The Tolkien fan site TheOneRing.net recently reported on Twitter that the eventual Amazon-acquired Lord of the Rings-based television series “will open its first season centered on a young Aragorn.” It cites this information as coming “from many sources” but offers none of them, which to me means this isn’t exactly absolute. But nothing has popped up to contradict and any chance to discuss the matter is fun, so…
Let’s roll with this. I’ve speculated on a few possibilities before, but with young Aragorn as the protagonist of at least the first season, we can sharpen our focus, take a look at what we know about Aragorn’s upbringing, and home in on some prospective plotlines.
Now I won’t even talk about what actor(s) should play the legendary ranger and future returning king, because I’m in the seemingly smallish camp of those who prefer a nigh-unknown actor to a well-established face from some other franchise (please God, no Marvel folks), but will instead highlight what sort of adventures such a season could depict. For now let’s throw caution to the wind and assume, crazily, that they’ll at least base it in canon from J.R.R. Tolkien’s work. I think it’s fine to fill in the gaps—you really have to—but I’d rather they not change the lore that’s already in place.
Mostly we’re looking at the Appendices found in the back of The Return of the King, and especially part I: The Númenorean Kings. We know that Aragorn is the last heir of Isildur, who took the One Ring from Sauron close to three thousand years before his birth, but when we meet Aragorn in Fellowship he’s just Strider, a ranger of whom the Men of Bree seem wary, and then we find out he’s the chieftain of a group called the Dúnedain. So which is it: chief or king?
Problem is, there’s no kingdom anymore. About a thousand years before Aragorn’s birth, one of his ancestors (Arvendui) was the last king of a realm known as Arthedain, itself a fragment of the kingdom of Arnor, which was a sort of brother kingdom to Gondor. They were all connected once, but then the Witch-king of Angmar, Lord of the Nazgûl—remember that jerk?—played a big role in the fragmenting that followed. So the fading line of kings took to a wandering lifestyle, adopting the role of chieftains instead of kings. That’s what Aragorn was born into.
For the first twenty years of his life, he is known as Estel, a name his mother, Gilraen the Fair, gave him and which in the Sindarin (Elven) language means “hope.” When he was two years old, his father was slain by orcs, his grandfather having already been killed by trolls. Yeah, there are serious occupational hazards to being a ranger and chieftain of the Dúnedain.
So…back to the Amazon series thing.
Any seasons or episodes involving the early years of Aragorn can begin at any point from here. He was raised in Rivendell, lived with his mom, and had Elrond as a guardian and surrogate father. It would be cool to get at least a glimpse of him as a child, playing among Elves, care-free and unburdened by the weight of his ancestry. But then he grows fast, and alongside Elrond’s actual sons, the twins Elladan and Elrohir, Estel did “great deeds” (safe to assume that included hunting some orc). He’s not even informed of his true lineage and name until he’s twenty, at which point Elrond lays it all on him at once, gives him the shards of Narsil (the sword that Isildur used to cut the One Ring from Sauron) as well as a token of his family’s kinship with Elves from long before (the Ring of Barahir!). And then it’s the very next day that he meets Arwen, and things get even more momentous and heavily weighted with meaning. Any treatment of these important moments could be wonderful to watch.
Once Elrond finds out that Aragorn really digs his daughter, and that Arwen’s heart has turned toward him, things get…well, spiritually complex. Elrond loves Aragorn like his own son, but the prospect of losing Arwen to the doom of mortals (meaning total separation after death) is heavy. But no decisions are made yet, just considered, dreaded, anticipated.
And then Aragorn sets out on his solo adventures, and I have to think that no matter what Amazon does with the above, they’ll have to address these. As he says goodbye to his mother, to Elrond, and to Arwen, he sets out to make the world a better place for “nearly thirty years.” A long time for a mortal Man, but remember, they’re a long-lived race, these Dúnedain. So what does he do?
He meets and befriends Gandalf! Talk about a life-altering partnership. Together they share “many perilous journeys” and he learns much Wisdom.
Under the alias of Thorongil (“Eagle of the Star”), he joins up with the horsemen of Rohan, serving King Thengel. That’s Théoden’s dad! He tells no one who he really is.
He then goes to Gondor, becomes a captain in its army, and even becomes a counselor to its current Steward, Ecthelion II, Denethor’s dad!). In fact, Denethor is the only one in Gondor who doesn’t like this Thorongil fellow. We’re talking about twenty years before the birth of Boromir, at this point. Denethor is a young man.
And in one matter only were their counsels to the Steward at variance: Thorongil often warned Ecthelion not to put trust in Saruman the White in Isengard, but to welcome rather Gandalf the Grey.
It’s even suggested that Denethor “had discovered who this stranger Thorongil in truth was, and suspected that he and Mithrandir designed to supplant him.” Which of course is a bit off the mark, but there’s plenty of drama to be had, here.
Okay, then there’s this. After we read how Aragorn helped Gondor against the pirate-like Corsairs on the coast, we also get this bit from Appendix A:
and then in the hour of victory he passed out of the knowledge of Men of the West, and went alone far into the East and deep into the South, exploring the hearts of Men, both evil and good, and uncovering the plots and devices of the servants of Sauron.
And I’m going to stop right there and say: what an opportunity! If ever there was a time to explore the cultures and trials of the East and the South of Middle-earth, where Sauron holds the most sway but not absolutely, it is here, with Aragorn. We’re talking about the Easterlings and the Haradrim, the descendants of the “Swarthy Men” mentioned in The Silmarillion, and right here in Appendix A we’re again told that among them are people “both evil and good.” I so desperately would love to meet some of them, especially the latter.
Aragorn needn’t be some “white savior” or anything. Remember, he’s in exile, in disguise. Let’s see him participate in the resistance, to help—as we’re told in the book—uncover plots and devices of the Dark Lord. Let’s see him save some people, and be saved in turn. Let’s see what friendships, hardships, and knowledge can be learned in the further corners of Middle-earth! If any Man of the West and North would be open-minded about foreign cultures, it would be Aragorn, who spent years in the company of Gandalf—himself an ancient Maia who learned firsthand wisdom and mercy from the Valar and even contributed to creation itself in the Music of the Ainur.
Aragorn isn’t going to single-handedly save Far Harad or Rhûn or anything ridiculous like that. Even during the War of the Ring he requires the valor of many to win the day (and in the end, of course, true victory is achieved by hobbits). The East and South are enemy-occupied territories for the most part, but not entirely. Sauron doesn’t have everyone under his power.
So…there are so many stories that can be explored around Aragorn. In the end, the focus should be about the characters and finding the right actors; they’ll give it life. Gandalf, Arwen, and Elrond are just the tip of the massive iceberg of possibilities. But the one topic I would love to see most is Aragorn’s relationship with Gilraen, his mother. While his father is never in the picture, his mother absolutely is, even though he does eventually lose her, too (perhaps mirroring Tolkien’s own life a little bit).
We so rarely get to see motherhood in Tolkien’s legendarium. After his thirty years of adventures, Aragorn returns to Gilraen in Rivendell. The Appendix even brings us a scene at what is essentially her deathbed at the age of 100! By this point, he’s come into his own and been a hero many times over (though he still has the War of the Ring ahead), and he’s nominally betrothed to Arwen (but has yet to achieve the “great doom” and goal of kingship laid on him by Elrond). He’s taken on various names, but he’s still Estel to his mother. Still her baby boy.
“This is our last parting, Estel, my son. I am aged by care, even as one of lesser Men; and now that it draws near I cannot face the darkness of our time that gathers upon Middle-earth. I shall leave it soon.”
‘Aragorn tried to comfort her, saying: “Yet there may be a light beyond the darkness; and if so, I would have you see it and be glad.”
‘But she answered only with this linnod:
Ónen i-Estel Edain, ú-chebin estel anim,
Which in Elvish means, “I gave Hope to the Dúnedain, I have kept no hope for myself.”
What do you think? What, if Aragorn is indeed where Amazon’s bold venture begins, what would you want to see?
Jeff LaSala, the nerd behind The Silmarillion Primer series, can’t leave Middle-earth well enough alone and. Tolkien geekdom aside, Jeff wrote a Scribe Award–nominated D&D novel, produced some cyberpunk stories, and now works for Tor. He is sometimes on Twitter.