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Author Topic: Counterfactual Tolkien -- What if Faramir had been in the Fellowship?  (Read 540 times)

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Offline HannibalBarcaTopic starter

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I often find myself both reading and writing counterfactual history—the What If? stories, based on just one factor being changed in history, and what would result from it.  I also like to do such to some of my favorite fiction novels, and one of those I have mused on thoroughly is The Lord Of The Rings.  In this particular instance, for those who are familiar with the story, I was wondering:  what if Denethor was wiser in his choice of who to send to Imladris, and Faramir set out for Rivendell?

I look, primarily, at the last stand of Boromir, though I will examine more plot points than that.  Would Faramir have survived the breaking of the Fellowship?  This is, of course, an exercise in my own imagination, and we will never truly know what the Professor would have said if he had been asked such a question and he had answered it in his typical thorough way.

So, as for that last stand.  Would Faramir have been able to survive the encounter, let alone save Pippin and Merry from capture by the Uruks of Saruman?  Tolkien certainly stated that Boromir was more physically accomplished, but Faramir was more intelligent and clever. Where Boromir barreled into the orcs in a frontal assault, I think Faramir would have used stealth and his bow to whittle them down or misdirect them in order to save Merry and Pippin. In either case, Faramir would not have been in the same position at Amon Hen because he wouldn't have followed Frodo to seize the Ring. Perhaps he could have aided Aragorn in keeping the Fellowship from running off at Parth Galen...two leader-types should have been able to handle it, and the fact that the absence of Boromir sent a chill through Sam and some of the others to begin with, should have solved that problem.

The Fellowship would have been together, near the boats, ready to cast off if orcs appeared. Aragorn, by himself, with his tracking skills would have been able to find Frodo and avoid the orcs. Pippin and Merry never would have been captured, with all the repercussions that would have (no rousing of the ents, etc.)

To think more deeply on this, how would the Fellowship's journey prior to its breaking have fared with Faramir instead of Boromir?

1. Gandalf's pupil. Being a close ally of Gandalf would have been an immense aid to the Fellowship, rather than being a source of tension as Boromir was. An extra intellectual in the party, friendly with Gandalf and likely developing a strong bond of friendship and trust with Aragorn, would only make the Fellowship stronger.

2. Two Rangers. Aragorn was a ranger of the fallen north kingdom, Faramir a ranger of Ithilien. Two scout/tracker/hunter types, along with Legolas, would have made the fellowship that much more stealthy. Remember, Hobbits are silent when they want to be too...so what most beings would notice would be an old man, a dwarf, and a pony...not exactly a threatening party to the casual observer. With their tracking skills, Aragorn and Faramir could have aided the Fellowship in their journeys doubly.

3. An extra bow. While Faramir was obviously no slouch with a sword, or as a captain of men, he had the advantage of a ranged attack that Boromir did not. It always helps to down enemies before they come within hand-to-hand combat range. Imagine Faramir and Legolas, side by side, downing wargs on the hill in Hollin, or in Moria in the Chamber of Mazarbul. Perhaps the orc chieftain would have never been able to hurl his spear at Frodo if Faramir dotted his eye with an arrow!

4. A thinker, not a suspicious brawler. Faramir doubtless may have had misgivings about entering Lothlorien, but would not have been as entwined in superstition as Boromir. As a pupil of Gandalf, he may even have known more about Galadriel's realm and been eager to visit it. He would not have objected to being blindfolded (as that is what he did to Frodo and Sam, he would have understood where the elves were coming from), and perhaps would have therefore blunted some of Gimli's recalcitrance. And what would Galadriel have seen or offered to Faramir when she gazed into his eyes--a reconciliation or expression of love from his father, Denethor? Certainly she would have found much sterner stuff in the younger son of the Steward than the elder one. And what would his gift have been?

5. The Four Hunters. Faramir, unlike Boromir, would have seen the big picture and have joined Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli to rescue Pippin and Merry from the Uruk-hai. With Boromir back at Minas Tirith (where he belonged, anyway), Faramir may have played some important role at Helm's Deep for all we know. And--if it came to that--he would most certainly have followed Aragorn through the Paths of the Dead. I believe he would have come to love Aragorn as his true King much sooner than the average Gondorian. All of this #5 presupposes that Pippin and Merry were still captured, of course.

6. Faramir the guide of Frodo and Sam. Of course, perhaps the Fellowship may still have been separated. There is a chance that Faramir could have found Frodo and Sam before they left. I believe that Frodo would have formed a strong bond with Faramir. In the little time they spent together in Ithilien, I think they came to understand each other very well. Imagine what their friendship would have become during the months of travel from Rivendell to the Emyn Muil? I think, even more than Aragorn, Faramir would be the one other person he would have accepted going with him to Mordor. And, knowing the 'front yard' of Mordor well, Faramir could have led them safely through that maze of hills, and perhaps caught Gollum without the struggle Sam and Frodo had to go through.

7. Faramir the cheerleader—and sacrificer. Faramir would undoubtedly have been moral support for Frodo, but of a different kind than Sam. Simple Sam was a blunt instrument of support to Frodo, but Faramir, being at least as intelligent as Frodo, could have shored him up with the kind of words that Frodo would understand on that intellectual level. He may have even done what Sam would never have contemplated--killed Frodo to save the world at the Cracks of Doom. As a leader, Faramir knew that sacrifice was sometimes necessary. If he saw that Frodo was consumed by the Ring at the end of the journey, and Gollum had been avoided, neutralized, or killed, I think Faramir may have put an arrow in Frodo or thrown him into the Crack of Doom for the good of the world...he was steely enough to do it, though I'm sure he would have rued it all the rest of his days, and Sam probably would never have forgiven him.

To sum up, Faramir instead of Boromir would have made for just as good a story ride, perhaps even better, who knows? Maybe someday I or someone else can write an alternate LotR with Faramir in the Fellowship. I'd read it.

Offline Kythia

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Very interesting.  And thorough.

I disagree with a few points though - but, prejudice on the table, Boromir is my favourite character so that might colour.

I recognise its a throwaway point, but:

Quote
what if Denethor was wiser in his choice of who to send to Imladris, and Faramir set out for Rivendell?

is my major objection.  Don't forget Boromir went to a war council, not to the forming of the Fellowship.  Sure, its when the Fellowship was formed but that was never the intent.  Boromir is the eldest son and heir apparent to the Steward of Gondor.  I do feel that he was the right choice to send, bringing all the weight of his father's position and suchlike.  Sending a second son, I dunno, it seems like a weird choice to me.  Send an ambassador, send the eldest, why send the second?  What message does that send?

The other thing I disagree with is:


Quote
1. Gandalf's pupil. Being a close ally of Gandalf would have been an immense aid to the Fellowship, rather than being a source of tension as Boromir was. An extra intellectual in the party, friendly with Gandalf and likely developing a strong bond of friendship and trust with Aragorn, would only make the Fellowship stronger.

and linking it in with a few later points.

What does Faramir actually contribute?  He's stealthy, so are others.  He's good with a bow, so are others.  He's an intellectual, so are others.  Boromir (at least in my imagination) was stronger than Aragorn and brought a front line fighter to the party.  Faramir just brings a not as good backup to several areas the party already has covered.  Sure the same argument could be made a lot more successfully to Merry and Pippin (and maybe Sam) but I just don't see Faramir as contributing anything to the skill set of the party  - maybe to the intra party dynamics, sure, with various conclusions.  But in terms of party effectiveness, I still think Boromir wins.

Offline Shjade

What does Faramir actually contribute?  He's stealthy, so are others.  He's good with a bow, so are others.  He's an intellectual, so are others.  Boromir (at least in my imagination) was stronger than Aragorn and brought a front line fighter to the party.  Faramir just brings a not as good backup to several areas the party already has covered.  Sure the same argument could be made a lot more successfully to Merry and Pippin (and maybe Sam) but I just don't see Faramir as contributing anything to the skill set of the party  - maybe to the intra party dynamics, sure, with various conclusions.  But in terms of party effectiveness, I still think Boromir wins.

Admittedly I'm no scholar of all things Tolkien, but from how I take the argument presented in the OP, I believe the answer to "What does Faramir actually contribute?" is "Judgment, character, and not being dead."

Boromir's not really a front line fighter when they actually need a front line fighter. Why not? Well, because he's rather dead at the time. None of them could really go toe to toe with the troll in Moria or the creature in the lake so having a bigger, meaner front-line fighter was of marginal importance there, and in the orc ambush where Merry and Pippin ended up spirited away his merits as a fighter were absolutely nullified by his weakness of character having put him in the worst possible position to fight, whereas - in theory, at least - if it had been Faramir the party wouldn't have gotten so spread out that way.

Note, that's just in theory. I don't know enough about Faramir to say he'd be less inclined to want the ring for himself after traveling alongside it that long, but that seems to be the argument, at least.

That said, Kythia's right: whether or not Faramir might have been a better choice for what they ultimately ended up doing after the council, politics probably demanded that Boromir be the one to go. There was no option. Sending his younger brother would've just ended up causing new and different problems as a result.

Offline HannibalBarcaTopic starter

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You both draw a fine, arguable point in Denethor choosing Boromir over Faramir because of right of succession and politics, but at this point I am not considering them--I am considering the prophecy-dreams they had.  Faramir had three, Boromir one.  Regardless of worldly politics, the only powers that would send prophecy would be the Valar (Archangels), or Eru himself (God).  That alone would be enough reason to send Faramir, on account of him receiving the call that magic number of three times.  I also considered Boromir more valuable on the home front, leading the fight in holding Osgiliath, and rallying the troops.  With his beloved eldest son there, would Denethor have fallen into madness as quickly?  And considering both Denethor and Boromir's arrogant attitudes towards the other free peoples of Middle Earth, it would make sense for me to see Faramir being sent on a long journey for a vision, as a diplomat from Gondor, rather than the de facto crown prince of the realm, in the middle of a struggle for the existence of their very realm.

Kythia, you make completely valid points about Boromir bringing more to the Fellowship as far as skill sets.  But the Fellowship, as Elrond said before they set out, was not formed out of strength, but as representative of the free peoples.  He also told them they would have to trust to stealth rather than strength, as there was no strength to avail them--any force of significant strength would only draw attention to them, and bring down repetitive waves of ever-increasing forces of Sauron, until they could not make any progress at all, or die in the attempt.

This, by the way, wasn't the only questions I asked myself--I was actually considering writing a book on several counterfactual, hypothetical questions on the trilogy.  Some of them were:

  • What if Smaug had not been killed, and joined Sauron's forces?
  • What if the Balrog had joined with Sauron?
  • What if Gandalf had not died fighting the Balrog, and had been merely Gandalf the Grey in the latter half of the novel?
  • What if the Ents had not been roused?
  • What if Glorfindel had joined the Fellowship instead of Pippin or Merry?
  • What if Theoden had not died?
  • What if Saruman had stayed good?
  • What if Saruman had succeeded in capturing the Ring himself?


All pure conjecture, of course, but based on the book and the letters Tolkien left behind, all interesting points to argue another time, I think!

Offline Deamonbane

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I think that the biggest change would have been that the battle on the fields of Pellenor (Not sure of the spelling, sorry, been a while since I have read the books) would have ended much quicker in the favor of the Nazghul, with disastrous results, as he was a major players and morale instrument in that battle... by the time the Rohirrim had arrived to divert the attack, Minas Tirith might have been captured already... I think that the books mention that Faramir was of purer Numenorean blood than Boromir, thus making him something of a beacon of strength to the men that were fighting on the wall of Pellenor?

Offline Cold Heritage

Faramir really sounds like some kind of Middle Earth Superman.

Offline HannibalBarcaTopic starter

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Well, Tolkien did state in one of his letters that Faramir was the character most similar to himself.  The man was a paragon of virtue, and for being the second son of the de facto ruler of Gondor, he was also incredibly humble, which helped him considerably in resisting the Ring's influence during the time he was in the presence of it.

As for the Witch-King winning on the Pellenor Fields, remember--if the Horns of Rohan had not sounded then, Gandalf would have faced the Lord of the Nazgul.  Gandalf the White.  If Gandalf the Grey fought a balrog to both of their deaths, then the shade of a mere human, regardless of his magic, would have been a mere bump in the road.  Gandalf even mentioned at some point that he was invulnerable to harm, and literally undefeatable, by any save Sauron himself.  Oh, the Nazgul had a ring of power, one of the Nine!  Yeah...Gandalf had one of the Three.  What about the prophecy by Glorfindel, 'Not by the hand of man shall the doom of the Witch-King be made..."  Well, since Gandalf is a maiar (an angel, named Olorin in Valinor), then he isn't a human, so therefore not a man!

Offline Silk

My biggest question is, what if Boromir didn't leave his shield at Amon hen. I hear they're pretty good at stopping arrows.

Offline Oreo

I think the test of the ring made it pretty clear that Faramir was the stronger of character. While having him as part of the Fellowship would have worked better at the time of the splitting since he wouldn't have succumbed to his baser instincts, it would have indeed left Boromir with Denethor. This is not a good combination and could well have resulted in Boromir falling prey to the dark forces along with his father. Changing places of the brothers could actually have led to the downfall of Minas Tirith.

Had Boromir encountered Frodo and the ring at that point, all would have been lost.