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I was just watching Return of the King and saw that one of the Dead was about to kill Aragorn with his sword & Aragorn was able to block the blow with his sword, Andúril (reforged from the shards of Narsil). I read the books a long time ago and don't quite remember how they described it. I was just wondering if the Dead would still answer to Aragorn if he did not have Andúril. Was Narsil (or a sword reforged from it) necessary to prove that you were Isildur's heir?

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The Dead follow Aragorn because of who he is, not the sword he carries.

In the books there's none of this "sword-fighting with the Dead" nonsense. Aragorn doesn't even get his sword out; it's enough for him to proclaim who he is and show his banner, and the Dead follow him without question.

To that Stone the Company came and halted in the dead of night. Then Elrohir gave to Aragorn a silver horn, and he blew upon it and it seemed to those that stood near that they heard a sound of answering horns, as if it was an echo in deep caves far away. No other sound they heard, and yet they were aware of a great host gathered all about the hill on which they stood; and a chill wind like the breath of ghosts came down from the mountains. But Aragorn dismounted, and standing by the Stone he cried in a great voice:

'Oathbreakers, why have ye come?'

And a voice was heard out of the night that answered him, as if from far away:

'To fulfil our oath and have peace.'

Then Aragorn said: 'The hour is come at last. Now I go to Pelargir upon Anduin, and ye shall come after me. And when all this land is clean of the servants of Sauron, I will hold the oath fulfilled, and ye shall have peace and depart for ever. For I am Elessar, Isildur's heir of Gondor.'

And with that he bade Halbarad unfurl the great standard which he had brought; and behold! it was black, and if there was any device upon it, it was hidden in the darkness. Then there was silence, and not a whisper nor a sigh was heard again all the long night. The Company camped beside the Stone, but they slept little, because of the dread of the Shadows that hedged them round.

-- The Return of the King, Chapter 2: The Passing of the Grey Company (emphasis mine)

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    Ah, but in the book it was a magic banner. Supplementary question; "Would they have followed him without the banner?" – Valorum Apr 10 '16 at 15:32
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    @Richard Because of the swag value? Or so that the people of Gondor will recognise him when he gets there? – Bellerophon Apr 10 '16 at 15:54
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    @Richard "I went to Gondor and all I got was this stupid banner" – Matt Gutting Apr 10 '16 at 16:09
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    @Richard - I read it not so much as him needing the banner as him using the banner for emphasis. And/or (IIRC) it was the first time he did anything as Isildur's heir, so it was the appropriate time to finally reveal it. – Bobson Apr 10 '16 at 16:27
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    @JanusBahsJacquet It was the same banner that he had later, but it was a work in progress: He hadn't yet sewn on the stars, stones and tree. The silence that followed was because the ghosts were all so stunned by his proudly revealing an obviously unfinished banner that they couldn't think of any witty remarks to make about it, and then the silence dragged on too long, and the window for witty remarks closed, so they pretended it was on purpose. – user867 Apr 11 '16 at 3:25

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