“Adequate?! He’s sensational!

“There’s no such thing as a perfect man”–true enough, though I can think of one Exception.  It’s even been said that you always marry the “wrong” person in that your spouse is not the same person on your wedding day as he or she will be ten years down the line, nor is he or she at present fully the person God wants him or her to be… and neither are you.  All true, and very wise.

But may I share a bit of Tolkien trivia with you?

The name Faramir means “adequate jewel.”  It’s a backhanded complement of sorts, considering that Boromir means “jewel of my right hand.”  Essentially, with his choice of names, Denethor was saying that his second son was all right but wasn’t all that.  We see this attitude carry over into their adulthood:  “Do not speak to me of Faramir,” Denethor snaps at one point.  “I know his uses, and they are few.”  Not until Boromir’s dead and Faramir’s at death’s door, suffering under the Black Breath, does Denethor realize that he does love Faramir after all.
(And then becomes suicidal, but that’s another story.)
Now, I don’t want to imply that Boromir’s a bad man or that he’s somehow less good than Faramir.  They’re both noble, honorable men with different interests, different strengths, and different flaws.  And yes, Faramir does have flaws, even in the book.  He gets jealous when he realizes that Éowyn still has a crush on Aragorn, for example, and Tolkien once got a little put out with his tendency to ramble on at length about Gondorian history.  Boromir’s flaws are simply easier for the Ring to exploit and thus prove fatal.

Denethor wasn’t wrong to call both of his sons jewels.  He was wrong to assume that Faramir’s character was simply “adequate”–a C, maybe C+, on an American grading scale.  And that doesn’t stem just from Faramir’s having inherited more of the royal (i.e., Elven) qualities from both sides of the family than either Denethor or Boromir did.
See, even as a child, Faramir sought true wisdom.  That pursuit drew him into friendship with Gandalf, who is an angel in disguise.  Both Gandalf and his mother, before her death, helped him develop the habit of virtue.  That’s why he can reject the Ring even before he knows what it is and hold to that resolve after finding out the truth, aiding Sam and Frodo rather than forcing them to go to Minas Tirith and allowing the Ring to be misused. And that choice, in turn, is what prompts Sam to declare, “You have shown your quality, sir: the very highest.”
Not C+, A++! Considering that Tolkien viewed Sam as the chief hero of the book, that’s a pretty strong endorsement.
Yet somehow I suspect that while Faramir can accept Sam’s compliment and return it with grace, he doesn’t think of himself that way. And that isn’t entirely the result of Denethor’s emotional neglect. To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, the better a person’s character is, the more acutely aware he or she is of his or her own flaws and shortcomings. The Apostle Paul called himself “the chief of sinners,” for example, and many other people whom the Church has named saints have felt the same way about themselves. Plus, like most veterans, I’m sure Faramir believes that the true heroes never make it home.
As he tells Éowyn, he’s not Aragorn. He’s the second son of the steward, a Ranger captain. He’s nothing special. He’s… well, adequate.

Which reminds me of the Hogan’s Heroes episode from which the title of this post comes, “The Witness”:

Gen. von Rauscher (on meeting Hogan, who’s being volunteered to witness a rocket test): He will do; he is adequate.

Marya: Adequate?! He’s sensational!

Von Rauscher: ADEQUATE!

[later, after the Heroes destroy the rocket:]

Marya (to Hogan): Sensational!

Hogan (shrugs): Adequate.

All of that to say, I suppose, that when it comes to looking for a spouse, Faramir’s sort of “adequate” may be just exactly right.


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