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One morning, during the approach to Caradhras Aragorn and Gandalf debate the course ahead.

"Winter deepens behind us," he said quietly to Aragorn. "The heights away north are whiter than they were; snow is lying far down their shoulders. Tonight we shall be on our way high up towards the Redhorn Gate. We may well be seen by watchers on that narrow path, and waylaid by some evil; but the weather may prove a more deadly enemy than any. What do you think of your course now, Aragorn?"

"I think no good of our course from beginning to end, as you know well, Gandalf," answered Aragorn. "And perils known and unknown will grow as we go on."

It's hard to embrace the idea that Aragorn thinks "no good of our course from beginning to end." To me it's an astounding revelation. On one hand it deepens a character who always struck me as a bit too pure. It adds a layer of complexity to the portrayal and for that I'm grateful. On the other hand I can't reconcile it with everything else I know about Aragorn.

I'm not aware of any other instances in the trilogy where Aragorn expresses a lack of commitment to the mission, i.e. the ring-bearers' quest to destroy the ring. Are there passages I missed where Aragorn reveals any qualms about the campaign?

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    Do you interpret "our course" as "our mission", compared to something like "our path" or "our route"? – user31178 Nov 9 '15 at 19:49
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    He was simply in favor of using the Eagles to fly to Mordor. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Nov 9 '15 at 20:05
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    He simply say it's a very hard mission... – Mithoron Nov 9 '15 at 21:45
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    I don't have any cites, so not worthy of an answer, but the way I see it, Aragorn is grumbling and saying "this whole trip is a pain in the ass no matter what we do". He can see the hazards as well as Gandalf can and he's probably frustrated about it and frustrated that Gandalf is calling him on it, which explains his attitude being a bit worse than usual. It's not that he doubts the necessity of the mission, he just hasn't had his coffee yet. – hobbs Nov 9 '15 at 22:25
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    His very next sentence is "But we must go on". Clearly he's not opposed to the mission itself. – OrangeDog Nov 10 '15 at 11:51
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There's no readily-apparent reason to believe that Aragorn is opposed to the Quest. If he has any doubts, he keeps them to himself; all we hear from him is concern over how far he should follow Frodo: whether to break off and go to Minas Tirith, or to continue all the way to Mordor.

In-context, it's vastly more likely that he's referring to their route, not their goals. We know that he and Gandalf spent quite a while discussing it:

Aragorn and Gandalf walked together or sat speaking of their road and the perils they would meet; and they pondered the storied and figured maps and books of lore that were in the house of Elrond.

Fellowship of the Ring Book II Chapter 3: "The Ring Goes South"

Frodo recognizes that the disagreement he's overhearing in this quote is an old one (emphasis mine):

'Winter deepens behind us,' he said quietly to Aragorn. 'The heights away north are whiter than they were; snow is lying far down their shoulders. Tonight we shall be on our way high up towards the Redhorn Gate. We may well be seen by watchers on that narrow path, and waylaid by some evil; but the weather may prove a more deadly enemy than any. What do you think of your course now, Aragorn?'

Frodo overheard these words, and understood that Gandalf and Aragorn were continuing some debate that had begun long before. He listened anxiously.

'I think no good of our course from beginning to end, as you know well, Gandalf,' answered Aragorn. `And perils known and unknown will grow as we go on. But we must go on; and it is no good our delaying the passage of the mountains. Further south there are no passes, till one comes to the Gap of Rohan. I do not trust that way since your news of Saruman. Who knows which side now the marshals of the Horse-lords serve?'

Fellowship of the Ring Book II Chapter 3: "The Ring Goes South"

And, of course, the subject of the conversation is always principally focused on the specifics of the route, rather than a philosophical argument over the nature of the quest.

Unfortunately, we're left rather like Frodo: listening in on a conversation we don't have enough context to understand.

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'I think no good of our course from beginning to end'

Sometimes in life you have no good choice. Just the lesser of bad choices.

Aragorn is simply expressing the difficulty of the task ahead of them. If there was a clear, good path, it wouldn't be much of a story, would it?

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Those who say that "Aragorn" could not have objected to the journey as a whole are mistaken. His words clearly say:

"I think no good of our course from beginning to end, as you know well, Gandalf," answered Aragorn.

Which of course means the whole course, of course. But I think that we need not read too much into this. The purpose of the passage is to set up tension and foreshadowing, that however dangerous the crossing of Caradhras is, the alternative might be much worse. In fact, as first written, Tolkien kept switching who said which part, because he was probably not clear in his own mind who was wiser and more cautious, Aragorn or Gandalf. In the end, he chose Aragorn to speak against the alternative, which was to go "under the mountain" (or mountains) -- through the Mines of Moria, as we all know, where (spoiler -- oh, too late) Gandalf the Grey perished in the flaming abyss with the Balrog, thus driving home the truth of the old adage: "You don't have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun your friend." So you could say that if Aragorn was pessimistic, either about the choice of Moria or the entire quest, he was right to be so.

The truth is, when this passage was first written, Tolkien's conception of Aragorn, and of the Fellowship as a whole, were still very much in flux. The fellowship were seven in number, Gimli and Legolas were not included, and there were five hobbits -- the familiar four and a "hobbit ranger" named Trotter. Trotter the Hobbit became Strider the Man, who then became Aragorn, heir of kings.

(from "The Treason of Isengard," which is both vol. II of "The History of the Lord of the Rings" and vol. VII of "The History of Middle-earth," edited and elucidated by Christopher Tolkien from his father's copious and erratic manuscripts.)

As the Caradhras episode unfolded, Tolkien became more and more dissatisfied with it. The physical jeopardy they were in was supposed to divide the group into seasoned, well-worn travellers and innocent, untried shire-hobbits. Boromir and Gandalf were able to effect a rescue, but Trotter practically needed to be carried down by Boromir, an act unthinkable with the later, well-known line-up. As Tolkien wrote notes to himself about what was to come, he said, in effect, "Surely if they go through Moria Gimli the Dwarf must come too." (He was already present with his father Gloin at the Council of Elrond, with his axe at the ready, so to speak, just waiting for the Author to summon him to the cause.)

When the Caradhras episode came to be re-written, each character is fully realized, reacting to each turn of event in exact accordance with our understanding of their species and temperament. Legolas is almost frivolous, since the cold and snow barely affect him, Gandalf is gruff and ill-tempered, the hobbits are basically shivering, and Boromir is both strong and brave, and willing to help. (Keep in mind that I'm describing the book.) Aragorn, now a man, is as strong as Boromir, and together they save the Hobbits and Bill the Pony, essentially saving the whole quest -- for now.

It may seem odd for Aragorn to express his doubts, but keep in mind that he is speaking his mind privately, as he thinks, to Gandalf, their trusted guide and advisor. Gandalf, Frodo, and Sam, as well as others (including Elrond, despite the fact that it seems to be his idea in the first place) all express their grave reservations as to the outcome of the quest. Sam wonders where they'll live when they get home. Frodo doubts they will ever get there, to the fiery mountain, let alone home again. And Gandalf, to switch to a Doctor Who metaphor for a moment, probably has a deep intimation that someone is going to need to throw "a big ball of complex, powerful timey-wimey" into that crack, to close it again, and we're all out of chewing gum.

No-one was even fairly certain the quest would succeed. Aragorn was probably thinking that at this rate, he'd never get married. But they all persevered. I'm sure that in the wilderness, horniness for a beautiful elf-princess could be a great motivator. I also agree with the person who said "he hadn't had his coffee yet."

"I think no good of our course from beginning to end, as you know well, Gandalf," answered Aragorn.

These words remained from the first draft, after many others were changed to reflect the modified composition of the fellowship, and the growing depth of the story in all directions -- historically, geographically, spiritually, eschatologically. (That's theological theorizing about apocalyptic changes in the world. In "Illuminatus!" the hippies were accused of wanting to "Immanentize the Eschaton" or bringing about the End of Time, or The End Times, depending on if you're a christian, or a Whovian like me. I think this was Robert Anton Wilson making fun of something William F. Buckley said. And don't OT me. All knowledge is my specialty, I am a Doctor of Everything.)

Much else was changed, but in re-using these words, it's not hard to imagine Trotter, the mysterious hobbit-ranger traveller from Bree, with his wooden shoes and his clay pipe, expressing his doubts as a well-worn, sardonic hobbit-of-the-world. "I think no good of our course from beginning to end, but we have to try some way, any way, don't we, old friend." ( my paraphrase.)

"For Frodo."

My first post! <{: )}>

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Well I'm not an native speaker, but when I read this line, I just intepreted it for my self in a way like refering to the evil that they may/will encounter.

Not in a way of oppossing nor in a way of not getting a better option, but in a way that expresses something like "there can't be anything good on such a course, independent of what the options had been."

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Aragorn, being the Ranger he is, has the responsibility for seeing the party safe, or at least those not accustomed to travel (the Hobbits, mostly).

He knows their journey is wrought with peril. He knows how hugely unlikely it is to get to Mount Doom undetected. He knows how formiddable an enemy is pitched against them. He knows how much depends on his (and Gandalfs) decisions, for the party and the whole of Middle-Earth.

He might not have an alternative, or be opposed to the quest per se, but he is worried. That is the context in which his statement must be seen.

To steal from the context Jason Baker gave the line you quoted, notice that Aragorn also says, "but we must go on".

He's basically saying, "I know there is no other way. That does not mean I have to like it."

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