Estel to Elessar
The Life of Aragorn son of Arathorn
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The Aragorn who the Hobbits meet at the Prancing Pony is largely the same noble, wise, trustworthy, tried warrior who later becomes King of Gondor and weds Arwen Undómiel. Aragorn's character, rather than gradually developing, is slowly revealed to the Hobbits, and so to the reader. While Frodo seems to grasp who Aragorn is shortly after arriving in Rivendell, it takes Pippin until Gandalf's warning not to mention him to Denethor after their arrival in MinasTirith to realize that Aragorn is the rightful King of the Dúnedain. This slow revelation of Aragorn's identity is well illustrated by the names by which Aragorn is known.
At birth, he is named Aragorn, and given the prophetic name Elessar. Brought to Rivendell at the age of two after the death of his father, Aragorn is given the name Estel, hope. Along with the revelation of his ancestry after he has come of age comes his rightful name, Aragorn. This name is little used, however. In Rivendell he is often called The Dúnadan, Man of the West, Númenorean. Serving his errantries in disguise, Aragorn takes whatever names are given him. In Rohan and Gondor, he is called Thorongil, and known as a great captain of Men. In Bree, he is called Strider and thought a shifty, unsavory, untrustworthy character. In the Shire, which he and his kin help Gandalf to protect, he is not known at all. The future King of Gondor and Arnor did not demand any different. It is as the mysterious Strider that Aragorn is introduced to the Hobbits, and it is this name in Quenya, Telcontar, which he gives to his royal house. While Aragorn reveals his true name to the Hobbits at the Prancing Pony, it is not used until after he has openly proclaimed his lineage at the Council of Elrond. After the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, Aragorn again enters Gondor in disguise, again as a great captain of Men, but this time as a healer, bearing the green stone of Galadriel. "And so the name which it was foretold at his birth that he would bear was chosen for him by his own people." Following the defeat of Sauron, King Elessar of the House of Telcontar is crowned King of Gondor and Arnor, having chosen to earn in the eyes of all rather than simply claim what was his by birthright. And the story of Elessar was complete.
What would it be like to know that you came from a line of Kings who had ruled your people for over 64 generations?
What would it be like to be able to count among your forefathers Elros, first king of Númenor; Eärendil, the morning star; Beren Erchamion, who with Lúthien wrested a Silmaril from the crown of Morgoth; Tuor, the instrument of Ulmo; Turgon, High King of the Noldor and of Gondolin; and Elu Thingol, Lord of the Sindar and Ruler of Doriath? What would it be like to be able to count among your foremothers Elwing, wife of Eärendil; Idril Celebrindal daughter of Turgon; Lúthien Tinúviel, fairest of the Children of Illuvatar who alone humbled Morgoth on his throne; and Melian the Maia?
What would it be like to know that your very identity and ancestry meant that the DarkLord would stop at nothing to kill you, should he learn you existed?
What would it be like to know that you would only be permitted to marry the woman you loved if you succeeded in breaking the power of the Dark Lord and the ill-will of the people and Steward of Gondor to become King of both Arnor and Gondor?
What would it be like to be betrothed to Arwen Undómiel, in whom the likeness of Lúthien was said to live once more, a woman who had walked the earth over 2,600 years before you were born, a woman of the Eldar whose grandfather was Eärendil, the Star of Hope, and whose grandmother was Galadriel, who among the Noldor was second only to Fëanor?
On September 29 in the year 3018 of the Third Age, Frodo and his companions met the only man in Middle-earth who could answer these questions and thought him, "a strange, weather-beaten man." Frodo first saw him, "sitting in the shadows near the wall. He had a tall tankard in front of him, and was smoking a long-stemmed pipe curiously carved. His legs were stretched out before him, showing high boots of supple leather that fitted him well, but had seen much wear and were now caked with mud. A travel-stained cloak of heavy dark-green cloth was drawn close about him, and in spite of the heat of the room he wore a hood that overshadowed his face."
When Frodo asked the innkeeper, Barliman Butterbur, who he was, Butterbur answered, "I don't rightly know. He is one of those 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 around here as Strider."
The proper answer to the question, "Who is he?" would later be given by Faramir at the coronation of King Elessar, "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."
Before Aragorn could lay claim to these titles and his rightful identity, however, there was much for him to accomplish.
Aragorn was descended through many fathers in unbroken line from Elendil, first King of Gondor and Arnor and through him from the Lords of Andúnië of Númenor, and through them from Elros, first King of Númenor, son of Eärendil and brother of Elrond. Aragorn was the son of Arathorn son of Arador, and of Gilraen daughter of Dírhael and Ivorwen. Dírhael opposed the marriage of Gilraen to Arathorn, foreseeing an early death for Arathorn, but Ivorwen foresaw that, "The days are darkening before the storm, and great things are to come. If these two wed now, hope may be born for our people; but if they delay, it will not come while this age lasts." The foresight of both proved to be true.
Aragorn II son of Arathorn II was born on March first in the year 2931 of the Third Age of Middle-earth. When he was born, "his father gave him the name Aragorn, a name used in the House of the Chieftains. But Ivorwen at his naming stood by, and said "Kingly Valour" (for so that name is interpreted): "that he shall have, but I see on his breast a green stone, and from that his true name shall come and his chief renown: for he shall be a healer and a renewer." [The Peoples of Middle-earth, Foreword]
When Aragorn was only two years old, his father was killed by an orc-arrow while riding with the sons of Elrond. Gilraen took the young Aragorn to Rivendell, where Elrond adopted him as a sort of foster-son. Knowing that Sauron was seeking for the Heir of Isildur, Elrond called him Estel, and concealed his true identity from him.
Nothing is known of Aragorn's childhood, but evidently he was well trained in arms and went riding against the orcs and other forces of evil, for in the year 2951 he returned to Rivendell after 'great deeds' with the sons of Elrond. On this day Elrond revealed to him his name and lineage, and gave to him the Ring of Barahir and the shards of Narsil, saying, "With these you may yet do great deeds; for I foretell that the span of your life shall be greater than the measure of Men, unless evil befalls you or you fail at the test. But the test will be hard and long." Once again, the foresight was true. Elrond withheld the Scepter of Annúminas, symbol of the rule of Arnor, saying that Aragorn had yet to earn it.
It was on this day that Aragorn first met the maiden with whom his life would be woven. While walking in the woods of Rivendell, he beheld Arwen, in whom the likeness of Lúthien was said to live again. Arwen took little notice of him, having walked Middle-earth for 2,710 years to Aragorn's twenty, "but from that hour he loved Arwen Undómiel daughter of Elrond."
Realizing what had happened, Elrond told Aragorn, "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 wife, nor bind any woman to you in troth, until your time comes and you are found worthy of it."
When Elrond had told Aragorn of the choice which lay before Arwen, either to go to the Havens with Elrond or to choose a Mortal life and leave him forever, Aragorn replied, "I see that I have turned my eyes on a treasure no less dear than the treasure of Thingol that Beren once desired." Elrond's only reply was, "You do not know yet what you desire of me. The years will bring what they will. We will speak no more of this until many have passed. The days darken, and much evil is to come."
After this, Aragorn left the refuge of Rivendell to go out into the Wild, labouring in the cause against Sauron. "His ways were hard and long, and he became somewhat grim to look upon, unless he chanced to smile; and yet he seemed to Men worthy of honour, as a king that is in exile, when he did not hide his true shape. For he went in many guises, and won renown under many names. He rode in the host of the Rohirrim, and fought for the Lord of Gondor by land and by sea; and then in the hour of victory he passed out of the knowledge of Men of the West, and went alone far into the East and deep into the South, exploring the hearts of Men, both evil and good, and uncovering the plots and devices of the servants of Sauron.
"Thus he became at last 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. His face was sad and stern because of the doom that was laid on him, and yet hope dwelt ever in the depths of his heart, from which mirth would arise at times like a spring from the rock."
One of his 'many guises' was Thorongil, "Eagle of the Star". This name was given to him in Gondor, "for he was swift and keen-eyed, and wore a silver star upon his cloak."  Under this name he served Thengel, king of Rohan, and Ecthelion, Steward of Gondor. Not wishing to claim the kingship, as Thorongil Aragorn served Ecthelion faithfully, never holding himself higher than the servant of the Steward. Despite this, Ecthelion's son Denethor resented his father's trust of Thorongil, and opposed Thorongil's council to distrust Saruman and welcome Gandalf. It was later supposed that Denethor had somehow guessed Thorongil's true identity and feared that he would attempt to take rule of Gondor away from the Stewards. 
After convincing Ecthelion to destroy the threat of Umbar, Aragorn led a small fleet to attack Umbar secretly by night. He burned many of the ships, and himself overthrew the Captain of the Havens in battle upon the quays. After this victory, however, he refused to return to Gondor, sending a message to Ecthelion saying, "Other tasks now call me, lord, and much time and many perils must pass, ere I come again to Gondor, if that be my fate." None knew where he went, but "when he was last seen his face was towards the Mountains of Shadow."
In the course of his years of wandering, Aragorn entered Mordor, passed through Moria, and ventured into Rhûn and Harad in the south of Middle-earth, 'where the stars are strange'.
In ThirdAge 2980, when Gollum met Shelob in CirithUngol and Théoden became King of the Mark, Aragorn returned from the Wild to Lórien. "Aragorn had grown to full stature of mind and body, and Galadriel bade him cast aside his wayworn raiment, and she clothed him in silver and white, with a cloak of elven-grey and a bright gem on his brow. Then more than any kind of Man he appeared, and seemed rather an Elf-lord from the Isles of the West, and thus it was that Arwen first beheld him again after their long parting, and as he came walking towards her under the trees of CarasGaladhon laden with flowers of gold, her choice was made and her doom appointed. . . . And on the evening of Midsummer Aragorn Arathorn's son, and Arwen daughter of Elrond went to the fair hill, CerinAmroth, in the midst of the land, and they walked unshod on the undying grass with elanor and niphredil about their feet. And there upon that hill they looked east to the Shadow and west to the Twilight, and they plighted their troth and were glad."
Aragorn gave to Arwen the Ring of Barahir, a suitable symbol of the fate they now share with Beren son of Barahir and with Lúthien.
Arwen said, 'Dark is the Shadow, and yet my heart rejoices; for you, Estel, shall be among the great whose valour will destroy it.'
But Aragorn answered, 'Alas! I cannot foresee it, and how it may come to pass is hidden from me. Yet with your hope I will hope. And the Shadow I utterly reject. But neither, lady, is the Twilight for me; for I am a mortal, and if you will cleave to me, Evenstar, then the Twilight you must also renounce.'
And she stood then as still as a white tree, looking into the West, and at last she said: 'I will cleave to you, Dúnadan, and turn from the Twilight. Yet there lies the land of land of my people and the long home of all my kin.'
When he learned of his daughter's choice, Elrond says to Aragorn, "Though I love you, I say to you: 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 then even our victory can bring only sorrow mid parting - but to you hope of joy for a while. Alas, my son! I fear that to Arwen the Doom of Men may seem hard at the ending."
As Aragorn had seen already, he, like Beren, would only win the hand of his beloved by some seemingly impossible task. Although much less hopeless than the quest for the Silmaril, defeating Sauron and overcoming the ill-will of the Steward and people of Gondor were hardly easy tasks to undertake. After this conversation, Aragorn "went forth again to danger and toil," probably more determined than ever to defeat the servants of Sauron.
"On a time", Aragorn came out of far countries to the North, and there saw his mother, Gilraen, who told him. 'This is our last parting, Estel, my son. I am aged by care, even as one of the lesser Men; and now that it draws near I cannot face the darkness of our time that gathers upon Middle-earth. I shall leave it soon.'
Aragorn tried to comfort her, saying: 'Yet there may be a light beyond the darkness; and if so, I would have you see it and be glad.'
But she answered only with this linnod: 'Onen i-Estel Edain, u-chebin estel anim. (I gave Hope to the Dúnedain, I have kept no hope for myself.)' She died before the next spring.
The only other event in Aragorn's life before those recorded in The Lord of the Rings which is known is of his part in the Hunt for Gollum. In the year 3001, Gandalf called on his help in seeking news of Golllum. In 3009, Gandalf and Aragorn renew their hunt "at intervals", before Gollum's capture in 3017.
"According to Aragorn Gollum was taken at nightfall on February 1st. Hoping to escape detection by any of Sauron’s spies he drove Gollum through the north end of the EmynMuil, and crossed Anduin just above SarnGebir?. Driftwood was often cast up there on the shoals by the east shore, and binding Gollum to a log he swam across with him, and continued his journey north by tracks as westerly as he could find, through the skirts of Fangorn, and so over Limlight, then over Nimrodel and Silverlode through the eaves of Lórien, and then on, avoiding Moria and Dimrill Dale, over Gladden until he came near the Carrock. There he crossed Anduin again, with the help of the Beornings, and passed into the Forest. The whole journey, on foot, was not much short of nine hundred miles, and this Aragorn accomplished with weariness in fifty days, reaching Thranduil on the twenty-first of March." [Unfinished Tales: The Hunt for the Ring]
Aragorn was now eighty-six years old, having fought evil in the Wild for nearly seventy years, since the age of twenty.
At the time of the War of the Ring, few people in Middle-earth knew who the Rangers of the North were, and even fewer knew that the chief of this last remnant of the Númenoreans of Arnor was descended in direct line from Isildur. Most believed that the line of Kings had perished long ago.
"Few now remember them," Tom murmured, "yet some still go wandering, sons of forgotten kings walking in loneliness, guarding from evil things folk that are heedless." The hobbits did not understand his words, but as he spoke they had a vision as it were of a great expanse of years behind them, like a vast shadowy plain over which there strode shapes of Men, tall and grim with bright swords, and last came one with a star on his brow.
This belief was not discouraged, in order to prevent Sauron from finding the Heir of Elendil who still lived. Aragorn realized, however, that before he could claim the Kingship of Gondor, he would have to risk proclaiming his identity publicly, hence revealing his existence to Sauron. This day was not within sight for the long years during which Aragorn served his errantries with the Sons of Elrond, with Gandalf, in the service of Thengel and Ecthelion, and alone in the Wild. His meeting with Frodo in Bree marked the beginning of the end of this anonymity.
As chieftain of the Dúnedain of Arnor and a friend of Gandalf, Aragorn was involved in the guarding of the Shire. It can be inferred that he became familiar with the surrounding area and its people, namely, Bree and Tom Bombadil. From Tom Bombadil's words to the hobbits, it is clear that he knows of Aragorn and his lineage, and from Aragorn's familiar reference to 'old Bombadil', it is clear that Aragorn knows Tom as well. In Bree, Aragorn had been around enough to receive a reputation as an occasional patron of the Prancing Pony, who could tell 'a rare tale when he had a mind.'
In Bree, the Rangers were viewed as mysterious, mistrusted folk, of which little was known. The inhabitants of Bree was as oblivious to the fact that they owed their safety and security to the Rangers as were the Hobbits of the Shire. As Aragorn later explained to the Council of Elrond: "If simple folk are free from care and fear, simple they will be, and we must be secret to keep them so."
Whether Aragorn had been asked by Gandalf to specifically look for Frodo, or was simply attending to his own business, he overheard Frodo talking to Bombadil and followed the hobbits into Bree. In Bree, Aragorn is known as Strider, a mistrusted wandering Ranger, and indeed this ‘’strange, weather-beaten man’’ does not look like one who could claim the throne of Gondor. Frodo notices Strider watching him, and so we are given our first view of the Heir of Isildur.
‘'He had a tall tankard in front of him, and was smoking a long-stemmed pipe curiously carved. His legs were stretched out before him, showing high boots of supple leather that fitted him well, but had seen much wear and were now caked with mud. A travel-stained cloak of heavy dark-green cloth was drawn close about him, and in spite of the heat of the room he wore a hood that overshadowed his face.''
When he put back his hood, Frodo saw that he had, "a shaggy head of dark hair flecked with grey, and in a pale stern face a pair of keen grey eyes." 
Convincing Frodo to have a quiet word with him after the incident with the Ring, Aragorn offers information in return for leave to act as guide. Frodo, finally coming to his senses, did not want to immediately agree to this, and asked Strider, "what do you know?" . To this, Aragorn replied, "Too much, too many dark things." 
Indeed, Aragorn knew more than Frodo and his friends could imagine; he left Rivendell for the Wild seventeen years before Frodo was born. Somewhere in his travels he has encountered the Nazgûl, and appears to be personally acquainted with the fear they inspire. ‘’ ‘ “ 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 in pain, and his hands clenched the arms of his chair. The room was very quiet and still, and the light seemed to have grown dim. For a while he sat with unseeing eyes as if walking in distant memory or listening to sounds in the night far away.' ''
Aragorn usually shows an inordinate amount of patience when dealing with those less experienced than himself, but when Butterbur tries to convince Frodo not to trust Strider, he understandably snaps. ‘’ "Then who would you take up with? A fat innkeeper who only remembers his own name because people shout it at him all day? They cannot stay in The Pony forever, and they cannot go home. They have a long road before them. Will you go with them and keep the black men off?" ''
Gandalf's letter revealed that Aragorn was a friend who could be trusted, and gave a glimpse of his real identity through Bilbo's rhyme:
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
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.
Aragorn knew these lines, and quoted them to Frodo without knowing they are in the letter. That these lines would prove true is part of the estel that sustains Aragorn in his journeys. Frodo (and Sam, to a lesser extent) know something of the Elves and probably the Dúnadain from Bilbo, but they do not seem to grasp just who this poem reveals Strider to be. Aragorn’s reluctance to reveal his true identity to the Hobbits was more than just that of a man traveling incognito: his continued existence depended on Sauron not knowing he was alive. Even without knowing that Aragorn is more than the leader of the Rangers, ‘’ “The Enemy has set traps for me before now.” ‘’ It was not until he decided to trust Frodo that he was willing to honestly answer the hobbit’s questions.
Aragorn is well aware of the dangers that the hobbits face, in Bree and during the long journey to Rivendell. The hobbits, of course, are blissfully ignorant of their plight and despite Bilbo’s tales know very little of the world outside the Shire. Aragorn’s worry about Gandalf’s absence, combined with his knowledge that the hobbits stand no chance in the Wild without him, lead him to be perhaps a bit more frustrated and forceful than he would be otherwise.
“If I had killed the real Strider, I could kill you. And I should have killed you already without so much talk. If I was after the Ring, I could have it -- Now!"
He stood up, and seemed suddenly to grow taller. In his eyes gleamed a light, keen and commanding. Throwing back his cloak, he laid his hand on the hilt of a sword that had hung concealed by his side. They did not dare to move. Sam sat wide-mouthed staring at him dumbly.
"But I am the real Strider, fortunately," he said, looking down at them with his face softened by a sudden smile. "I am Aragorn son of Arathorn; and if by life or death I can save you, I will." 
Aragorn's life as Strider is characterized by only telling others the bare minimum about himself, and leaving the rest to their imagination. The people of Bree called him Strider and thought him odd, and so that was what he was. With Frodo and his companions, however, Aragorn is slowly revealed. He obviously knows more and has more experience than the Hobbits and Bree-folk, but just how much is only revealed gradually.
It is indicative of the trust the Hobbits already have in Strider -- or perhaps simply the fact that they still do not fully understand the danger they are in -- that they all sleep soundly in the Prancing Pony, with Aragorn guarding the door. This is despite the fact that they know they are sleeping there because their own rooms will most likely be attacked -- and are. 
The Hobbits also discover that Aragorn was not simply bragging when he claimed to know the land around Bree better than anyone else. As he says, "My cuts, short or long, don't go wrong." He leads them by the quickest and most hidden route to Weathertop, in hopes of meeting Gandalf. 
Aragorn tells the hobbits of the history of Weathertop, formerly AmonSûl. What they do not realize, however, is that when Aragorn talks of Elendil watching for the coming of Gil-galad from the West, he is recalling family history.
What was undoubtedly second-nature to Strider the Ranger -- reading the signs left behind by Gandalf -- again amazes the hobbits. Aragorn has probably traveled the road from Weathertop to Rivendell many times, and so can answer Merry's question, "How far is Rivendell?" without pause.
Knowing the area, it does not take Aragorn long to decide what to do when they reach Weathertop and begin to suspect the presence of the BlackRiders. He also knows what to use against them -- fire. Knowing the Hobbits need something to take their minds of their uneasiness and fear, he chants the Tale of Tinúviel. He then tells them in brief the story of Beren and Lúthien.
Aragorn tells the hobbits, "There live still those of whom Lúthien was foremother, and it is said that her line shall never fail. Elrond of Rivendell is of that Kin. For of Beren and Lúthien was born Dior Thingol heir; and of him Elwing the White whom Eärendil wedded, he that sailed his ship out of the mists of the world into the seas of heaven with the Silmaril upon his brow. And of Eärendil came the Kings of Númenor, that is Westernesse."
"As Strider was speaking they watched his strange eager face, dimly lit in the red glow of the wood-fire. His eyes shone, and his voice was rich and deep."
He is not only describing Elrond's lineage, he is declaring his own, by long descent, from The Kings of Númenor and Lúthien herself. The hobbits have no way of knowing that Aragorn wishes to be the third mortal, like Beren, to marry one of the Eldar. By telling these stories, Strider reveals that he is more than a random wanderer.
While he can do little more than made fire against the Nazgûl in the dark, he is able to do more than any other mortal to treat Frodo’s wound. Aragorn uses the healing powers which will later proclaim his right to the Kingship, using Athelas to bring a lessening of the pain and cold in Frodo's side. Recognizing that he cannot heal the wound, Aragorn continues to lead the hobbits to Rivendell as quickly as possible. Coming to the LastBridge?, Aragorn finds a beryl, and elf-stone, and rightly interprets this as a sign that it is safe to cross. (Glorfindel left it there as a token)
Willing to humor the hobbits even with the added stress and urgency of Frodo’s wound, Aragorn refrains from calling Merry and Pippin idiots when they report trolls ahead, in broad daylight. When they meet Glorfindel, the hobbits realize that Aragorn is indeed a friend of the Elves, and speaks their language.
At the Ford of Bruinen, although as Gandalf later tells Frodo, "On foot even Glorfindel and Aragorn together could not withstand all the Nine at once, " Aragorn helps to drive the Ringwraiths into the flood.
At Rivendell, when Frodo awakes, Gandalf remarks, "For the moment we have been saved from disaster, by Aragorn." Here we see that, despite what he has seen and heard, Frodo has no idea who the Ranger, Aragorn son of Arathorn, really is.
"There are few left in Middle-earth like Aragorn son of Arathorn. The race of the Kings from over the Sea is nearly at an end. It may be that this War of the Ring will be their last adventure."
"Do you really mean that Strider is one of the people of the old Kings?" said Frodo in wonder. "I thought they had all vanished long ago. I thought he was only a Ranger."
"Only a Ranger!" cried Gandalf. "My dear Frodo, that is just what the Rangers are: the last remnant in the North of the great people, the Men of the West."
Here we also learn that Aragorn is a friend of Bilbo’s, who calls him The Dúnadan. Aragorn, after being told that Bilbo wants his help with a verse, comes across Frodo and Bilbo. "They were so deep in the doings of the Four Farthings that they did not notice the arrival of a man clad in dark green cloth. For many minutes he stood looking down at them with a smile."
Upon Frodo's recovery, a feast is held, which Aragorn misses because of the return of Elladan and Elrohir. However, he does find the time to help Bilbo with his song of Eärendil, although without making many suggestions. Bilbo relates, "Aragorn insisted on my putting in a green stone. He seemed to think it important. I don't know why. Otherwise he obviously thought the whole thing rather above my head, and said that if I had the cheek to make verses about Eärendil in the house of Elrond, it was my affair."
After Bilbo's recitation, we see Arwen, seated next to Elrond. " 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. They spoke together, and then suddenly it seemed that Arwen turned towards him, and the light of her eyes fell on him from afar and pierced his heart." Apart from her appearance earlier at the feast, this is the only time Arwen appears before her wedding day.
In Rivendell, Aragorn begins to put aside his guise of Strider and becomes Aragorn, son of Arathorn.
Being the Heir of Elendil and Isildur, Chieftain of the Dúnedain of Arnor, and foster-son of Elrond, among other things, Aragorn is obviously present at the Council which Elrond calls. It is here at the Council where much is revealed of Aragorn and his identity. Aragorn reveals the Sword that was Broken, and in response to Boromir’s question, Elrond says, "He is Aragorn son of Arathorn, and he is descended through many fathers from Isildur Elendil's son of Minas Ithil. He is the Chief of the Dúnedain in the North, and few are now left of that folk." To my knowledge, this is the first open proclamation of Aragorn’s rightful titles.
Upon learning this, Frodo offers the Ring to Aragorn, who refuses. Aragorn asks Boromir whether he wishes for the House of Elendil to return to Gondor, and is met with doubt, which Aragorn understands, saying, "For my part I forgive your doubt. Little do I resemble the figures of Elendil and Isildur as they stand carven in their majesty in the halls of Denethor. I am but the heir of Isildur, not Isildur himself. I have had a hard life and a long; and the leagues that lie between here and Gondor are a small part in the count of my journeys. I have crossed many mountains and many rivers, and trodden many plains, even into the far countries of Rhûn and Harad where the stars are strange.
"But my home, such as I have, is in the North. For here the heirs of Valandil have ever dwelt in long line unbroken from father unto son for many generations. Our days have darkened, and we have dwindled; but ever the Sword has passed to a new keeper. And this I will say to you, Boromir, ere I end. Lonely men are we, Rangers of the wild, hunters – but hunters ever of the servants of the Enemy; for they are found in many places, not in Mordor only.
"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. Travelers scowl at us, and countrymen give us scornful names. 'Strider' am I to one fat man who lives within a day's march of foes that would freeze his heart, or lay his little town in ruin, if he were not guarded ceaselessly. Yet we would not have it otherwise. If simple folk are free from care and fear, simple they will be, and we must be secret to keep them so. 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. IsildursBane is found. Battle is at hand. The Sword shall be reforged. I will come to MinasTirith. "
Thus Aragorn embraces his heritage, and his fate. Also here at the council, the tale of the Ring is told in full, including Aragorn's role in capturing Gollum. During the remainder of the council, Aragorn says nothing.
During the two months between the Council and Rivendell, little is told of what Aragorn does. He helped to scout out the land with Elrond's sons, and no doubt spent much time in counsel with others and listening to the reports of the other scouts when he returned. Perhaps he was able to spend some time with Arwen?
After the Nine Riders were chosen, "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."
After this, Aragorn spent much time with Gandalf, pouring over books and maps planning their course.
It was a cold day in December when the Fellowship set out from Rivendell. "Aragorn had Andúril but no other weapon, and he went forth clad only in rusty green and brown, as a Ranger of the wilderness." Quite beside the burden which the Ringbearer carried, this quest is without question one of the most important events in Aragorn's life. His plan at this point, as he later reveals after Gandalf's fall, is to go to MinasTirith, where he would use Andúril to help defend his city. It is not known whether, had this course of events come to pass, he planned reveal his true identity immediately and claim the throne or if he did indeed plan to wait until the downfall of Sauron. It was only by his success in claiming the thrones of Gondor and Arnor that Aragorn could claim his heart's desire -- the hand of Arwen. And so it was that as the company waited to depart, "Aragorn sat with his head bowed to his knees; only Elrond knew fully what this hour meant to him."
[much more to come here, obviously]
When does Aragorn first assume the mantle of King and take up his rightful name? While glimpses of Aragorn's nobility peek through throughout his journeys, it is upon his arrival at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in the ships of the Corsairs where the man introduced as Strider becomes Elessar, King of Gondor. Just as Éomer was about to despair,
"Then wonder took him, and a great joy; and he cast his sword up in the sunlight and sang as he caught it. And all eyes followed his gaze, and behold! upon the foremost ship a great standard broke, and the wind displayed it as she turned towards the Harlond. There flowered a White Tree, and that was for Gondor; but Seven Stars were about it, and a high crown above it, the signs of Elendil that no lord had borne for years beyond count. And the stars flamed in the sunlight, for they were wrought of gems by Arwen daughter of Elrond; and the crown was bright in the morning, for it was wrought of mithril and gold.
"Thus came Aragorn son of Arathorn, Elessar, Isildur's heir, out of the Paths of the Dead, borne upon a wind from the Sea to the kingdom of Gondor; and the mirth of the Rohirrim was a torrent of laughter and a flashing of swords, and the joy and wonder of the City was a music of trumpets and a ringing of bells. But the hosts of Mordor were seized with bewilderment, and a great wizardry it seemed to them that their own ships should be filled with their foes; and a black dread fell on them, knowing that the tides of fate had turned against them and their doom was at hand.
. . . .
"But 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."
Aragorn meets Éomer in the midst of the battle, where Éomer realizes that Aragorn's earlier words about meeting again, 'though all the hosts of Mordor lay between us,' were indeed prescient. After 'hard fighting and long labour', the battle is won. "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."
It is not through his prowess in battle, however, that Aragorn proclaims himself King. It is through his humility, and his power of healing. Coming to the gates of MinasTirith, having just orchestrated and led the events which saved this city from certain defeat, Aragorn says,
"Behold the Sun setting in a great fire! It is a sign of the end and fall of many things, and a change in the tides of the world. But this City and realm has rested in the charge of the Stewards for many long years, and I fear that if I enter it unbidden, then doubt and debate may arise, which should not be while this war is fought. 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."
When Éomer questions this resolve, Aragorn replies, "I deem the time unripe; and I have no mind for strife except with our Enemy and his servants." Aragorn sets up his tent outside the city, as a captain of the Rangers. And so Aragorn enters the city of which he is rightfully King, "wrapped in the grey cloak of Lórien above his mail, and bearing no other token than the green stone of Galadriel."
Aragorn demonstrates his power as one of the descendants of Westernesse.
"Now Aragorn knelt beside Faramir, and held a hand upon his brow. And those that watched felt that some great struggle was going on. For Aragorn's face grew grey with weariness; and ever and anon he called the name of Faramir, but each time more faintly to their hearing, as if Aragorn himself was removed from them, and walked afar in some dark vale, calling for one that was lost."
Using Athelas, as he had with Frodo’s wound on Weathertop, Aragorn lightens the hearts of all who are near. " For the fragrance that came to each was like a memory of dewy mornings of unshadowed sun in some land of which the fair world in Spring is itself but a fleeting memory." Faramir awakes and, seeing Aragorn, '' " a light of knowledge and love was kindled in his eyes, and he spoke softly. 'My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?' ‘’ 
With Éowyn, the athelas has a slightly different effect, "a keen wind blew through the window, and it bore no scent, but was an air wholly fresh and clean and young, as if it had not before been breathed by any living thing and came new-made from snowy mountains high beneath a dome of stars, or from shores of silver far away washed by seas of foam."
Going then to Merry, the athelas this time is, "the scent of orchards, and of heather in the sunshine full of bees." Even after everything Aragorn has been through, he still has the presence of mind and goodness of heart to reply to Merry's request for a smoke.
" 'Master Meriadoc,' said Aragorn, 'if you think that I have passed through the mountains and the realm of Gondor with fire and sword to bring herbs to a careless soldier who throws away his gear, you are mistaken. If your pack has not been found, then you must send for the herb-master of this House. And he will tell you that he did not know that the herb you desire had any virtues, but that it is called westmansweed by the vulgar, and galenas by the noble, and other names in other tongues more learned, and after adding a few half-forgotten rhymes that he does not understand, he will regretfully inform you that there is none in the House, and he will leave you to reflect on the history of tongues. And so now must I. For I have not slept in such a bed as this, since I rode from Dunharrow, nor eaten since the dark before dawn.'
"Merry seized his hand and kissed it. 'I am frightfully sorry,' he said. 'Go at once! Ever since that night at Bree we have been a nuisance to you. But it is the way of my people to use light words at such times and say less than they mean. We fear to say too much. It robs us of the right words when a jest is out of place.'
"'I know that well, or I would not deal with you in the same way ' said Aragorn. 'May the Shire live for ever unwithered!'
"And kissing Merry he went out, and Gandalf went with him. Pippin remained behind.
"'Was there ever any one like him?' he said. 'Except Gandalf, of course. I think they must be related. My dear ass, your pack is lying by your bed, and you had it on your back when I met you. He saw it all the time, of course.'"
Even after all this work, Aragorn does not rest, but calls for the sons of Elrond to come assist him in healing all those who he may in the city.
"And word went through the City: 'The King is come again indeed.' And they named him Elfstone, because of the green stone that he wore, and so the name which it was foretold at his birth that he should bear was chosen for him by his own people. And when he could labour no more, he cast his cloak about him, and slipped out of the City, and went to his tent just ere dawn and slept for a little." 
|Comments and Ponderings |
This essay is developing to a really great piece... -- Walter
Very well-done and VERY informative. Great job! --InnasIthil
-  unless noted otherwise, all quotes in Estel and Thorongil are from the Appendices of Lord of the Rings; either "Gondor and the Heirs of Anarion" or "The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen" from Appendix A, or the Tale of Years for the Third Age in Appendix B
-  Estel was an appropriate name for Aragorn. Given the challenges and adversity he faced throughout his life, Estel is the only thing which could have sustained him.
|But there is another [type of Hope] which is founded deeper. Estel we call it, that is "trust". It is not defeated by the ways of the world, for it does not come from experience, but from our nature and first being. If we are indeed the Eruhim, the Children of the One, then He will not suffer Himself to be deprived of His own, not by any Enemy, not even by ourselves. This is the last foundation of Estel, which we keep even when we contemplate the End: of all his designs the issue must be for his Children's joy. |
|Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth, in Morgoth's Ring|
-  Later, the Dúnedain who came to the aid of Aragorn in Rohan and rode with him on the Paths of the Dead also wore a silver star as their only token on their cloaks. This would lead me to believe that this was a standard symbol of the Rangers of Arnor, if not of the North Kingdom itself.
-  I think it likely that Denethor, and others in Gondor, could have guessed that Aragorn was one of the Dúnedain of Arnor, but I think it unlikely that he would have been able to learn that Aragorn was the Heir of Elendil. This was a fact which was closely guarded by Aragorn, who was skilled at concealing his true identity. Denethor, I think, was inclined to be jealous of any who his father favored over himself.
-  Note on Gilraen's age: We do not know how old Gilraen was when she died. She was born in 2907, and so was 73 years old when Aragorn and Arwen plighted their troth. A few years after this she went to dwell with her own people, and Aragorn saw her seldom "for he spent many years in far countries." To me, this would imply say, perhaps, ten years? before his return. This would mean that Gilraen was less than ninety year old, which would follow from her comment that she was aged, "even as one of the lesser Men." Given Aragorn's lifespan of 210 years, this was young indeed.
-  Unless otherwise noted, all quotes in "Strider", "Aragorn", and "Elessar" are from the main body of Lord of the Rings.
-  In a pencilled note to the Tale of Years for the Second Age (in Morgoth's Ring), Tolkien wrote: In character Aragorn was a hardened man of say 45. He was actually 90, and would live at least another 50 (probably 70) years. Aragorn was a Númenorean of pure blood but the span had dwindled to double life. Tolkien later extended Aragorn's lifetime beyond this.
-  personal note: I've always liked this reply, it serves Frodo right for asking someone like Aragorn such a question.
-  It was not until the Council of Elrond that Frodo realized how much these words meant coming from Strider, and it probably took longer for the other Hobbits to catch on.
-  An interesting question is whether the Ringwraiths attack the Prancing Pony, or if this is a case of the Nazgûl, as Aragorn predicted, driving some 'wretches to do evil work." The Ringwraiths, I think, would not have been satisfied with mutilating a few bolsters and would have been more likely to do a more thorough search of the Inn. Another question is, then, whether Aragorn would have been able to hold them off had the Ringwraiths attempted to force their door. I find this unlikely, as even Gandalf had difficulty holding them off, without the lure of the Ring.
-  I have often wondered if Aragorn guesses more than he says when he and the hobbits see 'lightening' in the distance. Having traveled with Gandalf, it is most likely that he knows Gandalf's use of fire, and so could make the connection.
-  What was Aragorn thinking? How much his own fate seems to mirror that of Elendil? Wondering whether he stands any chance of helping defeat Sauron permanently when his forefather and Gil-galad could not? Or perhaps about how strange it was to be guiding four hobbits who knew so little and yet on whom the fate of the world depended nonetheless? Or simply the best way to keep the Ring from the Nazgûl, preferably while remaining alive?
-  Here, "He sat down on the ground, and taking the dagger-hilt laid it on his knees, and he sang over it a slow song in a strange tongue." What did Aragorn sing, and why?
-  Which makes me wonder, if they had horses, could they withstand the Nine? I think probably not, but it's worth pondering, I think . . .
-  Eärendil was Elrond's father, after all, even if he is now the Morning Star. Apparently Aragorn knows more of the story than Bilbo, hence his insistence on the green stone. Or perhaps he is thinking of the Elessar? Aragorn has a strange affiliation with green stones. Along with his insistence on Bilbo's use of an emerald in his Lay, the Elessar is a green stone, as is the beryl left by Glorfindel he finds on the Last Bridge
-  It has, after all, been almost a thousand years (968 to be exact) since the death of the last King of Gondor. It has been 1,074 years since the Arvedui laid claim to the throne of Gondor, and over three thousand years, an entire Age, since the death of Elendil, whose sword Aragorn presents to the Council. I would say Boromir can easily be forgiven for his unwillingness to immediately accept Aragorn's claim to be the Heir of Elendil.
-  Unknown to Boromir, Aragorn has been to MinasTirith before, as Thorongil, and is probably looking forward to returning as himself, and receiving recognition of his kingship. I wonder, did he expect to be accepted by Denethor, who before had opposed him?
-  But what was he thinking? Did he plan already to go with the Ringbearer?
-  I've always wondered whether either Aragorn or Gandalf actually had a plan of any kind on how to get into Mordor. Aragorn has traveled to within sight of the BlackGate, but we do not know if either he or Gandalf has ever been closer. I think not. However, Gandalf at least knows of CirithUngol, but does not like the idea of Frodo taking that path. What other way is there into Mordor? Also, neither Gandalf nor Aragorn seems to wish to discuss their course too far in advance. Is this because they have no plan, or that they do not wish to be able to adapt to unforeseen dangers? Or simply because they do not wish to scare the hobbits witless?
-  Had he gone to MinasTirith in disguise, would Denethor recognize Thorongil? If so, what would have happened, I wonder? I doubt that Denethor would have been willing to have such a powerful stranger in his army.
-  If forced to choose, I would say this was my favorite moment in the entire Lord of the Rings.
-  How did Faramir recognize Aragorn as King? I would like to think that when Farmir saw Aragorn in his dreaming when Aragorn was calling to him. Faramir is said to have the blood of Westernesse run true in him, which may give him a measure of clear sight, enabling him to recognize Aragorn for who he really is.
-  The Battle of the Pelennor fields is won on March 15th. Let's review how Aragorn has spent the previous several weeks: Boromir dies on February 26, after which Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli set out on the pursuit which earned Aragorn the name Wingfoot. Meeting Éomer on February 30, [Apparently I need to read the appendices again, February 30??] the Three Hunters then travel to Fangorn, meeting Gandalf on March 1st and arriving in Edoras the next day. They then set out almost immediately for Helm's Deep, where the battle begins. On the fourth, they set out for Isengard, arriving on the 5th. Returning to Helm's Deep, Aragorn uses the Palantir of Orthanc to challenge Sauron, and then sets out for Dunharrow. Leaving at daybreak on March 8, Aragorn takes the Paths of the Dead, reaching Erech at midnight. He then rides to Pelargir, which takes five long, hard days. On March 13, Aragorn captures the fleet of the Corsairs with the help of the Dead Army, and then sails to MinasTirith, arriving on the 15th just in time to turn the tide of the battle. This all occurs in twenty days. Then, after two days in the city, Aragorn and the Host of the West set out. This takes five days, after which is the last battle before the BlackGates. This last battle is on March 25, a month after the death of Boromir. Some month!