Pretty much everybody who’s ever read Lord of the Rings has thought that Boromir was a bad choice for the Fellowship, and that Faramir, his brother, would have been better suited. I mean, it’s hard to argue against that. Boromir didn’t exactly work out as hoped.
In the end, we can “what-if” for the rest of the novel, but will just have to trust that Elrond and Gandalf knew what they were doing when they selected this big beefy fellow. Still, let’s take a closer look at how Lothlórien and Galadriel changed him from a questionable idea to an outright horrible one.
We’re first introduced to Boromir by Elrond just as the Council was beginning. He remained silent until he heard the story of the One Ring: “So that is what became of the Ring!” He had, of course, heard various legends about it, but it wasn’t until the Council when he understood that not only did it still exist, but that it was right there in his presence.
When he was finally shown the Ring, his “eyes glinted as he gazed at the golden thing.” At first, he doubted that it was the real Ring, but once convinced, he gave Frodo the first in a long line of strange looks and suggested that the Ring be used against Sauron.
“Why should we not think that the Great Ring has come into our hands to serve us in the very hour of need? Wielding it the Free Lords of the Free may surely defeat the Enemy. That is what he most fears, I deem. […] Let the Ring be your weapon, if it has such power as you say. Take it and go forth to victory!”
Elrond explained that this was impossible, and though Boromir doubted him, he accepted that it wasn’t going to happen.
Boromir was selected to be part of the Fellowship because, in Aragorn’s words, he was a “valiant man.” It was upon Aragorn’s advice that he accompanied them. At that point, it was likely that both Aragorn and Boromir would break away from the Fellowship to go to Minas Tirith, leaving the rest of the Fellowship to strike out for Mt. Doom.
That Boromir was valiant was proven as he helped save the hobbits in the snows along Caradhras, arguing against Gandalf for their safety, and carrying them through the worst of it. Furthermore, he was fearless in the battle with the wolves, and though he had no desire to enter Moria, he conceded to the Fellowship.
Sure, he got a bit cranky at the West Gate, but it had been a long day. And yes, it was Boromir who threw the rock into the Watcher’s pond, and grumbled quite a bit through the mines, but he hadn’t bargained for such a journey. But when it came time to battle the Orcs, he was more than a match for them, and fought as bravely, if not as effectively, as Aragorn.
It wasn’t until they turned toward Lothlórien when he became odd. This was fully due to the understandable legends he had heard back home, in Gondor. Aragorn argued with him, assuring him that “only evil need fear it, or those who bring some evil with them.”
This is often interpreted as foreshadowing – that Boromir was bringing with him his lust for the Ring. But since his initial suggestion in Rivendell about using the Ring against Sauron, he had made not a single reference to it. Even in the narration, there’s no hint or clue that Boromir thought for a second about the Ring. That’s not to say that he didn’t, but just that there’s no evidence that he did.
The next we hear from Boromir is after Galadriel and Celeborn have their initial talks with the Fellowship. Galadriel attempted to see their thoughts, and this greatly effected and offended Boromir.
“Maybe it was only a test, and she thought to read our thoughts for her own good purpose; but almost I should have said that she was tempting us, and offering what she pretended to have the power to give. It need not be said that I refused to listen. The Men of Minas Tirith are true to their word.”
The difference between testing someone and tempting someone is almost impossible to see if you’re the one being tested or tempted. It’s got everything to do with the intension of the one doing the testing or tempting. Just what Galadriel’s intentions were isn’t so clear (as discussed before), especially to Boromir. “I do not feel too sure of this Elvish Lady and her purposes.”
What Galadriel offered to Boromir, though we’re not told, was probably the Ring and that he could betray the Fellowship. He knew that she couldn’t give it to him, though she apparently lied to him, telling him that she could. He refused to listen, but this exchange seemed to grow something dark within Boromir.
The seed had been planted already in his mind when he suggested that the Ring be used against Sauron. But now Galadriel had shown him that he could have it for himself. He refused even the thought of it, but from that point on, it took hold, growing roots and eating away at him.
Aragorn again mentioned that there was no evil here, “unless a man bring it hither himself.” That’s true enough, but Boromir didn’t mention evil, per se, just that he wasn’t so sure of Galadriel’s purposes.
However it happened, before Boromir arrived in Lothlórien, he had been fine, but after, we’re told that “Frodo caught something new and strange in Boromir’s glance….” He had said that it would be “folly” to throw away… something, but cut himself off before he could finish the thought. Frodo understood that Boromir probably meant the Ring.
This only got worse, as the trip down the Anduin found Boromir biting his nails and muttering to himself “as if some restlessness or doubt consumed him.” Boromir’s next move would come later when he would confront Frodo about the Ring, but that’s a story that we all know and one for another time.
The point here is to show that Galadriel had inadvertently brought out something in Boromir that was not there (or at least not pronounced) prior to his stay in Lothlórien. Frodo had certainly noticed it already, and in retrospect, so did Sam.
Skipping ahead to when Frodo and Sam met Boromir’s brother, Faramir, Sam confirmed it. After almost literally singing the praises of Galadriel, he said of Boromir:
“Now I watched Boromir and listened to him, from Rivendell all down the road – looking after my master, as you’ll understand, and not meaning any harm to Boromir – and it’s my opinion that in Lórien he first saw clearly what I guessed sooner: what he wanted. From the moment he first saw it he wanted the Enemy’s Ring!”
The only thing that happened in Lothlórien that would have caused this was the mental probing by Galadriel, when she told him that she could give him the Ring. It was only after this that Boromir realized that he wanted it for himself. She had good intentions, to be sure, but paved for Boromir a road to hell.
Of course, things being fated and moved as they were in Lord of the Rings, Boromir’s betrayal were essential parts of Frodo’s journey.
A Few Notes
- Oh god, Galadriel again. I know, I know, but this is the last one. And really, it’s more about Boromir and the Ring than Galadriel.
- Not to get too Silmarillionye, but it reminds me of when Illuvatar told Melkor that “no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.”
- I’m going to take a day or two off around Christmas/New Years. You’ll be alright, I promise.
- With the Fellowship splitting up soonishly, I’ve got some decisions to make. I’m putting that off as long as possible – which means I’m going to figure it out now and report back in a couple of days.
About the Photo
Look, if Paul Bunyan can’t be played by Boromir, I don’t want to see it. However, the title and photo make it seem like Boromir (played here by Paul Bunyan) was tempted by Babe the Blue Ox. Since it was the last temptation, it apparently didn’t work out so well.
- Miles today: 10
- Miles thus far: 1144 (230 miles since leaving Lothlórien)
- 159 miles to the Falls of Rauros
- 629 miles to Mt. Doom
Book II, Chapter 8, Farewell to Lórien. Drifting down the Anduin, February 20, 3019 TA. (map)