Category Archives: Literature

22 of my favorite Tolkien quotes for Hobbit Day

A compilation of my favorite Tolkienisms to celebrate September 22nd, otherwise known as Bilbo and Frodo’s shared birthday, otherwise known as Hobbit Day.  Fair warning, there’s a good dose of Aragorn and Faramir–because all the L.R. fans pick favorites!

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“Bilbo was sadly reflecting that adventures are not all pony-rides in May-sunshine.” -The Hobbit, pg. 36

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“‘War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory.  I love only that which they defend.” -The Two Towers, pg. 656

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“It needs but one foe to breed a war, not two. . .  And those who have not swords can still die upon them.” -The Return of the King, pg. 937

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“Among the tales of sorrow and of ruin that come down to us from the darkness of those days there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death a light that endures.” -The Silmarillion, pg. 162

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“‘There go three that I love, and the smallest not the least,’ he said.  ‘He knows not to what end he rides; yet if he knew, he still would go on.'” -The Return of the King, pg. 762

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“‘Maybe the paths that you each shall tread are already laid before your feet, though you do not see them.'” -The Fellowship of the Ring, pg. 413

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“‘Too often have I heard of duty. . . I have waited on faltering feet long enough.  Since they falter no longer, it seems, may I not now spend my life as I will?’

‘Few may do that with honour,’ he answered.”

-The Return of the King, pg. 767

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“‘But these evils can be amended, so strong and gay a spirit is in him.  His grief he will not forget; but it will not darken his heart, it will teach him wisdom.'” -The Return of the King, pg. 851

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“‘Good morning!’ said Bilbo, and he meant it.  The sun was shining, and the grass the was very green.  But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat.

‘What do you mean?’ he said.  ‘Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?’

‘All of them at once,’ said Bilbo.”

-The Hobbit, pg. 13

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“This of course is the way to talk to dragons, if you don’t want to reveal your proper name (which is wise), and don’t want to infuriate them by a flat refusal (which is also very wise).  No dragon can resist the fascination of riddling talk and of wasting time trying to understand it.” -The Hobbit, pg. 191

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“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not whither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

-The Fellowship of the Ring, pg. 193

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while.  The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him.  For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.  His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself.  Now, for the moment, his own fate, and even his master’s, ceased to trouble him.” -The Return of the King, pg. 901

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“He walked in the deserted ways of Tirion, and the dust upon his raiment and his shoes was a dust of diamonds, and he shone and glistened as he climbed the long white stairs.  And he called aloud in many tongues, both of Elves and Men, but there were none to answer him.” -The Silmarillion, pg. 248

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“‘In this high place you may see the two powers that are opposed one to another; and ever they strive now in thought, but whereas the light perceives the very heart of the darkness, its own secret has not been discovered.  Not yet.'” -The Fellowship of the Ring, pg. 395

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“‘Then you would have us retreat to Minas Tirith, or Dol Amroth, or to Dunharrow, and there sit like children on sand-castles when the tide is flowing?’ said Imrahil.

‘That would be no new counsel,’ said Gandalf.  ‘Have you not done this and little more in all the days of Denethor?  But no!  I said this would be prudent.  I do not counsel prudence.'”

-The Return of the King, pg. 860

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“‘Do not scorn pity that is the gift of a gentle heart!'” -The Return of the King, pg. 943

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“‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.

‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'”

-The Fellowship of the Ring, pg. 55

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“He rose and looked long at Gandalf.  The others gazed at them in silence as they stood there facing one another.  The grey figure of the Man, Aragorn son of Arathorn, was tall, and stern as stone, his hand upon the hilt of his sword; he looked as if some king out of the mists of the sea had stepped upon the shores of lesser men.  Before him stooped the old figure, white, shining now as if with some light kindled within, bent, laden with years, but holding a power beyond the strength of kings.” -The Two Towers, pg. 489

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“‘The world is all grown strange.  Elf and Dwarf walk in company in our daily fields; and folk speak with the Lady of the Wood and yet live; and the Sword comes back to war that was broken in the long ages ere the fathers of our fathers rode into the Mark!  How shall a man judge what to do in such times?’

‘As he has ever judged,’ said Aragorn.  ‘Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men.  It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.'”

-The Two Towers, pg. 428

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“And a great wind rose and blew, and their hair, raven and golden, streamed out mingling in the air.” -The Return of the King, pg. 941

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“‘Then the prophecies of the old songs have turned out to be true, after a fashion!’ said Bilbo.

‘Of course!’ said Gandalf.  ‘And why should not they prove true?  Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself?  You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit?  You are a very fine person, Mr Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!'”

-The Hobbit, pg. 255

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I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.

-The Fellowship of the Ring, pg. 313

Three Reasons why Lord of the Rings and Narnia survived the Test of Time: A Guest Post by Savannah Grace

Happy Monday, readers!  As you can see, we have our first-ever guest post today, by the lovely Savannah Grace!  So enjoy the post, and hop over to Savannah’s beautiful blog, Scattered Scribblings, here.

“One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them …”

“Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy.”

I think almost every writer or reader of fantasy would know which books these two quotes are from – and neither of the books are modern! Both of them are over sixty years old – so what helped Lord Of The Rings and Narnia survive the test of time? And how can we help our stories do the same?

1. Both Authors Took Risks

Fantasy was still a new thing when J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis wrote their stories – a lot of people consider them the ‘Founding Fathers Of Fantasy’. Fantasy wasn’t a popular thing back then like it is today, so it was a little risky to write a story like Lord Of The Rings or Narnia. But, looking back at these authors, and other authors whose books have lasted, I’ve learned that it can really pay off to take risks.

It’s hard to really hard “go out on a limb” with our stories nowadays – it feels like every idea has already been thought of and used! But one of the important things to learn about writing is that no one writes the same way. Two people could write a story with the same premise, and the stories would still be so different. Which means that it might not just be an idea that you can take risks with – it can be your writing style plus the idea that is a risk. And sometimes risks seriously pay off ;).

2. The Characters Are All Unique, Realistic, And Easy To Relate To

The Pevensie siblings are some of the most realistic characters – the childlike innocence of Lucy, the feeling of responsibility for his siblings that Peter had, Edmund’s jealousy, and Susan’s caution. All of the siblings are unique from each other, and they’re all easy to relate to.

Same thing goes for Lord Of The Rings. Not only are the character different from each other in personality (I don’t think anyone would mistake Gimli’s personality for Gandalf’s!), but J.R.R Tolkien has different races of people in his story, which makes each character even more different from the others.

One of the easiest ways to make sure all of your characters are different is to put them side-by-side and see if the story would change much if you cut one. If the answer is ‘no’, then you’ve probably got a character or two that isn’t quite needed in the story. And if the answer is ‘yes’, then well done! Keep your story-people realistic, unique, and easy-to- relate-to, and you’ll have a cast of winning characters on your hands.

3. The Books’ Themes

Honestly, I think this one is the most important. Books always stick around when they have powerful themes, because – no matter what time we live in, or what the circumstances are -there are just some themes that we’ll always be able to relate to. The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe (the most well-known Narnia book, in my opinion), has themes of redemption and sacrifice. The Lord Of The Rings has themes of courage and hope.

It’s easy for books to survive when they have themes that everyone can relate to, no matter how long ago the book was written. Some themes, like bravery and love and never-giving- up, are never going to run out of steam, because they’re some of the themes that will always play a big part in real life.

Let’s take risks, writers. Your story could be the next one to survive the test of time.

“Courage, dear heart.”

~ Savannah Grace

Which is your favorite, Narnia or Lord Of The Rings? What are your favorite themes to read/write about?
Feel free to ask Savannah any questions you have in the comments.  Also, you can read a post by yours truly on her blog today, so go check it out!

Aragorn: The Reluctant Hero (A Detour Through the Movies)

Our pastor recently mentioned Aragorn in one of his sermons.  Needless to say, I was thrilled.

(listen to it here–the recording is from the first service, not the second, so you can’t hear me whooping the first time he says Aragorn’s name. 🙂 )

His sermon was based on the movies, which ruffled this purist just a tiny bit, but it was still very thought-provoking.  One of the biggest differences between book-Aragorn and movie-Aragorn is his attitude towards inheriting the throne of Gondor:

In the books, he is 100% on board with the idea at the time of The Lord of the Rings–in fact, it’s pretty much his goal in life.  Like I talked about in my post Aragorn: The Servant Leader, he knows he is a king and he knows he can lead.  He isn’t afraid of who he is.  And as far as I’ve seen digging through appendices, he always was on board, since he figured out who he was at the age of 20.

However, in the movies, Aragorn isn’t sure he trusts himself to rule.  After his ancestor, Isildur, failed pretty miserably and left a terrible mess for others to fix, Aragorn doesn’t have faith he can do any better.  It takes nearly half the movies for him to finally embrace his ancestry.

Like I talked about in my last Aragorn post, I’ve always focused on the way the king of Middle Earth represented Jesus–and I believe he does, to a certain extent.  But Aragorn is still human, he isn’t perfect.  Hearing Pastor Matthew’s sermon made me realize he can be an allegory of us as well.

The sermon was part of a series about being heirs of Christ.  I began to realize that we are heirs of the King now.  We are sons and daughters of the world’s Creator, and heirs of the universe.

People focus on salvation being access to heaven, and I get that.  But there’s more.  God isn’t just giving saving us from hell, He’s giving us access to Himself, His power.  His Spirit lives in our hearts.

The power and dignity of kings is in us.  In me.  In you.  Will we take it to war with us?  Will we take it to the pain?

We’ll mess up, yes.  People will misunderstand us, scorn us.  They’ll fight us, hurt us, betray us, fail us.

But God will never, ever, ever fail us.

Middle Earth needed Aragorn to return, the world was in chaos without a king.

Our world needs the King to return and win the war as well, and it needs the heirs of the King to move.  We can’t do it in our own strength, but we are the hands and feet of God.

We are heirs of the King.

The victory is ours.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and other thoughts on Shakespeare

So, as it turns out, yesterday was Shakespeare’s birthday.  I read a couple plays when I was little, but didn’t read any more for a long time.  But I’ve gotten back into it recently, reading some plays for high school, and I’ve been loving it.  So I totally freaked out when Mom told me yesterday!  I didn’t have time to do anything about it then, but I decided today was an appropriate time to post the first Great Books paper I wrote this year.  Enjoy!!

I was first introduced to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, before I was a decade old, in Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare for Children by E. Nesbitt.  I read the original version, after seeing it performed at Shakespeare on the Green, a few summers later.  Even at the age of ten, I was enthralled.

Continue reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and other thoughts on Shakespeare

Aragorn: The Returning King

Tolkien, very explicitly, did not write The Lord of the Rings as an allegory.  He rather described it as “applicable”.

Aragorn is a relate-able human, he doubts himself, he messes up.  But Tolkien chose to give him a very powerful role in Middle Earth.  As a king and a successful hero, I think he must, on some level, represent Jesus.

Like I talked about in the paper I posted on Easter,  I believe in hero stories because I believe in one Hero who saved me.

You certainly can’t take this analogy too far, but they all break down somewhere, don’t they?  The Lord of the Rings is just a story and a story’s job is not necessarily to be perfectly theologically accurate.

I knew I had to do one of my “Aragorn posts” about kingship, but someone has already put what I want to say quite beautifully, so I’m going to stop rambling and point you all over to desiringgod.org:

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-allure-of-middle-earth

I know I’ve linked to this before, but I think Tolkien-fans should read it.  In The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Humphrey Carpenter, Tolkien said:

Of course, Allegory and Story converge, meeting somewhere in Truth. . .  And one finds, even in imperfect human ‘literature’, that the better and more consistent an allegory is the more easily can it be read ‘just as a story’; and the better and more closely woven a story is the more easily can those so minded find allegory in it. (121)

I think this article has really helped me think about stories and fictional characters, and sort out what’s merely story, what’s allegorical, and what’s “applicable”.  So instead of my words (which you’ve already had enough of), you can read someone else’s on Aragorn and Middle Earth.  Enjoy!

When We Need a Hero: Observations on Richard III

I wrote this paper for school last week, and then realized it was perfect for Easter, and just in time for it too, so I decided to share it today.

I honestly do not know why I chose to read Richard III for Great Books this year.  I recall seeing it on my list of books, after I had long forgotten picking it, and thinking something along the lines of What was I thinking? or What have I gotten myself into?

The fact remains: it’s an odd play.  Not to mention, a bit disturbing.  It is a story–not surprisingly–about Richard III.  Richard is a discontented man, with no friends, no pretty lady to court, and nothing to do.

“And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover

To entertain these fair well-spoken days,

I am determined to prove a villain

And hate the idle pleasures of these days.” (4)

Out of this boredom, he sets out to become king of England.  The play follows this power-hungry, dissembling villain as he works his way up the hierarchy and pays mercenaries to murder off all other potential heirs.

Continue reading When We Need a Hero: Observations on Richard III

Hooray for Hobbits: Frodo Baggins

March is a busy month in Middle Earth!  Today happens to be March 25th, the day the Ring was destroyed.  So we’re taking a break from my Aragorn rambling, so I can ramble about someone else: the hobbit who carried the Ring from the Shire to Morder.

Frodo is a very interesting hero, not to mention an unlikely one.  Him ending up getting the Ring at all took a lot of unlikely coincidences–or miracles (as perhaps Gandalf would prefer I say).

‘Beyond that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker.  I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker.  In which case you also were meant to have it.  And that may be an encouraging thought. (The Fellowship of the Ring, 61)

Frodo is not a stereotypical hobbit (he’s Bilbo’s nephew, after all, and I’m not sure anyone could help being a bit “queer” after being adopted by someone like that!) but he’s a hobbit just the same: cheerful, fun-loving, calm, and easily pleased.  While he’s adventurous, yes, a tramp around the Shire or a pony-ride as far as Rivendell might have felt like adventure enough.

And he could have chosen that–all he would have had to have done was sit quietly and keep his head down at the Council of Elrond.  No one asked him to take the Ring anywhere.

Still no one spoke.  Frodo glanced at all the faces, but they were not turned to him. . .  An overwhelming longing to rest and remain at peace by Bilbo’s side in Rivendell filled all his heart. (The Fellowship of the Ring, 303)

But no one offered to do it himself instead.

Frodo ventured his well-known line: “I will take the Ring, though I do not know the way (The Fellowship of the Ring, 303)” into a waiting silence.

He could have sat quietly and let the moment pass.  He could have said he wasn’t qualified.  Because let’s be honest: it would have been true.  He was sitting in the presence of many who had walked the length and breadth of Middle Earth, while he was literally on his first trip beyond the Shire’s borders.  He had little experience, limited knowledge of the Ring itself, no knowledge of the lands between the Misty Mountains and Morder.  But no one else was volunteering.

The I’ll-wait-for-someone-more-qualified argument sounds humble and prudent.  But what if no one more qualified ever shows up?  Frodo could have let Elrond deal with the Ring, he could have followed Boromir to Minas Tirith and let some warrior of Gondor handle it–hypothetically.  But what if they couldn’t?  What if they wouldn’t?

So Frodo took it, even though, in the end, it cost him everything.

Tolkien was a great fan of unlikely heroes, but maybe that’s why his world appeals to so many people.  I believe in unlikely heroes.  Look at the Bible–the people God chose weren’t always the biggest, the strongest, the best.  They weren’t always qualified–but God was.

Tolkien wove a tale around a small, frightened hobbit, who was willing to believe he could do great things.  We might not be qualified, but the Author of our story is, if we’re willing to take the risk.

But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind.  Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually — their paths were laid that way, as you put it.  But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t.  And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. (The Two Towers, 696)

 

Check out these posts if you want to hear more about hobbits today!

Ellen – Hooray for Hobbits: Merry and Pippin

Cerra – Hooray for Hobbits: Samwise Gamgee

Aragorn: The Gentle Warrior

Some of you may have seen this coming.  And really, it was inevitable.  There are going to be a lot of posts, full of reasons to like this awesome character; there are many things I love about him.  But my obsession is, and I think always has been, lodged in this: he’s compassionate.

In the post I write for his birthday last year, I said:

“He’s one of the greatest warriors in the whole trilogy, but he has a soft side too. . .  The fact that he can live through anything (and has lived through almost everything) doesn’t dull his awareness of others’ weaknesses.”

I can’t think of a new way to sum it up.  I admire the way Aragorn loves “his people” and will sacrifice anything to protect them, and how frank he is about showing that love.

‘There go three that I love, and the smallest not the least,’ he said.  ‘He knows not to what end he rides; yet if he knew, he still would go on.’ (760)   – “The Return of the King” by J.R.R. Tolkien

I love how he recognizes how hard the hobbits are fighting, even though it often looks different from his kind of strength.

I’m a purist for the books, but I still love Aragorn in the movies, even though they changed him a little.  This is probably because they still gave him the caring, selfless nature I saw in the books.  Which, as I said earlier, is what’s most important to me.  I love the way they portrayed him as always being “there” for people in the movies–this unspoken, behind-the-scenes encouragement.

I love the scene in Rohan, when Aragorn follows Merry up to the battlements and watches Gandalf and Pippin ride away.  He just stands there–he doesn’t feel the need to say anything, do anything, fix anything.  He just doesn’t want Merry to be alone.

And when you find out how long Aragorn has known Gandalf, you realize they are both watching one of their best friends leave.

Aragorn: The Servant Leader

Hello, readers, it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood!!  We had some crazy, Nebraska wind today and a bit of hail.  I happen to like storms, so I was quite happy.  Also, I have my first Aragorn post written!  It took me longer than I expected, but here we are.  If I have more to say (and I haven’t bored y’all out of your minds) at the end of March, I’ll let it spill over into April. 🙂  Let me know what you think!

One of my favorite things about Aragorn, and one that came to mind first when I wanted to write about him, was his example of servant leadership.  Because the greatest leader really is a servant.

Jesus is, and always will be, the best example of a leader; and He made himself a servant.  The story of Jesus washing His disciples feet comes to mind quickly.  Washing feet was a job for the lowest servant, but Jesus chose it, and told his disciples to do the same.  In Philippians it says:

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!”

It’s obvious that Aragorn’s goal in The Lord of the Rings is to claim the kingship of Gondor: he is the heir to the throne, and he knows it.  Aragorn is the rightful king and a born leader–but he knows what being a leader means.  And part of leading is putting your followers before yourself.

I especially loved the way Tolkien depicted him as a healer.  Caring for the wounded is often portrayed as the job of those who were too weak to fight, but Aragorn’s healing powers came with physical strength, which fascinates me.  I think the idea of a king being a healer is such a powerful one.  (We’ll discuss the whole kingship thing in another post, so more on this later. 😉 )

The wounded are always sent to Aragorn, and he never refuses the job.  It’s most obvious in The Return of the King, at the Houses of Healing.  But really, Aragorn is serving quietly throughout the trilogy.  In The Two Towers, Gimli insists on riding with the others, despite being wounded in the latest battle.  He claims the wound is only a scratch and doesn’t matter.  Aragorn responds “I will tend it, while you rest,” (page 532).  It took me a while to realize that this implies Aragorn would not be resting.  And you see the same scenario through all three books, from Frodo’s wound after Moria to the Houses of Healing.

I also appreciate how raw and how real Tolkien’s work was.  As much as you can tell Aragorn loves being a leader, Tolkien portrayed how leading can be a burden as well.  At the end of The Fellowship of the Ring and the beginning of The Two Towers it’s especially obvious.  You can see that Aragorn doesn’t see himself as qualified to take Gandalf’s role, and feels so lost without him.  I pity him, honestly.  Without Gandalf to guide Frodo, Aragorn feels responsible for helping him, and therefore taking on part of the responsibility of carrying the Ring–he literally has the fate of kingdoms on his shoulders.

But leading the fellowship after Gandalf’s death was Aragorn’s choice in the first place, which brings us back to what I said earlier–he knows he’s a leader.  Literally his first words after Gandalf’s fall are, “Come! I will lead you now!” (The Fellowship of the Ring, page 371)

And there’s no dispute–the fellowship knows he’s the one qualified to lead them.

Strider

It’s honestly hard to remember my sad life before I read The Lord of the Rings.

But I do recall entreating a friend of mine not to tell me any spoilers, as I was about to start The Fellowship of the Ring.  She started listing off Tolkien’s lovely names instead and gave me a whole string of them, adding, as if as an afterthought, “And Strider.  You’ll like Strider.”  I was rather annoyed at the time, as it gave away that this Strider person was good and likable–as I guess I just gave away for you, sorry–but it turned out to be quite the prophecy, as Aragorn has since grown to become my favorite character out of all the stories I’ve ever heard.

Right from the get-go, he’s been my favorite.  Middle Earth is peopled with beautiful, amazing, relate-able heroes–there is stiff competition.  But since before I even started reading The Two Towers, Aragorn has been my favorite.

And. . . (drum-roll please) today just so happens to be his birthday–March 1st.  I was late posting for it last year, so I’m making up this month.  I’m going to do a series of posts through March about why I love him.

I listed most of the reasons in last year’s post, but now I’ll be expounding on them a little more.

They will be over-thought and geeky–fair warning.  But I think they’re the sort of thing I like to read, and perhaps someone else enjoys that sort of thing too.  If not, I’ll have fun writing them. 😉

His legs were stretched out before him, showing high boots of supple leather that fitted him well, but had seen much wear and were now caked with mud.  A travel-stained cloak of heavy dark-green cloth cloth was drawn close about him, and in spite of the heart of the room he wore a hood that overshadowed his face; but the gleam of his eyes could be seen as he watched the hobbits. (177)
-“The Fellowship of the Ring”by J.R.R. Tolkien