Archive: The Men of Middle Earth

August 1, 2009 at 8:04 am (Lord of the Rings, Writing) ()

They had a vision as it were of a great expanse of years behind them, like a vast shadowy plain over which there strode shapes of Men, tall and grim with bright swords [1]

It took me a long time to appreciate and understand the men of Middle Earth. Of more appeal to me was the otherworldliness of Legolas – a fine-boned creature of grace and time, whose memories and awareness stretched far beyond the reach of any man’s. Perhaps this is because I was so disenchanted with our own mortal race, here in the “real world”.

I thought Denethor a mad old fool, Faramir as angst-ridden as he was noble, and Aragorn even more so. Boromir I despised, both for his pride and his weak-will in regards to the One Ring.

My loathing of poor Boromir was of such strength that upon seeing the movie of The Fellowship of the Ring, I – who always cry at the screen for the lost and the lonely – did not shed a single tear for Boromir. (For Gandalf, on the other hand, I wept uncontrollably, despite knowing that he was not truly gone.)

I did not realise the gravitas of Boromir until I read his story written by a talented roleplayer (whose name I wish I remembered, and whose story I wish I’d bookmarked). I think the reason this writer succeeded in “selling” me on Boromir where Tolkien had not, was because their words were wholly devoted to his character. (A canon-based fanwriter need not concern themselves with plot, nor multiple viewpoints). This writer had taken the seeds of Tolkien, and given them what I had not – time.

Take, for example, this quote from Boromir, at the Council of Elrond:

sudden war came upon us out of Mordor, and we were swept away. …Only a remnant of our eastern force came back, destroying the last bridge that still stood amid the ruins of Osgiliath.
I was in the company that held the bridge, until it was cast down behind us. Four only were saved by swimming: my brother and myself and two others. [2]

Boromir’s tale echoes with images of bloodiness and despair, yet I had glanced over it several times. It is pieces like this – whole stories and histories hidden in a few sparse sentences, that make Lord of the Rings a delight to re-read.

I am grateful to that roleplayer, not only for introducing me to the character of Boromir in a new and wonderful way, but also for teaching me a valuable lesson about how to read Lord of the Rings – savour it. Give it time. Let the seeds take root and grow.

I now know the men of Middle Earth to be mighty. They are builders, they are hunters, and they are warriors. They are not infallible. But their strength and their courage, especially in light of their mortality, is inspiring.

Through that roleplayer’s story of Boromir, I now know the true weight of the expectations placed on his shoulders by his father; and that his pride was for his people, for his hope for their future in the face of almost-certain doom.

Through that roleplayer’s story, I finally understood the tragedy of Boromir, and I wept.

(Note: this YouTube user has disabled the embedding feature, so it will not play on-screen. I highly recommend following the link [click the video] to watch it on YouTube, as Melina’s fanvids are beautifully done.)

(This post was inspired by a conversation with the Urban Mariner, a modern-day Faramir.)


[1] Tolkien, JRR; The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring; HarperCollins Publishers; London; 2001; p 192-193.
[2] Tolkien, JRR; The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring; HarperCollins Publishers; London; 2001; p 321-322.

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