of the posters on this board, and if he didn't wish to have his vision discussed, then he would have kept it to himself. Any idea, once put on the floor, is open to debate (even the ones *I* state are fare game!), as long as we are all reasonable and polite about the discussion and agree to disagree. I have gained immeasurable insight through PJ's work, and enjoy his telling of the tale. He probably has gained nothing from mine, as he has not decloaked on the board (if he indeed ever visits). I have also learned a great deal from my fellow posters, who keep me thinking, and in whose debt I remain. I would welcome PJ's comments, should he see fit to present them. As I welcome yours.