Tuesday, November 26, 2013

MEC Day 26: Character You Pity Most

"Have you ever seen it, Aragorn? The White Tower of Ecthelion, glimmering like a spike of pearl and silver, its banners caught high in the morning breeze. Have you ever been called home by the clear ringing of silver trumpets?"

I knew who I was going to write about for this post from the moment I read what Day 26 was. The character I pity most. Who is it?


We might just want to retitle this post "Defending Boromir."

I've heard so many people berate Boromir for being selfish, for thinking like a thief instead of a warrior, for having an temper, etc. etc. and while I can understand somewhat the reasoning behind such criticism... well, let's just say, I'm going to attack it all.

Boromir is the son of the Steward of Gondor, and we first meet him in Rivendell at the Council of Elrond. He comes across Aragorn the night he arrives, and although he doesn't know exactly who Aragorn is (the true king of Gondor, his rightful king), he knows there's something different about him. In the attention Boromir gives the painting of Isildur and Sauron and then the shards of Narsil proves that he knows their history well, yet catching Aragorn watching him, he lets the sword hilt fall and walks away as if uncaring for such a relic.

Boromir: The shards of Narsil. The blade that cut the Ring from Sauron's hand. (cuts fingertip while touching the blade) It's still sharp. (glances at Aragorn) But no more than a broken heirloom.

We then get a good dose of Boromir in during the council, when he stands up after Frodo brings forth the Ring. He reaches out for the Ring, speaking all the while of a pale light lingering in the West, a hope, if you will. He does not touch the Ring here as Gandalf breaks out in the black tongue of Mordor and pretty much shakes the heebie-jeebies out of everyone gathered there. Or sort of; Boromir continues on after that, suggesting that they use the Ring against Sauron, asking them to give it to Gondor so that they can claim the victory.

And then he volunteers to go with Frodo. At this point, many scoff at him, thinking, "Oh, that Boromir. He may say that Gondor will see this task done, but he just doesn't want the Ring to go out of his sight."

When Frodo stumbles traveling up Caradhras, it is Boromir who picks up the Ring. "It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing," he states. It seems it is with a great reluctance that he hands the Ring back over to Frodo, and then passes it off as a trivial thing, but we see a rather close-up shot in the movie of Aragorn releasing his sword. He doesn't trust Boromir, and since we like Aragorn for helping the hobbits, we side with him and glare at Boromir.

Boromir: It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing...

In Lothlorien, Boromir is one to whom the Lady Galadriel speaks privately in his mind, and he confesses to Aragorn that he is worried about Gondor falling. He later advises Aragorn to take the Fellowship to Minas Tirith where they can regroup and strike out for Mordor from a place a strength. He becomes greatly angered when Aragorn refuses, and we tend to agree with Aragorn. I mean, why would you want to take the One Ring to Boromir's own hometown when he has so clearly shown so much interest in obtaining the Ring?

But it's when Boromir tries to take the Ring from Frodo at Amon Hen that we really outright hate him, and we don't feel badly about it. How dare he try to take the Ring? Doesn't he know the dangers connected with it? All he thinks about is the power that comes with it, right?


First off, we have to understand that Boromir is a person, just like any of the other characters that Tolkien created. He is a man of Gondor, the son of the Steward, and although he's got a gazillion flaws, he has the ability to learn and grow. Watching just the original footage of the theatrical films gives most people a misunderstanding about Boromir, and I feel to get a true knowledge for his character, you have to know the extended editions of the movies and READ THE BOOK! The Boromir Tolkien wrote was more than the Boromir that Peter Jackson put on the screen. But please don't take that the wrong way; I think Sean Bean did a fantastic job playing the Captain of the White Tower, but there's so much more to him than most people realize, and that's why he's probably the Middle-Earth character that I pity most.

In film TTT, Peter Jackson includes an extended scene that shows that Boromir didn't go to the Council of Elrond to find the Ring because he wanted it for his own. Yes, he knew Isildur's bane was in Rivendell, but that was because his father, Denethor, told him about it. It was also Denethor who pressured him into going to Imaldris in the first place. On his own, Boromir wouldn't have gone, because he knew his rightful place to be in Minas Tirith, helping his own people. His life was all about making sure that Gondor was safe, and traveling to go to Rivendell on a whim of his father's meant leaving that position. But he loved his father, so he went.

Denethor: Elrond of Rivendell has called a meeting. He will not say why, but I have guessed its purpose. It is rumored that the weapon of the Enemy has been found.

Boromir: The One Ring. Isildur's Bane.

Denethor: It has fallen into the hands of the Elves. Everyone will try to claim it: Men, Dwarves, Wizards. We cannot let that happen. This thing must come to Gondor.

Boromir: Gondor?

Denethor: It's dangerous, I know. Ever the Ring will seek to corrupt the hearts of lesser Men. But you, you are strong. And our need it great. It is our blood which is being spilled, our people who are dying. Sauron is biding his time. He's massing fresh armies. He will return. And when he does, we will be powerless to stop him. You must go. Bring me back this mighty gift.

Technically, looking at all the facts, this conversation couldn't have happened for real, because Elrond didn't call the meeting among other things, but I like this conversation, so i had to include it. In the book, Boromir had a dream and both he and his brother Faramir shared, and it was this prophetic dream that prompted him to go to Rivendell. He saw the eastern sky grow dark, but in the west a pale light lingered. A voice cried to him, saying,

Seek for the sword that was broken,
In Imladris it dwells, 
There shall be councels taken, 
stronger than morgul spells.

There shall appear a token, 
That doom is near at hand,
For Isildurs bane shall waken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand.

Okay, technically, I didn't have space in this post to write about the relationship Boromir
had with his brother, Faramir, but please let me go on record and say that this is one
of the best brother-brother relationships ever to be had in all of literature. Even when
Denethor despised his younger son, Boromir continuously stuck up for Faramir, even to the
point of taking his place, for it was Faramir who originally was intended to go to Rivendell
to seek out the answer to the dream both brothers shared.

Boromir traveled for 110 days to reach Rivendell, a hazardous journey that Tolkien wrote of it that the courage and hardihood required is not fully recognized in the narrative, intending to ask for assistance for Minas Tirith. He knew that Sauron was not keeping idle in Mordor, and he knew that Gondor was weak. They needed the help. 

During the Council of Elrond, Boromir sees the One Ring for the first time, and instead of seeing it as the source of Sauron's power, he views it as the help for which he sought. You have to understand where he is coming from. Sauron's forces are almost daily attacking the people of Gondor, killing them, spilling their blood, and Boromir is ready for it stop. He wants to help his people, save them, and he can only see that happening in his obtaining the Ring. If he had the Ring, he could lead Gondor's armies to victory over Sauron forever, and that is a great victory, indeed.

Boromir: It is a gift, a gift to the foes of Mordor. Why not use this Ring? Long has my father, the Steward of Gondor, kept the forces of Mordor at bay. By the blood of our people are your lands kept safe! Give Gondor the weapon of the enemy! Let us use it against him!

However, what Boromir doesn't realize is that the One Ring is a dangerous trinket. It not only gives the wearer invisibility and power, but it weakens the mind and brings down the spirit. So many had before succumbed to its power, but Boromir thought he could be different. He didn't want the Ring for selfish reasons, and his father believed that he could wield it for Gondor's good. 

I think Boromir shows a lot of character to volunteer to go with Frodo. True, he may not have wanted to let the Ring go out of his sight, but by choosing to go with the Fellowship, he tied his lives to the others', creating a bond between them all that would not be easily broken. He volunteered to give up his chance to return home to Minas Tirith and go on a quest for the good of Middle-Earth, risking his own life in the process. Boromir didn't know if he would return alive to Gondor, but he didn't moan about it. He went anyway.

And allow me to point out that, without Boromir, the Fellowship may very well have not made it past Caradhras. It was he who suggested they collect firewood to burn so that they would not freeze on the mountain and it was also he that helped Aragorn clear the path during their journey through the snow.

Boromir never truly gave up his hope that one day the Ring could be used for the good of Gondor. He wanted so badly to help his people, but he let that want take over his mind to the point where Aragorn could no longer reason with him.

Boromir: Minas Tirith is a safer road. You know it. From there we can regroup... strike out for Mordor from a place of strength. 

Aragorn: There is no strength in Gondor that can avail us.

Boromir: You were quick enough to trust the Elves. Have you so little faith in your own people? Yes, there is weakness, there is frailty, but there is courage also! And honor to be found in Men! But you will not see that! 

(Aragorn turns to walk away, but Boromir grabs his shoulder and pulls him back)

Boromir: You are afraid! All your life you have hidden in the shadows, scared of who you are, of what you are!

Aragorn: I will not lead the Ring within a hundred leagues of your city!

I always find it interesting there that Aragorn calls Minas Tirith Boromir's city, even when Boromir is only the son of the steward and captain of the White Tower, and Aragorn is the rightful king of Gondor. Anywho... but that's a rabbit trail.

From there, we jump right into Amon Hen. The Fellowship leaves Lothlorien, their numbers cut down by the loss of Gandalf in Moria, and now they find some rest on the Great River. As they pull the boats onto the shore, Boromir glances downward, almost as if in disgust of himself, like he's battling with something internally. We know that he's not thinking too kindly about Aragorn at the moment, having had the above argument with him, but I think he's really struggling with himself. He has always believed that the One Ring was the answer to all of Gondor's problems, but now it's almost as if he is beginning to doubt that and doubt himself all at the same time. What if Elrond was right after all about the Ring's only destiny to be destruction in the fires of Mount Doom? What if the Ring cannot save Gondor after all? But what if Aragorn was wrong? What if the Ring can save Boromir's beloved city and people? He doesn't know what to think.

Boromir wanders away from the Fellowship's campsite to collect firewood and runs into Frodo, who, coincidentally, is trying to find some relief in a walk as well. Perhaps it would be better to speak directly to Frodo, the Ringbearer himself. Being so close to the Ring, and madly thinking only of the salvation he thinks it promises, Boromir approaches Frodo.

Boromir: None of us should wander alone. You least of all, so much depends on you. Frodo? I know why you seek solitude. You suffer. I see it day by day. You sure you do not suffer needlessly? There are other ways, Frodo, other paths that we might take.

Frodo: I know what you would say, and it would seem like wisdom but for the warning in my heart.

Boromir: Warning? Against what? We're all afraid, Frodo, but to let that fear drive us to destroy what hope we have... don't you see? That is madness!

Frodo: There is no other way!

Boromir: I ask only for the strength to defend my people! (throws wood on the ground) If you would but lend me the Ring...

Frodo: No.

Boromir: Why do you recoil? I am no thief. 

Frodo: You are not yourself.

Boromir: What chance do you think you have? They will find you! They will take the Ring, and you will beg for death before the end! You fool! It is not yours save by unhappy chance. It could have been mine, it should be mine! Give it to me!

Boromir fell to the power of the Ring. He wanted to claim it for himself, if only to save his own people, and in trying to take it from Frodo, he sealed his doom. Frodo escaped him by putting on the Ring himself and running away invisibly. Angered and filled with a madness for the Ring, Boromir attacks Frodo verbally, since he can no longer see him.

Boromir: I see your mind! You will take the Ring to Sauron! You will betray us! You go to your death, and the death of us all! Curse you, curse you! And all the halflings!

It is here that we see in the film Boromir stumbling, and I love the way I read someone put this: The madness of the Ring leaves him and he comes to his senses. He realizes with a horror what he just did, and he knew irrevocably that he acted wrongly. He knows that the power of the Ring came over him, and that it consumed his mind in an evil manner. Gandalf, Aragorn, and Elrond were all right, and Boromir saw that too late. And this, folks, is his big, defining moment. The madness left him, and he was left alone to ponder his actions. He shouts out a broken-hearted apology, but by this time, Frodo is too far away to hear it. 

Can I just say that Sean Bean deserves an Oscar for this whole part in Amon Hen? I don't think anyone could have captured the true character of Boromir here so perfectly as he did. *claps hands*

And we don't see any more of Boromir until he comes running up the hill to save Merry and Pippin from the Uruks. And after seeing him broken, we all yearn for him to redeem himself, and we cheer as he attacks the enemy. Merry and Pippin join in the fight, but the Uruk-Hai are too many. Lurtz brings out his black bow of terror (according to the movie version), and Boromir's shield and horn can do little against it. Pippin, in the book, revisited the scene afterwards like this:

Then Boromir had come leaping through the trees. He had made them fight. He slew many of them and the rest fled. But they had not gone far on the way back when they were attacked again, by a hundred Orcs at least, some of them very large, and they shot a rain of arrows: always at Boromir. Boromir had blown his great horn till the woods rang, and at first the Orcs had been dismayed and had drawn back; but when no answer but the echoes came, they had attacked more fiercely than ever. Pippin did not remember much more. His last memory was of Boromir leaning against a tree, plucking out an arrow; then darkness fell suddenly.

Aragorn then finds him against a tree, quickly falling to his numerous arrow wounds. I have no words, so I'm going to give you the whole conversation. Yes, I'm sorry. But I love quotes.

Boromir: They took the little ones.

Aragorn: Be still.

Boromir: Frodo? Where is Frodo?

Aragorn: I let Frodo go.

Boromir: Then you did what I could not. I tried to take the Ring from him.

Aragorn: The Ring is beyond our reach now.

Boromir: Forgive me. I did not see it. I have failed you all.

Aragorn: No, Boromir, you fought bravely. You have kept your honor. (reaches for the arrow in Boromir's chest, but Boromir shoves him back)

Boromir: Leave it! It is over! The world of men will fall, and all will come to darkness... and my city to ruin. 

Aragorn: I do not know what strength is in my blood, but I swear to you I will not let the White City fall... nor our people fail!

Boromir: (smiling) Our people. Our people. (reaches for his sword, and Aragorn places it in his grasp) I would have followed you, my Brother... my Captain... my King! (dies)

Aragorn: Be at peace, son of Gondor.

Wow. Peoples... really. How much is conveyed in this little scene. The last time Boromir and Aragorn had seemingly talked, they argued bitterly over the Ring, and up until this point, Boromir had never acknowledged Aragorn's birthright, always referring to him as a northern Ranger. And now, all in one minute before he died, Boromir recognizes his faults, knowing that death is the result of his actions, and asks forgiveness. He confesses all to Aragorn and seems slightly distraught over the thought of having failed them all. Yet, Aragorn is ready to give him the forgiveness he so desperately seeks and tells him that he did not fail. He further promises the dying man that the city and the people that Boromir for so long tried to protect will not fall while he was strength left in him. 

I know this post is already an epistle, so I'll do my best to wrap it up all nice and quick here. I applaud you if you're still reading at this point. You never fully realize how deeply you think about something until you start writing a blog post about it.

Boromir isn't just some big warrior guy with a cool horn who traveled with Frodo as a bodyguard. He was a man who cared deeply about all things good, but he had no idea of the danger that came with big power. I only regret that it took his downfall and giving in to the One Ring to make him truly realize the truth about everything. He had good intentions, but he remained oblivious to the danger, and all of his shortcomings, though they brought about a true repentance, ushered in death as well.

And that's why I pity Boromir.

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  1. Wow. Just wow. I mean I am into Boromir and everything but..... you are beyond beyond. That was amazing. I definitely am with you on this one; Boromir is who I pitied the most. I think there is too much hating on Boromir from the fandom, and this post is an excellent reference for changing someone's mind about that! Great work! :D

  2. Hey Kiri Liz! I would greatly enjoy being able to contact you about possibly hosting a blog tour stop in the December Tour I'm setting up. If you're interested in hearing more info, could you email me at: aidylewoh(at)gmail.com I look forward to hearing from you! ~Aidyl

  3. Oh, I really enjoyed this post! I will admit that the very first time I read The Lord of the Rings, I mistrusted Boromir, because Sam did, but I was still upset when he died, and from that time on, I liked him better each time I read it. Now, of course, he is one of my favourite characters of all time. I think, in general, people just don't get him, which is a pity. He is such a great, human character - the oldest son, the captain an entire country looks up to, the one who bears a crushing and terrifying weight of responsibility. I think it is telling that Tolkien took time out of the story (Merry and Pippin had just been captured after all, and Frodo and Sam were just gone) to give Boromir a proper funeral, with as much solemnity as possibe, including his own lamenting poem. There is nearly a whole chapter dedicated to it, which just goes to show how much respect Tolkien himself must have had for the Lord of Gondor.