Monday, November 25, 2013


(Warning!  This contains spoilers about events farther on in The Lord of the Rings.  If you're unfamiliar with the whole story, save this to read later.)

by Hamlette

It is no secret that Boromir is my favorite character in The Lord of the Rings.  I must admit that I was initially drawn to him because he is played by Sean Bean in the movies.  In fact, Sean Bean was the whole reason I let my college friends and boyfriend talk me into going to see The Fellowship of the Ring (2001).  I had never read the books and knew nothing about the story.  I'd read The Hobbit in high school and not cared for it, so I had no interest in Tolkien's other works.  But if Sean Bean was in the movie, I'd give it a try.

By the time I'd finished that first movie, I was a firm Boromir fan.  And not just because Sean Bean played him, but because he's precisely the sort of character that draws me.  He's courageous, he's kind, and, let's face it, he's got really broad shoulders (thanks not just to Sean Bean's own lovely physique, but also to a very good costume).  And he's got some moral ambiguity going on, which makes him a lot more interesting to me than straight-arrow Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Frodo, Sam, Gandalf, Eomer, and so on.

But it takes more than courage and broad shoulders to make me truly love a character the way I love Boromir.  I think, more than anything, what draws me to him is his humanity.  He's loyal to his homeland.  He doesn't trust strangers.  He's conflicted, trying to do what he believes is right for Gondor as well as all of Middle Earth.  Trouble is, he's also very, very proud, and he thinks that he knows what's best.

Yes, pride is Boromir's great downfall.  In fact, when we first meet him at the Council of Elrond, Tolkien describes him as "proud and stern of glance" (p. 234).  He's well-known throughout Middle Earth as a mighty and powerful warrior.  Aragorn himself calls him "a valiant man" (p. 269).  Being known far and wide for your deeds of derring-do is not exactly conducive to humility, especially when you're Gondor's Captain-General and next in line to be Steward of Gondor.  

It is this pride in his own strength that proves to be Boromir's undoing.  At the Council of Elrond, he says, "Valour needs first strength, and then a weapon" (p. 260).  He believes he has this strength, of course.  He's the mighty and valiant Boromir, winner of battles and doer of great deeds!  Elrond cautions him that the ring's own strength "is too great for anyone to wield at will, save only those who have already a great power of their own" (p. 261).  I think that Boromir believes he has great power, and thinks he can bend the ring to his will.  

And so, of course, Boromir stretches out his hand to take the ring, by force if necessary.  His pride in his own strength is too great for him to realize that the ring wishes only to use him for its own purposes.  He tells Frodo that "true-hearted Men, they will not be corrupted" (p. 389), not realizing that he has already been corrupted by his desire for more and more power.

But he does not get the ring.  And when he realizes what he has done, that his great pride has led to an even greater fall, he weeps.  He cries out, "A madness took me, but it has passed" (p. 390), seeing clearly at last what a terrible thing he has tried to do.  And he repents of his fall, giving up life itself to make amends for his actions.  He dies defending Merry and Pippin, two of what he called "the little folk" and took such care of throughout his time with them.  

Aragorn finds him "pierced with many black-feathered arrows" (p. 404), surrounded by the Orcs he has killed.  And there Aragorn absolves him of his sins, telling him he has not failed, but conquered.  I think here that Aragorn is speaking of more than the dead Orcs that Boromir slew.  He means that Boromir has conquered his own self, for he realized that trying to take the ring was wrong and repented of it.

Some people think Boromir is a villain.  But I think he may be the most realistic character in the whole trilogy -- flawed and faulty, but ultimately heroic.  I think he's a closer representation of us than any of the other characters.  We too trust to our own strength, take pride in our own abilities, and stumble often as a result.  May we also follow Boromir's example by first recognizing when we have done wrong, repenting of it, and then working to fix whatever we may have damaged when we stumbled.


  1. I totally agree. I just spent a whiles reading through your whole series of Boromir posts. Lovely. I feel just the same way. And I used to feel the way you did about Faramir also - because everyone else who read LOTR liked him better, and made out Boromir to be a villain, and I wanted to be perverse. But the brothers loved each-other, and could see the good in each-other, and yes Faramir is admirable and in some ways morally superior (but not as sympathetically flawed, in my mind).
    Ahhhh. *sighs sadly*
    Actually there's an article you might like here (about Boromir being an archetypal tragic hero):

    Also you know what - I love him in the movies even more than the books. You get more of a sense of his relationship with Faramir, and his vulnerable side (in the extended Lothlorien scene, where it's made clear how little hope he has for Gondor, but how he is determined to do his duty and protect it and "make things right"). Also as you say, Sean Bean is a damn fine man. ;)

    1. Hi! I'm so glad you've been enjoying all the Boromir posts :-) I do run on about him a bit sometimes. Okay, not so much "sometimes" as "any chance I get," hee.

      And I agree that he's much more sympathetic in the movies. Sean Bean is such a superlative actor -- he can use one change of his facial expression to say as much as most actors can say with a line or two of dialog. So even though he doesn't get many lines that are substantially different from the book, SB shows you Boromir's internal struggles through his actions and expressions. I love and adore the bonus scenes from TTT where you get to see him interacting with both Faramir and Denethor, but also in FOTR where you definitely get more of a sense of him as not just a warrior, but a man used to leading and making decisions and doing all he can for the people and place he loves.

  2. I seriously don't understand how people can strongly dislike Boromir.! HE IS AMAZING. I think it's because of what you said: he's one of the most relatable characters in the trilogy, because he actually makes mistakes, and because he is prideful. We all struggle with pride occasionally, so it was great to read this defense of Boromir! Very well-written:)

    1. I can understand how people could dislike Boromir if they don't think deeply about his character. He tries to take the ring. He gives in to temptation. He tries to hurt the Hobbit he swore to protect. If you don't think about him any more than that, don't try to understand him or figure out his motivations, then I can see how a person could dislike him. I think they'd be very wrong, however :-)

  3. Oh, and I just quoted this post in my own Boromir defense post;)

  4. I liked Boromir a lot in the book too. He had a kindness, a practicality, and a leadership that I admired very much. I certainly didn't see him as a villain at all, and I think you're right about him being very human. He is proud, and very loyal. And I thoroughly believe Aragorn was referring to Boromir and his temptation when he said Boromir had conquered. I knew before we read the book that he would wind up being tempted by the Ring, but he definitely overcame any possible prejudice I might have had against liking him in the book and made me wish he could somehow avoid being tempted, even though I knew he would be. I did like how he kept coming up through the rest of the books -- how different characters would learn of his death and give little eulogies to him.

    It wasn't until we watched the movie of The Fellowship of the Ring that I really understood why he's your favorite character, though. I mean, I loved him in the book, but he wasn't my absolute favorite. (I actually don't really have an absolute favorite.) In the movie, though, he is practically the most sympathetic character in the Fellowship. The movie drew out everything good about him that was hinted at in the book, particularly his caring for the hobbits, and also a lot of the other characters in the Fellowship either weren't really fleshed out all that well yet or were rather diminished from their role in the books. I really loved Boromir in the movie, and I think if I had watched it before reading the books, like you did, Boromir might very well have become my favorite character too.

    1. :-)

      I think that the movies actually did a great job of making both Boromir and Legolas more relatable. Gimli got relegated to being Comic Relief in films 2 and 3, particularly when Merry and Pippin aren't around, and that's a shame... but at the same time, I always feel like he's just kind of there in the books, so at least he got to be doing something interesting most of the time.

      I'm glad you also find him sympathetic, kind, practical, and admirable :-)

  5. Reading the books I did not like Boromir at all. Not one bit. I don't even know why, maybe because I seen the last ten minutes of TFotR and knew he would try to take the ring. I thought he was a weak character and not needed. On the other hand I loved Faramir in the books. I thought he was so much better than Boromir.

    But, the other day I watched the first movie from start to finish. Okay, I can't tell you how many times I have seen the last ten minutes and not even blinked an eye. This time I was weeping, just being able to see his story, his sacrifice of his own life for Merry and Pippin, and how sorry he was for his greed. I had always thought that all the other charcters were so much better than Boromir, but it is so true that he is the most realistic. In your review of TLTWatW you compared him to Edmund, and I think that is so right.

    Anyway, reading this post made me appriciate him even more, so thank you! I think he might go into my favorite characters list now!

    1. MC, I can understand that. Going into the film, my bff told me that Boromir was the bad guy, and I came out of it going, "But he's NOT the bad guy!" And she was just convinced he was, even still. And she'd read the book multiple times before the movie came out.

      But anyway! I'm happy you're not like her and have learned to appreciate Boromir :-)


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