‘The day has come at last,’ [Aragorn] said: ‘the day of choice which we have long delayed. What shall now become of our Company that has travelled so far in fellowship?
Shall we turn west with Boromir and go to the wars of Gondor; or turn east to the Fear and Shadow; or shall we break our fellowship and go this way and that as each may choose? Whatever we do must be done soon. We cannot long halt here. The enemy is on the eastern shore, we know; but I fear that the Orcs may already be on this side of the water.’
Frodo asks for an hour alone to think things through and “decide”, but Sam knows that his master needs something more like “resolve”.
Sam, who had been watching his master with great concern, shook his head and muttered: ‘Plain as a pikestaff it is, but it’s no good Sam Gamgee putting in his spoke just now.’
Boromir’s been showing some increasingly stalkerish behavior toward Frodo since they left Lórien (and even a little before they left), so it’s not really surprising that he follows him and disturbs his alone time.
Suddenly Boromir came and sat beside him. ‘Are you sure that you do not suffer needlessly?’ he said. ‘I wish to help you. You need counsel in a hard choice. Will you not take mine?’
‘I think I know already what counsel you would give, Boromir,’ said Frodo. ‘And it would seem like wisdom but for the warning of my heart.’
‘Warning? Warning against what?’ said Boromir sharply.
‘Against delay. Against the way that seems easier. Against refusal of the burden that is laid on me. Against – well, if it must be said, against trust in the strength and truth of Men.’
He knows he should just get to Mordor as soon as he can, and even aside from the (not insignificant) time it would take to travel of out of his way to Minas Tirith, the only reason Frodo could have for going there would be to get military power to help him into Mordor, and as like as not he’d just end up trapped in the fortress.
Then Boromir asks to see the Ring again, which Frodo refuses.
‘Yet may I not even speak of it? For you seem ever to think only of its power in the hands of the Enemy: of its evil uses not of its good. The world is changing, you say. Minas Tirith will fall, if the Ring lasts. But why? Certainly, if the Ring were with the Enemy. But why, if it were with us?’
‘Were you not at the Council?’ answered Frodo. ‘Because 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. But each to his own kind. 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 the strength to defend ourselves, strength in a just cause. 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!’
I can definitely see why Tolkien wanted to critique this worldview and its deeply flawed, self-(or at least country-)centered logic. The idea that “the Wise” aren’t really smart, just oversensitive pansies, is not exactly unheard of in modern discourse, either. It’s still a pity that Boromir never got much characterization beyond that.
‘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.
Frodo puts on the Ring to escape, and Boromir does seem to cool down after a bit, but Frodo is far away by then. They’re staying at Amon Hen, the Hill of Sight, and so with the Ring, Frodo has a vision of Middle-earth and all its rumors of war.
And suddenly he felt the Eye. There was an Eye in the Dark Tower that did not sleep. He knew that it had become aware of his gaze. A fierce eager will was there. It leaped towards him; almost like a finger he felt it, searching for him. Very soon it would nail him down know just exactly where he was. […]
He heard himself crying out: never, never! Or was it: Verily I come, I come to you? He could not tell. Then as a flash from some other point of power there came to his mind another thought: Take it off! Take it off! Fool, take it off! Take off the Ring!
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.
Tolkien uses nearly identical language to describe the Eye here as he did Boromir in the last scene, probably to indicate that Boromir was only serving the purposes of the Enemy he hates so much. Frodo already knew when Boromir started ranting about all the things he’d do with the Ring that he couldn’t possibly go to Minas Tirith, but after witnessing his breakdown, he comes to another conclusion, too.
Frodo rose to his feet. A great weariness was on him, but his will was firm and his heart lighter. He spoke aloud to himself. ‘I will do now what I must,’ he said. ‘This at least is plain: the evil of the Ring is already at work even in the Company, and the Ring must leave them before it does more harm. I will go alone. Some I cannot trust, and those I can trust are too dear to me: poor old Sam, and Merry, and Pippin. Strider, too: his heart yearns for Minas Tirith, and he will be needed there, now Boromir has fallen into evil. I will go alone. At once.’
Meanwhile, the others were having a little council of their own. While everyone else is determined to stick with Frodo, Sam figures out the inevitable conclusion for Frodo: Leaving for Mordor alone. And then Boromir shows up and tells them all that Frodo vanished, prompting everyone to run off in search of him, despite Aragorn’s best efforts to maintain order – he even manages to lose Sam after he’d specifically decided to guard him (by virtue of walking too fast).
‘Whoa, Sam Gamgee!’ he said aloud. Your legs are too short, so use your head! Let me see now! Boromir isn’t lying, that’s not his way; but he hasn’t told us everything. Something scared Mr. Frodo badly. He screwed himself up to the point, sudden. He made up his mind at last – to go. Where to? Off East. Not without Sam? Yes, without even his Sam. That’s hard, cruel hard.’
Sam passed his hand over his eyes, brushing away the tears. ‘Steady, Gamgee!’ he said. ‘Think, if you can! He can’t fly across rivers, and he can’t jump waterfalls. He’s got no gear. So he’s got to get back to the boats. Back to the boats! Back to the boats, Sam, like lightning!’
He catches Frodo just as he’s taking the boat into the water, and Frodo catches Sam before he can drown trying to follow it.
‘So all my plan is spoilt!’ said Frodo. ‘It is no good trying to escape you. But I’m glad, Sam. I cannot tell you how glad. Come along! It is clear that we were meant to go together. We will go, and may the others find a safe road! Strider will look after them. I don’t suppose we shall ever see them again.’
‘Yet we may, Mr. Frodo. We may,’ said Sam.
This is why Frodo needs Sam: Because he holds on to hope, no matter how small it is.
Until next time…