I’ll never forget the day I saw “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” in theatres.
I was sitting on a middle aisle seat next to my cousin, dressed like Frodo and as giddy as a kid in Toys R Us. The lights dimmed, the film started rolling, and I was instantly swept away with the rest of the audience on our journey to Mt. Doom to destroy the One Ring. But as strange as it sounds, Mt. Doom, Frodo’s victory, or even the battle at Minas Tirith weren’t the scenes I was waiting for.
I was waiting for the scene between Faramir and Denethor, when the father rejected the son all for his foolish pride.
The scene was powerful, just like it was in the book. Faramir, begging his father to listen to wisdom in the defense of the city, is overrun by his father’s madness and grief. Denethor rejects Faramir to his face, saying he wished Faramir’s brother Boromir had lived and Faramir had died. Faramir takes each accusation like a punch to the gut. His words are only polite and respectful while Denethor’s are like poisonous daggers. The steward’s tongue spews hatred for his son, and Faramir can only watch as his shoulders lower, like invisible weights lay heavy upon his back.
The scene had the audience silent, some letting out small gasps of shock. It was the ultimate betrayal, that feeling of rejection from a father.
And I could only think of one thing.
“I wonder if Dad sees himself as Denethor?”
My Dad and I don’t have much in common. Then again, I don’t expect us to. My parents split when I was a baby and my mom raised me by herself. My dad was absent for the most part (his choice), so we never really got to know each other. I only remember seeing him once from the time I was in pre-school until high school graduation. It was the only time he bothered to visit.
But after I graduated, he finally came to see me. He came back and offered to be a part of my life. I hesitantly accepted-after all, when someone leaves you once, it’s hard to think they won’t leave you a second time.
Regardless of my initial skepticism, we started to get to know each other. We emailed each other every day and occasionally talked on the phone. We found out that we didn’t really have much in common-he was more of a sports and business type of guy and I…well…I was more into the arts, history, and science. But there was one thing that we had in common, one thing we found we could always talk about: The Lord of the Rings. It was the one story that made us feel like we were family.
We talked about the plot and the upcoming sequel to “The Fellowship of the Ring”. We joked and called each other Hobbit names-he was Bilbo and I was Frodo. He gave me his prized books from college-hard cover bound books for both “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” along with his collection of Tolkien’s writings. When we talked about Middle Earth, it was like we knew each other all our lives. I finally felt like my dad cared.
But like most real stories, this didn’t have a happy ending. The relationship didn’t last. He walked away again and we haven’t spoken since.
Our fallout happened a few months before “The Return of the King” hit theatres. And so as I sat in the audience, watching Faramir’s face express all the same hurt and sorrow I felt, my hurt swelled to the surface. I remembered my grief of my own father’s rejection of me that happened not once, but twice this time. I recognized the tear-filled eyes, the silent look of shock, the urge to seem strong when in reality you’re crumbling to pieces-Faramir’s look had been my own only months before.
And I just sat back and watched. Watched the only thing my dad and I had in common-this one story-and realized we could no longer share it. There were no more Bilbo and Frodo jokes. There were no more discussions about the Elves. All those happy moments we shared would just simply turned to bad memories.
And I wondered, as he undoubtedly watched “Return of the King”, if he thought the same thing.
What amazes me so much about story is that even the simplest of scenes-like the three minutes we get with Faramir and Denethor-can reach into our very soul and touch us in a way so powerful that we remember that scene for the rest of our lives. Grant it, my dad was nowhere near as cruel as Denethor (who would send their own son out to face an army of Orcs with just a band of horsemen?) but just the simple fact that it was a story of parental rejection of a child was enough for me to say, “I understand that! I know what he feels!” Faramir’s story with Denethor made me connect with my own story with my dad. It was a reminder that even though it was a fictional character going through this rejection, it made me feel like I wasn’t alone in my hurt. It helped me realize that other people understood that feeling of rejection too.
As a writer of narratives, poems, or journals, it’s important to remember that a story (no matter how it is written) is a way to connect with someone’s heart. Even the smallest of scenes-scenes we may deem unimportant-can have the biggest of impacts on a person. That’s not to make writers and storytellers feel pressured to write the perfect story that will change the world. Believe me, that’s not what I’m trying to convey. Instead, I hope it makes writers realize that no matter what their story is, it’s important. No matter how big or how little your story is, it’s going to connect with someone. It’s going to have an impact in someone’s life. In my case, story reminded me of hurt, but it also helped me heal.
I left the theatre that day pondering the story of Faramir and Denethor. I came to realize that in the end, Denethor realized he truly loved Faramir, and his grief over Faramir nearly dying in battle was deeper and more maddening than when he lost his eldest, Boromir. I left the theatre that day wondering, “Is my dad like Denethor? Will he one day realize that he really does love me and does he regret leaving me and my mom?”
I may never know the answer to that.
But I can write about it. And maybe one day my story will help someone else who understands it too. And if my story, and my own understanding of this hurt, helps someone else in the end, then I guess what I went through was worth it.