This question was inspired by xkcd #1256's Title text and refers specifically to a scene in the movie The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). The exact quote is:

ARAGORN: (bows) My lord Elrond

ELROND: I come on behalf of one whom I love. Arwen is dying. She will not long survive the evil that now spreads from Mordor. The light of the Evenstar is failing. As Sauron’s power grows her strength wanes. Arwen’s life is now tied to the fate of the Ring. The Shadow is upon us Aragorn. The end has come.

(The quote is from www.ageofthering.com, The Return of the King Extended Edition Movie Script : Scene 30 ~ Andúril - Flame of the West)

The explainxkcd page is not helpful: it refers to the IMDB faq which just explains that she "chooses to become mortal in order to wed and remain with Aragorn". We already discussed this.

But the real question is : Why does Arwen's "strength wane" as "Sauron’s power grows"? Why is Arwen "tied to the fate of the Ring"?

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    @TGnat I read the books, and I'm fully aware Peter Jackson took some liberties with is adaptation. The fact that the movie is not completely identical to the original material is irrelevant. The movie still exist and a question about something that happened only in the movie is still on-topic.
    – DavRob60
    Aug 29, 2013 at 2:54
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    Regarding (auto-)censorship: "quotes should be exact quotes" (accepted answer).
    – bitmask
    Aug 29, 2013 at 8:54

7 Answers 7


I think this isn't taken to be literally nor as something that happened (off-screen).

I always considered this scene in a different way (never thought about some sickness, wound or whatever):

  • Arwen insists on staying in Middle-earth to be with Aragorn.
  • As such she won't be able to escape with the other Elves leaving to the West.
  • If Sauron wins (which might indeed be the case at that point in the story; the "end" he's referring to), he'll conquer all of Middle-earth, which would also spread his influence anywhere Arwen might go (this is the specific evil she won't survive for long).
  • As such he decides to fight, not so much for Middle-earth as a whole, nor for humankind, but for Arwen, who'd be doomed as well.

In the end, she's dying due to giving up immortality (as jwenting already mentioned). Elrond can't change that, but he's able to prolong her life significantly by fighting now rather than just leaving her back and he's determined to do so whatever it costs.

It's just some artistic freedom to me. It doesn't really change the story or its outcome (I assume Elrond shows up in the books as well; never got that far so far).

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    Elrond plays a decently large role in Fellowship, and IIRC he shows up at the end of RoTK, although in the book his sons deliver the sword to Aragorn.
    – Wes
    Sep 3, 2013 at 22:32
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    @wes: In the book Aragorn gets the sword before he ever leaves Rivendell. The banner is what Elrond's son's deliver. Sep 6, 2013 at 19:50
  • @Satanicpuppy, right, it's been a few years since I read RoTK, thanks.
    – Wes
    Sep 6, 2013 at 22:51
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    See also scifi.stackexchange.com/q/76856/4918 What did Padmé die of?
    – b_jonas
    Mar 19, 2015 at 14:14

When Arwen crosses into Rivendell after outriding the black riders, she holds Frodo - who is slipping into wraithdom - and says "What grace is given me, let it pass to him. Let him be spared." I assumed she was passing on some of her mortality and taking on some of Frodo's frailty and also his connection with The Ring.

I realise this differs from the book, as it is Glorfindel who rides with Frodo into Rivendell.

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    Of all the changes from the book this one gets at me the most. It takes away an awesome scene just for the sake of getting Liv Tyler's face on the screen more. Frodo standing up to the wraiths was one of my favorite parts of the book.
    – Demarini
    Mar 19, 2015 at 17:03
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    @Demarini After reading the book, I went back to rewatch the movies, and the odd treatment of Arwen in that scene made me ragequit. First, because a strong character moment is taken away from Frodo for no good reason; second, because it turns Arwen from a dignified and mysterious character into Hollywood Action Girl Template #4. Given these fundamental misunderstandings (or conscious perversions) of the book, I submit that the only sensible answer to OP's question is "because Peter Jackson hates us all personally."
    – Wolfie Inu
    Oct 6, 2015 at 10:58

Elves as a race are sensitive to Morgoth and then Sauron's power/darkness whatever. Elves as a race are immortal, but due to age or "great sorrow" undergo a process known as 'fading' unless they are in the undying lands of valinor. It simply appears that due to these 2 factors and that arwen apparently has the constitution of a wet paper bag, that she is dying.


Arwen's death would be a side effect of Sauron obtaining the Ring, not a direct result of it. If Sauron gets the Ring, everyone is screwed, especially the Elves, because Sauron has a serious hate-boner for Elves. This is never explained in the movies.

Elves in Middle-earth are tragic figures, because they are doomed to grow weary of the world and filled with the accumulated sorrow of thousands of years seeing other creatures live, suffer, and die. Eventually, every Elf will be unable to bear any more heartache, and will depart Middle-earth, sailing to the Undying Lands.

When they were younger, Elrond and his brother Elros, both of whom were half Elf and half human, were given a choice between living as mortal men or living as immortal Elves. Elros chose to be a man and Elrond chose to be an Elf. Thus, Elrond would live forever, but would eventually grow weary and depart to the Undying Lands, never to return.

In the appendices to The Return of the King, we are told that:

... To the children of Elrond a choice was also appointed: to [eventually] pass with him from the circles of the world; or if they remained to become mortal and die in Middle-earth. For Elrond, therefore, all chances of the War of the Ring were fraught with sorrow.
-The Return of the King, Appendix A: "The Numenorean Kings"

Aragorn is a man, so he can't go to the Undying Lands, plus he has king stuff to do, so even if he was allowed to go there, he wouldn't be able to. Thus, because of the "choice" all Elrond's children must make, Arwen has to choose between going with her father to the Undying Lands and living there forever, but leaving behind the man she loves; or staying with Aragorn after her father departs, but becoming mortal.

So it isn't that the Ring is killing her, nor is it that loving Aragorn automatically entails dying. It is simply that staying in Middle-earth means she has to become mortal.

Things get even more complicated by the fact that the Elves have maintained their power through the 3 Rings they possess. As long as Sauron didn't have the One Ring, the Elves could use their Rings with no risk attached. But if Sauron regains the One Ring, the 3 Rings are no longer safe to use; if the One Ring is destroyed, the 3 Rings will become just as useless as regular rings. So no matter what happens to the One Ring, the Elves have to leave Middle-earth. This includes Elrond, of course.

So Arwen is dying because she has chosen to remain in Middle-earth after her father departs. It is less clear why she is literally about to die - in the books, she isn't dying now, she has just decided that at some point in the future she will die. In the movies, she is in the process of becoming dead.

The only way I can make sense of the events in the movies is that Arwen is choosing to die immediately to guilt trip her dad into reforging the Shards of Narsil so Aragorn can become king. Once he does so, she's all like "OMG I GOT BETTER!".

In the books, Elrond doesn't need to be coerced into reforging Narsil - there, unlike the movies, Elrond has always supported Aragorn's journey towards kingship, and Aragorn has always intended to become king. Jackson changed Aragorn a bit- in the movies, Aragorn is "The Reluctant Hero", and has to be pushed and cajoled into doing what he was destined to do. Elrond is a bit annoyed by this, and at one point says something like "Aragorn turned away from that path long ago, he only wants to be a Ranger now".

So in the books, Narsil is remade before the Fellowship departs from Rivendell, but in the movies, Narsil isn't reforged until the middle of the third film. In the books, Elrond told Aragorn he couldn't marry Arwen until he was king, because Elrond didn't want Aragorn to become distracted from his main task of claiming the throne.

In the movies, Arwen actively chooses to die because it will force her dad to reforge Narsil so Aragorn can become the king, and then Elrond finds Aragorn and says "Get off your ass and become the king or Arwen will die". So really, deciding to die was Arwen's way of making sure her dad and her boyfriend did what they had to do.

The line about "Arwen's fate is now tied to the fate of the Ring" makes more sense in this light. Arwen will stay in Middle-earth no matter what, and if Sauron gets the Ring, everyone in Middle-earth, including Arwen, will be boned. If the Ring is destroyed, she'll stay with Aragorn, and die at some unknown time in the future.


The answer to this question is clearly shown on the LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring. After Arwen cast the Water Horse Spells on the Wraiths, Frodo began to fade. Then — here's the answer — Arwen then prayed to give her gift to Frodo to endure the poison from the Morgul Dagger.

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    Hmmm. Not int the book but in the film - good catch.
    – Chenmunka
    Mar 19, 2015 at 9:22

The books mention none of that whatsoever, period.
In the books however Arwen chooses mortality so she can marry Aragorn. As such, she will eventually die. This grieves the elves, as she's the fairest of their maidens (and it's not the first time this happened in their history, previous cases having ended in tears).

As so often with the LOTR movies, the filmmakers corrupt and pervert the lore for the sake of making a movie that flows quick with lots of dramatic moments and dialogue.

So there's no canon explanation, you'd have to ask the script writers for the movie what they were thinking (if anything) beyond "it sounded catchy".

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    The question clearly asks for the film, not the book. What your personal opinion is regarding which is better is irrelevant. So, frankly, I don't see how this answers the question.
    – bitmask
    Aug 29, 2013 at 8:57
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    it answers the question in that there is no answer within the lore, only within the distorted minds of the scriptwriters and those can be summarised as "it makes for a nice dramatic line".
    – jwenting
    Aug 29, 2013 at 10:42
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    The script defines the lore of the film. If you claim the film to be corrupt and perverted compared to the book, clearly those two are different works of art and therefore lore is not directly transferable in either direction.
    – bitmask
    Aug 29, 2013 at 10:56
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    @bitmask - it belongs on Movies.SE then. Typically I see questions on the movies (specifically focusing on changes between the script and the source material) being posted there.
    – Adam V
    Aug 29, 2013 at 16:33
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    @AdamV: No it doesn't. It could be posted there, but it is perfectly on topic here.
    – bitmask
    Aug 29, 2013 at 16:35

I've read the whole series many times over the last four decades. It was my children's bedtime stories. I always got the feeling that Arwen's life force was tied to the jewel/necklace she gave to Aragorn. That is why Aragorn said that she could not give that to him. He knew it would weaken her and prove fatal in time if he failed.

  • 2
    Can you provide sources for your answer? Is Arwen ever described as "dying" in the book series?
    – Edlothiad
    Apr 29, 2017 at 19:07

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