I guess you all know that I am a Boromir fan. I was a Boromir fan
before the film, and I will be one after the films have gone, because I
still have my books! I am also a fan of Aragorn and Sam, so I have that
to look forward to before the films go their way! But this musing is
about Boromir. It's not really to try to convince anyone to change the
way they see Boromir (though if I succeed in that, great!), rather it
is more to get some things straight in my own mind, as I see the
praises and the criticisms that are posted here on the Board.
There has been a lot of talk about Boromir lately. It is
interesting how Boromir seems to bring out the extremes in people. I'm
not sure why that is, except maybe because whatever else he was, he was
a man who failed and betrayed a friend's trust. That is horrible to us,
especially when we think of Frodo, who was small and hurting, and
Boromir discounted all that when he tried to take the Ring. Those who
are fond of him can make excuses that he was under the control of the
Ring (which he was), that he didn't know what he was doing (though I
think he did, at some level), and that he was good at heart (which I
also believe). Yet, he did fail, and he did hurt Frodo.
However, that said, no matter what else others may think or say
about Boromir, I do not believe he was an evil, treacherous man who had
no other thought in his head than to get the Ring from the moment he
saw it at the Council. The attempt to take the Ring from Frodo was
indeed a horrible thing, but I believe Boromir arrived at the point
gradually, and up until that point, was a regular guy, and friend to
the Fellowship, and worthy of their trust, even though he was
struggling with temptation. That he did eventually yield to the Ring's
pressure and attempt to take the Ring is significant, but we can't stop
there, or he truly would be the villain of the piece. Boromir realized
his wrong, was sorry and did what he could to make amends. That does
make a difference.
We often speak of two Boromirs, but since the film came out almost
a year ago, I have been of the opinion that there is one only. When I
saw the film for the first time, I said, "Yes! That is Boromir as I
have always imagined him!" Putting aside the blond hair vs. dark issue,
I saw, not only a Boromir who resembled physically the Boromir of my
imagination, but also one whose character matched what I had gleaned
from my years of reading. When I read the book now, I can see the film
Boromir in the book Boromir, and I am happy that it should be so. I
don't expect everyone to agree with me, and that's okay, but I've
gotten to the point now that I want to try to at least explain why I
think this way. It is not because I am smitten by an actor's portrayal
of the character that makes a good guy of a bad guy; I really, truly
have always seen the good in Boromir. (But then, I can see good in
Gollum, too, so maybe that's not a good argument!)
There is no getting around the fact that Tolkien described Boromir
as a proud and confident man, who was secure in the knowledge of his
own abilities, strength, and station in life; a man who was sometimes
scornful of others and cared more for arms than for lore; a man strong
and daring, and sometimes reckless. But he was also a leader of men,
who was well-loved by those under him and by those who knew him,
acknowledged as a man of prowess and strength, the best in the land.
All these words describing him come most often from the lips of his
brother Faramir, who knew him well, and did not hesitate to speak of
his weaknesses, yet always with love. Even Eomer and Theoden spoke
highly of Boromir and mourned his loss. A man so proud and confident
and self-ssured as Boromir, who was yet loved well and without
restraint by men like Faramir, Eomer and Theoden, must have had some
Tolkien does not state them obviously, but they are there to be
seen as we read the tale of the Fellowship; Boromir was a man who took
the battle against evil seriously, and his sense of duty was powerful.
He cared about his people, enough that he was willing to admit at the
Council that they needed help, in spite of his pride. He was a man of
his word (that he broke his word eventually is one of the tragic tales
of the Ring's evil history) and a man who did not balk at danger. He
was the last to leave Khazad-dum after the fight with the Balrog (in
the book), and he was exceedingly careful of the hobbits in the snow on
the mountain. He left behind a brother who loved him dearly, and
regretted his death, who praised him continually, even while
acknowledging his weaknesses.
Such a man does not seem to be the kind who would fall too suddenly
and sharply to the lure of the Ring, no matter how weak or proud he may
have been, without it being obvious. More likely it was gradual, though
the temptation and downward trend may have begun early on, and the call
of the Ring grew louder the closer to Minas Tirith they came.
Boromir's weaknesses might never have mattered if he had not gone
on the quest and been confronted by the Ring. Some might say he should
never have gone in the first place, but I do not believe that. Just as
it was meant that Frodo have the Ring and carry it, so also it it was
meant for Boromir to be one of the Company. Certainly it is true that
Faramir received the dream more times than did Boromir, but could it
not be that once Boromir received the same dream, it was then that they
realized something needed to be done about it? By acting on it, there
was no further need for the dream call to go out to seek out Imladris.
I wonder how many times Boromir would have had the dream, if they had
continued to ponder it, instead of obeying it?
Faramir wanted to be the one to go, but Boromir took it upon
himself, as the elder and as the stronger (both true, admitted Faramir)
and also because Boromir saw himself ever as the protector of his
brother (this is stated by Tolkien in the appendices, along with the
statement that there was no rivalry between the brothers). Not that
Faramir was a weakling who could never do anything dangerous, but
having established himself in such a role since childhood, I am certain
that a confident and self-assured man like Boromir would certainly want
to go in Faramir's stead, even if he had not had the dream himself.
Having been given the dream, Boromir was as much a candidate for going
as was Faramir. I doubt that Denethor gave Boromir any inkling of what
he might have been thinking the dream meant. I think it is more likely
that Denethor allowed Boromir to take on the quest, in the hope that
whatever came of it, Boromir would know the need of his City better
than Faramir, and do what was necessary to aid it. I fear they both
misjudged Faramir here, but while Faramir was hurt at his father's
choice, he accepted Boromir's choice. His regret was that Boromir did
not return and that he lost the battle with temptation.
So Boromir comes to Rivendell. Taking the book and the film
together, we see a man proud of his heritage and his country's strength
and place at the forefront of the fight against Sauron. We see that he
is proud, and shocked at the revelation that there is an heir to the
throne when he thought he was the heir, and considered his father king
in all but name. In the film, Boromir is much more scornful and rude to
Aragorn than he is in the book; in the book he is doubtful, but not
rude. In both, we see that he is struggling to understand the reasoning
behind the need to destroy the Ring. When Boromir sees the Ring at the
Council, he sees it as the weapon capable of defeating Sauron. "Valor
needs first strength and then a weapon" says it all. This inability to
comprehend why the Ring can't be used is the basis for his downfall. In
his pride and confidence in himself and in his abilities, which have
never let him down in the past, he thinks that good men will not be
swayed by the Ring's evil; but to take it into the land of Mordor where
it will surely be retaken, is folly. I doubt that he ever sees it any
other way. Yet, he is loyal to the Company and defends them with his
life, even though he disagrees with the policy.
In support of this, I think it is significant what Boromir says to
Frodo, in their argument over the Ring. This, in my opinion, summarizes
well Boromir's whole struggle with the Ring, and why in the end he made
a bad choice. "True-hearted men, they will not be corrupted. We of
Minas Tirith have been staunch through long years of trial. We do not
desire the power of wizard-lords, only strength to defend ourselves,
strength in a just cause. And behold! in our need chance brings to
light the Ring of Power. It is a gift, I say; a gift to the foes of
Mordor. It is mad not to use it, to use the power of the Enemy against
him...And they tell us to throw it away! I do not say destroy it. That
might be well, if reason could show any hope of doing so. It does not.
The only plan that is proposed to us is that a halfling should walk
blindly into Mordor and offer the Enemy every chance of recapturing it
for himself. Folly!" With this in his mind for months, it is not
surprising that he would eventually come to believe that the Ring
should be used, by a great leader like Aragorn, or "if he refuses, why
not Boromir?" This does not excuse him, but it does explain him, I
Over the days and weeks and months it took to arrive eventually at
Amon Hen (Boromir left Minas Tirith in July, saw the Ring in October,
and died at the end of February), throughout the rest of the journey,
we see the growing struggle, which is indeed a struggle for a man who
has never really had to struggle before. Always he has known what
course to take, always he has been the leader with the ability to
succeed. Now he is the follower and they are going a way he does not
wish to go. It is interesting that he does know how to take orders. It
is significant that he can take them from Aragorn; the only one who did
not run away helter-skelter at Amon Hen was Boromir, who having failed
his friend, stood and took orders from Aragorn without a word, and
obeyed them, and went to his death.
Yes, Boromir is "proud and stern of glance," to quote Tolkien. Yet
pride, confidence, daring and self-assurance are not bad in themselves
and can add much to a person's personality. A proud man can still be
compassionate, a confident man can do great deeds in defense of those
he calls his friends, and a self-assured man can still be an unselfish
friend and respectful of authority. Yet it is not surprising that
Boromir would be the one member of the Fellowship who would become the
Ring's prey, because these aspects of his character that make him a
good leader, are also those that bring him down in the end. He is a
hero by any definition, but he is also human, and like the best of us,
he has his weaknesses.
Maybe that's why I like him so much. In spite of his weaknesses, in
spite of his failure, he is noble enough to admit his wrong and name
his failure, and seek forgiveness. It is so significant that Faramir
can say to Frodo, "Whether he erred or no, of this I am sure: he died
well, achieving some good thing. His face was more beautiful even than
in life." And I say the same; whether he erred or no, whether he wanted
the Ring from the beginning or came to desire it gradually, in my
humble opinion, he was not a villain, and never was a villain. Only a
poor man who put his hope and his trust in the wrong things.
I set my hope on the White City,
But she was besieged and came close to falling;
I placed my trust in my heritage,
But my blood ran red as any common man's;
I set my hope on my ability to lead men,
But I broke my oath and attacked my friend;
I placed my trust in my sword and shield,
But my sword did not bring victory, for my enemy outnumbered me.
I set my hope on my right to rule,
But I fell to temptation, while another resisted;
I placed my trust in battles and sorties,
I should have listened, and let others lead;
I set my hope on myself, on my honor,
My honor was broken, and my strength revealed as weakness.
I sought answers to a riddle;
I found the answer, but did not understand.
I sought aid for the battle;
I found one who would take my place.
I sought to please my father;
I should have obeyed my King.
I sought friendship;
I found it, and lost it,
And found it again, ere the end.
I sought forgiveness;
I received it, though not from the injured one.
But it was enough.