Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Appendix A: I. The Númenorean Kings (v) Here Follows a Part of the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen

Everything in the appendices ties directly to the saga of the Ring, that goes without saying and Tolkien held the history and language to higher importance that the story itself.  But to me, this section is particularly tied to The Lord of the Rings.  Maybe it's because it's not just backmatter, but specifically the the backstory for two living characters that have a full arc within the saga?

The section is illuminating in several areas, actual age and expectations of Duindain stand out, with Aragorn being born to a 58-year-old man and to a woman considered young for motherhood among their people.  Long life-spans tend to correspond with a longer immaturity/childhood, so regardless of expectations and adult behavior, it makes sense that expected reproduction occurs decades later in life than it would for regular folk.  Aragorn's blind fostering by Elrond also explains much, including some of the peculiarities of their relationship and Aragorn's general lack of royal assumption.

The courtship of Aragorn and Arwen fits within a second narrative cycle, that of Luthien and Beren.  Tolkien doesn't leave it as fated chance, but has Aragorn singing the Lay of Luthien when he first meets Arwen, who then admits to many proclaiming her appearance similar to Luthien and that she may share Luthien's doom.  So that's a whole lot of significance and foreshadowing in a first meeting.

Their second meeting benefits from more life experience and a little matchmaking on the part of Galadriel.  I wonder how daddy feels about that...  Knowing what we do of Galadriel, her wisdom, her foresight, and her magics, I can't help but feel this action was not motivated primarily by altruism or fondness towards Aragorn.  The act was not exactly a kindness to Arwen either, for while Arwen and Aragorn find joy in each other, she also finds death in him.

We never see Aragorn eager to claim his birthright or crown, and even once he does he still steps back granting Faramir power that would otherwise be surrendered on the return of the king.  But Aragorn takes crucial role in the defeat of Sauron and the restoration of Gondor, fulfilling Elrond's requirements for wedding Arwen and dooming her to mortal life.

Without Arwen, The Lord of the Rings would have been a very different story.  While I wish Jackson had made a few slightly different choices in how he chose to expand her role in the primary narrative, I think it is utterly fitting that she became more than a passing character who marries Aragorn at the end.  She was his motivation and shaping force in his actions.


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