This blog post is premised on events that take place at the end of the book and film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
Unless you have lived under a rock for the past decade then you have probably seen Peter Jackson’s magnificent Lord of the Rings trilogy. Ideally you would have read Tolkien’s opus but it’s okay, it’s not everyone who was a middle schooler living in the middle of nowhere and so had nothing better to do than to spend his hours reading a 1000+ page book. So in these remarks I will limit myself to the film version (but if you have not yet read the books, stop reading this blog, drop everything that you are doing and begin the books now! I promise you won’t regret it)
But now all nonsense aside let us commence. This story begins, where else but in the terminal of Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. I was to return home after a two-month stay in the City of Light and just when my homesickness had gotten to its most unbearable, when the only thing that kept me going was the fact that in just a couple of hours I would be home once again, my flight was delayed. Add to that the fact that before that I had to spend an extra several hundred euros because my carry-on weighed too much and it’s safe to say that I was not in the happiest of conditions. But after having prayed and read Scripture, I still had several long hours looming ahead of me. And so where to turn but to the films that had so delighted me in childhood, The Lord of the Rings, and where to start but at the beginning. Before I knew it I was once more totally enraptured in the world of Middle Earth as I followed Frodo, Sam and the fellowship on their journey toward Mount Doom. So as the movie drew to a close and as I saw the final scenes of the fellowship together my heart was saddened but tempered by the hope of the eventual triumph. Even though having seen the movie so so many times in this viewing one scene struck out to me in particular.
Here’s a link to help you refresh your memory.
To contextualize this scene, in the scene just before we had Boromir face the temptation that had plagued him for the whole course of the film: his desire for the ring. And unlike Aragorn, Boromir had given in; he attacked Frodo to take what he so desperately needed to protect the White City. Temptation had come and he had given in. Now contrast this to Aragorn who also stares temptation in the face but where Boromir faltered, Aragorn stayed strong and let Frodo go away, alone (or so he thought) to Mordor.
As Alan Jacobs points out in his blog, in LOTR we find no modernist moral predicaments where we do not know right from wrong, but situations where characters are presented with very real and startling clear moral choices. Boromir chooses to take the ring, Aragorn chooses to let it go. One passes, the other fails. But this is not what got to me that day in France. No, what got to me was the moments right after Boromir makes his choice, the moments shown in the video above where Boromir realizes he has erred and fights to make amends and in some sense atone for the evils that he has done, a choice that proves to be fatal. As Urukhai surround him and all hope seems to fade, Aragorn comes to his aid, but too late. Boromir is fatally wounded and there is nothing they can do to change that. Now, this sequence is ample grounds for a Christian story analysis/comparison and surely the astute watcher is able to piece this out by herself. But what I want to focus on here are Boromir’s final lines of dialogue.
Watch the conversation again, starting at 4:40.
Boromir finally had the eyes to see what had been before him all along, the hope of Gondor, of his people, of his city, his home had been with him the whole journey. And he leaves this life with some of the most touching final lines in the history of film (well, at least that’s my opinion) “I would have followed you anywhere, my brother, my captain, my king.”
This is what I call the Boromir prayer, these final words, soaked in emotion, that I reappropriate and tweak to use in my own prayer life. Like Boromir, I too die. I die to myself and I die to this world, recognizing that even if I have tried to capture Frodo and take the ring for myself that I can have forgiveness. But first I must give up myself, I have tried for the ring even knowing the wrongness of doing so. Nor is it I who will save Gondor; there is a king who has come to do what I could not.
So I take the prayer step by step and meditate on each word.
“I will follow you anywhere”
Here I give up myself, I die to my desires of control and pride, I give God the reins and pledge to follow him in all that I do.
I am in a spiritual war, a warrior for God but it is He who will lead me and guide me and ultimately protect me.
Through Christ’s death, burial and resurrection the kingdom of God has come! The devil has no authority over me. I belong to a different kingdom, a kingdom that is from above but for this very world. And Christ is its king.
I am a son of God! In Christ, I not only have the forgiveness of sins but the Spirit of sonship. I can know God intimately, as the closest of friends. He is someone that I can cast all of my cares on, someone who cares for me. And he loves so much that even when I did not know him and was set against him, he died for me.
And it is now that we come back to me. A college-aged kid crunched over a computer screen, fighting a losing battle against the glare of the setting sun (there’s lots of natural light in the terminal I was in… a little too much…) suppressing the tears in his eyes. I would like to have been able to tell you that I experienced an epiphany at that moment, watching Boromir say these words and immediately losing every apprehension or homesickness that I was harboring, but that would just be untrue. I still missed home, I still had lost way too much money in fees, I still had three hours to go (in hindsight these sound like very small things) but after having first prayed this prayer I knew God was with me in that moment and I knew that whatever happened or would happen, he was in control. My king has come and all I have to do is to follow him.