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Book Faramir IS the best Faramir

The change to Faramir’s character in The Two Towers was by far my biggest disappointment with the movies. I discussed it with other fans back in the day, watched and rewatched the BTS features and listened to the commentary tracks, and ended up mostly defending the filmmakers’ decision in online debates. But it was always a little (or more than a little) sad for me that they did that.

I know the arguments on both sides. I know why they felt they had to do it. No one is giving me hundreds of millions of dollars to adapt a sprawling, multi-book epic to the big screen in a way that will justify its enormous budget and satisfy everyone from lifelong lovers of the source material (*waves*) to new fans and casual “eh, sure; I’ll watch it” types.

But I’ll always regret that they couldn’t find room for the actual character from the books, the one who wasn’t going to undercut Aragorn or his struggle just by existing, but also wasn’t going to beat up Gollum or send the Ring to Denethor, because those things were wrong, and he saw himself as bound by that.

There’s a clip of David Wenham describing how he went to Jackson/Boyens/Walsh (or maybe it was just a story recounted by one of the latter trio; I can’t remember now) after he’d read the books (which he hadn’t when he was cast), and saying hey, you know, this actually seems like a significant change to my character. And them telling him yeah, we know, but we need to for all these reasons (*enumerates reasons*) and anyway he ends up in the same place, right?

Yeah, no. I mean yeah, he ends up having made the same decision. But he’s not the same person. How he gets there matters.

I want to believe a movie could have been made that didn’t sacrifice his character in the name of storytelling. It wouldn’t have been the same movie; might not have been as successful a movie. But I would have loved it.

I’ve mentioned that I’m reading the books again, out loud with my co-conspirator at night, the way we used to do. We just finished the Council of Elrond, and it was a thrill to realize that the brother Boromir referred to (though not by name) was the real Faramir, my Faramir.

I can’t wait to meet him again.

I have a Grand Unified Theory of LOTR that I created to reconcile the books and the movies; it satisfactorily resolved the Faramir issue for me, among other things.

The basic idea is that the books and the movies are two different histories of the same events created by different cultures with different sources and agendas. (Inspired by Tolkien’s conceit that the books were translated from the Red Book the hobbits wrote.)

Book-LOTR is mostly drawn from first-person hobbit accounts, with added accounts of things the hobbits didn’t see from other people. Movie-LOTR is a Gondorian history made several centuries after the events, with a clear cultural bias toward humans and Gondor.

Thus, in the movies: the humans are more prominent, the hobbits are younger (because they look like children to Gondorians), the romance of Aragorn and Arwen (their legendary king and queen) gets a lot of screen time, and Faramir… well, he’s no more comprehensible to later Gondor than he was to his contemporaries. He’s a great hero of their history, and it’s on record that he let the hobbits go, but how do they reconcile that with their cultural values? By making his story all about loyalty to his liege lord and his emotions about his father, rather than letting him be the ethical intellectual (with considerable grasp of the lore and history of his world) that the hobbits met. Movie-Faramir is written to make sense to people with a worldview and priorities more like Boromir’s.

According to this theory, Frodo’s Red Book account of his philosophical conversation with Faramir about war, Gondor, the Ring, etc. is a much better historical source for the “real” Faramir than the stories people tell in Gondor centuries later about one of their ancestral heroes. This pleases me, since I too am attached to book Faramir.

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