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In ROTK, Chapter 2 of Book Five, "The Passing of the Grey Company," Aragorn tells Gimli and Legolas that he has looked into the Orthanc stone and had a chat with Sauron. He says that Sauron "saw me, but in other guise than you see me here." What was this "guise"? And why would Aragorn appear in this fashion when he also revealed himself to Sauron as Isildur's heir?

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    I think people put too much weight on the idea of "guise" as physical appearance. When he walks around, he puts on the appearance of a raggedy outdoorman, to keep a somewhat low profile. In revealing himself, I always took that to mean he showed his personality, his character, will and spirit. Kind of a "majesty that comes from within" kind of thing. And not that he washed up, shaved, wore some purple clothing and some jewelry on his brow, or something along those lines. – PoloHoleSet Jun 5 at 20:46
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I think the answer to your question can be found in the context of the words you quoted:

'You have looked in that accursed stone of wizardry!' exclaimed Gimli with fear and astonishment in his face. 'Did you say aught to - him? Even Gandalf feared that encounter.'

'You forget to whom you speak,' said Aragorn sternly, and his eyes glinted. 'Did I not openly proclaim my title before the doors of Edoras? What do you fear that I should say to him? Nay, Gimli,' he said in a softer voice, and the grimness left his face, and he looked like one who has laboured in sleepless pain for many nights. 'Nay, my friends, I am the lawful master of the Stone, and I had both the right and the strength to use it, or so I judged. The right cannot be doubted. The strength was enough - barely.'

He drew a deep breath. 'It was a bitter struggle, and the weariness is slow to pass. I spoke no word to him, and in the end I wrenched the Stone to my own will. That alone he will find hard to endure. And he beheld me. Yes, Master Gimli, he saw me, but in other guise than you see me here. If that will aid him, then I have done ill. But I do not think so. To know that I lived and walked the earth was a blow to his heart, I deem; for he knew it not till now. The eyes in Orthanc did not see through the armour of Théoden; but Sauron has not forgotten Isildur and the sword of Elendil. Now in the very hour of his great designs the heir of Isildur and the Sword are revealed; for l showed the blade re-forged to him. He is not so mighty yet that he is above fear; nay, doubt ever gnaws him.'

and much later, Gandalf says:

' As Aragorn has begun, so we must go on. We must push Sauron to his last throw. We must call out his hidden strength, so that he shall empty his land. We must march out to meet him at once. We must make ourselves the bait, though his jaws should close on us. He will take that bait, in hope and in greed, for he will think that in such rashness he sees the pride of the new Ringlord..."

(My emphasis.)

He must have shown himself as Isldur's Heir. And Sauron had good reason to fear Isildur's Heir: Isildur struck off his hand when Sauron still had the Ring. This heir could control the power (waning though it was) of Gondor. And this heir was a man of great power -- he went mano-a-mano (so to speak) against Sauron and won.

So Sauron knew that the Ring was abroad, that the Heir of Isildur lives, was not a weakling, but could challenge him to a duel of wills and win -- and might soon have the Ring. By appearing as Isildur's Heir, Aragon showed Sauron his worst nightmare.

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    Well, Elendil and Gil-galad had something to do woth Sauron's overthrow, I think. – Spencer Mar 23 at 17:37
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    @Page 332 I took the two guises to be "Aragorn, Son of Arathorn, Chieftan of the Dunedain of the North...Wielder of the Sword Reforged...Isuldur's Heir of Gondor" on the one hand and "Strider the Ranger" on the other. When Aragorn looked into the Orthanc stone, he was dressed and played the role of the former. Legolas and Gimli were talking to the latter. But who knows for sure? – Mark Olson Mar 23 at 17:57
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    Even nightmares have nightmares. – corsiKa Mar 23 at 18:33
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    He went against Sauron mano-a-maia. :) To support your idea of the Aragorn/Strider dichotomy, there's the quote when they pass the Argonath: 'Fear not!' said a strange voice behind him. Frodo turned ans saw Strider, and yet not Strider; for the weatherworn Ranger was no longer there. In the stern sat Aragorn son of Arathorn, proud and erect, guiding the boat with skillful strokes; his hood was cast back, and his dark hair was blowing in the wind, a light was in his eyes: a king returning from exile to his own land. (LotR, book 2, chapter 9 - The Great River) – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Mar 23 at 19:55
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    @Galastel Mano-a-mano does not mean "man-to-man," it means "hand-to-hand," so "hand-to-maia" falls a bit flat. – Lexible Mar 23 at 20:57
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Mark's excellent answer points out that Aragorn presented himself to Sauron in the guise of Isuldur's heir rather than just a ranger of the north.

However, the word "guise" refers to physical appearance as well as to identity. Aragorn's appearance when he talks to Gimli and Legolas is changed; he appeared older, grim and weary.

The king mounted his horse, Snowmane, and Merry sat beside him on his pony: Stybba was his name. Presently Éomer came out from the gate, and with him was Aragorn, and Halbarad bearing the great staff close-furled in black, and two tall men, neither young nor old. So much alike were they, the sons of Elrond, that few could tell them apart: dark-haired, grey-eyed, and their faces elven-fair, clad alike in bright mail beneath cloaks of silver-grey. Behind them walked Legolas and Gimli. But Merry had eyes only for Aragorn, so startling was the change that he saw in him, as if in one night many years had fallen on his head. Grim was his face, grey-hued and weary.

The Lord of the Rings Book Five, Chapter 2: The Passing of the Grey Company
Page 778 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Single Volume 50th Anniversary Edition)

Aragorn would have shown Sauron a much more imposing appearance. Not only would he not have shown the weariness that Merry saw (which was the result of his struggle with Sauron), he would have shown Sauron the tokens that proved his identity.

The tokens that he had available included the heirlooms of his house

  • The Ring of Barahir. An heirloom of his house from the First Age.
  • His sword Andúril, reforged from the shards of Narsil (that Isildur used to cut the Ring from Sauron's hand).
  • The Star of Elendil, which Aragorn also wears at the Battle of the Pelennor.

And then there is that "great staff close-furled in black" that Halbarad carries. Tolkein mentions it several times before finally telling us what it is when Aragorn arrives by ship at the Harlond.

and behold! upon the foremost ship a great standard broke, and the wind displayed it as she turned towards the Harlond. There flowered a White Tree, and that was for Gondor; but Seven Stars were about it, and a high crown above it, the signs of Elendil that no lord had borne for years beyond count. And the stars flamed in the sunlight, for they were wrought of gems by Arwen daughter of Elrond; and the crown was bright in the morning, for it was wrought of mithril and gold.

The Lord of the Rings Book Five, Chapter 6: The Battle of the Pelennor Fields
Page 847 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Single Volume 50th Anniversary Edition)

I think it would have made a great visual if Peter Jackson had included in the film a shot of Aragorn showing himself to Sauron with the Star of Elendil on his brow, Andúril in his hand and the Royal Standard displayed behind him. It would be an interesting contrast with Aragorn's weary appearance afterwards.

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