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In the books of The Lord of the Rings, unlike the movies, Aragorn never seems to doubt that he will eventually claim the throne, and Elrond never seems to doubt it either. I got the impression that Elrond always saw Aragorn as being different from all the heirs of Isildur who had gone before him, and many other characters seem to share this opinion.

Aragorn's grandmother predicted that he would wear a bright green stone on his breast. Gandalf had brought such a stone, called Elessar or Elfstone, from Valinor and given it to Galadriel, saying that she would one day give it to another, who would be a renewer and healer, and who would come to be known as Elessar himself (as we know, Galadriel gave the stone to Aragorn, and his royal name was Elessar). When Aragorn was brought to Rivendell to be raised by Elrond, Elrond named him Estel, which means "hope".

Later, Elrond revealed to Aragorn his true name and ancestry, and gave him the Shards of Narsil and the Ring of Barahir. We are told that the heirlooms of the Chieftains of the Dunedain, including the Shards of Narsil and the Ring of Barahir, were kept in Rivendell for safekeeping for 1,000 years, and were apparently never given to anyone before Aragorn after they came to reside at Rivendell. Aragorn falls in love with Arwen, and Elrond gives them his blessing, but says that they can't get married until Aragorn becomes king of Gondor and Arnor.

Later still, when Aragorn sets out from Rivendell with the Fellowship, Elrond orders his smiths to reforge the Shards of Narsil for the first time since it was broken 3,000 years earlier (Tolkien Gateway says: "In the books, he actually wears the broken blade and shows it to the Hobbits when they meet at The Prancing Pony in Bree, and its reforging prior to the departure of the Fellowship is a decisive move toward kingship", and since Elrond asked his smiths to reforge it, we can assume that he supported this 'decisive move toward kingship'). Arwen sets to work on making the Standard which Aragorn will bear in battle. Elrond summons the other Rangers of the North, tells them to bring the Standard to Aragorn, and asks them to remind him to seek the Oathbreakers and force them to fulfill their oath to Isildur. He sends them out to find Aragorn, and orders his two sons to go with them.

Bid Aragorn remember the words of the seer, and the Paths of the Dead.
- Elrond, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, Book V, Chapter 2: "The Passing of the Grey Company"

All of this gives me the impression that Elrond was completely supportive of Aragorn, and always wanted and expected him to become king - it seems like Elrond, and many others, including Arwen and Gandalf, saw Aragorn as being different from all the heirs of Isildur who had gone before him. But some people here feel otherwise. They think Elrond opposed the marriage, didn't think much of Aragorn, and said he could only marry Arwen if after becoming king because he didn't think Aragorn could do it.

What does Tolkien say about this? Did Elrond realize that Aragorn was different from his predecessors, and would become king? Did he support Aragorn on his road to the throne? Or did he underestimate Aragorn and think that his "No marriage unless you're a king" rule would prevent Aragorn from marrying Arwen?

  • Haters gonna hate... – Lexible May 29 '15 at 20:41
  • As for others feeling otherwise I have this to say. The Flat Earth Society is a real thing. Doesn't mean they're correct however. – Pryftan Jan 3 '18 at 23:50
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Yes.

That was unhelpful; I'll try to do better.

Does Elrond support Aragorn becoming King?

Sort of. Elrond supported the heirs of Isildur generally, but with Aragorn he seems to recognize early on that they're in the middle of an important historical moment, and Aragorn is going to be the one who either succeeds or fails utterly. He doesn't appear have much preference for either outcome, and is content to let Aragorn succeed or fail of his own accord:

'"Here is the ring of Barahir," [Elrond] said, "the token of our kinship from afar; and here also are the shards of Narsil. With these you may yet do great deeds; for I fortell that the span of your life shall be greater than the measure of Men, unless evil befalls you or you fail at the test. But the test will be hard and long. The scepter of Annúminas I withhold, for you have yet to earn it."

Return of the King Appendix A "Annals of the Kings and Rulers" (v) "Here Follows a Part of the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen"

Even after Aragorn falls madly in love with Arwen, Elrond is of the same opinion:

"Aragorn, Arathorn's son, Lord of the Dúnedain, listen to me! A great doom awaits you, either to rise above the height of all your fathers since the days of Elendil, or to fall into darkness with all that if left of your kin. Many years of trial lie before you. You shall neither have wife, nor bind any woman to you in troth, until your time comes and you are found worthy of it."

Return of the King Appendix A "Annals of the Kings and Rulers" (v) "Here Follows a Part of the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen"

Did Elrond set an impossible barrier for Arwen's hand?

No, not remotely. In fact, Elrond seemed to believe that hope of marrying Arwen would motivate Aragorn (emphasis mine):

'When Elrond learned the choice of his daughter, he was silent, though his heart was grieved and found the doom long feared none the easier to endure. But when Aragorn came again to Rivendell he called him to him1, and he said:

'"My son, years come when hope will fade, and beyond them little is clear to me. And now a shadow lies between us. Maybe, it has been appointed so, that by my loss the kingship of Men may be restored. Therefore, though I love you, I say to you: Arwen Undómiel shall not diminish her life's grace for less cause. She shall not be the bride of any Man less than the King of both Gondor and Arnor. To me then even our victory can bring only sorrow and parting - but to you hope of joy for a while.

Return of the King Appendix A "Annals of the Kings and Rulers" (v) "Here Follows a Part of the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen"

Obviously Elrond isn't exactly thrilled about this - and it's hard to blame him - but he seems more resigned than upset. Tolkien doesn't discuss why this is, but we can speculate.

To me, the most likely explanation is that Arwen's choice was already made, and there's nothing Elrond could do about it. We get to see the moment where Arwen falls in love with Aragorn, and it's written like this:

And thus is was that Arwen beheld [Aragorn] again after their long parting; and as he came walking towards her under the trees of Caras Galadhon laden with flowers of gold, her choice was made and her doom appointed.

Return of the King Appendix A "Annals of the Kings and Rulers" (v) "Here Follows a Part of the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen"

Arwen is only the second Elf we know of (the first being Elrond's brother Elros2) who made the Mortal choice, so we don't know if it was even possible for her to change her mind; however, the passage suggests it was not; "her doom was appointed" seems pretty definitive. So, from Elrond's perspective, there's not a whole lot of point arguing over it. The choice is made, so he may as well make sure it's worth something.


1 Seriously, Tolkien? "He called him to him"? I expected better.

2 I initially had Lúthien here as well, but on reflection that seems inappropriate; Lúthien didn't exactly choose mortality in the same way Elros or Arwen did; she was already dead, and was just allowed to return for a limited period. There's no question in my mind that there was a "no backsies" clause on that agreement

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    +1 as always, and again, exactly as I thought. I always believed that the conditions Elrond set for their marriage were intended to motivate Aragorn, encourage him, and to ensure that he wouldn't get distracted from the task of fulfilling his destiny and realizing his full potential. – Wad Cheber May 29 '15 at 19:08
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    And as I see it, Tolkien tends to use the word "doom" somewhat differently than we use it today. In Tolkien's work, it means "fate" or "destiny", not necessarily something horrible. Of course, if someone is destined to a horrible fate, "doom" can refer to something horrible happening, but it does not inherently mean something bad. – Wad Cheber May 29 '15 at 19:12
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    "This is the doom that we must deem" - Elrond, at the Council. – Matt Gutting May 29 '15 at 19:15
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    The second quote sounds like Elrond is acting in his role as Aragorn's foster dad, not his role as Arwen's dad. "You can't marry anyone until you clean your room, take out the garbage, and become king of Gondor and Arnor!" – Wad Cheber May 30 '15 at 0:42
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    I disagree about your logic with Lúthien: 'Yet at the last Beren was slain by the Wolf that came from the gates of Angband, and he died in the arms of Tinúviel. But she chose mortality, and to die from the world, so that she might follow him; and it is sung that they met again beyond the Sundering Seas, and after a brief time walking alive once more in the green woods, together they passed, long ago, beyond the confines of this world. So it is that Lúthien Tinúviel alone of the Elf-kindred has died indeed and left the world, and they have lost her whom they most loved.' – Pryftan Dec 20 '17 at 17:43
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In the first place, you're right in saying that the sons of the chieftains were fostered at Rivendell, and that the heirlooms of Isildur's house were kept there; but that doesn't preclude the possibility that other chieftains before Elrond were similarly presented with the heirlooms of their line when Elrond saw fit. I don't see that we have any reason to believe that Aragorn was the first to whom this happened (though it is certainly possible).

The one thing that we do see that appears to be unique to Aragorn is Elrond's foresighted statement about him, made at the time he presented the heirlooms:

With these you may yet do great deeds; for I foretell that the span of your life shall be greater than the measure of Men, unless evil befalls you or you fail at the test.

(Appendix A, "The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen")

Later, confronting Aragorn about his feelings for Arwen, Elrond adds:

A great doom awaits you, either to rise above the height of all your fathers since the days of Elendil, or to fall into darkness with all that is left of your kin.

This is rather clearly meant to indicate that Elrond foresees that Aragorn will, somehow or other and perhaps many years in the future, be in a position to receive the kingship—and not only the kingship of Arnor, which his more recent ancestors had held, but the kingship of a reunited Gondor and Arnor.

With this statement in particular in mind, it seems clear that in fact Elrond did realize, through some preternatural means, that Aragorn was different from his predecessors, and at least that it was during his time that the heirs of Isildur would have the opportunity to recover the kingship. His actions on behalf of Aragorn should be seen, then, in that light: his support of Aragorn, and desire that "what should be, shall be" (to use Galadriel's words on an entirely different subject).

  • +1 - exactly as I suspected. It is almost impossible to imagine Elrond trying to obstruct Aragorn's progress, in light of the fact that he clearly loves Aragorn. – Wad Cheber May 29 '15 at 19:04
  • @WadCheber Yup, Aragorn is, after all, his great, great,...,grand nephew. – Lexible May 29 '15 at 20:44
  • @Lexible - I was thinking more along the lines of Elrond having raised Aragorn "as his own son". – Wad Cheber May 29 '15 at 23:45
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    @Lexible - When 2 year old Aragorn was brought to Rivendell to be raised by Elrond, "Elrond took the place of [Aragorn's] father and came to love him as a son of his own" – Wad Cheber May 29 '15 at 23:51
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    Likely all of the Dúnedain are descended from Elros, and a large minority of them can say how. – Anton Sherwood Apr 26 '17 at 2:41

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