Is the firewood episode the first indication of Boromir's eventual fall?


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I think the firewood episode indicates that Boromir is not totally on-board with the leadership of Gandalf and Elrond. But this is not the first such indication. The horn blowing when leaving Rivendell certainly indicates the same. Also, I think, earlier comments in the Council.

I think that Boromir leaves the council content with the plan to throw the Ring into the Fire. He is content for both spiritual and rational reasons. Spiritually, he thinks that this course will fulfil the Divine Dream, because he has concluded (from Elrond's statement) that if the One is destroyed the other Rings will fail. Thus, destroying the One will destroy the Nine, and destroy the Nazgul, making the counsels taken at Imladris 'stronger than Morgul spells'. Rationally, Boromir thinks that the quest to Mt. Doom does not seem hopeless. Gandalf has snuck into Sauron's fastnesses twice before, and assaulted one once. Decent chance he should be able to do it again.

Boromir is (I think) less enamored of the leadership of Elrond and Gandalf during the Council. I guess he thinks that they are not focused enough on the Divine Dream. They are too focused on the Ring. The Ring is a problem (or opportunity), but the Dream is Divine!

So, Boromir is not altogether on-board with Gandalf and Elrond's leadership. I don't think he really understands their approach to 'trying to discern the direction of Providence (or of the Music)'. In a way, Boromir might have more certainty, less hesitancy, than Gandalf and Elrond. To Boromir, the Dream has been answered. Let's go! God is with us! No real need to wait for months in Rivendell before setting out. Sure, use reasonable caution, but no need for excessive sneaking around. (And, if secrecy was important, far better for the Company to set out for Mt. Doom as one of the many scouting parties, rather than setting out on their own.)

Boromir's horn blowing clearly indicates that he does not totally accept the advice and leadership of Elrond, and, I think the firewood incident shows that he does not totally accept the leadership of Gandalf (not that he rejects it, just that he feels that he needs to fill in the leaders' gaps and omissions - for example to make sure that firewood is carried up the mountain).

My supposition is that Boromir does not begin to question the goal of the quest until Gandalf dies in Moria. It is then, that Boromir's rational, risk-assessing, and strategizing Commander and Heir aspect begins to struggle with his spiritual faith in the Divine Dream.

Frodo with Gandalf able to reach Mt. Doom? Possible, thinks Boromir. Frodo on his own, or with any other members of the Company, able to reach Mt. Doom? Boromir does not see this as very likely at all.

I think this is the struggle between reason and faith that begins to weigh upon Boromir after Moria. It may, (or may not) be further amplified by the effect of the Ring (we will have to see as we read on).

Anthony Lawther

Well-Known Member
I don't see the horn blowing incident as indication of Boromir's lack of faith in the leadership.
If Elrond had said to not blow the horn and Boromir had done it anyway, then I would concede.
Given that the horn blowing happened first, and then Elrond said 'Slow should you be to wind to wind that horn again, Boromir.' I'd say it is evidence of Elrond questioning Boromir's judgement.

I can accept most of the rest of your reasoning, Flammifer, until Gandalf's fall.

The firewood incident, is delivered with what I can only read as deference. If he was really questioning the leadership he would be more likely to simply order the other party members to gather firewood, or at least simply point out to Gandalf and Aragorn that they have none and so can't expect to survive the mountain pass so he won't go that way. Filling in leader's gaps and omissions is the responsibility of any knowledgeable follower. I think the timing and method of delivery of this advice was driven by Gandalf's desire to get going quickly. Waiting to give this advice privately might have been too late, as they may have left the trees and bushes behind.

When Gandalf falls, I wonder whether he does become conflicted and question the spiritual faith, or whether he simply questions the interpretation. If sneaking into Mordor now appears to be confirmed as a fool's hope, then the next best way to get the Ring to the fire surely has to be by someone claiming it (and I don't think he's gone far enough yet to openly propose himself first), through it commanding the Nazgul (eliminating the threat), and then marching up to Orodruin and dropping it in. If he thought about this back at the Council then he could still rationalise that as a mere tweak of 'Counsels spoken stronger than Morgul spells'
Beautifully simple, so it must work right?
Why can't everyone else see this?
Then the remaining company follow Aragorn into that magic forest and they lose a month! In a war!
This has to be madness, but when they set off it is in the right direction to go to Minas Tirith and so there is still time to either win command of the company or persuade Aragorn to bring the Ring to Minas Tirth first. There his father can set everything straight and prove his worth as Steward (a King by any other name...) and send this 'heir' back north as had been done by the Steward and Council in the past (Arvedui.)
He is finally pushed over the edge of reason when Aragorn leaves the decision of which way the Ring should go in the hands of a mere Halfling, who then fails to listen to perfect reason.

Unlike Sam, I don't accept the premise that (book) Boromir wanted the Ring from the moment he saw it, as too many of his later actions and words are at odds with that. His desire for the Ring increases non-linearly over time, with a steep rise at Parth Galen and the slopes of Amon Hen.

Many seem to believe that the Ring actively works on those people around it, but if that were true it seems likely that there would be a veritable brawl happening wherever the Ring went. I think it is the idea of the Ring and what you can do with it that works on people, explaining how Saruman could fall to Ring lust without ever coming close to it, while Barliman seems unaffected while being in the same room.


Well-Known Member
Good thoughts Anthony,

I totally share your doubts that the Ring actively works on the people around it.

I don't think that Boromir totally lacks faith in the leadership. He just has some doubts. Some of his doubts are due to Elrond and Gandalf mishandling Boromir at the Council (in my opinion). Some are due to their lack of focus on the Divine Dream. Some are due to his frustrations with delays. I think this starts with the two month delay in leaving Rivendell. Boromir probably considers that this is a poor decision, and that the Company should have departed at about the same time as the scouts, using the numerous scouting parties as camouflage and decoys. I think your observation, that Boromir also would have been frustrated by the one month delay in Lothlorien, is a good interpretation.

The firewood incident is not Boromir challenging the leadership. He is being a good follower by filling in the leadership's gaps and omissions. However, it does indicate that he has doubts about the leadership's competency and priorities.

I am not sure when Boromir finally rationalizes that the Ring should be wielded against Sauron (even if he might still consider this as just a step on the way to destroying it in the Fire). At the Council, I think he accepts Elrond's pronouncement that "If any of the Wise should with this Ring overthrow the Lord of Mordor, using his own arts, he would then set hiumself on Sauron's throne and yet another Dark Lord would appear." However, Boromir will eventually recall 'if any of the Wise', and rationalize, 'These elves and half-elves and wizards, they would come to grief perhaps....True-hearted Men, they will not be corrupted'.

Boromir summarizes his rational doubts at Amon Hen. "And they tell us to throw it away! I do not say destroy it. That might be well, if reason could show any hope of doing so. It does not. The only plan that is proposed to us is that a halfling should walk blindly into Mordor and offer the Enemy every chance of recapturing it for himself. Folly!"

Boromir's doubts are indeed rational. However, if he stuck to his spiritual faith in the Divine Dream, he would stick to "There will be counsels taken stronger than Morgul spells'. The counsels taken in Imladris were clear: Throw the Ring in the Fire, and Frodo should take it there.

I see Boromir's Fall as a tragic tale of Reason eroding and overcoming Faith.