LOTR--The Books This Time (Mostly)--Boromir

In my previous Lord of the Rings post, I discussed Galadriel. This post will address Boromir.


Boromir of the book is a far less congenial character than in the movie. Part of this is his personality. Tolkien goes out of his way to remind us that Boromir is stern and honorable--and stern. And honorable. And, by the way, stern.

It is one of the few places in the trilogy where Tolkien falls back on "telling" the readers how to feel rather than "showing" them.

And it rather backs the argument that in The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien was still struggling to bring his epic into focus.

Compare Boromir to Faramir: Faramir spends far less time on the page and yet--without "telling"--Tolkien is able to present a clear and captivating personality, one which is also stern and honorable (although Faramir is rather more insightful). 

Jackson's solution was to take the two brothers, mix them up, then divide their qualities. Consequently, Boromir of the movies, played by the exceptional and highly charismatic Sean Bean, gains some of the warmth that in the books, at least, mostly resides in his younger brother.

This is important because members of the Fellowship, especially Merry and Pippin, have to mourn Boromir's passing. And if the reader has never come to care for Boromir, why should anyone else? (Readers are ultimately very self-serving.)

Jackson, on the other hand, almost effortlessly gets us to like Boromir, so effortlessly I was reminded of Red Letter Media; while reviewing the second Star Wars movie, Attack of the Clones, "Mr. Plinkett" grouches that Lucas expects us to believe that grown Anakin and Obi-Wan are friends without showing us that they are friends.

The first time I watched the review (which I mostly agree with), I thought, "Oh, come now, Mr. Plinkett, give Lucas a break on this one; how was he supposed to show us their friendship without giving us, heaven forbid, a fourth film?"

Well, Jackson accomplished this task with only a few small scenes. My favorite is when Boromir is teaching Merry and Pippin to fight, inadvertently strikes one of them in the hand, and instantly apologizes--after which they mock-wrestle him.

There's a few other moments like this. Added up, they mean that when movie Boromir dies--in one of the most goshdarn heroic scenes ever filmed--the audience cares

Since Tolkien pulls off a similar feat with later characters, I think the first book was definitely still in the "where exactly is this heading?" stage.

In fact, to give Tolkien some credit for Boromir, the end of the first book where Boromir tries to take the ring from Frodo is magnificently written: Boromir's efforts at persuasion; his resentment over Frodo's seeming indifference to the problem; his growing rage which is broken not when Frodo flees but when Boromir stumbles and falls followed by Boromir's aching self-awareness and remorse (this is so perfect psychologically, it always makes me release a very long breath--woah).

That's all Tolkien! And was translated almost perfectly from book to film.

Tolkien was writing world--rather than character--fantasy, but in later posts, I'll discuss Tolkien's ability to create these perfect little character-related gems: strong, complex, sometimes ambiguous and often heart-breaking moments. Thankfully, Jackson used many of these moments! 

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