Boromir: the Living and the Dead

by Varda

My inkling started out founded on Boromir but I have gradually realised that his story and Aragorn's development are not really separable. Or why else would Boromir's dying words to Aragorn have so much power, or mean so much to us?

 I had to look at Aragorn's own intentions and character. He must have known from that moment in the Council that Boromir was a potential enemy, and have been wondering how to deal with that when the time came. Life overtakes us, though, and before he had thought it out they had become bonded by fellowship and shared peril and comradeship in battle, and at the last bonded by Boromir's death and Aragorn receiving his confession of his attempt to take the ring. A confidence he does not betray, even to Gandalf, although the wizard guesses it.

As Lothithil points out so well, the raising of the Dead of Dunharrow shows that Aragorn as king has power over the living and the dead and so has the right to forgive Boromir. When Boromir asks him to save his city Aragorn's pledge to do so carries the weight of an oath, a king's promise. The avenging of Boromir by carrying out his dying wish is not ordinary vengeance, which is destructive, but a positive, creative act, granting survival to Gondor.

 Thanks everyone for giving me ideas and inspiration


Aragorn's right to forgive Boromir
 Sorry if I did not explain this. \par \par In the story Boromir breaks a number of oaths when he tries to take the Ring. He breaks the Fellowship and betrays his oath to Elrond. He lets his comrades down. He betrays Frodo, whom he had sworn to protect. He also brings dishonour on Gondor, on behalf of which he had sworn his oath to the Fellowship in the first place.

The poor guy couldn't really have done worse, in fact, and must have been so deeply shamed we have no real idea of what torment he must have endured in that hour or so between Frodo leaving and him finding Merry and Pippin.
Aragorn can't undo all that, but he is Boromir's rightful lord because he is the king and so has the right to forgive him.

 How much consolation this brought Boromir is hard to say. In the book all Tolkien says is 'Boromir smiled', then he dies. In the film Peter Jackson makes it much clearer that Boromir is given peace by Aragorn's words.

Maybe Boromir appreciates Aragorn's gesture of forgiveness, but when Aragorn says; 'few have won such a victory' Boromir knows that he is only trying to ease his bitter regret, for whatever way you look at it, Boromir did not win a victory. He failed to prevent the hobbits being taken and he scared Frodo into running off into what they thought was great danger alone. His honour, more important to the warrior than life, is damaged;

 'Let whoever can  win glory before death.
When a warrior is gone
That will be his best and only bulwark.'
 -Beowulf

By reassuring Boromir that he is forgiven by his liege lord, Aragorn gives the dying man hope that for all his failure, his honour will not be lost. Aragorn never tells anyone what happened between Boromir and Frodo.

 Neither Aragorn nor Boromir can know that what has just happened will start a train of events that will bring good in the end. For now, all they know that disaster has happened.

 Thanks for the question, Rosie!

Boromir's victor
It is a good question, Agape, what on earth did Aragorn mean when he said to Boromir 'few have won such a victory'?

 Boromir's attempt to take the ring precipitates disaster; Frodo runs off alone into danger. Merry and Pippin are captured, and even Boromir is not entirely sure they have not been killed. And Boromir himself, a great warrior for Gondor, is dying.

 How can this possibly be a victory? How could things possibly be worse?

When Aragorn says this to Boromir he is surrounded by mounds of orcs slain by Boromir. So it is a great victory, in the sense of the lines I quoted from Beowulf, which Tolkien would have known too. So, in a narrow military sense he won a victory by taking a lot of baddies with him. Is it not strange, though, that Aragorn of all people misses the bigger picture of all the damage Boromir has done?

 Not quite. I think Aragorn's words are mainly motivated by compassion, something that drives him at important moments, even to do things which are not really too wise from a political viewpoint. It is what drives him to follow Merry and Pippin. It is true that they know the secret of the ring and so are a security risk, but he is not even sure they are alive, and even less sure they will catch them (in the end they don't).

 But also, at that moment Boromir and Aragorn are in what Trevor Nunn, speaking of the world of Hamlet calls 'the landscape of death'. All around are the dead. Boromir himself is dying. Their wise guide Gandalf was 'slain' some time before and Legolas when he finds Aragorn thinks he is dying too. This is the utter low point of the story. Aragorn throughout stands for hope, and here he focusses on the only good thing he can see; Boromir slaying a great host of orcs in defence of two of the Fellowship.

And as so often happens in The Lord Of The Rings, something a character speaks or does not quite understanding why, like Frodo sparing Gollum, has powerful meaning later on when all is revealed; by letting Merry and Pippin be taken off to Fangorn (and the Ents) Boromir ensures the defeat of Saruman. By sending Frodo off on his own to Mordor Boromir ensures the defeat of Sauron and the saving of Gondor. This is Boromir's victory.

So Aragorn's words are a prophesy; Boromir's death will win a victory, only it will not be seen for what it is until the very end, and then only by the wise.....

Boromir's Isolation
Thanks for keeping the thread alive, all....

 ..about Boromir's victory, I don't think he ever conquered the lure of the Ring; no-one was able to do that. Even the strongest and wisest, Gandalf and Galadriel, bent all their strength to avoid even being tempted, let alone ever trying it on. The Ring simply moved on from Boromir once he failed to take it from Frodo.

What Boromir does conquer is his own lack of perception and poor self-knowledge. It is more blindness than evil that makes Boromir fall for the ring. He just does not *see* it is calling him till it is too late.

Agape's annoyance at Tolkien for what he did to Boromir is quite justified. For even within the Fellowship he makes Boromir very isolated; everyone has someone with them to love and support them, except Boromir. Frodo and Sam, Merry and Pippin, Gimli and Legolas. Aragorn has Arwen, present emotionally if not physically, and he has the support and advice of Gandalf. Boromir is also isolated because of his high rank and the fact that he is not from the North, or the Shire, or akin to Elves. He is not a friend of Gandalf; Denethor says he is 'no wizard's pupil' as Faramir is, presumably. The brother he loves is far away, and Denethor is a stern demanding father.

So Boromir seems very alone, and even more when he begins to be tempted, and cannot tell anyone. In the film he tries to confide in Aragorn in Lorien, but their talk is inconclusive. Then when he attacks Frodo he is plunged into a nightmare of guilt, again experienced alone. Only when he is dying does he find comfort in the company of one who loves and respects him.

It is a very hard fate, which I think is why Avondster, Linaewen and I all write inklings that concentrate on the love and friendship between him and others of the story, even if we don't have too much evidence from the book. We feel Boromir is too kind and noble to not have won love and friendship during such close quarter travelling and the experience of peril and hardship. \par \par Like the Elves at Helm's Deep, those passages with Boromir that Peter Jackson put in, like teaching the hobbits to fence, feel so right, like something left out for lack of space. And above all his plea to Aragorn to let the distraught hobbits rest after they lose Gandalf in Moria. Here, Boromir seems more compassionate than Aragorn...

 Thanks again for your replies....