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.