Here’s the third of our four semi-final contestants in our 2014 Middle-earth March Madness contest — Aragorn, descendent of the line of Isildur and Elendil, heir to the throne of Gondor and Arnor. In this piece, our own Quickbeam examines just what makes this character tick, and the traits that truly make him … king.
by Cliff “Quickbeam” Broadway
Strider, Aragorn, Longshanks, Telcontar, Elessar, and several other names come to mind for this particular character. But the first impression a non-Tolkien outsider would get from a man who has a dozen aliases is that he was probably a criminal. Maybe they’d think he was constantly moving from place to place, switching names because he was the equivalent of a modern-day “identity thief” who was on the lam! Funny how things in our modern world don’t always reflect clearly on mythology.
Aragorn is the kind of character who demands a closer look. You must remember the speech that Shrek gives to Donkey about ogres being a lot like onions: “We have layers!” I would also like to use the onion metaphor for Strider. But wait — that’s just one layer. Peel away a bit and you’ll find the outcast orphan-lad who was taken in by the Elves; his mother desperate for some protection. Peel away more layers to find within a skillful fighter, a passionate lover, a delicate negotiator with a voice of great wisdom, a healer and master of herb-lore, and yes… in the very center of his heart, underneath it all, is a King.
It’s no small wonder readers and movie-goers are fascinated by Aragorn. Women of all ages swoon over Viggo Mortensen’s portrayal of this multi-faceted character. No one can possibly imagine Stuart Townsend taking the role, not at this point (sorry Stuart). Men have found themselves admiring a new hero on the silver screen: as cool a cat as Errol Flynn and as swashbuckling as Harrison Ford. “This guy is great, man, he can kick-ass and has all the ladies in Middle-earth after him!”
Yes, but I must remind you that that ‘matinee idol’ image of Aragorn is just the surface. This man has so much on his plate, is so burdened by worries and duty and the hardships of his life, that we can’t help but admire the TRUE Aragorn that’s underneath the rugged exterior. I say the true Aragorn is proven by his actions. Yes, he is truly the Ranger, leader, lover, and King that fills Tolkien’s pages and fills our daydreams.
But he is only able to succeed (for himself and for all us readers) because he proves himself. The verb “to prove” has several meanings. You could say the actual word prove is like an onion too. Proving a thing is true can be done by establishing it with facts and evidence. To prove the existence of the King, and his rightful claim to the throne, you have to show clear facts; real things in the physical world that show Aragorn is the heir. So Aragorn is given the Elessar by Galadriel:
“In this hour,” she said, “take the name that was foretold for you, Elessar, the Elfstone of the Elendil.”
A beautiful eagle-shaped brooch, given with love but also with a sense of hanging doom. But the mere possession of this Elessar does not prove he’s the King — let us not overstate the obvious here. I can also find the passage in Appendix A where Elrond gives Aragorn the Ring of Barahir and the Shards of Narsil. There is also the stunning Sceptre of Annúminas, which Elrond refused to give to the young man at first.
Funny. The Elven Lord of Imladris refused to give Aragorn the great Sceptre. Let’s think about that. No matter what kinds of jewelry, crowns, baubles, or finery you have accumulated, you really aren’t the King just by possessing such items. Holding up the reforged Andúril to glimmer in the light does not a King make. Aragorn could have trotted off to Minas Tirith, entered the Citadel with all his fine raiment and his new sword, and walking right up to Denethor declared: “Here I am! Bow down to me!” Doesn’t take much imagination to guess the Steward’s response.
Speaking of inherited artifacts, that creepy little Palantír belongs to Aragorn too, I should note. It is an heirloom of his own house. None of the Stones belong to Saruman or Sauron or Denethor. When Aragorn reveals his true identity to the Dark Lord, using the Stone from Orthanc…. just think! It is a critical turning point in his life: and a turning point in the story. This Ranger from the North is no longer in hiding. He controls the Seeing Stone like a finely tuned instrument, and gives the Enemy a sucker-punch right in the gut. I can imagine the wild fear and hatred that Sauron must have felt! So Aragorn comes closer to proving himself.