Why was Boromir corrupted by the One Ring when the other members of the Fellowship of the Ring were not?

What was it about Boromir that he was so susceptible to the evil powers of the One Ring and the other members, while certainly aware of the temptation and allure of the One Ring, were not lured in by its evil? Did Denethor's pressure drive Boromir to claim the ring? Boromir is described in Fellowship of the Rings as a pretty big guy -- tall, very strong -- not unlike Aragorn. So why did he not have the inner strength to resist temptation when it came to the One Ring?

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    I think the interesting question is why Faramir didn't succumb to the ring, given his history, parentage and leadership skills. – SteveED Apr 10 '12 at 0:32
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    The guy can't win... get greedy over the ring? Bam! Slain by orcs a few minutes later... get resurrected as Ned Stark and say "hey, I was greedy and it didn't work out for me, I'll just stay out of it..." BAM! decapitated in front of his daughters... Seriously, next time he's just going to be a farmer. None of this heroics crap. – corsiKa Jun 5 '14 at 0:14
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    @corsiKa: The guy should avoid Stavromula Beta, among other places. – Codes with Hammer Sep 24 '14 at 14:53
  • It was because of Boromir's need; his need to protect his homeland and the burden of his father to need Boromir to defend Gondor against the enemy made him susceptible to seeking any tool that would let him have an advantage. As to Faramir (@SteveED) not succumbing, I think that is more to do with his understanding that his nearly infallible brother had succumbed to the power of it. So in Faramir's mind, his ultimate need was shown to be fallible, letting him realize the fallacy of his unbound need to protect/defend/etc. – Eric McCormick Sep 26 '14 at 19:42

Boromir's downfall was pride. He was proud of the power both in himself and in Gondor, and the Ring played on that resulting in Boromir attempting to take it by force because he thought he knew best.

As Boromir himself states of his pride of Minas Tirith:

True-hearted Men, they will not be corrupted. We of Minas Tirith have been staunch through long years of trial. We do not desire the power of wizard-lords, only strength to defend ourselves, strength in a just cause.

And of himself:

...why not Boromir? The Ring would give me power of Command. How I would drive the hosts of Mordor, and all men would flock to my banner!'

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. Suddenly he stopped and waved his arms.

These feelings were played upon by the Ring's corrupting influence, as Boromir felt that he and Minas Tirith could use the Ring the best. Gandalf, Elrond and Galadriel are shown to be truly wise in comparison for they also knew what could be accomplished with the Ring, but did not fall to its charms.

Tolkien definitely viewed pride as a corrupting influence, as seen in his letters on the Fall of Numenor and the corruption of Sauron:

But after the rebellion of the Númenóreans, the Kings of Men, who dwelt in a land most westerly of all mortal lands, and eventually in the height of their pride attempted to occupy Eressëa and Valinor by force, Númenor was destroyed


In my story Sauron represents as near an approach to the wholly evil will as is possible. He had gone the way of all tyrants: beginning well, at least on the level that while desiring to order all things according to his own wisdom he still at first considered the (economic) well-being of other inhabitants of the Earth. But he went further than human tyrants in pride and the lust for domination

As a result he chose to make Boromir an object lesson of the impact of the Ring and its power.

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    He eventually rejects the Ring in the movies as well, but the screenwriters chose to make Faramir want the Ring at first, so that there would be some development to the character of Faramir that makes him more real. As Jackson said, if they'd played Faramir the way Tolkien wrote him, they would have stripped the Ring of its power; it's supposed to be the single most desirable thing in Middle Earth, and to have a character, a Man even, not be tempted in the slightest by it is kind of anticlimactic. – KeithS Apr 9 '12 at 18:38
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    @Plutor Did Aragorn get a race change while I wasn't looking? ;) – dlanod Apr 9 '12 at 20:33
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    I plead "enough elvish heritage to not count". – Plutor Apr 10 '12 at 11:42
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    @dlanod Aragorn is Dunedain. And technically it's correct that Dunedain are men, however they are definitly "better" men. – Taemyr Apr 9 '14 at 9:12
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    @Taemyr So are Denethor, Boromir and Faramir, although not as pure as Aragorn, but here the matter goes towards the subject of racial purity, which - as a German - always gives me an unpleasent feeling in my stomach when reading Tolkien. – BMWurm Aug 7 '14 at 14:26

He was indeed very like his father Denethor (who similarly succumbed to Sauron's blandishments via the palantir), and (outside the main story; one of the appendixes to the Silmarillion, maybe?) it was explained that Denethor sent him off with the expectation that he would gain access to the Ring and bring it back to his father. (How much of that plan was influenced by Sauron is not clear; there was IIRC some question left open as to when Denethor started to use the palantir, much less when Sauron caught him doing it and began subverting him with guile.)

(I don't have any references with me, sadly, but I also seem to recall that Faramir originally was going to join the Fellowship, but Denethor didn't trust him to bring the ring back instead of sending it to be destroyed and sent Boromir instead.)

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    That is an extended scene of the movies, which IIRC is close to the books. Denethor wants the Ring to defend Gondor, and he trusts only Boromir, not Faramir. It is of course one of the ironies of the book that Denethor never regards Faramir as having any worth, when he proves time and again to be the better man. – KeithS Apr 9 '12 at 18:44
  • The movie must have gotten it from somewhere else, then, as I'm not familiar with the movies (don't ask). – geekosaur Apr 10 '12 at 17:28

Boromir's biggest problem was that he was a man, and therefore from a race very easy to corrupt by the Ring's powers. The other eight companions are four Hobbits, an Elf, a Dwarf, Gandalf and, of course, Aragorn, who was a man, but a Dunedin, with higher "nobility" than Boromir.

Eventually, every race will bow to the power of the Ring, but stronger races and "nobility of blood" can help to resist longer.

This is on top of dlanod's comments, which are all valid.

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    What do you mean by a "simple" man? Are you quoting something in canon? How is being "simple" a weakness here, when simple-minded Sam resisted the Ring's influence best of all? – Travis Christian Apr 9 '12 at 15:18
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    "Simple" compared to the higher nobility of blood of Aragorn (Numenor), that has some magic quality in himself and has the ability to resist a bit better to the lure of power from the Ring. Sam is simple minded, but is from a very highly resilient race to magic. Men are the easiest to corrupt: this is stated in plenty of places in the Lord of the Ring. – Yaztromo Apr 9 '12 at 17:03
  • In some way... you could say that I made a "racist" comment, in the sense that different races have different ability to resist to the Ring... I never thought I could make a "racist" comment...:-S – Yaztromo Apr 9 '12 at 17:06
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    It's racist mostly in the sense that Tolkien's writings are racist. Tolkien ascribes a lot of importance to blood and heritage, with the nobility of the Dunedain blood being evident in everything, from looks to power to longevity. But he doesn't hesitate to have the pure-blooded be corrupted as well. However, I don't think it's Boromir's lack of breeding that's the cause of his downfall here, but rather his pride, as stated above. According to writings, three of the Nazgul were "great lords of Numenor", and they fell to the lesser rings. – Avner Shahar-Kashtan Apr 9 '12 at 21:09
  • This is quite right. It does require "over-human" self-control to resist the Ring, which Boromir did not have. Much as Sméagol, who was not in Boromir's situation and did not have so much pride either, and belonged to a race that's presumably less susceptible to the Ring's power than humans by nature, yet the ring made him murder his best friend. – leftaroundabout Apr 9 '12 at 21:17

I can't add a comment to Dlanod's answer (rep too low), but I agree completely that pride appears to be the deciding factor. Everyone who resisted the ring was normally very humble - Gandalf, Galadriel, Aragorn, Sam - all of whom expressed very little pride in themselves and tended to lift others up higher. Even Galadriel, who was essentially Queen of the Elves and the most powerful Elf on Middle Earth, resisted the ring by realizing that her time was over and that others would "carry the torch".

Hobbits like Frodo & Sam are notoriously humble folk, so that plus their overall stubbornness is probably why Gandalf thought of them as a great power for resisting the enemy.

The One Ring seems to manipulate people through the basest emotions - pride, lust, greed - so if someone can resist those emotions normally they can resist the ring's influence.

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    Two and a half years later, I enjoy reading that your rep (33500 at time of writing) is too low to comment. – kingledion Oct 7 '16 at 6:04

I agree with dlanod, but disagree somewhat with Yaztromo.

In general Tolkien's writing certainly was racist and heavily concerned with "purity of blood", but I don't think it's relevant in this instance. The line of the Stewards of Gondor is described as being "pure" Numenorean, second only to the Kings. Pippin reflects on how strongly Denethor's demeanour and appearance remind him of Aragorn. I don't think Aragorn's "higher" blood and long-ago elvish heritage make much difference -- besides, it's entirely possible that the Stewards are also remote descendants of Elros.

I think the clue is in Aragorn's remark that it was "a sore trial for Boromir, a warrior, and a lord of Men." (At the beginning of The Two Towers, IIRC.) From birth, Boromir had believed he would one day rule the men of Gondor. He was trained as a leader and used to exercising power on his father's behalf. All of this fed his natural pride and left him vulnerable to the corruption of the Ring.

Of course, Aragon was also a warrior and leader, but he was not only that. He had spent much of his life wandering alone, hiding his true heritage. The only people he had authority over were the handful of surviving Dunedain in Arnor. The people of Bree seem to have thought of him as a highly suspicious outsider. Last but not least, he was raised and educated by the Elves of Rivendell, who would have had an entirely different perspective on power from that of Denethor. All this would have made him much better able to resist the Ring.

Similarly, Faramir never thought of himself as destined to rule. He is described as more bookish and intellectual than Boromir. So his mindset may have more closely resembled Aragorn's and allowed him, too, to resist the temptation of the Ring.

Another factor is that Boromir had to face the prospect of Aragorn becoming King of Gondor. Instead of being a ruler as he had always expected, he would be only Aragorn's subject. (IIRC this is made much more explicit in the films than the book.) One way Boromir could avoid this was by seizing the Ring, defeating Sauron and setting himself up as a king. This would certainly have been part of his motivation.

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    I was going to bring up the line of the Stewards being by no means "common"; Denethor and Faramir both strongly possessed the mental gifts of the Numenoreans, but Boromir lacked them. I seem to recall that the first Stewards were offshoots of the royal line, but I don't have my books here to confirm or deny it. – LAK Jul 31 '14 at 19:53

Boromir, unlike Aragorn, was a Man who sought as much power as he could possibly gain, so when the One Ring shows up right in front of him, of course he's going to succumb to its power. It wasn't necessarily the Ring; it was his desire to defeat all of his enemies, to become the strongest man there is in Middle-Earth.

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