Lessons from Arwen

One of the most controversial characters in the film adaptation, Arwen’s tale comes from Tolkien’s epilogue. Peter Jackson fleshed out her role in the trilogy to create more depth for her character. The audience needed a reason to support her relationship with Aragorn. Through her, we witness the undying quality of sacrificial love to remind us of Christ’s love for us. She is a complex character whose attachment to Aragorn is so strong, she would forsake her father’s wishes and her immortality to remain in Middle-earth in the hope he will return triumphant from battle.

Symbolism:

Arwen remains constant and steadfast in the face of certain defeat. She knows she will die if she remains in Middle-earth, but chooses to do so out of love for Aragorn. Arwen is not afraid of sorrow, ,since she chooses to focus on the time they will spend together.

I see Arwen as symbolic as the followers of Christ. She is the Church. Not a building or a set of rules, but everyone who has bound themselves eternally to their King: Jesus. Arwen is beautiful. She could have any elf and live in happiness in Valinor, never having to face the trials and tribulations of Middle-earth. But she loves Aragorn enough to sacrifice everything for him: her family, her friends, her very life. This is the agape love Christ has for us. He never promised an easy life; He told us it would be hard to follow Him through the world. Just like Arwen, we face periods of darkness or even death. But our faith, our love, our pledge to remain faithful to Him, should always keep us constant and unafraid.

Sometimes we wander or waver when we’re uncertain, as Arwen was in the wood. She almost left Middle-earth; she almost departed the Following… but she didn’t. Aragorn draws her back to him. So does Jesus. We may feel like wandering, or believe the road is too hard; our earthly father might persuade us to leave… but if our love is true, and our faith is strong, we can never get too far before we’re drawn back into His arms. Arwen suffered. As Christians, so will we. The more like Christ we are, the more evil becomes unbearable to us. We long to live in the light, but must forge through the darkness. The path is never easy; it is always hard, but the hardest things are the most worth doing. They teach us how strong we are, and how steady our faith can be.

Our struggles help us understand what Jesus suffered in His time on earth. We suffer a little for the One who gave us so much. He gave us everything: the blood from his veins. He asks us to remain faithful to Him, to await His return. Arwen never falters, even when her father tells her Aragorn will not return. She has faith he will come home. Arwen believes he has not forsaken her. She has faith he is faithful to her. Aragorn proves all her beliefs true, because he is constant. No matter what people tell you, Jesus is also constant. He will one day return and wipe away our tears. He intercedes on our behalf. He will come for us. People can attempt to dissuade us until they’re blue in the face, but it doesn’t matter… they don’t know the truth. Like Elrond they are uncertain, wavering in their beliefs. Like Arwen, we must remain strong.

Lessons to Learn from Arwen

Waiting for true love.

Of all the lessons Arwen embodies, the most profound is her selfless giving of love and her promise to remain eternally faithful to Aragorn despite the pain and future consequences. Arwen chooses a “mortal” life by forsaking the gift bequeathed to the elves of passing into Valinor. Her decision to remain in Middle-earth means she will outlive her husband and eventually cease to exist. Could we ever give up our life for someone we love? Make that painful sacrifice? Ever love so much to give up our life as she gave up her immortality? Love to mankind is often mistaken for feeling and emotion rather than truth. Genuine love is complete submission and acceptance of all flaws and mistakes; it’s unconditional and unbinding; we love regardless of the outcome or price. It’s a long-lasting bond between two people. Our love is a minor reflection of the love of God; and Arwen’s is a pure, unselfish devotion, a love reflecting the sacrifice of Jesus.

The worldview of love is ever changing, fleeting as the wind. Genuine love such as Arwen’s is selfless, deep, and profound. This love enables her to give up her life for another, and all aside to stand with her beloved. May our love be as selfless as Arwen’s, as willing to open ourselves up to mortal wounds and disappointments, even to the bitter taste of death.

Arwen knows love is patient, kind, does not envy or boast and is not proud. It is not rude, self-seeking, or easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs. She was not too proud to love a mortal even though she was an Elf, a race high superior to any other in Middle-earth. She sacrificed her immortality for Aragorn’s sake. She paid a high price for it.

There is only one love above the power of Arwen, the love of a God who sacrificed His son so we might live. God sent Jesus to earth as a Mortal, able to feel emotional and physical pain… and able to die. He came with a greater love than Arwen’s, offering us His immortality—a gift like the Evenstar. His gift is everlasting. He made his sacrifice with blood. Like Arwen knew what she was doing, so did Jesus. He foresaw His suffering and death and His resurrection and loved his followers enough to die for them.

A promise for all time.

Even if Aragorn survives the war for Middle-earth and becomes King, death will still separate them. As Elrond points out, he will die by the sword or the slow decay of time. Arwen cannot save him or prologue his life. He will grow old and weary, but she will not, for she remains immortal. She does not forsake her life, but her people. They will leave her in Gondor, having traveled to the undying lands. When Aragorn dies, there will be none to comfort her. She will be alone for an eternity unless she lies down in the wood and dies. She must sail to immortality or die in Middle-earth… alone in despair and anguish.

Our human minds cannot understand the nature of immortality, for time binds us. It is a man-made institution to measure the days and weeks of our lives. Aragorn grows old but Arwen remains the same. Gondor becomes ancient but Arwen lingers, forced to wander a changing world. This is the grasp of immortality—of eternity, of our spirit after death. Even after we die we still live on like Arwen… not to wander the world but to spend eternity either in God’s presence or outside it. The fate she faces is sorrowful. Few would choose it. This only proves the nature of Arwen’s pure love; she is willing to give up EVERYTHING. Even though it may not be the best thing for her, Arwen has chosen this path.

The supporter every person needs.

Arwen encourages and uplifts Aragorn so he may reach his full potential. I believe this is what a couple should do for one another. She visits Aragorn as he fingers the pieces of Isildur’s broken sword in Rivendell. Aragorn doubts his role in the quest, fearing he cannot resist the power of the ring because “the same weakness” flows through his veins that doomed his ancestors.

“You are Isildur’s heir,” Arwen tells him. “Not Isildur himself.”

Arwen is confirming her belief that his ancestors’ choices do not determine Aragorn’s fate. She is encouraging him to be all he can be; Arwen is shaping him into the man he will become. Through her belief in him, Aragorn has the courage to go forth. Her love makes her strong and she passes that on to him through recognition and faith. Arwen believes in him. She nurtures the man she loves. Aragorn feared being corrupted by the Ring, harming the halfling who carried it… and failing his people. Arwen reminds him of his strength and courage. She has no fear of his corruption, but is the voice of reason, the heavenly guidance when doubt whispers into his ear.

We all need a human voice to remind us who we are. Like Aragorn, we have a past to taunt us: mistakes that we cannot undo; fears of a family curse plaguing the world through us and our children; doubt; fear; insecurity. All seem powerful in our eyes but are minor compared to our destiny. Aragorn’s destiny was to destroy evil and build a monarchy. Had he not listened to Arwen, he would not later have the confidence to resist temptation. God will always send a voice when doubt whispers into our ears. It may be a friend, someone in the family or someone from our church. It is important to listen. Like Aragorn, we are each powerful enough to resist any temptation… but we must believe in ourselves.

Arwen encourages him to walk in the path of light. She has chosen Aragorn for her own. We could all do well to take a leaf from Arwen’s book and seek ways to encourage and enrich the lives of those around us.

Respectful disagreement.

Just as Elrond is a dutiful father in desiring to protect his daughter, Arwen is a loving daughter in showing her father respect despite their differences of opinion. Maturity is knowing how to disagree on something without allowing it to ruin a relationship or cause anger and hurt in both parties.

Arwen wants to marry Aragorn. Elrond wants her to leave Middle-earth. This elf-maiden is no fool. She’s been alive for hundreds of years and lived in peaceful harmony with her father. As she loves Aragorn, she also loves her father and heeds his wisdom, even when she chooses to follow her own heart. In so doing, she teaches him a valuable lesson: that love exists great enough to not live in fear. She is willing to sacrifice for Aragorn, and that convinces her father to assist him in ‘becoming who he was born to be.’ She appeals to him to help her, and out of love and respect for her, Elrond does so. Though she marries the man he ultimately does not want for him, he allows her to make her own choice.

Ideally, this is the kind of relationship we should strive for—not just with a parent, but also everyone else of great personal worth to us. The ability to love despite disagreements and support each other regardless. But this requires humility. Arwen was willing to listen even when it wasn’t what she wanted to hear, but also stood her ground. Her father was willing to change his mind in her support, once he knew she was not blind to the consequences of her decisions.

Arwen is fortunate in having a father willing to listen to her. Not everyone can have a good relationship with their parents, and may struggle to adopt an attitude of respect toward them because of their behavior. You cannot choose your parents, but you do choose your friend. Surround yourself with others who will challenge you and keep your feet on the ground, as Elrond did for Arwen, but who are also willing to listen to you.

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