Jun 12 2009 5:14pm

LotR re-read: Two Towers III.1, “The Departure of Boromir”

cover of The Two TowersThis week we ease back into the Lord of the Rings re-read with the first chapter of The Two Towers, “The Departure of Boromir.” Spoilers for the whole book and comments after the jump.

What Happens

Aragorn goes to the top of Amon Hen, but sees only an eagle. He hears Orcs and Boromir’s horn, and arrives to find Boromir propped against a tree, full of arrows, with dead Orcs all around him. Boromir tells him that he tried to take the Ring from Frodo and is sorry, says that the Orcs took the Halflings, and asks Aragorn to save his people. Aragorn tells him that Minas Tirith shall not fall and to be at peace. Boromir smiles and dies.

Legolas and Gimli arrive. As they search the Orcs, they find two of the hobbits’ long knives, and note that some of the Orcs are from the Misty Mountains in the north, and some are of a kind strange to Aragorn, apparently in the service of Saruman. They cast Boromir loose in a boat and he vanishes over the falls. Aragorn and Legolas sing a song about those in Minas Tirith asking the winds for news of Boromir.

Back on the shore, Aragorn examines the ground and concludes that Frodo and Sam have gone to Mordor. Aragorn decides to follow the Orcs rather than abandon Merry and Pippin, and they begin the chase.


Wow, the “one book with three sets of covers” nature of LotR is really apparent in the very first sentence of this book: “Aragorn sped on up the hill.” Even the verb indicates continuing action.

(I checked one of our three-volume editions, which does have a short synopsis at the front; does anyone know if these are Tolkien-generated or not? I didn’t check the other three-volume edition, because it was on a high shelf and I didn’t want to bother.)

This is otherwise a fairly quiet chapter, very transitional, away from the Frodo-centric Fellowship, both in terms of the characters’ goals and the prevailing point-of-view character, and into the wider strategic view of Aragorn and his point of view. (We may have had a short section or two from his point of view before, but nothing this extensive.)

The other thing about the opening of this chapter is how very much not interested it is in combat. We hear some of the battle, and get a sense of its progress through Boromir’s horn calls, but we don’t see a single bit of it. Far, far more time is devoted to the aftermath, particularly Boromir’s funeral.

* * *

As far as Boromir’s funeral, well, I’m really coming to think that LotR would work better for me as a novel if it went about characterization more explicitly. As we’ve talked about at length here, readers often have to infer quite a bit about characters’ personalities and motivations—sometimes from backstory that isn’t even given for hundreds of pages. So even paying close attention to Boromir, this re-read, I could not feel as warmly about him or as sad at his death as his companions did. Which is a shame.

(Also, I have the feeling that the funeral is evoking some specific cultural references that I don’t share.)

* * *

A few miscellaneous comments:

The opening again mentions an eagle. The text is putting little “this is important” markers around that eagle much more than I remembered, to support Gandalf’s eventual return.

The text says of Aragorn, “The last words of Boromir he long kept secret.” If we’re going to go with the “Frodo wrote this” framing device, the whole opening of this chapter is therefore a problem: we’d have to say that it was added by a subsequent scribe, maybe the one in Gondor? I wonder if Aragorn told someone for independent reasons, or to make a complete record when he heard about/read/saw this text?

(Or you could be like me and pretend the framing device isn’t there except when you can’t ignore it.)

Finally, the end of this chapter felt again very transitional, like we were leaving these characters, so I was a bit surprised to see that the next chapter is still Aragorn and co.: “Dusk came. They passed away, grey shadows in a stony land.”

And that’s it! A more substantive chapter next time, I think.

« Fellowship movie re-watch | Index | Two Towers III.2 »

Marc Rikmenspoel
1. Marc Rikmenspoel
The first half of The Two Towers is actually my favorite part of the entire Lotr. It is the only part I reread with any regularity. I really enjoy Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli's pursuit of the orcs, their meeting with Eomer, and the various events up through the Battle of Helm's Deep and the confrontation with Saruman in Isengard (hopefully that doesn't provide enough detail to spoil the plot for anyone reading the book for the first time).

Nobody reading this comment is then likely to be surprised that I didn't much care for most of the treatment of these events in the movie version. Of course, I'm even more peeved about the movie depiction of Faramir, since I also enjoy his sections of the second half of The Two Towers. The death of Boromir, mentioned in the original post, is a good occasion to recall the differences between Boromir and Faramir. Those who have only seen the movies are missing a fascinating contrast!
Marc Rikmenspoel
2. eternalKyr
The burial and funeral debate which Gimli, Legolas and Aragorn engage in recalls various forms of burial in the early Middle Ages. They reject a mound burial in favor of a Saxon-style ship burial of sorts.

And I noticed the eagle showing up a lot too on my recent re-read. I never made the connection before.
Marc Rikmenspoel
3. eternalKyr
Marc, I totally agree about the deficiencies of the film. It's my least favorite of the three movies because of its many departures. In the book, Gimli is very grim and determined in these early chapters, and shows genuine concern for the hobbits, but in the film he's relegated to a bit character employed for comic relief.
Hugh Arai
4. HArai
Kate, although I'm no expert, the funeral is based on Norse practices I think. By those lights Boromir died a hero's death, and was given a hero's farewell.

I agree with you that LotR is quirky in it's characterization. It really is telling the end without telling the start and middle. Not just the end of the Age, but the end of a lot of the character's lives. Boromir, Aragorn, Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond. We get just the end of some truly remarkable stories.

"The last words of Boromir he long kept secret.” I understand the framing idea, but to me this, and "never came there again as a living man" and the descriptions of Arwen and Galadriel's beauty all ring in my mind as echoes of the myths Tolkien was pulling from. He does similar things in the stories of the Edain.
Marc Rikmenspoel
5. Dave Menendez
According to the prologue, The Lord of the Rings is derived from Aragorn's copy of Frodo's books which "received much annotation, and many corrections" from the scholars in Minas Tirith. So the bit about Aragorn keeping Boromir's words secret is probably a later addition to the text.
Marc Rikmenspoel
6. MKUhlig
A couple things bother me on the re-read of this chapter.
1. Why it takes so long for Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli to reach Boromir. Aragorn catches up to Sam at the lawn where Frodo and Boromir had there confrontation (so it can't be that far from the shore!) and then bolts to the top of the hill, where he hears the horn. And then there is evidence here (and I think Pippin says something later) that Boromir was fighting for a fair amount of time. And where had Legolas & Gimli gone? Apparantly they did not follow either the hobbits or Boromir but ran off far enough that they finally show up well after Aragorn.
2. In keeping with the above, the overall lack of urgency to start off this book. It starts out with Aragorn rushing up the hill, but then they linger over the funeral, sing some songs, stand around lost in contemplation a lot, and for quite awhile Aragorn thinks that Frodo (and therefore the Ring) could have been carried off by the orcs.

It's like this should have been in the previous book (as PJ did in the movie) but that Tolkien did not want to detract from Frodo's leave taking.
Hugh Arai
7. HArai
MKUhlig@6: I believe it's stated Legolas and Gimli had been hunting Orcs through the woods, so they must have run into them between leaving to look for Frodo and making it to the glade where Boromir died.

I do agree that they do seem to linger over the funeral. I think part of that was Aragorn agonizing over whether to follow Frodo or Merry and Pippin.
Andrew Foss
8. alfoss1540
Kate - I am suprised you have nothing to say about the funeral song. It seems significant as it is one of the few places in LOTR and Middle Earth where a practiced religion/ceremony and afterlife is addressed.

On the one hand, it is pretty laughable that Aragorn and Legolas could synopsize Boromir's life in the North, South West East Wind reference and bring as much of their history/present events in as they did. But Legolas IS an Elf and Aragorn has spent 70 years with them - and they do live for that. That being said - it was touching.

In the end, I was bummed with this. chapter this time - knowing It would take almost a month forus to get to Fanghorn. I want to sit up all night and read it now!

The pace of this book it great!
j p
9. sps49
Urrgh, don't mention Movie!Faramir any sooner than necessary. I understand why Movie!Arwen is in the movie, and yes, the movies are very good overall, but wtf is with some of these choices? Maybe PJ wanted to avoid the idiotic flagellation Chris Columbus received for his film the book adaptation of Harry Potter 1&2 (a whole 'nother thread's worth, there!) by using random changes.

Boromir must've made good impression offscreen or the three here knew him by repute (he is a significant person in M-E). Plus, a heroic stand defending others will get most anyone a jump in Respect.
Iain Coleman
10. Iain_Coleman
Boromir's funeral is drawn from the sea-burial of Scyld Scefing in the opening section of Beowulf.
Marc Rikmenspoel
11. DemetriosX
A very transitional chapter and seemingly one that should have been at the end of the first book rather than here. It is very strange to start a book, even one that is really only the middle section of a single very long work, with the death of a major character. Also, the conclusion of this chapter feels a lot like the final line of a book. And, as I noted before, the synopsis of the previous book that is in the Ballantine boxed edition from the early 70s actually recounts the death of Boromir. Maybe there were editorial/technical/size reasons for shifting this chapter out of Fellowship.

At least Boromir's death scene is far less cheesy than in the film. I'd be willing to bet that his last words were not "My Brother. My captain. My...king." Though that could explain why Aragorn didn't tell anyone what they were for so long.

We have to be given a glimpse of the funeral here, so that we have context for Faramir's report on Boromir's passage later. Also I'm not sure they lingered all that long over it. It wouldn't have taken much time to lay him out in the boat (one person could have done that while the other two sorted out the supplies) and then shove him off into the river. They couldn't possibly have just left him lying there, and this certainly took less time than burying him or building a cairn would have.

alfoss1540 @8: Didn't they actually summarize his life with just three winds? I seem to recall Gimli commenting that the other two have left him with the East Wind and he doesn't want anything to do with that (an obvious Sauron/Mordor reference).
Andrew Foss
12. alfoss1540
DemetriosX@11 - it was 3 winds, but in Gondor - and probably in these times - they do not acknowledge the East due to Mordor - but it is mentioned, and specifically left out. Somewhere and sometime it must have been 4.

Iain_Coleman @10 - Interesting translation. When I read it in Old English (20 yrs ago), it took a few chapters til the metre sunk in. Must have missed it.

Any references to the calls to the winds?
Marc Rikmenspoel
13. DBratman
There survives extensive correspondence between Tolkien and his publisher over what the three volumes of LOTR would be titled, once it was decided there'd be three, but I don't recall reading anything about where the synopses come from. The only facts I can supply are that 1) Christopher Tolkien has authorized small corrections in the synopses the same way he has for the text proper; 2) JRRT was asked to write a blurb for publishers' catalogs, but he couldn't manage it, largely because it had to be shorter than he was comfortable with. A friend wrote one for him, but the final version was written by the publishers' staff and approved by Tolkien. But I have no idea if the synopses followed a similar history.

You note the fact that Tolkien is not really very interested in battles. There's more close-up description of battles later on (and a lot of it in the early versions of the Silmarillion material), but that observation is made, as one of several points countering the argument that Tolkien glories in war, in a good critical study, Following Gandalf by Matthew Dickerson. Dickerson also points out that this is one of many profound stylistic and moral differences between Tolkien and Jackson.
Marc Rikmenspoel
14. DBratman
I believe the reason this chapter comes in Book 3 rather than Book 2 is that the heroes of the story are the hobbits. Every book change comes at a significant moment of transition for the hobbits: here it is the departure of Frodo and Sam, and the capture of Merry and Pippin. Notice that both sets of hobbits are only picked up again after several presumably tedious days have passed. What happens to the other characters is part of the later story: Aragorn picking up the pieces and deciding to follow the orcs connects with the story of Merry and Pippin in preference to rounding off the story of Boromir.
James Goetsch
15. Jedikalos
The way the movie deals with all these things is simply ridiculous. As much as I loved the first film (though why Glorfindel was replaced with Arwen is beyond me), the second one was bizarre to me, with its treatment of Faramir, and a flying ringwraith rising up right in front of Frodo, and so on. But to mess up Faramir so much was unforgivable. The whole sequence is one of my favorites in the books, and jackson just butchered it for no apparent reason I can imagine.
Marc Rikmenspoel
16. DBratman
Jedikalso @15: "though why Glorfindel was replaced with Arwen is beyond me"

I'm no fan of the films, but that made sense to me as a result of the change in media. Glorfindel clogs the story up by introducing a new character with nothing else to do. No harm in a spacious novel, but potentially confusing in a film. Using this as an opportunity to introduce a character who'll be more significant later on, and who in the book slips in quietly, makes sense. In the Bakshi film, Glorfindel is folded in to Legolas.

There are sub-creational problems with doing this. In the book, neither Arwen nor Legolas would have been able to drive off the Nazgul as Glorfindel did, as they are not so powerful as he, but like the question of where the hobbits' swords came from, that's a relatively minor issue.
Kate Nepveu
17. katenepveu
Marc Rikmenspoel @ #1, welcome, and no worries about spoilers--people have been warned. Like you, this has always been my favorite part, and like you, I consider the movie adaption of this volume really pretty bad. But we'll get there in due course.

eternalKyr @ #2, welcome, and thanks.

HArai @ #4, oh, good point, about telling the end of characters' lives not just the Age. And I agree that the book is trying to echo myths, which I would say makes it even harder to square the main text with the alleged framing device. But I'll get off that hobby-horse now.

MKUhlig @ #6, welcome, and yes, it is a bit leisurely in terms of tone and emphasis, isn't it? Though I suspect that the funeral took less actual time than the pages devoted to it suggest, all the same, I think it would have made more sense for Aragorn to examine the ground and come to the conclusion that Frodo and Sam had left on their own *before* the funeral.

alfoss1540 @ #8, I looked at the funeral song for a while and couldn't think of anything to say about it, except, as you say, that is some impressive impromptu poetry-composing. But thanks for giving me the opportunity to point out that, as I read it, the song does _not_ talk about an afterlife or, really, anything explicitly religious, which is weird and stems from Tolkien's desire to not have his pre-Christian characters running around engaging in pagan practices that would cause them trouble later. =>

(Some current epic fantasies have been criticized as oddly lacking in religious practices; I wonder if this is a subconscious influence?)

Iain_Coleman @ #10, thanks for the link. I should really read _Beowulf_ in my infinite free time; do you have a preferred translation?

DemetriosX @ #11: synopsis of the previous book that is in the Ballantine boxed edition from the early 70s actually recounts the death of Boromir--interesting. I see DBratman below talks about authorship of the synopses, so thanks for pointing it out.

DBratman @ #13-14: thanks for the information on the synopses. Do you know whether the split between volumes 1 & 2 was always here, or if that also changed? Also, I like the idea that the book structures are hobbit-arc based--it makes more sense of the III/V split to me, for instance.
Kelly McCullough
18. KellyMcCullough
Jedikalos, while I won't try to defend the Jackson Faramir, I can see why it happened pretty easily. Once you've made the choice to have Aragorn as a conflicted modern hero who is tempted by the ring, you're more or less stuck having the ring be even more tempting to Faramir if you don't want a secondary character to come across as more noble and stronger than the one true king.
Michael Ikeda
19. mikeda

One note is that the basic arcs of Faramir and Denethor aren't so much changed in the movies as timeshifted. That is, Denethor falls into despair earlier than in the books while Faramir comes to the same realization about the Ring (that it's too dangerous to bring to Minas Tirith) but does so later.

(I don't think it's really a case of temptation by the Ring. Faramir's duty as given him by his father the Ruling Steward is to bring Frodo etc. back to Minas Tirith. Faramir not only has to realize he should override that duty, he has to be sure enough to actually override it.)
Marc Rikmenspoel
20. firkin
DBratman@14, kate@17: Also, I like the idea that the book structures are hobbit-arc based--it makes more sense of the III/V split to me, for instance

huh, yeah. and many coincide specifically with hobbits being separated from each other: here, M/P from F/S, and the ends of books III and IV see each of those pairs separated again. as if each individual hobbit has to accomplish their own mini hero's journey all on their own. in these splits frodo is the only one who doesn't get a solo-POV, i wonder if that's because he's already "alone" as it were, with the ring.
Brian Kaul
21. bkaul

I disagree on Faramir. Yes, he comes to that realization in the movies, after the battle at Osgiliath, but the problem of the tainting of the true nobility and heroism with which Tolkien endowed both Faramir and Aragorn remains. PJ portrayed weak, conflicted characters rather than the noble heroes that Tolkien created - he went with modern trends rather than staying true to the classic archetypes.

On the volume splits, I agree on the (ring-bearing) hobbits' stories being central. Also, Frodo and Sam going off on their own is a much better cliffhanger than if this chapter were included in the first volume. Yes, it would give more conclusion to some of the other characters' stories, but since we're not dealing with three separate books, but one novel in three volumes, the goal isn't really to wrap everything up at the end of each volume.
Marc Rikmenspoel
22. Lsana
Maybe I'm alone in this, but I don't really see the "The last words of Boromir he long kept secret.” Boromir's last words were essentially an apology to Frodo for what he did at the end of last book. If Aragorn were going to share them with anyone, Frodo would be a logical choice. I can easily believe that sometime before Frodo left, Aragorn told him what Boromir said, perhaps with a "I've never told anyone this before..." prelude.
j p
23. sps49
How many editions are there? I have my old Ballantines with Tolkien's cover art) with no synopsies (except for the Hobbit recap), and the single volume trade paperback from 5-ish years ago. No synopses there, of course. Reading it as a single volume was not that different, but it could be for someone's first read.
Marc Rikmenspoel
24. legionseagle
It's interesting that the verse which Legolas dedicates to Boromir is full of gulls crying and references "the seaward road". Very appropriate, of course, since they are consigning Boromir to the waters of Gondor, but it's also interesting that Legolas claims that he had never met gulls until he came to Pelagir and that it was then that the sea-longing awoke in him. It's a nice bit of foreshadowing, therefore, how he chooses to dwell on that aspect.
Miriam Uhlig
25. MKUhlig

I felt even stronger than an apology that Aragron regarded it in the nature of a confessional and therefore very private and not for him to be repeating. Especially, adding the additional sensitivity of not having words of Boromir discussed abroad before his father and brother (as he thought) even had word of his death.
Iain Coleman
26. Iain_Coleman
On translations of Beowulf, I would say the Seamus Heaney translation is probably the best one to get.
Marc Rikmenspoel
27. Siberian
This is one of my favorite chapters.

Aragorn's words about "victory" - another sign that Tolkien is far more interested in moral struggles than in physical hack and slash.

The evidence of Aragorn's self doubts and regrets adds a human touch to the character who otherwise might seem infallible.

And of course, Aragorn's Choice. Yes, it's very important, because it's another choice between what's practical and what's moral. Frodo has a Ring so his safety seems more important in the grand scheme of things. However, he's got his loyal companion ans so far his fate is unknown while Aragorn knows that Pippin and Merry are being carried to "torment and death". For all he knows, he and Gimli and Legolas are the only ones who can save the hobbits. So, Frodo's fate is out of his hands but the other two are still his responsibility. Therefore, Aragorn goes for a moral choice... and, as it usually happens in Arda, his choice is rewarded: although they're unable to find Merry and Pippin they meet Gandalf and Eomer and Aragorn will make the first big step towards his own dream of becoming the King and getting the girl :)
Marc Rikmenspoel
28. Siberian
"But thanks for giving me the opportunity to point out that, as I read it, the song does _not_ talk about an afterlife or, really, anything explicitly religious, which is weird and stems from Tolkien's desire to not have his pre-Christian characters running around engaging in pagan practices that would cause them trouble later"

They're not singing about the afterlife because nobody know what happens to men's souls after they die "beyond the circles of this world".

Tolkien is not against adapting some pre Christian traditions such as embalming their dead by the Numenoreans and their descendants. But they're not pagan in the sense that they don't worship gods or idols. In fact, the "good guys" (especially elves and Dunedain) are monotheistic and their customs can fit the Christian morality very well.
Nick Viner
29. nviner
In the second edition (George Allen and Unwin 1966) the wording of the relevant part of the synopsis is as follows
"The first part ended with the fall of Boromir to the lure of the ring; with the escape and disappearance of Frodo and his servant Samwise; and the scattering of the remainder of the Fellowship by a sudden attack of orc-soldiers, some in the service of the Dark Lord of Mordor, some of the traitor Saruman of Isengard"
So Borimirs death isn't mentioned but the orc-attack (which isn't part of the Fellowship of the Ring) is. Did this synopsis change in the later versions?
Marc Rikmenspoel
30. CathWren
mikeda@19 and bkaul@21: The mess with Faramir in the movie completely canceled the literary element of showing the difference between the brothers' reactions to the Ring. (Though I'll point out that Faramir was only exposed to the Ring's influence for a few hours while Boromir was exposed for weeks.)

Similar, in my mind, is what was done with the Ents in the movie. In the book, they decided to join the war in Entmoot because it was the right thing to do. In the movie, it wasn't until Treebeard saw the horrible loss of his friends that he decided to get involved. Again, this changed the whole psychology of the piece.

I realize I'm getting ahead of the re-reading by saying this now. Sorry.
Michael Ikeda
31. mikeda

You still have the difference between the brothers. Boromir would never have let Frodo go. Faramir did, although it took him longer than in the book to come to the necessary realization.

And the Ents are another example of timeshifting of events. Treebeard and the Ents come to the same realization as in the book, it just happens after Treebeard sees the destruction firsthand.

(And even in the book, the Ents wouldn't even have been considering acting if it hadn't been for the attacks on the forest.)
Marc Rikmenspoel
32. DBratman
Kate @17: The six "books" were Tolkien's idea. The three volumes were the publishers' creation. I doubt they would have considered breaking the volumes up anywhere other than between Tolkien's "books".

No copy of the synopsis at the start of vol. 2 that I have says anything about the death of Boromir. And that includes Ballantine editions from the 60s and 70s. They all say, as did the first edition (before the 1966 revisions), "The first part ended with the fall of Boromir to the lure of the Ring." Possibly Boromir's fall is being misread as meaning his death. That would be ironic, because Boromir's death is the opposite of his fall; it's his redemption. Why else would Aragorn say to a dying man, "Few have won such a victory"?

By the way, the setting that Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote for the three-winds elegy is a magnificent stately tune. If you ever get a chance to hear Broceliande's recording of it, don't miss it.
Marc Rikmenspoel
33. DBratman
Mikeda @31: It's a lot more than just timeshifting. Jackson's Ents have to be tricked and lied to in order to fool them into declaring war, after having deliberated and decided not to. Tolkien's Ents deliberate in full knowledge and make the right decision.

What Jackson's "timeshifting" amounts to is delaying the proper events by inserting new culdesac byways in the plot during which the heroes lose their nerve and act out of character. It happens to the Ents, to Theoden, to Faramir, to Frodo in Cirith Ungol, and many others. Then, having rewritten the characters, he has to awkwardly erase his rewriting in order to rejoin Tolkien's plot.
Michael Ikeda
34. mikeda

I don't see it as "tricking" the Ents as much as making them viscerally aware of the whole picture.

(Not to say that I agree with all of the timeshifts. I rather think the ORIGINAL timing in Faramir's and Denethor's arcs is more dramatically interesting. I'm ambivalent about the timeshifting in the Ent's arc. I like the original, but I can see how Jackson might have thought the movie version is more visually dramatic.)
Terry Lago
35. dulac3
Kate @17: I'd recommend the Rebsamen translation of _Beowulf_ myself.
Iain Coleman
36. Iain_Coleman

If you are interested in reading Beowulf, I would recomend doing so before Aragorn et al arrive at Edoras.
Iain Coleman
37. Iain_Coleman

If you are interested in reading Beowulf, I would recomend doing so before Aragorn et al arrive at Edoras.
Iain Coleman
38. Iain_Coleman
I swear I only pressed the "Post" button once.
Marc Rikmenspoel
39. DBratman
Mikeda @34: But Jackson's hobbits had to trick and lie to his Ents to force them to see what for some weird reason they'd refused. "I would not snare even an orc with a falsehood," says Tolkien's Faramir, and that's a fundamental basis of Tolkien's morality which Jackson throws right out the window.

Because it's more "dramatic," apparently. GMAFB.

Besides, Tolkien's Treebeard is a wise old bird who knows much, though the hobbits give him new information. Jackson's is a doddering idiot.
Hugh Arai
40. HArai
Re: the lack of afterlife or religion:

To me it only makes sense: If people _know_ what happens when you die, it should cut down on the speculation shouldn't it?

Tolkien's Elven and Numenorean cultures _know_ they go to the Halls of Mandos when they die, the Elves then go to Aman and Men go "beyond the world" as their Gift. Heck, Beren and Luthien even came back for a while. Quite the voice on that girl. Morgoth caves, Mandos caves... :)
Michael Ikeda
41. mikeda
We're just in YMMV territory.

But when do the movie hobbits lie to Treebeard? As nearly as I recall they do want to go in the direction they ask Treebeard to take them and at least in part for the reason they give him.

They aren't telling him the WHOLE reason, but they don't tell him the whole story in the book either.
Marc Rikmenspoel
42. DBratman
YMMV? Precisely! Jackson's mileage varies so far from Tolkien's that he needs a whole different EPA.

But the one thing you're not going to make me do is re-watch that awful movie so that I can quote precisely the film-hobbits' mendacity. And if you think that's even remotely the same thing as Tolkien's hobbits not telling Treebeard about the Ring, then ... wow. just wow.
Kate Nepveu
43. katenepveu
Hi, all.

I am staying out of the movie discussion because I only want to froth at the mouth once. =>

firkin @ #20, re: book splits at hobbits being separated from each other: ooh, yes, you're right. Good call.

Lsana @ #22, hmm, interesting. I took "long kept secret" as "longer than two years," which is how long Frodo stays in Middle-earth, but that's a very good point that Aragorn might have thought Frodo should know that Boromir was sorry. Maybe "secret" means "between them only"--Aragorn would not want to tarnish Boromir's public reputation, and Frodo would have no interest in raking that up.

(MKUhlig @ #25, but the confessional interpretation is plausible too. I am torn.)

sps49 @ #23, our Houghton-Mifflin hardcover set (1967) and HarperCollins UK paperback set (2001) both have synopses which are the same and I *think* are the same as were in the Ballantine brightly-colored-bordered editions of my youth (early to mid 1980s), but those were from the school library and are lost to me.

legionseagle @ #24, thanks for pointing out the gulls. My re-read skills are clearly rusty. I guess you can look at Legolas's eventual departure in relation to the gulls two ways, either showing that not all sea journeys are so unhappy, or reinforcing that departing over Sea is rather similar to dying for those left behind . . .

Iain_Coleman @ #26, thanks for the _Beowulf_ translation rec. (But there's no way I'll get through it before Edoras!)

Siberian @ #27, are you referring to Aragorn telling Boromir, "You have conquered. Few have gained such a victory." Do you think he meant being sorry for trying to take the Ring? That's the only thing I can think of.

(Ah! I see DBratman @ #32 has that same interpretation. You can tell I go through the page linearly.)

and @ #28, that's exactly my point, Tolkien was trying to make them fit Christianity as much as possible. Otherwise, well, I don't think it would be realistic to think that people wouldn't come up with their own conceptions of the afterlife for humans, even if the Valar said *they* didn't know . . .

nviner @ #29, my 2001 HarperCollins UK paperback also has that synoposis.

HArai @ #40, lots of people in the world today know what happens when they die, at least as much as any person in Middle-earth who didn't hear it directly from the Valar or see Beren and Luthien themselves, and that does not necessarily stop them from religious observerances, yeah?
Hugh Arai
44. HArai
kate@43: Fair enough. Although I'll point out for the Elves, Galadriel and Elrond lead their communities and they did hear it from the Valar directly (as did most of the Noldor). And the heirs of Elendil should likely remember why Numenor was destroyed. Especially with Elrond to remind them. Just saying :)
j p
45. sps49
Kate @43 (and HArai @44)-

Not just the Noldor, but any Elf who has been around long enough will remember Orome, and the Eldar who made it to the coast of Beleriand should remember Ulmo and, um, Osse?, moving an island around for them. So living memory remains extant.

Boromir's victory- I took it as a dual compliment; although he did not prevent the orcs from taking Merry & Pippin, he alerted the others and took a lot of spear-fodder with him, plus he did resist the temptation of the Ring and realize his mistake. Eventually. With a little help. Both sons, to me, exceed their father; Boromir's state of Grace with Eru, or the Valar, is evinced by his beatific countenance- which is miraculously preserved for his brother to see.

All Denethor gets is the Horn that was Cloven.

Now, for the chase- since I saw the Bakshi movie, I hear the theme from his movie when I read their pursuit of the Orcs. Nothing else really sticks except for Barbarian!Boromir scraping his severely notched sword on a rock to sharpen it.
Michael Ikeda
46. mikeda

I simply don't remember any "mendacity" from the film-hobbits when talking to Treebeard.
Marc Rikmenspoel
47. CathWren

I disagree somewhat about whether Boromir would have let Frodo go. Boromir was exposed to the Ring's influence for weeks and he cracked. But right after Frodo put on the Ring to escape Boromir, when he fell, he came back to his right mind. I think if he hadn't been killed, he'd have fully supported Frodo after that even if it meant going to Mordor with him. He'd had a chance to see what the Ring had done to him and I think he was probably strong enough, and proud enough, to never let it happen again. And to want to make amends.
Faramir was only exposed to the Ring for a matter of hours, so it really wasn't that hard for him to resist it and release Frodo. Would he have been able to resist for weeks? I don't know though I tend to think yes. Faramir had less pride and arrogance than Boromir. Pride *is* one of the deadly sins and is what I think was Boromir's downfall.

This is something of a turnaround for me. Despite reading the books a dozen times over the years, I never found anything to like in book-Boromir. Tolkien told us he was a noble man but he only ever showed us Boromir's pride and arrogance. Jackson/Bean showed us Boromir's pride and arrogance AND his nobility and for the first time, I liked Boromir. At first I thought I'd just matured to a place of being able to appreciate him but I re-read the books after the first movie came out and discovered I still didn't like book-Boromir.
Also disagree about the Ents. The Ents decided at Entmoot that they were a part of MiddleEarth and so it was their war too. Movie-Ents didn't want to get involved until it affected them personally.

DBratman@42, Mikeda@41

I don't know that the hobbits lied to Treebeard but Pippen did trick him into going close enough to Isengard to see Saruman's destruction of the forest near it. Pippen told him it would be safer for the hobbits to sneak past Isengard because Saruman wouldn't expect to find them there. South was not the direction they wanted to go unless they were going to try and meet the others at Rohan and they were supposed to be going home, east. Though as I remember the map, they couldn't have gotten home by going straight east because the mountains were in the way. East was Treebeard's idea.
Agnes Kormendi
48. tapsi
A couple of days ago I started to think about what the story would have been like, had Boromir not died. Taken a wound and lost Pippin and Merry, but not died. It is almost too convenient and poetic (and moral in a way that almost recalls those dreadful cautionary tales) that he died at this point, and found redemption in death, but why couldn't he have passed the test and lived? Even when I first read the book at 8, it bothered me that he didn't die because of the rather unfortunate circumstances, but because it was what he deserved, morally. The traitor has to die, and remorse could only shift that sentence to a heroic death.

But without this death, the plot (as we know it) could not be the same. Even Faramir's scenes would be different, and Aragorn's arrival/return would definitely be less "legends spring to life out of the grass" stuff (though this version would bring up a host of new conflicts in Minas Tirith).

If I were to write an alternative history of Middle Earth, this would probably be the point where the two realities diverged... :)

"Once you've made the choice to have Aragorn as a conflicted modern hero who is tempted by the ring, you're more or less stuck having the ring be even more tempting to Faramir if you don't want a secondary character to come across as more noble and stronger than the one true king."

I disagree with this because there is a fundamental difference between movieAragorn (and bookBoromir, but not bookAragorn) and Faramir that could influence their reaction to the Ring: movie&bookAragorn (and bookBoromir) was born and raised to become a ruler, and Faramir to become an invaluable retainer. His relationship to power is completely different from Aragorn's, or even Boromir's, since Boromir was, until very recently, certain that he would some day soon take over the strongest (though failing) empire in Middle Earth. Faramir didn't have to prepare himself to deal with being the ultimate power in the land, the one whose word is law, and I think that this shielded him somewhat, because this is exactly the type of power the Ring offers.

I second Iain_Coleman and suggest that anyone interested in Beowulf should read the Seamus Heaney translation; it is more accessible than some of the other versions, and he is a superb poet indeed.
Bill Reamy
49. BillinHI
re hobbits and movie-Ents: does anyone else think that the change was made to give the hobbits more screen time and something more important to do? Obviously one of them gets a really awesome scene in the Battle of Pelennor(sp?) Fields, but otherwise they don't have as many awesome moments as many of the rest of the Fellowship (and others as well, of course).
Chris Meadows
50. Robotech_Master
BillinHI @49: I'm pretty sure that was exactly why the change was made. As well as a number of other changes, such as Frodo providing the key to the "speak friend and enter" riddle. With a number of the other parts from the book where they do get to do things cut out, some changes have to be made to give the hobbits more of a role in things.

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