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So I'm currently reading through the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time and this question has popped into my head. Boromir clearly desperately wanted the ring, as evidenced by him trying to steal it from Frodo, so why didn't he just volunteer to take it himself when the Council of Elrond was looking for such volunteers? He clearly wasn't against volunteering to take the ring under false pretenses so as to use the opportunity to take the ring and use it for his own means, as he did volunteer to accompany the Fellowship only to later use that accompaniment to attempt to take the ring by force to use it for his own means.

So, to be concise, if he was going to attempt to take the ring later on, then why not volunteer to take it during the Council of Elrond?

  • 3
    Related (not a dupe but might be of interest) scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/14534/… – user46509 Oct 14 '15 at 12:52
  • @Carl Sixsmith: I was actually aware that it was 6 books, not three. Silly me for not being correct in my wording! :) Also, thank you for the link! I'll check it out. – Saya Perez Oct 14 '15 at 16:21
  • If it's any consolation... in the movies, he nearly did. To paraphrase: "'tis a gift. Why not take it up ourselves and use it?" – Omegacron Oct 14 '15 at 19:21
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    It would be pretty fishy if he volunteered after the "tis a gift" speech. "I will do it. I will take the ring... to Mordor... yeah...". – Zikato Oct 15 '15 at 13:38
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    @Zikato: I think the council would be more welcoming of the catapult plan :) – Juha Untinen Oct 19 '15 at 8:47
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This is after Elrond told Isildur's tale, of how he took the ring – but shouldn't have:

Boromir...cried: ‘I have heard of the Great Ring of him that we do no name; but we believed that it perished from the world in the ruin of his first realm. Isildur took it! That is tidings indeed.’
 ‘Alas, yes,’ said Elrond. ‘Isildur took it, as should not have been. It should have been cast into Orodruin's fire nigh at hand where it was made...’

That already would have made it sound fishy, if Aragorn or Boromir had volunteered to take the ring. OTOH, perhaps it would have also made for a good excuse along the lines of ‘Isildur messed it up, one of Isildur's people had better fix it! Fate, *handwave*...’ – only, Boromir made a blunder of suggesting right away to not destroy the Ring but actively use it:

‘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. That is what he most fears, I deem.
 ‘(...) Let the Ring be your weapon, if it has such power as you say. Take it and go forth to victory!’

Of course he's very deliberate not to say ‘Let the Ring be our weapon’, or even his weapon.

Elrond's response is not too mild:

‘Its strength, Boromir, is too great for anyone to wield at will, save only those who have already a great power of their own. But for them it holds an even deadlier peril. The very desire corrupts the heart.
 ‘(...) I will not take the Ring to wield it.’
 ‘Nor I,’ said Gandalf.

If at that point Boromir had volunteered, he would have had to have very good arguments that

  1. He really fully understood the point about not being allowed to use the Ring.
  2. He wasn't going to be Isildur and mess it up again, regardless of good intent.
  3. The reasons why neither Elrond nor Gandalf would take the Ring didn't apply to him. This basically amounts to presenting himself as not too powerful, which would clearly be out of character.

It would definitely have roused suspicions if he had volunteered, and Boromir wasn't so stupid to think otherwise.


All quotes from The Fellowship Of The Ring, book 2, chapter 2, Tʜᴇ Cᴏᴜɴᴄɪʟ Oꜰ Eʟʀᴏɴᴅ.

  • 1
    Great reply! I have choosen this one as my answer, as it goes in depth to give well sourced reasons for why it would be unwise for Boromir to offer to carry the ring, as oppose to supposing that the thought never entered his mind in the first place, as many of the other replies have done. – Saya Perez Oct 21 '15 at 14:31
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    Yeah. I acknowledge it's a possible intepretation that Boromir didn't at the beginning want the ring for himself (or Denethor), but to me it seems more like he just consciously surpressed this desire during the journey. – leftaroundabout Oct 21 '15 at 18:50
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The One ring slowly gets into people's minds.

I'm pretty sure Boromir was full of good intentions during the council of Elrond, but day by day, he became obsessed with the ring and then tried to take it by force.

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    some quotes or examples of Boromir being uncorrupted and then corrupted/obsessed with the ring would go a long way here. – phantom42 Oct 14 '15 at 12:41
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    the do a pretty good job in the movies really showing how boromir starts out good, and slowly scene by scene starts to unravel. – Himarm Oct 14 '15 at 14:30
  • @Himarm they do indeed. Credit where it's due. – user46509 Oct 14 '15 at 15:09
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    I think this answer hits the nail on the head. Look at what happened to Bilbo and Golem (and to a lesser degree, Frodo). Bilbo was not nearly as obsessive when he found the ring as he was after many years of possessing it. Golem was not described as "murderous" when his brother first found the ring - I seem to recall that they were playing together in a lake or pond. If we can't find passages specifically about the corruption of Boromir, perhaps we can find passages about Golem or Bilbo and draw parallels. – Rainbolt Oct 15 '15 at 15:52
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    @SayaPerez The original plan was that Boromir and Aragorn would break off and go to Minas Tirith to return the sword and king. That only changed because Gandalf fell. It was more out of convenience that they went with the company, as Aragorn says: "But your road and our road lie together for many hundreds of miles. Therefore Boromir will also be in the Company. He is a valiant man." – Calvin's Hobbies Oct 18 '15 at 14:28
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Boromir said:

The Ring! Is it not a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt for so small a thing? So small a thing!

Which clearly shows he only had pure intentions, and could not even understand at the moment how a simple ring could change their worlds so much. Which in the end might even be the reason he became obsessed with the ring. All the power and fear the ring can bring makes it almost impossible for a mere man to resist.

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    This quote is from right before Boromir physically attacks Frodo to get at the Ring. Do you seriously argue that he only had ‘pure intentions’ at that point? – Clearly, he only says all this ‘so small a thing’ rubbish to lull Frodo. Not that it worked. – leftaroundabout Oct 14 '15 at 23:00
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    "Mere" man? The books are very clear that the only resident of Middle Earth who would not fall prey to the One in a matter of years at most was Tom Bombadil, and that the most powerful -- like Gandalf and the oldest of the High Elves -- would likely be more vulnerable to it than most. – Gaurav Oct 14 '15 at 23:37
  • @Gaurav, what's your point? Tom Bombadil wasn't human. – rojomoke Oct 15 '15 at 8:44
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    As has already been said, I'm not convinced of Boromir's good intentions with that particular quote, as it was given right before his attempt to forcefully take the ring from Frodo. Are there any other quotes that show Boromir's good intentions? To me, it hasn't seemed that Boromir had ever fully realized the danger of wielding the ring, save for, perhaps, on his death bed. I don't recall him ever exhibiting fully pure intentions toward the ring in a way that could not be construed as possible attempts at manipulation. Of course, I am open to being proved wrong. – Saya Perez Oct 15 '15 at 9:44
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Boromir did not in fact want to take the Ring at the Council. That urge didn't appear until quite a bit later.

At the Council itself, Boromir appears quite willing for someone else—someone with recognized power and position—to take the Ring:

"Wielding it the Free Lords of the Free may surely defeat the Enemy. That is what he most fears, I deem.

"The Men of Gondor are valiant, and they will never submit; but they may be beaten down. 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!"

(The Lord of the Rings, Book II, Chapter 2, "The Council of Elrond")

The term "Free Lords of the Free" isn't defined anywhere, but it seems to refer to the political leaders of the Free Peoples of Middle-earth: Men, Elves, Dwarves—perhaps hobbits. Daín, Elrond, Galadriel, Théoden, and Denethor would be the chief of the "Free Lords of the Free" in this conception: Boromir would not be among them. He holds some military power, but only in respect of his position as heir-apparent to the Ruling Steward of Gondor.

When this idea is turned down (none too gently, as others have pointed out), Boromir seems a bit doubtful but still willing to trust the words of the Wise:

'So be it,' he said. 'Then in Gondor we must trust to such weapons as we have. And at the least, while the Wise ones guard this Ring, we will fight on.'

(ibid.)

It is only later, in Lórien, that we first see the Ring exert influence over him. When the Company are "tested" by Galadriel, Boromir is a bit cagey about what his experience was like:

'Almost I should have said that she was tempting us, and offering what she pretended to have the power to give. It need not be said that I refused to listen. The Men of Minas Tirith are true to their word.' But what he thought that the Lady had offered him Boromir did not tell.

(Book II, Chapter 7, "The Mirror of Galadriel")

And we are never told—but typically, speculation is that Tolkien intends to foreshadow Boromir's growing desire for the Ring.

We see the Ring affecting him more intensely on the journey down Anduin:

Merry and Pippin in the middle boat were ill at ease, for Boromir sat muttering to himself, sometimes biting his nails, as if some restlessness or doubt consumed him, sometimes seizing a paddle and driving the boat close behind Aragorn's. Then Pippin, who sat in the bow looking back, caught a queer gleam in his eye, as he peered forward gazing at Frodo.

(Book II, Chapter 9, "The Great River")

And of course there's the scene on Amon Hen, where desire of the Ring takes him over, though briefly.

This is perhaps a roundabout way of saying that it takes quite a bit of time for his desire for the Ring to develop; he didn't volunteer to take it at the Council because at that time, he didn't have an overwhelming desire to have it for himself.

  • I'm pretty sure it's at Lothlorien were Galadriel first puts into his head the thought he could take the ring and be a leader of men. He failed that test unlike Sam before the borders of Mordor – user46509 Oct 16 '15 at 15:16
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At that point, Boromir was completely stuck in Rivendell: Gandalf's news that Saruman had gone over to Sauron meant that he couldn't ride south past Isengard and through Rohan back to Gondor, which was likely how he'd gotten to Rivendell in the first place. The road east through the mountains was a dangerous one (cf. The Hobbit), and only Gandalf would have even attempted Moria. He had no way to inform Gondor that a lightly-armed party carrying a powerful weapon was heading their way.

If he'd planned to steal the One Ring, the smart move would be to use Gandalf and the rest of the Fellowship to get back to Gondor, then either steal the One and ride off with it or to ride off alone and return with an army that would compel Gandalf to give up the One. Given that Boromir makes his move on Frodo immediately after they passed the historical boundary of Gondor, I suspect you're right: he intended, consciously or unconsciously, to steal the One all along.

As a P.S., imagine how different the story would be if only Denethor had had a spare palantír to send with Boromir!

5

Boromir did speak up at the Council at Rivendell. He wanted to defend the White city, we have the enemies power lets use it against him, etc. But he was rebuffed (not debated) by Elrond and Gandlaf who utterly refused to use it.

He didn't "steal" the Ring. He tried to persuade Frodo to help Gondor, then persuade Frodo to give the Ring to him so he could save his people. Only then was he desperate enough to try and take it by force (not theft, which is is by stealth and deceit).

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    Welcome to SFFSE! This looks like the makings of a good answer, but could you add some evidence to support your claims? Thanks! – Often Right Oct 15 '15 at 0:49
  • I'm aware that Boromir spoke up during the Council of Elrond, my question is why he doesn't himself volunteer to take the ring when the Council was looking for such volunteers? Also, regarding stealing, I don't believe that he stole the ring, but he certainly did attempt to. He tried to manipulate Frodo into giving him the ring, and when that didn't work, he tried to take it by force. I would certainly consider that attempted theft. – Saya Perez Oct 15 '15 at 10:00
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    Boromir was exceptionally brave, noble, and truthful. Unlike many humans today who can seldom see purpose past their own desires and often attribute the same "Gollum-like" behaviours to others. Boromir spoke at the Council, and gave his plan - he would certainly not lie or practice deceit in such highly regarded (and clever) company, such corruption would truly be unbecoming the son of the Steward. – temp tempy Dec 12 '15 at 11:49
  • Much of the story of the Lord of the Rings is about honor and the dangers of corruption. We see it in the Ringwraiths, and the petty squabbles of the Kings, and in the passing of the Elves. We it in in the corruption of Ents (which get turned into Trolls), of corrupt Elves which is the source for the original Orcs, and the Uruks being the corruption of Men. Even Saruman the White fell to the lure and despair or corruption, and eventually would have consumed himself became a Balrog-like entity. – temp tempy Dec 12 '15 at 11:50
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    So we see the horrors of Mordor which is the corruption of great power; and at the end of the book, we see the petty corruption in The Shire. Thus it was with Boromir the corruption of the One Ring played on his desperation and fear, of his need to overcome his very real enemies until he could not tell what was a true course of action and what was insanity. That is why of all the characters in the book, that of Boromir is considered the greatest literary one. (and beautifully played by Sean Bean) – temp tempy Dec 12 '15 at 11:50
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I am biased. However, I wonder if firstly you might consider that Tolkiens' work cannot be fully appreciated with a modern/cynical perspective. I say this in response to other posts that seem to imply that Boromir was in regard to the Ring in the Council of Elrond calculating and somehow foreknowledged. On the other hand Tolkien made some pretty bad bad guys.

I only bring this up because the main reason for my liking the Hobbit and LOTR is what I perceive to be a genuine sincerity and some kind of goodhearted/wholesome/godly/moral aspect in the author as so creates his characters. I further propose that I may be a naive and well-wishing fool, but I really don't believe it.

To continue, and Moreover, the concept of honor would contradict such conduct from Boromir, it would in some ways go against everything he and Gondor stood for, even though he could bring the victory of his city. The reason Gondor was Gondor and Rohan Rohan is because of how the people choose to live their lives, no different then today.

Lastly, as others have shown in quotes, Boromir was not aware of the existence of the Ring before the Council, and news of it may well have been shocking. In addition, if we take into account notions of honor and fair dealings, it seems reasonable that Boromir, along with the others, would pause in thought and not immediately go forward into Mordor. Also, everybody except the dumb hobbits seemed to think Mordor a really bad place... maybe they just were thinking over the investment required and very real possibility of a very bad end. If one is willing to consider what is essentially treachery on the behalf of Boromir (in falsely taking the Ring), why not consider cowardice too? But Boromir was not a coward and Boromir was neither a thief, and at the end when madness for a moment over took him and he tried to take the ring, Boromir eventually recovered and repented of his actions.

These are older books, from a guy who was born in 1892, and we live in a VERY fast paced and changing culture/society that does not entirely (or at all) hold onto its roots (CA, America). It is conceivable that Tolkien and others of his time were a more moral people, or without going so far, that our current perception is one of a general depravity, or growing fear of such and the subsequent protection (e.g. depravity) enacted by the formerly moral, the point being that it may well be incorrect to attempt interpretation LOTR in the modern light of rationalism or utilitarianism. There is nothing necessarily rational about "honor" or "good", and both such notions seemed to be rather central to the story. To reduce such concepts in terms of a cost benefit analysis would seem to rather destroy them, don't you think?

I have read the books a number of times and don't see any reason to suspect Boromir of treachery but rather a temporary madness, a mind-numbing inflation of desire. Is there convincing argumentation to the contrary?

Sorry for the rambling, but perhaps considering these things is good. And to answer the question, Boromir did not volunteer to take the Ring because he was a man of honor. Why must this be a rational thing?

  • "To continue, and Moreover, the concept of honor would contradict such conduct from Boromir, it would in some ways go against everything he and Gondor stood for, even though he could bring the victory of his city." Can this be truly said, though, when Boromir was driven to cast away such honor later on in the story when he attempts to take the ring by force? Secondly, Denethor makes it clear that he expected his son to seize the ring and give it to him, in fact, supposing that had he not died he would have done so and this action would have been approved by him. – Saya Perez Oct 21 '15 at 15:08
  • Also, while Boromir was not aware of the existence of the ring before the council, he had heard tell of a "bane of Isildur" - which turned out to be the ring. This "bane of Isildur" was something that weighed upon Boromir and Denethor's minds greatly, to the point where Denethor was easily able to figure out that this bane was the ring without being told outright. Even if he was completely unaware of the ring before the council, however, I don't think it means that he couldn't have made up his mind at the council to take the ring for himself/his father/Gondor down the line. – Saya Perez Oct 21 '15 at 15:11
  • Wrt Tolkien and you being naïve I don't think you are either. He did introduce a lot of things that would suggest what you did. There is the example where Sam sees a fallen man (Haradrim) and he wonders if he was truly evil or if he'd have rather stayed at home. Even Gollum had chances of redemption and wasn't wholly evil. Elrond even says about Sauron that nothing starts out as evil. Boromir was noble but as Faramir says it was too sore a trial for him. Even Saruman started wise but fell from grace. This isn't too unlike our world, is it? – Pryftan Jul 7 '17 at 19:08
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Boromir had not yet been corrupted by the ring. He wanted to use the ring, yes, but Boromir was always a hero and a good person. He could not overcome the influence of the ring when Frodo offered it to him, and failed the test just as Isildur did. He never planned on taking the ring from Frodo.

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