As Gandalf takes Theoden and his company to see Treebeard, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli remain at the gates of Isengard with Merry and Pippin. They share a meal together and then the hobbits produce the finest tobacco from the Shire, a spoil of battle, so that they can smoke.
“‘Now let us take our ease here for a little!” said Aragorn.’…I feel a weariness such as I have seldom felt before.’ He wrapped his grey cloak about him, hiding his mail-shirt, and stretched out his long legs. Then he lay back and sent from his lips a thin stream of smoke.
‘Look!’ said Pippin. ‘Strider the Ranger has come back!’
‘He has never been away,’ said Aragorn. ‘I am Strider and Dunadan too, and I belong to Gondor and the North.'”
As I have written before, I love the moments of rest in The Lord of the Rings. In the early part of the story these moments are expansive and gracious in character whether they take place in Farmer Maggot’s kitchen or Tom Bombadil’s house or the halls of Elrond in Rivendell. Now when the tale gathers pace, as it begins to move towards its climax, the taking of ease must be “for a little”. It is in the wrapping around him of a cloak that Aragorn now finds a semblance of shelter and in the smoking of his pipe that he finds a moment’s peace. Pippin is reminded of the travel-stained traveller that he first met at The Prancing Pony in Bree and who he got to know and trust on the journey in the wild to Rivendell and in that memory the young hobbit who has been dragged into a world that is far too big for him feels at ease once again. “Strider the Ranger has come back!”
But Aragorn is not a divided man who is a king at one moment, a warrior at another and a friend at yet another; he is truly himself at all times. The temptation to inhabit a role and to switch that role from circumstance to circumstance comes from the need to please and to be accepted by another person. We may have been enjoying a conversation with someone when an important person enters the room. Suddenly we see the face of the person to whom we had been speaking change as he prepares to speak to the one who has just arrived. We may even find that we are now being ignored. What we thought was a conversation between friendly acquaintances was in fact merely a filling of time before the main event.
When we meet someone who is interested in us no matter who else is present then we know we have received a special gift. We also know that we must return that gift and not hold onto it in order to give it to someone that we might consider more important. Aragorn is the same person whether he is with Elrond or Theoden or Pippin the hobbit. And not only is he attentive to all but he will lay down his life for them too. That is why all who follow him love him. That is why they will give their lives for him. It may be that the stages on which we live our lives are smaller than this but when we have a leader a little like Aragorn we know we have received something very special indeed and that we should treasure it.