I have a confession. One of my actual favourite scenes in the Fellowship of the Ring is the death of Boromir. A character death should not be a "favourite" scene, but this was, in my humble opinion, one of the best writen and best acted scenes in the entire movie.
Which I consider to be great as a whole. Although I don't usually endorse changing Tolkien, and don't fully support some of the liberties taken by Peter Jackson, I regard his Lord of the Rings Trilogy as the best adaptation ever made.
It is a love letter to Tolkien.
Anyway, I digress. There is so much packed into this brief scene that I could write several essays on it.
The Fellowship is broken, Pippin and Merry have been carried off by Orcs who believed them to be in posession of the One Ring. All seems to be lost, but hope is not dead. Frodo is alive, and he is striking out towards Mordor in the company of the only member of the Fellowship who has been with him since the beginning: Samwise Gamgee.
Aragorn finds Boromir on the ground, three Orc arrows in him, dying.
The thing is he already knows something happened between Boromir and Frodo. Frodo literally just told him moments before, and then ran. Aragorn let him go. Yet he doesn't say a word. He just runs over and tries to help his falllen comrade.
To say Boromir and Aragorn got off to a bad start would be an understatment. Boromir dismissed Aragorn's claim to the Throne of Gondor with his infamous "Gondor needs no King" line.
What I love about the movies though, is how Aragorn and Boromir develop as characters in the Fellowship of the Ring. During the course of the movie, they go from grudging travel companions who neither trust nor like one another, to uneasy allies, and finally friends.
Boromir presents himself as the tough and strong Warden of the White Tower. He is a natural born warrior, who has spent years defending his people. In canon, Gondor was right next door to Mordor, and Minas Tirith, the capital, was in fact less than 100 miles from Mount Doom.
For all the peoples of Middle Earth, the threat of Sauron was most real to the men and women of Gondor. They felt to the brunt of Orc attacks, they were on the front line before anyone else even went to war. As Boromir says at the Council of Elrond, the safety of Middle Earth was purchased at the price of the blood of his people.
Yet behind that strength, Boromir is weighed down with the expectations of not just his father, but his people. He is plagued with terrible despair and depression.
In one scene in the Extended Editions, he admits he sees no hope for his people nor his city because they lack leadership, and they are losing faith.
His people live in the vain hope that one day the King will return to save them. Aragorn is that King, and yet he does not want the crown: he does not even seem to want anything to do with his own race. He is more Elf than man. Without the pointy ears and immortality.
Yet Boromir is also a man of duty who believes himself bound to protect others. He disagrees with the very idea of destroying the One Ring, yet he goes along with it because he respects Elrond, and the decision of the Council of Elrond.
He disagrees with the course and the path the Fellowship take: and the thing is....he's usually right. He suggested they travel via the mountains of Rohan instead of Moria. He was one of the first to notice there was something amiss when they arrived in Moria. They went through Moria, they lost their wizard and the other 8 members of the Fellowship barely escaped with their lives.
Yet he sticks with it. He's usually the first person to dive in when those smaller and weaker than him are in danger. Especially the Hobbits. He calls them "little ones", he acts like a big brother. He teaches Pippin and Merry to fight, be plays with them, and carries them along a mountain pass.
He made a terrible mistake when he tried to take the One Ring, but it was not a descision borne of greed or lust. He wanted it only to save his people. He saw it as their last hope. He underestimated its capacity for evil. He did not understand how it worked on a person. How it could corrupt even the noblest soul and warp the goodness within them until it served the will of evil.
He also: almost immediately, snaps out of it. You can hear his voice when Frodo runs away yelling "Frodo, forgive me!". He's weeping in anguish: what he did was against his very nature. Against everything he is. Kind, loyal, compassionate, brave, honourable. Everything he has been for the entire duration of the movie.
He became that man again when he ran to the aid of Pippin and Merry. There's still a part of me that thinks he must have known he could not possibly hold off all those Uruk-Hai singlehandedly. Or maybe he hoped the Hobbits would do as he told them to: run and hide.
Then he'd only have to fight off a few.
He knew by this point that the Fellowship were broken, scattered. So he saves the people that he can. Pippin and Merry do not have the Ring: but they are his friends, they are small, they are helpless and they need him.
So he fights for them. He defends them until he cannot defend them anymore. Even when he's dying his thoughts are of them.
His first words to Aragorn when he finds him are:
"they took the little ones"
He tried to save the Hobbits as a means of redeeming himself, but failed to do even that. They're gone.
and then asks where Frodo is. Even after all that, he wants to make sure Frodo is alright. That the Orcs did not carry him off too.
Listen to the dialogue again:
A: "I let Frodo go" B: "Then you did what i could not, I tried to take the Ring from him. A: "The Ring is beyond our reach now" B: Forgive me, I did not see. I have failed you all.
Confession. Boromir didn't have to tell anyone what happened- but he does. He confesses to Aragorn. He asks for forgiveness. He would have asked Frodo to forgive him too
Tolkien of course, was a Catholic, and that I believe adds another layer to this scene. Confession is held to be a sacrament in the Catholic church. Boromir confesses his sin on his deathbed.
He is almost overcome with shame.
What does Aragorn do?
He doesn't condemn him at all.
"No you fought bravely. You have kept your honour"
Aragorn then looks down and appears to want to pull out one of the arrows.
"Leave it. It is over. The world of men will fall and all will come to darkness. And my city to ruin!"
Boromir gives in to despair in his final moments. He tried to save the Hobbits, but he failed to that. He tried to take the Ring, and he believes that now all of Middle Earth is doomed. The city he loves will fall to ruin. He cannot live in such a world. He doesn't want to.
In that moment, you realize Boromir wanted to die.
In canon Aragorn has healing powers. He can't instantly heal people, but he has some extraordinary abilities in that area, which is learned from the Elves (and probably from his own Eldar blood).
Could he have saved Boromir? Its not impossible. In The Return of the King he helps heal Faramir of his wounds following the Battle of Pellenor fields.
It is Aragorn's next words though which make this scene so special.
"I do not know what strength I have left in my blood, but I swear to you I will let see the White City fall, nor our people fail!
He's spent the entire duration of the movie rejecting, even running from the past, fearing it, and wanting nothing to do Gondor or with men.
Movie Aragorn is basically defined by his resentment for his ancestor Isildur,
because he failed to destroy the One Ring, his fear that he might repeat the same mistake which morphed into a mistrust for his own race.
In one scene he told Boromir in anger that he would never bring the Ring within 300 miles of his city when Boromir suggested they should head for Minas Tirith.
Yet in this moment. Something changed. Boromir's sacrifice proved the truth of his words:
"Yes there is weakness, there is frailty but there is courage also, and honour to be found among men!"
Boromir represented the pinnacle of that honour. His noble heart allowed him to overcome the allure of the most evil object on earth.
He did what Aragorn's own ancestor, Isildur could not.
He fell to the Ring, but picked himself up and came through he other side.
In doing so, he showed Aragorn that men were not a lost cause, but that above all people are not defined by thier mistakes or lapses in judgement.
Aragorn believed that being tempted by the Ring was a one way street.
That anyone who fell to it was, essentially, damned. He has been raised by Elrond, and its not impossible that Elrond's bias rubbed off on him to a certain extent. Elrond is jaded not just by what happeded to Isildur and the Kings of Gondor, but the fall of the great human Kingdom of Numenor which was once ruled by his own twin brother.
A brother who chose to live as a mortal man. Elrond quite likely believed that everything humans touched fell to ruin. That humans cannot be trusted with power, and that their hearts are always corrupted.
Boromir showed Aragorn that none of that was true. That men were worth fighting for, and Gondor was worth fighting for.
That's why his next words make such an impact:
B: "Our people? Our people"
Aragorn ever so slightly nods.
...and Boromir rallies. Just for a moment, he seems stronger. His breathing less heavy, less laboured.
Aragorn called the men of Gondor "our people". Those two small words told him all he needed. Aragorn has accepted Gondor for his own. He has taken on the mantle of leadership.
He will lead and defend their people.... and suddenly, Boromir doesn't fear anymore. His despair is gone.
He smiles. He smiles even though he has only moments to live, even though he can barely breathe.
He stretches out his arm for his fallen sword, which lies just out of his reach. Aragorn sees it, and places the sword in Boromir's hand.
That is another one of the tiny details which Peter Jackson added to the movies which I love, because it is so meaningful.
You see, in some ancient cultures it was believed that unless a warrior died with his weapon in his hands, he could not enter the afterlife.
Aragorn has not just given a dying man hope. He has given him back his honour and his dignity.
Rallying one last time, Boromir utters his final words.
"I would have followed you by brother, my captain... my King!"
before breathing his last.
In his final breaths, Boromir became the first man in Middle Earth to swear fealty to the true King of Gondor.
Thus Boromir's arc came full circle. The first time we see him, at the Council of Elrond, Boromir dismissed Aragorn's claim to the throne. With his last breaths, he acknowledged him as his King.
In a final, touching moment Aragorn makes a gesture which isn't seen anywhere else in the movies.
Just let me show it as a GIF.
He touches his thumb and forefinger to his forehead, and then moves them downwards in a straight line to his lower lip, before kissing them.
He then lays that hand on Boromir's head, leans over the body, and kisses him on the forehead before whispering: "Be at peace, son of Gondor!"
This gesture has some clear parallels to a Catholic making the sign of the cross as when saying a prayer or bestowing a blessing.
In fact, in one of the Commentaries Peter Jackson said it was meant to allude to that. It was a deliberate nod to Tolkien's Catholic faith.
PJ did not have to include that, but he did.
There may also be an in-universe explanation for Aragorn's gesture. Some have speculated that it was in fact a salute to Eru Ilúvatar, sometimes known as "the One".
The supreme being who created the universe and to whom even the Valar answered.
Aragorn's simple gesture may thus be read as his bestowing the blessing of The One upon his fallen friend, or even commending Boromir's soul to the care of Ilúvatar.
Aragorn, like many fans came to genuinely love and respect the good man who was Boromir, High Warden of the White Tower in the end.
His voice heavy with emotion, he finally gets up and tells a visibly distraught Gimli and Legolas who just arrived on the scene that "they will look for his coming at the White Tower, but he will not return!".
Aragorn though, will return. The King will return. That event is literally the title of the third novel in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and in the movies at least, it was Boromir who was the catalyst. Encouraging Aragorn to embrace his destiny and accept his birthright. To defend their people.
In the closing scenes of the Fellowship of the Ring, when Boromir's body is sent over the waterfalls of Rauros in a boat with all his war gear, there is one item missing.
His bracers. They were the pieces of leather armour that Boromir wore on his forearms, which were embossed with the design of the White Tree of Gondor, the symbol of the ancient line of Kings of Gondor and Arnor.
Aragorn put them on. He wears them for the rest of the Trilogy, as a visual symbol that he has adopted the role as the leader and defender of Gondor. That what he said to Boromir were not just empty words, or simple comfort for a dying man, but that Aragorn meant every word and intended to keep his promise.