This post is a contribution to the 9th Annual Tolkien Blog Party. Additionally, I have Rachel to thank for inspiring some of the points in this post (based on her excellent LOTR read-along notes).
“Only the waning might of Gondor stands now between him and a march in power along the coasts into the North…”
“Long yet will that march be delayed,” said Boromir. “Gondor wanes, you say. But Gondor stands, and even the end of its strength is still very strong.”‘The Council of Elrond’
It has come to my attention that some of you still believe that Boromir is a bad guy, a kind of minor villain in The Fellowship of the Ring.
In all seriousness, y’all are entitled to your opinion (especially about a fictional character). HOWEVER. I don’t believe the book or the film puts Boromir forward as a villain. There is so much good in him! Yes, he turns to the dark side briefly and tries to take the ring from Frodo. But even after falling so low, he still proves his innate heroism and strength. He regains his honor. How? Well…that would be getting ahead of myself. 😉 So on to my defense of Boromir!
i. Boromir loves his younger brother, in defiance of his father.
Yet between the brothers there was great love, and had been since childhood, when Boromir was the helper and protector of Faramir. No jealousy or rivalry had arisen between them since, for their father’s favour or for the praise of men. It did not seem possible to Faramir that any one in Gondor could rival Boromir, heir of Denethor, Captain of the White Tower; and of like mind was Boromir.‘Appendix A’
*happy sigh* I love this part of the appendices. It speaks so highly of both Boromir and Faramir. Boromir, because he didn’t just ‘go with the flow’ and adopt his dad’s low opinion of Faramir. (Which might have been easier for him, since that flashback scene in The Two Towers [movie] shows that Denethor shoots down any attempt Boromir makes to praise Faramir.) And that excerpt shows Faramir’s quality because he could have easily become envious and bitter toward his older brother. But both of them simply love and look up to the other. ❤
ii. Boromir is proud, but it’s not always a bad thing.
“I was not sent to beg any boon, but to seek only the meaning of a riddle,” answered Boromir proudly. “Yet we are hard pressed, and the Sword of Elendil would be a help beyond our hope-if such a thing could indeed return out of the shadows of the past.” He looked again at Aragorn, and doubt was in his eyes.‘The Council of Elond’
“Mayhap the Sword-that-was-Broken may still stem the tide – if the hand that wields it has inherited not an heirloom only, but the sinews of the Kings of Men.”
“Who can tell?” said Aragorn. “But we will put it to the test one day.”
“May the day not be too long delayed,” said Boromir. “For though I do not ask for aid, we need it. It would comfort us to know that others fought also with all the means that they have.”‘The Council of Elrond’
“But always I have let my horn cry at setting forth, and though thereafter we may walk in the shadows, I will not go forth as a thief in the night.”‘The Ring Goes South’
Boromir is proud, but he can also be very nearly humble at the same time. He admits that Gondor needs aid (though he makes a point of not asking for it lol), admits that the return of the king would be ‘help beyond hope’, and doesn’t want to slip out of Rivendell like a thief skulking in the shadows. I can see where his pride crops up, and it certainly proves to be his downfall. But it’s not all bad, and actually helps with making him such a well-rounded character.
iii. Boromir defends the people of Rohan.
“Then he must be a noble beast indeed,” said Aragorn; “and it grieves me more than many tidings that might seem worse to learn that Sauron levies such tribute [of horses from Rohan]. It was not so when last I was in that land.”
“Nor is it now, I will swear,” said Boromir. “It is a lie that comes from the Enemy. I know the Men of Rohan; true and valiant, our allies, dwelling still in the lands that we gave them long ago.”‘The Council of Elrond’
This isn’t a big point, but it does make me smile. Boromir sticks up for his allies, even when appearances and rumors are against them. He deserves the same treatment, wouldn’t you say? *wink*
iv. Boromir saves the hobbits’ lives on Caradhras.
I don’t think this is an exaggeration. Boromir is the one who suggests bringing firewood up onto the mountain as they attempt to pass over it. And when the fellowship is finally halted, by the grim will of the mountain, it is the fire that keeps them from freezing to death. (Or, at the very least, getting serious frostbite and possibly losing fingers and toes.) Also, Boromir ploughs through the snow to make a path for the hobbits and the rest of the company (minus, y’know, Legolas). (Aragorn also breaks a path, but it’s Boromir who suggests doing so.) And then, when the path is ploughed, he carries Pippin and “…burdened as he was, he was widening the track for those who followed, thrusting the snow aside as he went.”
Like?? He’s the best??
v. Boromir sticks with the fellowship even when it goes against his wishes.
So, in the book, Boromir never actually pledged himself to go all the way to Mount Doom with the fellowship. He was only accompanying them until they came to (or near) Gondor, and then he was going to go help his people (possibly with Aragorn as well). Boromir is strongly against going through Moria. He could have skipped out on the fellowship then and there and made for Minas Tirith instead–and quite safely, I believe. (Away from the ring and once again only a ‘stray wanderer’, he could have made it through.) But Boromir doesn’t go his own way. He sticks it out, and does everything he can to assist the group.
And it sounds as though he’s the only one making sure/defending the door in Moria at first:
Heavy feet were heard in the corridor. Boromir flung himself against the door and heaved it to; then he wedged it with broken sword-blades and splinters of wood. The Company retreated to the other side of the chamber. But they had no chance to fly yet. There was a blow on the door that made it quiver; and then it began to grind slowly open, driving back the wedges. A huge arm and shoulder, with a dark skin of greenish scales, was thrust through the widening gap. Then a great, flat, toeless foot was forced through below. There was a dead silence outside.
Boromir leaped forward and hewed at the arm with all his might; but his sword rang, glanced aside, and fell from his shaken hand. The blade was notched.‘The Bridge of Khazad-dûm’
(This isn’t to criticize the others for a lack of courage or anything. Immediately after the above passage, Frodo attacks the monster himself and the rest of the characters also demonstrate their bravery. I’m simply pointing out how awesome and strong and brave Boromir is.)
Additionally, Aragorn and Boromir stand their ground when Gandalf tells the fellowship to run (when the Balrog is close at hand).
With a bound the Balrog leaped full upon the bridge. Its whip whirled and hissed.
“He cannot stand alone!” cried Aragorn suddenly and ran back along the bridge. “Elendil!” he shouted. “I am with you, Gandalf!”
“Gondor!” cried Boromir and leaped after him.‘The Bridge of Khazad-dûm’
Both of them remain at Gandalf’s side, and only leave when he falls. (And, as Frodo later says to Faramir, it’s probable that neither of them would have left at all if there hadn’t been the hobbits to look after.)
vi. Boromir is almost immediately repentant.
“Miserable trickster!” he shouted. “Let me get my hands on you! Now I see your mind. You will take the Ring to Sauron and sell us all. You have only waited your chance to leave us in the lurch. Curse you and all halflings to death and darkness!” Then, catching his foot on a stone, he fell sprawling and lay upon his face. For a while he was as still as if his own curse had struck him down; then suddenly he wept.
He rose and passed his hand over his eyes, dashing away the tears. “What have I said?” he cried. “What have I done? Frodo, Frodo!” he called. “Come back! A madness took me, but it has passed. Come back!”‘The Breaking of the Fellowship’
Boromir is still a bit shady, even after this, because when he returns to the others he is unwilling to confess what he’s done (and definitely doesn’t tell the whole truth about his encounter with Frodo). It’s probably best that Frodo didn’t heed him and ‘come back’, because Boromir could have been overcome again. But the fact that Boromir so quickly recognizes that he’s committed such a great wrong? It’s what makes his eventual, full redemption possible.
vii. Boromir sacrifices his life for Merry and Pippin.
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 fierce 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.‘The Uruk-Hai’
“…I stood beside him, as he blew the horn. But no help came. Only more orcs.”‘Minas Tirith’
This is what it all comes down to.
Yes, Boromir failed. He failed hard.
But then he got up, repented, and redeemed himself by defending Merry and Pippin to the death. We don’t get to see this valiant last stand ‘on screen’ in the book, instead only hearing of it through Pippin (and Merry’s?) point of view. But in the movie? We see it all: Boromir’s charge when Merry and Pippin are about to be captured, the three arrows, Boromir’s fierce protectiveness, his courage as a fourth arrow is aimed at him, and his final words to Aragorn. Underscored with Howard Shore’s utterly beautiful, utterly heartbreaking score.
I wish Boromir had survived, I really do. (So much so that I once wrote an almost 50K word fanfic where he did.) I wish he’d seen Aragorn become king, watched his little brother get married to an amazing woman, and had a chance to properly reconcile with Frodo. But he died bravely, and for a cause that didn’t die–in part, because of him.
viii. Boromir is spoken well of and mourned greatly after his death.
“Your news is all of woe!” cried Éomer in dismay. “Great harm is this death to Minas Tirith, and to us all. That was a worthy man! All spoke his praise. He came seldom to the Mark, for he was ever in the wars on the East-borders; but I have seen him. More like to the swift sons of Eorl than to the grave Men of Gondor he seemed to me, and likely to prove a great captain of his people when his time came.”‘The Riders of Rohan’
I agree with Éomer. Théoden also laments Boromir’s death a little later on. And Gandalf has this to say:
“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.”‘The White Rider’
That last sentence! My goodness! *feels all the feels*
And Faramir’s words here make my heart ache:
“Boromir, O Boromir!” he cried. “What did she say to you, the Lady that dies not? What did she see? What woke in your heart then? Why went you ever to Laurelindórenan, and came not by your own road, upon the horses of Rohan riding home in the morning?”‘The Window on the West’
If Boromir was nothing more than a stuck-up jerk, there wouldn’t be all this outpouring of regret and sorrow at the news of his passing. Sure, you could argue that the people of Rohan don’t know him personally and therefore they could just be repeating Gondorian propaganda. But Gandalf, the wisest person in Middle-earth at the time? Or Faramir, who we already know loved and looked up to Boromir? And the Three Hunters too! Boromir is beloved of all those who knew him. (Except maybe Sam lol.) And that means a lot.
A note about Movie Boromir: I’ve almost exclusively talked about Book Boromir in this post. But I absolutely LOVE Movie Boromir–I always get excited when he rides into Rivendell. Sean Bean did an amazing job portraying him. There were some changes made to the character: a greater lust for the ring from the very first and antagonism toward Aragorn being the two main deviations from the book. But then you also get Boromir teaching Merry and Pippin how to swordfight. And that lovely scene in Lothlórien where Boromir speaks of Minas Tirith. And Boromir leaping to safety while holding both Merry and Pippin. And “My brother. My captain. My king.”
*tries not to cry* *fails*
All in all, whether in the book or the movies, Boromir is a great character. A flawed Man, yes. But truly great as well.
“Farewell, Aragorn! Go to Minas Tirith and save my people! I have failed.”
“No!” said Aragorn, taking his hand and kissing his brow. “You have conquered. Few have gained such a victory. Be at peace! Minas Tirith shall not fall!”‘The Breaking of the Fellowship’
Talk to me, fellow LOTR fans! Have I convinced you of Boromir’s awesomeness? Were you always a firm fan of his anyway? And which version of the character do you prefer: book or movie? Let me know in the comments!