The Fellowship of the Ring

There aren’t many more famous bands of heroes than the Fellowship of the Ring, those keepers of the One Ring in Tolkien’s Middle Earth saga.  After the movies came out this group became even more famous, so I wanted to look at them and see what their motivations were for embarking on the quest to dispose of the Ring.

Frodo feels an obligation.  He understands that the quest is serious and he agrees after some discussion that he is the right one to carry the Ring.  Frodo’s strength is an inner strength, represented by his small size.  He is the opposite of Superman or Beowulf who are large, physically strong heroes.

Sam‘s loyalty to his friend Frodo is what sends him on the journey.  He doesn’t have to think twice about going; if Frodo is going, Sam is going.  This sense of duty in Sam and his optimism are key factors in the success of the adventure.

Merry and Pippin are also loyal to Frodo, but to a lesser degree than Sam.  They join the group partially because they like adventure and don’t want to be left out.

Gandalf knows the importance of the task at hand.  Perhaps more than anyone else he knows that this is a quest to save the world.  His role as mentor to half of the group is an important aspect of his membership of the Fellowship.  This mentoring comes from his ability to be genuine with people of all backgrounds.

Aragorn has a destiny to fulfil.  Whether he admits to it or not, he knows that he is king and has an obligation to the people of Middle Earth.

Boromir wants to ensure the safety of his country, Gondor.  He believes the Ring is the only way to do so and he goes with the Fellowship to make sure the Ring doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Legolas knows the character of Aragorn and agrees to help protect Frodo on his quest after Aragorn does so.  He becomes the repesentative of the elves, as Elrond had said the fate of the Ring affects all the races of Middle Earth.

Gimli‘s intentions are a little more vague.  I can guess that he joins the Fellowship just to make sure the elf doesn’t ruin things, such is the animosity between the two races.

So, which intentions are heroic?  Do intentions make the hero?  What do you think?

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2 Responses to The Fellowship of the Ring

  1. Charles Leibrand January 22, 2007 at 12:16 pm #

    Son of Gondor
    A Heroes Journey

    “Good intentions pave the road to hell,” or so the saying goes. How do they fit into the heroes’ journey though? The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word intention as:

    in•ten•tion (ĭn-těn’shən) n.
    1. A course of action that one intends to follow.
    a. An aim that guides action; an objective.
    b. intentions Purpose with respect to marriage: honorable intentions.
    3. Medicine The process by which or the manner in which a wound heals.
    4. Archaic Import; meaning.

    So the implication is that one sets up a goal in his mind, decides on a course of action and sets out to achieve that goal. One could reason that if the original intention is heroic, then the actions derived from the intention are also heroic. Conversely the opposite would hold true as well. Sounds nice on paper but does the logical reasoning hold up to actual practice?
    Boromir wants to ensure the safety of his country, Gondor. That is his original intention on heading to Rivendell to seek the council of the elves. I personally can not think of many things more heroic then wanting to provide safety for ones county and people. Put into the context of the “Hero’s Journey” this is Boromir’s “Call to Adventure.” So to my mind Boromir starts out with noble and heroic intentions. Unfortunately along the way something goes terribly wrong and Boromir betrays the trust of the fellowship and Frodo.
    Initially the character of Boromir is introduced to us in the story when he is “Crossing the threshold.” The ring and its nature are revealed. Boromir formulates a course of action to match his intentions. In his mind the path to achieve his goal is to use the ring to destroy Sauron. The mentors on hand, Gandalf and Elrond counsel against this warning of the danger in using the ring and suggest that the ring be destroyed. The other parties present agree to this course of action. Reluctantly Boromir is swayed to the group’s decision and chooses to join the fellowship on its quest to destroy the ring. What comes next for Boromir is “The Path of Trials.”
    We are never allowed to know Boromir’s intentions on his “Path of Trials”. We never see the story from his point of view. As in real life we must place ourselves in Boromir’s shoes to understand his motivations. We must infer his intentions from his words and deeds. Judge him on his actions. Boromir initially and then though out wishes to take the ring to Gondor, use it as a weapon against Mordor, or at the very least keep it safe there. Gandalf and Elrond counsel against this. They say the ring must be destroyed. The council at Rivendell agrees and Boromir submits. “If this is the will of the council, then I will see it done,” he says. On the slopes of the Misty Mountains Frodo drops the ring, Boromir picks it up and comments on how such a great thing seem so trivial up close. Aragorn demands that he return the ring to Frodo. He does. Was this an attempt to take the ring or not? Up in the pass the fellowship is beset by a conjured up blizzard. Gandalf wishes to push on, Boromir says they must turn back. He is concerned for the welfare of the hobbits. This would also put them back on the road toward the Gap of Rohan and Gondor. Was this a nefarious suggestion motivated by a desire to gain the ring or was it simply pragmatism and concern for the safety of the others? Frodo chooses the road through Moria. While there Boromir fights bravely at the gate, the burial chamber and at the bridge. Was this heroism or just survival? Outside Moria he grieves the loss of Gandalf with others and quarrels with Aragorn about pausing for a moments rest. Is he truly grieving here or is he plotting to some evil purpose? In Lothlorien he consoles Frodo about the loss of Gandalf, an experienced battlefield captain passing wisdom on to the less experienced. He confides in Aragorn his fears for the future and worries of his own lack of inner strength. Are these actions heroic? Have we ever felt week and impotent and at the same time had the inner strength to express it? On the river he tries again to convince Aragon to take the ring to Gondor, they argue and Aragorn stalks off saying “I would not take the ring within one hundred leagues of your city.” Up to this point has Boromir acted or spoke in a manner that was less than heroic? What were his intentions? Is it heroic to think ill of someone in the absence of evidence to the contrary? Up to this point I would say Boromir has weathered his “Path of Trials” fairly well and managed to maintain his honor and integrity.
    Now we come to Boromir’s failure. Frodo wanders away from the fellowship by himself at the falls and Boromir follows. He scolds Frodo for endangering his safety, and then takes the opportunity to convince Frodo to take the ring to Gondor. Frodo says no. He asks Frodo if he can barrow the ring. Frodo says no. Boromir becomes belligerent and tries to take the ring from him. Boromir betrays Frodo and the fellowship. What can we take from that failure? What was Boromir’s intention in taking the ring? Was it good or evil? Does it matter? One could argue that Boromir was not responsible because the ring was exerting it’s will on him. There are no magic rings in our world but we do have other things, drugs, alcohol, and peer pressure. If we are under the influence of these are we not responsible for our actions? Can there be heroism in failure? I believe that there can be. If we learn form those failures and work to correct them and if we hold ourselves accountable and accept the consequences of our actions. Does Boromir do this?
    Frodo escapes with the ring and Boromir comes to his senses and utters, “What have I done?” He calls for Frodo. Is this an attempt to get a second grab at the ring or is Boromir trying to right his wrong? He goes off in search of Frodo and come upon Merry and Pipin whom are beset by orcs. With out hesitation Boromir comes to their aid. Heavily out numbered he fights valiantly repeatedly blowing on the Horn of Gondor in warning. Are these the actions of an individual whose intention is evil? During the fight Boromir is mortally wounded and the hobbits are taken. Aragorn rescues Boromir just before is killed.

    Boromir says “They have taken the little ones. Frodo, where is Frodo?”
    Aragorn replies, “I let him go.”
    Boromir says “Then you did what I could not. I tried to take the ring from Frodo.”
    Aragorn says “The ring is beyond our reach now.”
    Boromir says “Forgive me. I did not see. I have failed you all.”
    Aragorn says “No you fought bravely and retained your honor.”

    Boromir tries to save Merry and Pipin with out regard to his own safety. He fully admits his guilt, accepts the consequences and asks for forgiveness. It is granted. Was Boromir a hero? Did his intentions work out the way that he had planned?
    Where does that leave us with the question of intentions? Are intentions a necessary part of the heroes journey? What were Boromir’s intentions and do they change during his journey? I think that depends on how optimistic or pessimistic we want to be. Was Boromir weak and slowly succumbing to the power of the ring, or was he strong and resistant to its power? We can never know Boromir’s intentions; even could he tell us, how would we judge the truth of what was said? We would judge on his previous statements and actions.
    Intentions are a deeply personal thing. They are part of the hero’s journey but are for the hero alone, a tool to be used by him. In way intentions are a map of sorts, they show us where we want to go and the many ways to get there. However on their own they are useless. We need other things as well, like a moral compass to keep us on the right path and to guide us back when we have strayed. We need the drive and ambition to tackle the journey. We need courage to face the challenges before us. We need mentors to help pick us when we fall. Intentions are important part of heroism; they come to us during that “Call to Adventure.” The only person that we have to answer to for those intentions is ourselves and that is perhaps the toughest critic. Everyone else will judge our journey on the choices made during the “Path of Trials.”
    As to the heroism of Boromir, I think he was successful what ever his intentions. Boromir passes from Middle Earth as the “Master of Two Worlds.” His journey is complete though it has cost him his life. Be at peace son of Gondor.

    Charles D. Leibrand
    January 22, 2007

  2. Lisa January 22, 2007 at 5:39 pm #

    I’ve been wondering why we’ve been watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy for days in our home.