When the travelers from far and wide gather at the Council of Elrond to decide the fate of the One Ring, there are esteemed members of all races, elven princes, dwarven lords, and stewards of men. Boromir tells the others of a dream he and Faramir were sent that told them of the meetings, and of the weapon of the enemy that could destroy Middle Earth once and for all. He has noble intentions and wants to use the weapon for good, to end his people’s suffering and bring about a new era of peace for the white city.
However, in the 2001 film adaptation, Aragorn warns him that this is not possible and that the alluring voice of the ring would turn any who try to wield it to the power of the dark lord. Boromir arrogantly asks why he, being a ranger, would know anything about it, and Legolas curtly informs the steward that Aragorn is the heir to the throne of Gondor, and should be the king that Boromir swears fielty to. But why doesn’t Boromir already know this, and why has Aragorn kept himself and his lineage concealed, when he knows that the white city is struggling? The answer varies from books to film adaptations.
According to the films, Aragorn made the decision to ‘turn from that path long ago.’ The audience is shown a scene in which he stands with Arwen at the shards of Narsil in Rivendel. He feels unworthy of the throne because the same blood runs in his veins that ran in Isildurs, and Isildur was too weak to resist the power of the ring after he cut it from Sauron’s finger in the Battle of the Last Alliance. Aragorn has therefore spent years shying away from the responsibilities of his forebears and training instead as a Ranger. He was of course still honorable during this time, helping Gandalf with many tasks and protecting people from afar, but the fact that he resists the path ‘already laid before his feet’ is an interesting directorial choice on Peter Jackson’s behalf.
Many fans of the films think he made this decision for two reasons, the first of which is to give Aragorn’s character more of a story arc, to show his struggles and self-doubts and how he rises above them to become a true and noble king. The second is to convey the most essential facts of the story in a limited time constraint, where there wasn’t as much room to include the entire history of Gondor, Arnor, and the fall of the Numenorians.
However, there are vast pages of information about exactly this in the books, from the lineages of the kings in the Appendicies to the stories of the Numenorians themselves in The Silmarillion. Subsequently, in Tolkien’s writings, a lot more is understood about Aragorn’s family tree and his claim to the throne. In the books, he doesn’t shy away from this role, he in fact embraces it proudly but patiently.
For example, he already carries the broken shards of the glowing sword Anduril in a sheath always about his hip, as a reminder of his duties, and as proof of his kinship with Isidur who originally wielded the blade. He is simply respectfully biding his time until the people of Gondor are ready for him to resume his rightful position. He wants to take the throne not because he is power-hungry or because it is his birthright, but because the people love and revere him, and choose him as their leader. This is why he is able to conquer the Palantir from Sauron’s will because he does so with loyalty to his kingdom and his people, rather than lust and hunger for power. When first entrusted with the stone, and warned not to engage in the folly of trying to use he, he replies ‘when have I been hasty or weary, who have waited and prepared for many years?’
This is also true of his ability to command the Army of the Dead. Once again, he could have summoned them at any time, using the fragments of the sword he always carries, but he doesn’t command them until it is of the utmost importance, and there is no other choice. He doesn’t choose to use or abuse his rights and only enforces them once he has been accepted and granted permission by his people. This only comes once he has fought valiantly in the battles for Middle Earth, healed Eowyn and Faramir in the Houses of healing using the ancient techniques of his people, and made flowers bloom once more on the white tree in the courtyard, a true sign that only a king could cause. Thus, when he finally does claim the rulership and is coronated in the citadel, everyone bows to him in love and respect, because he has earned his place among them.
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