TTT Book III, chapter 1: The Departure of Boromir

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Merry
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TTT Book III, chapter 1: The Departure of Boromir

Postby Merry » Thu Jul 01, 2010 5:37 am

The Departure of Boromir


Image
”The Last Words of Boromir", by Ted Nasmith

Welcome back to The Lord of the Rings chapter discussion! The last chapter we discussed was the end of The Fellowship of the Ring and, fittingly enough, the end of the Fellowship: Frodo and Sam had departed alone for Mordor, Merry and Pippin had been taken by Orcs, and the rest were in wild confusion. The Two Towers begins with Aragorn wondering what to do and doubting his own leadership. Would it surprise you to learn that Aragorn never even saw a living Orc at Amon Hen?

Imagine being one of the first readers of The Lord of the Rings in the 1950s and having to wait an entire year to find out what happens to the Fellowship! “The Departure of Boromir”, one of the most beautiful scenes in the Trilogy, is a tragic beginning.


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Postby Merry » Thu Jul 01, 2010 2:35 pm

One of the things I love about the scene pictured above is that it illustrates Aragorn's priorities. The man before him is dying and anxious about his homeland and his own moral failures. It is obvious that he has done some mischief to Frodo and endangered the quest, yet Aragorn comforts him as best he can and blesses him along his way. Only then does he ask about Frodo, but it is a question that Boromir cannot answer.

In terms of the big picture, Aragorn should have waterboarded Boromir until he told all he knew about where Frodo was and what his mindset was like. But our hero could not use a dying man as a means toward a greater end. He showed the same ethical sensibilities when he decided to follow Merry and Pippin rather than Frodo and Sam, since 'Mippin' were in immediate danger and Frodo and Sam were, as far as he knew, fine for the moment. First things first. Do the deed at hand. Simple ethical principles that, nonetheless, show a basic decency and honorability--and ultimately fit for a king!
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Postby marbretherese » Thu Jul 01, 2010 3:53 pm

Merry, I'm not sure I could even picture Aragorn trying to extract information about Frodo's whereabouts from Boromir by force. They are still on the same side, after all, and both Men of Gondor. Boromir has been led astray by the power of the Ring, and he, too, is showing his quality at this point. He has betrayed Frodo's trust and driven him away; in reparation he has tried to save Merry and Pippin from being snatched by the Orcs, and has been fatally wounded in the attempt. Aragorn blesses him as though they were brothers, which in one sense they are.
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"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back.
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Postby Merry » Thu Jul 01, 2010 4:58 pm

I agree, to an extent, marbretherese. I can't imagine Aragorn doing something ignoble, either. I'm not a big fan of Boromir, though, and I don't see Aragorn and Boromir on the same side. I could perhaps forgive Boromir for his attack on Frodo as a momentary lapse, even though the book describes Boromir as lusting after the Ring for days. But in the book, he goes back to the Fellowship after the attack and refuses to tell Aragorn what happened or where Frodo was. I find this reprehensible. And I don't think his defense of 'Mippin' was in reparation: I think it was just Boromir being Boromir, a fighter.

But even if you see Boromir as I do, Aragorn's treatment of him is all the more enlightened.
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Postby shieldmaiden » Fri Jul 02, 2010 1:00 am

But in the book, he goes back to the Fellowship after the attack and refuses to tell Aragorn what happened or where Frodo was. I find this reprehensible.


This maybe true but it forces Frodo to make a decision he knew he had to make but had avoided making ~ that he was destined to carry the Ring to Mount Doom, not the others.

As I mentioned in another posting on another thread, Boromir's story is about redemption as much as anything else. While he did make serious mistakes, Aragorn's willingness to forgive his actions, and Boromir's willingness to lay down his life to try and save Merry and Pippin, allow him to redeem himself and, ultimately, prove his worthiness as one of the nine companions.

It would have been very easy for Tolkien to have "written him off" as a bad choice but he chose not to treat Boromir in this fashion. And, while Tolkien's choice may not play well to the gallery, it certainly is in keeping with his devout Catholic beliefs.
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“…..suddenly above him far and faint his song was taken up, and a voice answering called to him. Maedhros it was that sang amid his torment.” The Silmarillion, Chapter 13: Of the Return of the Noldor

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Postby Merry » Fri Jul 02, 2010 3:31 am

True enough, shieldmaiden. I've written a couple of essays on Tolkien's Catholicism as reflected in LOTR, and I've used this scene as evidence of a kind of sacramentality. Boromir confesses his sin and is forgiven. But it was still a sin.
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Postby marbretherese » Fri Jul 02, 2010 10:49 am

Shieldmaiden has made the point much more eloquently than I could have done :D I too view this episode in terms of confession and redemption and wouldn't want to imply that Boromir is blameless - far from it. I do see him on the same side as Aragorn - he hasn't gone over to Mordor - but his flawed character makes him easy prey for the influence of the Ring.

This maybe true but it forces Frodo to make a decision he knew he had to make but had avoided making ~ that he was destined to carry the Ring to Mount Doom, not the others.


Absolutely. It's a great example of something positive coming out of the consequences of a wicked act.
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"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back.
But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy."


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Postby Iolanthe » Fri Jul 02, 2010 12:43 pm

I see it as a redemption story too - Boromir's fears for Gondor and the burden of responsibility he feels to save it, combined with his implacable nature, make him easy prey for the Ring. I think that when he rises after stumbling over the stone, the shadow leaves him and he knows exactly what he has done. Tolkien is subtle enough a writer to use the stumbling and rising as a metaphor for the stumbling of his soul and the moment where redemption starts. When he rejoins the others his shame prevents him confessing that he tried to take the Ring, but he genuinely doesn't know where Frodo has gone. When he tries to save Mippen he also saves himself as he replaces the shameful act with a noble and selfless one. having done this he is then ready to confess and to tell Aragorn that he has paid and Aragorn (as a Sacred King archetype) is able to accept the confession and bless him. As he says to him as he pledges to take over the role of Gondor's saviour - 'Be at Peace'. Aragorn sees him as a man who has died with honour.

If I remember rightly, aren't there other examples of Boromir showing a particular concern for the vulnerablitly of the Hobbits, before the Ring takes him completely? "This will be the death of the Haflings" on Caradhras, the prominence given to Boromir when they decide to carry the Hobbit's through the snow. Are there any others?
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