Welcome to June 19, 3018 of the Third Age. Let’s talk about Boromir’s dream. Actually, let’s first talk about why it’s called Boromir’s dream – the name says a bit more about Boromir than it does anything.
At the Council of Elrond (which would take place in the coming October), we will learn that Boromir had come to Rivendell to ask Elrond “for counsel and the unravelling of hard words.”
Boromir had a dream. In truth, Boromir’s brother (whose name he never mentioned during the council) had the dream first. And often. Boromir had it once. Just one time.
Boromir’s unnamed brother is Faramir, who wouldn’t get a name until much later. This was due to Tolkien wishing to stir up a bit of mystery in that later, but it also seems like leaving out his name is something that Boromir would likely do.
By the end of the story, we’ll learn more about Faramir than Boromir, but since we’re taking the whole thing chronologically, let’s introduce both.
Their father was Denethor, Lord of Minas Tirith. A widower, with his wife passing nearly forty years before our story, Denethor (and his court) raised Boromir and Faramir basically alone. Denethor was not a king, but a Steward of Gondor – a sort of placeholder king until the line was restored.
Boromir, the first born, was in line to succeed his father. He was ambitious, a warrior, and looked forward to ruling Gondor. Faramir wasn’t exactly a warrior, though he wasn’t a pacifist. He’ll later explain: “I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the Men of Númenor; and I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom.”
And sure, Boromir cares a whole bunch about all that stuff at the end, but really he loved bright swords, swift arrows, and glorious warriors.
The same dream came to both Boromir and Faramir, though it came to Faramir first and often (and eventually to Boromir only once).
But it’s Boromir that described it at the Council of Elrond:
In that dream I thought the eastern sky grew dark and there was a growing thunder, but in the West a pale light lingered, and out of it I heard a voice, remote but clear, crying:
Seek for the Sword that was broken:
In Imladris it dwells;
There shall be counsels taken
Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
That Doom is near at hand,
For Isildur’s Bane shall waken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand.
Boromir explained that they couldn’t really understand the poem, so they brought it up to their father.
Again, it’s probably important to note that Faramir had the dream on this day. He also had it one subsequent days. Then, sometime later (early July) Boromir had it. Finally taking his brother’s dreams seriously, they both would go to their father.
To those who know the story, the poem is pretty self-explanatory. But Boromir had no clue to pretty much any of it.
After telling the Council about it, everything he couldn’t wrap his head around was quickly covered – from the “Sword that was Broken” to the “Halfling.”
A Quick Parting Word about Luck and Chance
In the book The Road to Middle-earth, Tom Shippey digs a bit into the relationship between luck and Providence in Tolkien’s writings. He notes that Tolkien used the word “chance” quite a bit in Lord of the Rings, and it was clear that he meant, as Tom Bombadil said “if chance you call it.”
Before Tom, Gildor also put forward the same sentiment – “In this meeting there may be more than chance….”
What they’re driving at is what Shippey keys upon. For that, he uses Boromir’s dream as an example:
“In Middle-earth, one may say, Providence or the Valar sent the dream that took Boromir to Rivendell. But they sent it first and most often to Faramir, who would no doubt have been a better choice. It was human decision, or human perversity, which led to Boromir claiming the journey, with what chain of ill-effects and casualties no one can tell. ‘Luck’, then, is a continuous interplay of providence and free will, a blending of so may factors that the mind cannot disentangle them, a word encapsulating ancient philosophical problems over which wars have been fought and men burn alive.”
In Middle-earth, there is a higher power. In this case, Shippey calls it “providence” – the intervention of the divine, Illuvatar. Or, he considers, it could be the Valar.
Whichever, the dream came to Faramir first and on this day, “on the eve of the sudden assault.”
Since we’re on the “eve” of the assault, tomorrow we’ll talk about the assault upon Osgiliath.