Who is Boromir
The Ring is the source of all evil. It possesses power that could destroy the forces of good once it is placed on the hand of the Dark Lord. It is corrupting of all those who bear its loathsome weight. It can make its wearer, if strong enough, more powerful than Sauron himself. But, as Elrond the Elf stated at the Great Council of the Ring,
We cannot use the Ruling Ring. That we know too well. It belongs to Sauron and was made by him alone, and is altogether evil. . . The very desire of it corrupts the heart. Consider Saruman. If any of the Wise should with this Ring overthrow the Lord of Mordor, using his own arts, he would then set himself on Sauron’s throne, and yet another Dark Lord would appear…For nothing is evil in the beginning. For even Sauron was not so. I fear to take the Ring to hide it. I will not take the Ring to wield it. (Tolkien I, 350)
J.R.R. Tolkien, in his books, drew many parallels to religious and mythological figures and ideas that have appeared throughout the ages. The Ring, which is evil, symbolizes the falling from grace to the clutches of death and damnation. If a character falls to the lust of the Ring, it is a fall from the goodness and light into hell where Satan rules. Sauron, the Dark Lord, is Satan and his Ring is doing the work of worldwide temptation of pride and power, the sins that cast Lucifer from Heaven, and himself lusting for that power to overthrow all of Middle earth. Of all the forces of good that come into contact with the Ring, some fall into the temptation and others do not. Boromir is one who did.
Who is Boromir and why did he fall? This we find from Tolkien about his physical description:
And seated a little apart was a tall man with a fair and noble face, dark haired and grey eyed, proud and stern of glance. He was cloaked and booted as if for a journey on horseback, and indeed though his garments were rich, and his cloak was lined with fur, they were stained with long travel. He had a collar of silver in which a single white stone was set, his locks were shorn about his shoulders. On a baldric he wore a great horn tipped with silver that now was laid upon his knees. (I, 315)
As we read the Lord of the Rings we discover Boromir’s role in the Fellowship to destroy the Ring. He joins them at Rivendell and will remain with them until they reach the borders of Gondor. Boromir and Aragorn, the returned king, will go west to the wars of Gondor; Frodo and Sam, a pair of hobbits, will go east into the shadow of Mordor. The rest of the Fellowship will choose as they may. Gandalf the wizard guides them, and everything goes well until in the Mines of Moria on the Bridge of Kazad dum. Gandalf is lost to the Company of the Ring when he falls into the abyss fighting the Balrog, a terrible agent of evil. Aragorn then takes over as the guide of the Fellowship. The group passes through Lothlorien and from there, they travel down the river Anduin. Then at Amon Hen near the Rauros Falls Boromir loses his soul to the corruption of the Ring. The lust for ultimate power is too much for him to take. He attempts to seize the Ring from Frodo upon the hill and causes the breaking of the Fellowship. As Frodo runs from peril into greater peril, the Company is seized with panic, and the hobbits run off to find Frodo. Aragorn instructs Boromir to follow Merry and Pippin, the other hobbits, and keep them from harm. That he does to the best of his ability. However, the hobbits run right into a company of Sauron and Saruman’s orcs (goblins) and are seized. Boromir crashes through the trees and hews a great number of the servants of Mordor (and Isengard) until he is pierced many times with arrows. He continues to fight and with a blast upon his horn he calls for aid. But aid comes too late and Aragorn finds Boromir and hears his last words, his confession, and his soul is saved.
So where does this character Boromir come from? From research, we know that Tolkien drew ideas for bits and pieces of his work from several sources: Celtic history, Norse myths, and Roman Catholic Theology. This paper will focus on the Roman Catholic role in the construction of the person of Boromir. Many biblical characters go into the creation of Tolkien’s “Man from the South” (I, 315), but who are they? After doing some comparison, I have come to the conclusion that Boromir is Tolkien’s version of three Saints in the Roman Catholic Church. They are the Saints Peter, Sebastian, and Augustine. This paper will focus on the comparison with Saint Peter. So how is Boromir patterned after Peter? There are several examples throughout the Gospels but I shall only highlight five examples. In the Lord of the Rings, Boromir is first introduced to the One Ring during the Council of Elrond. The wise debate on how to destroy the Ring or, at least, put it out of Sauron’s grasp for all eternity. Boromir, however does not understand their worry and concern, he speaks out,
I do not understand all this. Saruman is a traitor, but did he not have a glimpse of wisdom? Why do you speak ever of hiding and destroying? Why should we not think that the Great Ring has come into our hands to serve us in the very hour of need? Wielding it the Free Lords of the Free may surely defeat the Enemy. . . Valour needs first strength, and then a weapon. Let the Ring be your weapon, if it has such power as you say. Take it and go forth to victory! (I, 350)
Compare this with the acts of Peter in the Gospel of Mark:
He (Jesus) began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.’ (Mk 8: 31 33)
As one can see, both Boromir and Peter could not understand why destruction of such a power was necessary: in Peter’s case, Christ, and in Boromir’s, the Ring. For both had the power to defeat the Enemy. Christ could easily drive the Romans from the Promised Land just as Gandalf, Elrond, or one of the Wise, with the Ring, could drive Sauron from Middle earth. And both did not understand that, for the quest of both Christ and the Ring, they had to die, or in the Ring’s case, be destroyed. Peter does not think as God thinks just as Boromir does not see things the way the Wise of Middle earth see them. Both are blinded by their lack of foresight and faith.
But this is not the only similarity that these two men share in character, they both live by the sword: Boromir strode up and down, speaking ever more loudly. Almost he seemed to have forgotten Frodo, while his talk dwelt on walls and weapons, and the mustering of men, and he drew plans for great alliances and glorious victories to be, and he cast down Mordor, and became himself a mighty king, benevolent and wise. (Tolkien I, 515)
Of the two sons of Denethor, we found that Faramir was more of the thinker, more in tuned to the wisdom of the wise, whereas Boromir had little time for that. Throughout the Lord of the Rings, we observe his soldier mentality. He hungered for glory and honor, pride and power. He would fight before he thought and believed that everything could be solved by the simple ways of a warrior, a Patton type. And this mentality was the cause of his death, for he died at the hands of the orcs, in battle against an overwhelming force. Peter also thought that problems could be solved using the force of arms:
Then stepping forward they laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. And behold, one of those who accompanied Jesus (Peter) put his hand to his sword, drew it, and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Mt 26: 50 52)
However, they did not only share a warrior mentality, but something much more wonderful. They both possess selfless valor toward the foes of evil in the world. Boromir’s last moments were such an act. He gave his life in a vain battle to save Merry and Pippin from the host of orcs. Peter likewise was willing to engage in a hopeless struggle for the sake of Jesus Christ. In fact he had just started when Christ ordered him to stop. If he had not been stopped then it is possible that Peter would have been the first person to die for Christ’s sake. There is one more parallel between these two men that I would like to discuss: they turned their back to the force of goodness, realized their sin, and repented. They turned away because of selfishness: Boromir, the lust for ultimate power and Peter, for his own life. Boromir’s sin was that he loved Gondor too much, and Peter’s was that he loved his own life too much. Although it may be considered a harsh judgment to say that Peter’s love of life was not worth as much as his faith in the Christ, it is possible that this darkest moment of the first Pope’s life was viewed as such by Professor Tolkien. Peter turns his back on Christ for the sake of his own life and does not help or, more likely, is not willing to admit his connections with the Lord. Boromir is guiltier of evil. For his sin is of greed and he takes an active role on the side of evil and attempts to seize the Ring. Peter’s denial of Christ, however, is a passive act.
If any mortals have claim to the Ring, it is the men of Numenor, and not Halflings. It is not yours save by unhappy chance. It might have been mine. It should be mine. Give it to me! . . . Miserable trickster! Let me get my hands on you! . . . Curse you and all halflings to death and darkness! (Tolkien I, 516 17)
Compare this to Peter’s sin against the Lord:
While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the high priest’s maids came along. Seeing Peter warm himself, she looked intently at him and said, “You too were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” But he denied it saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.” So he went out into the outer court. (Then the cock crowed.) The maid saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” Once again he denied it. A little later the bystanders said to Peter once more, “Surely you are one of them, for you too are a Galilean.” He began to curse and to swear, “I do not know this man about whom you are talking.” And immediately a cock crowed a second time. (Mk 14: 66 72)
Here one can see that both the men grew angry at the truth that faced them and became susceptible to their individual sins. They both cursed and swore and lost, for a moment, the innocence and goodness that they possessed. However, both these men came to the realization of what they did and grieved.
For a while he was as still as if his own curse had struck him down; then suddenly he wept. He rose and passed his hand over his eyes, dashing away the tears. “What have I said?” He cried. “What have I done? Frodo, Frodo!” he called. “Come back! A madness took me, but it has passed. Come back!” (Tolkien I, 517)
Peter came to his senses as well, when the cock crowed twice, and was overwhelmed by his shame and grief. Not unlike Boromir: “Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.” He broke down and wept. (Mk 14: 72)
Both these men have now reached the very bottom of the totem pole and could go little further. They have turned their back on all goodness and have entered into grave sin that could easily rob them of salvation. But this is only the darkness before the dawn. With the realization of the evil, each of the men came to the door to salvation. It was opened wide and, through their confession of sin they would be saved and could enter the everlasting lands, also known as Heaven.
A mile, maybe, from Parth Galen in a little glade not far from the lake he (Aragorn) found Boromir. He was sitting with his back to a great tree, as if he was resting. But Aragorn saw that he was pierced with many black feathered arrows, his sword was still in his hand, but it was broken near the hilts, his horn cloven in two was at his side. Many Orcs lay slain, piled all about him and at his feet. Aragorn knelt beside him. Boromir opened his eyes and strove to speak. At last slow words came. “I tried to take the Ring from Frodo,” he said. “I am sorry. I have paid.” (Tolkien II, 18)
By this confession, Boromir gains a great victory over evil and is assured the promise of everlasting life. He has proven himself to be a powerful force of good and worthy of salvation. Peter also is rescued from the pits of despair that has already claimed the life of Judas and through his acceptance of Jesus’s forgiveness he, as well, is assured the light of salvation.
Peter too, sees the light of salvation. After Christ’s resurrection, Peter is made the Rock of the Church, the First Bishop of Rome, and the First Pope. He travels far and wide spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and lives his life as his Lord. But he too, like the Christ, faces his own destruction. It was under the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero that he is sentenced to death by being nailed to a cross like his Lord. Peter, however, finds himself to be unworthy of dying the same way Jesus did. He asks to be crucified upside down and this request is granted. He, therefore, lives a Christ like life and dies with Christ, but was unlike Christ, and like Boromir, Peter gains salvation.
So, as I have shown, we see that Boromir is a man just like any other fragile human being. He is a good man with a desire for the destruction of the evil that perpetuates itself in the world. And although he falls, through his confession he reaches perfection. For Boromir is the most human, the most real character in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. He is not immune to sin and is neither overly wise nor powerful. He is a true model for us to follow as we go through our existence. Boromir, modeled after Peter, is a man of great goodness and should not be frowned upon by the readers of this work. He should be rejoiced as an example of a man, imperfect like ourselves, yet capable of achieving wondrous good and grave damage to the forces of evil. And so I end by saying this: Boromir is the true hero of the Lord of the Rings. He is as we are, and as we are able to obtain great things so did he; he is our example of the power of goodness in the face of the great evil that threatens our very salvation; we are he.