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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
The Many Flaws of Aragorn
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uncle Iorlas
Lorien


Jun 29, 3:54pm

Post #51 of 82 (1313 views)
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the truth, and also this stuff, is really out there [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Also, who said that I identify with Saruman? (I don't.)

Oh, I don't suppose anybody said it. I just found myself musing, for a moment, over the possibility that you yourself are Saruman the White, having deemed that enough time has passed and it is now safe to tell your side of the story (whether truthfully or not, I suppose we must each judge for ourselves).


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Jul 1, 12:19am

Post #52 of 82 (1287 views)
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Fair points though late to the party - [In reply to] Can't Post

As a lay-person, I always felt that the decision taken about Beregond rested on his motives, and perhaps that Denethor was effectively an agent of the enemy in a time of war (though movie Denethor might be clouding my sense of Denethor as he was written by Tolkien). It might also have been an amnesty as you suggest, though limited rather than general.

Maybe it was a technical point? The difference between defying a steward vs a king, though I doubt it.

A favourite theory of mine is that it is thematic or a recurring motif. Gandalf said the Ring had less of a hold on Bilbo than it did on Gollum because Bilbo began his tenure as Ring Bearer with an act of pity; similarly, Aragorn began his reign with an act of mercy. Aragorn and Bilbo had absolute power in their respective moments--Bilbo through the power of the Ring, Aragorn according to his title--and both chose mercy.

In the weighty matter of passing judgement, the saying, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice," likely resonated with Tolkien. And again, from a lay-person's perspective, wisdom needs judge not solely according to the letter of the law, but also its spirit.

edit to add: Oh I see Otaku-sempai said something similar at the bottom of the thread. Serves me right for not reading everything.

...


(This post was edited by SirDennisC on Jul 1, 12:26am)


uncle Iorlas
Lorien


Jul 1, 2:32am

Post #53 of 82 (1268 views)
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love this [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Gandalf said the Ring had less of a hold on Bilbo than it did on Gollum because Bilbo began his tenure as Ring Bearer with an act of pity; similarly, Aragorn began his reign with an act of mercy.

A graceful point (and none the worse for having been used before). If that was voiced earlier, I sailed right by it, so I'm glad you spoke up.


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Jul 2, 4:10am

Post #54 of 82 (1226 views)
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Thank you [In reply to] Can't Post

That point is mine, though I wouldn’t be surprised if others have noted the parallel before.

The point about the letter and spirit of the law was made already in this thread by Otaku-sempai, but I missed it.

Angelic


InTheChair
Rohan


Jul 2, 9:32am

Post #55 of 82 (1203 views)
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The charges against Beregond [In reply to] Can't Post

were not that he killed any innocent men

Infact it is dubious if any of them were innocent. The Porter maybe though even he drew his sword against Beregond who either had to defend himself or else slay the man to gain access.

The two inside the chamber of a certainty were not innocent men.

The charges Berergond faced were that he left his post, and that by his hand blood was spilled in the hallows. Both I think carried the death penalty of old.

Also the servants of Denethor were well aware something was not right. They trembled at the summons, they had fear in their faces, and they knew their own lord was also commanding them to spill blood in the hallows.

Also Gandalf lays a law out, in that the Steward of Gondor does not have authority to order the time of his own death. In the end perhaps only the Porter may have been unjustly killed during a time of war and emergency. This is also the one deed Beregond expresses remorse over.


When it comes to the trial, by this time Aragorn is the King. Is Gondor and absolute monarchy or isn't it? Perhaps by modern standards we may say that it was a character flaw in Aragorn to even accept such a position, but when it comes to his ruling in the Beregond case he seems to have shown nothing but admirable qualities.

In the end he takes Gandalfs recommendaton and makes Beregond the personal guard of Faramir, so it's not even like he wilfully does as he himself pleases.


(This post was edited by InTheChair on Jul 2, 9:33am)


Ethel Duath
Half-elven


Jul 2, 6:02pm

Post #56 of 82 (1180 views)
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Exactly. Thank you. [In reply to] Can't Post

Denethor was in the process of commiting a heinous crime, and his servants were aiding and abetting. Fealty to Denethor, sworn or otherwise, was not the highest law of the land.



DGHCaretaker
Rivendell

Jul 2, 7:46pm

Post #57 of 82 (1178 views)
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Contemporary [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Denethor was in the process of commiting a heinous crime, and his servants were aiding and abetting. Fealty to Denethor, sworn or otherwise, was not the highest law of the land.

That could never happen today.


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Jul 3, 5:23am

Post #58 of 82 (1137 views)
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I’m not reading between the lines, you’re reading between the lines - [In reply to] Can't Post

It could happen, or I refuse to give up hope that it could; but it would require integrity the likes of Aragorn.

What is this thread about again? Oh yeah: flaws. Depending on the context, to some (for instance the cowardly, the ambitious, the cynical or merely confused) such integrity might be called betrayal, or hopelessly naïve.

Ethel always gets me thinking.


Ethel Duath
Half-elven


Jul 4, 2:43am

Post #59 of 82 (1030 views)
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Merci, et toi aussi! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 



DGHCaretaker
Rivendell

Jul 4, 5:48am

Post #60 of 82 (1024 views)
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A Wow Moment Between The Constitutional Lines Of Allegory [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
It could happen, or I refuse to give up hope that it could; but it would require integrity the likes of Aragorn.

Given that reply, you might want to read my post again as if it were dripping with sarcasm about more contemporary events. Ethel Duath's well-crafted two sentences hit me with a delayed-reaction "Wow!" in the realization after reading it a second time to make sure how precisely it fit.

Please excuse my use of the word 'allegory.' Tolkien need not write as allegory for it to forwardly or presciently applied.


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Jul 5, 1:12am

Post #61 of 82 (980 views)
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Applicability rather - [In reply to] Can't Post

I caught the sarcasm and Ethel’s inference. We long for people like Aragorn just now, flawed or not.

Wink


Ethel Duath
Half-elven


Jul 5, 5:12pm

Post #62 of 82 (947 views)
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Actually, I was really only thinking of LOTR [In reply to] Can't Post

 and the context of this thread. Blush

Those more astute may apply at will!



DGHCaretaker
Rivendell

Jul 5, 8:04pm

Post #63 of 82 (940 views)
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Beauty [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Actually, I was really only thinking of LOTR and the context of this thread.

I know. That's what made it so beautiful. :)


(This post was edited by DGHCaretaker on Jul 5, 8:04pm)


Ethel Duath
Half-elven


Jul 5, 8:07pm

Post #64 of 82 (938 views)
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Why, thank you! [In reply to] Can't Post

Smile



Silvered-glass
Rivendell

Aug 1, 4:20pm

Post #65 of 82 (203 views)
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Re: Broochlord [In reply to] Can't Post

I happened upon the following passage in Letter 208 while doing research:


Quote
Though it is only in reading the work myself (with criticisms in mind) that I become aware of the dominance of the theme of Death. (Not that there is any original 'message' in that: most of human art & thought is similarly preoccupied.) But certainly Death is not an Enemy! I said, or meant to say, that the 'message' was the hideous peril of confusing true 'immortality' with limitless serial longevity. Freedom from Time, and clinging to Time. The confusion is the work of the Enemy, and one of the chief causes of human disaster. Compare the death of Aragorn with a Ringwraith.


(Emphasis mine.)

Tolkien intentionally drawing attention to Aragorn's death passage gives support to the idea that the strange line "My world is fading" is indeed intentionally crafted to evoke the Ringwraiths and the process of turning into one, which further implies that Aragorn's special brooch - which has earlier been shown giving Aragorn a kingly charisma upgrade - functions similarly to a Ring of Power, with similar drawbacks.


noWizardme
Half-elven


Aug 1, 5:34pm

Post #66 of 82 (199 views)
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I like the idea, but: "Au compare" :) [In reply to] Can't Post

When Tolkien writes ''Compare the death of Aragorn with a Ringwraith.', I do see how he could mean the sense you've taken: compare meaning 'liken' or 'consider the similarities'. And then with your characteristic and impressive boldess Silvered-glass -- and I do mean that - no snidey, sarcasm or other 'tricksy' stuff-- you go from that to the intriguing idea of the Ringlike brooch.

I enjoy the idea, but I can't join you in thinking it is the best interpretation of this story. That's because I'm thinking Tolkien means 'compare' here in 'to examine the character or qualities of especially in order to discover resemblances or differences', as the great Jewish Lady Lexicographer Mirriam Webster Smile has it. (or, to examine or look for the difference between two or more things), if you prefer the Lexicographers of Cambridge. So the quotation works for me as a call to look at the differences.

When I look for differences, I've got: Witch King gets into a Faustian bargain "with limitless serial longevity.... clinging to Time" (and it ends badly) cf Aragorn looks to death then the hope of an afterlife of "Freedom from Time". I'm encouraged to note that this reading puts Aragorn in stark contrast to how the Numernoreans and Kings of Gondor 'went wrong'; and (co-incidentely or not) he's behaving as a Good Catholic wouldFor me, those things seem to 'work' with the wider story.

Now, forgive me for not reserching this carefully & returning with quotes, but I have a feeling that 'my world is fading' is a fairly cliched thing for a dying character to say? I've heard that parsed IRL as changes to vision and perceptions as the brain fails. So maybe Aragorn just means that he is actually dying right now, already?

So my reading works better for me, so far...


~~~~~~
"there is the internet truth that good comments encourage other good comments, and bad comments encourage other bad comments"

David Allen Green QC


(This post was edited by noWizardme on Aug 1, 5:38pm)


Silvered-glass
Rivendell

Aug 1, 9:10pm

Post #67 of 82 (191 views)
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On Fading: Discovering Resemblances [In reply to] Can't Post

As for myself, I think Tolkien meant "to examine the character or qualities of especially in order to discover resemblances or differences". One could easily think that Aragorn's death and a Ringwraith's existence are entirely dissimilar, but a closer look reveals unexpected and very revealing resemblances.

Quoting Gandalf from The Shadow of the Past:

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"A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness. And if he often uses the Ring to make himself invisible, he fades: he becomes in the end invisible permanently, and walks in the twilight under the dark power that rules the Rings. Yes, sooner or later - later, if he is strong or well-meaning to begin with, but neither strength nor good purpose will last - sooner or later the dark power will devour him."


As for the process of fading outside of academic theory, Frodo with the Morgul-wound gives us a viewpoint into that, which Gandalf acknowledges in Many Meetings.

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"You were beginning to fade," answered Gandalf. "The wound was overcoming you at last."


A snippet from Flight to the Ford:

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Frodo's pain had redoubled, and during the day things about him faded to shadows of ghostly grey. He almost welcomed the coming of night, for then the world seemed less pale and empty.


Aragorn's comment "My world is fading" corresponds eerily well with Frodo's experiences.


Eldy
Grey Havens


Aug 1, 9:43pm

Post #68 of 82 (191 views)
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Context [In reply to] Can't Post

The topic of Letter 208 was the distinction between immortality and "serial longevity," and the crucial thematic point that "Death is not an Enemy" in the philosophical framework of the Eldar and the Edain. Aragorn, by voluntarily embracing death instead of senescence, thereby following the model of the early Númenórean kings before Tar-Atanamir, embodies this ideal. The Ringwraiths are mentioned as a contrast: humans who were supernaturally bound to the physical world by their Rings, but did not receive the eternal life they may have been promised by Sauron, but a terrible, stretched existence.

I strongly disagree that the use of the word fading in both the letter and the discussion of Frodo's wound is more important than the context of the letter itself, which is that Aragorn and the Ringwraiths represent polar opposite attitudes towards death.


(This post was edited by Eldy on Aug 1, 9:43pm)


Silvered-glass
Rivendell

Aug 1, 11:40pm

Post #69 of 82 (179 views)
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Aragorn and Fading [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
The topic of Letter 208 was the distinction between immortality and "serial longevity," and the crucial thematic point that "Death is not an Enemy" in the philosophical framework of the Eldar and the Edain. Aragorn, by voluntarily embracing death instead of senescence, thereby following the model of the early Númenórean kings before Tar-Atanamir, embodies this ideal. The Ringwraiths are mentioned as a contrast: humans who were supernaturally bound to the physical world by their Rings, but did not receive the eternal life they may have been promised by Sauron, but a terrible, stretched existence.


When Tolkien told the reader to compare the death of Aragorn and a Ringwraith, I think he meant that the reader should take a close look at Aragorn's death and another close look at what is said about the Ringwraiths. The letter itself doesn't talk about Aragorn in specific terms beyond that one suggestion and doesn't say on which side of the line Aragorn really falls. The Ringwraiths are undead, so by that logic they too must have died physically at some point.


In Reply To
I strongly disagree that the use of the word fading in both the letter and the discussion of Frodo's wound is more important than the context of the letter itself, which is that Aragorn and the Ringwraiths represent polar opposite attitudes towards death.


The description of Aragorn's death in The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen has Aragorn himself talk about fading: "My world is fading." I think this is very significant. The line stands out stylistically from the rest of the text.


Eldy
Grey Havens


Aug 2, 12:02am

Post #70 of 82 (181 views)
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Aragorn and Númenórean belief [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
When Tolkien told the reader to compare the death of Aragorn and a Ringwraith, I think he meant that the reader should take a close look at Aragorn's death and another close look at what is said about the Ringwraiths. The letter itself doesn't talk about Aragorn in specific terms beyond that one suggestion and doesn't say on which side of the line Aragorn really falls.


The letter doesn't need to specify which side of the line Aragorn falls on, because Aragorn's death scene makes it abundantly clear which it is. But, as it happens, Tolkien did in fact make this explicit in a footnote to Letter 212: "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 could not threaten him: he would desire and ask to be allowed to 'go on' to a higher state." (all italics in the original; bold emphasis mine)

This is not a minor point. The refusal of the Númenórean kings to voluntarily "go on" into death is one of the most important markers of their rebellion against the Valar (presented without comment on whether that rebellion was actually unreasonable). Aragorn, as the heir to and renewer of the legacy of the Faithful Númenóreans—see his byname Envinyatar—represents the opposite viewpoint. The irony of the scene is that Arwen, who spent most of her life with no reason to think she would ever not be immortal, comes around to sympathizing with the position of the rebellious Númenóreans, having previously scorned them, whereas Aragorn holds true to his belief that voluntarily dying is the right thing to do. His death is meant to represent the original Númenórean ideal, not something marred by sorcery.


In Reply To
The Ringwraiths are undead, so by that logic they too must have died physically at some point.


I think it's considerably more likely that the Ringwraiths did not die before becoming wraiths, but instead represent an extreme case of the "stretching" that the Hobbit Ringbearers experienced. I can't recall offhand if Tolkien gave a definitive answer here, though.


(This post was edited by Eldy on Aug 2, 12:04am)


Silvered-glass
Rivendell

Aug 2, 2:29am

Post #71 of 82 (154 views)
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Suicide and Undeath [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
The letter doesn't need to specify which side of the line Aragorn falls on, because Aragorn's death scene makes it abundantly clear which it is. But, as it happens, Tolkien did in fact make this explicit in a footnote to Letter 212: "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 could not threaten him: he would desire and ask to be allowed to 'go on' to a higher state." (all italics in the original; bold emphasis mine)


The real issue isn't that Aragorn decided to give up living, but that he justified his decision with "My world is fading." If we take him at his world, it sounds awfully like he suffered from a condition similar to Frodo with the Morgul-wound. If his eyesight was going bad or something normal like that, I think he would have said so.


In Reply To
This is not a minor point. The refusal of the Númenórean kings to voluntarily "go on" into death is one of the most important markers of their rebellion against the Valar (presented without comment on whether that rebellion was actually unreasonable). Aragorn, as the heir to and renewer of the legacy of the Faithful Númenóreans—see his byname Envinyatar—represents the opposite viewpoint. The irony of the scene is that Arwen, who spent most of her life with no reason to think she would ever not be immortal, comes around to sympathizing with the position of the rebellious Númenóreans, having previously scorned them, whereas Aragorn holds true to his belief that voluntarily dying is the right thing to do. His death is meant to represent the original Númenórean ideal, not something marred by sorcery.


We are never told exactly what Aragorn wanted to renew, other than the institution of kingship itself.

By the way, I've always felt it strange how effective suicide is glorified (which is not a Christian viewpoint) in Tolkien's writings. Meanwhile Denethor's suicide is portrayed as so very bad. I've thought about the matter, and I think Denethor probably willed himself to death the same as Aragorn, and that's the real reason he died so quickly. Even Faramir was severely ill, headed for death, and the healers were unable to help him. And Aragorn's death takes Arwen as well after a delay. But that really should be the subject of another thread.


In Reply To
I think it's considerably more likely that the Ringwraiths did not die before becoming wraiths, but instead represent an extreme case of the "stretching" that the Hobbit Ringbearers experienced. I can't recall offhand if Tolkien gave a definitive answer here, though.


The Witch-king's "death" scene (or more like losing scene) on the Pelennor Fields mentions his "undead sinews". This implies that he himself is undead and must therefore have died at some point.


noWizardme
Half-elven


Aug 2, 5:00pm

Post #72 of 82 (125 views)
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We've certianly compared 'compare'! [In reply to] Can't Post

I am finding it intriguing, stimulating & enjoyable that we interpret the text differently here (as in other places). It is certainly making me think!
I'm not sure what more I can add for now, though. I want to avoid restating my points and thinking. That seems a bit insulting really - as if what I have said already hasn't been understood (whereas I'm confident it has: it is just that we haven't conviced each other, whcih is fine.) Or repetition risks reading as if repeating points ad nauseum could 'win the argument' by attirition (a tedious politician's trick, and also a common bane of social media discussion).

In any case, I'm glad I don't feel the need to 'win the argument', as that sabotages the fun of productive and cordial disagreement.

~~~~~~
"there is the internet truth that good comments encourage other good comments, and bad comments encourage other bad comments"

David Allen Green QC


noWizardme
Half-elven


Aug 2, 5:29pm

Post #73 of 82 (124 views)
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I can cautiously add something here, I think (sensitive subject) [In reply to] Can't Post

Firstly though: Tolkien plays with fire here. Discussion of suicide is something most of us can do keeping it safely abstract and academic. Biut of course the subject could be distressing or even dangerous to somebody who might read this. So please, folks: if this subject might not a good place for you to go for any reason, do look after yourself and don't read on. Heart
I would hate to cause distress or stir thoughts of self harm (or bogus justifications for it) in anyone.
--


In Reply To
By the way, I've always felt it strange how effective suicide is glorified (which is not a Christian viewpoint) in Tolkien's writings. Meanwhile Denethor's suicide is portrayed as so very bad.


Yes, I agree. I suspect Tolkien has got a bit carried away with making faithful Numenoreans who 'Don't Fear The Reaper' contrast to those who did and took Faustian-style action to avoid it (as per the quotes we've aready shared).

I think, however, we can contrast (since compare is so two-edged Smile) Aragorn & Denethor.

Eldy has just quoted:

Quote
a footnote to Letter 212: "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 could not threaten him: he would desire and ask to be allowed to 'go on' to a higher state." (all italics in the original; bold emphasis mine)


To me it seems that the 'desire and ask to be allowed to 'go on' to a higher state.' leaves control with whatever Power it is that has to be asked (presumaby it can say 'no, go back to work!'). So my idea is that this does not upset 'what is meant to happen' (the concept I've already written about plenty earlier in the discussion).

By contrast, I'd say Denethor does not ask nicely - he hubristically takes the decision into his own hands, for himself and (worse, probably) for Faramir. Gandalf (who can be taken to be Tolkien's mouthpiece here, I think) explains explicity to Denethor how this is a dereliction of Leadership: it is not the time 'to ask whether you can take early retirement' (though by that not totally brilliant analogy Denethor is storming out of work saying he quits in the middle of a major crisis). So Denethor, like the Witch King, upsets 'what is meant to happen'.

So I do see a distinction, which perhaps Tolkien had in mind (I don't know). But the whole 'die voluntarily by surrender with trust before being compelled' idea is a bit queasy for me, as in other ways is Aragorn's end in Appendix A (v). On the whole I'd rather Tolkien had contrived something else.



~~~~~~
"there is the internet truth that good comments encourage other good comments, and bad comments encourage other bad comments"

David Allen Green QC


noWizardme
Half-elven


Aug 2, 5:44pm

Post #74 of 82 (124 views)
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oops: [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I want to avoid restating my points and thinking.

I meant

"I want to avoid restating my points and my thinking"
not

"I want to avoid ... thinking" BlushLaugh

~~~~~~
"there is the internet truth that good comments encourage other good comments, and bad comments encourage other bad comments"

David Allen Green QC


(This post was edited by noWizardme on Aug 2, 5:46pm)


Felagund
Rohan


Aug 2, 10:16pm

Post #75 of 82 (111 views)
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some thoughts [In reply to] Can't Post

Thought-provoking, as ever Silvered-glass! Some thoughts on this and the commentary you've garnered so far:

"Compare the death of Aragorn with a Ringwraith"

I agree with where Eldy and noWizardme have come out on this one. Letter 208, to my mind, clearly sets out a contrast on the theme of death, with the example of Aragorn contra a Ringwraith a means of underscoring the point being made, alongside "true immortality" contra "limitless serial longevity" and "Freedom from Time" contra "clinging to Time".

"My world is fading"

I agree, it's an interesting choice of verb in the context of Aragorn's approaching death, and one that is otherwise heavily loaded in the legendarium - not just in terms of wraiths or what nearly happened to Frodo but also the theme of the fading of the Elves. And I agree, I don't think it's a reference to his eyesight! Where we differ is that just as I don't comprehend the fading of the Elves as invoking the abomination that is a Ringwraith's transgressive existence, I don't see Aragorn's remark as signifying anything other than that he sees his allotted span is coming to an end in the tradition of his most ancient Númenórean forebears. Without wishing to labour the point, Tolkien even writes of the Valar as fading (HoMe 10, 'Myths Transformed'), so I'm pretty comfortable with 'fading' not being an exclusive signifier for hovering on the threshold of the wraith-world.

The Tale of Aragorn & Arwen

On the wider tale from which you quote, I reckon the specific content is very reminiscent (for me, at any rate) of the subject matter of Letter 208. Aragorn's remark is in the context of an impassioned exchange of views on death and the Gift of Men. Aragorn directly cites "the grace to go at my will" and the "doom we accepted", and beseeches Arwen that they "not be overthrown at the final test", that is rebelling against the Gift of Men. Aragorn's intention is to take the path of the earliest kings of the Line of Elros and 'resign' or 'lay down' his life before he becomes "witless and unmanned". To me, this isn't the speech of a human about to enter into the wraith-world, via sorcerous means, but rather a human actively choosing to (re)conform with the ancient order of things.

The death of Denethor

I start by saying that I find Denethor a more empathetic character than some might, and that his madness, although arguably unforgivable is at least explicable. As for his death, I don't read it as him willing himself to his death, in the manner of a Númenórean resigning from their life. My more mundane take is that it was self-immolation, plain and simple. Indeed, Gandalf's rebuke is an interesting one:


Quote
"And only the heathen kings, under the domination of the Dark Power, did thus, slaying themselves in pride and despair, murdering their kin to ease their own death."


In this sense, Denethor's demise is pretty much the opposite of the choice of a Númenórean reaching the end of their lifespan. This is a 'heathen' death, running counter to the natural order that Gandalf speaks for in this scene.

"cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will."

Such an awesome line from 'The Battle of the Pelennor Fields'! And the use of 'undead' is intriguing, particularly given the most consistent association of the word outside the legendarium is with something that has unnaturally returned from the dead.

That said, this doesn't fit easily with Tolkien's other descriptions of the Ringwraiths and reconciliation of the above passage is difficult - although hardly the only contradiction to be found in the legendarium! Anyway, looking at the 'Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age' (The Sil), we learn of nine humans ensnared by Sauron, who don't 'die' but rather "had, as it seemed, unending life" and who "entered into the realm of shadows". The first part at least aligns with the extreme 'stretching' that Eldy referenced.

The entry into the 'realm of shadows' is, I have argued elsewhere in the Reading Room, possibly a reference to the effective expiry of the hröar of these unfortunate humans. Their existence is therefore reduced to a fëa state, chained to Arda by the power of, and link to, the One Ring. Sauron appears to be able to provide physical 'shapes' or form to his Nine slaves as and when he needs them to be corporeal. This is implied by their failure at the Ford of Bruinen, when they were “obliged to return as best they could to their Master, empty and shapeless” (LotR, ‘The Ring goes South’).

So, while I don't read the Ringwraiths as having 'died' in the 'conventional' sense, their bodies had for all intents and purposes been extirpated by prolonged exposure to the Rings of Power they wielded. The shape that the Witch-king 'wore' at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields could be read as being consistent with 'undead flesh', inhabited by an enslaved and malignant fëa but I'm pretty much free-lancing at this point!

If you're interested, you can find an essay I posted in the Reading Room on wraiths and the concept of the 'Unseen' world(s) they inhabited, here. And as I have a habit of pasting broken links, the old-fashioned way to find it is scrolling back through to 5 June 2021 for the title: "peering into the Unseen" :)

Welcome to the Mordorfone network, where we put the 'hai' back into Uruk

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