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Through Fire and Death
Through Fire and Death
“All that is gold does not glitter
Not all those who wander are lost,
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.”
Bilbo Baggins spoke these memorable words at the Council of Elrond in defense of his friend and ally, Aragorn the Ranger. Although introduced as a dirty, devious, dangerous vagabond, Aragorn proves himself a selfless leader who heroically steps into the jaws of death to shield his Halfling companions - Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin. Repeatedly, he proves himself worthy of the great honors bestowed upon him by other leaders such as Gandalf the Wizard and Elrond the Elf. Despite his hard face and stoic mannerisms, Aragorn, although a fictional character in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, is remembered by the literary world as a brave, caring leader of Men.
After the tragic demise of Gandalf the Grey, Aragorn takes it upon himself to lead the Fellowship to Lothlorien, and bravely states that they must “go on without hope.” After Boromir unintentionally chases off Frodo and orcs capture Merry and Pippin, Aragorn declares that he, Legolas and Gimli will hunt for them “by day and dark” while they have strength left. During the Battle at Helm’s Deep, Aragorn risks his life creating a diversion for the orcs, giving the men of Rohan a chance to control their stronghold for a moment longer, and ultimately winning the battle. Later, Aragorn’s bravery wills the Rangers, Legolas, and Gimli to follow him through the terrifying Paths of the Dead. As Gimli deftly puts it, Aragorn feels “no fear” of the Dead or living.
Unlike many brave, important people, such as Denathor, Aragorn cares very much for his smaller, weaker companions – the four Hobbits. When an orc chieftain wounds Sam and Frodo in Moria, Aragorn soothes Sam’s cut and heals Frodo’s side wound. Likewise, at the risk of his own life, Aragorn runs for three days and nights to find and rescue Merry and Pippin from “torment and death” in the hands of orcs. Because of his love for Faramir, Eowyn, and Merry, Aragorn cares for them in their life threatening illness after the Battle of Pellenor Fields; he applies ancient remedies that broke Faramir’s fever, sweeping him from the brink of death.
Aragorn’s intriguing bravery and gentle kindness make him the beloved fantasy character prominent in J.R.R Tolkien’s bestseller trilogy. His valor ingrains him in our memories as a courageous man full of life. His kindness spurs him on to rescue Merry and Pippen, saving Middle Earth. At the end of essays such as this, the author is supposed to state which characteristic is the most important: kindness or bravery. But, neither trait is more important than the other. If Aragorn had been less kind or brave, then all Middle Earth would have been forfeit to the Dark Lord. Therefore, my last word on Aragorn must be that without him and Gandalf, Middle Earth would never have survived.
Through his wisdom and faithfulness, Gandalf, the Grey Wizard of Middle Earth, salvages his world from the dangers of fiery destruction multiple times. A great friend of Aragorn, Gandalf leads the Fellowship through the flaming depths of Moria, sacrifices himself for his friends, and repeatedly spares them much hardship. Gandalf’s wisdom saves Middle Earth. But, without his determination, his wisdom would have failed him and the Fellowship many times.
Throughout the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Gandalf proves his commitment to Middle Earth and the quest to destroy the Ring. The first illustration of this is in “The Fellowship of the Ring” when Gandalf explains his encounter with the much stronger wizard, Sauroman. Although Sauroman pleaded, and eventually tortured Gandalf, the Grey wizard never bends to his wicked requests to take part in the destruction of Middle Earth. Then, when passing through the miserable mines of Moria, beset by a Balrog – one of the most dangerous creatures in Middle Earth – Gandalf orders the other members of the Fellowship to go on, while he stays behind to ward of the fiery fiend. There, deep underground in an abandoned mine, Gandalf saves his friends and their world through his determination. Coupled with his willpower, Gandalf also has great wisdom.
Through his deep wisdom, Gandalf refuses to indulge himself in accepting the dangerously powerful Ring offered to him by the innocent Hobbit, Frodo. All Gandalf’s faculties, save one, urge him to accept the gift. His wisdom, a gift from the god of Middle Earth, urges him against seizing the object, and this refusal rescues their world. Urging him to decline the Ring, his judiciousness also turned down the opportunity to take the unsafe Palantir from the confused Hobbit, Pippin. Allowing him to watch their enemy, Sauron, the Palantir would devastate Gandalf’s mentality, devour his hope, and denounce his friends. In refusing the stone and returning it to its rightful owner, Gandalf again preserves the fate of Middle Earth as it rests on the edge of a knife.
Through Gandalf’s determination, Frodo succeeds in passing through the Mines of Moria, and as a result, destroys the terrible Ring of Power. Also, Gandalf’s acumen spares the Fellowship from many dangers, such as the Pass of Carahadrass, a freezing summit some of the Fellowship found safer than Moria. Overall, Gandalf’s wisdom was more influential in his life-saving decision making skills than his willpower, as his wisdom lent itself to the latter. But, there is still one more very important character trait of both Aragorn and Gandalf that has not been discussed – that of self sacrifice.
The theme of loss and sacrifice is prevalent The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as Aragorn and Gandalf exhibit. Both characters sacrifice themselves repeatedly for the sake of others’ safety and comfort. Aragorn strives to protect the innocent inhabitants of the Shire and Bree, and along with Gandalf, get little or no thanks for their hardships. Throughout their lives, Aragorn and Gandalf give everything they had – and almost their lives.
For over forty years, Aragorn wanders the wildernesses of Middle Earth, separated from his love, Arwen, the comforts of a true home, and of the honor due him by the people of Gondor. He does all of this for the comfort of others – Aragorn and the other Dunadain shield the Shire and Bree form the terrors of the outside world, with no thanks from the defended, only scorn and fearful glances. Tracking down the slimy creature Gollum through the Dead Marshes, dangerously near Mordor, Aragorn sacrifices his happiness, safety, and nearly his life, sparing Middle Earth from the dangers of the villain. Not the only one to sacrifice for others, Aragorn was often accompanied by Gandalf on his dangerous ventures.
The first obvious instance of Gandalf’s self-sacrifice is evident in The Fellowship of the Ring when he stands between the other members of the Fellowship and the deadly, evil, fiery Balrog. Because he refuses to place his friends in such a precarious position, the Balrog dragged Gandalf into the inferno below the Bridge of Kazad-Dum. On other numerous occasions, Gandalf knowingly stands between his friends and danger – as exhibited by his actions when the King of the Nazgul entered the city of Gondor. Stepping between the innocents of the city and the deadly creature, Gandalf shields the Gondorians, saving countless souls.
Aragorn, a selfless, anonymous king, sacrifices his comfort, health, and nearly his life protecting others. Gandalf, a noble wizard, continually puts others first and himself second. Both of these altruistic men liberate Middle Earth from the harsh, cruel hand of Sauron through their own sacrifice and toil. Through Aragorn’s labor, a king is restored over Gondor, creating peace in the land, and Gandalf continually labors to liberate Middle Earth. Through their equal efforts and sacrifices, losses and labors, Aragorn and Gandalf save their world.