On the journey between Bree and Rivendell, Strider’s character becomes more complex, especially when the group arrives at Weathertop. The first suggestion that Strider is more than a roaming do-gooder is the fact that he has earned Gandalf’s respect. According to Gandalf’s letter, and Strider’s subsequent ruminations on how Gandalf would likely proceed, we understand that the two of them have often worked together and that they understand one another well. Just before they reach Weathertop, however, Strider’s learning is on full display. It is here that the ranger of the north divulges his knowledge of history. He answers the hobbits’ questions about Weathertop by sharing his historical knowledge of the area, then he relates some of the tale of Gil-galad.
To the surprise of all, Sam goes on to recite a bit of Gil-galad’s tale! This was a marvelous occurrence to me, as I did not expect it from Sam at all. He was listening to Bilbo closer than I ever gave him credit for! Unfortunately, Sam’s knowledge does not extend past this excerpt and he is unaware of its significance. Later, the hobbits request that Strider tell them the full story and he declines, saying that now is not the time. Instead,
“I will tell you the tale of Tinúviel” said Strider, “in brief—for it is a long tale of which the end is not known” (FR, I, xi, 191).
Then follows a lengthy poem that recounts the story of the meeting of Beren and Lúthien.
This poem is significant for several reasons. First, it allows for exposition of Aragorn’s character and of the history of Middle-earth. This incident shows Aragorn to be knowledgeable of the lore of men and elves. Additionally, this sharing of lore seems to have the side-effect of forestalling the encounter with the Black Riders. They seem to lurk in the shadows until the tale is told and silence falls again. Finally, Corey Olsen posits that this is the moment in the drafting process where Tolkien decides to have LotR and The Silmarillion (not italicize because here it refers to the entire legendarium and not the published text) inhabit the same imaginative world. While this may be the case, when I first read the text, all I garnered from this episode is that Strider has much more wisdom than simply the skills of a tracker and forester. This sense is underlined after the events on Weathertop when Strider reveals that he has been to, and in fact lived in Rivendell for a time.
On Weathertop we see Strider’s real fighting skills for the first time. Contrary to how the movie adaptation depicts the scene, Strider does not use a sword in his combat against the Riders. Instead he uses fire brands to hold them off. This was significant to me in a couple of ways. First, it demonstrates that he is a formidable warrior in that he can adapt and use different weaponry when the situation dictates. Also, the imagery of Aragorn wielding the fire, a source of light, against the dark, shadowy Riders was symbolically important to me as a young reader.
The final insight I wanted to discuss about Strider is his use of Athelas on Frodo’s wound before Glorfindel arrives. This episode underscores Strider’s learning again, but it is not strange that a forester would have a bit of herb lore. The scene, however, demonstrates more about Strider than just his knowledge base. It demonstrates his emotional investment in the hobbits. Strider seems to genuinely care for the hobbits and he wants to ease Frodo’s suffering and delay the poison of the blade as much as he can. This care becomes more evident as this leg of the journey continues and he becomes increasingly worried about Frodo.
Where Do We Go From Here?
What Do You Think?
Did you picture Aragorn with a sword on Weathertop or not?