A GREAT INJUSTICE

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.”

Boromir 1

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…

Boromir 3

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?

~ jenelle

24 Comments

John Wiswell

I don’t quite understand what you mean in the second-to-last paragraph about “that sort of friendship.” Do you mean a friendship between two people of class that connotes high privilege? Because while you’re right about Boromir being more of a jerk in the movies, the movies also have very robust friendships, so much so that one of the last scenes is a hug-a-thon on Frodo’s bed.

Reply
jenelle

I mean friendship between kings. Obviously the movies did a very good job portraying the friendship between the hobbits, and between Legolas and Gimli and all the members of the Company. What they didn’t do well was show the friendship between Aragron and Theoden.

Reply
John Wiswell

Ah yes, then I understand. I think part of it is that there are so few royal-types depicted as royal in the films. I felt so bad for Theoden.

Reply
jenelle

You are right, I did not word all of that well at all! I have rearranged the post to reflect better what I actually meant. :)

Reply
Allan James

Jenelle, you have captured it brilliantly.

Boromir is my favorite and has always been my favorite.

However, how can anyone not love and admire Aragorn as well.

I think my own attachment to Boromir is that he portrays true man. His Heroism and his Valor are his own. They come from him, not some prophecy and not some sword and not some ring and not some counsel form a Great Wizard or a King of Elves. His Virtue comes from him. For some reason I have always found that more attractive.

Thank you for giving Boromir his due. I also agree with you that Sean Bean did a GREAT JOB with Boromir.

Allan James

Reply
Kaycee

I really liked this post! I didn’t have a problem with how the movie portrayed Boromir, it added some conflict the movie would have been lacking in, but I DID have an issue with how they portrayed Aragorn when it came to him and Boromir. I didn’t like how hostile and cold he was towards Boromir.

Have you seen the extended edition? In the extended edition of The Two Towers, there is a really good flashback scene about Boromir. He and Faramir are defending Osgiliath together. In that scene, Boromir acts a LOT more like the Boromir in the book. I was glad to see that Peter Jackson did understand who Boromir really was, he just “sped up” his longing for the Ring.

Anyway, great post! Thanks for sharing! :)

Reply
jenelle

Oh yes, I only watch the extended editions :)

I understand your love of conflict… but I do believe there is a point where you CAN have too much of it. Personal preference…

Reply
Kaycee

XD I AM a bit of a conflict junkie. I blame the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum. But I agree, it is possible to have too much. I think if Boromir acted like he did in the movie in the books, it would have been too much conflict. As it is, I enjoy reading/watching both Boromirs. :)

Reply
Derek

I must say, I believe I may be starting to weaken in my opinion of Boromir after this post. I have long preferred Aragorn to Boromir as you well know, but that is mostly driven by the movies as they were my first experience with LotR. I believe I must re-read the Fellowship to better understand my changing opinion. :-)

Reply
DJ Edwardson (@djedwardson)

I think it may only be in the extended edition, but you didn’t mention the conversation between Aragorn and Boromir in Lothlorien:

Boromir: …Have you ever seen it, Aragorn? The White Tower of Ecthelion, glimmering like a spike of pearl and silver, its banners caught high in the morning breeze. Have you ever been called home by the clear ringing of silver trumpets?

Aragorn: I have seen the White City, long ago.

Boromir: One day, our paths will lead us there and the tower guard will take up the call: The Lords of Gondor have returned.

It’s such a beautiful passage. I can’t remember if it is in the books or not, but I thought it was a particularly touching insight into Boromir in the movies, not to mention just a gorgeous bit of dialogue. And you see Aragorn and Boromir interacting there more as friends and peers. So while they may not have stayed true to the books at all points, I thought they got that scene right.

Reply
Allan James

I agree that they got that scene right. However, once again, it was Boromir initiating the friendship and the vision. I think the great difference in the Movie between Boromir and Aragorn was that Boromir love and concern for Gondor was preeminent in his mind. There was NO DOUBT as to what Boromir wanted to accomplish. He had a country. He had a people. He had a responsibility that he was perfectly prepared for and content with. Aragorn showed a great deal of hesitancy because this is not a path that he wanted. In fact he had rejected it. Not through any character flaw of his own. Perhaps a great deal due to his upbringing and training under Elrond. In the Movie, I believe that Boromir’s death and his words of “My brother, My captain, My King” that removed Aragorn’s doubt. To condemn Boromir for his conviction and his purpose of safeguarding and defending Gondor which he was so proud of is to condemn all of the great virtues that we hope and pray for in our own children and in our own people and in our own country. I applaud Boromir for his purposes and I do not condemn Aragorn because his purpose took longer to unfold. It wasn’t until Boromir died that Aragorn chose to join him in that purpose. I think that is what the death of Boromir was intended to do. At least one of the more significant purposes of his death.

Very much enjoy this topic and the responses.

Thank you Jenelle for your inspiration.

Allan James

Reply
jenelle

I had forgotten that scene, actually, and you’re right, it’s a great one.

I’m not by any measure an expert, or saying that the movies got everything wrong. It mostly just makes me sad that many people will only watch the movies and come away with this warped perspective specifically on Boromir that is not present in the books.

I LOVE the movies. They are beautiful, and extremely well-done. I love them even more because they have made it possible for me to share this story that I love so much with friends who would never have/never will read the books.

But it’s still a great topic for today’s “I” post!!! :)

AND, I figured it was such a long post that nobody would actually read it… but I’ve gotten tons of comments… so… yay!!! :)

Reply
Liesel Hill

Great! I whole-heartedly agree that both are to be admired. As to the movie portrayal, I see things like that a lot in film adaptations. They like to go straight to the heart of the main conflict and ignore the subtleties. Because they knew the temptation of the ring was Boromir’s major conflict, they just played it up for the entire film. They made it seem like Aragorn “sensed” all along that Boromir was weak or something, which is DEFINITELY not as good a portrayal as in the book. Sometimes I think movie makers don’t trust their audiences enough, but maybe that’s not fair. As you say, having such a sudden turn about may have confused the audience or seemed too convenient. And not because the audience is dim-witted, but just because things don’t play out the same way in the film medium as they do in the written one. Great discussion!

Reply
Jack

When I read the book I had no idea what was going on. I just wanted to find out what happened as I had to wait a long time for the third movie to come out. Even re-reading it I still missed a lot. Which I guess is easy to happen in such a complex book. One of the reasons it is so wonderful to read over and over again.

One of the things I missed was Boromir. All of the things in this post I completely missed. Not that I disliked him in the movie. In spite of his temptation I still liked him. And now, reading all this, I like him even more and want to re-read the book just so I can read about him.

Reply
Connie Keller

Thanks for reminding me about the differences in Boromir in the book–it’s been a while since I’ve read the book, and I’d forgotten.

I have to admit that my favorite male character is Faramir–noble and content with his lot in life, even if it was difficult. My favorite female character is Goldberry. I was so sad that she and Tom Bombadil didn’t make it into the movie.

Reply
jenelle

I love Faramir too… and Peter Jackson messed with his nobility as well.

I was also sad that Tom and Goldberry didn’t make it into the movies, even the extended editions… but I do sort of understand why they didn’t. Non-readers would have been super confused (okay, even those who have read the books and love Tom Bombadil are still mostly confused by him, that’s the nature of his character) :) haha

Reply
Allan James

I agree with Liesel. This is a great discussion.

Really impressed with the thoughtfulness and the goodwill expressed.

Thanks again Jenelle. A fun dialogue indeed.

Allan James

Reply
Jenelle Schmidt REGARDING BOROMIR

[…] the one that has gotten the second-most hits of all time is the one I did about Boromir, titled A Great Injustice. The only post that has done better was the one I did for the 32 Author Scavenger Hunt back in […]

Reply

I love hearing from you, dear Reader!