Summary: It is tradition for the Stewards of Gondor to name their sons after Great Ones who have come before. Faramir learns about his own name and how it fits into this tradition, with some help from his brother, father, and Gandalf. Some of what he learns is sad, yet some of his lessons are hope-filled.
Feedback: Constructive criticism is welcome. I attempt to keep as close to book canon as possible. Ideas on how to improve in this area are particularly welcome.
Disclaimer: The places, situations and characters of The Lord of the Rings belong to the Tolkien Estate. This work contains no original characters. No money is being made from this work.
Author's Note: While there is debate over the meaning of the name 'Faramir', the meaning I use in this story is accepted by reliable sources. I use the character indexes from The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion in order to determine how many characters in the Tolkien universe have carried a certain name.
"What's in a Name?"
Faramir had often wondered how Minas Tirith stayed so white. He himself could not keep any of his white clothes clean for any length of time, but this city, which was so old to him, gleamed. Even the walls of the library gleamed white, though time and candle-smoke should have dimmed them. Faramir enjoyed the library very much, although he still couldn't read many of the scrolls.
Today the eight year old boy was reading with purpose. He was on a fact-finding mission. Earlier that morning, his dear brother Boromir had come running to him.
"Faramir," he had cried out, "I have learned a great thing today! Father has told me about my namesakes."
Faramir was confused and asked, "What is a namesake?"
Boromir's eyes flashed—little did Faramir know how happy it made his older brother to tell him something new—as he began to speak: "Father told me that our family names its sons after great and famous heroes. His name was held by a previous Steward and before that by a great Elf of old. I am named for a great Man of old and also for a great Warrior-Steward! Not only that, but my name means 'faithful jewel.'"
This had all come out rather quickly and Faramir did not immediately reply. Boromir spoke again: "That's the 'mir' part. That means jewel, says Father, so that means that you are a jewel too!"
This made Faramir's heart leap; he had no idea he was so special to his father. ' I am a jewel to my father,' thought the boy, and this pleased him, for he dearly loved Denethor and wanted to make him proud.
Boromir was describing the military exploits of the first Boromir when Faramir left him without so much as a word and went to seek audience with Denethor.
"You look well, my son," said Denethor, a smile upon his face. "Why come you to see me?"
"Father," said Faramir, and his voice was high and sweet, "I wish to know the story of my name. Boromir has told me about his!"
Denethor was struck by a pang of guilt. He looked upon his youngest son, whom he desperately wanted to love and yet could not love as he loved the other. He could not tell him about his name—especially since he already knew about his brother's. He hesitated and a shadow passed through his mind, for he knew his son would not be denied.
"My son," he began, "Faramir was the son of one of Gondor's kings."
"What does it mean," asked Faramir.
Denethor would not answer him. Instead, he appealed to his son's interests. "Why don't you go to the library? I know there will be stories about your namesake there." 'Yes, about what a damned fool he was!' the Steward thought, not without bitterness.
Speaking plainly and without fear, his son asked, "Why don't you want to tell me what my name means? Why are you upset?"
Denethor replied not, but Faramir flinched anyway, for he felt his father's anger.
"Go to the library," said Denethor, and it was a command.
Faramir was not yet out of his sight, and Denethor had his head in his hands. 'It should be Faramir I love most, I deem,' he thought, 'for he and I both see the minds of Men through grey eyes.' This sadness soon gave way to disgust—though it was childish, Denethor could not deal with the fact that his son could read him so readily. Whenever Denethor dwelt on these self-perceived defeats, darkness covered him. In that darkness, his younger son was lost to him.
Faramir walked toward the library. Though his father had become angry with him, the boy repeated, "I am a jewel to my father. I am a jewel to my father," to himself, and he found comfort in that. He had seen the artisans and the women admire their jewels. 'I am that dear to my father,' he thought, and tears welled up in his eyes.
Faramir was admitted to the library without incident; the young boy was a frequent guest, even at his tender age. It did not take him long to find the story of his namesake. Like himself, this Faramir had been the youngest of two sons, but his father had been a king—Ondoher. Ondoher had been King back in the days when the wain-riders and the Haradrim allied to make an end of Gondor. He had ridden to meet his foes, and his elder son Artamir was at his side. Unbeknownst to the King, his second son also rode with the army. Faramir became excited as he read on—surely his namesake was the great hero who saved the day! His hopes trailed off as his eyes trailed down the page and he read of Faramir's fate. He did not save Gondor—he, along with his father the King, and his older brother—died in the battle, and because that Faramir had not done his duty and stayed in Minas Anor, there was no King in Gondor. So said the scroll.
Faramir was ashamed. He did not like sharing a name with someone who had not done his duty. Many scrolls extolled the deeds of Boromir I, who had fought the Witch-King, and Faramir was happy for his brother. He remained among the scrolls, and though he was an average sized boy, he looked out of place in the sea of records. He sat quietly and felt strangely sad.
Time passed and the candles burned—suddenly a hand was on his shoulder. Fearing it was his father, Faramir turned his head unsteadily and found himself facing the wizard Gandalf. Happiness was again in his eyes, and he was smiling. "Mithrandir," he said, "I am very happy to see you."
"It is good to see you as well, Faramir," said the wizard, and Faramir delighted in the feeling of his warmth and wisdom.
Eyes wide, Faramir looked to Mithrandir and said, "Can you tell me what my name means? Boromir says his name means 'faithful jewel,' and since my name ends in 'mir' as well, my name means some sort of jewel. I am a jewel to my father! I know you speak the Elven tongues—please tell me!"
Upon making this request, Faramir felt the room change. Gandalf's wisdom remained, but his warmth was no longer the jolly warmth of Boromir, but the warmth that Faramir now felt was the warmth he associated with his mother, comforting him when he was sad.
"Mithrandir," he said, "what is wrong?"
The wizard's face looked old. The bags around his eyes were sagging and his mouth was turned down. Eventually his eyes closed, slowly.
"Faramir, I cannot lie to you. You will see through that. Your name, as best I can tell, means 'adequate jewel.'"
Gandalf saw that the boy was near tears, yet he was able to speak: "I am an adequate jewel to my father," he said, "an adequate jewel."
He looked to Gandalf. "I don't want to be just adequate. I don't want to fail in my duty like Ondoher's son! I am faithful! I too can be a warrior!" He hid himself in the grey folds of the wizard's cloak.
"Sit here for a moment," commanded Gandalf, gently. He rummaged a bit, and then pulled out a scroll and showed it to Faramir.
"I cannot read it," the child replied.
"I am not surprised, for this is in the language of Numenor, and it is the story of the last King, Ar-Pharazon. His name meant 'Golden.'"
"Was he a great king?" said Faramir.
"No," said Gandalf. He proceeded to tell Faramir the tale that is called Akallabeth, the Downfall of Numenor, and he did not conceal the wickedness of Ar-Pharazon's deeds.
"You see, Faramir, we are not governed by our names. The Golden King had a black heart, and you who are called the adequate jewel will be one of the most brilliant in the end."
"Really?" said Faramir.
"Really," said Gandalf, though he had no reason for his surety. "Now go and do what pleases you."
Denethor and Gandalf walked together in an exterior corridor. The wizard planned to leave soon, for he could sense plainly that the Steward wanted him gone. The silence was broken by a clamor below, and they looked down to see Faramir.
In a rare display, Denethor spoke softly with Gandalf. "I know not what to do with him. He is sad over something—I fear he has learned the meaning of his name, which he was asking after this morning. He is ill-named, I know, yet at times I think he will only live up to it. Always with Faramir it is a contradiction, and it keeps me from him. It keeps me from my son."
"Go to him, my Lord," urged Gandalf, "go and embrace your son."
Denethor moved to do it, and at this moment Faramir inclined his head toward them. Denethor locked eyes with his son, and knew that even though his voice had not been heard, his son knew his thoughts. Once again, this made him angry.
"No, I cannot," he said, and left Gandalf alone in the dark with no light save that of the adequate jewel below.