It is Arwen of Rivendell who declares Aragorn, king; doing so in the giving of the standard that Halbarad bears and from the moment it is given Aragorn is transformed. Readers who may have seen Peter Jackson’s films will remember that this transformation comes with the arrival of Elrond and the giving of the sword. They will remember too that it comes with the words, “Be who you were meant to be!” The words may be absent from Tolkien’s telling of the tale but when the standard comes the effect is the same. The standard may remain unfurled but Aragorn knows what it is. It is the standard of the king of Gondor and when Aragorn goes into battle he will do so, not as chieftain of the Rangers of the North, but as the king.
And as the king Aragorn challenges Sauron and wrests control of the Palantir from him. As the king he chooses to take his own pathway to the battle before the walls of Minas Tirith. Until the moment the Grey Company overtook him he was content to be a part of Théoden’s company and to follow him into the battle and he does not fret about how he is to claim the crown. This is not Aragorn’s way. There is always only one question that he must answer and that is “What must I do now?” He knows the destiny to which he is called. He knows that he can never be united to Arwen unless as king of Gondor and of Arnor but he never plots or schemes to achieve this destiny. He never calculates the question of who is for him or against him. He never tries to make his destiny or his desire a possession to be defended. If he is to accomplish it then he must either receive it as a gift or to lay it down. How important a distinction this is. Once his choice has been made nothing and no one will dissuade him from his course of action. His willingness to wait so that when the time comes he receives his destiny as a gift is not a sign of weakness or indecisiveness. Indeed it is a sign of faith. It is the weak and fearful who fear that unless they make their desire happen it may never come to them. Saruman is one such, constantly calculating how he may achieve the power he desires. He knows that by seeking power for himself he betrays the mission given to him by the Valar and yet he wonders if the rebellion of Sauron might mean that the Valar will no longer intervene as they did at the end of the First Age and in the destruction of Númenor. Aragorn never stoops to such calculation. He is a true Númenorian and descendent of Elendil the Elf Friend, the faithful one.
And as with Théoden, perhaps less glorious in his lineage, but no less glorious in his faithfulness, Aragorn gives his concern to the lowly as well as to the great. When he declares his decision to Théoden Aragorn also bids farewell, for the time being, to Merry. He cannot give him any comfort. Merry “could find no more to say. He felt very small, and he was puzzled and depressed by all these gloomy words.” He goes with Théoden and misses Pippin very much.
Aragorn may not be able to comfort Merry but his heart goes out to him. “There go three that I love, and the smallest not the least… He knows not to what end he rides; yet if he knew, he would still go on.” And such kindness and compassion is a true mark of a true king. For the most part we have to deal with those whose ambition for personal glory drives them on. But we can choose to be different. We can choose to give our love to all people from the greatest to the lowliest and like Aragorn and the true Númenorians we can trust that written deep into the fabric of reality is a law that is firm. We might call it the law of God.
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a stream planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither- whatever they do prospers.” (Psalm 1)
11 thoughts on “Meriadoc Brandybuck and the King of Gondor”
I was extraordinarily struck by how you show that Aragorn does not scheme or strive for kingship – he accepts it as a gift. It struck me so forcibly, because so much emphasis is placed today on going after what you want and society tends to admire ambitious people. I find myself admiring people who go headlong after what they want (or is it envy?), but you remind me that a willingness to wait for one’s destiny or desire is faith. I suppose that is why there are so many scriptures in the Bible about “waiting” for the Lord.
Thank you so much for leaving this comment! Of course, when Aragorn knows what to do there is no hesitation in him. The arrival of the Grey Company and the standard is the sign he has been waiting for. There is a time for waiting and a time for action. In the language of the Bible when the Lord comes it is time to act. Psalm 1 teaches us to get ready for that time.
wonderful post. thank you.
“His willingness to wait so that when the time comes he receives his destiny as a gift is not a sign of weakness or indecisiveness. “
It has struck me in the turmoil that is UK politics right now that there is little desire or, even ability, to wait.
I echo the above comments – great post, Stephen, and I really liked how you highlighted Aragorn’s focus on the present and willingness to wait for future glory. No one would call his character weak because of it. Also reminds me of Paul speaking about contentment in all circumstances, though there is of course longing for all things to be set right. Insightful contrast with Saruman too!
I think that Paul’s idea of contentment is really important here. Thank you so much for reminding me of it. In his thoughts in Philippians 4 he speaks of having passed through his initiation and learning how to live in times of plenty and of want with just the same contentment. What fine words to ponder in our hysterical age of 24 hour news and social media.
PS. Thank you so much for leaving a comment here.
This is why Aragorn rocks – he knows he ‘goes on a path appointed’ – He has no desire to go on the Paths of the Dead at first but then after he realizes that it’s God’s will for him that he does so, he embraces it completely. Another big reason is that he loves his fellow man and hobbits. Even just after meeting Frodo, he is willing to lay down his life for him. The movies show this love in a different way but still powerfully. One easy moment to miss but still sticks in my head is his offering his hand to help Wormtongue up after the man falls. That the jerk had no desire to take that hand does not diminish in any way the compassionate offering of it. Also Aragorn’s appearance before the orcs after he tells Frodo to run is one of the greatest love scenes in the whole movie – this is what love is, not sex or lust, but that a single mortal man would appear before so many enemies to give a chance for a beloved friend to have a chance to escape. Greater love hath no man…
Thanks for your prayers for my father. They helped so much. We buried him last Thursday. I know he is still with us, as well as in heaven. Love is stronger than death!
Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie 🙂
I am so sorry to hear about your father’s death. Even though we live in the knowledge of the sure and certain hope of the resurrection from the dead we still have to live with the pain of separation. My prayers will still be with you and also your father.
I agree with everything that you have said about Aragorn. I am writing more about the Paths of the Dead at the moment and I would very much appreciate any further thoughts that you might have on this.
I especially liked your thoughts about Aragorn’s compassion for Wormtongue. I did not notice that and agree that it is typical of his character. I can only assume that Wormtongue did not know who it was who offered him a sympathetic hand.
Thanks for the continued prayers! Even before my father accepted the Gift and took this next step, we prayed for acceptance of God’s will and peace about it. I have peace, even joy, knowing that he is in heaven, bright and healed and also still with the family he loves so dearly.
I think Wormtongue was just too much of a jerk to even care who it was. If he didn’t care of his own king, he wouldn’t care for another’s. Still I am glad Aragorn did it, as it showed his quality.
Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie 🙂
There is one thing that Wormtongue understands and that is power. I am sure you are right that at this point in the story he does not see power in Aragorn. Saruman did not see it either when Aragorn stood behind Theoden in the livery of Rohan at Orthanc. What do we say? That thus perish all those who make the choice for power over quality? Sadly no, because those who choose power often gain victories over those who choose quality. But Aragorn has bet his whole life on a belief that quality is a deeper reality than power.
God bless you, too.