24 October 2015

Under the Shadow of the Argonath -- The Last of Strider (FR 2.ix.393)

The Pillars of the Kings © Ted Nasmith
'Fear not!' said a strange voice behind him. Frodo turned and saw Strider, and yet not Strider; for the weatherworn Ranger was no longer there. In the stern sat Aragorn son of Arathorn, proud and erect, guiding the boat with skilful strokes; his hood was cast back, and his dark hair was blowing in the wind, a light was in his eyes: a king returning from exile to his own land. 
'Fear not!' he said. 'Long have I desired to look upon the likenesses of Isildur and Anarion, my sires of old. Under their shadow Elessar, the Elfstone son of Arathorn of the House of Valandil Isildur's son heir of Elendil, has nought to dread!'  
(FR 2.ix.393)
'Strider' occurs 226 times in the text of The Lord of the Rings, but the instances I quote above mark the last time the narrator ever calls Aragorn 'Strider.'  Twenty-seven of the twenty-eight subsequent uses of the word to describe Aragorn come in the mouth or thoughts of a character within the story. And the twenty-eighth in fact underscores the moment of transition we have just witnessed. As the members of the company have scattered to seek the missing Frodo, Sam struggles to keep up with Aragorn:
Sam did his best, but he could not keep up with Strider the Ranger, and soon fell behind. He had not gone far before Aragorn was out of sight ahead.
(FR 2.x.405)
It is also worth noting in this connection that the next time Aragorn is publicly addressed as Strider, in the scene where he meets Éomer in the fields of Rohan, is also the first time in which Aragorn openly proclaims himself the 'heir of Isildur Elendil's son of Gondor' (TT 3.ii.431-39). Though awed to see 'dreams and legends spring[ing] to life out of the grass', Éomer at once accepts that Aragorn is who he says he is and calls him 'lord' (433-34). Since Aragorn had initially introduced himself to Éomer as Strider (432), and since the narrator points out the surprise of Gimli and Legolas at Aragorn's new declaration (433), we can again see the transition that was first marked by the narrator's ceasing to use 'Strider' when speaking in his own voice. Once again we see Tolkien's exquisite attention to nearly invisible details helping to make possible the act of subcreation.

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