Lessons from Elrond

There’s no greater impediment in the relationship between Aragorn and Arwen than Elrond, Lord of Imladris and one of the finest warriors in Middle-earth. His severity in attempting to drive them apart paints a bleak picture in the minds of those who cannot acknowledge his greater virtues and accept him as a father attempting to protect his daughter.

Elrond plays a pivotal role in The Lord of the Rings. His forces were among those who forced the dark lord into Mordor. He’s saves Frodo’s life after the hobbit’s near-fatal encounter at Weathertop. He heads the Counsel that appoints the Fellowship to destroy the Ring. His forces help define the War of the Rings in the fight against Sauron.

His infinite wisdom.

Elrond has lived a life of torment, despair, and war-torn battlefields. He saw family members struck down in battle and is one of the oldest and wisest powers in Middle-earth. Elrond is dutiful and compassionate. He does not hesitate to shelter the hobbits, though it endangers his stronghold. His anger for Isildur’s foolish decision never drove him to revenge against Men. Instead, he creates the kingdom of Rivendell, where his people may live in safety.

He realizes the war to protect Middle-earth is to protect the kingdom of men. “The time of the elves is over,” he confides to Gandalf, “my people are leaving these shores; who will you look to when we’re gone?” There must be an empire of impenetrable goodness when the elves depart, for their absence will leave the world powerless. They are the strongest force left; therefore they must destroy evil or men will fall. When Galadriel proposes they reform the Alliance, Elrond overcomes his weak view of mankind and sends forces to protect Helm’s Deep. He is angry at what Sauron has unleashed but also knows his duty. The elves cannot leave they have completed their part in protecting the world. It is a selfless decision to sacrifice all he has worked toward for the lives and fates of those beyond his influence.

At the Council, Elrond knows the object of their discussion: they must destroy the Ring, an impossible task requires access to the mountains of Mordor beyond the Black Gates near the heart of Sauron’s stronghold. He presents the facts and asks others to devise a solution. He gives each member of the Council a chance to determine the outcome rather than giving orders. Despite the absurd suggestions of those gathered, he never condemns or scorns anyone. He refutes them with facts. He doesn’t sneer at Gimli for trying to destroy the Ring with a simple axe; nor quarrel with Boromir over whether to take the Rinig to Gondor. He does not participate in their argument when the Ring stirs up discourse.

Elrond encourages and supports the Fellowship, even when he believes them unlikely to succeed. His attitude mirrors God, who puts up with us simple-minded human beings, who encourages, loves, and supports us in our most ignorant moments. The Council members ignore Elrond, do not heed his wise words, and irritate him, but he accepts them in good humor. When the hobbits burst in uninvited, though Elrond is initially irritated, he teases them and shows a fondness for their loyalty to Frodo. Despite the hardships of his life and the impending dangers, Elrond remains a steadfast pillar of wisdom in Middle-earth.

Fatherly love.

When Elrond foresees his daughter’s fate and tries to sway her into departing for Valinor, he acts out of love. We see a desperate father determined not to see his daughter pledge her life to a terrible fate. Are Elrond’s motives selfish? Maybe. Elrond has only Arwen left; she is his daughter, his last living link with his beloved wife, Celebrían, whom the orcs took from him. The wound of her passing is deep. Elrond cannot bear to lose Arwen, to leave her behind in Middle-earth while he sails for the Undying Lands. 

No good parent wants to see his children in despair, and ruin, or feel sorrow. We know her fate if she stays in Middle-earth. Elrond has a gift of foresight. He has seen these things unfold. He felt her despair, and it gives him anguish. Thus he pleads with her to return with the others to Valinor.

Fathers who love their children enough to enable them in wisdom are a gift from God. They have wisdom and experience. If he could, Elrond would take her bitter fate as his own. But he cannot. He can only advise her, make it known what lies ahead, and pray she makes the right choice. Yet he also understands the power of her love. We must not take Elrond’s somber words and drawn countenance as cold, for behind the stern exterior dwells a heart of gold. He loves her enough to put her through this pain, to save her from another. Perhaps it is wrong of him, or perhaps it is the right thing to do. But there is no coldness in his voice as he witnesses the tears of his daughter and comes to take her into his arms. He acts not out of cruelty but love.

I cannot help but think of God when considering Elrond. He offers us immortality, but like Arwen we may cling to the world, breaking His heart. Yet, He understands, accepts, and takes us into His arms when our grief becomes overwhelming. He wants what is best for us, though we may not see it that way.

When to stand and fight.

Galadriel senses the change. She knows the elves face a choice. Sauron’s power is growing, stretching beyond Mordor. Soon he will unleash devastation. He will destroy the kingdom of men and, one day, reach Lórien and Rivendell. Many of their elves are sailing into the West. Once they are gone, who will fight him? Who will protect those they leave behind in Middle-earth? In this understanding, she gives her son-in-law a challenge—will they allow Men to fail? Will they relinquish Middle-earth and let them stand alone… or will they fight for something they intend never to see again?

Galadriel could sail to Valinor and never look back. She bears no greater responsibility toward Middle-earth, yet chooses to take a stand. The Elves do not fight for themselves, but those who will inherit the lands they abandon. In their purity and goodness, they cannot bear to think of Middle-earth falling into darkness. Elrond takes up this call and sends reinforcements to Helm’s Deep. He knows, as she does, the bigger picture here, not of their own survival but the greater good of mankind.
Elrond is an example of a determination, a resolve to see good triumph over evil, at great personal cost. Many of his own elves perish attempting to protect the stubborn, foolish humans at Helm’s Deep. Elrond has seen battle. He knows the cost of immortal lives, but still decides to act. Sometimes we should fight for the good of someone else rather than ourselves. Even if we will not benefit, we must stand up for something. The battle against evil is always worth fighting, even at a cost.

Learning to let go.

Elrond loves Arwen and would do anything to protect her from sorrow. But there comes a time when all fathers must let their children to make their own decisions. Arwen remains behind with her beloved. There is nothing Elrond can do to alter her path, so he learns to accept and support her. He gives Aragorn the push he needs to embrace his destiny and become worthy of her. Even though he doesn’t agree with her, Elrond still shows support and love and does all he can to achieve her happiness. He tends to her illness as the forces of Mordor strengthen. Elrond reforges the sword Aragorn will need to call forth the Dead Army and take the throne of Gondor. If he cannot protect Arwen from mortality, he will give her a king worthy of her sacrifice. He is a better father than anyone could dream of, to both of them.

He trains Aragorn to pursue his fate, not run from it. Aragorn has the strength to reunite the world of men, to govern the city with compassion and goodness. Elrond desires Aragorn to be all he can be… not just for Aragorn’s benefit, but his future bride. Arwen is a princess; she deserves a king for a husband, not a wandering ranger. The maiden of Rivendell will settle for nothing less… her father will accept nothing less. Elrond is laying out groundwork. He outlines what Aragorn must do, to ensure her survival: become the king you were born to be. For the good of Middle-earth, Aragorn must claim his inheritance. Elrond also acts for the sake of Arwen. This is her greatest desire, her dream for the future… a dream her father will make come true.

Even if you don’t like the choices someone makes, love binds you to honor them. To help them achieve their ultimate ambition in any way possible. To enable and support them. Elrond is making his daughter’s dream come true, even though it will cost him. He will never see her again once he sails beyond the white harbor. But he leaves knowing Aragorn will love her all her days. He did all he could to offer her happiness in life.

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