FOTR: Bk 2, Ch 10
"Is it not a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt for so small a thing?"
Aragorn leads the company to the shores of Parth Galen, the lawn that lies at the foot of Amon Hen. That night, after they make camp, Aragorn is restless and uneasy. He wakes Frodo and, telling him he senses danger, he asks the hobbit to remove Sting from its sheath. As he does, they see the edges of the blade glowing ever so slightly. It was a sign that Orcs were in the area, though not yet close. And from what side of the River they could not tell. They know that they must continue on first thing in the morning.
After breakfast, Aragorn calls the company together to decide at last which way they will now go, for they must decide soon now that the threat of Orcs grows near. In a deft example of delegation, he tells Frodo that, as he is the Ringbearer, he alone must decide. Frodo needs some time to reflect and think about his choices, though it is likely that he is pretty sure which way he's leaning - the more difficult choice of Mordor. He goes off to be alone but while the others do not stare at him Boromir's eyes follow Frodo intently. Boromir knows that this would be his last chance to convince him - and by extension, the Fellowship - to go to Gondor.
After he sits for a while, Frodo is startled to see Boromir; his face is smiling and kind. He offers to help the hobbit with his counsel but Frodo tells him that he knows what he must do and that he is afraid of doing it. There is an uncomfortable silence, disturbed only by the sound of the Falls off in the distance. Boromir understands what Frodo means by this and he tries not to react and tip his hand. His words are friendly and comforting and he asks Frodo if he could see the Ring again. Frodo's heart goes cold and he catches a strange gleam in Boromir's eyes. The realization that he has reason to be afraid only reinforces his decision. He tells Boromir that, as was discussed at the Council of Elrond, the Ring cannot be used because of it's evil.
Boromir's disposition changes gradually from kindness to impatience to excitement:
"So you go on," he cried. "Gandalf, Elrond - all these folk have taught you to say so. For themselves they may be right. These elves and half-elves and wizards, they would come to grief perhaps. Yet often I doubt if they are wise and not merely corrupted. We of Minas Tirith have been staunch through long years of trial. We do not desire the power of the wizard-lords, only strength to defend ourselves, strength in a just cause. And behold! in our hour of need chance brings to light the Ring of Power. It is a gift, I say; a gift to the foes of Mordor. It is mad not to use it, to use the power of the Enemy against him. The fearless, the ruthless, these alone will achieve victory. What could not a warrior do in this hour, a great leader? What could not Aragorn do? Or if he refuses, why not Boromir? The Ring would give me power of Command. How I would drive the hosts of Mordor, and all men would flock to my banner!"
Frodo makes it clear to Boromir that he will not go to Minas Tirith and he recoils from him. This frustrates Boromir more and he begs him to "lend" him the Ring, promising not to keep it. Frodo refuses. Now Boromir flies into a rage and the emotion that he has bottled-up inside up to this point is unleashed. Reminding Frodo that the Ring only came to him by "unhappy chance", he says "It might have been mine. It should have been mine. Give it to me!"
When Boromir told Elrond at the start of their journey that he did not desire to "go forth as a thief in the night", he probably could not imagine himself acting as one. But now his desire for the Ring drove him. He tries to take it by force and Frodo desperately slips the Ring onto his finger and disappears. Boromir screams after Frodo, accusing him of seeking to betray them and take the Ring to Sauron. Then he trips and falls, sprawled on his face. As he gets his bearings, he seems to come to his senses. "What have I done?" he asks himself. He calls for Frodo to come back.
The character of Boromir was never one that I could easily connect with very well - a man so stern and proud and seemingly, at first, so selfish. He always came across to me as unsympathetic. Sean Bean's performance in Peter Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring, however, changed this. On screen, he was able to convey a sense of vulnerability and even humility that I was never really able to derive from the books. It made him more human in my eyes. Now I am always moved by his contrition, his sacrifice for Merry and Pippin and his final connection that he makes with Aragorn - all of which we will not see until the beginning of The Two Towers.
Frodo scrambles up to the summit of Amon Hen and to the throne atop the Numenorean ruins. He sees many visions while in the wraith-world, presumably with the assistance of the power imparted by the High Seat of Seeing. He sees far and wide in all directions, from Isengard in the west to the mouth of Anduin emptying into the Sea in the south. And he sees many signs of war. Then he feels the Eye of Sauron searching him out, moving across the Emyn Muil to Amon Lhaw and Tol Brandir, getting closer to him. The desires to leave the Ring on - controlled by the Eye - and to take it off - coming from a Voice in his head - tear at him, the conflict is overwhelming.
"The two powers strove in him. For a moment, perfectly balanced between their piercing points, he writhed, tormented. Suddenly he was aware of himself again. Frodo, neither the Voice nor the Eye: free to choose, and with one remaining instant in which to do so. He took the Ring off his finger. He was kneeling in clear sunlight before the high seat. A black shadow seemed to pass like an arm above him; it missed Amon Hen and groped out west, and faded. Then all the sky was clean and blue and birds sand in every tree."
Frodo realizes that he must leave the company behind to spare them harm, as Boromir's actions were proof that the evil of the Ring was already at work on them.
Meanwhile back at the camp, Sam tells the others that he believes Frodo is resolved to go to Mordor, and if he knows his Master he will decide to go alone. When Boromir returns, Aragorn asks him what happened to Frodo. He recounts the story - all but the part about him trying to take the Ring. Aragorn suspects the missing part of the tale. Sam dashes off to find Frodo, and soon Merry, Pippin, Legolas and Gimli follow after them. Aragorn instructs Boromir to follow and look after Merry and Pippin, as he heads off after Sam.
When Aragorn catches up with Sam, they continue together up the slopes of Amon Hen. However, Sam cannot keep up and he slows down. Suddenly, it occurs to him that in order to go toward Mordor, Frodo would have to cross the River. Sam turns around and heads back to the boats. Frodo is in fact already off the shore in one of the boats when Sam comes charging down after him. Frodo had put the Ring back on and his invisibility made a curious sight for Sam, who saw one of the boats seemingly launch itself into the river. Sam almost drowns trying to catch up to Frodo. He gropes for Frodo's unseen hand. His Master pulls him up onto the boat, taking off the Ring to finally reveal himself. His plan of solitary escape had been thwarted. Sam convinces his Master not to leave without him. He must go with him. Frodo is touched by Sam's devotion and is glad that he will not be going all alone after all.
The last words spoken in this first volume of The Lord of the Rings are the exact same words said in the final scene of the film, which I thought was a nice touch. Speaking of the friends they leave behind, Frodo says, "I don't suppose we shall see them again" to which Sam responds, "We may yet, Mr. Frodo. We may." They head quickly towards the eastern shores, the first step on their journey to Mordor.
Talk about a cliff-hanger.
Here ends Book Two of The Fellowship of the Ring. The story continues in The Two Towers, but first a brief Introduction.------
[Chronology: February 26th 3019 T.A.]