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Now that I have almost finished reading The Lord of the Rings, one of the differences between the books and movies puzzles me more than any other: In the books, Aragorn always intended, and expected, to claim the throne of Gondor - he even carries the Shards of Narsil around with him. He probably wants to become King for other reasons as well, but he also has to become king before Elrond will allow him to marry Arwen. No one who knows him ever doubts that he will be king, and Narsil is remade before he even leaves Rivendell.

In the movies, he is reluctant to claim the throne, to put it mildly. He is more committed to his role as a Ranger. He barely even touches Narsil before it is reforged. He avoids giving the impression that he is interested in the throne. No one who knows him, except Arwen and perhaps Gandalf, thinks he will ever be more than a Ranger. Elrond only reforges Narsil after Arwen forces him to choose between fixing the sword or watching his own daughter die. Aragorn only seems to come around to the idea of taking the throne after the story, and the war, are almost over. Arwen's emotional blackmail of her father was also emotional blackmail of Aragorn - if he hadn't accepted the sword, and by extension, the throne, he'd have a dead girlfriend on his conscience.

Overall, in my opinion, Jackson made Aragorn seem hesitant, indecisive, weak, and reliant on the influence of others to make decisions. Imagine being a citizen of Gondor and knowing that your king wasn't sure he wanted to be your leader. In the books, Aragorn has his moments of doubt, but always regarding how to go about the quest of the Fellowship, never about whether or not he would claim the throne one day.

I assume Jackson was thinking about a character arc, character development, leading the audience along the path of Aragorn's rise to greatness, etc. But has he ever commented on this subject explicitly?

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    When I read the book, I sensed the reluctance in Aragorn. Isildur and Isildur's bane are a dark and terrifying part of his heritage. The return from defeat of the Sauron is due to Isildur - his failure of character to destroy the ring. How many people die because of that? It has to be like being a genetic offspring of Benedict Arnold. – EngrStudent Jun 5 '15 at 21:09
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    @EngrStudent - I don't see the reluctance, because he carried the sword around with him, and because he knew he had to become king if he wanted to marry his chick. He had every reason to do it. – Wad Cheber Jun 5 '15 at 22:15
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    This thesis deals with Aragorn's character changes at length (beginning at p.42), but does not reference any explanation by Peter Jackson. wesscholar.wesleyan.edu/cgi/… A Google search also failed to turn up anything by Peter Jackson specifically. The LotR Wikia discusses the changes to Aragorn's character, among others, but includes no references to explicit comments: lotr.wikia.com/wiki/… – E. J. Jun 6 '15 at 19:43
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    @EngrStudent family legend has it that I am a descendant of Benedict Arnold. I resent the implication of ancestral guilt :P – terdon Jun 12 '15 at 13:20
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    Peter Jackson also completely ruined Faramir's character in regards to dealing with Frodo and the Ring. – pleurocoelus Mar 17 '16 at 9:08
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I can think of a few main reasons, though I also am not aware if Jackson ever said so:

  1. To make sure everyone sees Frodo (and by proxy, Sam) as the hero(s) of the film. This simplifies it for a film audience, and focuses the story more on the destruction of the Ring.

  2. To enhance the love story, and to give Arwen more import to the story. He thankfully thought better of having her fighting at Helm's Deep. I wish he had also thought better of the whole "Arwen's dying" thing. I did think her saving Frodo at the Ford of Brunien was a nice adjustment, however.

  3. Putting Aragorn in his rightful historical place would require a lot of explanation of the sort that is not very good for movie pacing.

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    I think your point 1 is the key here. Jackson wanted to keep Aragorn as more of a supporting player, Frodo as the hero - so his kingliness is downplayed as long as possible. – AAT Jan 15 '16 at 14:30
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    If we're going to speculate, you might add that in our modern culture, we tend to think poorly of people who are interested in acquiring power. We respect heroes who are more reluctant to accept power because we associate desire for power with desire to abuse it. – jpmc26 Jan 16 '16 at 0:10
  • 1. Yet it's really Sam who is the real hero, according to Tolkien. I fail to see how making Aragorn reluctant to take up the throne would diminish Frodo and Sam's role esp as they are separated in the first book (technically book II of the Fellowship). 2. Putting the elves in the Battle of the Hornburg also breaks the concept of 'The Last Alliance of Elves and Men' and it also takes away the fact that Lothlórien was under assault and Haldir would be needed there at his home (and no suggestion that he died either). – Pryftan Dec 20 '17 at 18:22
  • And 3. I don't think it would be detrimental to the film: it leaves out a lot of background information elsewhere that is more damaging. For instance the fact Merry is given a blade from Rohan and how it somehow now is powerful enough to break the spell of the Witch-king so that Éowyn could then destroy the Witch-king. That's just totally wrong. There are other examples but that's a big one. Some might claim it's hard for a film to explain that all but a comment from a character along with making sure Aragorn returns the blades to Merry and Pippin would have solved it. – Pryftan Dec 20 '17 at 18:24
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    Not that they necessarily had the blades of the Westernesse ... one presumes the ones Aragorn give them are the blades of the Westernesse but where he would have gotten them is a good question. As is if the film actually took that into account why didn't they take into account their significance and thus return them to the hobbits? Point is the history is not only not displayed well but it's significantly altered in a way that contradicts the story and even keeps things poorly explained. – Pryftan Dec 20 '17 at 18:27
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I'm not aware of Peter Jackson's own remarks on the matter, but I did see other people commenting on how 2-dimensional the character of Aragorn in the book is. As with some of the other prominent characters in LotR, I guess Peter wanted to increase the dynamics of the story and to emphasise the effect of those characters in making their choices. One can see parallels between Peter's treatment of Aragorn and his treatment of Elrond and Arwen, and Faramir.

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    Seriously? I find the movie character shallow, stereotyped, flat, uninteresting…compared to the richness of the original Aragorn’s depth. I feel this is one of the major screw-ups in the movies, like erasing Tom Bombadil. – Reed Jun 12 '15 at 3:15
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    I, too, feel like using "2-dimensional" to describe Aragorn (and Faramir!) in the book... is rather short sighted. I guess some people have no concept for the real depth of a noble spirit. Just because a character is confident, without doubts as to his purpose, doesn't mean they don't have a rich emotional understanding of it all. – DGM Nov 10 '15 at 14:21
  • @DGM The problem with "a noble spirit" is that by definition there isn't a depth to it. Maybe to the person, but not to the story. The script runs on rails because there's no possible alternative path, so all you get is a series of events. The book meets the "hero's journey" requirements for all four hobbits but not for any of the other characters (with the possible exception of Gimli), because none of them have any real challenge so none of them ever have to make a choice. This is particularly a problem with Faramir, and Jackson/Walsh talk about this in the extras. – Graham Apr 11 '16 at 12:31
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    A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man. – Jack B Nimble Mar 11 '17 at 22:35
  • @Graham Yet if you read the appendix you'll see that actually Aragorn does have a choice. Aragorn, Faramir, Denethor and many other characters are depicted just so wrong. And they all do make a choice anyway: which way to turn and whether to go after the orcs or try to find Sam and Frodo (after they deduce that Frodo and Sam had left). That's a significant choice to make and it's long debated (Gondor? Mordor? etc.) in the book too! Yet in the film it's hardly a concern at all. And isn't that what you're saying the film is doing? It's the exact opposite. – Pryftan Dec 20 '17 at 18:32
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Book Aragorn would have come across as a cardboard hero on film, lacking any self-doubt, utterly convinced of his destiny and not evolving in any way from first appearance to last. Film Aragorn follows a more interesting path: he gains an education, as he literally climbs the leadership ranks.

First he's a solo fighter (as far as we know from the films); then he becomes the hobbits' "squad leader." Arriving at Rivendell, he becomes the second-in-command ("XO") of the Nine Walkers. Then when Gandalf falls, we see Aragorn looking around, realizing he's in charge now, and visibly sucking it up and rousing the Fellowship to get back on their feet. From there Aragorn proves himself as a warrior and a great captain of men. But! He still doesn't know how to be a king. He learns that final lesson from Théoden who, though flawed, has more years on a throne than Aragorn has in the chow line. Théoden schools Aragorn in the crucial transition from captain to king (we know this because Aragorn scolds Legolas two minutes after Théoden scolds Aragorn), and from there it's all chase scenes and setpieces until he gets crowned at the end of it all.

I think Jackson did brilliantly in giving Aragorn an arc that would make sense for the films--yes, he may be less awesome, but he's a more interesting character to watch over nine hours.

  • This doesn't answer the question asked (what Jackson had to say on the subject) in any meaningful way. – Valorum Jan 3 '18 at 13:34
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    @Valorum Yes, but none of the other answers address that either ;-) – Skooba Jan 3 '18 at 13:42
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    @Skooba - You know what grammy taught you about two wrongs not making a right? – Valorum Jan 3 '18 at 13:51
  • @Valorum No because it wasn't my grandmother. But whatever. I don't think this is comparable - the two wrongs don't make a right is an issue of morals. This is simply adding thoughts on a fictional tale. Big difference. Whether it's necessary for Hiro to have added it is really besides the point. – Pryftan Jan 3 '18 at 23:47
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I don't think he ever thought of that. Probably Philippa Boyens made the modification and Jackson didn't even care about it. If you watch the extended edition with comments, Jackson seems to forget most of the differences between the film and the book and in his head many of the issues we see in the film were always there. It is weird.

That said, not only the Aragorn from the books wants to be king, he endeavours to know everything he can about Gondor and Arnor. He is obsessed with the idea! He serves in Rohan's army under a fake name, then becomes a commander in Gondor under yet another name. Then he actually walks into Mordor and travels south. He remarks at some point in the council of Elrond, I think, that he has been to the southern countries, where the stars are strange.

In the Return of the King, he leads the armies of the dead to the south of the mountains. In the film he takes those funny ghosts up to Minas Tirith, but in the book he assembles a Gondorian army of real-life soldiers and leads them to Minas Tirith under the King's banner. They know the king is back and they follow this man, an experienced commander with deep knowledge of the enemy.

The films honestly don't make Aragorn any justice. He is much more awesome in the books.

It is true films are shallower than books, but I don't see any issues having the awesome version of Aragorn on screen. I think they really messed up there.

Fun fact to sob over the Hobbit's disaster: when Thranduil tells Legolas to seek Aragorn, it doesn't make any sense because Aragorn is about 10 years old and doesn't even know his name yet. Elrond and his mother (who is still alive by that time) call him Estel and he lives in Rivendell. It would be awesome if they portraied Bilbo seeing him. But that won't happen in our age. xD

  • Concerning the last sentence: keep in mind that in the movie-verse there is not a 17-year gap between Bilbo's party and Frodo's departure from Bag End, so Aragorn is about 27 at the time of the Battle of the Five Armies. – lfurini Apr 20 '17 at 20:02
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    True. But I see no point why the films should have a different timeline. It is just pointless in my humble opinion. – Apollo Apr 27 '17 at 11:04
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    @Apollo Not only do they do not treat Aragorn well they also don't treat Faramir, Denethor and others well. The fact that Gollum is able to poison the mind of Frodo in sending Sam home? As if that would ever happen and as if Sam would leave there in the Minas Vale on his own (and it ignores how they wouldn't have enough food too thus continuity issue)! That's putting Frodo in poor light too. Not to mention the history and as you say time line. They also omit the 7 years in the Battle of Dagorlad though to be fair they do say the scroll of Isildur is 3434 of SA instead of properly 3441. – Pryftan Dec 20 '17 at 18:39
  • @Pryftan - I agree with you in every point. And I'd like to add the scene in The Two Towers in which Frodo faces a winged nazgûl in Osgiliath and holds up the ring. One would think a nazgûl is the most competent agent to capture the one ring, that's why Sauron sent all nine after it in the first place. But it seems he was completely unable to dismount, attack Frodo and take the ring. Why do that? If they simply allow Frodo to carry on in his original path, many questions could be avoided. – Apollo Dec 22 '17 at 9:35
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    @Pryftan - One more thing: the ents, unwilling to attack Saruman. The whole point of that plot device was to show what would happen if trees could fight back. From the moment you remove that purpose from the ents, you miss the point of the episode. There is a certain beauty in the fact that they assemble and march to Isengard, that they take matters into their own hands. Make them hesitate, and it becomes artificial. So Treebeard saw the destruction of Fangorn and instantly all ents magically appear out of nowhere to follow him. What the hell? – Apollo Dec 22 '17 at 9:39

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