The Last Temptation of Boromir

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.

Camera: Ansco Color Clipper Film: Kodak Portra 400NC (expired 01/2003)

Camera: Ansco Color Clipper
Film: Kodak Portra 400NC (expired 01/2003)

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)


42 thoughts on “The Last Temptation of Boromir

  1. Ok, this is really off topic, but I thought you’d be the one to ask. I just saw Battle of the Five Armies. They mentioned Legolas’ mom. Do you know if any of Tolkien’s works explain what happened to her? I just wanted to know if PJ made this up.

            • I think that’s right. The way that Legolas’ mother’s death is described, it reminded me of Celebrian’s.

              Curiously enough, at the end of the movie, Thranduil told Legolas to go looking for a Ranger named Strider. Cute, since at the time of the Hobbit, Aragorn was living in Rivendell and was ten.

              I would usually forgive such shifts in time, but it seemed SO forced that I just can’t. We get it, Peter.

            • Makes complete sense that PJ would lift Celebrian’s story to give to another non-canon woman. He’s awesome that way.

              And yes, extra points for dragging a 10 year-old Aragorn into the story. 😀

            • I think he was supposed to be older in Jacksons mind. I really want to like these movies. And there’s a lot there to like, but I tend to defend them against people who hate them, and hate on them to people who gush over them.

            • Yes, but PJ has as much access to the world of Tolkienana on the internet as the rest of us. It just strikes me as so much pandering. But I’m cynical that way.

              I give him credit for getting Shelob right, as well as the Battle of Pelennor, though.

              So, what happens if you’re talking to two people on either side of the fence at the same time?

            • Talking to two people at once? You greatly overestimate my social life. 🙂

              In that case, I’d play the middle. I have opinions about the movie, sure, but honestly, I’ve not really given it much thought. There are things I loved about it. And things in hated. And stuff that just confounded me. Then there are technical issues like horrible editing and how much I hate high frame rate movies. Also, Galadriel shooting magic missiles was just eye rolling.

            • Heh. I bet it happens occasionally. 🙂

              There’s definitely enough to love to play the middle, I’m sure. I hadn’t even considered the editing or the frame rate, though. Definitely a bigger fan of 24 fps myself.

            • I didn’t notice the 48fps before. Maybe I only saw the first two in 2D – I really can’t remember. The only thing that stood out as obviously crap “videotape”/”soap opera” quality was the Ring-o-Vision scenes in the second movie. I let it go. But the third one, which I saw in “Real 3D” was horrible. I really couldn’t get into it. I’ll see it again when it comes out on video.

            • If it’s 24fps, it’s pretty amazing. I thought that I’d get headaches (because that’s my super power), but no. It really is fun. Give it a shot with a space movie. I still prefer 2D, but then I still prefer to see things projected from an old 35mm print.

  2. Also, wanted to say great post. It’s good to dive into the head and perspective of Boromir a little. I think a lot of readers often confuse him for being a villain, but he possessed both good and evil traits–as real people do.

    • Thanks so much. I really feel bad for him. I think his redemption might come from how he was with the Hobbits before Lothlorien. Which is sort of backwards, but hey.

      • Exactly, and hey, if you ever find anything about Legolas’ mom, I’m so interested now. I think everyone just makes something up. But what Peter Jackson comes up with is so vague and confusing. I’m not even sure what he is trying to suggest happened to her, except to say she is dead.

  3. Finally caught up again! The end of the semester was brutal, but it’s over now. 🙂

    You know, I had never really considered when this shift in Boromir happened, but it would make sense that Galadriel’s prying might have triggered something. It’s like therapy in real life. Since I’m closely related to a mental health therapist, I’ve learned that you have to be careful with some techniques because they can actually cause more harm than good if not done properly. This isn’t to say that Galadriel did something wrong necessarily, but sometimes when you do different things, you never know what you’ll uncover.

    • Hurrah for ends!

      I didn’t catch it, either, which is odd since Sam comes right out and says it. I’m not blaming Galadriel per se, but yeah, if she hadn’t have stepped in, I’d guess that he wouldn’t have tried to take the Ring. She should have heeded that advice – ” when you do different things, you never know what you’ll uncover.” I don’t think she was all that concerned with things like that.

  4. I’ve definitely bEcome more of a boromir apologist as time goes on. He was no Faramir, sure, (who is?) but he was ultimately a good man pushed by the ring’s evil and his own pride and fear for Minas tirith.
    And I agree- his redemption is in saving the hobbits at caradras, which he later completes near the falls. But it began when we carried them through the snow. Doesn’t he say, “lesser men with shovels might have served you better?” Awesome humility there even!

    • He says that, yes! I don’t really remember him from the movies (movie, I guess), how was he portrayed there? Could that be why I’ve given him a bum rap until now?

  5. Great analysis. I didn’t even mind Gladdys being here again 😀 though the Paul Bunion ref completely went over my head.

    I’d put it out there that there really wasn’t much choice in terms of representatives for Men in during the Council. Aragorn was there, and probably a few lounging rangers? But Boromir, iirc, arrived alone after being lost for a while looking for Imladris. So it’s not like there’s a lot of choice when Elrond decided on the fellowship. Of course Faramir would have been better – but well, it’d be a different story in many ways if he hadn’t deferred to his big brother, right? 🙂

    I see the loose ends of the movie’s bled into your post comments. Commiserations.

    • Paul Bunyan is an American folk legend about a giant who chops down a buttload of trees. Yeah, even our folk stories are destructive.

      Elrond had a few sons that could have gone, and also his entire army. Boromir seemed like sort of a “well, he’s headed that way anyway, so, what the hell” kind of choice.

      I really didn’t mean to talk about the movie here, too! 🙂

      • Ah! Now I remember seeing that on stuff like Sesame St (or maybe Yogi Bear).

        Elrond certainly had a whole regiment he could have picked from, but iirc, he was always down with just sending the one Elf rep, wasn’t he? So the rest’s got to be filled with the non-residents, which made it really convenient that the attendees of the Council were sitting around, passing time. 🙂

        • That’s true. He was very happy that there was pretty even distribution in the Fellowship, especially since Boromir was only temporary. But it’s sort of strange that he didn’t actually send anyone from his own people. You’d think he would have felt obligated or something.

          • Seems like the whole Elven collective had pretty much washed their shapely hands off any more ME shenanigans. Well except for Legolas, which has me intrigued. What was Thranduil’s directive when he left home and how much of his enlistment to the fellowship was his own volition vis-a-vis higher level decision making/decree?

            • Thranduil and his folk had never been to Valinor, so while they had sea-longing, they didn’t really know what they were missing. They were more heavily invested in Middle-earth (same with Galadriel’s people [and potentially Celeborn], though not Galadriel herself). Legolas was sent by Thranduil to the Council to tell everyone that Gollum had escaped. That was it, really. All Elrond says about him joining the Fellowship is “Legolas shall be fore the Elves.”

              We’re not exactly given a lot to go on here, but apparently Legolas had one job to do, did it, and then was free to do other stuff because Elves or something.

              I guess we can assume that he and Elrond talked about this behind the scenes. If Legolas talks more about this in other parts of the book, I can’t remember.

            • As long as the sea-longing wasn’t awakened by gull calls, yes, the Sindar wouldn’t know exactly what they were missing. Legolas was the living example. As you say, Galadriel would know, and by extrapolation, I think Celeborn would’ve got the feels from her. But at the generic plebian level, the sea-loving clause was not part of the Silvan makeup I don’t think. Which means they don’t get that heartstring tugging ache the higher Elves feel.

              Having said that, it seems the definition of invested in ME was different for the Elves regardless. Even Lothlorien was absent from the great scrimmages of the third age’s end, except for cleaning house in the neighbourhood at the end. Basically, heavily invested seemed to be let’s just huddle in bed and be cosy under the covers, nevermind the going-to-pieces stuff just beyond the bedframe. We’re good here and that’s all that matters.

              Back to topic. No, there’s no further mention by anyone else or anywhere else in the book about Legolas’ change of itinerary after he completed his job. I just like to think and wonder about the unwritten 🙂 that conversation between Elrond and Legolas would be an interesting one, I think And perhaps the twins and even Glorfindel might have been in attendance. Because logistics, for a bunch of things beyond sending Thranduil the memo that Legolas’ taking a sabbatical 🙂

            • The more I think about it, the more I think that the sea-longing was in every Elf, regardless of whether or not they had been to Valinor. Well, maybe not the Avari, but hell, maybe even them too. It’s not something that I’ve really dug all that much into, but I remember Tolkien saying “all Elves,” but I can’t remember if he meant literally all Elves, or only the Eldar.

              By invested, I meant that the Elves of Lothlorien were more into the land than, say, the Elves of Rivendell. It’s why Sam compared it to the Shire. But since that land was little more than an illusion created by Galadriel, who shielded them from the Enemy, yeah, basically, it was huddle under the covers and ignore the rest of the world.

              I wonder if there even was much of a conversation. Maybe Legs just said, “hey, I’m free and don’t care so much if I die, so I’ll tag along.” It’s not interesting or compelling, but then sometimes Elves aren’t all that interesting. Maybe Elrond said something like he said to Frodo – basically, that he understood Frodo was meant to go.

              Incidentally, I just remembered that Elrond was planning on sending two additional Elves, before Merry and Pippin were invited instead and okay’d by Gandalf. They would probably have come from Rivendell.

            • I’m still trying to order, and digest canon in the Silm, let along deep-dive into research, but off the top of my head, it seemed the Avari were sundered rather completely when they refused the first summons (unless Eru had a wicked streak of humour and decided to trigger the longing in them just cos). The Silvan, having never made their way into Beleriand, seemed also not to feel the sea-longing. Or maybe it was dormant, waiting for the right catalyst, as happened to Legolas when he heard the gulls. Definitely research needed to get this straight.

              Good point about Elrond’s original plan of conscripting Elves to fill the vacancies (I really should finish up my Silm notes and get on LotR, instead of showing myself up with my uninformed blathering). But I do think there might be a conversation between Elrond and Legolas. I imagine Thranduil feeling some foreboding at the orc attack that freed Gollum, and probably telling Legolas to deliver the message and hurry home pronto because he’s going to batten down the hatches, good.

            • Okay, so after digging around a bit for this whole sea-longing thing, I’ve come across incredibly little to answer the question. However, it seems like all Men and Elves *can* have sea-longing. For Men, there Earendil and Tuor, as well as my favorite, Aldarion (from Unfinished Tales). For Elves, there was pretty much anyone who had ever seen the sea.

              And that seems to be the thing. You have to see the sea in order to miss it. It just makes sense. Many of the Silvan and all of the Avari never saw the sea, so they wouldn’t have that longing. Except, they would have that longing if they saw it. So yes, you were right, it was dormant and waiting for the right catalyst – seeing the sea (or gulls, in the case of Legolas).

              This is supported by this line in the Appendices: “In the hearts of the Exiles the yearning for the Sea was an unquiet never to be stilled; in the hearts of the Grey-elves it slumbered, but once awakened it could not be appeased.”

              Interestingly, the sea-longing dates all the way back to the Book of Lost Tales days. It was an incredibly early thing, and Men were the first to have it (as far as the writing chronology goes)

              As for the conversation between Elrond and Legolas, I’d have to agree. There’s definitely behind-the-scenes stuff going on. Elrond sent out a slew of scouts prior to the Fellowship leaving. It’s easy to imagine that he’d send one to Mirkwood to give Thranduil the heads up.

            • Thank you very much for the research!

              The sea-longing in both Elves and Men makes sense. But it must feel even more like that itch you just can’t scratch for Men, knowing the reason for that longing is a destination beyond reach, and not for meant for them at all. Especially for the Numenoreans when they look out from Avallone. You can see it, but you can’t have it. Quite a cruel headspace the Valar customised for them.

              The thing with Legolas hearing the gulls though is something that bothers me a bit, in that I think it might not be so rare an occurrence. I remember CA’s Mono Lake – quite a ways inland, and yet many seabird, gulls among, go there for the mating season. Given the geopography, I’d imagine that Lothlorien and Mirkwood would have a number of Silvans who were living in happy oblivion suddenly making a beeline for the Havens because of a random gull that strayed within earshot. Well, unless the Silvan’s longing is totally dormant until they SEE the sea, whereas the Sindar, having been there, has theirs at a lighter level of hibernation and only needs a sea-related catalyst to get it going.

              Elrond’s pad was definitely a bustling nest of actvity that winter 🙂

            • There are seagulls in Salt Lake City. Even when I lived in central Pennsylvania, we’d get seagulls from time to time. With SLC, they basically live there, but in Pennsylvania, they migrated, though didn’t have to cross mountains. The problems with gulls in Middle-earth would be crossing the mountains.

              I’d think that the sea-longing is so much a part of the Elves that it wouldn’t take much to set it off. Gulls would apparently do the trick. Elves are naturally dour, so maybe the longing just sort of fits them.

              The Numenoreans had it rough in a lot of respects. What a strange part of the story. It just sort of comes out of nowhere.

            • Well, the thing is, gulls oughta be able to follow the Anduin upstream, right? And that’d give them all the access any gull could want to Lothlorien. Thranduil’s side of things might be a bit more iffy, but there’s the Long Lake and the link via the Forest River too. So I reckoned the gulls must have scored some Silvans for that Ultimate Cruise to the West on both sides of the Anduin throughout the Ages.

              LoL at Elves naturally dour though. Does fit their tendency to navel-gaze too well.

              I never got the right of why put out the cheese to tantalize mice, and then tell the mice they can’t have it? Doesn’t help any to position said cheese on a set mousetrap either.

            • They’d follow it some distance, yep, but I don’t think so far north as Lothlorien or Mirkwood. There’s no mention of them north of Minas Tireth.

              I think the sea longing is just indicative of the true position of the Elves. Essentially, they don’t belong in Middle-earth.

            • You should pick up the Atlas of Middle-earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad. It’s my go-to source for anything mappy.

              This is the pertinent map in question…

            • Thanks! I do have the book. My problem is I’m somewhat ADHD when it comes to research. I go off on tangents and then Eru knows how long it’ll take me to get back on track. So I’m just storing up on the facts of the events now. The geography I’ll review separately. Painful yes, but unless I want to lose track of what I was originally looking at, this is the WAY for me.

            • I get that. It took literally years for me to overcome the urge to get distracted. There’s so much there, that it’s nearly impossible not to be overwhelmed and go off on a tangent.

              The times that I’ve read the Silmarillion, I’ve mostly ignored the maps. The last time I read Children of Hurin, however, I did so with map in hand, and it was (not surprisingly) ridiculously helpful to me. When I cover the Silmarillion (soonish), I plan on really incorporating the Atlas. Could be fun!

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