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The Gardener's Tale

11 - Captain Faramir

The first time I saw Captain Faramir he seemed very tall. But that was because I was lying flat on the ground, where one of his men had thrown me. Everyone looks tall when you are lying on the ground, especially if you are a hobbit surrounded by stern men in masks bearing great long bows.

I wasn’t afraid for myself, it was more the inconvenience, if you take my meaning. But it fair went to my heart to see them handle Mr Frodo so rough. What right had they to mistreat him, after all he had suffered? My word I was angry, even if I could not do anything about it.

There was a battle going on, though, and it was no time for polite talk. Manners go out the winder at times like that and not for the first time I realised how small and unimportant I was because they just held us fast while they – by they I mean Captain Faramir’s men – dealt with a great host of savage-looking warriors they told us later were from the South somewhere.

In all the War that was the only battle between Men I ever saw, and for that I am very thankful. They did not look so bad, the Southmen, not as bad as orcs or such. They wore outlandish gear but they seemed no different to the men they were fighting, except they were on the wrong side. But these tall grim warriors clad in green gave them little chance, and Mr Frodo and I saw some sad sights that day. One of the defeated Southrons fell almost on top of me, where I was held by Faramir’s men, and I could not stop myself from wondering who he was and where he came from, and when I saw his gold armour all bloody I did feel quite sick.

Seeing him for the first time leading such slaughter, his bow in his hand, you might think I was afraid of Captain Faramir. But that was the funny thing; I was afraid for Mr. Frodo and the Quest we had to accomplish, afraid of being hit by some stray arrow; but I was never afraid of Faramir.

When he was off leading the fight I could hear his men talking about him, and he must have been a good master to make men willing to die for him. They would have done anything for him, like I would have done anything for Mr Frodo and…well that takes someone special.

Not but that he didn’t treat me a bit rough. I was tired, so very tired. I fell asleep and when I woke up there he was, with all his men, questioning Mr.Frodo. He had settled himself on the ground, with Mr.Frodo in front of him, like a captive. I did not stop to think at the time but by sitting down he let Frodo talk to him on the same level, and that was like Faramir, fair in every detail.

He had stretched his long legs out in front of him and there was a sort of half-smile on his face. He did not seem surprised to see a hobbit, but that did not strike me as odd till later either. He had pushed back his green hood and I did notice he was fair, with long tawny hair and grey eyes as sharp as a hawk’s. Even sitting on the ground with his dusty cloak pulled round him to ward off the chill after the exertion of the fight he was every inch a prince. His sword was not jewelled or rich but a soldier’s sword, yet even a hobbit like me from the peaceful Shire could see a mile away he was a warrior of high ancestry; he reminded me of Strider....

Then, just to prove the Gaffer was right when he said I had no sense, I jumped in and told him to leave Mr Frodo alone. My word, I go red just thinking of it. Captain Faramir went a bit white too, though, for a moment. From anger or maybe some deep feeling of his own that he was doing something wrong. But he was only doing what he had to for his country, I know that now, and he answered me sharpish but he could have cut my head off, I suppose, so I got off lucky.

‘Do not speak in front of your master, whose wit is greater than yours…’

How true that was! I know it now but it hurt then, although it could have been the Gaffer talking. How those Rangers laughed! But Faramir did not laugh. He stared hard at me and there was a strange look in his eyes….I don’t know, as if he thought he had seen me before. But when I sat down, red to the ears and muttering, I saw Frodo was so tense, like a bowstring pulled taut, that I knew right away he was fending off the questions with all the wit he had, so I just sat still and said no more….

It was then I found out who Faramir was; he was Boromir’s brother, and a lot of things became clear at once. His princely air, his command of so many men. He was a son of the Steward of Gondor, the most powerful man in Middle Earth. He had the same fair features and long tawny hair but not such rich clothing or such a lordly air as Boromir. You would have noticed Boromir first, in a crowd of a thousand. You might not notice Faramir, but once you did you never forgot him. He spoke quietly, even his men leaned forward to hear him, and he liked to leave a word dangling in the air in front of you to see if you would take it, like a boy fishing.

When I knew he was Boromir’s brother, of course, I grew anxious. I did not know, because Frodo never told me, what happened at Amon Hen. But I had speculated out loud, and Frodo never contradicted me. I think it hurt him too much to even think about that day and how Boromir broke his oath, letting himself down as much as Frodo. I knew about what had passed between him and Boromir. Now here was his brother, and here we were, in his power.

But I was not afraid of Faramir, even then. There was something in his bearing, a gentleness, even in the middle of all the fighting. And he was so soft-spoken and once he knew we were not enemies, so beguiling and friendly. At least that is what I think, looking back. Because after a long while talking to me and Frodo he soft-spoke and beguiled out of me the truth about the Ring of Power.

To this day I burn with shame to think of that, my worst failure in Frodo’s service, my worst blunder. It could have cost us everything. Frodo could never have forgiven me! It would have been the end of me. I could not have gone home, and could not have gone on. I would have had to just lie down there and die, in fair Ithilien, like a lost dog, while Frodo, deprived of the Ring, went mad and perished.

But it never came to that. Faramir would not let it come to that. He turned over in his mind what I had said, and seemed to consider this great temptation carefully, and then he laughed. We thought we were doomed and drew our swords, as if we could fight off the chieftain of a host of armed men. And he laughed again, to see us do it. And he said these words, which years later I recorded in the Red Book, for they were the greatest vow ever spoken by the race of Denethor;

‘Not if I found it by the roadside would I take this thing….’

And oh my word he meant it! I looked up into his eyes and he did not even see our little swords, however sharp, in his look was only the truth. That was Faramir, he was truthful as a flame, even if it burned him more than anyone. Frodo saw it too, that Faramir meant what he said, and his fright wore off. And all the strength he had summoned to defend himself against Faramir’s probing and questioning suddenly left him and I saw his head go down and he fell forward before I could reach him and support him.

But Faramir saw it too, and bent down and caught Frodo up before he touched the ground. He held him gently in his arms like a man would hold a sleeping child and studied him carefully as if he in turn sought the truth in Frodo’s face. Whatever he saw there convinced him that Frodo too was telling the truth, and a look of pity filled his eyes. I knew then Faramir would never take the Ring, or hurt Frodo. He was the only one I ever trusted with Frodo. He was of the highest quality.

More like some shepherd with a hurt lamb than a soldier he carried Frodo to bed and gave him back to my care. He piled furs on him and said to me; ‘Take good care of him, Sam, for he needs you. Don’t reproach yourself for your slip, for it was meant to happen so that I could be allowed to help him.’ ‘You have shown your quality, Captain Faramir’ I said ‘It is the highest….’

I blush to think I said such words to the son of Denethor the Steward. But he did not take it amiss. He once said he hated to trap anything with lies and hated to kill and now he had proved it.

When he heard what we were going to do, our hopeless quest as he thought it, he was grieved and tried to stop Frodo going on to Mount Doom. But then the tables were turned and a hobbit from the Shire taught Captain Faramir a lesson in duty and pluck, for Frodo would not hear him, and even grew angry; ‘What do you want, a desert land with two ruined towers grinning at each other across it like two skulls?’

And Faramir shook his head and wept and said ‘No!’

He thought we were going to our doom, but in the end he almost went to his own, cut down on the field of battle and nearly slain by his own mad father. But he was like Frodo, even had he known, he would still have gone on. I never saw him again after we parted in Ithilien, but I remember he thought highly of gardeners, even though he had little need for one himself. When I told him he was proven true in my eyes at least, he smiled, gently but with a wry look, like the man himself, and said;

‘Praise from the praiseworthy is praise indeed….’


From The Gardener's Tale
The Red Book Of Westmarch