I apologize, this is going to be a long post… tomorrow’s will be much shorter.
Yesterday I talked about a few of the reasons I love Aragorn. He’s always been one of my favorite characters. However, you might be surprised to discover that while I love Aragorn, I also love Boromir. I just re-read the Lord of the Rings this past fall, paying close attention to Boromir, and I have concluded that he remains one of my favorite characters in this story.
“But, Jenelle,” you might argue, “Boromir was tempted by the ring, and he gave in to that temptation.”
To which I would reply, “No more than did Frodo! Who decided at the last minute to follow in Isildur’s footsteps and refuse to throw the ring into the heart of Mount Doom.”
“Well, yeah, but Frodo was carrying the ring for a long time, almost a year! During which time Sauron was actively looking for him and the ring was trying its darndest to get home.”
“Yes, and good for him. But Boromir was of the race of men, it’s not HIS fault men were ultimately the most susceptible race to the rings of power, and he was around the ring at the same time as Frodo.”
But all that aside: the injustice done to Boromir mostly happened as a direct result of the movies. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the movies. I own them, I re-watch them, I revel in the opportunity to drink in the images of Middle Earth and ride along in movie format with the Fellowship characters. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the Boromir of the movies is NOT the same Boromir from the books (despite the excellent job Sean Bean did in the role).
In the movie, Boromir is portrayed as a suspicious character from moment one. From arguing to take the Ring to Gondor, to picking it up in the snow on Caradhras when Frodo drops it, every word and action is untrustworthy and open to distrust. It’s like the other characters had read the book beforehand… or something… and the other characters reflect this bias in every interaction they have with him. Boromir’s every word and friendly advance is met with silent stares or narrow-eyed suspicion or outright hostile glares.
In the book, Boromir came to Elrond for advice and counsel because of a weird dream. Minas Tirith is Boromir’s whole world. They are on the front lines, he loves his home and his people, and if he has a fault there it is that he is proud of his people to the point that he cannot see the rest of the world. When Aragorn answers his question by showing him the Shards of Narsil, and Frodo brings out the Ring, Boromir’s reaction is to wonder if the doom of Minas Tirith is come at last. He gives no thought to the rest of the world, probably because he assumes that if Gondor falls, the rest of the world will be close behind.
When they talk of destroying the ring, Boromir does ask why they can’t use the Ring as a weapon. When it is explained to him why, he “looked at them doubtfully, but he bowed his head. ‘So be it,’ he said.”
In the movie, this whole scene erupts into an enormous argument that Frodo interrupts. In the book, it is a solemn, quiet, thoughtful moment in which each person is trying to figure out the best course of action.
When it comes to Aragorn: At first Boromir doubts Aragorn’s claim, just as in the movie, but he makes no move to challenge him, instead he asks some probing questions and waits to hear their answers. After which, he never has anything but praise and friendly words for Aragorn. There is an easy camaraderie between them, and Aragorn even yearns to return with Boromir to Gondor. In fact, later in Fellowship we find out that was Aragorn’s plan all along, to split away from the Fellowship and return to Gondor with Boromir, while Gandalf and the others made their way into Mordor. Gandalf’s death throws a wrench in that plan and Aragorn finds himself torn between what he wants to do and what he feels is his duty to the ring-bearer. Then orcs attack and Frodo runs away, and all of Aragorn’s plans are decided for him.
We learn more of Boromir’s character in The Two Towers. His brother reminisces that Boromir was always a bit bothered by the idea that his family was just the “steward” of Gondor. However, Frodo insists that Boromir, “always treated Aragorn with honor.” to which Faramir replies, “I doubt it not… if he were satisfied of Aragorn’s claim as you say, he would greatly reverence him.
In the movie, Aragorn and Boromir have a tension and quiet animosity towards each other from the moment they first lay eyes on each other. Though Boromir begins with words of friendship, “Then we share a common purpose, friend.” they are met with stony silence by the Ranger.
None of this coldness is depicted in the book. Instead, Aragorn refers to Boromir as, “a valiant man.” as they set out on their quest.
When they are trying to cross Caradhras, Boromir is the one who makes sure Frodo doesn’t die in the snow, and carries him when he cannot continue. He is the one who always voices concern for the halflings. He and Aragorn together carve a path through the chest-high snow back down the mountain so they can try a different path.
“But happily your Caradhras has forgotten that you have Men with you,” said Boromir, who came up at that moment. “And doughty Men too, if I may say it; though lesser men with spades might have served you better. Still, we have thrust a lane through the drift; and for that all here may be grateful who cannot run as light as elves.”
Then he and Aragorn together carry the hobbits back down the mountain.
In the movie, Boromir is constantly arguing for heading towards Gondor. This is not the case in the book, as he offers various suggestions and sides with Aragorn about not wanting to cross through Moria.
It is not until they reach Lothlorien and Galadriel speaks to each of their minds that Boromir is faced with the temptation of the ring. He rejects the thought, but it grows in his mind as they leave the golden wood.
In the book Sam even suggests to Faramir that Boromir desired the Ring all along, but that it was a sort of unconscious desire until they reached Lorien, and that it was there Boromir first saw clearly any darkness in his own heart. This is the first time the reader is aware that anyone had any suspicions of Boromir at all before Lothlorien. In the movie, this suspicion is clear on the parts of most of the Fellowship members from the Council of Elrond onward.
I understand why Peter Jackson wrote the script and directed the movie as he did. If, as in the book, the first hint of Boromir’s falling to the temptation of the Ring showed up after Lothlorien, people who had never read the book MAY have been confused. I think he should have given his audience more credit than that, but that’s just my opinion.
In the movie, the same coldness toward and suspicion of Boromir that we see from movie-version Aragorn also comes from Frodo. In a like encounter, Boromir says something innocuous and kind to Frodo, and Frodo just stares at him without responding. This coldness is never there in the book. Even the conversation in which Boromir tries to convince Frodo to lend him the Ring starts out fairly friendly. It turns unfriendly and Boromir grows angry and demands the Ring and Frodo flees. Boromir instantly realizes what he has done and spends some time wandering around trying to figure out what just happened. He returns to the company and confesses what happened, obviously grief-stricken. We are not told if his grief is over his own weakness, the fact that he has just come face-to-face with a dark side of himself he wished to deny, or that he is simply ashamed of himself for frightening Frodo. I would argue that he is a complex enough character to experience all three at once.
One thing the book and the movie agree upon is that despite his flaws, Boromir died a hero. Personally, I would argue that he mostly lived a hero as well. He was a leader, a warrior, and not so proud that he could not admit it when he made a fatal mistake.
It cannot be held against him that he wasn’t Aragorn, and I do not believe that in loving and admiring Boromir I must detract from my love and admiration of Aragorn, or vice versa. Aragorn had a lot going for him that Boromir didn’t… the direct advice/counsel/friendship of Gandalf and Elrond his entire life, for one. The friendship that was had between Aragorn and Boromir was just not depicted well at all in the movie…
Slight tangent… why do movie directors find it so hard to believe that kings can be friends? Two cases in point: the animosity between Aragorn and Theoden NOT in the book. Or how about between Peter Pevensie and Prince Caspian in the newer version of the movie? Also NOT in the book. Why can’t movie-directors manage to portray that sort of friendship? Why do they shy from it so?
How about you? Do you have a favorite character who is unconventional as a favorite? Or an example of a movie-adaptation that really messed up?