He Escaped in the End

by Linaewen

I've been reading with great interest all the essays on Boromir the last day or two, and thought I'd have a word. Though it may not be totally clear in my inkling, because I am mixing the book with the film, I do realize that Boromir was indeed a proud fellow, who liked being in charge, who knew the joy of having a powerful position and had never before considered he might lose it; and who saw the Ring as the thing he needed to deal with Sauron, and perhaps thereby strengthen his country and his own position at the head of it.

There are plenty of hints to that effect in the books, in what others have to say about Boromir, as well as in his own words. I'm not trying to deny any of that as I write my inkling; what I'm trying to show as I write is a Boromir who, when confronted with the stark reality of what lengths he was willing to go to in order to achieve those ends, might have been honorable enough and valiant enough to change. We all agree that he is honorable and valiant and noble, whatever else he may be; but strength and valor are not always limited to the physical. I think there is room within the way Boromir is portrayed in the books, room within Tolkien without even looking towards the film version of Boromir, to have a Boromir who could change; a Boromir who would not stay the way he always had been, the way everyone remembered him as they spoke of him later in the books; a Boromir who might have at least seen the beginning of a different way of walking through life, a more humble way. It wouldn't be easy, because of his life-long habit of pride, but it wouldn't be impossible.

I think that is one of the themes in Tolkien: the opportunity given to anyone who will take it, to change and take another road. Gollum, Saruman, and Denethor were presented with such an opportunity, and they did not take it; Bilbo and Theoden, to name a couple, did make the choice to change. Even Grima considered turning back, though he was in the end prevented by Saruman. So why not Boromir?

It isn't clear in the text of the book, for after his confrontation with Frodo, we only have a few more moments with him. He weeps as he realizes his madness, he grieves when he sees that Frodo has not returned to the Company, he acknowledges his failure to Aragorn, and asks him to save his people. Not much support there for a "new" Boromir, but it doesn't rule out the possibility either. There continues to be much mention of Boromir afterwards in the books, as the members of the Fellowship continue their journey and meet people along the way, who knew him; all that we learn of Boromir then is what these people knew of him before his journey away from Gondor.

Whether such a change would have been enough to bring a surviving Boromir to a point where he could acknowledge Aragorn as king, I don't know. I don't think Boromir could have been totally oblivious or impervious to Aragorn's royalty in their long journey from Rivendell. The Council was perhaps the first time in Boromir's life that he had been disagreed with, and yet he took it fairly well, at least on the surface! Maybe it got him thinking a bit! Maybe not, maybe all it did was to serve to make Boromir watch Aragorn even more closely throughout the journey, looking for justification for Aragorn's claim to Boromir's position, the one Boromir had expected to come to before long. But if there hadn't been at least some learning of respect for Aragorn, we would have seen an attempt on the Ring sooner, or at least more arguments amongst the members of the Company. Boromir, while consistently reminding everyone of the option of going to Minas Tirith, never seems to lose his cool in the books, until the end. We can't know for sure, because Tolkien doesn't say much about what Boromir is thinking.

All that is said and believed about Boromir in the books is summed up for me by a statement that Gandalf makes in TTT, when the three hunters meet him again as Gandalf the White: "Poor Boromir! I could not see what happened to him. It was a sore trial for such a man: a warrior, and a lord of men. Galadriel told me that he was in peril. But he escaped in the end. I am glad. It was not in vain that the young hobbits came with us, if only for Boromir's sake."

I choose to think he did escape in the end, escaped more than just the lure of the Ring. I believe the whole experience of falling to the lure of the Ring, and the eye-opening he would have had afterwards, could have been more than enough to change his mind as well as his heart, and eventually change the direction of his life. Alas that we don't have the opportunity to find out.