The Lord of the Rings – Book 4, Chapter 5: “The Window on the West”

This is a chapter of revelations, in more ways than one.

Faramir interrogates Frodo to discover why the Hobbits set out from Rivendell as well as details regarding their parting from Boromir.  He tells of a prophecy about a Halfling bearing an item of great value and wishes to know what it is.  Frodo is understandably cagey, saying only that he is on an errand to deliver the item elsewhere.  Even though he and Boromir didn’t part under the best of terms after the latter tried to take the Ring for himself, Frodo does his best not to speak ill of his former ally.  He is unaware of Boromir’s death, however, and when Faramir tries to trap him in his words, Frodo claims that Boromir will clear up everything.

It is here that Faramir reveals Boromir to be his brother and tells of either a dream or vision or real life — he does not know which — in which he sees Boromir floating by on a boat, his Great Horn broken.  He knows Boromir is dead.  Frodo thinks this to be a vision, or perhaps a trick of the Enemy, but Faramir dismisses the idea, relating how the Horn was recovered, cloven in two.  Faramir presses to learn more of the circumstances before their parting, knowing that something has gone wrong, but he no longer feels Frodo to be complicit in Boromir’s demise.

Quite a bit of knowledge is knocked about in this chapter.  Faramir and his men learn of the coming of the King, the heir of Isildur who bears the sword that cut the Ring from Sauron’s hand, which Faramir says will need to be verified.  Likewise, Faramir learns of the fall of Gandalf and how the company ventured to Lothlórien, which for Faramir explains much about the air of mystery around the Hobbits.  When the Hobbits learn of Boromir’s death, it is the natural assumption for them to believe that perhaps the rest of their company has fallen as well.

Faramir has been charged with eliminating everyone in this area to keep it free of the Enemy’s influence, though he is of more discerning nature and will not destroy needlessly.  He intends to take the Hobbits to Minas Tirith.  He reveals that he knows Frodo held back his true feelings of Boromir and, commending Frodo’s truthfulness all the same, again presses for information regarding the mysterious object that he knows to be Isildur’s Bane.  He knows Frodo has it, and he believes it to be responsible for Boromir’s death.  Faramir knows his brother well, and knows the cause of the problem to be Boromir and his pride.

Frodo and Sam are blindfolded on the final stretch of their journey to the hideout, Henneth Annûn, the hidden outpost of Gondor in North Ithilien.  It consists of a cave carved by a waterfall.  The stream originally fell from the hole in the cliff that earned it the name the Window of the Sunset, but it had since been diverted, the tunnel sealed except for a secret entrance.  The hideout was originally constructed as a refuge for the Rangers of Ithilien, and it was the longest guarded and manned of all the outposts in the area as a response to the influx of Orcs from Mordor in the days of the Steward Túrin II.

For the Hobbits and readers alike, Faramir tells of Gondor’s decline as land was offered to the Rohirrim in exchange for military protection.  Sam lets fly the revelation that Boromir had tried to the claim the Ring for himself.  Faramir is surprised that Boromir could be guilty, but appreciates Sam’s honesty.  He says he has no interest in the Ring for himself, and Frodo reveals the mission to destroy the Ring.  Overcome with exhaustion, Frodo passes out at the table.  He is taken to bed, where Sam tells of his trust in Faramir.

It is important to note that one of Faramir’s men saw Gollum, though he believed it to be a large, tailless black squirrel.  The assumption between him and Faramir becomes that, while it is not their nature to kill everything in this area, the squirrel could be one of the fell creatures to have spilled out from Mirkwood.  This exchange will lead into the next chapter.

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