Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Why Boromir is the Most Underrated Lord of the Rings Character Out of the Fellowship

"I hate Boromir."

"Boromir is such a jerk."

I've had a number of fellow LOTR-junky fans tell me this. My extremely professional response is something along the lines of, "Dude, Boromir is awesome."

Now, I must admit that I disliked Boromir immensely the first time I read/watched Fellowship of the Ring. I'm probably not the only one who felt a little sorry for him only after he died and the story introduced us to the all-around-amazing and heartbroken Faramir. But when I stopped looking at Boromir as a reader/movie viewer and more like a writer, comparing him to the other members of the Fellowship, I suddenly found more reason to appreciate the genius of his character.

Boromir may be, besides Sam, the most developed of all the Fellowship members, despite his brief page/screen time. Lord of the Rings has a morally ambiguous cast, and can lack psychological depth in the narrative. Not so with Boromir.

Boromir is depicted by Tolkien as an embodiment of sheer determination. In the book, half of his 110
league trip to Rivendell from Minas Tirith was on foot after losing his horse in a river crossing. Tolkien himself admitted once that his narrative brushed over Boromir's drive.

He is also one of the most practical of the Fellowship. To me, this is ironic. You have an experienced Ranger, a Wizard, a dwarf with no small heritage, and an elf prince. But Boromir, the rich guy from a dying Ivory Tower-esque city full of ceremony-obsessed Men, is the only one who thinks of bringing firewood with them on their death climb up Caradhras.

Putting these details aside, the most fascinating part of Boromir's personality is this: like Fëanor in The Silmarillion, he is a hero with the wrong faults.

Tolkien despised pride, manipulation of power/authority, and individuals who looked for reward. These characteristics are almost universally found in literary villains. But Tolkien flipped things around, and gave Boromir these faults. The result? A very different, much more complicated type of anti-hero.

The definition of anti-hero is a protagonist who lacks the idealistic qualities of heroism, especially morality and unselfish courage. Basically, Han Solo, the great stereotype for all anti-heroes.

But Boromir is more than that. It's not that he lacks the qualities of heroism. Quite the opposite.

He has the qualities of a hero and the faults of a villain.

Most heroic characters have faults that are considered "acceptable" in literature, especially lying, poor self-esteem, a hot temper, clumsiness, and shyness. Rarely do they have more "villainous" weaknesses, such as vanity, pride, self-interest, and gain-searching. Tolkien, who formed so many molds for the SFF universe, breaks his own mold of atypical heroes and villains in proud, vain but tragically heroic Boromir.

However, unlike the other Tolkien characters with this development, such as Fëanor (who is described as having so much pride that his wisdom became foolish), Boromir ultimately redeems himself.

On an interesting side note, Boromir's brother Faramir's personal downfall is not his faults, but his qualities (commitment, loyalty, selflessness, and pity).

In the rather morally black and white world of Middle Earth, Boromir doesn't blur lines as much as give the overtly fairy-tale traditional Fellowship a dose of unconventional development.


  1. Tolkien has the most amazing character development, in my opinion! And while Faramir will always be my favorite, Boromir isn't as bad as he is made out to be...

  2. YES! Rachel, this perfect. I've always loved Boromir and felt that people don't understand the depth and intrigue of his character. I especially liked your point that he has the qualities of a hero and the faults of a villain. I never would have thought to put it that way, but it describes his personality perfectly. Awesome post! We need more characters like Boromir. =)

    1. Thanks so much, Hannah!! And I agree :D

  3. I totally agree with this article, Rachel. I really didn't under stand Boromir much until I read this, and this post made me appreciate who he is a a book character. Another thing about Boromir is that in a way he never sees his flaws until his dying moments(this is just my thought I might be wrong). I also agree with your little part on Faramir, I just love a good hero with his qualities being his faults as well!

  4. That's an excellent way to put it all, and you managed to do it very succinctly, too.