Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: The Departure of Boromir (TTT 3, 1)

You'd think this would be my least-favorite chapter, right? Except it's so glorious and brave and wonderful, that I don't hate it. At all. It just makes me cry and mourn and frown and glower a lot.

Even in death, Boromir is still magnificent. He's "pierced with many black-feathered arrows" and "his sword was still in his hand" (p. 404), which means he went down fighting to the last, and oh my goodness, how much I love him here. He killed at least twenty Orcs, trying to save the Halflings that he'd taken such good care of all along.

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 go from liking to loving Aragorn. 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. 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.

Favorite Lines:

"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).

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? Like, how did their choices of description for him reveal what they thought about him, or what they valued in him?

Do you think I'm going to shut up about Boromir now?   ;-)


  1. Oops! I don't know where I've been for the last few days. I guess I better get started on TTT. I will catch up this weekend, and then come back here to comment. : )

    1. Not a problem! Catch up on your own time :-) Looking forward to your comments!

  2. This is one of my favorite chapters as well (I think the first half of TTT is one of my favorite stretches of the trilogy).

    I like the tribute they give to Boromir at the end. Elves seem to value that which is fair and pure above all else, which I find an interesting descriptor for Boromir in light of some (though not all) of his actions. I would have been interested to hear Gimli's thoughts on his passing, but alas, we aren't given a specific chance.

    I also like the last few moments of the FotR movie where they depict Boromir's funeral. It really cements the increasing role that Aragorn will take. They show him putting on Boromir's gauntlets/bracers, which gives me chills almost every time. Not only does it show Aragorn's commitment to his promise to Boromir, but it also foreshadows his rise as a guardian of Gondor.

    1. RM, the last half of FOTR is my favorite, but the first half of TTT comes a close second.

      Yeah, what's up with not giving Gimli his turn to praise Boromir? Hmph.

      I LOVE that I'm not the only person to ever notice that Aragorn keeps Boromir's gauntlets!!!!!!! That endears me so much to movie-Aragorn. Such a great bit of character-building, you are exactly right in how it shows him honoring Boromir, sealing his promise to protect Minas Tirith, and showing him stepping into Boromir's role as the next leader of Gondor. Wonderful stuff.

  3. One of the things I liked about this chapter is the words Tolkien chose for its title: The Departure of Boromir. Departure, and not death or anything related. So if I had been reading this for the first time (which I actually am) without any prior knowledge of the story (which I'm not), I would have been totally blown away when I turned the page and found out that Boromir had been killed. Perhaps, English not being my first language, I'm being tricked because I don't know all the nuances of the word departure but that's the impression I get - I'd love to read your thoughts on this :)

    Another wonderful thing about this chapter is Aragorn. Indeed, he is so brave and noble and humble. He keeps Boromir's words to himself and puts the blame on him. He also honours him, together with Legolas and Gimli, in such a beautiful way that as sad as this chapter is it doesn't feel that way at all.

    As for your question, I think that Legolas and Aragorn's words reflect their own values. Men, being mortal, focus on earthy things, whereas immortal elves value more ethereal things, such as beauty.

    1. Irene, I like the title of this chapter for the same reason. It's relatively spoiler-free. We already knew that Boromir was planning to go to Minas Tirith and not to Mordor, and so if you were reading this for the first time, you would probably assume that's what was going to happen. And yet, it's 100% accurate too. He departs by dying.

      Aragorn is just awesome in this chapter <3

      And that's what I think to, that Legolas and Aragorn's worlds tell us a lot about what they value and admire.


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