Today is Hobbit Day (aka Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday), so of course I had to write something about The Lord of the Rings. This entire week is also known as Tolkien Week, which I didn’t know until just a few days ago. I’m going to have to put this on my calendar for next year so I can be more prepared.
When I last watched The Fellowship of the Ring, someone remarked that Boromir was a coward. I can admit that the movies make Boromir incredibly easy to pick on and villainize. I would posit though that Boromir is the most misunderstood character in the Fellowship. Something I’ve found is that to truly understand Boromir, it is essential to both read Tolkien’s work and watch Sean Bean’s performance.
It’s easy to overlook Boromir’s desperation or to at least not realize that’s what it is. Desperation. I believe that it’s part of human nature to villainize people, which makes us less likely to see the internal conflict of a character like Boromir. We tend to focus on the negative aspects of his character and his moments of weakness. What we need to understand though, is that Boromir had been actively fighting against Sauron for quite some time and far more than any of the others in the Fellowship.
He has faced the orcs of Mordor at Osgiliath.
He loves his country and has had to watch many of his men die in its defense, while the rest of Middle Earth has been content to watch them fight on their own. You don’t see that in the movies though (unless you’re watching carefully and examining his character with this added context). In the movies all we seem to notice is how tempted he is by the Ring.
At the same time, it’s actually quite easy to not notice how much he struggled with the Ring in the novel. It’s easy to not notice how desperate Boromir must have felt. Apart, you can miss both aspects of his character if you aren’t paying attention. Together: the movie and novel are a powerful representation of who he is.
Don’t Doubt His Courage
If there is one thing I would say to anyone who watches the films and who hasn’t read the book, I would tell them to never doubt his courage. Never, ever doubt his loyalty to the cause of defeating Sauron. My opinion of Boromir started changing in the last year or so, but I found new depths of appreciation for him when I last watched the extended edition of The Fellowship of the Ring.
In case you didn’t know (or you’d forgotten), Boromir’s last fight scene at Amon Hen is actually much longer in the extended edition. Even as he’s shot with arrow after arrow, he refuses to give up. When I watch the death scene, as he’s shot while defending Pippin and Merry, I tend to get tearful and sometimes I’ll cry quietly as I watch it. Why? Because despite Boromir’s faults, he didn’t deserve that. He died trying to defending those hobbits and that is so important.
When it comes down to it, most of us would be like Boromir with the Ring placed in front of us. Its inherent temptation is already difficult to resist, and Boromir probably felt this pressure more than anyone in the Fellowship. With the weight of an entire country on his shoulders, it would have been all too easy for him to take the Ring from Frodo during their journey.
Yes, there is weakness. There is frailty. But there is courage also, and honor to be found among Men.
He fought this temptation though. In the end, just like Bilbo, he let go of the Ring. Granted Frodo did get away when he tried to take it, but Boromir let go of it in the end. He confessed his wrong doing to Aragorn and remained true to the member’s of the Fellowship after his lapse of control. Just as important though, even in his desperation, Boromir dared to believe in others even with the prospect of Sauron destroying them all.
So don’t demonize Boromir, because when you think about it, he was probably in the most difficult position when it came to resisting the Ring (not counting Frodo). Boromir had seen the forces of Sauron already and didn’t have Gandalf’s perspective, Legolas, Gimili, or Aragorn’s detachment, and he didn’t have the hobbit’s innocence.