Mark Reads ‘The Two Towers’: Book 2, Chapter 5

In the fifth chapter of the second book of The Two Towers, Faramir appears to have ulterior motives for Frodo and Sam. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Lord of the Rings.

CHAPTER FIVE: THE WINDOW ON THE WEST

Look, we’ll get there, but I am still shaking from that moment of OH SHIT WHAT THE FUCK that happens later in the chapter. It’s such an interesting moment because it makes everything that happens before it so much more fascinating in hindsight. I must confess that until it happened, I actually thought that this chapter was a tad boring. Not all of it, mind you, but once Faramir started talking about the history of his people, I was really unsure where this was going, nor did I get why Tolkien needed to tell us this information.

It’s not that things started off this way. I, like Frodo and Sam, mistakenly believed that the mere appearance of Boromir’s men meant that everything was perfect and wonderful for them, that this was a good thing to happen to them. They have allies! These allies are clearly not on the side of the Enemy! There are probably Middle-earth puppy dogs in their camp! JOY! But Sam figures out quite quickly that things are not terribly good for Frodo when he wakes up to find out that his friend is being grilled by Faramir.

To be fair, I understand why Faramir did this. I understand him exercising doubt, I understand him being suspicious, and I understand that all these characters are in the midst of an awful, awful war that is probably going to get a lot worse in the coming weeks. I don’t blame Faramir for treating Frodo the way he does because, as of yet, there’s nothing to blame. Given that Faramir knows that Boromir has perished and Frodo does not, it’s a perfect explanation for why Faramir acts the way he does. Both Frodo and Sam proclaimed to be in company with Boromir, yet neither of them are expressing any sort of sadness or grief at this loss. Wouldn’t you think these two hobbits might have had something to do with it because of their behavior? Even more notable is the fact that when Faramir asks Frodo if Boromir was his friend, Frodo, thinking back to the warrior’s behavior just before they parted, is very reluctant to say anything too flowery about him.

Bless Sam, though. I love that he is so dedicated to his friend that he just can’t wait to jump to his aid. It reminded me of the way he burst out of the bushes during the council of Elrond, unable to stay quiet a second longer. He’s hasty in his willingness to defend Frodo, to prove to the others that Frodo is a hobbit of honor and goodness. It’s just so beautiful, okay? I am beginning to adore the pairings that Tolkien gives us in this book. I can’t decide which is best: Sam/Frodo, Merry/Pippin, Gimli/Legolas, or Gandalf/Endless Sass. They’re all so good!

Once it’s revealed that Boromir died and his horn was found slashed in two, Faramir’s behavior towards the hobbits changes. I think he realizes that their shock is genuine, that they didn’t really know what had happened to him, and that there’s something else to their journey that they’re not telling him. Frodo shares enough details with Faramir to gain his trust, but the man isn’t willing to give up the two hobbits just yet. And so, once again, characters in this book find that they are delayed from their ultimate destination. Faramir decides to take them to a ~secret place~ that could be a pillow fort, for all I know, and will determine what to do with them there. Seriously, what could the hobbits even do at this point? It’s not like they can just run away from these men. So, begrudgingly, they take off towards this secret place with Faramir and his men.

However, it actually proves beneficial to Frodo nearly immediately when Faramir admits that he has things he wants to talk about that he didn’t want his entire group knowing. I’m reminded of the way Bilbo’s change in The Hobbit crept up on me. It’s something that’s so gradual that when it does come, you forget that he used to be a different character when things started. While Frodo certainly wasn’t as stubborn and unwilling as Bilbo was at the beginning of his journey, he’s changed so much over the course of this book. Faramir notes how quick-witted and sharp he is, how much power he holds in his voice. I wouldn’t say that Frodo is really bitter or cynical, but he’s aware of his size and the serious nature of the journey he’s on. At this point, he has to act differently. Even his choice to abandon the Company and head to Mordor alone is indicative of this. I think that, at the very least, this might be part of the reason that Faramir is able to guess that Boromir and Frodo had a negative experience before they separated from one another.

The other explanation comes from Faramir himself, who elaborates on what it was like to grow up with Boromir. Even as a boy, he was impatient, proud, and desired power. Even if Faramir doesn’t know the details, he isn’t at all surprised that Boromir may have done something rash and impatient towards Frodo. It’s in his very nature and has been for a long time:

‘If it were a thing that gave advantage in battle, I can well believe that Boromir, the proud and fearless, often rash, ever anxious for the victory of Minas Tirith (and his own glory therein), might desire such a thing and be allured by it.’

Thankfully, Faramir doesn’t seem all that interested in the details of whatever journey Frodo is on, despite that he assumes it has something to do with whatever the hobbit is carrying. Frodo, though, isn’t quick to completely trust Faramir:

Better mistrust undeserved than rash words. And the memory of Boromir, of the dreadful change than the lure of the Ring had worked in him, was very present to his mind, when he looked at Faramir and listened to his voice: unlike they were, and yet also much akin.

It’s a haunting line of Tolkien’s, and it’s one that comes back later to scare the crap out of me. For now, though, the hobbits travel with the Men towards this secret location. At one point, they’re asked to wear blindfolds to protect the place from being discovered, and we’re treated to a long passage where the hobbits hobble along to their destination, sometimes single file, sometimes holding hands (!!!!!), and sometimes being carried. Ultimately, they are brought to the Window of the Sunset, and yet again, I am furious that Middle-earth is not real because it sounds so goddamn gorgeous. Seriously, it’s a door hidden behind a waterfall that looks like stained glass. HELP ME. HOW IS THIS REAL.

For the next few pages, I confess that the only thing I find interesting was the fact that one of Faramir’s men spotted Gollum, though they didn’t know who he was. GOLLLUUUMMMM. He’s totally going to hide until it’s safe for him to come back to Frodo and Sam. I imagine that won’t be until they part ways with Faramir. That doesn’t happen in this chapter, and I don’t think it’s going to be soon, either.

As I said, I wasn’t fully engaged by this chapter at this point. Frodo and Faramir trade stories about what they’ve been doing. We learn that the war hasn’t been going particularly well for Minas Tirith. (CHRIST THAT IS WHERE GANDALF AND PIPPIN ARE GOING GODDAMN IT.) Faramir speaks openly about the history of the Men of Númenor and how they split into three distinct groups over time, as well as why there’s such a distance between them and the Elves. I admit that the backstory is nice, especially how both the Rohirrim and those of Minas Tirith came to love and respect warfare more than anything else. It explains a lot about these cultures, and I love that sort of depth in the story. But for some reason, I wasn’t hooked by the words, and I felt my attention drifting a bit. Where was this going?

Sam Gamgee. BLESS YOUR HEART. His willingness to assure anyone that he is friends with is a good person is the cause of a crucial and horrifying mistake. When Faramir tries to speak ill of Galadriel, Sam is quick to rush to her defense, even bringing up Boromir in the process. And then OH LORD:

‘From the moment he first saw it he wanted the Enemy’s Ring!’

‘Sam!’ cried Frodo aghast. he had fallen deep into his own thoughts for a while, and came out of them suddenly and too late.’

WHAT THE FUCK SAM. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? OH MY GOD, SAM.

Faramir’s reaction? Yeah, this freaked me out:

‘And here in the wild I have you: two halflings, and a host of men at my call, and the Ring of Rings. A pretty stroke of fortune! A chance for Faramir, Captain of Gondor, to show his quality! Ha!’ He stood up, very tall and stern, his grey eyes glinting.

Oh no. NO. IT’S A DISASTER. Was this all a trick? Did Faramir know the whole time? You can imagine my surprise when Faramir does not ask for the Ring. In fact, he doesn’t even want to see it or hear the name of it. He doesn’t want to be tempted by it in the slightest, and the crisis I expected doesn’t happen. Instead, Faramir proves his own quality by deferring to Frodo’s judgment. He takes Sam’s mistake and gives a gesture of trust: he believes Frodo truly wants to destroy it, and it seems he’s going to help him do that. Sam recognizes this behavior and says something to warm my heart forever:

‘Ah well, sir,’ said Sam, ‘you said my master had an Elvish air; and that was good and true. But I can say this: you have an air too, sir, that reminds me of, of – well, Gandalf, of wizards.’

MY HEART. MY HEART.

And for the record: I don’t know that I trust Faramir yet. Yet. Please let this work out. PLEASE.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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