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Old 03-08-2013, 03:20 PM   #1
Kuruharan
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Boots Boromir's Death

I will admit that the fact that Sean Bean played both Boromir and Ned Stark partially inspired these thoughts in my head...

A couple of times George R. R. Martin has cited the death of Boromir as one of the inspirations for his (supposed and overhyped – there are other authors who do it more often than he does, especially lately) practice of killing protagonists.

Recently I was re-reading that portion of the trilogy and it struck me how Boromir’s death was never particularly eye-opening or shocking to me, not at all how some people throw The Game of Thrones against the wall when they read Ned's execution or throw internet temper tantrums when they watch Episode 9 of the first season of GoT.

The first time I read LOTR (or more accurately, listened as it was read to me) I more or less took Boromir’s death in stride as just being the way things were supposed to happen. I think this was for a couple of reasons. The first is that Boromir had just done something bad so to my childish brain ( I was in 5-6th grade at the time Tolkien was first read to me) Boromir got what he had coming for trying to take the Ring. The second reason is due to story structure. Not only is Boromir’s death not at the climax of the first book, the action of his death takes place off screen. Indeed, Boromir’s death is almost anti-climactic. I know, of course, that Tolkien envisioned the story as a complete whole and it had to be split for publishing reasons and the story as a whole doesn’t focus much on Boromir, which segues into my next point: Boromir seems to my mind to be a character who was created just to die.

However, I know that there are dyed-in-the-wool Boromir fans out there, so I am curious. Are there readers out there who did find Boromir’s death surprising or is Boromir’s death just something that you take for granted?

(I know that for most of you I am asking you to delve deep into the recesses of you memory to recall your first read through of the stories.)

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Old 03-08-2013, 09:07 PM   #2
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I was 10 when I first read The Lord of the Rings and I don't seem to remember finding Boromir's death very affecting either, although I blame that largely, like you, on being a child who thought he was a bad guy getting what he deserved. These days I find his death a good deal more tragic because of his being put through "too sore a trial" (as Faramir described it) with the Ring; he wanted "strength to defend ourselves, strength in a just cause." And I believe him when he said that, because I think he had good motives, just as Gandalf said that the Ring's way to his own heart would be through pity. Unlike Gandalf, Elrond and later Galadriel, however, Boromir could not accept that the means would have been evil. Unlike the Wise, Boromir had never had the time or experience to develop that fatalistic "what will happen will happen" attitude to mitigate a sense of despair in the face of seemingly unconquerable evil. He was a lordly man and a great soldier, and was limited, perhaps, in his perspective, thinking that this fundamentally spiritual crisis was, like the usual challenges he faced in his life, something which could be resolved through physical mastery and weapons. I find him very pitiable now, and I think his rationalisation of desire to seize the Ring in the Breaking of the Fellowship is heavily mitigated with undertones of confusion and frustration at his own impotence in this particular scenario and his limited understanding of the higher metaphysical threat posed by Sauron and the Ring.

One character with whom I would like to compare Boromir is Éomer. Both are great champions of their people and of high position. Note that when the Ring is debated in the last council Éomer remarks that "I have little knowledge of these deep matters; but I need it not. This I know, and it is enough, that as my friend Aragorn succoured me and my people, so I will aid him when he calls." (LR p.862) Fortunately for the Men of Rohan, none of them had to be around the Ring, but I think at least that it is indicative of something, because Boromir is described as being more like one of the "Middle Men", but Éomer, indisputably a "Middle Man" is, to me, more accepting of his place in the scheme of things. Boromir, however, derived from a higher origin, which may have been a source of pride, but not of understanding. I think Boromir is quite keenly representative of that image of the decay of civilisation present in the text and I do think his death is suggestive of the dangers of that decay.

As for Boromir being created to be killed off, the drafts do suggest that the idea of his corruption was a relatively early conception. In a sketch of future events planned at the time of drafting the Council of Elrond, as seen in The Treason of Isengard, Professor Tolkien conceived at one point of Boromir going with Aragorn to Minas Tirith before he "sneaks off" in his corruption to join forces (somewhat tellingly) with Saruman! (p. 210) However, at the end of this plan Boromir was killed, but only at the end of the story, and by Aragorn, no less (p. 212), instead, apparently, of him repenting.

I have heard the view in many quarters that Boromir was more sympathetic in the films, but I never really felt that way. I almost feel as if Sean Bean's portrayal makes him feel more unpleasant, not less, but that's just a personal response.

"Overhyped" is a term I would use to describe A Game of Thrones in general (I've only read the first book, never seen the show).
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Old 03-09-2013, 02:59 PM   #3
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One character with whom I would like to compare Boromir is Éomer. Both are great champions of their people and of high position. Note that when the Ring is debated in the last council Éomer remarks that "I have little knowledge of these deep matters; but I need it not. This I know, and it is enough, that as my friend Aragorn succoured me and my people, so I will aid him when he calls." (LR p.862) Fortunately for the Men of Rohan, none of them had to be around the Ring, but I think at least that it is indicative of something, because Boromir is described as being more like one of the "Middle Men", but Éomer, indisputably a "Middle Man" is, to me, more accepting of his place in the scheme of things. Boromir, however, derived from a higher origin, which may have been a source of pride, but not of understanding.
Very interesting. I had never thought of comparing Eomer and Boromir in that context before. Do you think Eomer would have had such an understanding? From what he says I am not sure he does. From his relatively more “comfortable” situation regarding the Ring, I think he is able to follow the “lower” impulse of supporting his friends.

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I think Boromir is quite keenly representative of that image of the decay of civilisation present in the text and I do think his death is suggestive of the dangers of that decay.
Do you think this is a point Tolkien intended to convey?

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I have heard the view in many quarters that Boromir was more sympathetic in the films, but I never really felt that way. I almost feel as if Sean Bean's portrayal makes him feel more unpleasant, not less, but that's just a personal response.
I agree that Sean Bean’s portrayal of Boromir made him feel a bit more unpleasant. The filmmakers did a few things to amp up the antagonism of the Boromir character. However, I don’t find that to be out of line with the spirit of what Tolkien wrote as my impression of Boromir was always that he was a bit fishy.

Other people in the stories seem to have had a higher impression of Boromir than I ever did (Eomer is a good example). I think in LOTR Boromir didn't have his best foot forward.
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Old 03-09-2013, 09:54 PM   #4
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Very interesting. I had never thought of comparing Eomer and Boromir in that context before. Do you think Eomer would have had such an understanding? From what he says I am not sure he does. From his relatively more “comfortable” situation regarding the Ring, I think he is able to follow the “lower” impulse of supporting his friends.
That's what I mean, that Éomer was accepting of his limited understanding of the "deep matters". Boromir was not, my suggestion being that his higher birth, although no longer granting him wisdom, did give rise to pride, belief that he did understand when in fact he did not. Boromir could not accept the word of Gandalf; I realise circumstances are different because he had actually been in the presence of the Ring, but I nonetheless think his behaviour reflects a refusal to admit his own place. While many characters are tempted by the Ring in the story, those who refuse have often had the time and experience that Boromir did not to learn that there was no hope in the use of the Ring.
It's interesting to note that Saruman, who never saw nor was ever in the presence of the Ring, also fell prey to its temptations, although perhaps being a being of "higher" stature this was more of a threat.
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Do you think this is a point Tolkien intended to convey?
I'm largely skeptical of ascribing any intentionality to themes which may be present in Professor Tolkien's work; I'm very much an "applicability" supporter.
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Old 03-09-2013, 10:04 PM   #5
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Trying to rmember how I took Boromir's death in the book is tough.

I Think his death was far more sympathetic the second time around. The first time like maany I feel I had a "Well, that's what you get." Sort of attitude for it.

After reading about Faramir and Denethor etc etc... I think Pride was cultivated in Boromir as he was clearly the favorite son and probably always praised. Of course he'd think he could wield the ring for his people. I never really took Faramir's lack of desiring the ring to be a overtly wise action(that may have been part of it) I always saw a downtroddin Son who was never good enough why would he have the confidence to try to wield the ring.

I think Eomer's line too is a bit, shall I say overconfident? He didn't face down the ring and It's temptation head on it's easy to say you could deny it without knowing its full power and draw.

I think in the movies Boromir was portrayed as more antagonistic but mostly because subtlty is often lost onscreen. I think he was supposed to be less liked thereby gaining that all important redemption factor with Merry and Pippin.
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Old 03-10-2013, 06:54 PM   #6
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Ring

Good topic!

Firstly, it wasn't my copy of A Game of Thrones that got flung at the wall, but my copy of A Storm Of Swords. And there was a lot of swearing. Of that, I will comment no more or I might spoil it for anyone looking forward to the next series of it on TV.

Back when I was 12, many years ago, my brother's copy of The Two Towers remained unflung at the death of Boromir but I was shocked and I was quite upset about it. I remember many years ago on here having a discussion about how many of us, when we were youngsters and read the books for the first time, were inspired to draw a picture of Boromir stuck full of arrows and being comforted by Aragorn.

I got the impression, and still do, that Boromir was not to be blamed for what he did, he was to be forgiven. All through the journey to that point there's a growing sense that he has slightly less pure aims than Aragorn, but he doesn't become sinister in any way until he loses his temper with Frodo. And that's how it comes across, as a Man losing his temper. A man full of pride brought down by it. Aragorn reminds us not to blame him for his downfall, and blames himself. Whether this is heartfelt or maybe Aragorn being self-righteous in the extreme, he says:

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Now the Company is all in ruin. It is I that have failed. Vain was Gandalf's trust in me. What shall I do now? Boromir has laid it on me to go to Minas Tirith, and my heart desires it; but where are the Ring and the Bearer?
It's interesting to compare him to Eomer, but I think this has a lot to do with cultural difference. At one point in his tussle with Frodo, Boromir reminds him of his lineage:

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Ring, it is the men of Numenor, and not Halflings.
Boromir has been raised to be proud, he is descended from Numenoreans, and he was effectively going to be the ruler of Minas Tirith - until he saw that Aragorn was back. He probably genuinely thinks he has the strength and right to decide on what happens to the Ring, and furthermore is driven by either jealousy or a need to 'prove' himself against Aragorn (who might seem quite smugly 'perfect' to him, let's admit ). Eomer on the other hand is from a different background, raised to be a captain, a soldier. Rohan does not have the same 'high' history, and the people are less likely to be impressed by or interested in things such as 'magic Rings'. They are interested in their horses and their land.

As a side point, my take on Ned Stark is that he put too much stock in his precious 'honour' and as a result left his own children vulnerable - he's not the heroic figure he is often thought to be, but stubborn.
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Old 03-10-2013, 09:22 PM   #7
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Boromir has been raised to be proud, he is descended from Numenoreans, and he was effectively going to be the ruler of Minas Tirith - until he saw that Aragorn was back. He probably genuinely thinks he has the strength and right to decide on what happens to the Ring, and furthermore is driven by either jealousy or a need to 'prove' himself against Aragorn (who might seem quite smugly 'perfect' to him, let's admit ). Eomer on the other hand is from a different background, raised to be a captain, a soldier. Rohan does not have the same 'high' history, and the people are less likely to be impressed by or interested in things such as 'magic Rings'. They are interested in their horses and their land.
I was deeply disturbed with Boromir's betrayal of Frodo when I first read the book, but then just as quickly, I gained a great respect for Boromir when he got control of himself and protected Merry and Pippin at the cost of his own life. It was this sacrifice that gained him redemption, and made him a conflicted hero in my book, far more interesting than the impossibly noble Aragorn.

From my perspective, it seemed that, in addition to your comments, Lal, Boromir was also deeply affected - unmanned perhaps - while in Lothlorien. He was forced to look at his own conflicted self and it unnerved him, and then he saw how Aragorn was unaffected and treated with high regard by Galadriel. This, in addition to his love of country (some would say overblown patriotism) and respect for his father - with both Denethor and Gondor heading for crushing defeat - that caused Boromir to become unhinged. But the qualities everyone admired in Faramir returned for Boromir when he willingly gave up his life.
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Old 03-10-2013, 09:22 PM   #8
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Boromir has been raised to be proud, he is descended from Numenoreans, and he was effectively going to be the ruler of Minas Tirith - until he saw that Aragorn was back. He probably genuinely thinks he has the strength and right to decide on what happens to the Ring, and furthermore is driven by either jealousy or a need to 'prove' himself against Aragorn (who might seem quite smugly 'perfect' to him, let's admit ). Eomer on the other hand is from a different background, raised to be a captain, a soldier. Rohan does not have the same 'high' history, and the people are less likely to be impressed by or interested in things such as 'magic Rings'. They are interested in their horses and their land.
This is exactly what I mean, though. Boromir was really only a "Middle Man", but his culture/nationality/race/what-have-you was "High" - so there is a tension between his upbringing and his own understanding - a nurture vs nature conflict, if you will. So that part of him which was "High" was capable of desiring the Ring and recognising its power, but as a "Middle Man" he lacked the wisdom and spiritual stature to perceive its evil, reject it and overcome temptation until the bitter end.
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Old 03-11-2013, 03:37 PM   #9
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I think Pride was cultivated in Boromir as he was clearly the favorite son and probably always praised
Undoubtedly. Somehow for me he has always read as something of a braggart and thus not a terribly sympathetic character. While I don't any longer view Boromir's death as comeuppance for his attempt to take the Ring from Frodo, I do still struggle with feeling sympathy for the character. I think for me personally, this mitigates to some extent feelings of sadness or shock I would feel for a more sympathetic character.

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I got the impression, and still do, that Boromir was not to be blamed for what he did, he was to be forgiven.
Even though I struggle with sympathy with the character, I am in complete agreement that Boromir should be forgiven his failing. From the tone of the other characters (especially Aragorn) they clearly had sympathy for the trial Boromir had endured.

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He probably genuinely thinks he has the strength and right to decide on what happens to the Ring, and furthermore is driven by either jealousy or a need to 'prove' himself against Aragorn
This is a very good point, though to me it points up his unwillingness to listen to others, even if it makes his actions understandable.

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As a side point, my take on Ned Stark is that he put too much stock in his precious 'honour' and as a result left his own children vulnerable - he's not the heroic figure he is often thought to be, but stubborn.
I agree to a large extent. However, he could still have salvaged the situation if he had left town when he had originally wanted to or if he hadn't relied on Littlefinger.

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But the qualities everyone admired in Faramir returned for Boromir when he willingly gave up his life.
I always kind of had the impression (possibly mistaken) that Boromir despaired and suicided by orc. However, as I have said, I have a rather negative impression of the character.
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Old 03-12-2013, 08:20 PM   #10
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Even though I struggle with sympathy with the character, I am in complete agreement that Boromir should be forgiven his failing. From the tone of the other characters (especially Aragorn) they clearly had sympathy for the trial Boromir had endured.
Since Frodo later says that even Gollum merited forgiveness (after committing myriad more vile deeds than did Boromir), I agree that Boromir's death was not necessarily a punishment. Perhaps it accomplished the greater purpose of removing Boromir as a threat to the Quest (which he had clearly become), as well as releasing him from the Ring's grip. This idea is somewhat reminiscent of Isildur's death. He was even more firmly in its power than was Boromir, and could have wrought great harm as a Ring-lord. Both he and Boromir were possibly eliminated as threats to a greater perspective, and at the same time both delivered from the Ring's power forever.

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I always kind of had the impression (possibly mistaken) that Boromir despaired and suicided by orc. However, as I have said, I have a rather negative impression of the character.
No, I don't think he committed suicide. I see his death as more of a simple desire to do something positive to compensate for his attack on Frodo, with a lack of fear that he could die. He doesn't strike me as being very fearful of death, anyway.
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Old 03-13-2013, 09:27 AM   #11
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So that part of him which was "High" was capable of desiring the Ring and recognising its power, but as a "Middle Man" he lacked the wisdom and spiritual stature to perceive its evil, reject it and overcome temptation until the bitter end.
Isildur was not a Middle Man by a long shot and we are all familiar with his story of how he decided to keep the Ring against other counsel [Sil, p. 366]. Also the Numenoreans were High Men all and Sauron corrupted most of the island. They were in the habit of performing human sacrifices, tending to take the Faithful as those sacrifices, and they were against the Valar and the Elves who were always for them.

Boromir may not have been able to perceive its evil, but that would only make him less responsible than a High Man who would, like him, want the Ring, like his father. I'm just saying even the High Men could not all reject it and overcome its temptation and the only two that I know of who did were Faramir and Aragorn. Perhaps Elendil would have destroyed it had he lived, but I'm not sure. However, maybe temperament has a role to play in this as Boromir and Isildur seemed to have a fiery temperament and perhaps Elendil like Aragorn and Faramir would have rejected it.
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Old 03-13-2013, 08:55 PM   #12
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Both he and Boromir were possibly eliminated as threats to a greater perspective, and at the same time both delivered from the Ring's power forever.
An intriguing...and ruthless idea.

I like it!

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Boromir may not have been able to perceive its evil, but that would only make him less responsible than a High Man who would, like him, want the Ring, like his father. I'm just saying even the High Men could not all reject it and overcome its temptation and the only two that I know of who did were Faramir and Aragorn. Perhaps Elendil would have destroyed it had he lived, but I'm not sure. However, maybe temperament has a role to play in this as Boromir and Isildur seemed to have a fiery temperament and perhaps Elendil like Aragorn and Faramir would have rejected it.
A good point and an interesting comparison between Elendil and Faramir.
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Old 03-14-2013, 10:13 AM   #13
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Boromir may not have been able to perceive its evil, but that would only make him less responsible than a High Man who would, like him, want the Ring, like his father. I'm just saying even the High Men could not all reject it and overcome its temptation and the only two that I know of who did were Faramir and Aragorn. Perhaps Elendil would have destroyed it had he lived, but I'm not sure. However, maybe temperament has a role to play in this as Boromir and Isildur seemed to have a fiery temperament and perhaps Elendil like Aragorn and Faramir would have rejected it.
I don't mean to suggest that Boromir's stature is necessarily responsible, only that it might have limited his understanding. It's worth remembering that Boromir desired the Ring for its power. Isildur's rationale for keeping the Ring was as a weregild for the loss of his father and brother, just as Bilbo argued that he kept it because Gollum would have killed him otherwise. I'm not saying that their corruption was different, but Boromir, unlike people previously interested in the Ring, actively wanted to use it for its "true" purpose, the manufacture and maintenance of Power. This was a very "Middle" attitude to take: as Faramir suggests, they esteemed mastery and martial prowess above other skills, and the Ring was the ultimate weapon in that regard. I personally don't think it's so much a matter of wanting to keep the Ring as it is wanting to use it, and use it for its primary purpose (not just to become invisible and such). The Ringbearers each kept the Ring for a variety of reasons (of diverse validity) but Boromir wished to actually wield it, even though he had been told repeatedly and with emphasis that doing so would only achieve further ruin.
His circumstances were different to Isildur, of course, but Men like Aragorn and Faramir refused to use it. Faramir said "I do not wish for such triumphs." He was in the same situation as his brother, but of greater wisdom and stature.
In this way I don't think that Elendil, or Aragorn, or Faramir, or anyone else could have destroyed the Ring, because I'm fairly sure no one could have destroyed it voluntarily, but perhaps a High Man might at least be less inclined to use it even if they felt compelled (like anyone else) to keep it.
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Old 03-14-2013, 10:52 AM   #14
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I don't mean to suggest that Boromir's stature is necessarily responsible, only that it might have limited his understanding. It's worth remembering that Boromir desired the Ring for its power. Isildur's rationale for keeping the Ring was as a weregild for the loss of his father and brother, just as Bilbo argued that he kept it because Gollum would have killed him otherwise.
To me, that's merely an illustration of the way in which the Ring attacks the reason and restraint of those who come in contact with it: it calls to the individual, promising power to help them achieve their goals, however good they may seem (or actually be) to them.

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In this way I don't think that Elendil, or Aragorn, or Faramir, or anyone else could have destroyed the Ring, because I'm fairly sure no one could have destroyed it voluntarily, but perhaps a High Man might at least be less inclined to use it even if they felt compelled (like anyone else) to keep it.
Since the three you name all declined the Ring, I think it clear they didn't trust themselves with it, which is pretty telling.
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Old 03-15-2013, 08:04 PM   #15
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However, I know that there are dyed-in-the-wool Boromir fans out there, so I am curious. Are there readers out there who did find Boromir’s death surprising or is Boromir’s death just something that you take for granted?~Kuru
Surely, you don't mean me? But seriously, I had found Boromir's movie portrayal to be more sympathetic than the book. Well, that is until TTT extended edition, which sort of spoiled everything by making Denethor send Boromir out as some kind of secret agent to undermine the Council and bring the Ring to Gondor.

As you said, in the books he comes off as a braggert...boasting his own strength and importance. He's the antagonist within the Fellowship, always arguing what road to take, boasting the strength of Gondor and having no heed of the rest of Middle-earth resistance against Sauron, and one who ultimately fell to his own personal glory. He takes after his father in believing he's the appointed one who saves Gondor in this time.

In the FOTR movie, we can see more of his struggle with the Ring and how he bonds with other members of the Fellowship. As the 'leaders' blankly stand around after being beaten by Caradhras (or well...Saruman's conjured storms) it is Boromir who thinks about the hobbits. Boromir's light-hearted sword training scene with Merry and Pippin was neat. And after Gandalf's death it is Boromir who says "give them a moment for pity's sake" as Aragorn prods everyone to keep moving. These arguably conflict with Boromir in the books, but I was never bothered by it. (The annoyance comes in the deviation taken in TTT EE).

As someone mentioned previously, it's really how other characters seem to regard Boromir, and only after his death when you really only find sympathy for him in the books (if you even can). Zigur mentioned a comparison to Eomer, and it's interesting, because Eomer says after learning of Boromir's death:

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"Great harm is this death to Minas Tirith, and to us all. That was a worthy man! All spoke his praise. He came seldom to the Mark, for he was ever in the wars on the East-borders, but I have seen him. More like to the swift sons of Eorl than to the grave Men of Gondor he seemed to me, and likely to prove a great captain of his people when his time came."~The Riders of Rohan
And I believe it is Pippin, when seeing Faramir, is reminded of Boromir's "kindness." Now, this only comes after Boromir's death and it may seem more like a eulogy that shows respect by others not wanting to trash someon who has died. (Remember too, Aragorn doesn't tell Gandalf the full tale of Boromir's death. What he withholds isn't told, but it's always intrigued me that Aragorn withholds part of the story even to Gandalf).

So, I can see how just reading the story, beginning to end (and especially first time as a young teen) Boromir reads as a "he did something wrong and got what was coming to him." However, I think too much of the focus gets put on his act of redemption and trying to protect Merry and Pippin. This in turn, possibly makes it seem like Boromir's act is suicidal. He's just throwing himself to a horde of orcs in an attempt to atone for his betrayal. However, I don't believe that to be the case.

After trying to seize the Ring from Frodo, Boromir returns to the camp, where the rest of the Fellowship finds out Frodo is missing. Boromir doesn't disclose his full part, of which Aragorn makes note, but Aragorn also commands:

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"Boromir! I do not know what part you have played in this mischief, but help now! Go after those two young hobbits, and guard them at the least, even if you cannot find Frodo. Come back to this spot, if you find him, or any traces of him."~The Breaking of the Fellowship
This is the first time, that I can recall, without any reluctance or arguing, Boromir accepts orders. He follows after Merry and Pippin and guards them. And the account given by Pippin doesn't fit with someone trying to die:

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Then Boromir had come leaping through the trees. He had made them fight. He slew many of them and the rest fled. But they had not gone far on the way back when they were attacked again, but a hundred Orcs at least, some of them very large, and they shot a rain of arrows: always at Boromir. Boromir had blown his great horn till the woods rang, and at first the Orcs had been dismayed and had drawn back; but when no answer but the echoes came, they had attacked more fiercely than ever.~The Uruk-hai
He was following what Aragorn commanded, to guard the two young hobbits. And after beating off the first attack, had tried to make his way back, but they were attacked again. For the 2nd time, Boromir attempts to drive the Orcs off, this time blowing his horn, but again it's not long before the Orcs attack. The account just doesn't read as Boromir charging into death, but attempting to guard the hobbits.
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Old 03-16-2013, 10:20 PM   #16
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I will admit that the fact that Sean Bean played both Boromir and Ned Stark partially inspired these thoughts in my head...

A couple of times George R. R. Martin has cited the death of Boromir as one of the inspirations for his (supposed and overhyped – there are other authors who do it more often than he does, especially lately) practice of killing protagonists.

Recently I was re-reading that portion of the trilogy and it struck me how Boromir’s death was never particularly eye-opening or shocking to me, not at all how some people throw The Game of Thrones against the wall when they read Ned's execution or throw internet temper tantrums when they watch Episode 9 of the first season of GoT.

The first time I read LOTR (or more accurately, listened as it was read to me) I more or less took Boromir’s death in stride as just being the way things were supposed to happen. I think this was for a couple of reasons. The first is that Boromir had just done something bad so to my childish brain ( I was in 5-6th grade at the time Tolkien was first read to me) Boromir got what he had coming for trying to take the Ring. The second reason is due to story structure. Not only is Boromir’s death not at the climax of the first book, the action of his death takes place off screen. Indeed, Boromir’s death is almost anti-climactic. I know, of course, that Tolkien envisioned the story as a complete whole and it had to be split for publishing reasons and the story as a whole doesn’t focus much on Boromir, which segues into my next point: Boromir seems to my mind to be a character who was created just to die.

However, I know that there are dyed-in-the-wool Boromir fans out there, so I am curious. Are there readers out there who did find Boromir’s death surprising or is Boromir’s death just something that you take for granted?

(I know that for most of you I am asking you to delve deep into the recesses of you memory to recall your first read through of the stories.)
## The first I read "The Passing of Boromir" I was - IIRC - rather shocked. I'm pretty sure that I assumed Tolkien was having an an Old English moment (Boromir = Old English defence, dying heroically; Orcs = Viking invaders attacking in superior numbers). It was definitely Boromir's Crowning Moment of Awesome. One of the best moments in the film was PJ's insertion of the scene in the snow where Boromir picks up the Ring & gives it back to Frodo - even though such a moment would be impossible in the book - it was very effective, in a non-TLOTR way.

I think the reader is meant to admire Boromir, even though he is flawed. The book is more realistic for not being about characters who are all consistently perfect. I find it very useful to compare & contrast Boromir with Denethor as well as Faramir.
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Old 03-20-2013, 10:45 AM   #17
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In the FOTR movie, we can see more of his struggle with the Ring and how he bonds with other members of the Fellowship. As the 'leaders' blankly stand around after being beaten by Caradhras (or well...Saruman's conjured storms) it is Boromir who thinks about the hobbits. Boromir's light-hearted sword training scene with Merry and Pippin was neat. And after Gandalf's death it is Boromir who says "give them a moment for pity's sake" as Aragorn prods everyone to keep moving. These arguably conflict with Boromir in the books, but I was never bothered by it.
I never found that to conflict with the Boromir of the book either. I took it more as building a connection between him and Merry and Pippin to make his final sacrifice more dramatic.

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This is the first time, that I can recall, without any reluctance or arguing, Boromir accepts orders. He follows after Merry and Pippin and guards them. And the account given by Pippin doesn't fit with someone trying to die
Ahh...that's a very good point. His experience with Frodo brought him to a point of humility.

However, good sir, I must note that you did not answer my original query regarding your reaction to Boromir's death the first time you read it.

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I'm pretty sure that I assumed Tolkien was having an an Old English moment (Boromir = Old English defence, dying heroically; Orcs = Viking invaders attacking in superior numbers).
Interesting idea, given Tolkien's professional background, of Boromir being a Byrhtnoth type figure...at least as far as their pride goes. However, the circumstances are rather different as Boromir pointed out, Boromir died in a moment of humility (yes, I know that was a lame joke) while Byrhtnoth died as a direct and immediate result of his pride.
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Old 03-21-2013, 06:21 PM   #18
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I think Boromir is quite keenly representative of that image of the decay of civilisation present in the text and I do think his death is suggestive of the dangers of that decay.
Do you think this is a point Tolkien intended to convey?
...
It seems quite certain that Tolkien intended this connection. In the words of Faramir:

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'For so we recon Men in our lore, calling them High... Men of Twilight, such as are the Rohirrim... and the Wild, the Men of Darkness.
...For as the Rohirrim do, we now love war and valour as things good in themselves... so even was my brother, Boromir...' The Window on the West
As for my first reading of the death of Boromir I did not find it so shocking. I had the impression he was somewhat bigger, grumpier and more uncouth than Jackson'/Bean's Boromir. Back then I was not familiar with the images of the dress customs of Middle Earth and I imagined him more like Beorn; less armour and accoutrements, more wild looking.
Also his argument for taking the Ring to Minas Tirith made him seem like a small town man whose first concern was with 'me and mine' rather than the 'big picture.'
I think it may only have been reading Aragorn's and Faramir's accounts of him that made me see him in a more sympathetic light.
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Old 04-05-2013, 04:49 PM   #19
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Back then I was not familiar with the images of the dress customs of Middle Earth and I imagined him more like Beorn; less armour and accoutrements, more wild looking.
Like he was portrayed in the Bakshi movie.

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Also his argument for taking the Ring to Minas Tirith made him seem like a small town man whose first concern was with 'me and mine' rather than the 'big picture.'
I think it may only have been reading Aragorn's and Faramir's accounts of him that made me see him in a more sympathetic light.
I agree with you there.
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Old 05-08-2013, 12:22 PM   #20
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Are there readers out there who did find Boromir’s death surprising or is Boromir’s death just something that you take for granted?
In my first reading, I didn't have much empathy for that character, and I wasn't shocked to see him die (seeing how the author appear to build him up for me the reader).
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Old 05-11-2013, 03:19 AM   #21
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I always found Boromir quite a sympathetic, if flawed, character– and I thought Sean Bean's portrayal captured him, or my idea of him, quite well, being in fact one of the best aspects of the film. I actually don't see any major discrepancy between the book and movie version– not compared to the treatment of certain other characters, anyway. (His immediate family members, now...well!)

But as for Boromir's death being "shocking"... well, no, not really. I thought his trying to take the Ring was the shocking part.
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Old 05-23-2013, 11:38 AM   #22
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But as for Boromir's death being "shocking"... well, no, not really. I thought his trying to take the Ring was the shocking part.
Now that brings up a very interesting point that I didn't consider (i.e. just took for granted) in my initial post.

Not only did Tolkien kill a protagonist, he had the protagonist do something decidedly un-protagonisty shortly before he did.

How post-modern! How very subverting of the archetype!

And people say Tolkien operated in a universe of only black and white.
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Old 05-23-2013, 01:46 PM   #23
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Boromir's character arc goes through numerous changes throughout Tolkien's writing of The Lord of the Rings...

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Originally Posted by Kuruharan
Boromir seems to my mind to be a character who was created just to die.
... This may be how it seems at first, but the development of the character has some interesting twists and turns. According to the outline of 'The Story Foreseen from Moria' (Chapter XI from History of Middle Earth Volume 7 - The Treason of Isengard), Boromir survived the breaking of the Fellowship and travelled with Aragorn.

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Originally Posted by HoME VII: The Treason of Isengard; Chapter 11
"Boromir and Aragorn (who notes a change in Boromir - who is keen to break off the chase and go home) reach Minas Tirith, which is besieged by Sauron except at back. ? [...] The Lord of Minas Tirith slain and they choose Aragorn. Boromir deserts and sneaks off to Saruman to get his help in becoming Lord of Minas Tirith."
The section is crossed out and replaced with the tale of Legolas and Gimli being captured, which is also crossed out.

There are further plans, still keeping Boromir alive. Eventually, however, Tolkien decides;

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Originally Posted by HoME VII: The Treason of Isengard; Chapter 11
"What about Boromir? Does he repent? [Written later in margin: No - slain by Aragorn]"
As Tolkien comes to write the Breaking of the Fellowship he outlines the orc attack and Boromir's death for the first time.

Boromir's death is an event that seems to dawn on Tolkien as he discovers the depth of his treachery. Alas, I find nothing in the letters on Tolkien's decision to kill him at Amon Hen, rather than by Aragorn at some later point. I wonder if it was simply a narrative tool in the beginning.
But one could read something into it with regard to a comment I happened across a moment ago. With regards to Faramir.

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Originally Posted by The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien #65
"Faramir [...] is holding up the catastrophe by a lot of stuff about the history of Gondor and Rohan (with some very sound reflections no doubt on martial glory and true glory)"
The fact that Boromir's death happens "off screen", so to speak, is interesting to me and I wonder if it is part of one of Tolkiens themes of 'martial glory vs. true glory'. In his death, Boromir achieves a sort of martial glory, as he as done in his life. A heroic death against many foes. And yet at the same time, he dies defending the Hobbits, repenting of his fall to the Ring's influence. Does he, therefore, almost reach 'true glory' beyond simple martial glory?

The Lord of the Rings does seem to stand in contrast to The Silmarillion, in my mind, on this point. Where the latter is filled with martial glory (and the terrible consequences of it), The former shows the victory of the little Hobbits, where all the assembled armies of Middle Earth failed. So with Boromir's death, perhaps, we are seeing this shift. We see the warrior falling not to defend the city, not to fight Sauron himself, not surrounded by banners and songs, but defending hobbits.
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Old 05-23-2013, 02:07 PM   #24
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The fact that Boromir's death happens "off screen", so to speak, is interesting to me and I wonder if it is part of one of Tolkiens themes of 'martial glory vs. true glory'. In his death, Boromir achieves a sort of martial glory, as he as done in his life. A heroic death against many foes. And yet at the same time, he dies defending the Hobbits, repenting of his fall to the Ring's influence. Does he, therefore, almost reach 'true glory' beyond simple martial glory?
I would think that a self-sacrifice to defend those weaker than himself, coupled with remorse for his actions involving Frodo, elevated Boromir's death from the "usual" heroic deaths in the books, like other unseen demises such as that of Halbarad of the Dúdedain or Grimbold of the Rohirrim (admittedly both minor characters).

I wonder too if there was also a desire on the part of the author to delay giving details of the fight to create some additional suspense for the reader regarding the fate of Merry and Pippin.
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Old 06-10-2013, 10:13 AM   #25
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When I first read about Boromir's death I surmised that his succumbing to the lure of the Ring made such an eventuality inevitable.
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Old 06-17-2013, 04:10 PM   #26
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Boromir, being my favorite character (with Theoden being a close 2nd) I feel is often misunderstood by many. He was a complex man driven by loyalty and a love for his people, land, father and brother Faramir. Many expectations were laid upon his shoulders and he could not abide injustice. I believe his intentions were noble but the lure of the ring and the power it held seduced him. From a religious aspect ( and Tolkien's religious beliefs I do believe were knit in the background of his writing's rather conscious or unconscious ) one could liken the lure of the Ring to the temptation of " sin". Some are able to withstand the temptation in some area's and in other area's , not. Another example is Galadriel, who was sore tempted but stood strong against it, but yet all were tempted. It can be argued he is a picture of us all---we all have failures ( or "sin's) in our lives some with consequences that may destroy us but all can be redeemed/forgiven.

Someone else said it better:
" Boromir, the skeptic, was always brave and strong but he was in many ways the weakest of the party, for he never quite believed the words of Aragorn and Gandalf until it was too late. the Ring called to him and the temptation to master it ( for good) haunted him throughout most of his journey.His own doubts, fear and anxieties, his need to please his father, his desire to drive out the Enemy who had tormented his people for so long- all these preyed on his heart when he was being lured bu the call of the Ring. Deceived by it's seductive powers he attacked Frodo and tried to seize the Ring himself , only able to recover his senses when the frightened Hobbit fled from his side. Overcome by despair Boromir was at the lowest ebb of his life.

But in the end, Boromir was a faithful man. Even in his own hour trial , he ran to defend his two Hobbit friends Merry and Pippin, and was mortally wounded. He died in Aragorn's arms but his sin's had been forgiven. " I have failed", the once proud Boromir said sorrowfully, to which Aragorn replied, " No, you have conquered, few men have gained such a victory." Boromir died with a smile on his lips, knowing he had found acceptance with the king. In the film he went from being an arrogant man who sneered " Gondor needs no king. ", to a humble and contrite man who calls upon Aragorn, " My Brother, my Captain, my King. "

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Old 06-17-2013, 09:15 PM   #27
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Boromir, the skeptic, was always brave and strong but he was in many ways the weakest of the party, for he never quite believed the words of Aragorn and Gandalf until it was too late.
Almost as if in some ways he didn't take the peril seriously.

Nice avatar, by the way.
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