Aragorn son of Arathorn
Aragorn – the name
It is not exactly known what the name Aragorn means. The best explanation Tolkien ever gave was in Letters (#347), where he said that ara is probably derived from cases where aran ‘king’ lost its n phonetically. He also said that:
“The names in the line of Arthedain are peculiar in several ways; and several, though S. [Sindarin] in form, are not readily interpretable.” (“Letters, #347”)
Aragorn, son of Arathorn II and Gilraen, was born on March 1st of TA 2931 in Eriador. He was only two years old when Arathorn went riding out against Orcs with the sons of Elrond and was shot in the eye with an orc arrow and died.
Aragorn, then the Heir of Isildur, was taken to live in Rivendell with Elrond. At Elrond’s bidding, his true name and lineage were hidden from him, as it was known that Sauron was searching for the Heir of Isildur. In Rivendell, he was named Estel, meaning Hope.
When Aragorn was twenty years old, he returned to Rivendell after performing great deeds with Elladan and Elrohir. Elrond then told him of his true heritage – that he was Aragorn son of Arathorn, the Heir of Isildur, and the Lord of the Dúnedain. He also gave to him the heirlooms of his house, the Ring of Barahir and the Shards of Narsil, but he withheld the Sceptre of Annúminas, keeping it in Rivendell until Elrond felt Aragorn had earned it.
The next day, while walking alone in the woods, Aragorn chanced upon Arwen Undómiel. Thinking her to be Lúthien he called out to her, and Arwen explained to him that she was the daughter of Elrond and had been away with her mother’s kin in Lothlórien. And though she was of elven kind and far older than he, Aragorn loved Arwen from that moment forth.
Aragorn told no one of his love except Gilraen, but Elrond saw many things and confronted Aragorn about his feelings for Arwen. He then told Aragorn that he could not be wed to Arwen or anyone else until he was deemed worthy of her:
“Aragorn, Arathorn’s son, Lord of the Dúnedain, listen to me! A great doom awaits you, either to rise above the height of all your fathers since the days of Elendil, or to fall into darkness with all that is left of your kin. Many years of trial lie before you. You shall neither have a wife, nor bind any woman to you in troth, until your time comes and you are found worthy of it.” (The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A)
Then Aragorn took leave of Elrond, Gilraen, and Arwen and went into the wild. Over the next thirty years, he took many names and many guises, the most well-known of which was Thorongil (TA 2957-2980).
Thorongil, the ‘Eagle of the Star’, was an alias taken by Aragorn in his youth, when he left Imladris after learning his true lineage. He soon became great friends with Gandalf, and served both King Thengel, Théoden’s father in Rohan, and Ecthelion II, the Steward of Gondor. He came to be called Thorongil by the men of Gondor “for he was swift and keen-eyed, and wore a silver star upon his cloak…”. He was accounted a great captain of Men.
“Thus he became the most hardy of living men, skilled in their crafts and lore, and was yet more than they; for he was elven-wise, and there was a light in his eyes that when they were kindled few could endure.”
Thorongil received great renown, especially in Gondor, where he became a trusted counsellor to the Steward. Ecthelion II was known to love Thorongil above all others of his Men, and Thorongil often counselled Ecthelion to place his trust not in Saruman the White but in Gandalf the Grey.
He was an essential part of the overthrow of the Haven of the Rebels in Umbar. After the defeat of the rebels, Thorongil did not return to Minas Tirith. All of the Men who lived there were saddened and felt it a great loss.
When Aragorn was forty-nine years old he stopped in Lothlórien, where Arwen also happened to be. Galadriel clothed Aragorn in silver and white, with a cloak of elven-grey and a bright gem on his brow, making him appear more as an Elf-lord than any kind of Man. Thus did Arwen see him after their long years apart, and she made her choice there under the trees of Caras Galadhon. Aragorn gave her the Ring of Barahir, and for a season they wandered through Lothlórien together, but on Midsummer’s Eve, they went to Cerin Amroth and there plighted their troth.
When Aragorn returned to Rivendell, Elrond was aware of his daughter’s choice.
“Arwen Undómiel shall not diminish her life’s grace for less cause. She shall not be the bride of any Man less than the King of both Gondor and Arnor. To me even our victory can bring only sorrow and parting – but to you hope of joy for a while.” (“The Lord of the Rings”, Appendix A)
Aragorn then went forth from Rivendell to face danger and toil, while Arwen stayed in Imladris, making him a kingly standard for the day when he would claim the kingship of the West.
In TA 3001, Gandalf called on Aragorn for help in the search for Gollum. From TA 3009 to TA 3017, the two of them spent a good deal of time hunting for Gollum, searching in the vales of Anduin, Mirkwood and Rhovanion, even to the confines of Mordor. In TA 3017, Aragorn finally captured Gollum in the Dead Marshes, and took him to Thranduil in Mirkwood.
By the time of the War of the Ring, Aragorn’s main alias was Strider. He was described as having a shaggy head of dark hair flecked with grey, a pale stern face and a pair of keen grey eyes. He wore a dark-green travel-stained hooded cloak with high boots of supple leather that had seen much wear and were caked with mud.
“As Strider was speaking they watched his strange eager face, dimly lit in the red glow of the wood-fire.” (FotR, A Knife in the Dark)
“In the dark at the rear, grim and silent, walked Aragorn.” (FotR, A Journey in the Dark)
While his demeanour was grim and forbidding, he did break out into occasional laughs, and it soon became clear to the hobbits that he had their welfare firmly at heart. Indeed, by their arrival at Rivendell, Frodo told Gandalf that he had become very fond of the Ranger.
The folk of Bree and the Shire were unaware of the true role of the Rangers, and they looked upon the cloaked strangers with contempt. To them, the Rangers were a secretive folk, seeming to wander through Middle-earth in a purposeless manner.
“He is one of the wandering folk – Rangers we call them. He seldom talks: not but what he can tell a rare tale when he has the mind. He disappears for a month, or a year, and then he pops up again. He was in and out pretty often last spring; but I haven’t seen him about lately. What his right name is I’ve never heard: but he’s known round here as Strider.” (FotR, At the Sign of the Prancing Pony)
Deprecation, self-doubt and acceptance of failure
Aragorn’s sense of self-doubt, and almost even self-dislike, is obvious from the start, and it is only enhanced by the men of Bree’s low opinion of him. As Strider, he is quite diffident and uncertain. He would not take immediate charge of the hobbit party, instead waiting until the hobbits had voiced their doubts, and Frodo had read Gandalf’s letter. Only then did Strider ask if the hobbits would accept him as a guide.
“”Tomorrow you will have to escape, if you can. Strider can take you by paths that are seldom trodden. Will you have him?” There was a heavy silence. Frodo made no answer, his mind was confused with doubt and fear.” (FotR, Strider)
Then some of his bitterness and doubt came through:
“”But I must admit,” he added with a queer laugh, “that I hoped you would take to me for my own sake. A hunted man sometimes wearies of distrust and longs for friendship.” (FotR, Strider)
He also showed the hobbits early on some of the hardships and fear he had encountered through his life:
“”They will come on you in the wild, in some dark place where there is no help. Do you wish them to find you? They are terrible!” The hobbits looked at him, and saw with surprise that his face was drawn as if with pain, and his hands clenched the arms of his chair. … For a while he sat with unseeing eyes as if walking in distant memory or listening to sounds in the Night far away.” (FotR, Strider)
Vows to serve
After Aragorn became part of the hobbits’ party in the book, he immediately told them his true identity, and pledged himself to their cause.
“I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, and if by life or death I can save you, I will.” (FotR, Strider)
The Heir of Isildur
While Aragorn is full of doubt about his abilities, he does have a good understanding of his potential future role, and often shows his wisdom and inherent power. He is acknowledged leader of his people, the Northern Dúnedain, and by virtue of being Isildur’s Heir, he knows he has the right – and the destiny – to claim the throne of Gondor. That he hasn’t claimed the throne yet never implied that he didn’t intend to.
Aragorn’s heritage and wisdom is revealed early, if only cryptically. Strider’s riddle (“All that is gold does not glitter ….”) is revealed in Bree, and Aragorn carries Narsil from the start. He also freely acknowledges his future role:
“He drew out his sword, and they saw that the blade was indeed broken a foot below the hilt. “Not much use is it, Sam?” said Strider. “But the time is near when it shall be forged anew.”” (FotR, Strider)
He is also shown to be wise, and knowledgeable about ancient ways. He talks several times of the olden days, once reciting the tale of Lúthien.
“”It is told that Elendil stood there watching for the coming of Gil-galad out of the West, in the days of the Last Alliance.” The hobbits gazed at Strider. It seemed that he was learned in old lore, as well as in the ways of the wild.” (FotR, A Knife in the Dark)
Aragorn and Arwen
Arwen’s role in Aragorn’s life is only hinted at through “The Lord of the Rings”, with their story being relegated to the appendix. The feelings Aragorn has for Arwen are expressed only in a few places, and often in an oblique manner, such as those given below:
“I dwelt there [Rivendell] once, and still I return when I may. There my heart is” (FotR, Flight to the Ford)
“He turned to Strider. “Where have you been, my friend? Why weren’t you at the feast? The Lady Arwen was there.” Strider looked down at Bilbo gravely. “I know,” he said. “But often I must put mirth aside.”” (FotR, Many Meetings)
“Near him [Elrond] sat the Lady Arwen. To his surprise Frodo saw that Aragorn stood beside her; his dark cloak was thrown back, and he seemed to be clad in elven-mail, and a star shone on his breast.” (FotR, Many Meetings)
All these quotes could be seen as ambiguous – and interpreted as either love for Arwen, love for Rivendell, or simply friendship with Arwen.
From Ranger to Heir
At the Council of Elrond, Aragorn renounces his beloved way of life as a Dúnedain Ranger, and takes up the public role of the Heir of Isildur and the Bearer of the Sword that was Broken. But proclaiming himself as the apparent King of Gondor creates a problem for him – Boromir, who doubts Aragorn’s ability and his right to lead Gondor.
After Boromir’s tirade against the Ranger, Aragorn comes out with his most royal-sounding comment to date, saying he will forgive the Gondorian’s doubts:
“For my part I forgive your doubt,” he said. “Little do I resemble the figures of Elendil and Isildur … I am but the heir of Isildur, not Isildur himself.” (FotR, The Council of Elrond)
He continued, explaining (not justifying) to Boromir his choice of lifestyle up till then.
“If Gondor, Boromir, has been a stalwart tower, we have played another part. Many evil things there are that your strong walls and bright swords do not stay. You know little of the lands beyond your bounds. Peace and freedom, do you say? The North would have known them little but for us. Fear would have destroyed them. But when dark things come from the houseless hills, or creep from sunless woods, they fly from us. What roads would any dare to tread, what safety would there be in quiet lands, or in the homes of simple men at night, if the Dúnedain were asleep, or were all gone into the grave? And yet less thanks have we than you. … That has been the task of my kindred, while the years have lengthened and the grass has grown.
But now the world is changing once again. A new hour comes. Isildur’s Bane is found. Battle is at hand. The Sword shall be reforged. I will come to Minas Tirith.” (FotR, The Council of Elrond)
Elrond suggests Aragorn as a travelling companion for Frodo, once the Hobbit has agreed to take the Ring to Mordor.
“For man you shall have Aragorn son of Arathorn, for the Ring of Isildur concerns him closely.” (FotR, The Ring goes South)
That December, not long before the Fellowship left Rivendell, Aragorn had the Shards of Narsil reforged into Andúril.
“The Sword of Elendil was forged anew by Elvish smiths, and on its blade was traced a device of seven stars set between the crescent Moon and the rayed Sun, and about them was written many runes; for Aragorn son of Arathorn was going to war upon the marches of Mordor. Very bright was that sword when it was made whole again; the light of the sun shone redly in it, and the light of the moon shone cold, and its edge was hard and keen. And Aragorn gave it a new name and called it Andúril, Flame of the West.” (FotR, The Ring goes South)
The symbolic and martial importance of the sword in his life is obvious from then on, encapsulated in a small quote from TTT:
“And I would do as the master of the house bade me, were this only a woodman’s cot, if I bore now any sword but Andúril.” (TTT, The King of the Golden Hall)
Aragorn – guide and leader
From the start, the Fellowship look to Aragorn as a guide and leader, with even Gandalf deferring to his wisdom.
“”If you bring a Ranger with you, it is well to pay attention to him, especially if the Ranger is Aragorn.”” (FotR, The Ring Goes South)
“”What do you say now, Aragorn?”” (FotR, The Ring Goes South)
Furthermore, his depth of experience of the places and peoples of Middle-earth is constantly brought to the fore.
“I too once passed the Dimrill Gate,” said Aragorn quietly; “but though I also came out again, the memory is very evil. I do not wish to enter Moria a second time.” (FotR, The Ring Goes South)
In the dark of Moria
All the steady surety, calmness and authority of Aragorn comes to the fore in Moria.
“With a bound the Balrog leaped full upon the bridge. Its whip whirled and hissed. “He cannot stand alone!” cried Aragorn suddenly and ran back along the bridge. “Elendil! he shouted. “I am with you, Gandalf!”” (FotR, The Bridge of Khazad-dûm)
After the Balrog had taken Gandalf into the depths, Aragorn unthinkingly took charge of the group, and all automatically followed him.
“With a cry Aragorn roused them. “Come! I will lead you now!” he called. “We must obey his last command. Follow me!” … Aragorn smote to the ground the captain that stood in his path, and the rest fled in terror of his wrath.” (FotR, The Bridge of Khazad-dûm)
In Lothlórien, the Golden Wood
Just before the Fellowship reaches Caras Galadhon, there is one of the most moving descriptions of Aragorn – a scene which provides one of the few truly happy glimpses we have of Aragorn.
“At the hill’s foot Frodo found Aragorn, standing still and silent as a tree; but in his hand was a small golden bloom of elanor, and a light was in his eyes. He was wrapped in some fair memory: and as Frodo looked at him he knew that he beheld things as they once had been in this same place. For the grim years were removed from the face of Aragorn, and he seemed clothed in white, a young lord tall and fair; and he spoke words in the Elvish tongue to one whom Frodo could not see. “Arwen vanimelda, namarië!” he said, and then he drew a breath, and returning out of his thought he looked at Frodo and smiled.
“Here is the heart of Elvendom on earth,” he said, “and here my heart dwells ever”” (FotR, Lothlórien)
Gifts from Galadriel
When leaving Lórien, Aragorn is given a sheath that had been made to fit Andúril, overlaid with a tracery of flowers and leaves, and set with runes formed of many gems showing the name Andúril and the lineage of the sword. When Galadriel asked if there was anything else Aragorn would ask of her, he replied that the only thing he wished for was Arwen, but he knew that Galadriel had not the power to grant that to him. Then Galadriel gave him the Elfstone:
“Aragorn took the stone and pinned the brooch upon his breast, and those who saw him wondered; for they had not marked before how tall and kingly he stood, and it seemed to them that many years of toil had fallen from his shoulders. “For the gifts that you have given me I thank you,” he said, “O Lady of Lórien of whom were sprung Celebrían and Arwen Evenstar. What praise could I say more?”” (FotR, Farewell to Lórien)
The Kings of Old and the King to come
Aragorn’s transformation when leaving Lothlórien was accentuated when they reached the Argonath.
“”Fear not!” said a strange voice behind him. Frodo turned and saw Strider, and yet not Strider; for the weatherworn Ranger was no longer there. In the stern sat Aragorn son of Arathorn, proud and erect, guiding the boat with skilful strokes; his hood was cast back, and his dark hair was blowing in the wind, a light was in his eyes: a king returning from exile to his own land. … “Long have I desired to look upon the likenesses of Isildur and Anárion, my sires of old. Under their shadow Elessar, the Elfstone son of Arathorn of the House of Valandil Isildur’s son, heir of Elendil, has nought to dread!”” (FotR, The Great River)
Aragorn the King emerges. A man certain in his heritage and his destiny.
The Breaking of the Fellowship / Departure of Boromir
At Amon Hen, Aragorn climbs up the hill to sit on the High Seat – a great chair constructed by the ancient Gondorians, from which they could review their domain. It is fitting indeed that the heir to the throne of Gondor should have the chance to survey what would become his realm if all his plans came to fruition.
But even then – even when Aragorn has seen the Argonath, and seen what will become his domain, he still has doubts about his ability:
“”The horn of Boromir! … Alas! An ill fate is on me this day, and all that I do goes amiss!”” (TTT: The Departure of Boromir)
In the following skirmish, when Boromir is injured, Aragorn is at his side in his final moments. Aragorn kisses him, promises him that Minas Tirith would not fall, and tells him to be at peace. But after Boromir’s death, Aragorn has another attack of self-doubt, associated with his instinctive assumption of responsibility for the entire Quest, as well as his automatic assumption of guilt for events that he could not really control:
“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?” (TTT: The Departure of Boromir)
After Boromir’s death, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli discover what has happened to the Hobbits from prints near the river bank and two hobbit blades they found in a pile of Orc bodies. Aragorn decides that he must follow the Orcs:
“”I would have guided Frodo to Mordor and gone with him to the end; but if I seek him now in the wilderness, I must abandon the captives to torment and death. My heart speaks clearly at last: the fate of the Bearer is in my hands no longer. The Company has played its part. Yet we that remain cannot forsake our companions while we have strength left. Come! We will go now! Leave all that can be spared behind! We will press on by day and dusk!”” (TTT: The Departure of Boromir)
And at the time, he already seems to have a strong sense of how fate is weaving through their lives:
“We will make such a chase as shall be accounted a marvel among the Three Kindreds: Elves, Dwarves and Men. Forth the Three Hunters!”
Journey to Edoras
Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas follow the Orcs over into Rohan, where they meet a company of Riders, led by Éomer. When asked by Éomer who he was, Aragorn immediately proclaims his true heritage:
“Aragorn threw back his cloak. The elven-sheath glittered as he grasped it, and the bright blade of Andúril shone like a sudden flame as he swept it out. “Elendil!” he cried. “I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, and am called Elessar, the Elfstone, Dúnadan, the heir of Isildur Elendil’s son of Gondor. Here is the Sword that was Broken and is forged again! Will you aid me or thwart me? Choose swiftly!”
Gimli and Legolas looked at their companion in amazement, for they had not seen him in this mood before, He seemed to have grown in stature while Éomer had shrunk, and in his living face they caught a brief vision of the power and majesty of the kings of stone. For a moment it seemed to the eyes of Legolas that a white flame flickered on the brows of Aragorn like a shining crown.” (TTT, The Riders of Rohan)
The magnitude of the Three Hunters’ achievement in journeying to Edoras so quickly is emphasised by Éomer:
“Wide wonder came into Éomer’s eyes. “Strider is too poor a name, son of Arathorn,” he said. “Wingfoot I name you. This deed of the three friends should be sung in many a hall. Forty leagues and five you have measured ere the fourth day is ended. Hardy is the race of Elendil!” (TTT, The Riders of Rohan)
Éomer then presented the hunters with Hasufel and Arod, and asked that after completing his quest, Aragorn would return to Meduseld and tell Théoden of Éomer’s loyalty. The next day they met up with Gandalf the White, who told Aragorn to follow his sworn word, and go to Meduseld.
“You must go to Edoras and seek out Théoden in his hall. For you are needed. The light of Andúril must now be uncovered in the battle for which it has so long waited.” (Gandalf, TTT, The White Rider)
The Golden Hall – and Éowyn
“Théoden drank from the cup, and she then proffered it to the guests. As she stood before Aragorn she paused suddenly and looked upon him, and her eyes were shining. And he looked down upon her fair face and smiled; but as he took the cup, his hand met hers, and he knew that she trembled at the touch. “Hail Aragorn son of Arathorn!” she said. “Hail Lady of Rohan!” he answered, but his face now was troubled and he did not smile. (TTT, The King of the Golden Hall)
That was the start of the relationship between Aragorn and Éowyn – brotherly on his part, romanticised on her part. But why did Aragorn already have a troubled face? Because he saw the romantic love in her eyes? Or because he saw her glamorised vision of war and death in her eyes?
I tend to think it’s a mixture of both:
“”A year shall I endure for every day that passes until your return.” But as she spoke her eyes went to Aragorn who stood nearby.”
Aragorn looked back as they passed towards the gate. Alone Éowyn stood before the doors of the house at the stair’s head; the sword was set upright before her, and her hands were laid upon the hilt. She was clad now in mail and shone like silver in the sun.” (TTT, The King of the Golden Hall)
This ambivalence of feeling was kept up throughout the preparations for battle.
“”Then wilt thou not let me ride with this company, as I have asked?”
Then she fell on her knees, saying: “I beg thee!”
“Nay, lady,” he said, and taking her by the hand he raised her. Then he kissed her hand, and sprang into the saddle, and rode away, and did not look back; and only those who knew him well and were near to him saw the pain that he bore.” (RotK, The Passing of the Grey Company)
It was only at the Houses of Healing that Aragorn’s true feelings about Éowyn came forth.
“Few other griefs amid the ill chances of this world have more bitterness and shame for a man’s heart than to behold the love of a lady so fair and brave that cannot be returned. Sorrow and pity have followed me ever since I left her desperate in Dunharrow and rode to the Paths of the Dead; and no fear upon that way was so present as the fear for what might befall her. And yet, Éomer, I say to you that she loves you more truly than me; for you she loves and knows; but in me she loves only a shadow and a thought: a hope of glory and great deeds, and lands far from the fields of Rohan.” (RotK, The Houses of Healing)
The battle for Helm’s Deep
The first mention of Aragorn in the Battle of Helm’s Deep is when he was on the Deeping Wall with Éomer and they both saw the peril that the battering rams represented to the gates.
“Come!” said Aragorn. “This is the hour when we draw swords together!”
Running like fire, they sped along the wall, up the steps, and passed into the outer court upon the Rock. As they ran they gathered a handful of stout swordsmen. Éomer and Aragorn sprang through the postern door, their men close behind, and their swords flashing from the sheath as one.
“Gúthwinë!” cried Éomer. “Gúthwinë for the Mark!”
“Andúril!” cried Aragorn. “Andúril for the Dúnedain!”” (TTT, Helm’s Deep)
At the sight of the white fire of Andúril, the orcs with the rams fled, and for a moment Éomer and Aragorn stood alone in front of the gates. They then went back into the keep to help reinforce the gates, and later acted as rallying points for three charges of the Rohirrim against the enemies trying to get over the Deeping Wall.
When the Orcs had blown open the culvert, Aragorn stood with Andúril as a last defence against the forces of darkness until all the defenders had found their way into the Hornburg.
Then, at the darkest moment of the night, Théoden decided that he would ride out at dawn.
“”Will you ride with me then, son of Arathorn? Maybe we shall cleave a road, or make such an end as will be worth a song – if any be left to sing of us hereafter.”
“I will ride with you,” said Aragorn.” (TTT, Helm’s Deep)
Théoden then rode out with Aragorn at his right hand, and the Lords of the House of Eorl the Young. They cleaved a path to the Dike, from where they suddenly saw Gandalf, Erkenbrand, and an awful lot of reinforcements.
At Isengard, Aragorn showed that Strider was still there in him, that he was still much more than Aragorn, Isildur’s Heir. He and Legolas sought out Merry and Pippin, and the four of them sat for a while, resting, talking and smoking their pipes.
“He wrapped his grey cloak about him, hiding his mail-shirt, and stretched out his long legs. Then he lay back and sent from his lips a thin stream of smoke.
“Look!” said Pippin. “Strider the Ranger has come back!”
“He has never been away,” said Aragorn. “I am Strider and Dúnadan too, and I belong both to Gondor and the North.”” (TTT, Flotsam and Jetsam)
He also took the Palantír of Orthanc, knowing it was his by right. “Now my hour draws near. I will take it.” Though he agreed with Gandalf’s counsel not to use it – yet.
The Grey Company
On the way back from Isengard to Edoras, Aragorn and his company were found by Halbarad and his company of thirty Rangers. As well as bringing their considerable strength to Aragorn’s company, Elrohir brought a message from Elrond: “The days are short. If thou art in haste, remember the Paths of the Dead.” Halbarad also brought Arwen’s standard to Aragorn with the message: “The days now are short. Either our hope cometh, or all hopes end. Therefore I send thee what I have made for thee. Fare well, Elfstone!” They also brought Aragorn’s horse, Roheryn, with them.
At Helm’s Deep, Aragorn secluded himself in a high chamber in the Hornburg, taking only Halbarad with him. There he looked into the Palantír.
“I am the lawful master of the Stone, and I had both the right and the strength to use it, or so I judged. The right cannot be doubted. The strength was enough – barely.”
He drew a deep breath, “It was a bitter struggle, and the weariness is slow to pass. I spoke no word to him, and in the end I wrenched the Stone to my own will. That alone he will find hard to endure. And he beheld me. Yes, Master Gimli, he saw me, but in other guise than you see me here. If that will aid him, then I have done ill. But I do not think so. To know that I lived and walked the earth was a blow to his heart, I deem; for he knew it not till now. … Now in the very hour of his great designs the heir of Isildur and the Sword are revealed; for I showed the blade re-forged to him. He is not so mighty yet that he is above fear; nay, doubt ever gnaws him.” (RotK, The Passing of the Grey Company)
More than almost any other passage, I feel that this one really shows that Aragorn has come to terms with his destiny, and is now utterly comfortable with his power and his role. Not only does he judge his strength and knowledge to be adequate to be able to handle the might of Sauron – a task that even Gandalf would think twice about – but his strength and knowledge was adequate. He was able to show Sauron only what Aragorn wanted him to see – which presumably was a vision of Aragorn as Elessar. And he also had the wisdom to understand Sauron – to know that even though he was a Maia, of incomparable strength, he still feared the heir of Isildur.
When Aragorn came back down, all were shocked by his appearance – as if a number of years had fallen on him over that one night.
“Grim was his face, grey-hued and weary.
“I am troubled in mind, lord,” he said, standing by the king’s horse. “I have heard strange words, and I see new perils far off. I have laboured long in thought, and now I fear that I must change my purpose.”
“For me the time of stealth has passed. I will ride east by the swiftest way, and I will take the Paths of the Dead.” (RotK, The Passing of the Grey Company)
The Paths of the Dead
The Grey Company then set out to journey through the Paths of the Dead – the quickest way to travel from Rohan to Pelargir, while picking up an army at the same time.
Before the door, they came across the body of Baldor, the son of the second King of Rohan. Once inside, Aragorn summoned the Dead to the Stone of Erech, and once that was done, the company carried on with their journey – in total darkness, for their torches had been extinguished.
When the Company reached the Stone of Erech, Elrohir gave Aragorn a silver horn, and when he blew on it, they sensed a great host gathering around the hill. Aragorn told the Dead Men that he would hold their oath fulfilled when they had helped cleanse the land of the servants of Sauron.
There followed a great ride of 93 leagues to Pelargir.
“the Shadow Host seemed to grow stronger and more terrible to look upon. Some I saw riding, some striding, yet all moving with the same great speed. Silent they were, but there was a gleam in their eyes.” (RotK, The Last Debate)
When the army reached Lamedon, they came across a conflict between the men of Lamedon and the men of Umbar and Harad. Defenders and foe alike fled at the sight of the army of the dead – all except the men of Angbor, Lord of Lamedon.
But their first major battle was at Pelargir, where there were fifty great Umbarian ships docked, as well as countless smaller vessels. Aragorn commanded the Dead to come forth, and the Shadow Host came up like a grey tide, sweeping all away before it. All ships were quickly taken, and Aragorn put one of the Dúnedain aboard each. He also asked Angbor to lead 4000 men from Pelargir through Lossarnach to Minas Tirith.
This battle seemed only to increase his friends’ belief in him and his purpose:
Legolas: “In that hour I looked on Aragorn and thought how great and terrible a Lord he might have become in the strength of his will, had he taken the Ring to himself. Not for naught does Mordor fear him. But nobler is his spirit than the understanding of Sauron; for is he not of the children of Lúthien? Never shall that line fail, though the years may lengthen beyond count.”
When Aragorn was aboard the largest of the ships, he called to the Dead Men, saying that their oath was fulfilled and that they could depart and be at rest. The next morning, the fleet set forth to Harlond – a journey of forty-two leagues.
The Battle of the Pelennor Fields
Several days later, Aragorn arrived with his army at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Initially the defenders of Minas Tirith thought that the ships were carrying more enemies, but they then saw the standard of the White Tree with seven stars and a crown – the signs of Elendil – flying from Aragorn’s ship. The stars flamed in the sunlight, as they were wrought of gems by Arwen, and the crown gleamed as well, being wrought of mithril and gold. As soon as the ships docked, the men aboard sprang out to battle.
“before all went Aragorn with the Flame of the West, Andúril like a new fire kindled, Narsil re-forged as deadly as of old; and upon his brow was the Star of Elendil.” (RotK, The Battle of the Pelennor Fields)
He met up with Éomer in the midst of the battle, and there they clasped each other’s hands in friendship before going back to fighting. Eventually all of the enemies fled or were slain.
“Aragorn and Éomer and Imrahil rode back towards the Gate of the City, and they were now weary beyond joy or sorrow. These three were unscathed, for such was their fortune and the skill and might of their arms, and few indeed had dared to abide them or look on their faces in the hour of their wrath.” (RotK, The Battle of the Pelennor Fields).
But at the gates to Minas Tirith, Aragorn stopped and would not go further.
“I will not enter in, nor make any claim, until it be seen whether we or Mordor shall prevail. Men shall pitch my tents upon the field, and here I will await the welcome of the Lord of the City.” “RotK, The Houses of Healing)
Gandalf then begged him enter the city so that he could heal the sick, and he did so, but only as the Captain of the Dúnedain of Arnor.
The Houses of Healing
In the Houses of Healing, Aragorn went first to Faramir, then Éowyn, and then Merry.
“When he had looked on the faces of the sick and seen their hurts he sighed. “Here I must put forth all such power and skill as is given to me,” he said. “Would that Elrond were here, for he is the eldest of all our race, and has the greatest power.”” (RotK, The Houses of Healing)
He then bade Ioreth to fetch some athelas, for there was none in the stores. Then he knelt by Faramir, and put a hand on his forehead. To everyone around it seemed as if some great struggle was going on, for Aragorn continually called the name of Faramir, but each time more faintly, as if Aragorn was slowly removing himself from their presence. Then when Bergil came in with some athelas, Aragorn breathed on two leaves, crushed them, threw them into bowls of steaming water. Then soon after he held one of the bowls before Faramir’s face, the Gondorian stirred.
Aragorn’s healing powers
“Aragorn’s ‘healing’ might be regarded as ‘magical’, or at least a blend of magic with pharmacy and ‘hypnotic’ processes.” (Letter #155)
If we look through the books, there are several instances of Aragorn’s powers of healing. When Frodo was wounded at Weathertop, Aragorn first sang over the knife-hilt, perhaps to exorcise any remaining evil spells, and then bathed the wound with athelas-steeped water. Aragorn next used athelas to tend Sam and Frodo after their escape from Moria. On both occasions the only obvious healing power that Aragorn showed was calling forth of athelas’ greater healing properties. When Aragorn went to the Houses of Healing he again used athelas, as well as calling Faramir, Éowyn, and Merry back from the shadows, seemingly curing them more with his voice (“hypnosis”?) than by any physical action. Later, when Frodo and Sam had been rescued from Mount Doom, healing was brought about by Aragorn, who again used the power of his voice to send them “into the sweet forgetfulness of sleep”. Aragorn’s by then well known healing powers were cited as additional proof of his right to the kingship at his coronation.
So what was this gift of healing? I would proffer a suggestion that it was some ability to get through to sick people and draw them back out using their own desires. Merry immediately thought of food, Faramir thought of Aragorn and his command, and Éowyn thought of her beloved uncle and brother.
The Black Gate
In counsels between Aragorn, Gandalf, Imrahil, Éomer and the sons of Elrond, it was decided that their forces must continue in the game that Aragorn started when he let Sauron see him in the Palantír.
“We must push Sauron to his last throw. We must call out his hidden strength, so that he shall empty his land. We must march out to meet him at once. We must make ourselves the bait, though his jaws should close on us.
We must walk open-eyed into that trap, with courage, but small hope for ourselves.” (Gandalf in RotK, The Last Debate)
The hosts of the West thus determined to march on the Black Gate. Aragorn’s company was in the van of the army, with the Dúnedain and the sons of Elrond. Six days after they left Minas Tirith, they reached the Black Gate, and there they ordered their troops. The Lords went forth towards the Gate and demanded that the Lord of the Black Land come forth for justice to be laid upon him.
Eventually, the Mouth of Sauron came forth, and vied with Aragorn through words.
“It needs more to make a king than a piece of elvish glass, or a rabble such as this. Why, any brigand of the hills can show as good a following.”
Aragorn said naught in answer, but he took the other’s eye and held it, and for a moment they strove thus; but soon, though Aragorn did not stir nor move hand to weapon, the other quailed and gave back as if menaced with a blow.” (Return of the King, The Black Gate Opens)
When the Mouth of Sauron rode back to the Black Gate, the armies of Sauron were unleashed, and they trapped the Men of the West in their midst. Aragorn and Gandalf stood on one hill, and the other Lords stood on the other, and about them, rings of defenders were formed.
“Aragorn stood beneath his banner, silent and stern, as one lost in thought of things long past or far away; but his eyes gleamed like stars that shine the brighter as the night deepens.” (Return of the King, The Field of Cormallen)
They were saved from an utter defeat only by Gollum, who at that moment gained the Ring, and fell down into Mount Doom, thus ending the reign of Sauron.
The King of Gondor
After the end of the War, the armies gathered on the Field of Cormallen.
“On the throne sat a mail-clad man, a great sword was laid across his knees, but he wore no helm. As they drew near he rose. And then they knew him, changed as he was, so high and glad of face, kingly, lord of Men, dark-haired with eyes of grey.” (Return of the King, The Field of Cormallen)
When the Hobbits went up to Aragorn, he knelt before them, then led Frodo and Sam up to his throne and set them upon it. Then he turned to his army saying “Praise them with great praise!”
At the rising of the sun on the morning of the 1st May, Aragorn entered the gates of Minas Tirith. He came forward to the gates to be greeted there by Faramir the Steward, Húrin the Warden of the Keys, Éowyn, Elfhelm, and many Captains of Gondor and Riders of Rohan. He was clad in black mail girt with silver, and he wore a long mantle of pure white clasped at the throat with a green stone. His head was bare save for the star of the Elendilmir on his forehead.
Faramir then surrendered his office to Aragorn, but Aragorn gave Faramir back his white rod saying that the office of the Steward was his and his heirs for as long as Aragorn’s line would last.
“Then Faramir stood up and spoke in a clear voice: “Men of Gondor, hear now the Steward of this Realm! Behold! one has come to claim the kingship again at last. Here is Aragorn son of Arathorn, chieftain of the Dúnedain of Arnor, Captain of the Host of the West, bearer of the Star of the North, wielder of the Sword Reforged, victorious in battle, whose hands bring healing, the Elfstone, Elessar of the line of Valandil, Isildur’s son, Elendil’s son of Númenor. Shall he be king and enter into the City and dwell there?” (Return of the King, The Steward and the King)
Faramir then gave Aragorn the crown of Eärnur – which was shaped like the helms of the Guards of the Citadel, save that it was white, and the wings at either side were made of pearl and silver and fashioned like the wings of a sea-bird. Seven gems of diamond were set in the circlet, and on its summit was a single jewel. But Aragorn gave the crown back to Faramir, and asked if Frodo would bring the crown to him, and if Mithrandir would crown him.
And when he was crowned, he went forth into the City and entered into the Citadel. The banner of the Tree and the Stars was unfurled, and the reign of King Elessar began.
In the days following his crowning, Aragorn sat in the Hall of the Kings and pronounced judgements. He pardoned the Easterlings that had given themselves up, and made peace with Harad. The slaves of Mordor he released and gave them the lands around Lake Núrnen for their own. He then appointed Beregond to the Captaincy of the White Company, Faramir’s Guard, and gave Ithilien to Faramir.
The White Tree
One day, Gandalf took Aragorn out of Minas Tirith at night, and took him up a little-known path on Mount Mindolluin. Eventually they came to a high field below the snows that looked down over the precipice that backed the city.
There, Aragorn found a sign that his lineage would continue, and would be there to guide the start of the Age of Men. On a snowy slope behind him, he saw a sapling tree, no more than three foot high. Its leaves were dark green above and silver below, and it had put forth one small cluster of flowers whose white petals shone like the sunlit snow.
The tree was situated in an ancient hallow, which was only approachable by the King, where he had anciently offered thanks and praise on behalf of his people. The hallow had been forgotten until Aragorn discovered the tree there (Letters #156) – a sign of the blessing of the Valar on his reign.
Aragorn then bore this new sapling of the line of Nimloth back to the Citadel. The old tree was laid to rest in Rath Dínen, and the new tree was planted. It grew swiftly and gladly, and even that summer, it was laden with blossom.
A company of elves arrived at Minas Tirith in the evening of Midsummer’s Eve. The King welcomed them, and Elrond then gave to him the last token of his House, the Sceptre of Annuminas, and laid Arwen’s hand in his. Together they went up into the High City, and in the early hours of Midsummer’s Day, Aragorn and Arwen were married.
When Aragorn married Arwen, the lines of all four great Kings of the High Elves (Elwë, Ingwë, Finwë and Olwë) were united.
After the days of rejoicing for Aragorn and Arwen’s wedding, Théoden’s bier was taken home to Rohan. Accompanying him on the journey were Merry, Aragorn, Frodo, Sam, Gandalf, Pippin, Legolas, Gimli, Arwen, Celeborn, Galadriel, Elrond and his sons, Faramir and Imrahil – along with companies of knights from the various kingdoms.
When they came to the Grey Wood, Aragorn let it be known that he gave the Forest of Drúadan to Ghân-buri-ghân and his folk for ever.
After 15 days, the company arrived at Edoras, and a few days later was the funeral of Théoden. At the feast afterwards, Éomer announced that Éowyn and Faramir were to be wed.
“Then Éowyn looked in the eyes of Aragorn, and she said: “Wish me joy, my liege-lord and healer!”
And he answered: “I have wished thee joy ever since first I saw thee. It heals my heart to see thee now in bliss.”” (Return of the King, Many Partings)
Aragorn and his company then rode on to Helm’s Deep, and then to Isengard, where he gave the valley of Isengard to the Ents. They then continued to the Gap of Rohan, where the company took their leave of Aragorn.
The Fourth Age
In “The Epilogue” in “Sauron Defeated”, Aragorn took a journey to the Shire in SR 1436. Before his arrival, he sent a letter to Sam:
“Elessar Aragorn Arathornsson the Elfstone King of Gondor and Lord of the Westlands will approach the Bridge of Baranduin on the first day of Spring, or in the Shire-reckoning the twenty-fifth day of March next, and desires there to greet all his friends. In especial he desires to see Master Samwise Mayor of the Shire, and Rose his wife, and Elanor, Rose, Goldilocks and Daisie his daughters, and Frodo, Merry, and Pippin and Hamfast his sons.” (Sauron Defeated)
In Version B of “The Epilogue”, there is mention of another journey that Aragorn took to the Shire in the early days of his reign, when Elanor was only a baby. Sam also mentioned that he thought Aragorn would take them to his great house at Lake Evendim.
Aragorn and Arwen lived together in glory and bliss for 120 years, and during that time Arwen gave birth to their son, Eldarion, and a number of daughters.
But eventually Aragorn felt the approach of old age and knew that his time in Middle-earth was coming to a close.
He chose to leave then, with Eldarion ready for kingship, and before he would have to go through illness or old age. It was March 1st, FA 120.
“Then going to the House of the Kings in the Silent Street, Aragorn laid him down on the long bed that had been prepared for him. There he said farewell to Eldarion, and gave into his hands the winged crown of Gondor and the sceptre of Arnor; and then all left him save Arwen, and she stood alone by his bed. And for all her wisdom and lineage she could not forbear to plead with him to stay yet for a while. She was not yet weary of her days, and thus she tasted the bitterness of the mortality that she had taken upon her.
“Estel, Estel!” she cried, and with that even as he took her hand and kissed it, he fell into sleep. Then a great beauty was revealed in him, so that all who after came there looked on him in wonder; for they saw that the grace of his youth, and the valour of his manhood, and the wisdom and majesty of his age were blended together. And long there he lay, an image of the splendour of the Kings of Men in glory undimmed before the breaking of the world.” (“The Lord of the Rings”, Appendix A)
The death of Aragorn was of a form taken by the Númenorean Kings of old.
“It was also the Elvish (and uncorrupted Númenórean view that a ‘good’ Man would or should die voluntarily by surrender with trust before being compelled (as did Aragorn). This may have been the nature of unfallen Man; though compulsion would not threaten him: he would desire and ask to be allowed to ‘go on’ to a higher state.” (Letters #212)
Old ideas from HoME – Trotter the Hobbit
Aragorn in a good number of early drafts of LotR was actually a hobbit called Trotter, and even while he changed from a wandering hobbit to a hobbit-Ranger to a human Ranger, he kept the same name. Even very late in the book’s construction, Aragorn was declaring that his House would be named Trotter (“War of the Ring”). The ideas behind the alteration from Trotter to Aragorn can be seen best in “The Return of the Shadow”, using the following series of quotes:
In “Queries and Alterations” (“The Return of the Shadow”):
“Rangers are best not as hobbits, perhaps. But either Trotter (as a ranger) must be not a hobbit, or someone very well known. … I thought of making Trotter into Fosco Took (Bilbo’s first cousin) who vanished when a lad, owing to Gandalf. Who is Trotter? He must have had some bitter acquaintance with Ring-wraiths &c.”
In “New Uncertainties and New Projections” (“The Return of the Shadow”):
“Most interesting are the statements that Trotter was Peregrin Boffin, standing in the same sort of relationship to Bilbo as did Frodo, but older than Frodo, and that running off into the wide world he had found his way to Mordor.”
In “In the House of Elrond”(“The Return of the Shadow”):
“Trotter had better not be a hobbit – but a Ranger, remainder of Western Men”
In “The Ring Goes South” (“The Return of the Shadow”):
“I would be inclined to think that the original figure (the mysterious person who encounters the hobbits in the inn at Bree) was capable of development in different directions without losing important elements of his ‘identity’ as a recognisable character – even though the choice of one direction or another would lead to quite different historical and racial ‘identities’ in Middle-earth. So Trotter was not simply switched from Hobbit to Man – though such a switch could take place in the case of Mr Butterbur with very little disturbance. Rather, he had been potentially Aragorn for a long time; and when my father decided that Trotter was Aragorn and was not Peregrin Boffin his stature and his history were totally changed, but a great deal of the ‘indivisible’ Trotter remained in Aragorn and determined his nature.”
– The Lord of the Rings
– The War of the Ring
– The Return of the Shadow
– The Letters of JRR Tolkien
– The Road to Middle-earth (Shippey)