The True Power and Majesty of Kings

As Aragorn journeys further and further away from Gondor, the place of his dream, on what seems to be the hopeless quest of rescuing Merry and Pippin from the orc host who have taken them prisoner, he encounters a war band of the Riders of Rohan riding homeward from the destruction of that very host. The war band are commanded by Eomer, nephew of Théoden, king of Rohan and against the orders of the king they have set out after the orcs on hearing of their incursion into Rohan. On meeting Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli they challenge them. Aragorn’s response to the challenge is astonishing. He invokes the name of his mighty ancestor, Elendil, the last and only king of the two kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor and then he continues:

“I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn, and am called Elessar, the Elfstone, Dunadan, the heir of Isildur Elendil’s son of Gondor. Here is the Sword that was Broken and is forged again! Will you aid me or thwart me? Choose swiftly!”

Aragorn has no more time for courtesies, however time honoured they might be. This is the true crisis, the moment of doom, of judgement, and courtesy is at such moments simply time wasting. Nor is there time for weighing up what choices might be available. Aragorn has given his command, “Choose swiftly!” and the command must be obeyed whether Eomer chooses for him or against him. Eomer is awestruck, but so are Gimli and Legolas who have travelled with him since Rivendell.

“They had not seen him in this mood before. He seemed to have grown in stature while Eomer had shrunk and in his living face they caught a brief vision of the power and majesty of the kings of stone. For a moment it seemed to Legolas that a white flame flickered on the brows of Aragorn like a shining crown.”

Readers may remember the “kings of stone”. We encountered them on the river journey down the Anduin from Lothlorien and they may remember that Aragorn gave his ancestors a lordly greeting and then seemed to shrink into himself in his boat. It was the time of doubting when Aragorn questioned his very identity. It was the time of his Wilderness Temptation but that time is now over. It may be that in his pursuit of Merry and Pippin Aragorn has had to lay aside his kingly ambition for a time. It may be that he will lay down his life in a vain pursuit. But he no longer does so as a man wracked with doubt. The choice he has made is a kingly choice, a free choice, and he will not be thwarted by any man.

Readers may also have noted that I have used words like “Wilderness Temptation” and “Emptying”. I might also have used the phrase, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The witness of the gospels and of the letters of the New Testament to Jesus the King resound with the same language that, in The Lord of the Rings, bears witness to Aragorn, who will be king of Gondor and Arnor. It is not that Tolkien is making Aragorn into a kind of Jesus, but that this language,and the language of the New Testament, reveals true kingship to us; the language first of self doubt and of emptying, and the language also of command. Aragorn has revealed himself to all as their true king.

Choose swiftly! Are with me or against me? The time of judgement has come! The kingdom of heaven is at hand!

Welcome to the new site for my blog

Thank you to all of you who have reading my weekly blog on J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings since December 2012 at I will continue to post it there as well as here for the time being but increasingly I have found that people have found difficulty using that site and especially leaving comments. I really want to develop the conversation that has begun with a few and so I have decided to start publishing it here at Word Press. I do look forward to a conversation with many of you.

When J.R.R Tolkien began work on The Lord of the Rings he saw it at first as a distraction from his great work which his son Christopher has been making available to us over many years. His publishers had written to him after the great success of The Hobbit, asking him for “more about hobbits”. Tolkien responded by asking “But what more can hobbits do?” Thankfully his publishers persisted and the great work that we know today painfully came into being. 

I believe that The Lord of the Rings is an answer to Tolkien’s own question. It is not just that they prove more durable in tight situations than most consider them to be. It is that only hobbits, and one in particular, Frodo Baggins with his companion, Samwise Gamgee, are capable of doing the one thing that can save the the world from destruction and that is to take the One Ruling Ring to Mordor and to unmake it in the very fires in which Sauron first forged it. I see this, above all, as a spiritual capacity that they discover within themselves and which completely eludes the capacity of most of the great ones of their world to see. Only those who have begun to find the same capacity in themselves are able to do so.

As I invite you to read these short pieces that I will publish each week I want to say that I believe that is only by finding that same capacity, the capacity that the hobbits discover as do others in the story such as Gandalf, Galadriel, Aragorn, Faramir and Theoden can our world be saved from the destruction that we seem to be taking it into. As I write these posts each week I hope that I am beginning to understand and even to begin to find it in me. I invite you to seek to do the same.