I will absolutely be the first person to admit that I’ve never liked Boromir. Not in the movies, not in the books, and not as I’ve gotten older. And I know a lot of people who have either come to really love Boromir as they’ve grown older and spent more time with LOTR, or who have just begun to understand him better. Krysta @ Pages Unbound wrote an excellent article on exactly this a few years ago, and it’s been weighing on my mind a lot lately given that I’ve just finished another reread of the trilogy.
Here’s the thing. I don’t honestly love Aragorn’s character in the books until somewhere around the middle of the second book, either. Tolkien’s men are very matter-of-fact and stubborn, and they think very highly of themselves. Peter Jackson did Aragorn a lot of favors, though, while simultaneously doing Boromir exactly no favors. We’re setup in the movies to love Aragorn. He’s mysterious and wary, but full of hope and a yearning for good. The I don’t want to be king attitude is so much more appealing than Boromir’s brash FOR GONDOR attitude, which is just definitely not how it is in the books. Aragorn sides more often with Boromir’s for death and glory attitude in the books, and the only reason that I start to like Aragorn eventually is because he’s given more time to grow than Boromir.
But even had they both been given the time and space to grow into more well-rounded characters, I still think people would come out not liking Boromir. Whether in Tolkien or Jackson’s hands, Boromir is setup for failure from the very start, and it’s because of Aragorn. When we’re presented with the Fellowship, it’s not Legolas and Glorfindel, or Gimli and Gloin, or Gandalf and Radagast. Because, let’s be honest, if it was between Legolas and Glorfindel, ya girl would be shrieking.
But this is why putting both Aragorn & Boromir in the Fellowship is always going to favor one. I would 100% not love Legolas if Glorfindel was also in the Fellowship. He would seem aloof and annoying and too full of himself, and it would be bothersome. I’d get very ugh Leggy over here very fast because Glorfindel is my dude, and I love him to pieces, and this is the problem. Aragorn, right away, is presented as the better option. Not only have we known him as Strider for half a book, there’s so much mystery surrounding his heritage, and he’s got that bad boy with a soft heart vibe that we all love so much. Him stooping around in the shadows with his hood up and trying to avoid notice and pretending he’s not cool has sold him in our hearts well before we even meet Boromir.
And thus, when we do meet Boromir, he’s not someone we want to associate with. Trust me, if Tolkien had leaned into Glorfindel a little more, given him another scene, and then stuck him in the Fellowship, y’all would be on my train. We’d all be weeping over how angsty he gets when thinking about Ecthelion, and just kind of rolling our eyes at Legolas’ highbrow nature. Because that’s exactly the battle with Aragorn & Boromir. Aragorn is the character we’re meant to like, and Boromir is the unfortunate third wheel. We want to see Frodo in Aragorn’s care because we’ve already seen it, and we know he’s capable. Tolkien introduces Boromir as someone who might cause a little dissent, if not a lot of headache, and though he does give Boromir his fair shake, he pits him against Aragorn in a way that’s always going to mean we’re not meant to like him as much.
At the end of the day, Boromir is such a tragic character because he’s introduced as an antithesis to Aragorn, who we already love, and then killed off before he has the space to grow into someone we might’ve come to appreciate. Granted, I think a lot of readers come to appreciate Boromir later on through Faramir, who we’ll be talking about later on this month, but it’s still sad that we’re not given the opportunity to while he’s alive.