Boromir’s Defense: There is Weakness but Courage Too

Posted September 22, 2016 by Stephanie B in Tolkien / 12 Comments

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.

Why?

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.

Boromir Tempted

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.

boromir-facing-lurtz

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.

– Boromir

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.

What do you think? Do you think Boromir is misunderstood or do you think he’s a coward and the scum of the earth?

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12 responses to “Boromir’s Defense: There is Weakness but Courage Too

  1. Boromir is one of my favorite characters! Yes, he was “lead astray” if you will by the power of the ring, but he showed such selfless courage at the end. Not unlike his brother, who is also one of my favorite characters. I can’t believe anyone could think he was a coward after how he died at the end! And I think you’re right–desperation is a better word for it anyway. Great analysis!

  2. Boromir is actually one of my favorite members of the fellowship, simply because he is the most human. In no way is he a coward. And not only does he bear the weight of defending his own kingdom, they are the gateway. If they are defeated, the rest of the world really has no chance.

    • I do sympathize with him a great deal on the fact alone that he basically has an entire kingdom resting on his shoulders. His role in defending the rest of the world against Sauron is one that I think even Aragorn and the rest of the fellowship took for granted, and never completely understood or acknowledged.

  3. Mmh, this is a great post. Boromir might not be my favourite character in LOTR but I like how ambiguous he is. Tolkien’s characters are usually much more black and white and I liked Boromir for being so human, for want of a better word.

    I recently watched the extended edition of The Two Towers (again) and I think there’s a bit more on why he chose to go after the ring – his father’s pressure definitely figured into his decisions.

    • Boromir is definitely a character that I’ve come to appreciate over time. Boromir is such a reflection on us in every day life is you ask me; we mean well but we don’t always make the best decisions. According to the movies, there was more pressure to get the Ring from his father but I can’t for the life of me remember if that was part of the books or not… I guess that means I need to reread them huh?

  4. I love this post!

    It has never occurred to me to consider Boromir a coward, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that description applied to him anywhere. I can completely understand if someone finds him unlikable. He is, of course, obsessed with his own desires and attempts to use force on the very person he’s supposed to be protecting in order to get what he wants. But there’s nothing cowardly about being short-sighted or a bit of a bully. Boromir’s greatest failing, I think, is supposed to be his inability to see you cannot use something that is inherently evil to achieve good. He wants to use force and powers he doesn’t understand because he thinks he’s stronger than he is and can control them when he cannot. He’s proud and thinks only like a warrior and is lacking in wisdom. He’s not cowardly.

    Of course, I agree that completely vilifying him isn’t the point either. As you point out, he has a lot of good qualities and has accomplished a lot of great things. His motivations for wanting the ring aren’t even that bad; he wants to protect his people. And I do think his death scene is meant to be redeeming. He lets Frodo go. He realizes he should have let Frodo go all along, and removed himself from the temptation of the Ring. And since he can’t protect Frodo he redeems himself by dying to protect Frodo’s friends. We finally see him use his strength for something good, for what it was always meant: protecting the innocent people in the world who are not fighters and cannot protect themselves.

    • Thank you! I’m really glad you enjoyed it!

      I agree with you. Although, I never felt like he was obsessed with getting the Ring though. I think it was definitely a hurdle for him, but I feel like obsession might be too strong a word for it. But then again, maybe I need to reread the books. I don’t think is pride is always a failing for his part though, because I think that some of what he says is what finally helps propel Aragorn forward towards Gondor. Oh man, I totally agree; I think the route of his problem is definitely his lack of true understanding of what he’s dealing with.

      His death scene is probably my favorite in all of the movies because I think that it shows who he is at his core. I think that moment strips away his personal failings that we’ve seen thus far to show us that yeah, he’s made mistakes but he’s really a good person. It’s definitely redeeming for his character, but it’s not superficial either. I feel like that moment was a turning point for him. After Frodo got away, I think he finally gained that needed understanding of what the Ring was doing to him. If he had survived, Boromir probably would have been one of Frodo’s biggest advocates.

      • I think we’re supposed to get the sense that the Ring is vaguely in the back of his bind a lot of the time. That, at least, seems to be what Galadriel picks up on when she sees him. I agree he probably isn’t losing sleep over it or obsessed in anything nearing the way you could say Gollum is. More that his desired plan is to see the Ring go to Gondor, because that’s what he personally thinks is best, and he at no point lets that plan go, even when he sees no one else agrees with him. I kind of imagine him sitting around at camp at night thinking, “If only the Ring could go to Gondor we could…” or “I wonder what I could say to convince them to go to Gondor.” Just something he thinks about often, even if he’s not entirely consumed by it.

        Agreed! As long as he was just thinking, “You know, I think I could do great things with the Ring in Gondor,” he could tell himself it wasn’t a problem and he had good intentions. Attacking Frodo does seem very eye-opening for it, and I think it’s a sign of great strength that he’s able to see it and try to change his attitude so quickly afterwards.

        Yeah, I envision Boromir really rooting for Frodo and the destruction of the Ring but going with Aragorn. I think he would have mistrusted himself and wanted to keep himself personally as far away from the Ring as possible. Again, a good quality though. If you’re not sure you can resist a temptation, remove yourself from it!

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