What is Done with it Turns to Evil

The Counsel of Boromir

Boromir’s desperation in the following scene–and what he considers a reasonable course of action–is repeated over and over again in what Tolkien would call “the world of Men.” In the following excerpt, Boromir tries to persuade Frodo to let him use the power of the evil Ring for the defense of all that is good.

‘You seem ever to think only of its power in the hands of the Enemy: of its evil uses not of its good….’

‘Were you not at the Council?’ answered Frodo. ‘We cannot use it, and what is done with it turns to evil.’

Boromir got up and walked about impatiently. ‘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 timid…. True-hearted Men, they will not be corrupted. We of Minas Tirith have been staunch through long years of trial. We do not desire the power of wizard-lords, only strength to defend ourselves…. And behold! in our 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!’

Boromir strode up and down, speaking ever more loudly: Almost he seemed to have forgotten Frodo, while his talk dwelt on walls and weapons, and the mustering of men; and he drew plans for great alliances and glorious victories to be; and he cast down Mordor, and became himself a mighty king, benevolent and wise. Suddenly he stopped and waved his arms.

‘And they tell us to throw it away!’ he cried. ‘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!

‘Surely you see it, my friend?’ he said, turning now suddenly to Frodo again. ‘You say that you are afraid…. But is it not really your good sense that revolts?’

‘No, I am afraid,’ said Frodo. ‘Simply afraid. But I am glad to have heard you speak so fully. My mind is clearer now.’

‘Then you will come to Minas Tirith?’ cried Boromir. His eyes were shining and his face eager.

‘You misunderstand me,’ said Frodo.

‘But you will come, at least for a while?’ Boromir persisted. ‘My city is not far now; and it is little further from there to Mordor than from here. We have been long in the wilderness, and you need news of what the Enemy is doing before you make a move. Come with me, Frodo,’ he said. ‘You need rest before your venture, if go you must.’ He laid his hand on the hobbit’s shoulder in friendly fashion; but Frodo felt the hand trembling with suppressed excitement. He stepped quickly away, and eyed with alarm the tall Man, nearly twice his height and many times his match in strength.

‘Why are you so unfriendly?’ said Boromir. ‘I am a true man, neither thief nor tracker. I need your Ring: that you know now; but I give you my word that I do not desire to keep it. Will you not at least let me make trial of my plan? Lend me the Ring! ‘

‘No! no!’ cried Frodo. ‘The Council laid it upon me to bear it.’

‘It is by our own folly that the Enemy will defeat us,’ cried Boromir…. ‘Obstinate fool! Running wilfully to death and ruining our cause. If any mortals have claim to the Ring, it is the men of Númenor, and not Halflings. It is not yours save by unhappy chance. It might have been mine. It should be mine. Give it to me!’

Frodo did not answer, but moved away till the great flat stone stood between them. ‘Come, come, my friend!’ said Boromir in a softer voice. ‘Why not get rid of it? Why not be free of your doubt and fear? You can lay the blame on me, if you will. You can say that I was too strong and took it by force. For I am too strong for you, halfling,’ he cried; and suddenly he sprang over the stone and leaped at Frodo. His fair and pleasant face was hideously changed; a raging fire was in his eyes.

The Fellowship of the Ring, Chapter 10, “The Breaking of the Fellowship”