Lessons from Aragorn

Our introduction to Aragorn is a dark figure hunched in the shadows of Bree Inn. The story ends with him triumphant, wearing a king’s crown and holding the re-forged sword of his ancestors. He is Aragorn, the king of Gondor and heir to the throne of Isildur. A courageous mortal who risks everything to become a member of the Fellowship and learns through trial and error that he must take his place among the nobility of Middle-earth if they are to survive.
 
Aragorn is a central figure in The Lord of the Rings. He is a mortal. A warrior. The king. A servant. And one of the three primary Christ-figures of Middle-earth. His actions change the fate of the world. Above all, he reminds us of hope.

Symbolism:

Four figures in Middle Earth represent various aspects of the nature of Christ. Aragorn is one of them. Significant actions that unfold in his character arc parallel scriptural events. They come in this order:

+ A King as a commoner.
+ A leader of men.
+ Overcoming death.
+ Reclaiming his empire.

Like Christ, Aragorn first enters the story as a presumed commoner. Our first glimpse of him is in the Prancing Pony. He sits quietly in a corner, observant but drawing no attention. At first appearance he is a filthy Ranger, a wanderer in the wilds, but underneath beats the heart of a king. There is nothing royal in his appearance… nor was there with Jesus.

He looked the role of a carpenter. He did not don jewels and wealthy garments and stride through the streets asking for praise. He was humble, quiet, and unnoticed until it was His time to make Himself known. You might have passed Him over in a crowd, if you didn’t know there was something different and wonderful about Him. Jesus lived thirty years in obscurity, with only one major alteration… the time He spent arguing with the priests in the temple as a child. Only when prompted by His mother at the wedding where the wine had run out did He show Himself for who He was. It was time for him to perform a miracle.

Aragorn is no different in this respect. He was a ranger, a wanderer, and a king. Only when it becomes time to prove himself does he rise to the occasion. Until his commission from Elrond, Aragorn was “just” a man, but never less than a king. He didn’t become one, he was one in waiting. He hadn’t yet accepted his throne. Jesus did the same thing. He always was the Messiah, the King of Kings, but He didn’t embrace it until the right time. Aragorn couldn’t have become king without the proper timing, without his vast experiences, his struggles, and his internal debates. Everything he went through lead up to the moment of his choosing to become king. The same was true with Jesus, and the same is true with us.

Everything we do is a test, a road that has brought us to an end, and prepares us for a greater moment. We should wait and watch for our chance, but always in humility and awareness that everything happens in God’s time… and we will know when that moment comes.

As they pass into the wilds with the Ranger at the forefront, one hobbit asks how they can know whether to trust their guide. “Because we have no other choice,” Frodo replies. In the book, they knew Gandalf sent Aragorn to help them, but raises an interesting point in the film. They could have said no, and chosen not to trust Aragorn, but they didn’t. Despite his appearance (‘I think a true enemy would smell sweeter and be fouler’), Aragorn radiates a trustworthiness that they connect to. This parallels Jesus’ ability to recruit people. He never demanded the apostles follow Him; he said, “Follow me,” and they went. There was something wonderful and trustworthy about Him.

For a long time, Aragorn fears his weakness. He questions his destiny and doesn’t wish to tempt fate by claiming his inheritance. He fears what it will bring. The trials surrounding the Ring force Aragorn to take command and become a leader. He speaks, and others follow. Sometimes they question, and doubt, as Legolas did in Helm’s Deep, but they always obey. Boromir in the mountain pass, the Fellowship on the outskirts of Lórien, Haldir in the Golden Wood, Legolas and Gimli in their search for the hobbits, even Éowyn heeds his advice. All of this prepares Aragorn to claim his throne and fight for Gondor.

Christ was also a “leader of men,” but a spiritual and moral leader rather than the warrior and traitor against Rome the radicals wanted. Rome had the Jews under severe oppression. Because Jerusalem was the most powerful city in the Jewish empire, they occupied it. Pontius Pilate was the commander in charge of Jerusalem. To control the people, he ordered many executions. This is important because it links to Christ. When they brought Him before Pilate, Rome had just the official to cease needless executions. Pilate wanted nothing to do with Jesus and yielded to the demands of the Jewish tribunal. The Jews hated the Romans just as much as the Romans hated them. What the nation wanted, rather than a spiritual Messiah, was physical freedom from oppression. Jesus offered the former, but not the latter. He could influence them toward holding his compassionate views, but they still wanted blood. Christ did not come to liberate them bodily but spiritually. That was His mission.

Aragorn was also born for a purpose—to help defeat Sauron. Just like the enemy feared Christ and lobbied for His execution, Sauron fears what “Aragorn may become” and death almost catches him.

When battling to protect the women and children in the pass to Helm’s Deep, Aragorn falls over a cliff and washes up unconscious on the riverbank. This foreshadows The Paths of the Dead where he travels into Purgatory and defeats death. Aragorn must forge through a mountain pass haunted by the ghosts of former men and engage their support in battle against Sauron. It’s his test to becoming King and bears a surprising resemblance to two of Christ’s actions: His death and resurrection (as Aragorn enters Death and leaves Alive), and also His return when the dead will rise.

Aragorn must reclaim the throne of Gondor and create a new empire, much like the one Jesus will create in the New World. All in Minas Tirith gather to see Aragorn crowned king. The old ruler—Denethor—has passed, his legacy undone and forgotten in the promise of a fresh life without the threat of Mordor. With Sauron defeated, the fourth age begins with a wonderful sense of peace. The White Tree of Gondor, long dead, has blossomed. With Aragorn comes the rebirth of life once lost, the glory of a fallen empire. The same thing will happen when Jesus returns and makes the world new. He will abolish evil, and the glory of the earth will rejuvenate and bloom into greatness. There too will be His Bride—Arwen (His followers) will stand at His side.

Lessons to learn from Aragorn

The king has humility.

Though the rightful heir to the largest and most powerful kingdom in Middle-earth, Aragorn fled his family heritage and does not try to claim the throne of Gondor. Instead, he leaves it in the care of the Stewards. Fear, insecurity, and humility drive his decision. One much-overlooked attribute of Aragorn is his willingness to stay humble in all circumstances. He’s demure and laid back in Imladris, grateful and gracious to Arwen when she gives the gift of the Evenstar. He reprimands Legolas for defending him at the Council of Elrond and agrees he is not worthy of his elven-love’s immortality.

There’s a difference between self-recrimination and genuine humility. The former only draws attention to yourself by demeaning or denying your attributes. Genuine humility means you are aware of your talents and your flaws. You realize your own potential and accept that you are who God made you to be and can improve yourself. Aragorn doesn’t doubt his lineage; he’s not ashamed of it, but nor does it make up who he is. It’s what he comes from, not the heart beating beneath his chest. He doesn’t enjoy throwing his power or name around, which is why he encourages Legolas to step down in his defense.

Humility is one of the best traits we can learn. It’s defined by never praising ourselves overmuch but also not denying that we are a child of God and deserve our own respect. Good humility is acknowledging others, not indulging too long in self-praise, and in recognizing when we have done well. Aragorn is not secure in himself. He has been wandering the world, trying to discern the reason for his birth. In doing so, he ignores his purpose—to marry the daughter of an immortal lord and claim his rightful inheritance. He must defeat a dark lord in the last battle of Middle-earth, pass through the valley of death unscathed, and emerge the king of men. This is his future. He wants others to know him for who he is, not what he is. He is Aragorn, a Ranger, a warrior, and a man with a mission. He doesn’t require praise for doing his job. He admits the need for change in his life and stops running away from his future.

Able to overcome his fears.

Fear is something many heroes must defeat. Some people are insecure; uncertain they made the right choice. Afraid to risk their lives, reputations, or finances. Aragorn lives a life few of us will ever know. He must not only battle orcs, uruk-hai, and a dark lord, but his own demons: fear, doubt, and insecurity. To prove worthy of Arwen and win her father’s approval for their marriage, Aragorn must assume the throne of Gondor. He fears following in the footsteps of Isildur, of not being a strong enough ruler to succeed where others have failed. Others constantly reassure him of his success, encourage him to take his destiny in hand and step onto the throne. Arwen and Elrond force him to take this drastic step through the broken sword of Isildur.

“Become who you were born to be,” Elrond tells him. The time for running is over; his concealment is at an end. No longer can he avoid the inevitable, but must take up the sword and face his future. Aragorn overcomes his fears. He takes the inheritance; he walks the valley of ghosts and emerges triumphant. The armies of Middle-earth rally behind him in a last violent battle on the threshold of Mordor.

Elrond’s statement is profound. God has called us. Our birth was not an accident or chance. He planned for us and gave us each a spiritual inheritance. Like Aragorn, have we accepted it or are we running away from it?

Aragorn was born to become the king of Gondor, a leader among men. Our destiny may not parallel his, but we were all born for spiritual greatness. You are here for a reason! Find what it is, and do it. If like Aragorn you feel trapped by fear, don’t let it stop you from becoming who you were born to be. When the time came, Aragorn took Isildur’s sword and fulfilled his destiny. You were born for a purpose. A reason. You are the daughter/son of a king… the highest king. Your destiny is as great as Aragorn’s. Prepare yourself for it.

Selfless love, eternal devotion.

One interesting thing to consider when reflecting on the romance between Arwen and Aragorn is their selfless nature. Arwen will give up everything for her beloved, even immortality with her people. Aragorn loves her so much he wants her to go with her people into Valinor. He doesn’t want her to suffer, and so he is willing to live without her, heartened only by the knowledge of her eternal life. Yet, he still remains faithful to her. While Arwen suffers in Imladris, dealing with her hope for his return, praying for his safety, and accepting the bitterness of her future long after their marriage and his death, Aragorn also suffers. He respects Arwen. He trusts her… but he also believes her father will persuade her to go into the West.

In their last parting, Aragorn asked Arwen not to wait for him. She refused to take back the Evenstar. He broke their ties in the most literal sense. Aragorn remains convinced she has left Middle-earth (as he confides to Éowyn). He is an unattached and “free” man. Then he meets Éowyn, the beautiful, intelligent, bold niece of King Théoden, heir to the throne of Rohan. Any man would be a fool not to consider her a worthy replacement for the elven-maiden he left behind. There are many opportunities for their friendship to grow into romance, and Éowyn is more than willing. She respects, admires, and loves him. But Aragorn is resistant, keeping her at a friendly distance. Even in believing Arwen has abandoned him, he remains faithful to her memory. I admire this, since it goes against human nature. Love is often fleeting, an emotion unable to withstand the test of time and absence. Many relationships fail when the two are long apart because it takes a conscious choice to remain faithful.

Aragorn has made such a choice. Their marriage will be all the stronger in knowing he never went astray or toyed with another woman’s heart. The purest love will withstand all things and remain faithful, even in the other person’s absence. Our society encourages flippant love and brief relationships. If we’re alone, we look for someone to replace our loss. During the world wars, many soldiers went overseas for lengthy amounts of time. When they came home, some discovered “their” girl had married someone else. She couldn’t wait and wasn’t willing to risk her heart. Others returned and found their girl waiting for them, willing to be alone if he never came home. Which marriages were the stronger?

Arwen and Aragorn’s romance will only blossom through adversity and separation, for although they are apart, their hearts remain constant.

The ability to let go.

The best trait in a leader is the ability to let someone else to take the reins. Single men do not win wars or rule the world. Aragorn has much deal to contend with from man and beast alike. At every turn raises another challenge, a greater problem than the last. Never afraid to fight but willing to delegate, Aragorn’s finest trait is his ability to let go. Give someone else the responsibility. To halt short of a search for power and let someone more capable to assist him. We see many examples of this throughout the stories… situations where he acknowledged someone else’s chance for success.

After Frodo’s injury at Weathertop, Aragorn allows Arwen to take him to Imladris. At first he wants to go but realizes two things: Arwen is the faster rider, and Frodo needs her father’s help. Rather than being stubborn and demanding his way, Aragorn places his trust in the elven-maiden. He lets her ride away with Frodo despite Sam’s angry protests. In Moria, he lets Gandalf to sacrifice himself rather than trying to fight the balrog himself. When Frodo and Sam decide to go alone to Mordor, Aragorn respects their decision and encourages Legolas and Gimli to follow him in pursuit of their kidnapped comrades. He bows to King Théoden in Rohan’s authority, despite his better knowledge of the foreign armies.

Aragorn knows when to be strong, and when to submit. We must not always shoulder the burden. Sometimes the cargo is ours to carry; other times it’s for someone else. God sends people into our life to lighten the load. Christianity is a family situation, never a single man attempting to climb the mountain. Scripture tells us a man with a friend is more fortunate, for when he stumbles the other can help him up again. No man is an island. Aragorn is not alone and should never pretend otherwise. His strength lies in his ability to work with others, to let them assume responsibility. If he tried to do everything himself, nothing would ever get done. It’s too much work for one person! Life is no picnic. God sends others of a similar mind and sometimes superior talents to help us.

Never fear letting go, giving a task, position, burden, or responsibility over to another person. It not only helps you grow, but encourages the other party to fulfill their destiny.

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