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Did Aragorn want to be King?

Forum Admin / Moderator

Jun 20, 11:30am

Post #1 of 10 (1471 views)
Did Aragorn want to be King? Can't Post

Sparked, I confess, not so much by a re-read as a re-watch, but this is a question about book!Aragorn more than movie!Aragorn as I think in the movies it's clearer he doesn't really want to be King but accepts reluctantly that he will be.
In the book, do you think Aragorn really wants to be King? Or perhaps the question is, does he want to be King for the right reason? We know that he can't marry Arwen unless he's crowned (thanks, Elrond), so is he striving for it purely because he wants to marry her? He knows that being King won't overthrow Sauron - that's up to Frodo - and until the Siege of Gondor nobody really knows that Denethor is going to prove to be a bit of a weak leader when the chips are down.

My reading of it, for what it's worth, is that he has moments where he really embraces who and what he is and uses it to his advantage. There's that wonderful moment as they're passing the Argonath:
Frodo turned and saw Strider, and yet not Strider; for the weather-worn Ranger was no longer there. in the stern sat Aragorn son of Arathron, 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.

And then there's the scene in Rohan where he declares himself to Éomer, and before the doors of Meduseld. But contrast that with his words to Éowyn before riding the Paths of the Dead, that he does not seek peril and would rather be in the North (with Arwen), and his decision to go back to being a Ranger captain once Minas Tirith is won.

In the end, he does all the right things, and is crowned and obviously does a brilliant job, because he's Aragorn and he's awesome. But if his real motivation was just love, all along, is that the right motivation?
(Note: this post was brought to you by a crush on Aragorn that's lasted the best part of 30 years and will never ever die ...)

Storm clouds


Jun 20, 2:25pm

Post #2 of 10 (1429 views)
Aragorn might find that question rather odd. [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think that Aragorn accepts the kingship as a price for marrying Arwen; I think he accepts it for itself as his duty. My reading is that Aragorn is 'meant' to be king, and he knows that well. If he's not sure about it, then the prophetic dream Boromir reports to Rivendell makes it pretty clear. If he's ever made other plans for his life, then that's just too bad - he's a Tolkien hero and has to get on with doing what he's meant to do. Whether Aragorn might privately wish that he had an easier duty and destiny than being King, I don't suppose we'd ever find out. I don't remember anything in the text to suggest it, but then if Aragorn would secretly prefer to be (say) a hairdresser in Rivendell, I don't suppose he'd tell anyone.

My reading is very much that only Aragorn can become king. Only Isildur's heir by blood will do. It's not like, say, wondering whether to run for office in a democracy, where you might decide instead to back another candidate whose goals chime with your own.

In the book, I don't see Aragorn wavering from the goal of becoming king if he possibly can. As you say it's the movie which introduces the idea of Aragorn not having the confidence to be king Mostly I think so that it gives Arwen a role as 'supportive girlfriend' and a big warm ending for the FOTR film (in which Aragorn is offered the Ring and rejects it, and then promises the dying Boromir that he'll save 'our people').

Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm

Forum Admin / Moderator

Jun 21, 9:12am

Post #3 of 10 (1393 views)
I agree he's meant to be king [In reply to] Can't Post

There's certainly no ambiguity there, it's not like there's anyone else hanging around waiting to seize the crown. And he doesn't fight it. But I don't see him consistently embracing his destiny (again, cf his words to Éowyn about not seeking peril). I think there's a part of him which would have preferred to live out his life in quiet seclusion in Rivendell or somewhere, if Elrond hadn't imposed the "you must be king to marry" requirement.

Storm clouds


Jun 21, 9:42am

Post #4 of 10 (1388 views)
Ah - yes that quote does make your point! [In reply to] Can't Post

Aragorn says to Eowyn:

Were I to go where my heart dwells, far in the North I would now be wandering in the fair valley of Rivendell.

I had taken that to mean that Aragorn wants to be in Rivendell because that's where Arwen is. And I'd thought that it was a roundabout and tactful way of Aragorn telling Eowyn that he has an established romantic commitment, and that he to must do his duty - he isn't a carefree adventurer with no ties, as she might imagine. But I do see how the quote also makes your point - I think your right and it's clear Aragron feels at least some pull away from his duty and towards Rivendell, whether that's because Arwen is there, or because of his love of the place, or both.

Lucky Aragorn in a way I suppose - Tolkien doesn't put him in the dilemma of you can be king OR marry Arwen!

So - what do you think the situation would be if the story didn't' contain Arwen (as it nearly didn't - if I recall she was a late addition). Do you read it that Aragorn *only* agrees to be kin to marry Arwen, or is that overstating your point of view?

Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm

uncle Iorlas

Jun 22, 4:08am

Post #5 of 10 (1355 views)
as it happens [In reply to] Can't Post

just this afternoon I was reading the Riders of Rohan with my eight-year-old, and so am readily reminded how when Aragorn first sees the mountains of Gondor, in the midst of his desperate pursuit of the uruk-hai, he stops and bursts into song for a minute. Here, at least, it is clear that he longs to be there. And in fact recent chapters have been loaded with moments that indicate this.

I've always had the impression that even if there was no Arwen, Aragorn would have done roughly the same things just in order to save the world and be king. He has known for most of his life that he was the heir, and he has spent all these years putting himself in jeopardy to fight for truth, justice and the Numenorean way. I think it is simultaneously true that he would be king because it is his duty and destiny, that he would be king because he wants to do a glorious deed and reinvent his glorious kingdom, and that he would be king because he has to in order to marry his beloved. Quite plausibly he runs a little faster and hits a little harder and drives himself a little more relentlessly on account of that last motive, and perhaps we can suppose he wouldn't have succeeded without it, but I don't think the author would say it was his sole motive or even his principal one.

Superuser / Moderator

Jun 22, 10:23am

Post #6 of 10 (1323 views)
I suppose no one's life is a straight line. [In reply to] Can't Post

One thing I appreciate about Tolkien's characters is that many of them are drawn in shades of grey. The most obvious ones are Smeagol/Gollum and Boromir (neither wholly good or bad), but I hadn't considered Aragorn in that light before.

With him it's not about his character being good or bad, but how committed he is to becoming King. I guess we all have moments of doubt about what we're doing in our life, and we see that occasionally with Aragorn.

How much of his life's progress toward the throne of Gondor is because he grew up being told of his bloodline's destiny and how much is it a choice by him? Is there any moment in the books where we see him make the conscious decision that he'll try to claim the crown?

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauron’s master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.

Ataahua's stories


Jun 22, 5:45pm

Post #7 of 10 (1307 views)
Aragorn's decision point [In reply to] Can't Post

My own reading is that Aragorn's line are waiting for 'when the time is right' - I guess that each generation stands ready. I think Boromir brings the actual summons, though the appearance of the One Ring might already have been a significant sign:


His own plan, while Gandalf remained with them, had been to go with Boromir, and with his sword help to deliver Gondor. For he believed that the message of the dreams was a summons, and that the hour had come at last when the heir of Elendil should come forth and strive with Sauron for the mastery.

LOTR FOTR Ch 8 - Farewell to Lorien

The major 'kink' in Aragorn's straight line is, I think, the quandary he's in after Gandalf goes - claim the crown or accompany Frodo?

But if there's any evidence that Aragorn considered *not* trying for the crown if that was his duty, then I've missed it.

Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm

Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Jun 26, 9:26am

Post #8 of 10 (1223 views)
Aragorn had a feeling he was going to be the special one [In reply to] Can't Post

So to speak. He was given enough hints by venerable people that he would be the one to either re-claim the old throne or fall into shadows. And the re-finding of the Ring or the rise of Sauron would confirm this.


Jun 30, 11:14am

Post #9 of 10 (1184 views)
I'd argue that Arwen is a huge part of it. [In reply to] Can't Post

The Appendix story of Aragorn's lifelong quest to be worthy of Arwen certainly gives some ammunition for arguing that she is crucial to his life choices. It's interesting to see in this Appendix tale that all of Aragorn's adventures and toil in his earlier life are directed towards being worthy of Arwen, not towards being king. He fights the Shadow, as he knows that's his duty and destiny, and he knows he is expected to "do great deeds", but the kingship itself isn't even mentioned, as far as I can see, until Elrond spells it out:
“My son, years come when hope will fade, and beyond them little is clear to me. And now a shadow lies between us. Maybe, it has been appointed so, that by my loss the kingship of Men may be restored. Therefore, 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 and parting - but to you hope of joy for a while.” [my bolding]
Elrond seems to believe that his own sacrifice of his daughter may be a necessary condition of Aragorn winning the kingship. Arwen's hand isn't an afterthought here - it's framed as Aragorn's prime motivation. This conversation only happens after Galadriel has taken matters into her own hands and brought Aragorn and Arwen together at Lothlórien. At this point Elrond is forced to accept that his daughter's choice is made, and his only hope of salvaging something from the loss of his daughter is to give Aragorn the (almost-impossibe) task of winning the throne. The comparison to Thingol's challenge to Beren is right there in the story:
“I see,’’ said Aragorn, “that I have turned my eyes to a treasure no less dear than the treasure of Thingol that Beren once desired. Such is my fate.”
So personally I think that Aragorn's absolute dedication to winning Arwen is at the heart of his story. Unlike in many modern stories, though, being worthy of his bride and fulfilling his duty in the world are not at odds with each other - they are one and the same thing. And you could argue that winning Arwen (and bringing elvish wisdom back into the world of Men) is actually a much higher aim than winning the throne. The kingship is just the easy part! Tongue

So to answer your question:

In the end, he does all the right things, and is crowned and obviously does a brilliant job, because he's Aragorn and he's awesome. But if his real motivation was just love, all along, is that the right motivation?

I guess I have to say that it most definitely is the right motivation - love conquers all, and if love and duty run together, as they do thanks to the wisdom of Elrond, then it's win-win!

(As for the movie's storyline, I have always thought that the fly in the ointment of the book version is that Elrond expects to be able to give or withhold his adult daughter's hand without her having any agency of her own. I'm not sure a modern audience would be very sympathetic towards a woman who allowed her father to come between her and her love life that way! So the movie sets up a more easily understood modern dilemma, of a tension between love and duty, where Arwen has to encourage Aragorn to pursue the throne for duty's sake, even though they both know they are risking their future together if things go wrong.)

Or maybe I'm just a romantic fool! Wink

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings

(This post was edited by FarFromHome on Jun 30, 11:18am)

The Shire

Aug 7, 11:05pm

Post #10 of 10 (990 views)
Aragorn II wanted justice [In reply to] Can't Post

First, I feel that Aragorn II knew that if you reach for something then that something owns you and will hurt you.Aragorn II allowed to follow his moral by chasing the Uruk-hai instead of helping Frodo and Sam.
Second, I believe that Aragorn II may have had the "movie-crisis" much earlier in life decades beforethe War of the Ring. I wonder why he entered Moria. Surely not to help Gandalf find Thrain II, for that wasearlier than Aragorn's adult life.
Remember Tolkien's own life. He had to reach the age I think of 18 to marry. Also he went to war beforehave a married life. Love is sweeter if left a vine long enough.


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