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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Lord of the Rings:
FOTR scene in Rivendell with Aragorn, Boromir, Narsil

The Shire

May 12 2018, 11:54pm

Post #1 of 5 (3941 views)
FOTR scene in Rivendell with Aragorn, Boromir, Narsil Can't Post

I have a question about the scene in FOTR where Boromir picks up Narsil while Aragorn watches while reading his book. I've always wondered about this scene, in that I never completely understood Boromir's reaction. It's made more complicated because the extended edition changes it slightly. Basically, why does Boromir react the way he does after he holds the hilt up?

In the theatrical version, Boromir wanders in and doesn't even notice Aragorn at first. Boromir sees the painting depicting Isildur and Sauron, and then picks up Narsil and talks to himself. "Shards of Narsil - the blade that cut the Ring from Sauron's hand." And he cuts himself. "Still sharp." And then he slowly turns his head and realizes Aragorn - who we assume he hasn't met yet and didn't realize was there - is watching him. He says, "But no more than a broken heirloom" and drops the hilt, which then falls to the floor. As he walks away, he pauses slightly - perhaps realizing that the sword fell to the floor, perhaps thinking of turning around and putting it back properly on the display? - but then keeps going. (It's hard to see, but it kinda looks like he puts a hand to his head as he walks out of the room). Was he embarrassed to be caught idolizing the sword? (Aragorn's glance is pretty unfriendly, and they exchange no words). Embarrassed he was caught talking to himself?

In the extended edition, Boromir walks in, sees the painting, and then turns and sees Aragorn, and they exchange a few words. ("You're no elf." "Men of the south are welcome here." "Who are you?" "A friend to Gandalf." "We are here on common purpose, then, friend.") And then Boromir turns and sees the sword, and the scene continues as it does in the theatrical version. It changes his reaction to cutting himself - (Oh, maybe instead of putting his hand to his head he's licking his wound?) - because he already knows Aragorn is there, and he isn't startled by suddenly noticing he's being watched. Although Aragorn speaks nicely, his glance is still unfriendly in the second half of the scene.

I wonder because I know these movies (all movies) are written and directly deliberately. And in the theatrical I always felt Boromir was startled and embarrassed by realizing Aragorn was there, but from the extended edition I know that's not how the scene was originally written. And the scene does give a juxtaposition to how the two characters handle the sword (Aragorn handles it reverently as he places it back upon the display). Also, I guess they wanted their first meeting to have some tension to echo the rest of the film. I've even wondered if there was symbolism and foreshadowing in that the last two people injured by the sword are Boromir and Sauron, and Boromir could be hinting at Aragron's line being a broken heirloom. There's a reason why Boromir didn't hold up the sword, cut himself, say "Ow," put the sword back down gently, lick his finger, give a sheepish smile, and then wave to Aragorn as he wanders off.

But I've never really understood Boromir's reaction in the scene. Am I overthinking it?

I'm a Middle-Earth Munchkin.


May 14 2018, 4:26pm

Post #2 of 5 (3826 views)
So much going on here [In reply to] Can't Post

lol MEM, not overthinking at all. This scene is laden with so much meaning.

I recall a particular quote from TORNsib Dormouse about this scene:

It's symbolic, I think. Maybe this is just me, but the way I've always understood that scene is that although Boromir doesn't know who Aragorn is, he does recognise the sword, and that was his instruction in the dream - 'Seek for the sword that was broken.' And the phrase 'the Sword of Elendil' is also used in the book to refer to the Isildur's heir as well as to the sword itself.

For Boromir the idea of a king returning and displacing the Steward is a sore point. He doesn't show respect for the broken sword in the way Aragorn does. It's just a broken sword - until it cuts him. That's a sign that there's still life in it, just as there is still an heir to the throne. But he doesn't want to acknowledge that, so he dismisses the sword as a broken heirloom and walks away. It isn't that he recognises consciously who Aragorn is, but his encounter with the sword has undermined his confidence in things carrying on in the way he has always known them.

It's very cleverly done, I think. One of those scenes where they found a subtle way to reflect the shades of meaning in the book

And another from CuriousG:

does this scene tie in with the Lorien one where Boromir is almost in tears as he tells Aragorn that they've been fighting for a long time without any real hope of victory? I wonder if that's another struggle in him: the initial burst of hope at seeing the relic from the glorious past, then reality settling back in like a smothering rug, and making him hopeless again: it's just a broken sword with no army behind it, and what he needs for hope is lots of swords and lots of people carrying them.

These were from a discussion on this board a few years back, about just this very scene. The entire discussion is so packed with great commentary and insight that I wanted to share the link here.

All stated much better than I could put it :).

It's such a powerful scene, with so much conveyed through their actions, and interactions. I am always amazed at how many scenes in LOTR there were like this, full of symbolism and meaning and yet so understated.

Thanks for reminding me of this scene in particular, MEM. I am really due for a re-watching of the trilogy!

Chen G.

May 14 2018, 9:24pm

Post #3 of 5 (3812 views)
Fun fact! [In reply to] Can't Post

Aragorn is reading The Children of Hurin: the only reference to this tale in the sextet, as opposed to the much more oft-referenced Fall of Gondolin and Beren and Luthien.


May 21 2018, 9:56pm

Post #4 of 5 (3067 views)
Eagle eye! [In reply to] Can't Post

I never knew that. Makes me wonder who wrote it...is it passed down through the ages among the Rangers, or is there anyone in Rivendell who was there? Gandalf seemed to think Bilbo was cheeky to write verse about Earendil so maybe there's a taboo, especially for stories where Elrond's ancestors get mentioned :)

Chen G.

May 21 2018, 10:13pm

Post #5 of 5 (3065 views)
Its in Elrond's chamber, in Elvish, so... [In reply to] Can't Post

There are plenty of references to the other two big tales, as well as to Earendil in the sextet.

The learn that Orcrist, Glamdring and Sting come from "Gondolin" and "The high Elves of the First Age", Elrond and Legolas' Kin, where they were "forged for the Goblin wars"; We learn that Luthien, an Elf Maiden, gave her life to Beren and lastly, we learn that Earendil is the Elves most beloved star.

But we learn nothing about the Children of Hurin. When that becomes a movie, it will lack the tie-ins that the other tales will have with the prexisting sextet.


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