5.02.*b. Arwen’s Vision / The Re-forging of Narsil by Figwit
The Last Journey of Arwen Undómiel
Arwen’s sequence in ‘The Return of the King’ kicks off with her going to the Grey Havens. She doesn’t seem particularly happy about it, either. This would only be natural as, in the books, Arwen never considers going to the Grey Havens and leaving Middle-earth. Her leaving is, according to Boyens and Walsh, the natural result of Aragorn letting her go. The script writers wondered about her motivation to stay, with her kin and especially Elrond her father leaving Middle-earth forgood to live in Valinor. Finally, they decided there was really nothing keeping her there; and came up with the idea of letting Arwen have vision of the future: of Aragorn in Minas Tirith with their son, Eldarion, whom she recognises as her son because he wears the Evenstar.
This vision of a child makes Arwen turn around; which provides the most adorable cameo of the entire movie: Figwit, the Elf extra idolised by fans, stands by the side of the road and watches her leave. Peter Jackson, who calls the character “Fidwick” on the audio commentary track for ‘The Return of the King’, admits that this one was put in just for the fans.
Obviously, this scene doesn’t occur in the books, and Eldarion isn’t mentioned until the Appendixes. However, there is one scene pointing forward to the idea of children and hope for Arwen and Aragorn being intertwined, and that is in 6.V. The Steward and the King: Gandalf takes Aragorn up the slopes of Mount Mindolluin and talks to him about his future responsibilities. Aragorn then, despairingly, says: ‘But I shall die, for I am a moral man, and though being what I am and of the race of the West unmingled, I shall have life far longer than other men, yet that is but a little while; and when those who are now in the wombs of women are born and have grown old, I too shall grow old. And who then shall govern Gondor and those who look at this City as to their queen, if my desire be not granted? The Tree in the Court of the Fountain is still withered and barren. When shall I see a sign that it will ever be otherwise?’ [6.V.]
Aragorn is talking about the White Tree of Gondor, brought to Middle-earth by Isildur after the fall of Númenor. In Númenor, during the last days of the Men of Westernesse, a prophecy was made concerning this White Tree: Tar-Palantir, who unlike the Kings before him tried to bring Númenor back in the good graces of the Valar, tended the White Tree again and prophesied, saying that when the White Tree perished, then also would the line of the Kings come to its end. [S.IV.]
What Aragorn is looking for, is a sign that he and Arwen will be blessed with an heir, and after Aragorn expresses his concern, Gandalf says: ‘Turn your face from the green world, and look where all seems barren and cold!’ [6.V.] And Aragorn notices that among the snow, something is growing: a scion of the White Tree.
Obviously, this is akin to what Arwen does in this scene of ‘The Return of the King’: to her mind’s eye her future in Middle-earth is barren and cold, and that is wy is leaving for the green world of Valinor. But looking into this barren future, she sees something is growing there: Eldarion, the child that she and Aragorn could have.
Although I doubt Boyens and Walsh did it on purpose, their solution for the problem ‘Where do we stash Arwen?’ is a very graceful one, and surprisingly close to what Tolkien himself wrote.
The subsequent scene shows us Arwen riding home, to Rivendell, where she confronts her father. She accuses him of lying to her, and not mentioning the hope she saw now in her vision of Eldarion. Elrond obviously despairs, realising that Arwen will now remain in Middle-earth with Aragorn, but Arwen tries to comfort him: Some things are certain. If I leave him now, I will regret it forever.
Basically, here, Arwen is telling Elrond that even if her life in Middle-earth ends up in misery, she will be happier having tried than giving up too soon.
Again, this scene doesn’t occur in the book. A nice nodd though, is that Rivendell looks even more autumny here than it did in ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’: the yellow and gold of the indian summer are now replaced by the deep reds of late autumn, right before the leaves start falling from the trees. This is a sign that the end is near for the Elves, and a lovely way of portraying the melancholly of the Elves as well as the shadow hanging over Elrond.
The Re-forging of Narsil
Another huge change in the storyline concerns Aragorn’s sword, Narsil. In ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ we were already introduced to it, when Boromir throws it on the ground. But, contrary to the events in the book, it doesn’t leave Rivendell along with the Fellowship: Narsil, the broken heirloom, is left behind. On the audio commentary, Jackson, Walsh and Boyens explain that they wanted Narsil to be returned to Aragorn at a more crucial point in the story. The build-up for that moment occurs here, in Arwen’s scenes: after she has made it clear to her father that she has no intention of leaving Middle-earth and Aragorn, she says: ‘It is time.’ We then see her walk up to Narsil, dressed in her travelling cloak, as her voice-over recites part the poem Bilbo wrote for his friend Strider in the books: From the ashes a fire shall be woken. A light from the shadows shall spring. Renewed shall be blade that was broken. The crownless again shall be king.
Again, this scene is not in the books, where Narsil is reforged right before the Fellowship leaves Rivendell. However, there is again a parallel in the books.
When Aragorn encounters the Dúnedain on the road to Dunharrow, he asks Halbarad what he is carrying. Halbarad answers ‘It is a gift that I bring you from the Lady of Rivendell. She wrought it in secret, and long was the making. But she also sends word to you. ‘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!’ ‘
And Aragorn said: ‘Now I know what you bear.’ [5.II.]
The gift is of course the standard of Gondor that Arwen made for him, and that is placed as a sign for the return of the King on the prow of the Corsairs ships. It is a double sign: first and foremost it is proof that Arwen believes Aragorn will claim lordship over Gondor and Arnor, and that their love will overcome the odds. It is also a sign for Aragorn that Arwen deems it time for him to make his claim.
The same could be said of Arwen’s suggestion in the movie, to re-forge the sword: it is a token that she once again believes that Aragorn will save the day; and also a sign to Aragorn that it is time. When Elrond hands over Andúril to Aragorn in Dunharrow, he will use similar words: The man who can wield the power of this sword can summon to him an army more deadly than any that walks this earth. Put aside the Ranger. Become who you were born to be.
Originally, Arwen was meant to have the sword reforged herself and bring it to Aragorn in Helm’s Deep, where they would fight side by side. This plot was abandoned though, when it turned out that a fighting Arwen didn’t come across on screen, and Liv Tyler asked Boyens and Walsh to restore Arwen to her book character a bit more.
Interesting to not is that in the final cut of ‘The Return of the King’ we can only catch a glimpse of the book Arwen is reading (you can see a good version of it here). However, various pictures (like this one here) and comments by Boyens, Walsh and Jackson on the audio commentary track for ‘The Return of the King’ suggest that originally there would be a longer scene with Arwen picking the book from Elrond’s Library, and talking about the Paths of the Dead. This reinforces the idea of Arwen forcing Elrond to push Aragorn into accepting his heritage and claiming lordship over the city and Gondor.
The Fading of the Evenstar
(Arwen sits on a bed as if exhausted and drops the book that was in her hands. Elrond picks it up.)
Elrond: (feels her hands and lowers them down in front of her) Your hands are cold. The life of the Eldar is leaving you.
Arwen: This was my choice. Ada, whether by your will or not, there is no ship now that can bear me hence.
Nothing is said in the book about Arwen becoming vulnerable to the threat of Sauron, or weakening. Tolkien writes that Arwen became as a mortal woman, yet the only thing he writes about her physical appearance is that after Aragorn’s death the light of her eyes was quenched, and it seemed to her people that she had become cold and grey as nightfall in winter that comes without a star. However, he also writes that it was not her lot to die until all that she had gained was lost. [Appendix A (v)]
In the movies, however, Arwen’s decision to become mortal results in making her very ill. Boyens and Walsh figured that, since Arwen was one of the last born of her people, she would also be most vulnerable to Sauron’s evil. Without the added protection of immortality, she would succumb to this evil, it would weaken her.
Whether this is in keeping with Tolkien’s mythology or not, it does provide both Elrond and Aragorn with an extra drive to defeat Sauron.
- 2.01. Many Meetings by Figwit
- 3.06.*b. Evenstar by Figwit
- 3.06.*d. Breath of Life by Figwit
- 6.05. The Steward and the King by elvishmusician
- Arwen in FOTR by Figwit
- Arwen in TTT by Figwit
- Arwen in ROTK by Figwit
Our Gallery has has screencaps of the theatrical version, as well as the extended edition.
A transcript of 'The Lord Of the Rings: The Return of the King' can be found in our Film Fun & Facts section.
A summary of 'The Lord Of the Rings: The Return of the King' can be found in Elrond's Library.
Some articles that are related to this sequence:
- The Middle-earth Section of Elrond's Library has articles about The Geography ofImladris, Aragorn, A History of the Númenoreans, Arwen Undómiel and The Two Trees of Valinor.
- The Weaponry Section has an article about Andúril.
Forum threads related to this sequence:
- You can discuss this sequence in detail in ROTK Sequence by Sequence #3: Arwen / Rivendell in the Movies Forum.
There are also some threads about Arwen: Arwen - why her part worked and Arwen and Aragorn's "loving" relationship.
- The Book Forum has threads about Arwen and Aragorn's relationship and When an Elf and a Mortal Marry.
- The Book Club discusses the Tale of Arwen and Aragorn chapter here. There is also a long thread about the lineage of the White Tree.
Take a look at how some artists saw this part in the book:
- The Long Wait of Arwen Evenstar by Michael Green
- Arwen by Gwyllion
- Arwen in Rivendell by Per Sjögren
- Arwen in Rivendell by Ryuuri
- Andúril Reforged by Darrell Sweet
- Halbarad and the Standard of Elessar by Kim Kincaid
Looking for something more creative - you may find it here: