In my current rereading of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, I have just completed The Fellowship of the Ring and am beginning The Two Towers. This is the point at which the fellowship is broken, with parties going different directions leading to different roles in the escalating war against evil.
For it was at this location, upon the slopes of Amon Hen, The Hill of the Eye of the Men of Numenor, that the treachery which had been growing many weeks within Boromir’s heart came to fruition in physical expression.
Frodo, the Ring Bearer, had gone apart for time alone, to decide the next step of the journey.
Suddenly, he awoke from his thoughts; a strange feeling came to him that something was behind him, that unfriendly eyes were upon him. He sprang up and turned; but all that he saw to his surprise was Boromir, and his face was smiling and kind.
Wow! What a great description of treacherous abuse…of the innocent party’s paradox of feeling such a strong gut reaction warning, “Danger! Danger!” while the friendly face and warm smile of one loved and trusted treacherously reassures, “All is well!”
Now, many Tolkien fans will likely take offense at my characterizing Boromir as an abuser. They will likely point out that Boromir was a mighty man of valor, a strong and courageous warrior against the evil of Mordor, a captain of Gondor, a true patriot, and one who gave his life defending his comrades.
All true! Boromir was all of that and more. Even Aragorn clearly chose to remember Boromir for his mighty acts of valor, rather than for his single act of treachery…and did not, initially, tell even his comrades, Gimli and Legolas of Boromir’s treachery.
No doubt, Aragorn, so keenly aware of his own limitations and the fall of his ancestor, Isildur, was quick to recognize the role played by the Ring of Power in corrupting Boromir’s heart. One could argue, when Boromir threatened Frodo’s life in his attempt to claim the ring by force, that it was the evil power of the ring at work, and not the true Boromir, at all.
And there is truth in this perspective as well. In our battle against sin, we all have moments of failure and shame, for which we would not like to be remembered. So, perhaps, it is better to remember Boromir for his courage and valor, rather than for his moment of treachery.
This is especially true, given that Boromir expressed sincere remorse for his treacherous behavior. More importantly, he showed signs of true repentance, both in his sacrificial defense of the hobbits, Merry and Pippin, against the orcs, and in his truthful deathbed confession to Aragorn.
Yet, in regard to Boromir’s relationship with Frodo, none of that really matters.
Boromir’s treachery against Frodo, his violation of Frodo’s friendship, and his opposition to Frodo’s sworn objective to destroy the ring, were so deeply egregious as to cause Boromir to be completely untrustworthy in regard to Frodo and his mission.
Frodo was wise enough to realize he could never again trust Boromir. Therefore, he dissolved the fellowship and continued his quest with only the aid of his faithful friend Samwise.
The relationship came to an end, as the direct result of Boromir’s offense.
As readers, we instinctively know Frodo made the right choice. We know Boromir was never truly committed to the cause of destroying the ring. We know Boromir’s allegiance lay with Gondor and his own glory, rather than to all the peoples of Middle Earth. We know the ring’s evil power had already taken advantage of Boromir’s divided loyalties to corrode his heart. And we know that, if Boromir had continued in relationship with Frodo, the treacherous abuse would have escalated.
Boromir may have been a hero to Gondor, and even to Merry and Pippin. That does not change the fact that, to Frodo, he was a traitor.
Abuse is fundamentally tied to relationship. Abuse is taking advantage of close relational ties and allegiances, for selfish purpose, in treacherously violating oaths of allegiance. It is using the partner’s trustworthiness and trust as an opportunity to violate their trust.
Whether or not the abuser behaves nobly or abusively in other relationships is completely irrelevant in regard to the relationship that has been violated. And the person whose trust has been violated has every reason not to trust their abuser and not to restore relationship, regardless of how their abuser may behave in other aspects of life.
One other thought on Boromir’s treachery…though intended for evil, it was used for good.
The time had truly come for the fellowship to disband and take separate paths. Frodo was struggling with the decision, knowing in his heart that he needed to proceed to Mordor without the others, yet fearing to do so. Boromir’s act of treachery gave Frodo the clarity of thought and strength of will necessary to do what needed to be done.
In the same way, God uses what was intended for evil to bring about His purpose for the good of His children.