What are his first words to Aragorn? A confession. "'I tried to take the Ring from Frodo,' he said. 'I am sorry. I have paid'" (p. 404). In fact, this whole scene is a beautiful enactment of confession and absolution. Boromir realized his sin and repented of it earlier, and now he confesses it and is forgiven. Aragorn tells him, "Be at peace!" (p. 404), an absolution and benediction in one. I'm getting all tingly just re-reading it to type this up.
And this is the scene where I start to really like Aragorn so much. He blames himself for everything going wrong, when he could so easily have denounced Boromir and blamed him. But he doesn't. He says, "All that I have done today has gone amiss" (p. 404), while "[t]he last words of Boromir he long kept secret" (p. 409). Wonderful guy, Aragorn.
And so they commit Boromir's body to the river and set off after the Orcs.
And here we encounter another of my favorite themes: doing what needs doing whether you have any hope of success or not. Aragorn says here, "With hope or without hope we will follow the trail of our enemies" (p. 410), echoing what he said when Gandalf fell in Moria: "'We must do without hope,' he said. 'At least we may yet be avenged'" (p. 324). This theme will pop up again later on, too, when Sam and Frodo reach Mount Doom. On page 913, it says, "But even as hope died in Sam, or seemed to die, it was turned to a new strength." I find that so interesting, the idea that having no hope can strengthen your resolve. It's not how it's supposed to work, right? You're supposed to keep morale high and encourage people so they won't give up in despair, right? But it also feels quite true that when you have nothing left to lose, not even hope, you are willing to do almost anything.
"An evil choice is now before us!"
"Then let us do first what we must do," said Legolas (p. 405).
"Maybe there is no right choice," said Gimli (p. 406).
The River had taken Boromir son of Denethor, and he was not seen again in Minas Tirith, standing as he used to stand upon the White Tower in the morning (p. 407).
"In Minas Tirith they endure the East Wind, but they do not ask it for tidings" (p. 408).
Possible Discussion Questions:
Aragorn and Legolas sing a song about Boromir as they set his body adrift. Aragorn calls him "Boromir the Tall" and "Boromir the Bold," and Legolas calls him "Boromir the Fair." What do you think those descriptions say about Aragorn and Legolas themselves?