When Faramir wakes, he says this:

Suddenly Faramir stirred, and he opened his eyes, and he looked on Aragorn who bent over him; and a light of knowledge and love was kindled in his eyes, and he spoke softly. 'My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?'

'Walk no more in the shadows, but awake!' said Aragorn. 'You are weary. Rest a while, and take food, and be ready when I return.'

'I will, lord,' said Faramir. 'For who would lie idle when the king has returned?'

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - Book V; Chapter VIII; The Houses of Healing

How did Faramir know that Aragorn was the King?

He had never seen Aragorn before! When Aragorn arrived via the Corsairs to the Battle of the Pelannor Fields in Year 3018, Faramir was still in his feverish state and unconscious.

Even as the Nazgûl had swerved aside from the onset of the White Rider, there came flying a deadly dart, and Faramir, as he held at bay a mounted champion of Harad, had fallen to the earth.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - Book V; Chapter IV; The Siege of Gondor

During all this black day Faramir lay upon his bed in the chamber of the White Tower, wandering in a desperate fever; dying someone said, and soon 'dying' all men were saying upon the walls and in the streets.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - Book V; Chapter IV; The Siege of Gondor

Therefore from March 13 onwards till March 15 (evening), Faramir is in his coma-like state. Aragorn arrives to Minas Tirith on March 15 (midday), therefore Faramir could not have seen Aragorn before.

Also, from the Years of 2951 to 2981 of the Third Age, Aragorn embarks on his journey in the Wild. Sometime during this 30 years he serves in the army of Gondor and hence arrives at Minas Tirith. Faramir wasn't born then (2983), so it would have been impossible for him to have seen Thorongil (Aragorn).

It is possible that:

  • Faramir learns of Aragorn through Denethor?

We know of course, that Denethor was aware that one of 'high honor' was coming to his city, and from his speech with Pippin it is possible that he perceived who this person was.

'Still the Lord of Gondor learned more of you than you may have guessed, Pippin. You could not hide the fact that Boromir did not lead the Company from Moria, and that there was one among you of high honour who was coming to Minas Tirith.'

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - Book V; Chapter I; Minas Tirith

  • 4
    If we are talking about book Aragorn, he probably said he's the king a dozen times while Faramir was waking up...
    – xDaizu
    Commented May 19, 2017 at 7:46
  • 14
    "Awake! Now rest a while". Jeez, Aragorn, make up your mind. Commented May 20, 2017 at 14:16
  • 11
    ObMPRef: Because he didn't have dung all over him.
    – EvilSnack
    Commented May 21, 2017 at 19:19

3 Answers 3


The primary clues lie in the description of Faramir's healing.

Now Aragorn knelt beside Faramir, and held a hand upon his brow. And those that watched felt that some great struggle was going on. For Aragorn's face grew grey with weariness; and ever and anon he called the name of Faramir, but each time more faintly to their hearing, as if Aragorn himself was removed from them, and walked afar in some dark vale, calling for one that was lost.

Faramir's illness at this point cannot be explained from his physical wound.

"But this comes not from the wound. See! that is healing."

"Yet I believed that it came from the Shadows above, for else his fever and sickness were not to be understood; since the wound was not deep or vital. How then do you read the matter?" "Weariness, grief for his father's mood, a wound, and over all the Black Breath," said Aragorn.

The Black Breath is of chief interest here. It is an effect or weapon of the Nazgûl, and seems chiefly spiritual in nature. It was known to the healers of Gondor as the Black Shadow; Black Breath may be a northern term.

But now their art and knowledge [in matters of healing "wound and hurt, and all such sickness . . . Save old age only.] were baffled; for there were many sick of a malady that would not be healed; and they called it the Black Shadow, for it came from the Nazgûl. And those who were stricken with it fell slowly into an ever deeper dream, and then passed to silence and a deadly cold, and so died.

We know that the Nazgûl were able to manipulate spirits. (In Frodo's case, using a Morgul knife, the end result would have been Frodo's fading into a wraith, a primarily spiritual process. See Morgoth's Ring, "Laws and Customs among the Eldar".) They were also referred to in Unfinished Tales as "by far the most powerful of his [Sauron's] servants".

I believe, then, that the Black Breath was caused by the Nazgûl exerting power directly on the mind and spirit, imposing some kind of separation of them from the body. In severe cases, the affected could not return on their own, and so eventually died.

Aragorn would then have healed Faramir primarily by showing him the way back to his body and to full consciousness, as seen when he appears to call for Faramir as if for one who is lost. The means by which he did this would be ósanwe, Quenya for "exchange of thought" or in modern terms, telepathy.

According to the essay Osanwe-kenta, this ability is inherent to all minds, or sámar, though it is strongest in the Ainur than Incarnates, and stronger in Elves than Men. The natural state of a sáma is "openness" to another's ósanwe, if it is not closed by an act of will. Furthermore, ósanwe may be strengthened by affinity, urgency, or authority. The last is of particular interest in this case and is described below.

Authority may also lend force to the thought of one who has a duty towards another, or of any ruler who has a right to issue commands or to seek the truth for the good of others.

Aragorn would have invoked his authority as the rightful king to strengthen his call to Faramir. Furthermore, for the call to be successful, Aragorn and Faramir would each have to be open to the other. It is not a stretch, then, to say that Faramir could have perceived Aragorn's authority. As far as Faramir knew at the time, he was the Steward's heir. As the Steward, Denethor would have been able to invoke rightful authority over Faramir, but presumably Faramir would have recognized his own father. The only other possible source of rightful authority would be a King of Gondor.

In summary, the Black Breath was a spiritual ailment, Aragorn needed to use ósanwe strengthened by the invocation of his authority to call Faramir back, and knowledge of that authority (in a person other than Denethor) would be sufficient to tell Faramir that here was the King.

  • 5
    +1: The bottom line is that Faramir knew that Aragorn was the king because Faramir saw it when Aragorn summoned him back to life. Colloquially you could say that the two had a little chat in the spirit world.
    – Wayne
    Commented May 21, 2017 at 12:15
  • 1
    This is the right answer.
    – Lesser son
    Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 20:20

Frodo and Sam had told him.

It is known that Faramir met Frodo and Sam in Ithilien in the second published book; The Two Towers.

The tall green man laughed grimly. 'I am Faramir, Captain of Gondor,' he said.

In order to gain their trust, Frodo states the names of his companions:

'Seven companions we had: one we lost at Moria, the others we left at Parth Galen above Rauros: two of my kin; a Dwarf there was also, and an Elf, and two Men. They were Aragorn; ...'


'Aragorn whom I named is the bearer of the Sword that was Broken,' said Frodo.


'Because Aragorn is descended in direct lineage, father to father, from Isildur Elendil's son himself. And the sword that he bears is Elendil's sword.'

Therefore, from the speech alone, Faramir thus knew who Aragorn is, as Frodo states himself: Aragorn was a descendant of the Kings.

This doesn't explain how he realised that Aragorn is the King, having never seen him before, though. However, Faramir being shrewd, learned in lore, and capable of discerning 'airs' could've easily made an intelligent guess. Hence..

He had also guessed who Aragorn was. "The hands of a King are the hands of a Healer."

In the old lore of Gondor:

'For it is said in old lore: The hands of the King are the hands of a Healer. And so the rightful King could be known.'

The Nazgûl used deadly darts, which caused the Black Shadow. In order to heal Faramir, Aragorn, the rightful King, had to put forth all his power.

'Here I must put forth all such power and skill as is given to me,' he said.

Therefore Faramir who was learnt in lore just as his father, knew this old lore of healing. Hence, when Aragorn healed Faramir from the Black Shadow, Faramir knew that Aragorn was the King as only one of high power could have done so.

Faramir's shrewdness also helped him in identifying Aragorn's identity.

'There is something strange about you, Frodo, an Elvish air, maybe,' Faramir said.

Actually, your first sentence in the first source you gave has partly addressed the question.

... and a light of knowledge and love was kindled in his eyes.

Therefore, from his talent of shrewdness, Faramir is able to discern the 'Kingly air' of Aragorn. As said in the quote, he had a 'light of knowledge in his eyes' upon looking at Aragorn.

Aragorn resembled a King.

Lastly, one might add that Aragorn resembled one of the line of Isildur: particular Elendur Isildur's first son. Said in the Unfinished Tales:

Note 26 - It is said that in later days those (such as Elrond) whose memories recalled him were struck by the great likeness to him (Elendur), in body and mind, of King Elessar, the victor in the War of the Ring, ...

Similarly to the explanation I have given above, Aragorn's likeness to the Kings of Numenor of old could have helped Faramir discern his 'Kingly air'.

Frodo turned and saw Strider, and yet not Strider; for the weather-worn Ranger was no longer there. In the stern sat Aragorn son of Arathorn, proud and erect, guiding the boat with skilful strokes; his hood was cast back, and his dark hair was blowing in the wind, a light was in his eyes: a king returning from exile to his own land.

But when Aragorn arose all that beheld him gazed in silence, for it seemed to them that he was revealed to them now for the first time. Tall as the sea-kings of old, he stood above all that were near; ancient of days he seemed and yet in the flower of manhood; and wisdom sat upon his brow, and strength and healing were in his hands, and a light was about him.

  • Although knowing that Aragorn was the king does not mean he knew the person he saw was Aragorn.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 14:23
  • 1
    I don't think he knew through any natural knowledge. It was a supernatural recognition at that moment that he had been healed by his king. Commented May 18, 2017 at 15:58
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    In the "Aragorn resembled a King" category, there's also a line from the Fellowship sailing down the Anduin near the Argonath: "Frodo turned and saw Strider, and yet not Strider; for the weather-worn Ranger was no longer there. In the stern sat Aragorn son of Arathorn, proud and erect, guiding the boat with skilful strokes; his hood was cast back, and his dark hair was blowing in the wind, a light was in his eyes: a king returning from exile to his own land."
    – Adam V
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 18:39
  • the content answer is great, but (no offense intended) could someone please fix all the styling, typographical and grammar mistakes in it? I would've probably done it myself, but (honestly) I'm in a rush today, and I'm quite likely to forget about it later...
    – user24069
    Commented May 19, 2017 at 10:31
  • 2
    And besides, Aragorn had just 'called him back'. It is quite possible that this process involves some form of 'declaration of power'.
    – b.Lorenz
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 17:35

"The hands of the King are the hands of a healer"

Then an old wife, Ioreth, the eldest of the women who served in that house, looking on the fair face of Faramir, wept, for all the people loved him. And she said: ‘Alas! if he should die. Would that there were kings in Gondor, as there were once upon a time, they say! For it is said in old lore: The hands of the king are the hands of a healer. And so the rightful king could ever be known.

Aragorn is the last hope for those that are ill, without him they will pass.

“For it is only in the coming of Aragorn that any hope remains for the sick that lie in the House.”

Although it is not said whether the old wife, Ioreth, had told those words to Faramir before, but considering she calls it "old lore" and Faramir was well learned, it is likely he has chanced upon the saying.

Faramir's illness is described as a "fever that would not abate"

But Faramir burned with a fever that would not abate.

Faramir, from previous dealings with the armies of Sauron, likely knew the effects of the darts he was struck with, and knew there was no hope of survival.

“and most soon for Faramir, time is running out. All speed is needed.”

Assuming he'd heard the above words, his awakening could in fact only be due to the rightful King.

To what extent Faramir had sufficient cognitive functions to think about being healed by a King is not discussed, but I would assume, having been able to hear Aragorn "call" him, meant he had some level of thinking.

  • 3
    I think this answer is nearer the mark. I've always seen it as Faramir's King had called him out of his darkness, so he responded. It wasn't that Faramir just knew the old lore -- it is that in this Magical world, the King is literally known by his healing hands. I imagine that if Aragorn had said, 'Yes, Farmir, I am your King', Faramir would have answered 'I know. Somehow, I've always known'. Commented May 18, 2017 at 15:56
  • We'll see what the asker thinks.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 16:25
  • Does that mean that unless there is a king everybody who gets ill/wounded has to die? Seems a little far fetched to me...
    – SJuan76
    Commented May 19, 2017 at 8:02
  • 1
    @SJuan76 No, the Black Breath is a deadly "infection" one only the greatest healers can treat. This is usually the people of the Elven races, but since the Kings of Men were from the Numenorean line, they were of greater skill than most and (it is my opinion) that because of this, the true king is labelled as someone who is a great healer.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented May 19, 2017 at 8:43
  • 1
    Don't forget that they (the Kings) were descended from Melian and Luthien. Commented May 19, 2017 at 18:26

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