Aragorn might be the most typically heroic figure in The Lord of the Rings saga. He’s a leader, skilled with a sword and a bow, and he's the heir to the throne of men. Still, for all the screen time the character gets in the films and the pages dedicated to him in Tolkien’s books, there’s much we don’t know about one of the most pivotal characters in the story.
Indeed, everything from Aragorn’s upbringing to his history as a warrior isn’t directly addressed in the films, and there are also plenty of interesting behind-the-scenes stories about the absurd lengths that Viggo Mortensen went to to inhabit the character. In the films, Aragorn is quiet and mysterious. It’s part of his innate appeal. He seems to be inherently good, but we don’t know how he came to be that way. Now, it’s time to pull back the curtain and find out everything we can about the mysterious figure. Here are 20 Things You Never Knew About Aragorn.
Aragorn didn’t get to have much of a relationship with his father because Arathorn died when Aragorn was only 2 years old. After his father’s death, Aragorn was sent to live with Elrond in Rivendell, and was hidden away from the rest of the world there. Arathorn was killed while pursuing orcs, and it became clear that the kings of Gondor were at great risk of assassination because of the threat they posed to Sauron’s resurgence.
Of course, Arathorn was not ruling over Gondor at the time of his demise, as the Stewards had been holding the throne for over 1000 years. Arathorn was a leader of the Dunedain however, and like his son, he was raised by Elrond inside of Rivendell. This kind of upbringing likely explains why Aragorn is so versed in elvish culture, and it also explains his confrontational relationship with Elrond. Not only was he the father of Aragorn’s love; Elrond was also a surrogate father for Aragorn himself.
Elrond realized that Aragorn’s lineage made him an enormous target, as there were many throughout Middle Earth who did not want the true king to sit on the throne. As a result, Elrond kept Aragorn’s true identity a secret even to those in Rivendell and to Aragorn himself. Elrond renamed him Estrel, which is Elvish for "hope", and allowed him to have a fairly normal upbringing.
The fact that Elrond decided to give Aragorn the Elvish name for hope is a suggestion of the impact the young man could have on the world of Middle Earth. Elrond knew that Aragorn would be a pivotal figure in the fight against Sauron, and Aragorn absolutely was. He was capable of uniting the armies of men, and also got the Elves involved on a couple of occasions. He also brought the army of the dead along for good measure, and fulfilled the promise of hope that he was named for.
The first foray into the world of Middle Earth comes from The Hobbit, which chronicles the fairly lighthearted adventure of Bilbo Baggins, and explains how he came to possess the ring that will be central to Lord of the Rings. During his journey, Bilbo and his troupe of dwarves stop in Rivendell, and meet with Elrond. Because the Elven land is so close to the Shire, it seems to be a natural pit stop for journeying hobbits.
When Bilbo stopped off at Rivendell, he may have seen a squirrelly young boy who was roughly ten years old. That boy was none other than Aragorn, who was alive during Bilbo’s journey. Of course, Aragorn’s identity was a secret at the time, so Bilbo wouldn’t have known who the child was. In the filmed version of The Hobbit trilogy, there’s a reference to Aragorn that suggests the character is much older than his book counterpart, but this may be a simple continuity error, or it may mean that Jackson chose to shorten Aragorn’s years of exploring Middle Earth.
Viggo Mortensen could be a fairly intense presence on set, and that was never more true than during The Two Towers, when the actor sustained two separate injuries over the course of filming. During a fight scene in the Battle of Helm’s Deep, Mortensen broke a tooth. While this would stop most actors in their tracks, Mortensen wondered how quickly the tooth could be glued back on so that filming would continue.
It’s hard to say whether Mortensen was always this intense on set, or whether he was merely channeling his character in that particular scene. Aragorn wouldn’t let a chipped tooth stop him in his tracks, and Mortensen lived up to that spirit through his eagerness to return to the fight. Mortensen was certainly a trooper, and it must have been a great boon to have such a committed presence at the center of the film, especially considering how long the trilogy took to shoot.
Aragorn didn’t learn that he was the heir to the throne of Gondor until he was 20 years old. In the films, we know that Aragorn treats this information like a burden, and it colors every decision he makes. It must have been strange to have this enormous burden thrust upon him just as he was entering adulthood. The films suggest that the knowledge forever changed him, and made him the man we meet at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring.
Of course, the fact that Aragorn learns of this knowledge after reaching maturity only furthers the idea that Aragorn has the most traditionally heroic story arc of the Fellowship. Being burdened by the knowledge of being "chosen" for some higher purpose is a common trope in storytelling, seen in everyone from Luke Skywalker to Harry Potter. Aragorn’s story fits into this mold, but it also happens to be one of the very best executions of the trope.
Although Arwen was Elrond’s daughter, Aragorn did not meet her until he was already 20. In fact, he met her the day after he discovered who he truly was, so Arwen never got the chance to meet an Aragorn who didn’t have the weight of the throne on his shoulders. Still, these were likely pivotal moments for young Aragorn, who met his future wife the day after he learned what his destiny would be.
These events shaped who Aragorn would become, and they’re two of the most important pieces of information for understanding who he is when we meet him in Lord of the Rings. Aragorn’s love for Arwen is already well-established when the trilogy starts, and by the time it ends, Arwen has given up her immortality to be with him. It’s the defining romance of the trilogy (unless you count Frodo and Sam), and it’s one that complicates every decision that both of them make.
It seems as though Elrond was fearful of the bond that Aragorn and Arwen could form, and so he sent Arwen away to lie in the forests of Lothlorien with Galadriel while Aragorn was a young man. As a result, Aragorn and Arwen didn’t meet until he was already an adult. If Arwen had been allowed to live in Rivendell, she would obviously have known Aragorn when he was a child, and would have seen him grow up.
While Elrond’s intention was to keep Arwen and Aragorn apart, allowing her to miss Aragorn’s youth may have had the opposite effect. It might have been hard to fall in love with adult Aragorn if she had been familiar with the child version. Instead, Arwen met Aragorn when he was already a grown man, and so was able to circumvent this problem almost completely. While it’s true that Aragorn does age while Arwen does not, the most awkward part of that problem was solved when Elrond sent Arwen away.
Mortensen wasn’t afraid to give his two cents with regards to the character he’d been hired to play, and he made several requests to Peter Jackson throughout the filming of the trilogy. The first of these was to give the character more time on horseback than he was given in the books. Mortensen made this request because he’s an experienced horseman, and knew he could pull off many of the practical stunts that were taking place on horseback. This request clearly paid off, especially in the sequence in The Two Towers when Aragorn is presumed dead after fighting with the Wargs.
Mortensen also requested more dialogue in Elvish-- an odd request, maybe, considering that the language was created by Tolkien. This is an example of Mortensen’s insistence on challenging himself. He knew that Aragorn would likely speak Elvish quite frequently, especially around Arwen and Elrond, and learned the language so that he could be as fluent as his character.
Aragorn is so versed in the cultures of various parts of Middle Earth because he spent a large part of his life traveling the land after leanring his true identity. This kind of travel is a traditional chapter in a hero’s journey, as it gives them the knowledge of how things are done throughout a wide variety of cultures.
Of course, in the case of Aragorn, it also gave him the preparation he required to be king, as he learned about the various peoples he would be ruling over. This allowed Aragorn to be a different kind of king, one who Tolkien would probably argue had come from the people, and who was able to be a more just ruler as a result. Aragorn had seen the various ways that good leaders fall, and also understood how to relate to people who were born with much less power than he was. Aragorn learned how to be a fairly ordinary man, and that’s what allowed him to be a truly great king.
After he left Rivendell, Aragorn spent time fighting with the armies of both major kingdoms of men. He spent time fighting for Rohan under King Theoden’s father, and he also spent time serving in the army of Gondor under Steward Denethor’s father (Boromir’s grandfather). During his time in these armies, Aragorn performed numerous feats of heroism that gave him a fierce reputation at a fairly young age.
Aragorn’s abilities as a warrior are certainly tested throughout the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and these skills likely come from his days as a soldier. In serving in these armies, Aragorn picked up the fighting skills that would be required to wage the War of the Ring, as well as a knowledge of military tactics that proved key to his victories at Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith. His years in both of these armies was undoubtedly key to who he became, as they’re what made Aragorn the hero he is in The Lord of the Rings.
Even in the fantastical world of Middle Earth, most humans don’t live to be much older than 100. Because Aragorn is descended from an Elvish bloodline (more on that later), he was able to live much longer than most humans-- which meant that his life with Arwen was longer than it could have been. Still, when Aragorn was 210, he decided that he had had enough of life, and would die before he became too old to care for himself.
In the aftermath of Aragorn’s death, events play out almost exactly the way Elrond describes them to Arwen in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Arwen lives long afterward, and only dies years later of a broken heart. Arwen believed that the pain she experienced here would be well worth it for Aragorn’s love, and that seems to be a belief she carried with her until her last days. While Aragorn’s advanced age may seem impressive, it was nothing compared to Arwen’s, who was 2901 years old when she died.
In Tolkien’s early drafts of The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn was a hobbit. Of course, this was before Tolkien decided that Aragorn would be the heir to the throne of Gondor. While this early version of Aragorn was a hobbit, there were few other differences between this version of the character and the one we know today. The main difference came from apparel. Initially, Aragorn wore wooden shoes and was nicknamed “Trotter” because of the shoes made.
Obviously, the concept of making him a hobbit was eventually scrapped in favor of introducing the character as Aragorn, although Tolkien was unsure of who “Trotter” would be for quite a while. Some early drafts considered the possibility of making him a relative of Bilbo, or even Bilbo himself. In the end, these ideas were discarded in favor of introducing a human to the story, one who would eventually be crucial to the events of the series.
In the books, Aragorn isn’t quite the same reluctant hero he’s depicted as being in the films. Book Aragorn is consistently interested in reclaiming the throne of Gondor, though he’s still a heroic figure. The films decided to make the character even more selfless, and so they removed his longing for the throne. Instead, Aragorn becomes a more reluctant hero who has the burden of leadership thrust upon him over the course of the series.
It’s easy to see why Jackson decided to make a change to the character. While it may be easy to communicate nobility in a novel, it’s harder on screen, which means that Aragorn’s reluctance to become a hero only makes him more compelling. Audiences relate more to heroes who have a burden thrust upon them, as Aragorn does. We also respond well to heroes who don’t fall into despair as a result of the weight placed upon them, but instead rise to the challenge. All of this only works to make Aragorn a more compelling character.
Stuart Townsend was originally cast as Aragorn, but Peter Jackson wasn’t satisfied with his portrayal of the character. Unfortunately, Jackson didn’t discover his dissatisfaction until filming for the trilogy had already commenced. This meant that Jackson had to fire the actor after four days on set, and eventually replaced him with Viggo Mortensen.
While we’ll never know what finally forced Jackson to fire Townshend, it’s likely a good thing that Mortensen was given the role instead. His commitment to the part and his ability to play a quiet man who was nevertheless deeply powerful is unmatched. Mortensen was never nominated for an Oscar for his performance in these films, although he probably should have been. His ability to take this fantasy character and make him deeply human is impressive, and it’s part of what makes the movies so endlessly rewatchable. Mortensen was nothing if not committed, and his replacing Townsend was definitely the right decision for the trilogy.
Aragorn is able to live much longer than most humans because of his Elven lineage, and he apparently also ages much slower than a typical man. In The Two Towers, we learn that the character is 87, which is particularly impressive when we consider the kind of physical presence he had during the Battle at Helm’s Deep.
Viggo Mortensen, who was only in his early 40s when he filmed the role, manages to give Aragorn’s motions the weight of experience. He’s the kind of man who’s already exhausted when we first meet him, even as we understand that his greatest challenges may still lay ahead of him. Still, Aragorn’s age likely helped give him a cooler head. He doesn’t behave rashly-- instead he takes time to think through his decisions in order to determine the right course of action. That kind of patience comes with age, which explains why Aragorn has so much of it.
Tolkien drew on his own life for the story of Arwen and Aragorn’s love. The pair are totally enamored with one another from the second they meet, and the undying love that they shared was meant to be a mirror of Tolkien’s own relationship with his wife, Edith, who he loved dearly. While Lord of the Rings can’t exactly be described as a romantic story - at least in the traditional sense - that doesn’t mean that Tolkien was ill-equipped to write about love.
In fact, his discussions of the love story between Aragorn and Arwen contain some of the most beautiful prose Tolkien ever wrote. It’s clear that the story they share was dear to Tolkien’s heart, even if it wasn’t part of his first drafts. In fact, Arwen was added to the story fairly late in the process, with earlier drafts having Aragorn marry Eowyn. While that would have been perfectly lovely, it’s clear that Tolkien’s real passion was for Arwen, just as Aragorn’s was.
Mortensen was remarkably methodical in his portrayal of Aragorn. The actor was known to stay in character between takes on the set, and went to remarkable lengths to get inside the mind of the man he was tasked with playing. This information was widely reported on set, and it shows in Mortensen’s performance. At times while watching the trilogy, it can be hard to remember that you’re watching an actor give a performance.
Apparently, director Peter Jackson had similar problems, and actually called Mortensen "Aragorn" for an entire half hour without either of them realizing it. They had a good laugh when they realized the error, but this story also speaks to the power that the story held for both of them. When Jackson looked at Mortensen, he saw Aragorn, and Mortensen so thoroughly inhabited the character that it didn’t feel strange to be addressed by that name. There’s a reason his performance works so well, and it’s because Mortensen and his collaborators were committed to these parts.
During The Two Towers, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli spend the first chunk of the movie tracing the path that Merry and Pippin were taken through after they were kidnapped by the Uruk-hai. When Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas arrive at the edge of Fangorn Forest, they find a pile of orcs that have been burned in their entirety. Aragorn assumes that the hobbits have met their end alongside the orcs, and he’s not heartbroken.
In his fury, he kicks an orc helmet and screams. Apparently, the take that ended up being in the film was one in which Viggo Mortensen broke two toes while he kicked the helmet. The cries of agony that he utters in the scene are very real, but he stayed in character even through the excruciating pain. That take was so believably anguished that it made the final cut of the film. He may have broken some toes in the process, but it only enhanced his performance. That’s just the kind of actor Mortensen is.
This romantic pair are actually related, although not very directly. Arwen is the daughter of Elrond, but few know that Elrond also had a twin brother, a man named Elros. Elrond comes from a heritage that mixes elven blood with human blood, and so they are given the choice of whether they want to live life as an immortal elf or as a mortal man. While Elrond chose to be an elf, his brother chose the life of a mortal man, and became a high king.
Many generations passed, and while Elrond remained alive, his human brother died, but not before producing children. Many generations later, one of Elros’s distant descendants is none other than Aragorn, the high king of Gondor. In a very literal sense, then, Arwen and Aragorn are related. Still, this relation is a fairly distant one, and it probably won’t have any impact on their relationship. After all, they have much bigger problems to deal with than a little bit of familial relation.
In a traditional story, the central figure goes on a hero’s journey that transforms them from the character we met in the beginning to someone truly powerful by the story’s end. In Lord of the Rings this figure is almost certainly Aragorn, who initially denies his own lineage but eventually becomes a strong leader because of his years of travel.
What’s interesting about Aragorn is that, while he’s the Campbellian hero of this story, he’s not the main character. He’s certainly important, but Frodo and Sam both have larger roles in both the book and film, and it’s ultimately their story that we end on. Aragorn gets a hero’s arc, but he isn’t the main character. As a result, Lord of the Rings gives us a different perspective on the story of a hero, by showing us that they can come in a variety of sizes. Aragorn may be the most traditionally heroic, but Frodo and Sam are the real heroes, and even Aragorn understands that.
Is there any deep-cut trivia about Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings that we missed? Let us know in the comments!