Much ado about Arwen: Elven Princess
Let's stop and talk about Arwen a little bit. Back in September, 1999 I wondered where all the Aragorn and Arwen sites were. Maybe the ears have put off some of the prospective fans (hey, wait until the special effects have been added in -- they'll be all glittery and glossed over or something). So, since then, Stuart Townsend has moved on to smaller and lesser things and Viggo Mortensen has stepped in to fill the role of Aragorn (Viggo who? nevermind -- he'll be the next Big Thing after the first movie opens).
There doesn't seem to be much to say about Arwen at first glance, but then, you have to wonder why she gave it all up for Aragorn. I mean, here she was, the hottest Elf-babe in Middle-earth, and she went and fell for a down-on-his-luck Ranger. Aragorn may have had the right to be king of both Arnor and Gondor, but he wasn't actually king of anything. He was chieftain of the Dunedain of Eriador. Any Hobbit girl marrying into the Took or Brandybuck clans would have ended up with more money, land, and relatives than Arwen figured to receive if she were to go against her father's will.
When Elrond discerned Aragorn's love for his daughter, he summoned the young man to him and said: "You shall be betrothed to no man's child as yet. But as for Arwen the Fair, Lady of Imladris and of Lorien, Evenstar of her people, she is of lineage greater than yours, and she has lived in the world already so long that to her you are but as a yearling shoot beside a young birch of many summers. She is too far above you. And so, I think, it may well seem to her...."
Elrond certainly tried to let Aragorn down easily, but the plan may have backfired on him. Or perhaps Elrond's doubts were irrelevant. Aragorn had grown up in Elrond's household. He knew Elrond's ancestry. Arwen would not have been the first Elf woman to love a mortal man, if her heart turned toward him. Of course, many people think quickly of Luthien and Beren, and of Idril and Tuor. But there were other Elf women who loved mortal men: Nellas, the mysterious Elf maiden of Doriath who watched over Turin as he grew up in Doriath; and Finduilas, the Elven princess who fell in love with Turin after he settled in Nargothrond. Nimloth married Dior, mortal son of Beren and Luthien. One can only wonder what Elf-man relationships developed in the largely forgotten Second Age. Did young Numenorean men pine for lovely Elven women from Tol Eressea?
Relationships among the Elves were deep and more fully committed than those among men. Even among the Dunedain it was not unknown for a man to have more than one spouse (Turin I, 6th Ruling Steward of Gondor, was married twice). Rare though it may seem, men were far more likely to take second wives than were the Elves. In fact, among the Eldar, only Finwe was known to have taken a second spouse. That is not to say that the Dunedain couldn't love each other as fully and deeply as the Elves. But apparently the Elvish custom was deeply rooted in a mating of souls, as much as in a mating of bodies.
It should therefore be unusual that an Elf would want or love a mortal in that fashion. Perhaps even unnatural, in the sense that the Elven souls were predisposed to seek out mates which were likely to spend the full span of time with them, rather than souls which would fleetingly pass by, leaving behind only a few memories. The great tragedy of Tuor and Idril's relationship is that there is no clear disposition of their ultimate fate. They sailed off into the West, and men said Tuor must have been joined to the Noldor, but I think he was premature in that respect. The choice of fates could only be appointed to the Half-elven, ˡrendil and his wife Elwing. Tuor and Idril must have parted bitterly at the end, or else been drawn into some enchanted island where they would await the end of Time, according to Iluvatar's grace.
The fates of Nimloth and Dior are more clear, however. Manwˠdecreed that all children born of Elf-Man unions were by nature mortal though long-lived. This mortality meant that eventually their souls would follow the path appointed to Men, and seek elsewhere for their ultimate destiny. Dior, therefore, had no hope of being rejoined with Nimloth after his death. Would she in time have emerged from the Halls of Mandos, healed and ready to take up a new love with some Elf lord, or would she live in grief-stricken remembrance for age after age? Perhaps she, like Finwe and Miriel, would not wish to rejoin Elvenkind because of her special loss.
The broken hearts weren't all among the ladies. Aegnor, brother of Finrod, fell in love with Andreth. She was a B믲ian woman, related to Beren though not closely so. When she was young she captured the heart of an Elven prince, but he didn't marry her. Instead he attended to the long war between the Noldor and Morgoth, and he seemed to have forgotten her. But in truth he had foreseen that he would soon die, as the Elves accounted such matters, and for that reason he forebore inflicting any greater grief on Andreth. The tragedy of their love was that he didn't understand how much she would have preferred to have been his wife if only for a few years, than a lonely woman unsure of what had gone wrong. They were in the end separated for all Time because of their fates, and they didn't even have the shared memories of one night as husband and wife.
Arwen must have known all these stories. She didn't just grow up in the house of Elrond, she lived there for thousands of years. Although she may have had special duties among the Yavannildi (the Maidens of Yavanna, who grew and harvested the special corn from which Lembas was made), Arwen seems to have been in a position to earn the greatest of Elven educations. Elrond was not simply the chief master of lore among the Third Age Elves, he was the central figure of Eldarin scholarship in Middle-earth. Many great and wise Elves visited or settled in or near Imladris. Arwen would have had access to the greatest Elven minds of her age: Elrond, Galadriel, Cirdan, Celeborn (yes, Celeborn), Glorfindel, and others. She would have heard first-hand accounts of Elvish sorcery, warfare, and scholarship.
And the lady travelled around. She must have crossed the Misty Mountains dozens of times to visit her grand-parents after Celeborn and Galadriel settled in Lorien. Did she, perhaps, also visit Lindon? With her family background and likely education, Arwen may well have been high in the councils of the Eldar. She was probably considered one of the Wise. Does that mean she might have been a member of the White Council itself? Why not? She was a politically savvy Elf-princess. After all, she made that banner for Aragorn.
And Aragorn's banner is not just a jewel-encrusted flag waving in the wind. Think about it. Aragorn unfurled the banner at Erech but there was no visible device upon it. It just seemed black to his living companions. But apparently it helped convince the Dead that he was indeed who he was. What would a banner made by an Elven princess mean to an army of ghosts?
Elves were enchanters. They made things the old-fashioned way: magically, as far as mortals were concerned. Arwen's pedigree for sorcery was no less impressive than her noble lineage. She was the great-granddaughter of Luthien Tinuviel, the Half-maian princess who was regarded as the greatest of all Elven enchantresses. ALL of them. Luthien and Luthien alone was able to put Morgoth to sleep deep inside his own fortress of Angband. No Elven king or prince ever saw the inside of Angband except as a prisoner. Only Luthien's mom, Melian, performed a greater feat, surrounding Doriath with a "girdle" of enchantment which protected the realm from Morgoth and his servants.
Arwen was also descended from Galadriel, whose daughter Celebrian married Elrond. Galadriel's enchantments were nothing to be ignored. Where Luthien was remembered for tearing down the walls of Sauron's fortress on Tol Sirion, Galadriel laid bare the pits of Dol Guldur, Sauron's ancient fortress in southern Mirkwood. Luthien wove a cloak from her own enchanted hair which made her invisible, so she could escape from her guards. Galadriel didn't weave any cloaks of invisibility, but she used a silver basin to spy on Sauron and watch events unfold in the world outside Lorien, and she captured light from the star of ˡrendil in a phial of water for Frodo.
Arwen had also spent many years among the Elves of Lorien. Should one wonder if she didn't learn to put her thoughts into all things she made, as they said they did when Pippin asked about the Elven cloaks which were given to the Fellowship? Those grey cloaks were undoubtedly the same kind of enchanted clothing worn by the Grey-Elves of Mithrim, whom the Noldor met first upon their return to Middle-earth. So Arwen probably put a lot of thought into that banner for Aragorn, and perhaps it had something to do with inspiring his followers when it was displayed.
Arwen did watch over Aragorn from afar, according to Tolkien, and she could see deep into the hearts of others. Both abilities seem to be inherited from Galadriel, who studied under Melian (and undoubtedly Luthien). When Frodo was preparing to leave Gondor, Arwen bestowed upon him the courtesy of taking ship with Bilbo when her father finally chose to leave Middle-earth. In one of his letters (246), Tolkien wrote that "it was Arwen who first thought of sending Frodo into the West, and put in a plea for him to Gandalf (direct or through Galadriel, or both)".
Imagine the goings-on in Gondor after the royal wedding. Here are Elrond, Galadriel, Celeborn, and many other great Elves come to celebrate the marriage of Aragorn and Arwen. Aragorn is busy putting his realm into order, arranging treaties with foreign nations, and so forth. What is Arwen doing during all that time, sitting by the White Tree and singing it into good health and blossoming? No. She is meeting with Galadriel and Gandalf, asking for a special gift for the Ringbearer. What other pleas did she make? Was she perhaps instrumental in persuading Thranduil to give Legolas leave to bring part of their people south to live in Gondor? Arwen became Queen of Men and Elves, not just Queen of Gondor.
Surely not contented with being an enchantress, mover, and shaker, Arwen also practiced something of the healing arts, and she seems to have raised horses. She gave Aragorn his horse, Roheryn (the name means "hose of the lady") and she gave Frodo a small white gemstone on a silver chain which helped to comfort him when he had fits of painful remembrance of his past wounds and loss (of the Ring).
"But she doesn't wield a sword in the stories!" people say. No, Tolkien never put a sword in Arwen's hand. This is the most grievous blow to the legends of Middle-earth, it seems. That Arwen, daughter of Elrond, who undertook dangerous journeys across the Misty Mountains, and who engaged in secret arts to help her beloved gain the throne of Gondor, and then helped him rule Gondor and Arnor for over 100 years, should in the upcoming movies be seen with sword in hand, facing down the Nazgul upon the Road from the Shire to Imladris. Whatever is the world coming to?
Arwen should not be regarded as a frail and helpless flower guarded in secret dells and meadows. Elrond was concerned for her safety, that is true, and she would have not have journeyed alone, but like her mother before her would have been accompanied by Elven warriors and perhaps Rangers. She was often compared to her foremother Luthien, not just because she looked like Luthien, but because she was wise and well-learned in the lore of the Elves. Arwen's role in the book may seem small but it is crucial to the final outcome of the story. She is the means of Frodo and Bilbo's salvation. Her sacrifice is essentially unrewarded, for in the end she loses all that she has gained: love, life, and Middle-earth.
If therefore Peter Jackson wants to put a sword in her hand, I don't think J.R.R. Tolkien -- who wrote of the armed and armored Idril, who sent Luthien on the perilous journey into Angband in quest of a Silmaril, who carefully recorded the attack on and capture of Arwen's mother Celebrian as she journeyed through the Misty Mountains -- would greatly object to the portrayal of a skill she probably possessed in his own conception. The changes in story were inevitable. But the change in character may not be as catastrophic as some people believe.
Michael Martinez is the author of Visualizing Middle-earth, which may be purchased directly from Xlibris Corp. or through any online bookstore. You may also special order it from your local bookstore. The ISBN is 0-7388-3408-4.
And be sure to download your free copy of Parma Endorion: Essays on Middle-earth, 3rd edition at Free-eBooks.Net!