Cavalry procession

Faramir’s Sacrifice

The order has been given: the army of Minas Tirith is to depart for Osgiliath and reclaim it for Gondor. Denethor, in all this stubbornness and lunacy, has decided to send his men on a suicide mission. A vain ambition turned fatal. 

The procession

The cavalry moves through the stone-paved streets of Minas Tirith. The White City in all its glory and all its inhabitants standing by, watching the procession. The scene resembles a funeral, with people throwing flowers at the men’s feet. With every step they take, a flower marks its path. It is eerie how it makes it seem as if the flowers were strewn onto their graves. For there is no hope for them. They are aware of what peril they now march. 

The men themselves have resigned themselves to their fate. They understand the sacrifice this mission will take. And as faithful servants of the Lord and Steward of Gondor, they are obliged to follow his orders. Their expressions are not that of sadness for their own fates, but rather an unemotional detachment from their own inner rebel.

They cannot but do what they are told, but still, their self-preservation mechanisms are rebelling against what is obviously going to be a one-way quest.

Another fool’s hope

The people of Minas Tirith look on at their men, their husbands, sons, fathers, friends passing by. There is a sense of imminent defeat in the air. All involved fear what awaits them and all know their fear is soon to be realized. Their faces express grief and pain, for this may well be the last time they see them. 

This march toward Osgiliath is in some ways similar to Sam and Frodo’s quest. As Gandalf already mentioned, the success of their quest was only a fool’s hope, one in which not even Frodo believes anymore. Similarly, the cavalry isn’t even sure they will be able to reach Osgiliath, let alone return to Minas Tirith unharmed. There and back again is a sure gamble with lives lost. 

A firm decision

Gandalf: “Faramir, Faramir! Your father’s will is turned to madness. Do not throw away your life so rashly.”

Faramir: “Where does my allegiance lie if not here? This is the city of the Men of Númenor. I will gladly give my life to defend her beauty, her memory, her wisdom.”

Gandalf’s hope of ceasing this useless attack on Osgiliath lies now in reassuring Faramir and making him see reason. He is honest in his opinion of Denethor’s rule and imperatively urges Faramir to save his own life. This is his last chance to have reason prevail over madness, however, it does not sway Faramir’s intentions. 

Fear covers Faramir’s eyes. He looks on without giving Gandalf a second glance or considering his words. Faramir focuses on the city itself, on his duty to it and its people. There is nowhere else to belong to than here. This is home and as such he proudly takes steps towards his own death in order to defend it.

Need-driven

Your father loves you, Faramir. He will remember it before the end.

Gandalf

Gandalf pierces straight to Faramir’s main problem: his perpetual need to please his father in order to gain acceptance and love. He says the one thing Faramir has been waiting a lifetime to hear his father say. Having Gandalf say it, however, the words don’t have the same weight. Faramir does believe firmly that this mission will earn him his father’s love. It may even cause his fatherless grief over the loss of his firstborn. 

Denethor has lost his sense and emotion through the loss of Boromir. Now, there is only grief that engulfs his every thought. His unfair treatment of Faramir throughout his life has now culminated in complete disregard. He does not even accept his own son’s sacrifice for his country and his father’s wishes. Denethor appears to not even care if his son should live or die. As the grieving process is taking place, so is every other emotion ignored and repressed. However, it will all come back to him soon enough.

The cavalry leaves the safety of the walls of Minas Tirith, bravely moving toward the shadow and fire in the distance. They form a line and gain speed as they near Osgiliath. 

The Orcs, led by Gothmog, stand their ground in Osgiliath watching eagerly as the cavalry gallops towards them. 

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In the silence of the Great Hall

Meanwhile, in the Great Hall of Kings, Denethor sits alone at his table, surrounded by a variety of foods, prepared especially for him to enjoy. He has given the order, and as the men inch closer to their doom, he sits undisturbed eating.

What he does appear to be, is angry. He might be feeling this because of the tension that rises not only inside the halls but outside the walls as well. He might still be angry at his son’s betrayal of his lord’s wishes. Or he may just be perpetually angry and ill-tempered because of grief and his overall loss of the will to live, given his belief that all will fall into darkness. 

Pippin stands beside his master’s table.

Pippin’s innuendo

Denethor: “Can you sing, Master Hobbit?”

Pippin: “Well, yes. At least, well enough for my own people. But, we have no songs for great halls and… evil times.”

Denethor: “And why should your songs be unfit for my halls? Come, sing me a song.”

As Pippin tries to answer Denethor’s question as best as possible, Denethor eats without any regard toward his servant. As Pippin comes to the end of his answer, he pauses, giving weight to the last two words. This breaks Denethor’s concentration on his food. He turns his head to Pippin in order to convey the baldness of his statement. 

Servants should never talk or even hint at anything that might upset or enrage their masters. The servants are there to serve the master’s every wish and remain ignorant and unattached to everything else that is happening around them, or in front of them. 

Denethor responds to Pippin’s statement with a question that only focuses on the first part of Pippin’s statement. With the resentful look in his eyes, Denethor passes over Pippin’s comment on the current affairs of his kingdom.

Pippin might have thought Denethor would have given up on the idea of him singing and finds himself nervous and thinking about a song he could sing.

Pippin’s song

Home is behind, the world ahead
and there are many paths to tread.
Through shadow to the edge of night
until the stars are all alight.
Mist and shadow cloud and shade
all shall fade, all shall fade.

Text by J.R.R. Tolkien
Adapted by Philippa Boyens

While Pippin sings, Denethor devours his food absentmindedly. His eyes blankly staring into space, his mind clearly otherwise occupied. The song explains the exact situation that is happening outside the walls of Minas Tirith, as well as the peril that faces all of Middle-Earth. Denethor’s messy nervousness gives an insight into his thoughts. The concern over the men galloping towards Osgiliath enhances as Pippin’s song paints a picture of a world enveloped in shadow. 

In a wonderfully filmed collage of opposing but nevertheless intertwined situations, there is only the voice of Pippin, faintly accompanied by instrumental background. The battle isn’t even shown, the charge of the cavalry and the Orcs response is enough to portray the result of the attack. As the arrows fly toward the men, so does a simple tomato juice give a hint of the arrows’ accomplishment, as it drizzles down Denethor’s chin. 

Pippin finishes his song with tears in his eyes, willing himself to keep them from spilling over. Denethor, on the other hand, is not struck by the emotion or the meaning. His only response is a stupified glare into nothingness. Meanwhile, in the courtyard, Gandalf sits alone with his own thoughts, with sadness in his eyes listening to the tolling bell of the Citadel. 

While the cavalry of Minas Tirith die in their attempt to overtake Osgiliath, without any sign of help from outside, Théoden and Aragorn are summoning as many men as possible to lend a helping hand to Gondor. Follow me to my next post. 

Photo by David Mark on Pixabay

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