The Dumbest Part of The Lord of the Rings

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boromirI first read Tolkien when I was 13 and (like many others before and after) totally fell in love with the Middle Earth thing. I’ve read the trilogy (and the Hobbit) probably a dozen times, listened to the BBC version five or six times, listened to the audio book twice and, of course, I seen the movies.

That being said, there’s a section of the LoTR that’s bothered me literally for decades: the death of Boromir.  I know I’m not the first person to notice how dumb this scene is, because Jackson did some judicious rewriting. Even so, I’ve been waiting for decades to get this off my chest, so here goes.

If you recall the scene, the Fellowship of the Ring, minus Gandalf, end up at the waterfall where Frodo decides to take a walk.

Alone.

Even though Frodo is carrying something that, if captured, means THE END OF THE WORLD, it’s an hour or so before anyone thinks to say “Hey, where the hell is Frodo?” and then only when Boromir stumbles into camp.  Then, as if on cue, everybody freaks out and heads every which way, including Aragorn.

Eventually, Aragorn hears Boromir’s horn in the distance, hightails it back towards camp, where he finds Boromir all shot up. Boromir dies before telling Aragorn whether or not Frodo was captured.

Now, does Aragorn say to himself: “Hokey smoke! Those orcs might have Frodo and the Ring. I better go find them!”

Nope.

Instead, Aragorn kneels down and has a good, long cry.  Because that’s SO helpful.

Gimli and Legolas show up.  Does Aragorn say: “Hey, Legolas, you’re pretty light in the loafers, uh, I mean fast on your feet. Go after those orcs before they get too long a head start and find out if they’ve got Frodo. Maybe you can distract the orcs with arrows or figure out how to rescue any hobbits they’ve captured.”

Nope.

Instead, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli decide that the number one priority is not to find Frodo but to properly dispose of Boromir’s corpse. 

Say whut?

So the three of them drag Boromir back to camp.  Once there, they figure out that Frodo and Sam have crossed the river and are headed toward Mordor.  Without a map or any idea how to get there.

Now, does Aragorn say: “Guys, I’m the only person in the group who’s ever been to Mordor, so I’m gonna go find Frodo and Sam and help them out or at least give them some idea of how to get there. You two follow the orcs and rescue Merry and Pippin, and we’ll meet up in Minas Tirith. Let’s go!”

Nope.

Instead, the three of them decide to have a funeral party.  They bundle Boromir’s corpse into one of the boats with some grave goods and shove the boat into the river.  So, does anybody say at this point: “Great. We’ve disposed of the corpse.  Let’s go!”

Nope.

Instead, they decide that this is perfect time for some improvisational poetry.

Let’s face it, all that was necessary or appropriate at this point in time was something like: “Alas for Boromir! He was kind of a blowhard but he fought like a mofo. We’ll all miss him. Let’s go!”

No such luck.

Three stanzas later, the trio finally head off after the orcs, who now have a lead of several hours.  Of course, everything all turns out okay in the end, but no matter how you cut it, that scene seriously sucks.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Ha! I'd never thought of it like that! I though the worst part was having the death of Boromir, one of the most exciting scenes in the book, happen "offstage"! I suppose what Tolkein does probably echoes scenes in the Eddas or Icelandic Sagas, but to a modern reader the actions of the characters are just goofy.

  2. High fantasy is not about pragmatic, real-world behavior. High fantasy characters have to behave as high fantasy tells them to do. That means a honking big heroic funeral rather than going after the hobbits.

    And, yes, it's stupid, but those of us who are pragmatic see considerably more than this funeral as being stupid in many high fantasy tropes.

    • No question high fantasy gets pretty silly. INHO, the burden of having a plot that makes sense should be even greater with fantasy, since there's so much that's unbelievable to start with. That being said, here are three other things that have irritated me about LoTR:

      1. Why doesn't anybody ever think to pack a tent?

      2. Why didn't Frodo at least memorize a map of Mordor?

      3. Why didn't they just use eagles to airlift Frodo into Mordor?

      I know that the last one has been discussed ad infinitum and, yeah, the flying Nazgul might catch them, but the flying Nazgul didn't show up until well after the fellowship had left Rivendell.

  3. For the record: I despise "The Lord of the Rings." I slogged through the books once and thought they were awful. The only thing I liked was the concluding "Scouring of the Shire" and, naturally, that got messed up in Peter Jackson's interminable movies. (And, no, you couldn't pay me to sit through the "extended editions.") That said, I find it interesting that someone who loves the books came to a similar conclusion that I did: the quicker you skip over the bad poetry, the better. Indeed, it was the only way I got through it.

    • For me, rereading LoTR now is kinda like remembering how much I liked it then rather than liking it all that much now. I might not, though, that when I *really* loved LoTR, my favorite rock band was the eminently forgettable (and incredibly loud) Blue Cheer, so I'm not *entirely* certain that I had well-developed critical tastes at the time.

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