In The Two Towers film, Faramir is told that if he releases Frodo and Sam, he will "forfeit" his life.

Gondorian Ranger: You know the laws of our country, the laws of your father. If you let them go, your life will be forfeit.

Faramir: Then it is forfeit. Release them.

To my knowledge, this is not followed up on. His father gives him a suicide mission in the sequel, but it is not in relation to his decision to release the hobbits, and he seems to be able to reject the order if he wanted to, so it's not much of an execution either way.

Exactly what law did Faramir break, and why didn't he face any apparent punishment for doing so?


4 Answers 4


Something perhaps worth emphasizing here is that that film dialogue is not a very accurate paraphrase of the book. As already noted in another answer, the book's quote, spoken by Faramir, is:

I should now take you back to Minas Tirith to answer there to Denethor, and my life will justly be forfeit, if I now choose a course that proves ill for my city. So I will not decide in haste what is to be done.

That fits far better. His life will justly be forfeit if he makes a catastrophic choice.

It seems to me that whoever wrote that line in the movie may have misunderstood the word "forfeit" to mean "within rights of being taken" (a decision belonging to his father), a usage the OED doesn't really seem to support.

This has caused repeated puzzlement since the film came out:

Evidently, it was not a very well-thought-out change from the book's text.

(Edit: As side note, I also came across this fairly detailed comparison someone wrote up of the book and movie versions of Faramir, which might be of interest. She assumes the film Faramir really was accepting a death sentence, but as I said above, I think the film employed the term "forfeit" erroneously.)

  • 6
    Ideally you should include relevant details from the links provided in your answer. Instead of having us go looking for answers in the link.
    – Edlothiad
    Jan 30, 2018 at 7:01
  • @Edlothiad Those were just examples to show that this exchange from the movie has prompted a number of other people to ask the same thing; I didn't notice any better answers there than those already posted here. (Most likely, it was asked as well in many other places in the mid '00s that, due to website demises, are no longer indexed by Google.) That said, I've given the previously raw URLs some descriptive text now.
    – Jacob C.
    Jan 30, 2018 at 20:01
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    It does add to the drama of his pose. Being murdered for doing the wrong thing that leads to the destruction of the kingdom you're supposed to protect seems logical (kinda.) Being murdered for doing the right thing (literally saving the world) because others greedily and incorrectly view it as the wrong thing is heroic. The irony that Faramir could never be the great hero that Boromir was in the eyes of his father, and yet he was able to resist the ring where Boromir couldn't, is, as a lover of the book, one of the saving graces of the movie.
    – corsiKa
    Jan 30, 2018 at 20:51
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    The OED's definition verb 1.1 certainly backs up the "alternative" interpretation of the word (and, indeed, it's the meaning I've always had in mind for "forfeit"). In fact, that Tolkein decided to put the word "justly" in front of it suggests to me that he was also aware of a "non-just" option. Instead, I think the problem is that the "justly" aspect was lost. Jan 31, 2018 at 0:20
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    Sorry, I don't quite understand; what about this usage doesn't match OED? Jan 31, 2018 at 2:04

Henneth Annun is a secret refuge of Gondor's rangers in Ithilien. Faramir makes clear on several occasions that non-rangers are barred from going there or know it exists.

Faramir: 'This is the Window of the Sunset, Henneth Annûn, fairest of all the falls of Ithilien, land of many fountains. Few strangers have ever seen it.

and again

Faramir: "you have not once spoken of your gangrel companion, and I let him be for the time...I sent my keenest huntsmen to seek him, but he slipped them, and they had no sight of him till now... But now he has done worse trespass than only to go coney-snaring in the uplands: he has dared to come to Henneth Annûn, and his life is forfeit....fish from the pool of Henneth Annûn may cost him all he has to give.'

and again

Faramir: "If hard days have made me any judge of Men's words and faces, then I may make a guess at Halflings! ...I should now take you back to Minas Tirith to answer there to Denethor, and my life will justly be forfeit, if I now choose a course that proves ill for my city.'

So, there were two reasons why Faramir put his life at risk if he judged wrongly: The secrecy of Hennth Annun and his own duty to put Gondor's good ahead of everything.


Faramir took a chance. He knew that it was possible that he would be killed for releasing them under the laws of his country.

But he took the chance.

Nobility tends to get out of such things, especially if the results are positive overall. While it might be a law, and while his father is within his rights to have him executed for it, he's also a king.

Kings, unless it costs them too much political capital, can pretty much do anything in an absolute monarchy.

For Faramir it was worth the risk of possibly being put to death. As to what laws might be broken, that remains vague in the movie. It's clearer in the books, but Faramir is also a different sort of character in the books...Both in the movie and the books, the area the hobbits are in is supposed to be just for the rangers--anyone else who knows about it and is using the area at the very least should be taken in for questioning.


The scene is explained slightly further in the Extended Edition of the Return of the King. Why they removed it from the theatrical is unclear. However, in the Extended Edition we see Denethor's disappointment in Faramir.

The script is provided at the bottom:

While not sentencing Faramir, Denethor seems to show his disdain for him and his mistakes, comparing him to Boromir and calling him the Wizard's pupil. This in my opinion, is what sets up the later scene when Faramir opts to ride to his own death. Denethor has shown him that he does not consider him to be his child, after being disloyal and death is the only out. Had he captured Frodo and Sam, and brought the Ring to Minas Tirith, this likely would not have been the case.

While this is evidently a change from the books, the line as presented in the film is consistent with the films. The use of the line in the penultimate scene of the second film is fundamental to ensuring the excitement is set for the third instalment. While the removal of the Extended scene from the theatrical version may be strange, there certainly are reasons. However, in the Extended Edition, it is clear, in my opinion, that Denethor sets Faramir up to his death charge.

Scene changes to Denethor's angry face.

DENETHOR: This is how you would serve your city? You would risk its utter ruin?

FARAMIR: I did what I judged to be right.

DENETHOR: What you judged to be right! You sent the Ring of power into Mordor in the hands of a witless Halfling! It should have been brought back to the citadel to be kept safe. Hidden. Dark and deep in the vaults, not to be used. (his eyelids flicker unnaturally) unless, at the uttermost end of need.

FARAMIR: I would not use the Ring. Not if Minas Tirith were falling in ruin and I alone could save her.

DENETHOR: Ever you desire to appear lordly and gracious as a King of old. Boromir would have remembered his father's need. He would have brought me a kingly gift

FARAMIR: Boromir would not have brought the Ring. He would have stretched out his hand to this thing and taking it he would have fallen.

DENETHOR: You know nothing of this matter!

FARAMIR: He would have kept it for his own. And when he returned you would not have known your son.

DENETHOR: (shouting and running towards Faramir) Boromir was loyal to me! Not some wizard's pupil.

Denethor stumbles backwards and falls against the Stewards chair.

FARAMIR: Father? (He moves towards him)

Denethor looks up at him from the floor, smiling and grieving at the same time.

DENETHOR: My son! (He can see Boromir behind Faramir who turns to face him and walking towards him smiling, fades away. Denethor looks at Faramir full of grief for Boromir. His face changes to one of hate.) Leave me! (Faramir turns from him to leave the hall.)
Return of the King - Special Extended Edition script

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    Why they removed it from the theatrical is unclear. So you'd buy the Extended version :P
    – Machavity
    Jan 30, 2018 at 14:07
  • @Machavity that suggest that they told people what would be in the Extended Edition. There were far more things they could've still sold the EE for.
    – Edlothiad
    Jan 30, 2018 at 14:08

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