The Strength of Men.

Zsoro
7 min readNov 13, 2023

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~ essay x commentary x ode to Aragorn and The Lord of the Rings.

In Middle Earth, the time draws nigh where darkness will eclipse light. The Elves are leaving to elysium and the Dwarves have nearly all gone into the earth. The Men of Rohan and Gondor fight on, at the edges of the world, where orcs and goblins and monsters roam. Their souls are becoming as restless as wolves, their lands and lineages going as ruined as their castles.

The world has changed…” Indeed, the One Ring resurfaces ~ the almighty hyperobject of a Dark Lord long past and now returning. It represents the kind of magic that everyone in the world must react to, or else. Mages and shadow beasts flock under the wings of Sauron, faithless and accursed, while Rangers and istars emerge from their exiles with mystical insights in tow and preparations to command. Machines of war lay on the horizon, reaping the land of resources, creating pits of iron and decay, spawning ruthless raiders set to sweep the lands of their greenery. For the realms of Men, Dwarves, and Elves alike, these are dire times.

In this age, myths perish and mortals corrupt; there are coming days of “wrath and ruin” for the civilized world. That world has reached the great conflict of its time, the initiation of the proverbial Great War that some generations must carry into history, their lives given to birth it.

Men lead the front of civilization in skeleton crews, neglected by dull-eyed kings who wilt under their crowns. The kingdom of Man is strongest and most populous within Middle Earth; though, even before the world war, they are weakening. With the Elves and Dwarves diminished, Men are simply the only People left to half-heartedly hold the line. And Men are burdened by an accumulation of past sins, a history of self-destruction. Isildur is one of many names they remember with both pride and regret. And lo, here and now, Man’s greed and cowardice threaten to end the world all over again, continuously so.

All the while, the Hobbits dance and eat and play, Middle Earth’s truest victors. Living lush and simple lives in the emerald countryside, their great worries are gardening and youthful crushing. Hobbitkind is comfortable to be away from history, with feasts and fireworks and their feet at the fire. Soon, they too become embroiled in the conflict; there can be no placid escape from the end times. Even for a Hobbit. Bilbo carried the last generation, now it is Frodo’s turn to partake in his own grand {soul-crushing} adventure.

The Fellowship of the Ring forms from the collective call of duty, as a response to the coming night of Sauron’s reign. They march with light in hand and courage to combat it, raising the sacred flame of Life against Death. They are the operatives tasked with carrying the One Ring to Mordor, their combined strength enough to vanquish its evil from the world forever ~ and not succumb to using it for themselves.

The Fellowship consists of 9 persons ~ representing a range of Middle Earth’s remaining Free Peoples: one wizard, one Elf, one Dwarf, two Men, and four Hobbits. Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, Aragorn and Boromir, Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin.

Of the party of intrepid heroes, the dueling spirit of Men comprises Boromir and Aragorn; they make up the most intriguing duality. The Prince of Gondor, prideful and bombastic, a warrior-king-to-be, hungry for the power ~ versus ~ the True Heir to the throne of Man, bashfully efficacious in wilderness exile, a silent champion for the people, a Ranger with the blood of Númenor running through his veins very much un-named as “Strider.”

~ “The hands of the king are the hands of a healer.”

Boromir’s lust for the Ring, for power, enshrouds him as the paragon of Man’s weakness. Before Frodo in the woods, his jabbering utterances and wayward actions symbolize our every complexifying temptation in the presence of naked power. Can we resist it? Can we overcome the will to power? Can we avoid corruption, betrayal, the fall?

Aragorn’s relative perfection posits him as the Prince of Gondor’s pure foil, Man’s ultimate strength. Bold, independent, strong. As a Ranger, he lives in the woods, gracefully so, as the secret protector of civilized lands against the shadow. He is destined for the throne of Man and yet eschews it. We come to see through the Fellowship’s adventure and an epic campaign of orc-hunting and his eventual vanguard-leading gallops into the maw of Mordor that Strider was a sleeping giant of a man. Reclaiming such True names and titles with action, Aragorn is Man’s great hero ~ our exemplary warrior-philosopher-king x mythic father figure fit for deification during life. {The world state had him in the shadows, now the end times have brought him back.}

Amidst Tolkien’s tale of struggles for rulership over the land, the relative strength and weakness of Man arises within this pair’s travails. Aragorn and Boromir ~ the dueling dynamic of Manhood in an age of crisis and war. It is their honor and corruptibleness, resilience and redemption, respectively, that drive a prime narrative force in this saga.

Through Boromir’s public prominence and Aragorn’s disquieting exile, these two serve as a microcosm of Tolkien’s commentary upon Man’s ambivalent, adaptable, and ever-evolving nature. Which Man does society invite into its flows? Which Man does our world wish to shine a light upon? Which Man most deserves our admiration and power?

~ “Be at peace, son of Gondor.”

Boromir was a promised prince, groomed for success, blusterous and ambitious, ever-errant yet gold-hearted in the end.

Aragorn is strong, Aragorn is kind. Aragorn is exiled. Aragorn is returned for battle and rulership. Aragorn is the hero of ages, a king, warrior, lover, magician ~ the peak of masculinity.

Each of Boromir and Aragorn are strong, in truth; one is just further along the path than the other.

Aragorn is the strength of Man. We look up to him yet, right alongside Boromir.

And lo, as Gandalf says, urging the transformation along inside Aragorn’s heart and mind:

When will the strength of Men return?

He is also saying: When will they become like YOU.

In Middle Earth or on our Earth, applying this intrepid, Aragornian sense to the vital question, we must also ask:

When will the strength of Men return?

Analysis: *Aragornian* strength goes beyond the perfecting of King energy, and is certainly not a painless path. Aragorn thrives in the dark and danger; Aragorn’s greater strengths lay in his resilience and the compassionate, truth-seeking spirit he carries into every relationship. He is like an integral sunlight in the abyss, the messianic reverser of the twilighting empire of Man. He is a slayer of monsters, a reader of books, and a singer of songs. He is a big-hearted enjoyer of life and the company of all People.

Aragorn is Man’s unifier and our ideal example.

The resurrection of one’s True self, ignited in response to great conflict, inevitably comes for all Men. The return of Aragorn’s strength is borne of vigorous journeying through crisis and an embrace of a sacred duty to lead his fellow Men, always with grace, foresight, conscientiousness.

However, the dao of Aragorn necessarily originates in how this man first lead himself alone, in exile, as an invisible protector on the frontier living one with nature.

Remember, we began with “Strider,” not Aragorn.

Aragorn, son of Arathorn, King Elessar Telcontar, wielding Andúril, “Flame of the West,” is still Strider too.

Behold, the strength of Men returns from the shadows, inevitably.

We Striders are stronger than we know. ~

“..But certainly there was an Eden on this very unhappy earth. We all long for it, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most humane, is still soaked with the sense of ‘exile’.”
— Tolkien, Letter #96.

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