32

To be clear, I am not asking why Aragorn and the Dunedain are treated as suspicious, but why the nickname 'Strider' (and Longshanks) is implied to have an insulting undertone, by Bill Ferny and Butterbur, (beyond the unintended disrespect of not addressing him by his proper title as Aragorn, Son of Arathorn, Heir to the Throne of Gondor) which I can understand his need to conceal. The name (stick-at-nought) Strider seems to be a slur in and of itself - is there a meaning or reason behind the word that makes it offensive?

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    Sounds like you've been watching too much Game of Thrones. Aragorn would properly just be referred to as Aragorn, Son of Arathorn, Heir to the Throne of Gondor. Even that last bit would be contested (and later is contested) by the reigning Steward of Gondor, and not without merit. At the time of the Fellowship of the Ring, neither Aragorn nor his father were king of anything. – TylerH May 8 '17 at 16:40
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    THAT IS YOUR KING, IMPUDENT PEASANT – Paul D. Waite May 8 '17 at 16:47
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    Can you show a passage from the book or from the movie (whichever you mean, if one in particular) where using "Strider" is implied to have an insulting undertone? What makes you think it's insulting? – TylerH May 8 '17 at 16:47
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    @TylerH "'Strider' I am to one fat man who lives within a days march of foes that would freeze his soul." Aragorn is well aware that the nickname is not being used as a sign of endearment. It's not completely insulting, though - the hobbits call him that without any insult intended, and Aragorn used the less ill-sounding translation 'Telcontar' as the name of his house when he was crowned. – LAK May 8 '17 at 17:09
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    In all seriousness, people who live much of the time in the wild, come and go on no obvious schedule, and have no visible means of support are simply suspicious to regular villagers. And that suspicion would be laded onto whatever name he went by. But no one would want to thwart him as long as he wasn't making trouble, so they serve him, let him alone, and whisper behind his back. It's just human (and hobbit) nature at work. – dmckee May 8 '17 at 18:52
56

"Strider" wasn't an insulting name

Aragorn was known to the people of Bree as a stern outsider who kept to himself. That was enough for him to be looked on with suspicion even by good people like Butterbur.

When Bill Ferny speaks insultingly of him, he says

'‘I suppose you know who you’ve taken up with? That’s Stick-at-naught Strider, that is! Though I’ve heard other names not so pretty.’

The Lord of the Rings Book One, Chapter 11: A Knife in the Dark

It's not "Strider" that is insulting, it's "Stick-at-naught" (stop at nothing), in other words he is saying that Strider has no scruples.

The only other comment on the nature of the name "Strider" I can think of is when Pippin first sees Aragorn after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Pippin greats him as "Strider" and Imrahil says to Éomer

‘Is it thus that we speak to our kings? Yet maybe he will wear his crown in some other name!’

And Aragorn hearing him, turned and said: ‘Verily, for in the high tongue of old I am Elessar, the Elfstone, and Envinyatar, the Renewer’: and he lifted from his breast the green stone that lay there. ‘But Strider shall be the name of my house, if that be ever established. In the high tongue it will not sound so ill, and Telcontar I will be and all the heirs of my body.’

The Lord of the Rings Book Five, Chapter 8: The Houses of Healing

In this case, I don't think Imrahil considered "Strider" to be insulting, I think he just didn't think it was grand enough for a King.

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    I'm pretty sure stick-at-naught means he doesn't see things through, and is meant to imply that he is untrustworthy. – Quasi_Stomach May 8 '17 at 23:37
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    Recently re-reading that trilogy, it seems that he was also known for his long legs, "striding" about the wilds. It's like calling someone with red hair "red." It's a descriptive nickname. I do believe Tolkien talks about Strider laying about Orthanc and stretching those legs out when catching up with some of those hobbits. – PipperChip May 9 '17 at 0:16
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    @PipperChip Yes, "Strider" is clearly descriptive. – Blackwood May 9 '17 at 0:18
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    There's a quote from Barliman here which also explains something about the Bree-folk's view of Aragorn. "He disappears for a month or a year and then he pops up again. What his right name is I've never heard, but he's known round here as Strider. Goes about at a great pace on his long shanks, though he don't tell nobody what cause he has to hurry." This behaviour and his "weather-beaten" appearance no doubt led the Bree-folk to believe that he was up to no good. – maguirenumber6 May 9 '17 at 18:05
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    @Quasi_Stomach I asked about it. Only answer so far agrees with Blackwood. – jpmc26 May 9 '17 at 22:43
31

This answer was written when the question was still unclear, please bear that in mind. Blackwood's answer, however, is a more in-depth answer to the question in its unraveled state.

Only in Bree is the name ‘Strider’ offensive.

Hoom, hmmm
Treebeard

Firstly, The reason for them not calling him Aragorn, Son of Arathorn is because they are unaware of his heritage. Few people in the wild know of Aragorn's heritage. Aragorn would prefer to keep it that way, as this would be beneficial information to the Dark Lord.

On to the question at large, if I understood correctly you're asking about this exchange:

“Morning, Longshanks!’ he said. ‘Off early? Found some friends at last?’ Strider nodded, but did not answer. ‘Morning, my little friends!’ he said to the others. ‘I suppose you know who you’ve taken up with? That’s Stick-at-naught Strider, that is! Though I’ve heard other names not so pretty. Watch out tonight!”
Fellowship of the Ring - Book One: Chapter 10, Strider

Between Bill Ferny and the company of Strider and the Hobbits.

The reason for Bill Ferny using the name Strider, Longshanks and Stick-at-naught in an insulting manner is because he is an agent of evil, and aware of Strider's skill in the wild.

He attempts to make the Hobbits fear their trusty guide so that his "friends", the Black Riders, can come pick off Frodo in Bree, rather than have to try to chase a skilled Ranger through a forest he knows better than the back of his hand.

“They will know all the news now, for they have visited Bill Ferny; and probably that Southerner was a spy as well.”
ibid.


As for Butterbur. He keeps his reservations because he doesn't like Strider's kind. Aragorn intentionally keeps himself to himself when in places like the Prancing Pony to prevent attention being drawn to himself. This enables him to appear and disappear as he pleases. As the innkeeper, Butterbur doesn't like the mysterious types, as they are most like to cause trouble.

“Well, you know your own business, maybe,’ said Mr. Butterbur, looking suspiciously at Strider. ‘But if I was in your plight, I wouldn’t take up with a Ranger.”

[...]

“At last Mr. Butterbur went out, with another doubtful look at Strider and a shake of his head.”
ibid.

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    Also, Hobbits tend to be homebodies and not travel much, so "Longshanks" and "Strider" both sound like "Big Weirdo," no? – MissMonicaE May 8 '17 at 17:22
  • @MissMonicaE Hmm, that could be one way of looking at it. I've never thought of it like that! – Edlothiad May 8 '17 at 17:33
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    @maguirenumber6 Treebeard was confused – Edlothiad May 8 '17 at 18:23
0

I've always seen "stick-at-naught" as "does not stay anywhere" and Strider as something similar to wanderer, drifter, tramp, vagabond, vagrant, hobo, homeless bum.

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    How does this answer the question whether it was supposed to be offensive or not? – Edlothiad May 9 '17 at 10:35
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    I asked about it. Only answer so far agrees with Blackwood. – jpmc26 May 9 '17 at 22:46
  • I think Skooba's comment on eup's answer is relevant here too: 'Welcome to SFF.SE! Please take our tour to see the kind of answer we are looking for. SE is not a normal forum, we are looking for primarily fact based answers with references to the source material if available.' Enjoy the site @Ruud! – EleventhDoctor May 10 '17 at 11:17
-1

I agree that the name is not insulting just casual and used by local strangers ...also that "stick at naught' would mean Always on the move.... Not predictable, not that he "would stop at nothing"

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    Welcome to SFF.SE! Please take our tour to see the kind of answer we are looking for. SE is not a normal forum, we are looking for primarily fact based answers with references to the source material if available. – Skooba May 9 '17 at 18:39
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    I asked about it. Only answer so far agrees with Blackwood. – jpmc26 May 9 '17 at 22:46

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