My Favorite Character in The Lord of the Rings (Classic Remarks)

Classic Remarks

WHAT IS CLASSIC REMARKS?

Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.

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THIS WEEK’S PROMPT:

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CHARACTER IN THE LORD OF THE RINGS?

Star Divider

I want to preface this by saying I’m not certain I have a favorite character from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. There are a number of characters I like, including Eowyn, Faramir, and Legolas, and a number of characters I think are fascinating even if they might not be “my favorite.” (For example, see Krysta’s post on reconsidering Boromir.) However, for the sake of this post, I want to talk about why Aragorn has always been one of my favorite characters.

A lot of Tolkien scholarship extols the presence of hobbits in The Lord of the Rings, comparing them to the Everyman and suggesting that Frodo and company are what make the story really “relatable.” Hobbits are the small people with no particular power or previous role in great world events, yet their decisions, their perseverance, and their commitment to doing what is right are what drive the novel and help free all of Middle Earth from the evil of Sauron and the Ring. As Elrond states:

“This is the hour of the Shire-folk, when they arise from their quiet fields to shake the towers and counsels of the Great. Who of all the Wise could have foreseen it? Or, if they are wise, why should they expect to know it, until the hour has struck?”

All this love for the importance of ordinary people means, however, that Aragorn often gets tossed to the side. Scholars–and general readers–sometimes think that Aragorn simply is not interesting: he’s a king, a skilled warrior, a leader, etc. Liking the “traditional hero” is just too obvious for them.

Well, I like traditional heroes.

I enjoy a good epic adventure, whether it’s an old story like Beowulf or a new fantasy like Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive, and I love that Aragorn is a strong, admirable character who brings a sense of gravity to the novel. Sure, he’s not “relatable” because I will never be a monarch or a leader of an elite group of fighters or even a mysterious and forbidding character in a tavern, but the feeling that he’s a bit larger than life is what’s beautiful about him–and the book as a whole. He’s also something I think most of us would aspire to be: brave, confident, and wise. He’s willing to sacrifice everything to keep others safe, going so far as to lead what most think is a suicide mission to distract Sauron at the Black Gate so Frodo and Sam have a final chance to destroy the One Ring.

Dismissing Aragorn as some sort of run-of-the-mill hero type also does a disservice to the sadness that surrounds him. First, he has some personal sorrows. He is in exile from his own kingdom; though he does serve Gondor under a pseudonym, he spends years in the wild with the Rangers, protecting Middle Earth for little thanks. He’s also separated from the woman he loves, as Elrond will not give his blessing for Arwen and Aragorn to marry until Aragorn is king and “worthy.”

Second, he brings a sense of sorrow and things passing to the story as a whole. After Aragorn is crowned king (only after he is assured the people of Gondor desire his coronation), readers know he is essentially the last of his kind–the last truly great king of royal Númenórean descent. Although he has children, one gets the sense that Middle Earth has lost something awe-inspiring and beautiful when Aragorn dies. In another parallel with Beowulf, one can feel the passing of an age with the passing of a final great king.

Aragorn is a hero, yes, but labeling him one as if that explains everything about him and he is uninteresting as an individual character overlooks the complexity Tolkien weaves around him. Also, basically everyone in The Lord of the Rings ends up being a hero, and isn’t the exploration of heroism in many forms one of the things fans like about it?

Briana

20 thoughts on “My Favorite Character in The Lord of the Rings (Classic Remarks)

  1. salonimore1702 says:

    I recently reread the series and I was blown away by how nuanced Aragorn’s character really is! I had missed that in my first few readings probably because I was too immature to understand. The sorrow he experiences after Boromir’s death and the weight of responsibility (he blamed himself for the breaking of the fellowship) both contributed a lot to the depth of his character.

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      That’s a great point! I’ve read a number of pieces where people were just like, “Eh, he’s an expected hero, blah, blah, blah,” as if being heroic weren’t still *difficult* for him and full of tough decisions and regrets for him. Sure, Frodo and company have NO experience with “going on adventures” and roughing it in the wild and whatnot, but Aragorn clearly isn’t having an easy time of things either, plus he had to work hard to be so apparently “effortlessly” heroic!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. mphtheatregirl says:

    While the Hobbits are my favorite characters, that does not mean I don’t like any of the others. Like Aargorn and Legolas for example.

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  3. Never Not Reading says:

    Aragorn is just the best. I always loved how unassuming and humble he was, despite being the King of Gondor and the greatest tracker of all time etc. He is wise, but he’s not extra about it like Gandalf is. He just does the right thing and doesn’t expect anything for it. If Eowyn is obsessed with honor and valor, Aragorn is the opposite. As long as Sauron is defeated he’s not too concerned about *who* gets the glory.

    Here’s my post: https://nevernotreadingblog.wordpress.com/2020/07/31/classic-remarks-favorite-lord-of-the-rings-character/

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yes, every time I mention liking Legolas, someone says “because you like Orlando Bloom?” :p I think Bloom was FABULOUS as Legolas, but I don’t think I’ve seen him in any other movie besides Pirates of the Caribbean and don’t really care about him; I just like the character!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ashley says:

        Orlando was good in Kingdom of Heaven and Elizabethtown was just odd. I can’t think of what else he was in either. He kinda faded from the scene. LOTR was his first set of films right out of acting school and I think the success ruined him, didn’t have a chance to grow, haha.

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  4. Michael J. Miller says:

    Ahhhhhhhh, I LOVE this! I love that you wrote about Aragorn! My last few weeks have been sort of preoccupied so I wouldn’t’ve had time to write for this Classic Remarks anyway but, when I read this prompt I thought, “Eh, my favorite character is Aragorn and that will probably just look like a lazy pick” (side note, I often doubt my own relationship with LOTR because, while I enjoy it, I don’t have the connection to it that I do with Marvel comics or Doctor Who or Star Wars or Outlander so I always feel like I didn’t do my homework when I talk about it). But I do love him! I was going to write about how even though Aragorn is this grand, classic, epic hero, the fact that he and Arwen can’t be together (until the end) adds this poignant bit of relatability to him. I was going to go into this whole thing about not being able to be with the one you love and how all the grand adventures in the world really don’t mean anything without love buuuut then I didn’t. So I am extra happy you wrote about Aragorn! Yay!

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      This makes me feel so much better! There just seems to have been such a shift to “we should appreciate the unexpected heroes” that saying I like Aragorn does feel unimaginative. “Lazy” is definitely a good word. Like, he’s heroic so OF COURSE you like him; talk about someone else. I’m really glad to see a lot of people in the replies say they like him, too!

      I’m also really glad you picked up on the poignancy because I do think people overlook that, but it is one of the things make him seem less of a legend and more like someone with actual emotions and trials.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Michael J. Miller says:

        I think that goes a long way to marking the difference between a good and great character. I’d say it’s easier to imagine large, sweeping heroic deeds. But to take a character who performs such deed and still make that character feel real and relatable in their heroics…that’s far more rare. That’s why I’ve always liked Aragorn so much. As you say, I’ll never be a king nor will I lead armies into battle – epic and legendary or otherwise. But I still connect to him in a very real way in those quiet, intimate moments/experiences.

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