So I was watching The Fellowship of the Ring last night, and I realized something: I’m ridiculously defensive of Boromir as a character. I really am. It’s almost stupid how quick I am to defend his character. But there’s a reason for that. So many people mindlessly despise Boromir’s character and I think that’s absolutely ridiculous.
Maybe people’s problem with Boromir seems to be that he is the first to fall to the Ring… But Edmund in The Chronicles of Narnia was tempted by the White Witch to the point of betraying his family and the beavers, yet everyone adores his character. Really, I would argue that Edmund and Boromir are very similar characters. Except maybe pre-redemption Edmund was a worse person than pre-redemption Boromir was.
See, here’s the thing. Boromir was the heir to a ‘throne’ that wasn’t really a throne, son of a steward who was insane, and who clearly favored him above his brother. By the way, he really loved his brother, in both the books and the movies, and was very protective of him, so seeing his brother treated like a lesser human probably wasn’t all that appealing. The kingdom of Gondor was falling, having been fighting a losing battle with Mordor for hundreds if not thousands of years. His people had been steadily losing hope, and while he had tried to keep up a façade of hope, he had been slowly watching his people and city fall to ruin. Can you really blame him for losing hope? He hadn’t had any reason to hope this far, why should he now?
Then, suddenly, this powerful ring comes into his life, and the ring’s job is to tempt people. I mean, I know it does more than that, but in the story, the ring is basically tempting people. It constantly tempts Frodo to use it, it tempts Sam with visions of peaceful living and a happy life. It tempts even Galadriel and Gandalf. So naturally, it would have a field day with Boromir, the man who has been struggling without hope for years. If it could create in him a shred of hope in it, then it would have an easy job. And here’s the thing: it does. It has a very easy job tempting Boromir, causing him to fall first out of all the fellowship, I will concede that.
But isn’t Boromir all of us, though, really? Don’t we all constantly fall to temptation? Don’t we all struggle with seemingly insurmountable struggles from time to time? I don’t know about you guys, but I can sort of relate to Boromir. He’s trudging through life, trying to find hope somewhere, trying to find the good things to hold onto, trying to bring strength and hope back to his people, and all he finds is desolation and ruin and hopelessness. Haven’t most of us been there at some point in time or another? I certainly have. But anyways, Boromir.
I feel that, because everyone gets blinded by the fact that he falls to the ring, they don’t notice some of Boromir’s characteristics that make him a good person and a great character. First of all, let’s talk about the compassion of Boromir. I could list off the number of times I noticed in the Fellowship of the Ring movie alone how many times Boromir is the one to go and comfort those who are mourning. When Gimli finds the tomb of Balin, everyone else is worried about staying around for too long, while Boromir’s main thought is comforting Gimli. After Gandalf falls in Moria, Boromir wants to take a moment not only for himself but also for the hobbits, whom he sees are deeply grieved by Gandalf’s death, to mourn. He snaps at Aragorn to “give them a moment, for pity’s sake.” When the fellowship is trudging through the mountain pass, Boromir is the one to point out that the hobbits will die if they stay up there too much longer. It seems to me that Boromir is a compassionate, typically kind-hearted person, and I would argue that these glimpses here are a taste of what Boromir’s true character was, when unmarred by the power of the ring’s temptation.
Even though he is quick to fall to the temptation of the ring, he is still courageous and fights the ring for a decent while. When he first sees the ring, his first thought is to use it, and he is very vocal about this in the Council of Elrond, however once the council disagrees with him and tasks the fellowship with destroying the ring, Boromir decides to join them, saying “if this is the will of the council, then Gondor will see it done.” Now, one could view that as him saying to himself that he wants to be as close to that ring as he can be so that when the opportunity arose, he could take it. But if you look at the character of Gondorians in general, you would see that that is unlikely. Gondorians were people of honor and integrity. If a Gondorian promised they would or wouldn’t do something, they would keep that promise. So when Boromir makes the promise to see the ring destroyed, he meant it. He wasn’t just saying that. Gondorians had some form of honor left, even if they didn’t have hope.
And even though Boromir falls to the temptation of the ring, he redeems himself in the end, first by coming to protect Merry and Pippin, and then in his final words to Aragorn. As I watch that scene I can’t help but mourn for a character who suffered so much, fell so far, and dies just as he’s redeemed. As he’s dying, he confesses what he’s done to Aragorn, and you can see the guilt and remorse flowing out of him in his dying breaths. He is immensely grieved over what he’s done. In his dying breaths, you see him accept Aragorn’s role as the future king of Gondor—not just accept it, but derive hope from that fact.
I don’t know, maybe it’s weird that I’m so passionate about fictional characters that I feel the need to write an entire blog post defending them. But you know what, I think part of the reason I’m so defensive of Boromir is because there are several areas in which I relate to him. I can understand his feelings of hopelessness and grief, his compassion and empathy, his protectiveness of his brother and the hobbits. I see myself in his failures and weaknesses. And maybe that’s why I’m so defensive of him. Or maybe it’s just that I enjoy him as a well-developed, well-rounded character and seeing people who don’t like him for dumb reasons bugs me. I’m not sure, but either way works.
I’m thinking of making this a series, talking about my favorite Lord of the Rings characters and why I love them so much. That would basically be all the characters, but hey, this could be fun.