When Arwen Renounced the Twilight and Aragorn Addressed the Oliphant in the Room

For Frodo, as we saw yesterday, Cerin Amroth, the hill just outside of Lothlorien proper, was an incredibly magical place. For everyone in the Fellowship, it seemed like a fine spot for a rest.

But Aragorn was different. When Frodo saw him, he was “standing still and silent as a tree; but in his hand was a small golden bloom of elanor, and a light was in his eyes. He was wrapped in some fair memory: and as Frodo looked at him he knew that he beheld things as they once had been in this same place.”

Arwen vanimelda, namárië! – Fair Arwen, farewell!

This hill, Cerin Amroth, was more than dear to Aragorn. Thirty-eight years prior, it was here that he vowed to marry Arwen Undómiel.

The Aragorn and Arwen story is told in the fifth part of Appendix A, and is surprisingly long and detailed. To break it down, here’s a quick time line (nothing tells the story of true love and sacrifice like a time line!):

241 (Third Age) – Arwen is born to Elrond and Celebrían in Rivendell. She is the youngest of three children. Most of her early life is unknown, but she went between Rivendell and Lothlorien regularly, staying with her maternal grandparents, Galadriel and Celeborn. This was a close family, and from Galadriel, Celebrían inherited the Elessar, the Elfstone, a beautiful green gem said to have the sun’s light within it. Celebrían later gave it to Arwen.

2929 – Aragorn’s parents, Arathorn and Gilraen, are wed. The marriage was opposed by Gilraen’s parents, because they thought that she was too young. Arathorn was 56, and Gilraen only 22. This April-September romance was lovely, but the big fear was that Arathorn would be made Chieftain of the Dúnedain before too long. This was a strange worry, since Arathorn’s father was 110 years old, and the Dúnedain often lived well past 150. But still…

2930 – Arathorn’s father is taken by hill-trolls and killed. This made Arathorn the Chieftain of the Dúnedain long before anyone (except Gilraen’s parents) suspected it would happen.

2931 – Aragorn is born! By birth, being in the line descending from Isildor, he would someday be head of the Dúnedain, like his father and grandfather, etc. Curiously, Aragorn’s grandmother predicted that Aragorn would someday wear a green stone upon his breast.

2933 – Aragorn’s father was fighting against Orcs with the sons of Elrond (Arwen’s twin brothers). He took an arrow in the eye and died, leaving the two year old Aragorn Chieftain of the Dúnedain. To Gilraen, a 26 year old widow and now single mother, this was too much. To protect her son, she took him to live in Rivendell and to be raised by Elrond, who changed Aragorn’s name to Estel, which meant “Hope”. His true identity was hidden from him.

For the next fifteen or so years, Aragorn hung out in Rivendell until he was old enough to accompany Elrond’s sons on adventures, when he leaves. It’s also during this time that Arwen was at Lothlorien. And keep in mind that in 2941 all the stuff in The Hobbit took place. It’s likely then, that Aragorn was in Rivendell when Bilbo and the Dwarves visited. He would have been ten years old.

2951 – The twenty year old Aragorn returns to Rivendell and Elrond tells him of his lineage. He gives him the ring of Barahir, which had been given to Barahir (Beren’s father) by Finrod in the First Age. It had somehow survived a trip to Numenor (even its downfall) and was passed down by Elendil and his heirs and through some twists and turns, it wound up in Rivendell sometime after 1979 of the Third Age. There it joined the shards of Narsil (Isildur’s broken sword), the star of Elendil, and the sceptre of Annuminas. Elrond also gave Aragorn the shards of Narsil, but wouldn’t give him the sceptre until he was king (as in the Return of the King).

But this year was also important for another reason. The day after receiving the Ring of Barahir, Aragorn met Arwen, whom nobody in Rivendell bothered to mention. She had returned from Lothlorien and Aragorn, being all poetic, thought her to be Lúthien Tinúviel, of Beren and Lúthien fame. He immediately fell in love, even though she was 2,690 years older.

When Elrond caught wind of this, he was not at all pleased – not only because of the normal father-daughter hang ups, but for two other reasons. First, she was halfelven, which meant that she could choose to be immortal and travel to the West, but if she married a mortal, she would become a mortal. Also, Elrond knew Aragorn’s true purpose, and a wife would only get in the way of that. I went into more detail about this here.

The very next day, Aragorn left Rivendell and wouldn’t return for nearly thirty years.

2980 – While returning to Rivendell, Aragorn made a stopover in Lothlorien. Galadriel gave him a fine set of silver and white clothes, a nice grey cloak and a gem to wear on his brow. It was in these new digs that Arwen saw him. She was smitten and spent months walking around Lothlorien together.

In the misleadingly-named Midsummer (which was actually the first day of Summer – Mid-year’s day), it was time for Aragorn to leave. They “went to the fair hill, Cerin Amroth, in the midst of the land, and they walked unshod on the undying grass with elanor and niphredil about their feet. And there upon that hill they looked east to the Shadow of and west to the Twilight, and they plighted their troth and were glad.”

While they were on the hill, Arwen (who still called him Estel – adorable) foresaw that he would “be among the great who would destroy” the Shadow. But Aragorn couldn’t see it. He, of course, said that he wasn’t with the Shadow, but he also really had to address the huge Oliphaunt in the room.

“I am mortal, and if you will cleave to me, Evenstar, then Twilight you must also renounce.”

By renouncing the Twilight, she made her decision to become mortal and to die like mortals die. On Cerin Amroth, she gave up unending life to be with Aragorn.

It’s no wonder, in the year 3019, when Aragorn returned to the hill again that he was “still and silent as a tree”, holding elanor and thinking of that Midsummer day. Over the 39 years since he had last been there, he had grown older – he was now 88 years old. But when Frodo saw him, “the grim years were removed from the face of Aragorn, and he seemed clothed in white, a young lord tall and fair; and he spoke words in the Elvish tongue to one whom Frodo could not see. Arwen vanimelda, namárië! he said, and then he drew a breath, and returning out of his thought he looked at Frodo and smiled.”

Camera: Pentax K-1000 Film: Eastman Plus-X (x-2004)

Camera: Pentax K-1000
Film: Eastman Plus-X (x-2004)

A Few Notes

  • Tolkien never figured out the history of the Elfstone, coming up with two ideas, which we’ll get into some other time.
  • If my grandmother could see the future, and all she predicted was that someday I’d wear a green stone, I’d be pretty pissed. Sure, it all worked out, but until it did, I’d seriously question her usefulness as a seer.
  • Carried off by hill-trolls!? Shot in the eye by an Orc arrow!? Tolkien, as we’ve seen, loved weird deaths. Me too.
  • Nobody – absolutely nobody – even mentioned to Aragorn that Elrond had a daughter? For all he knew, Elrond had two sons and that was it. Messed up? Sure is!

About the Photo
For Elves, the West – the Twilight – was across the Sea. And it was this that Arwen was renouncing. I took this at Ruby Beach, along the Washington coast a few weeks ago.

  • Day 184
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 907 (455 from Rivendell)
  • 7 miles to Lothlórien proper
  • 866 miles to Mt. Doom

Book II, Chapter 6, Lothlorien. Entering Lothlorien. January 17, 3019 TA. (map)


27 thoughts on “When Arwen Renounced the Twilight and Aragorn Addressed the Oliphant in the Room

  1. I think they didn’t mention her because Tolkien probably shoe-horned her in like everything else. haha It’s a shame he has so many characters, like Elrond’s sons, that get so little characterization. He really invents too many characters to serve a real purpose in the story.

    • That’s usually the case, but the timing isn’t quite as clear. I think. Now I’m curious and will try to figure this out tonight and report back!

      • It does, yes. Though that’s mostly because of our lack of relationship with them. If I wanted to know more about Arwen, I’d have to turn to fan fiction like Peter Jackson. 🙂

    • I really need to do a separate post on the writing history of Arwen. In the first drafts, however, Aragorn (Trotter) is missing from the dinner table in Rivendell. It was because he was well esteemed in the eyes of the cooks and was helping out in the kitchen!

      Arwen didn’t really come along until much later, when he was writing the Battle of the Pelennor Fields chapter. She was named Finduilas. All that’s said of her was that Aragorn flew her banner. Tolkien might have been borrowing a name from his older Silm writings, or maybe he was going to do some revisions, actually making Finduilas Elron’s daughter.

      The actual love story was hinted at in a note written during the writing of one of the more final drafts, but not much came of it. Then, after he wrote the first drafts of the Mt. Doom bits, he took more notes, mentioning their wedding. After that, he peppered her into the remaining story here and there. Finally, before actually finishing the second draft of the Many Partings chapter, he settled on her name and their relationship.

      Then, in a draft of the epilogue, Tolkien finally came up with the quick story of Ciren Amroth “where the King met Arwen, and the silver trees, and the little white niphredeil, and the golden elanor in the grass that is always green.”

      After all of this, he went back into the story and added a bit of foreshadowing here and there. The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen wasn’t laid down until after the entire book was written (late 1949 – early 1950). In April of 1953, the whole thing was completed and ready to go to press.

      Like I said, someday I’ll do a post about her writing history.

      • Oh! And another thing I just came across – in a 1956 letter, Tolkien wrote:

        “Here I am only concerned with Death as a part of the nature, physical and spiritual of Man, and with Hope without guarantees. That is why I regard the tale of Arwen and Aragorn as the most important of the Appendices; it is part of the essential story, and is only placed so, because it could not be worked into the main narrative without destroying its structure: which is planned to be ‘hobbito-centric’, that is, primarily a study of the ennoblement (or sanctification) of the humble.”

        Of course, he more accurately might have said “it could not be crammed back into the main narrative because it was basically finished when I figured out this ‘part of the essential story’. 🙂

      • Not going to lie. I think it would be exhausting to be Tolkien. He suffered from chronic indecisive disorder. He made so many changes, it’s no wonder he didn’t finish the Sil. I guess I’m kind of the same way. I’ve changed so much in the project I’m working on, I’ll be lucky to ever be published. If you write a separate post about Arwen, maybe you could make it about all his children. I’d love to hear what you know about his sons. I’m a twin, you see, and I think they needed a little more spotlight. Wonderful post btw.

        • Thanks so much! Do you mean about Elrond’s sons? There’s really not much about them. Sadly underdeveloped. They seem like something out of the Hurin stories. I should have done that in the Rivendell sections, but I bet I could squeeze something out of them.

          Tolkien seemed to love the changes. He also knew when to quit. Have you seen the post-LotR rewrite of the first few Hobbit chapters? It’s a mess. Thankfully, he knew better.

    • According to legend, yep. But the earliest accounts, which were supported by an exhumation, hold that he was dismembered and probably beheaded on the battlefield. Fun! I suppose it could be both.

        • Elendil’s father was the eighteenth Lord of Andúnie. If he was exactly 18 generations from Silmarien (which is very uncertain because we don’t know how many times a Lord of Andúnie succeeded a brother or a grandfather), then Arwen and Aragorn are 62 times removed – in the one line that we know about; presumably there are others, just as the present Prince of Wales has at least three descents from George III (in only six generations).

    • I’m kind of surprised Jackson didn’t do something with this. Or was the timeline different for the movies? Either way, seems like a missed opportunity.

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