THE DEPARTURE OF BOROMIR
Aragorn sped on up the hill. Every now and again he bent to the ground. Hobbits
go light, and their footprints are not easy even for a Ranger to read, but not
far from the top a spring crossed the path, and in the wet earth he saw what he
'I read the signs aright,' he said to himself. 'Frodo ran to the hill-top. I
wonder what he saw there? But he returned by the same way, and went down the
Aragorn hesitated. He desired to go to the high seat himself, hoping to see
there something that would guide him in his perplexities; but time was pressing.
Suddenly he leaped forward, and ran to the summit, across the great flag-stones,
and up the steps. Then sitting in the high seat he looked out. But the sun
seemed darkened, and the world dim and re- mote. He turned from the North back
again to North, and saw nothing save the distant hills, unless it were that far
away he could see again a great bird like an eagle high in the air, descending
slowly in wide circles down towards the earth.
Even as he gazed his quick ears caught sounds in the woodlands below, on the
west side of the River. He stiffened. There were cries, and among them, to his
horror, he could distinguish the harsh voices of Orcs. Then suddenly with a
deep-throated call a great horn blew, and the blasts of it smote the hills and
echoed in the hollows, rising in a mighty shout above the roaring of the falls.
'The horn of Boromir!' he cried. 'He is in need!' He sprang down the steps and
away, leaping down the path. 'Alas! An ill fate is on me this day, and all that
I do goes amiss. Where is Sam?
As he ran the cries came louder, but fainter now and desperately the horn was
blowing. Fierce and shrill rose the yells of the Orcs, and suddenly the
horn-calls ceased. Aragorn raced down the last slope, but before he could reach
the hill's foot, the sounds died away; and as he turned to the left and ran
towards them they retreated, until at last he could hear them no more. Drawing
his bright sword and crying Elendil! Elendil! he crashed through the trees.
A mile, maybe, from Parth Galen in a little glade not far from the lake he found
Boromir. He was sitting with his back to a great tree, as if he was resting. But
Aragorn saw that he was pierced with many black-feathered arrows; his sword was
still in his hand, but it was broken near the hilt; his horn cloven in two was
at his side. Many Orcs lay slain, piled all about him and at his feet.
Aragorn knelt beside him. Boromir opened his eyes and strove to speak. At last
slow words came. 'I tried to take the Ring from Frodo,' he said. 'I am sorry. I
have paid.' His glance strayed to his fallen enemies; twenty at least lay there.
'They have gone: the Halflings: the Orcs have taken them. I think they are not
dead. Orcs bound them.' He paused and his eyes closed wearily. After a moment he
'Farewell, Aragorn! Go to Minas Tirith and save my people! I have failed.
'No!' said Aragorn, taking his hand and kissing his brow. 'You have conquered.
Few have gained such a victory. Be at peace! Minas Tirith shall not fall!
'Which way did they go? Was Frodo there?' said Aragorn.
But Boromir did not speak again.
'Alas!' said Aragorn. 'Thus passes the heir of Denethor, Lord of the Tower of
Guard! This is a bitter end. Now the Company is all in ruin. It is I that have
failed. Vain was Gandalf's trust in me. What shall I do now? Boromir has laid it
on me to go to Minas Tirith, and my heart desires it; but where are the Ring and
the Bearer? How shall I find them and save the Quest from disaster?
He knelt for a while, bent with weeping, still clasping Boromir's hand. So it
was that Legolas and Gimli found him. They came from the western slopes of the
hill, silently, creeping through the trees as if they were hunting. Gimli had
his axe in hand, and Legolas his long knife: all his arrows were spent. When
they came into the glade they halted in amazement; and then they stood a moment
with heads bowed in grief, for it seemed to them plain what had happened.
'Alas!' said Legolas, coming to Aragorn's side. 'We have hunted and slain many
Orcs in the woods, but we should have been of more use here. We came when we
heard the horn-but too late, it seems. I fear you have taken deadly hurt.
'Boromir is dead,' said Aragorn. 'I am unscathed, for I was not here with him.
He fell defending the hobbits, while I was away upon the hill.
'The hobbits!' cried Gimli. 'Where are they then? Where is Frodo?
'I do not know,' answered Aragorn wearily. 'Before he died Boromir told me that
the Orcs had bound them; he did not think that they were dead. I sent him to
follow Merry and Pippin; but I did not ask him if Frodo or Sam were with him:
not until it was too late. All that I have done today has gone amiss. What is to
be done now?
'First we must tend the fallen,' said Legolas. 'We cannot leave him lying like
carrion among these foul Orcs.
'But we must be swift,' said Gimli. 'He would not wish us to linger. We must
follow the Orcs, if there is hope that any of our Company are living prisoners.
'But we do not know whether the Ring-bearer is with them or not,' said Aragorn.
'Are we to abandon him? Must we not seek him first? An evil choice is now before
'Then let us do first what we must do,' said Legolas. 'We have not the time or
the tools to bury our comrade fitly, or to raise a mound over him. A cairn we
'The labour would be hard and long: there are no stones that we could use nearer
than the water-side,' said Gimli.
'Then let us lay him in a boat with his weapons, and the weapons of his
vanquished foes,' said Aragorn. 'We will send him to the Falls of Rauros and
give him to Anduin. The River of Gondor will take care at least that no evil
creature dishonours his bones.
Quickly they searched the bodies of the Orcs, gathering their swords and cloven
helms and shields into a heap.
'See!' cried Aragorn. 'Here we find tokens!' He picked out from the pile of grim
weapons two knives, leaf-bladed, damasked in gold and red; and searching further
he found also the sheaths, black, set with small red gems. 'No orc-tools these!'
he said. 'They were borne by the hobbits. Doubtless the Orcs despoiled them, but
feared to keep the knives, knowing them for what they are: work of Westernesse,
wound about with spells for the bane of Mordor. Well, now, if they still live,
our friends are weaponless. I will take these things, hoping against hope, to
give them back.
'And I,' said Legolas, 'will take all the arrows that I can find, for my quiver
is empty.' He searched in the pile and on the ground about and found not a few
that were undamaged and longer in the shaft than such arrows as the Orcs were
accustomed to use. He looked at them closely.
And Aragorn looked on the slain, and he said: 'Here lie many that are not folk
of Mordor. Some are from the North, from the Misty Mountains, if I know anything
of Orcs and their kinds. And here are others strange to me. Their gear is not
after the manner of Orcs at all!
There were four goblin-soldiers of greater stature, swart, slant-eyed, with
thick legs and large hands. They were armed with short broad-bladed swords, not
with the curved scimitars usual with Orcs; and they had bows of yew, in length
and shape like the bows of Men. Upon their shields they bore a strange device: a
small white hand in the centre of a black field; on the front of their iron
helms was set an S-rune, wrought of some white metal.
'I have not seen these tokens before,' said Aragorn. 'What do they mean?
'S is for Sauron,' said Gimli. 'That is easy to read.
'Nay!' said Legolas. 'Sauron does not use the Elf-runes.
'Neither does he use his right name, nor permit it to be spelt or spoken, said
Aragorn. 'And he does not use white. The Orcs in the service of Barad-dûr
use the sign of the Red Eye.' He stood for a moment in thought. 'S is for
Saruman, I guess,' he said at length. 'There is evil afoot in Isengard, and the
West is no longer safe. It is as Gandalf feared: by some means the traitor
Saruman has had news of our journey. It is likely too that he knows of Gandalf's
fall. Pursuers from Moria may have escaped the vigilance of Lorien, or they may
have avoided that land and come to Isengard by other paths. Orcs travel fast.
But Saruman has many ways of learning news. Do you remember the birds?
'Well, we have no time to ponder riddles,' said Gimli. 'Let us bear Boromir
'But after that we must guess the riddles, if we are to choose our course
rightly,' answered Aragorn.
'Maybe there is no right choice,' said Gimli.
Taking his axe the Dwarf now cut several branches. These they lashed together
with bowstrings, and spread their cloaks upon the frame. Upon this rough bier
they carried the body of their companion to the shore, together with such
trophies of his last battle as they chose to send forth with him. It was only a
short way, yet they found it no easy task, for Boromir was a man both tall and
At the water-side Aragorn remained, watching the bier, while Legolas and Gimli
hastened back on foot to Parth Galen. It was a mile or more, and it was some
time before they came back, paddling two boats swiftly along the shore.
'There is a strange tale to tell!' said Legolas. 'There are only two boats upon
the bank. We could find no trace of the other.
'Have Orcs been there?' asked Aragorn.
'We saw no signs of them,' answered Gimli. 'And Orcs would have taken or
destroyed all the boats, and the baggage as well.
'I will look at the ground when we come there,' said Aragorn.
Now they laid Boromir in the middle of the boat that was to bear him away. The
grey hood and elven-cloak they folded and placed beneath his head. They combed
his long dark hair and arrayed it upon his shoulders. The golden belt of Lorien
gleamed about his waist. His helm they set beside him, and across his lap they
laid the cloven horn and the hilts and shards of his sword; beneath his feet
they put the swords of his enemies. Then fastening the prow to the stern of the
other boat, they drew him out into the water. They rowed sadly along the shore,
and turning into the swift-running channel they passed the green sward of Parth
Galen. The steep sides of Tol Brandir were glowing: it was now mid-afternoon. As
they went south the fume of Rauros rose and shimmered before them, a haze of
gold. The rush and thunder of the falls shook the windless air.
Sorrowfully they cast loose the funeral boat: there Boromir lay, restful,
peaceful, gliding upon the bosom of the flowing water. The stream took him while
they held their own boat back with their paddles. He floated by them, and slowly
his boat departed, waning to a dark spot against the golden light; and then
suddenly it vanished. Rauros roared on unchanging. The River had taken Boromir
son of Denethor, and he was not seen again in Minas Tirith, standing as he used
to stand upon the White Tower in the morning. But in Gondor in after-days it
long was said that the elven-boat rode the falls and the foaming pool, and bore
him down through Osgiliath, and past the many mouths of Anduin, out into the
Great Sea at night under the stars.
For a while the three companions remained silent, gazing after him. Then Aragorn
spoke. 'They will look for him from the White Tower,' he said, 'but he will not
return from mountain or from sea.' Then slowly he began to sing:
Through Rohan over fen and field where the long grass grows
The West Wind comes walking, and about the walls it goes.
'What news from the West, O wandering wind, do you bring to me tonight?
Have you seen Boromir the Tall by moon or by starlight?
'I saw him ride over seven streams, over waters wide and grey;
I saw him walk in empty lands, until he passed away
Into the shadows of the North. I saw him then no more.
The North Wind may have heard the horn of the son of Denethor.
'O Boromir! From the high walls westward I looked afar,
But you came not from the empty lands where no men are.
Then Legolas sang:
From the mouths of the Sea the South Wind flies, from the sandhills and the
The wailing of the gulls it bears, and at the gate it moans.
'What news from the South, O sighing wind, do you bring to me at eve?
Where now is Boromir the Fair? He tarries and I grieve.
'Ask not of me where he doth dwell-so many bones there lie
On the white shores and the dark shores under the stormy sky;
So many have passed down Anduin to find the flowing Sea.
Ask of the North Wind news of them the North Wind sends to me!
'O Boromir! Beyond the gate the seaward road runs south,
But you came not with the wailing gulls from the grey sea's mouth.
Then Aragorn sang again:
From the Gate of Kings the North Wind rides, and past the roaring falls;
And clear and cold about the tower its loud horn calls.
'What news from the North, O mighty wind, do you bring to me today?
What news of Boromir the Bold? For he is long away.
'Beneath Amon Hen I heard his cry. There many foes he fought.
His cloven shield, his broken sword, they to the water brought.
His head so proud, his face so fair, his limbs they laid to rest;
And Rauros, golden Rauros-falls, bore him upon its breast.
'O Boromir! The Tower of Guard shall ever northward gaze
To Rauros, golden Rauros-falls, until the end of days.
So they ended. Then they turned their boat and drove it with all the speed they
could against the stream back to Parth Galen.
'You left the East Wind to me,' said Gimli, 'but I will say naught of it.
'That is as it should be,' said Aragorn. 'In Minas Tirith they endure the East
Wind, but they do not ask it for tidings. But now Boromir has taken his road,
and we must make haste to choose our own.
He surveyed the green lawn, quickly but thoroughly, stooping often to the earth.
'No Orcs have been on this ground,' he said. 'Otherwise nothing can be made out
for certain. All our footprints are here, crossing and re-crossing. I cannot
tell whether any of the hobbits have come back since the search for Frodo
began.' He returned to the bank, close to where the rill from the spring
trickled out into the River. 'There are some clear prints here,' he said. 'A
hobbit waded out into the water and back; but I cannot say how long ago.
'How then do you read this riddle?' asked Gimli.
Aragorn did not answer at once, but went back to the camping-place and looked at
the baggage. 'Two packs are missing,' he said, 'and one is certainly Sam's: it
was rather large and heavy. This then is the answer: Frodo has gone by boat, and
his servant has gone with him. Frodo must have returned while we were all away.
I met Sam going up the hill and told him to follow me; but plainly he did not do
so. He guessed his master's mind and came back here before Frodo had gone.