The Gardener's Tale: Faramir
The first time I saw Captain Faramir he seemed very
tall. But that was because I was lying flat on the ground, where one of
his men had thrown me. Everyone looks tall when you are lying on the
ground, especially if you are a hobbit surrounded by stern men in masks
bearing great long bows.
I wasn’t afraid for myself, it was more the inconvenience, if you take
my meaning. But it fair went to my heart to see them handle Mr Frodo so
rough. What right had they to mistreat him, after all he had suffered?
My word I was angry, even if I could not do anything about it.
There was a battle going on, though, and it was no time for polite
talk. Manners go out the winder at times like that and not for the
first time I realised how small and unimportant I was because they just
held us fast while they – by they I mean Captain Faramir’s men – dealt
with a great host of savage-looking warriors they told us later were
from the South somewhere.
In all the War that was the only battle between Men I ever saw, and for
that I am very thankful. They did not look so bad, the Southmen, not as
bad as orcs or such. They wore outlandish gear but they seemed no
different to the men they were fighting, except they were on the wrong
side. But these tall grim warriors clad in green gave them little
chance, and Mr Frodo and I saw some sad sights that day. One of the
defeated Southrons fell almost on top of me, where I was held by
Faramir’s men, and I could not stop myself from wondering who he was
and where he came from, and when I saw his gold armour all bloody I did
feel quite sick.
Seeing him for the first time leading such slaughter, his bow in his
hand, you might think I was afraid of Captain Faramir. But that was the
funny thing; I was afraid for Mr. Frodo and the Quest we had to
accomplish, afraid of being hit by some stray arrow; but I was never
afraid of Faramir.
When he was off leading the fight I could hear his men talking about
him, and he must have been a good master to make men willing to die for
him. They would have done anything for him, like I would have done
anything for Mr Frodo and…well that takes someone special.
Not but that he didn’t treat me a bit rough. I was tired, so very
tired. I fell asleep and when I woke up there he was, with all his men,
questioning Mr.Frodo. He had settled himself on the ground, with
Mr.Frodo in front of him, like a captive. I did not stop to think at
the time but by sitting down he let Frodo talk to him on the same
level, and that was like Faramir, fair in every detail.
He had stretched his long legs out in front of him and there was a sort
of half-smile on his face. He did not seem surprised to see a hobbit,
but that did not strike me as odd till later either. He had pushed back
his green hood and I did notice he was fair, with long tawny hair and
grey eyes as sharp as a hawk’s. Even sitting on the ground with his
dusty cloak pulled round him to ward off the chill after the exertion
of the fight he was every inch a prince. His sword was not jewelled or
rich but a soldier’s sword, yet even a hobbit like me from the peaceful
Shire could see a mile away he was a warrior of high ancestry; he
reminded me of Strider....
Then, just to prove the Gaffer was right when he said I had no sense, I
jumped in and told him to leave Mr Frodo alone. My word, I go red just
thinking of it. Captain Faramir went a bit white too, though, for a
moment. From anger or maybe some deep feeling of his own that he was
doing something wrong. But he was only doing what he had to for his
country, I know that now, and he answered me sharpish but he could have
cut my head off, I suppose, so I got off lucky.
‘Do not speak in front of your master, whose wit is greater than yours…’
How true that was! I know it now but it hurt then, although it could
have been the Gaffer talking. How those Rangers laughed! But Faramir
did not laugh. He stared hard at me and there was a strange look in his
eyes….I don’t know, as if he thought he had seen me before. But when I
sat down, red to the ears and muttering, I saw Frodo was so tense, like
a bowstring pulled taut, that I knew right away he was fending off the
questions with all the wit he had, so I just sat still and said no
It was then I found out who Faramir was; he was Boromir’s brother, and
a lot of things became clear at once. His princely air, his command of
so many men. He was a son of the Steward of Gondor, the most powerful
man in Middle Earth. He had the same fair features and long tawny hair
but not such rich clothing or such a lordly air as Boromir. You would
have noticed Boromir first, in a crowd of a thousand. You might not
notice Faramir, but once you did you never forgot him. He spoke
quietly, even his men leaned forward to hear him, and he liked to leave
a word dangling in the air in front of you to see if you would take it,
like a boy fishing.
When I knew he was Boromir’s brother, of course, I grew anxious. I did
not know, because Frodo never told me, what happened at Amon Hen. But I
had speculated out loud, and Frodo never contradicted me. I think it
hurt him too much to even think about that day and how Boromir broke
his oath, letting himself down as much as Frodo. I knew about what had
passed between him and Boromir. Now here was his brother, and here we
were, in his power.
But I was not afraid of Faramir, even then. There was something in his
bearing, a gentleness, even in the middle of all the fighting. And he
was so soft-spoken and once he knew we were not enemies, so beguiling
and friendly. At least that is what I think, looking back. Because
after a long while talking to me and Frodo he soft-spoke and beguiled
out of me the truth about the Ring of Power.
To this day I burn with shame to think of that, my worst failure in
Frodo’s service, my worst blunder. It could have cost us everything.
Frodo could never have forgiven me! It would have been the end of me. I
could not have gone home, and could not have gone on. I would have had
to just lie down there and die, in fair Ithilien, like a lost dog,
while Frodo, deprived of the Ring, went mad and perished.
But it never came to that. Faramir would not let it come to that. He
turned over in his mind what I had said, and seemed to consider this
great temptation carefully, and then he laughed. We thought we were
doomed and drew our swords, as if we could fight off the chieftain of a
host of armed men. And he laughed again, to see us do it. And he said
these words, which years later I recorded in the Red Book, for they
were the greatest vow ever spoken by the race of Denethor;
‘Not if I found it by the roadside would I take this thing….’
And oh my word he meant it! I looked up into his eyes and he did not
even see our little swords, however sharp, in his look was only the
truth. That was Faramir, he was truthful as a flame, even if it burned
him more than anyone. Frodo saw it too, that Faramir meant what he
said, and his fright wore off. And all the strength he had summoned to
defend himself against Faramir’s probing and questioning suddenly left
him and I saw his head go down and he fell forward before I could reach
him and support him.
But Faramir saw it too, and bent down and caught Frodo up before he
touched the ground. He held him gently in his arms like a man would
hold a sleeping child and studied him carefully as if he in turn sought
the truth in Frodo’s face. Whatever he saw there convinced him that
Frodo too was telling the truth, and a look of pity filled his eyes. I
knew then Faramir would never take the Ring, or hurt Frodo. He was the
only one I ever trusted with Frodo. He was of the highest quality.
More like some shepherd with a hurt lamb than a soldier he carried
Frodo to bed and gave him back to my care. He piled furs on him and
said to me;
‘Take good care of him, Sam, for he needs you. Don’t reproach yourself
for your slip, for it was meant to happen so that I could be allowed to
‘You have shown your quality, Captain Faramir’ I said ‘It is the highest….’
I blush to think I said such words to the son of Denethor the Steward.
But he did not take it amiss. He once said he hated to trap anything
with lies and hated to kill and now he had proved it.
When he heard what we were going to do, our hopeless quest as he
thought it, he was grieved and tried to stop Frodo going on to Mount
Doom. But then the tables were turned and a hobbit from the Shire
taught Captain Faramir a lesson in duty and pluck, for Frodo would not
hear him, and even grew angry;
‘What do you want, a desert land with two ruined towers grinning at each other across it like two skulls?’
And Faramir shook his head and wept and said ‘No!’
He thought we were going to our doom, but in the end he almost went to
his own, cut down on the field of battle and nearly slain by his own
mad father. But he was like Frodo, even had he known, he would still
have gone on. I never saw him again after we parted in Ithilien, but I
remember he thought highly of gardeners, even though he had little need
for one himself. When I told him he was proven true in my eyes at
least, he smiled, gently but with a wry look, like the man himself, and
‘Praise from the praiseworthy is praise indeed….’
From The Gardener's Tale
The Red Book Of Westmarch