Frodo offers the Ring to Aragorn and asks, “Would you destroy it?” As Aragorn considers the gift, the Ring calls out to him. “Aragorn. Elessar.” He kneels down and closes Frodo’s hand around the Ring. It is time to let the Ringbearer go. – Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended Edition) 2:43
Blessed is the man who perseveres in temptation, for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life. – James 1:12
There are many times when taking a shortcut seems like a good idea. You may want to avoid a traffic jam by taking a different route. You might try to finish a book report by skipping to the last chapter. You might even ask someone else to do something because you don’t think you’re good enough. However, many times the shortcut takes longer or ends up worse than sticking with the original plan.
Aragorn has many opportunities to take shortcuts to success in The Lord of the Rings trilogy of films. And while he struggles with doubts about his own abilities, he recognizes that there is a better chance for success along the longer, more difficult path.
Strider (Aragorn’s name among the local folk in Bree) is described as “one of them Rangers, dangerous folk from the wild.”
His rough exterior, piercing eyes and dark clothing spark questions about whose side he is on. Frodo, a young but sensible Hobbit, sees clearly when he says, “I think a servant of the enemy would appear fairer and feel fouler.”
Little do the Hobbits realize that the “foul” Aragorn is a direct descendent of Isildur, the man who cut the One Ring of Power from Sauron’s hand. Aragorn is the last of the bloodline of the Numenor kings, whose images are displayed in the huge stone statues towering above the Anduin River.
Long hidden from the enemy, Aragorn could step forward and rightly claim the throne of Gondor, if he has the strength and courage to become the man he was born to be.
Hidden as a young child by his mother, Aragorn is placed under the watchful eye of Elrond and the Elves. To hide his true identity, Elrond gives him the name “Estel,” the Elvish word for “hope.” At Rivendell he learns much about the people, creatures, history and power of Middle-earth. He learns about Isildur’s failure to destroy the Ring and the words that “all in my bloodline shall be bound to its fate.” However, Aragorn gains more practical knowledge during thirty difficult years in the wild, serving in the armies of Gondor and Rohan under many names and disguises. He sharpens his battle skills, learns the hearts of men, and helps expose the evils of Sauron’s allies.
With the finding of the One Ring of Power, Aragorn is faced with a greater challenge – protecting the Ringbearer during the Fellowship’s journey to Mount Doom, without giving in to the temptation to use the Ring. Fortunately, through Elrond’s influence and Gandalf’s counsel, Aragorn knows beyond a doubt that the power of the Ring cannot be wielded against the enemy. The future of Middle-earth depends on their combined efforts to destroy the Ring before the enemy finds it.
Aragorn’s greatest challenge, however, is to use his many talents with confidence. Through all his trials, he shows glimpses of greatness and an innate ability to lead his men to victory. But he must not let persistent fear and doubt hinder his actions. He must find the strength to succeed where his ancestors failed. As Galadriel says at their parting, “you have but one choice – to rise above the heights of all your fathers since the days of Elendil or to fall into darkness, with all that is left of your kin.”
Arwen, ever mindful of Aragorn, feels the uncertainty in him. Gently, she helps him face his past and his future. “You are Isildur’s heir, you are not Isildur himself,” says Arwen. “You are not bound to his fate.” Aragorn, full of doubt, says “His blood flows in my veins, the same weaknesses.” “Your time will come,” says Arwen. “You will face the same evil and you will defeat it.”
How often do we doubt our own abilities and worry that we won’t be “good enough?” How many times have we turned away from the actions we should take as Christians in this world? Do we also take shortcuts to avoid a difficult task, even if we know that our faith calls us to action? How do we find the courage to live a Christian life without being distracted by material needs and entertainment options?
Every day we face many tests of our character and strength. It can be hard to remain calm while stuck in traffic. It takes effort to be truthful about forgetting a homework assignment. It takes courage to act alone in a difficult situation, especially if it is a new experience. But through these tests of our character, we should have faith and believe in our abilities.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes that we should be steadfast in our faith and what we do in this world. “Be awake to all the dangers; stay firm in the faith; be brave and strong. Let everything you do be done in love.”
In his conversations with Boromir, Aragorn realizes who needs him the most – the world of men. “I do not know what strength is in my blood,” Aragorn says to Boromir. “But I swear to you, I will not let . . . our people fail.” His own people, the men and women of Gondor and Rohan, need his strength, convictions and leadership.
From this moment on, Aragorn grows in confidence to lead and make his presence known in the world of men. He leads Legolas and Gimli across the plain in pursuit of the Orcs, he commands the forces at Helm’s Deep, and his words inspire Theoden, king of Rohan, to ride out and defeat the enemy. He then takes the most difficult path to success – the Paths of the Dead. Only the true heir of Isildur can claim command over the spirits of The Dead and engage them in the war against Sauron.
As heir, Aragorn can rightly claim the shards of Narsil, the broken sword that Isildur used to cut the Ring from Sauron’s hand. Upon Arwen’s request, the skilled Elves of Rivendell take the shards of Narsil and create a new weapon – Anduril, the Flame of the West. But only the true king has the power to wield it against the enemy. As Elrond presents the sword to Aragorn, he challenges him further by saying, “Become who you were born to be.” With the acceptance of Anduril, Aragorn’s transformation to a leader of men is complete.
With our birth and Baptism, we make our presence known in the world of men. As a member of the Church, we are challenged to live an active, Christian life in the midst of poverty, injustice, jealousy and evil in this world. We become the true heirs to the kingdom of God, taking on the name of our true self in this world.
There will come a time, when you will be faced with a personal challenge. Will you look for a shortcut or will you believe in your abilities and fulfill your destiny as a Christian in this world?
Have you become the person you were born to be?
First published in the November 22, 2003 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2003 Christopher Fenoglio.