Aragorn, Atlantis, Noah and God – Tolkien’s Big Stew of Stories

I tried my best to talk about Aragorn and his relation to the Numenoreans in the last post, but I just ended up talking about Sam. So let’s talk about Aragorn.

When Frodo awoke from his mini-coma, Gandalf told him, among other things, that Strider was actually named Aragorn. He was a Ranger, and the Rangers were “the last remnant in the North of the great people, the Men of the West.”

I’ve written recently about how and why Numenor came to be, as well as how and why it ended. What Gandalf tells Frodo in this passage isn’t much at all – just that he was one of them.

The true meaning of all of this isn’t really given to us until the Return of the King, which was published in late 1955. Prior to that (and even after), readers had to either guess at the true nature of Aragorn or ask Tolkien himself.

In a draft of a September 1954 letter (Fellowship was published in August and Two Towers was published in November), Tolkien explains that Aragorn’s healing of Frodo “might be regarded as ‘magical’, or at least a blend of magic with pharmacy and ‘hypnotic’ processes. But it is (in theory) reported by hobbits who have very little notions of philosophy and science; while Aragorn is not a pure ‘Man’, but at long remove one of the ‘children of Luthien’.” This might not have been the most clear response he could have given, but at least he didn’t spoil the ending.

Which is what he did in a November 1954 draft. In this letter, he goes into quite a bit of detail about the Numenoreans. They were, he recounts, “the highest kind of Men,” “the kings of Men.” He writes a bit about their religion – they were “monotheists; but like the Jews (only more so) with only one physical centre of ‘worship’: the summit of the mountain Meneltarma ‘Pillar of Heaven’ – literally, for they did not conceive of the sky as a divine residence – the centre of Numenor; but it had no building and no temple, as all such things had evil associations.”

Anyway, he retells the story of Numenor, pretty much as how it was recounted here. In this telling, he goes into more detail about those who escaped and how they related to Aragorn.

“So ended Numenor-Atlantis and all its glory. But in a kind of Noachian situation the small party of the Faithful of Numenor, who had refused to take part in the rebellion (though many of them had been sacrificed in the Temple by the Sauronians) escaped in Nine Ships under the leadership of Elendil and his sons Isildur and Anarion, and established a kind of diminished memory of Numenor in Exile on the coasts of Middle-earth – inheriting the hatred of Sauron, the friendship of the Elves, the knowledge of the True God, and (less happily) the yearning for longevity, and the habit of embalming and the building of splendid tombs – their only ‘hallows’: or almost so. But the ‘hallow’ of God and the Mountain had perished, and there was no real substitute.”

Not too long after coming to Middle-earth, the idea of kings faded away, and with it the worship of Illuvatar. By the time of the War of the Ring, Illuvatar was basically forgotten. The only thing that sort of remained was “the refusal to worship any ‘creature’, and above all no ‘dark lord’ or satanic demon, Sauron, or any other, was almost as far as they got.”

The last place of any sort of worship, a “hallow,” as Tolkien called it, was on Mount Mindolluin near Minas Tirith, and it was “only approachable by the King.” It had, like most other things Numenorean, been completely forgotten by the people.

In this letter, Tolkien then explains: “It was re-entered by Aragorn, and there he found a sapling of the White Tree, and replanted it in the Court of the Fountain.” There, now you don’t have to read the third volume – which wouldn’t be published for another year.

And that is really all that I can pull from Tolkien’s letters about Aragorn of the Fellowship of the Ring. More is obviously revealed later, and even before the other volumes were published, Tolkien was excited for everyone to know the ending. I am too, but it’ll take some time to get there.

A Few Notes

  • “Noachian” means “like Noah.” So not only was Numenor his telling of the Atlantis story, it was also something like the Noah story.
  • Again, I can’t stress enough how essential and endearing The Letters of JRR Tolkien is to a greater understanding of Lord of the Rings.
Camera: Ansco Color Clipper Film: Kodak Portra 400NC (expired 01/2003)

Camera: Ansco Color Clipper
Film: Kodak Portra 400NC (expired 01/2003)

About the Photo
Well, Numenoreans were pretty into chopping down trees. They were also taller than most men.

  • Day 104
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 520 (67 from Rivendell)
  • 400 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,258 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Book II, Chapter 3. Encamped along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. Fourth night out from Rivendell. (map)


6 thoughts on “Aragorn, Atlantis, Noah and God – Tolkien’s Big Stew of Stories

  1. Good post again! Though I’d perhaps not go so far as to say that Tolkien was excited for people to know the ending…at least not “most people”! Writing about it in a letter to a publisher is one thing, but letting the cat out of the bag entirely is another. And Tolkien famously didn’t like the title “Return of the King” explicitly because it gave the ending away! 🙂

    That said, I am admittedly only partway through the “Letters” myself…

    • Thanks! And I totally took liberties here. I have no idea what Tolkien was actually thinking.

      I can’t remember who he was writing to. Maybe it was a publisher, but I’m not sure. I don’t have the book in front of me. Also I really need to start giving the letter number in the notes.

      *edit-more info below

    • Ah! Found it. It’s letter 156 written to “Murray”. He wasn’t a publisher, but also the letter was a draft. This version was never sent (though I suppose a final version might have been).

  2. Ahh, yes! The “Letters” contain quite a number of gems… some even better (and to my mind more understandable) than the appendices! As always, I’m enjoying your blog immensely! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s