Monthly Archives: March 2014

Aside

It’s no surprise to anyone who has spent an appreciable amount of time with me that Gandalf is one of my favorite characters conceived by Tolkien. Ian McKellen’s portrayal of him in Peter Jackson’s adaptations have gone a long way to cementing that fact.

However, when only considering The Lord of the Rings, my favorite character is Faramir. I was one of the people quite upset about Jackson’s treatment of the character in the films. Darkening his character added dramatic tension, but loses that sense of relief in having found a friend unlooked for. In the novel, Faramir not only plays the same sort of role as Tom Bombadil or Bree: a safe have; but he is also a bridge from Numenor, giving a glimpse of what Aragorn is to become.

The best part of Faramir’s character for me is Tolkien’s use of him as a sounding board for his own beliefs. Faramir has some of the most interesting lines in the entire book in terms of the relationship between culture and war. He fights a war to defend his culture, the art and beauty of Minas Tirith, and does not fight as culture. This is the demarcation between the “high”, “middle”, and “low” men. He laments Gondor’s middling as the population puts more emphasis on arms, presumably to the detriment of beauty and art.

There are some interesting parallels there in terms of modern American politics. While the country’s budget is being spent funding foreign war, we lose funding for the sciences and the humanities. Can we really say we fight war to protect our culture when our culture suffers because our funding goes elsewhere?

“I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers