Did Galadriel know the effect that she was creating when she bade Aragorn cast aside his travel worn garments and arrayed him “in silver and white, with a cloak of elven-grey and bright gem on his brow”? I think that she did. Like Elrond she knows that the crisis to which their long lives has always pointed is upon them but unlike him she has been able to say her yes to it. One last great test awaits her when the Ring comes to Lothlórien but she will pass the test, remain Galadriel, diminish, and pass into the West. Elrond is not tempted to take the Ring. His temptation is to hold onto his daughter and take her with him into the West.
So, whether he has been arrayed as an Elf-lord from the Isles of the West by design or otherwise Arwen meets Aragorn once again after long years of parting and “her choice was made”. She gives her heart to him and upon the fair hill of Cerin Amroth in the heart of Lothlórien they plight their troth.
Tolkien tells us that they “were glad” when they did so and yet even at the moment of gladness they glimpse the reality of the choice that they are making. To the East there lies the Shadow and the choice that Sauron has made. For him the end of all things is darkness and before that the desire for power over everything. Aragorn declares that “the Shadow I utterly reject” and Arwen makes the rejection with him. They will never submit to the Dark Lord.
But they say no to something else too and that is the Twilight. It is the Twilight, the memory of light, and especially of the light of the setting sun. The aching beauty of Twilight carries with it a remembering of that which is already being lost. We gaze westward to the setting sun as its light transforms all upon which it falls and even as it catches at our hearts we know that soon it will be dark. On the eve of Midsummer, the time when Aragorn and Arwen pledged themselves to one another, and the day upon which they married, the twilight in the north will last almost throughout the night hours and yet even in its gentle beauty it is not the day. Arwen makes her choice and it is the man who stands before her that is her choice and in so doing she chooses the glory of the sun standing high in the sky dispelling the darkness of the night forever.
It is a glorious choice. “I will cleave to you, Dúnadan” she tells him and yet she must make her farewell also. She turns from the Twilight. And she turns from her people and, hardest of all, she turns from her father. And “she loved her father dearly.”
Elrond knows that one day she will taste the full bitterness of her choice even as he does. So why does she choose her man of the noonday sun, the King of Gondor and of Arnor, healer of the wastelands, the Lord Elessar? Of course she is captured by the wonder of him and yet she also says her yes to his hope that more lies beyond the circles of the world than memory.
Arwen’s faith is the man that she has chosen, and his rejection of the Shadow. It is also her decision not to choose the Twilight. Like most of us it is not the subtlety of a philosophical system that grasps her but a relationship, a choosing of one way, one road, and in her case, of one man.
Next week we will end these reflections upon the love of Aragorn and Arwen with the bitterness that she must taste at the end. We cannot escape that, even as Elrond foretold, but, just as Arwen chose, we say our yes to gladness and the hope that our gladness and happiness are not in vain. It will be a good meditation for Easter.
8 thoughts on “Aragorn and Arwen Plight Their Troth in Lothlórien.”
Galadriel could of course see in her mirror many things that might be, and her desire was ‘that would should be shall be’. So, yes, I think it’s quite possible she foresaw what might happen between Aragorn and Arwen. (It also allows us, on a lighter note, to see Galadriel playing a stereotypical grandmotherly role, but never mind that).
It is also interesting to recall that another scene between an elf and a mortal which stresses the importance of choice. Near the end of Frodo and Galadriel’s conversation in “The Mirror of Galadriel”, after she has rejected his offer of the Ring, she says “Now we have, and the tides of fate are flowing.” But Frodo now forestalls her and asks her one more question, about using the Ring himself. It’s a telling and a perilous moment for him when we see it in the context of his words “I do not now choose to do what I came to do.”
I think we can also see in Arwen’s choice to renew the Choice of Luthien a possibility that more may await the Elves in the end than sharing in the death of Arda at the end of time. I hope you won’t mind, Stephen, if I add in a link to something I wrote on this, which you might find of interest: https://alasnotme.blogspot.com/2017/03/she-died-choice-of-luthien-and-destiny.html
Thank you, as always, for your thoughts, Stephen
Tom, Thank you so much for this comment, profoundly enriched by your generous gift of the link to the reflection in your own blog.
To begin at the beginning…
I think that, of course, Galadriel’s foresight and insight may well be associated with her mirror but I would rather put it down to a grandmother and mother with millenia of practice looking into the hearts of two young people. And we have insight into this ability in the scene in which she welcomes the Fellowship and looks long and searchingly into each of them.
Your thoughts on choosing I find very helpful indeed and their connection to other choosings in the story. I am sure that are right in saying that Frodo is already thinking about what it mean to use the Ring. How can we blame him when Galadriel is tempted too?
Finally I agree entirely with all you say in your own blogpost. I have long hoped that the Elves will share in the redemption of all things. And surely the choice of Lúthien and of Arwen Undómiel must play a part in that? And my hope is more personal than just a desire for a happy ending to a story that I love. My own longing for Life includes a longing for Faerie that our ancestors knew and often feared. When I walk in the woods in the morning I long for the trees to awaken just as they do when Lucy Pevensie walks among them in Prince Caspian.
Using the word “bitterness” to describe accepting the Gift of Men reveals that JRRT is giving us this story from Elrond’s point of view. From Arwen’s perspective, she can do something to make the world better, which no Elf has had an opportunity to do in ages. Maybe her mission civilisatrice had an effect — who knows?
Your phrase at the end, Who knows? is so eloquent. The whole civilisation of which we are both a part belongs to that question and any answer to it. Tolkien’s legendarium is a call to re-examine the civilisation that Arwen and Aragorn created, one that I think Faramir bears witness to in his discourse at Henneth Annun.
I always enjoy reading your insights into Lord of the rings. There is little to go on when it comes to Arwen. I think of her choice more than choosing a husband or choosing the “sun”. Arwen is the Evenstar of her people. And in pledging herself to Aragorn she pledges herself to men as their Evenstar as Frodo says in the last pages of The Steward and the King, “Now not day only shall be beloved, but night too shall be beautiful and blessed and all it’s fear passed away!” Here Arwen is giving herself in sacrifice to the people of the world.
I do not have your gift for words but it seems Aragorn could not do this alone. That the symbolism of mankind,day and night is repeated here as the sun and moon was created when men awakened in Middle-earth.
Thank you so much for taking the trouble to write these thoughts. The story of Arwen is in many ways a hidden one. We do have very little to go on. I agree entirely with you that Arwen makes a sacrifice for my sake of humanity. She also chooses her own happiness. How often that tension exists in the choices that we make. I think that the old wedding service expressed that very well. Forsaking all others cleave only unto him/her. I say my yes to one person but there is so much to which I have to say my no.
Yes! This is what I have thought before myself – why remain in twilight, in the dying light, when you can stand in the bright day, if only for a little while. It’s a much better choice.
On another note, I don’t know if this is released internationally yet or not, I assume it will be, but Palm Sunday I saw Paul, Apostle of Christ – great movie, great acting, great story/screenplay, great soundtrack. You will love it and I hope you get to see it. Here’s the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=7DFGmw5oe0E
Happy Easter! Christ is risen! He is truly risen!
Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie 🙂
You put that so well, Anne Marie. Yes to the day and no to lingering twilight. I don’t know if you read Tom Hillman’s wonderful comment on this post in which he asks if Arwen, by her choice, opens the door for her people to the glory beyond the circles of the world that is more than memory? I like to think that he is right.
And many thanks for sending me the link to the trailer about St Paul. I look forward to seeing the film. I am pondering his great words about the resurrection and the challenge to us, “See yourselves, therefore, as dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
A blessed Easter to you and yours!