I have recently come to learn some things about Aragorn and Arwen that trouble me. According to Tolkien Gateway's entry on Aragorn, he went to live with Elrond at Rivendell when he was only two years old, and Elrond raised him as his own son from that time on. Only when Aragorn was about 20 years old did Elrond tell Aragorn that he was not Elrond's real son, and that he was, in fact, the heir of Isildur. About a year later, when Aragorn was 21 or so, he fell in love with Elrond's daughter Arwen. Tolkien Gateway says that this happened when Arwen returned to Rivendell from Lorien, where her grandparents lived.
This bothers me because it means that Aragorn fell in love with a woman who, for as long as he could remember, and up until a year earlier, he believed to be his sister. Of course, she wasn't actually his sister, but he thought she was for most of his life.
Humans have an instinctive aversion to entering romantic relationships with people we're in close contact with early in our lives (this phenomenon is known as the Westermarck Effect, or "reverse sexual imprinting"). But Aragorn and Arwen seem to have ignored this instinct completely. Tolkien Gateway suggests, but doesn't explicitly state, that Arwen and Aragorn might not have met before Aragorn was 21, but it offers no citations for this suggestion. It seems unlikely that Arwen, who was already more than a thousand years old (I believe she was over 2,000 years old, as a matter of fact) by this time, spent 20 years straight with her grandparents in Lorien, never once visiting her father and brothers in Rivendell. She was an adult, free to come and go as she pleased, and could have gone home whenever she wanted to.
Even if they hadn't met before, they certainly knew of each other, and Aragorn believed her to be his sister for as long as he could remember. She would have heard about her new baby foster brother being brought to Rivendell, to be raised by her father Elrond as his foster son. Aragorn would have seen Arwen's brothers as his own brothers, her father as his father, and he would have heard much about his sister Arwen. Even if they had never seen each other before, they still would have regarded each other as brother and sister.
And if they had truly never met before, and even though Aragorn learned the truth a year earlier- that Elrond wasn't his father, and Elrond's children were not his siblings, Aragorn instantly becoming smitten with Arwen still seems creepy. According to Tolkien Gateway, Arwen didn't feel anything for Aragorn until a year or so after Aragorn fell in love with her, but still, it is also creepy that she fell in love with him.
It is even more bizarre that Elrond approved of their courtship, regardless of the fact that he refused to let them marry until Aragorn became King of Gondor and Arnor. After all, Elrond still regarded Aragorn as his foster son, and obviously treated Arwen as his actual daughter (which she was), so he essentially condoned a marriage between his daughter and adopted son.
It bears repeating that Aragorn's immediate reaction to meeting his stepsister (for lack of a better word) was to fall in love with her. She soon returned his affection, and fell in love with her stepbrother, even going so far as to surrender her immortality to be with him. And again, their father approved of their relationship, albeit after setting some conditions for Aragorn to meet before they could get married.
So I have to ask a few related questions to put my mind at ease, although I don't think any answer will make this relationship seem any less unnatural.
- Is it true that Aragorn and Arwen had never met before Aragorn was 21 or so?
- Do we know anything about how the relationship began?
- Am I wrong in thinking that, for most of his childhood and adolescence, Aragorn believed Elrond to be his real father? Tolkien Gateway says Elrond told Aragorn the truth about his ancestry when he was around 20 years old, and that before that point, he raised Aragorn as his own son; I took this to mean that Aragorn genuinely believed he was Elrond's actual son until then. If I was wrong, the Aragorn-Arwen thing might be less disgusting.