LotRFI Pt.12–Boromir the Bad

When I first read FR, I remember that I distrusted Boromir entirely. Perhaps it is because in the first two mentions of Boromir the reader is told that he is “from the South” (FR, II, II, 240) and a “stranger” (FR, II, II, 243). I already knew that the real bad guys were in the south, and that the shadowy men from Bree were “strangers.”  Perhaps, too, it was because his first action is to interrupt Elrond in order to boast about his country and ask about the Ring; at least that is how I interpreted his statements at the time.

Image copyright John Howe

Boromir is one of the largest detractors from the plan to destroy the ring while at the Council of Elrond. Throughout his journey with the Fellowship, Boromir is constantly preoccupied with the Ring and how it should be used, not destroyed. I think that my childhood instinct to view people, and characters, I loved as infallible played a role in the way I perceived Boromir. To me, he was ‘the enemy’ who was against the wisdom of Gandalf (whom I loved dearly, which I will cover in detail later). As such, I did not see him as a real man, as a character who was valiant yet flawed. I saw him, honestly, in the same way that many conservative American Christians see the devil: as a crafty and deceitful enemy who has his goal in front of him the whole time and picks his spots to exploit weakness. My reading was not to see Boromir as occasionally tempted, but as wholly corrupt and hiding his nature until he can sate his desires.

This interpretation of Boromir stayed with me for approximately three years. When I was sixteen, I audited a course on J.R.R. Tolkien which Dr. Amy H. Sturgis taught at a university near me. It was through her class that I first realized that Boromir was not an entirely unredeemable figure. Since then, my views on Boromir have changed drastically, but that evolution is a story for another time!

Where do we go from here?

Next, I want to talk about some of the obstacles the Fellowship encounter on the journey to Moria.

What Do You Think?

What was your first impression of Boromir?
Has your reading of Boromir changed over time?
​Let me know in the comments!

5 thoughts on “LotRFI Pt.12–Boromir the Bad

  1. Similarly, I didn’t like our trust Boromir for a long while. But when I heard Professor Olsen discussing Boromir’s redemption in one of his very earliest podcasts (back when he recorded them in the lecture hall on his laptop mic…maybe 12,13 years ago?), I was swayed. Now, I love Boromir’s arc.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Boromir has always been one of my favorite characters (along with Sam, of course.) That being said, I don’t remember my first impression of him. I first read LotR in middle school, but in high school read a good deal of Tolkien criticism. So I was exposed to the scholarly view of things early enough that my understanding of LotR has, as far as I can remember, always been shaped by it. As a result, I used to get very frustrated with my friends who would say Boromir was bad or evil because I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t understand that he’s so much more complex than that!

    I think it’s very beautiful that Tolkien suggests a character can fall as far as Boromir does, but still find redemption. And some part of me always wanted my friends to be able to recognize that everyone is worthy of forgiveness, instead of condemning Boromir. Their responses were especially troubling to me because, to see Boromir as evil, someone would almost have to assume that they themselves would never think of touching the Ring. And yet the point is that everyone is tempted, even characters as “good” as Galadriel and Gandalf and Sam. And, uh, doesn’t Boromir fall to the Ring precisely because, in his pride, he thinks the men of Gondor can withstand its power? Seeing ourselves as superior to Boromir might actually mean we are more like Boromir than we care to admit!

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  3. I first read LOTR at the tender age of 11 years old, so my first impression of Boromir was different from older, more worldly readers. I recall being sad when he died. Boromir had performed valiantly on Caradhras, with Aragorn saving the hobbits from certain death. He also performed valiantly in defense of Merry and Pippin during the orc encounter at Parth Galen. Forty-five years later, my understanding of the complexity of this character is infinitely greater.

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