Faramir first enters the narrative in person in The Two Towers, where, upon meeting Frodo Baggins, he is presented with a temptation to take possession of the Ruling Ring. In The Return of the King, he led the forces of Gondor during the War of the Ring, coming near to death, and eventually succeeded his father as the Steward and won the love of Éowyn of Rohan. These events have been depicted in several adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, most notably in Peter Jackson's film trilogy, which introduces significant changes in Faramir's character.
In The History of The Lord of the Rings series Christopher Tolkien described that his father had not foreseen the emergence of Faramir during the writing of the book, only inventing him at the actual point of his appearance in The Two Towers. J. R. R. Tolkien noted that the introduction of Faramir had led to postponement of the book's dénouement and to further development of the background for Gondor and Rohan. Long after completing The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien would write that of all characters Faramir resembles the author most, and that he had deliberately bestowed upon the character several traits of his own.
After her death Denethor became sombre, cold, and detached from his family, but the relationship between Faramir and Boromir, who was five years elder, only grew closer. The brothers greatly loved and highly esteemed each other, and neither in childhood nor in later years was there any jealousy or rivalry between them, even though Denethor openly favoured his elder son. With a "bossy" brother and a stern father whose great force of character and status as a chief Númenórean daunted Faramir, Tolkien describes that Faramir was used to giving way and not airing his own opinions. Among other things, Faramir displeased his father in that he welcomed the wizard Gandalf who occasionally visited Minas Tirith, the capital of Gondor. Being eager for knowledge, Faramir learned much from Gandalf about the history of the realm and about the death of Isildur.
Gondor had long been threatened by the nearby realm of Mordor, and in 3018 the Dark Lord Sauron began the War of the Ring, attacking the ruined city of Osgiliath that guarded the passage to Minas Tirith. Faramir and Boromir commanded the defence, and were among those few who survived when the eastern half of Osgiliath was captured and the bridges across the River Anduin were destroyed.
In The Fellowship of the Ring it is recounted that shortly before the battle Faramir had a prophetic dream, which later often recurred to him and once to Boromir. In this dream a voice spoke about a council that was to be held at Imladris far to the north, about the awakening of "Isildur's Bane", approaching of "Doom", and appearance of "the Halfling". Faramir decided to journey to Imladris and seek advice of Elrond the Half-elven, but Boromir claimed the errand for himself, fearing for his brother, and was approved by Denethor and a council of the elders; Faramir remained to defend Gondor.
Faramir also asked about the One Ring, but Frodo tried to avoid the subject. Faramir determined that Frodo was carrying one of Sauron's great weapons. At this point, he showed the crucial difference between him and his proud brother:
But fear no more! I would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway. Not were Minas Tirith falling in ruin and I alone could save her, so, using the weapon of the Dark Lord for her good and my glory. No, I do not wish for such triumphs, Frodo son of Drogo.
In the Rangers’ secret refuge behind the waterfall, Henneth Annûn, Sam accidentally spoke of Boromir’s desire for the One Ring, thus revealing the item Frodo was carrying. Despite the Hobbits’ fears, Faramir was wise enough to realize that such a weapon was not to be used and if desired, should be resisted. With this knowledge, he also realized what his brother had to face, and wished that he had gone on the quest himself — knowing that Boromir would not have been able to resist the temptation to seize the Ring for himself. Giving them provisions, he sent them on their way to continue their quest, but warned Frodo that their guide, Gollum, was a treacherous creature, and that an unknown terror lived in Cirith Ungol.
Faramir arrived at Minas Tirith and reported to Denethor and Gandalf of his encounter with Frodo and Sam. Denethor became angry that Faramir had not brought the Ring to Gondor, wishing that he and his brother’s places had been reversed — since Denethor believed that Boromir would have brought Sauron's weapon to him. Denethor sent Faramir to hold Osgiliath against Sauron's armies, which greatly outnumbered their own. Although Faramir disagreed with his father’s strategy, he agreed to go.
Sauron's second-in-command, the Witch-king of Angmar, led a much larger force from Minas Morgul, and attacked Osgiliath. After Osgiliath was conquered, Faramir decided to stay with the rearguard in order to make sure that the retreat over Pelennor would not turn into a rout. He was gravely wounded by a Southron arrow and the Black Breath of the Nazgûl. Fortunately, all of the mounted soldiers in the city rode to his aid and brought him back to Denethor in Minas Tirith.
When Faramir returned unconscious, Denethor believed him to be fatally injured. That blow, coupled with a vision in the prophetic palantír of the forces arrayed against him, caused him to lose his mind. He ordered his servants to build a funeral pyre in the House of Stewards for him and his son. Denethor's temporary Hobbit servant, Peregrin Took, went to alert Gandalf and Beregond, one of the Tower Guards he had befriended. Gandalf and Beregond stopped the impending sacrifice just in time. Mad with grief, Denethor jumped onto the lit pyre, burning himself alive.
Two days later, the battle over, Aragorn came and revived Faramir with athelas in the Houses of Healing. During his subsequent recuperation there, Faramir met the Lady Éowyn of Rohan; moved by her sorrow, pride, and beauty, he eventually fell in love with her. At first, Éowyn refused his advances, only desiring to go to war to find honour in death. But soon Éowyn realized that she had come to love him in return.
Faramir briefly served as a Ruling Steward, and began preparing the city for the arrival of Aragorn, who was now King of Gondor. On the day of the King’s official coronation, Faramir surrendered his office. Aragorn, however, announced that as long as his line would last, Faramir and his descendants would be Stewards of Gondor.
In addition, Aragorn appointed Faramir as the Prince of Ithilien and Beregond to be the Captain of his guard, the White Company. As Prince of Ithilien, he and the Prince of Dol Amroth became King Elessar's chief commanders. In a draft to a reader of The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien writes that as Prince of Ithilien, Faramir's duties also included acting as resident march-warden of Gondor's main eastward outpost, rehabilitating the lost territories, as well as clearing it of outlaws and Orcs and cleansing Minas Morgul of evil remnants. Faramir also fulfilled the traditional role as Steward, acting as the King’s chief counsellor and ruling Gondor in his absence.
With Éowyn, he settled in Emyn Arnen, where the two had a son named Elboron. After Faramir’s death at the age of 120, his son succeeded him in all of his titles. Barahir, Faramir's grandson, wrote The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, which was inserted (in an abbreviated form) in the Thain's Book by the writer Findegil, and appears in The Lord of the Rings as part of Appendix A. Barahir may have been the son of Elboron, but nothing directly indicates this conclusion.
He read the hearts of men as shrewdly as his father, but what he read moved him sooner to pity than to scorn. He was gentle in bearing, and a lover of lore and of music, and therefore by many in those days his courage was judged less than his brother's. But it was not so, except that he did not seek glory in danger without a purpose.
Tolkien recorded that Faramir greatly resembled Boromir in appearance, who in his turn is described as "a tall man with a fair and noble face, dark-haired and grey-eyed, proud and stern of glance". Members of the line of the Stewards were wont to be of a nobler appearance and bearing than most of the inhabitants of Gondor; in case of Faramir, it is stated that "by some chance the blood of Westernesse [ran] nearly true" in him, which was rare. This trait was elaborated by Tolkien through the speech of Pippin:
Here was one with an air of high nobility such as Aragorn at times revealed, less high perhaps, yet also less incalculable and remote: one of the Kings of Men born into a later time, but touched with the wisdom and sadness of the Elder Race. [...] He was a captain that men would follow, [...] even under the shadow of the black wings.
Faramir’s leadership, skill-in-arms, and swift but hardy judgement proved invaluable in battle, and earned him Gondor's respect during the War of the Ring. He defended Gondor from Sauron on many fronts, but did not enjoy fighting for its own sake. Long after completing The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien would write, "As far as any character is 'like me', it is Faramir". Faramir's relationship to war in Tolkien's story reflected that of the author himself, who was a soldier in World War I and fought in the Battle of the Somme.
Tolkien bestowed his dream of "darkness unescapable" upon Faramir's character, who relates it to Éowyn in the fifth chapter of The Return of the King. Of this, Tolkien wrote, "For when Faramir speaks of his private vision of the Great Wave, he speaks for me. That vision and dream has been ever with me — and has been inherited (as I only discovered recently) by one of my children, Michael."
Throughout The Lord of the Rings, Faramir is given several titles and ranks, such as the Captain of Gondor and Captain of the White Tower. (Boromir is given the latter title at an earlier point in the storyline, and in The Two Towers he is referred to as Captain-General of Gondor and High Warden of the White Tower.) After his father's death, Faramir became the Steward of Gondor, but only briefly as he laid down his office at the crowning of Aragorn; Tolkien stated that it was Denethor who was the last of the Ruling Stewards. Later Aragorn renewed Faramir's hereditary appointment as Steward to the King, and granted him the titles of the Prince of Ithilien and Lord of Emyn Arnen.
The 'sudden change' to which he referred here ... is possibly to be seen in their first meeting in the garden of the Houses of Healing, where Faramir says ([The Return of the King] p. 238): 'Then, Éowyn of Rohan, I say to you that you are beautiful', but at the end of his speech changes to the 'familiar' form, 'But thou and I have both passed under the wings of the Shadow' (whereas Éowyn continues to use 'you'). In the following meetings, in this text, Faramir uses the 'familiar' forms, but Éowyn does not do so until the last ('Dost thou not know?', RK p. 242); and soon after this point my father went back over what he had written and changed every 'thou' and 'thee' to 'you'.
In the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy directed by Peter Jackson, Faramir is played by David Wenham. The actor jokes that he got the role because he and Sean Bean, who played Boromir, both had large noses. Faramir and his brother's appearances were slightly altered from the book: in the films, they have fair hair and are slightly bearded, whereas in the book they were dark-haired and, following a statement in Unfinished Tales, lacked beards.
The plot of the second film, The Two Towers, introduces a significant deviation from the book: Faramir does not at first let Frodo, Sam, and Gollum go, but decides to bring them and the Ring to Gondor. He takes them to Osgiliath and not until the Nazgûl attack the city and Frodo comes under the threat of capture does he release them. This change received some criticism, and the character in the film was jokingly dubbed "Filmamir" or "Farfromthebookamir", among other names.
Jackson's explanation is that he needed another adventure to delay Frodo and Sam, because the episode at Cirith Ungol was moved to the third movie, and so a new climax was needed. In fact, according to the timeline given by Tolkien, Frodo and Sam had only reached the Black Gate at the time of the fall of Isengard. Jackson also argues that it was necessary for Faramir to be tempted by the Ring because in his films everyone else was tempted, and letting Faramir be immune would be inconsistent in the eyes of a film audience. Co-screenwriter Philippa Boyens and actor David Wenham defended the changes to Faramir's character in order to increase dramatic tension: Faramir's "sea-green incorruptible" nature in the book would not have "[translated] well filmically". Wenham also found Tolkien's original "dramatically dead", despite having not read the book.
Several fans remain unimpressed and unconvinced by the cast and crew's justifications, and other note that Faramir was rendered too much like Boromir and thus the contrast between the two was severely weakened. A scene that received additional criticism is the Rangers' treatment of Gollum, who is beaten up, and Faramir's implicit compliance. In the book, Faramir called the creature Sméagol instead of Gollum, and told his men to "treat him gently, but watch him".
In the extended edition of The Two Towers, Jackson included an invented flashback scene showing that Denethor had neglected him in favour of Boromir when sending him to Rivendell, so that Faramir wanted to please his father by bringing him the Ring. (The relationship is similarly strained in the book, but his father's favouritism does not seem to affect his decisions in Ithilien.) Reviewers have opined that the extended edition presents Faramir in a more favourable light.