Aragorn was one of the central figures in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but Frodo’s adventures in Middle-earth only cover part of his long, active life. As the latest in a long line of human kings, Aragorn was an important guy long before he ever heard of the Shire. The tale of his adventures could probably fill several more books all on their own.
Understanding Aragorn’s past is critical to full appreciation for who he was and what he accomplished during the time when Frodo was destroying the One Ring. If you’ve ever wondered why this random, mysterious stranger was so comfortable in the presence of elves, wizards, and dwarves, then wonder no more. Aragorn’s early life took him into the company of all kinds of people, teaching him not just their languages and practices, but giving him a healthy sense of the world of which he’d become an important part. After all, Aragorn would eventually be one of the most important kings in Middle-earth, if not the central political figure of his time.
In this piece, we’ll run down Aragorn’s background and explore how they led up to his ultimate reign over Gondor and Arnor. From his first love to his status as a foster kid to his friendship with Gandalf, Aragorn’s life was full of experiences that would shape him into the mighty warrior whose story intersects with that of Frodo and the Ring. They say that good leaders often have good stories. In Aragorn’s case, that’s definitely true!
Here are 15 Things Aragorn Did Before Lord Of The Rings (And 5 He Did After).
20 Before: He was born on March 1, 2931
The calendars of Middle-earth are a bit complicated. First of all, there are several. The Hobbits use one, the Elves use another, and Men have a different one altogether. Aragorn’s birth, and most of the events of Lord of the Rings, are reckoned in the Númenórean calendar, which was used by Men. In 3019, the Reunited Kingdom, now ruled by Aragorn, resets the clock.
If you want a truly detailed explanation, then you should definitely read The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien’s massive history of Middle Earth prior to the War of the Ring. However, short of writing a longish book on the topic, suffice it to say that Aragorn was born on March 1, 2931, as Men of Middle-earth reckoned time. That makes him a Pisces!
19 Before: He BECAME THE SECOND ARAGORN
Aragorn’s actual name was Aragorn II. That’s because he was named after a distant ancestor, Aragorn I, an earlier Dúnedain chieftain. Not much is known about Aragorn I because he didn’t last long. The Dúnedain were quasi-nomadic warriors who patrolled the Wild long before Frodo was ever born. That’s a dangerous life, and the fact that Aragorn II survived in it so long is a testament to his ability as a warrior.
Aragorn I was apparently less fortunate or less skilled than his illustrious descendant. Before he’d had a chance to make a significant mark on the world, he was eaten by wolves. Such is the life of a wandering warrior king. At least his name lived on!
18 Before: He received a ring
There are a lot of important rings in Middle-earth. Many are magical, and some aren’t. The Ring of Barahir is one that doesn’t have any powers, but was significant for diplomatic reasons. Aragorn wore this ring, which was green and featured wrought snakes, from the time that he left Elrond’s castle in his youth. It had long been an heirloom in Aragorn’s family. Elrond presented it to him when he told Aragorn of his true parentage, and eventually, Aragorn gave it to Arwen as a promise ring.
Originally, the Ring of Barahir had been an Elvish ornament. Finrod, an elf living in ancient times, gifted it to the human man Barahir to thank him for saving his life. The ring represented a permanent bond between the Elves and Barahir’s descendents.
17 Before: He was marked for greatness by his grandmother
Ivorwen was Aragorn’s maternal grandmother. She was known to have the gift of foresight. This was a pretty useful skill for someone in power, and she leveraged it to make sure that Aragorn’s parents, Arathorn and Gilraen, got married, though initially Gilraen’s father opposed the marriage.
Ivorwen also used her gift of prophecy to predict that her grandson would someday wear a green jewel on his chest. That jewel turned out to be Elessar, the elfstone. This was no ordinary decoration. Elessar gives its wearer some healing powers and became the source of Aragorn’s royal name, King Elessar. This green stone may have been made to the order of Galadriel.
16 Before: He was Elrond's foster child
Arathorn was Aragorn’s father. He was also a great warrior, but he never had a chance to pass his storied acumen on to his son. When Aragorn was just two years old, Arathorn was eliminated by orcs while on a mission. This was bad news for the royal family. Sauron might try to press his advantage by getting rid of the boy king, and in a court full of corruptible Men, Aragorn’s mother, Gilraen, decided that he’d be safer in Elrond’s house. She contacted the Elf lord and asked him to foster her son.
After that, Gilraen lived with Aragorn in Elrond’s court, maintaining her anonymity just as her son did.
15 Before: He went adventuring with Elrond’s sons
Like many foster kids, Aragorn developed a bond with his new brothers, who were older and wiser than he was. At the same time, Elrond knew, even though Aragorn didn’t, that Aragorn would probably be a king someday. It was important for the future of Middle-earth that he be worldly and familiar with the many cultures, languages, and peoples with whom he’d have to interact. Therefore, he allowed Aragorn to accompany his Elvish brothers on various travels that brought him all over the known world.
Later, when Aragorn had ascended to his throne, this background allowed him to govern wisely and improve diplomatic relations with his neighbors.
14 Before: He left home at 21 to venture into The Wild
When Aragorn learned that he was royal, he was about 21. At that time, or shortly thereafter, he left Elrond’s house to take his place as the new Chieftain of the Dúnedain. These ever-vigilant scouts kept civilization safe from orcs and other threats in the Wild. It must have been something of a transition from palace life to ranging in the forest, but clearly Aragorn took to it well.
We know that he set right to his new responsibilities in the woods because he started missing meetings. In the year 2953, the White Council met for the final time, during which Saruman claimed he’d thrown the One Ring into the sea. Aragorn, who had turned 21 the year before, was not present.
13 Before: He went by Strider and several other names
Life is difficult for a hunted royal. After his father was eliminated by orcs, Aragorn needed to keep a low profile, but with a royal legacy name like Aragorn II, it’s a little hard to stay hidden. That’s one of the reasons that he has so many other names throughout his life.
When he’s a child in Elrond’s court, he’s known as Estel, which means “hope” in Sindarin. Later, when he fights for Rohan and Gondor, he goes by Thorongil, and of course, the Hobbits know him as Strider. Aragorn lives undercover for a very long time. When he meets Frodo, he’s 87 years old, and he’s spent much of that time pretending to be somebody else.
12 Before: He worked as a Ranger of the North
The way that The Fellowship of the Ring introduces Aragorn implies anything but a grand royal lineage. Instead, he seems like a common ruffian-- even a little threatening. Ordinary people in Middle Earth considered the Rangers of the North a little grim and untrustworthy. They liked to dress in dull colors, like dark green and grey, which would be camouflage in the forests where they patrolled.
It’s safe to say that the average resident of Middle-earth would not have guessed that the Rangers of the North were anything more than creepy, possibly dangerous guys hanging out in the woods in cloaks. It goes to show how important it is to not judge a book by its cover.
11 Before: He fell in love with his foster sister
Arwen was Elrond’s daughter, an Elf who was over 2700 years old when she and Aragorn met. In fact, when he first laid eyes upon her, Aragorn thought he was dreaming of a legendary Elf named Lúthien, who was supposed to have been the most beautiful person to have ever lived.
Thirty years later, Aragorn was ready to approach her, and they quickly committed to one another. This meant that Arwen would eventually need to relinquish her immortality. However, she wouldn’t have to do that for a long time, because Aragorn then went away to fight.
10 Before: He befriended Gandalf
Despite his apparent age, Gandalf was over 2,000 years old in The Fellowship of the Ring. He’s not an Elf, but he’s also not a Man. When he met Aragorn, the future king was only 25 years old, and the gap of experience between them must have been vast. However, they quickly struck up a close friendship. By the time Fellowship opens, they’d already known each other for over fifty years.
It’s easy to imagine Gandalf guiding Aragorn in his youth, and this would have been a great resource for the young chieftain. Their relationship appears to have been one of mutual respect and admiration, too. Eventually, aware that the Ring may be present in the Hobbit lands, Gandalf convinces Aragorn to make the Shire his special project.
9 Before: He tracked down Gollum to get the real story of the One Ring
After The Hobbit, Gollum, now bereft of the Ring that had been both his parasite and his only comfort, wandered aimlessly. Of everyone in Middle-earth, he may have been the only person who knew the truth about the Ring’s whereabouts. Before committing to a course of action, Gandalf asks Aragorn to track Gollum and question him about what happened to his much-missed Precious. Gollum wasn’t exactly dangerous, but he was desperate and very sly.
The sensitivity of this mission was such that Gandalf could only have entrusted it to someone whose skills he respected as much as his tact. Furthermore, since Aragorn was inevitably going to be involved in the upcoming conflict anyway, it made sense that he would be the one to locate Sméagol.
8 Before: He fought Sauron’s forces for years
Between the years 2957 and 2980, the armies of Rohan and Gondor were unwittingly quite lucky to have a trained, battle-hardened prince in their ranks. Under a series of assumed names, Aragorn served in several major conflicts, both gaining experience and proving his ability as a natural commander and tactician. This experience would also prove useful later in his career, not only when he had to fight again, but when he ruled the Reunited Kingdom, of which Gondor was a part.
Aragorn was a very good fighter, to say the least. He scored some significant victories against Sauron’s forces, weakening them enough that the armies of Men later were able to hold them off in the battles that featured in The Lord of the Rings.
7 Before: He didn't know he was a royal until he was an adult
One of the reasons that Aragorn seems to comfortable in his own skin may be that he was raised to believe that he was an ordinary person. Elrond worried that knowledge of his ancestry would endanger Aragorn’s life. Would you trust a five-year-old to keep that kind of secret?
A side effect of this was that Aragorn didn’t necessarily expect any special treatment. While kings of his line did tend to be hands-on, it’s easy to imagine that the young King Elessar might have gotten egotistical and spoiled by knowledge that he was bound for great things. Instead, he fought alongside common men, slept in the woods, and willingly put himself in harm’s way for a higher cause.
6 Before: He helped guard the Shire from orcs and other threats
During the time leading up to Frodo’s journey, Sauron gets much more aggressive in his search for the Ring. Without it, he can’t complete his domination over Middle-earth. Even when he’s separated from it, he can sense its presence. Aragorn spends a lot of time prior to Fellowship keeping Orcs out of the Shire and away from the Ring, whose capture would be a catastrophe for the forces of good.
It’s a good thing that Aragorn was such an accomplished warrior, because the Hobbits of the Shire are not particularly warlike and have very few defenses. However, it’s a testament to his abilities that they remain completely oblivious to his good work for the entire time that he’s protecting them.
5 After: He regained lost territory for the Reunited Kingdom
Gondor had ceded some territory to hostile neighbors over its years in stewardship, before Aragorn reclaimed the throne. Part of this was due to lack of leadership and resources, and part of it was due to the fact that it faced two tense border situations. The Easterlings and the Haradrim occupy several parts of Gondor when Aragorn takes the throne, but they don’t stay there.
These Men, who had allied themselves with Sauron during the War of the Ring, eventually retreat to their borders and respect Gondor’s space again. Aragorn doesn’t exactly go to war over these pieces of land, but he does skirmish deftly to make sure that the neighbors of the newly reunited kingdom know that he’s no pushover.
4 After: He improved cooperation between Elves, Dwarves, and Men
Aragorn’s time with the Elves had educated him in the ways of the world, and his experience with war had taught him to avoid it. As a result, he used his rule over the Reunited Kingdom to improve the lives of the people he governed and shore up the land’s relationship with the other races of Middle-earth. These had deteriorated badly during the restive decades before Frodo brought the ring to Mount Doom, and Elves, Dwarves, and Men often didn’t trust one another.
Aragorn, who had been raised by Elves and who had fought alongside Men and Dwarves, turned out to be a great unifier. By generating cooperation between the various kingdoms of Elves, Men, and Dwarves, he was able to ensure prosperity for all.
3 After: He knew about his own passing before it happened
Aragorn’s grandmother had the gift of prophecy, and while Aragorn himself doesn’t seem to possess this useful trait in significant quantity, he does predict his own passing with great accuracy. Part of this is because his passing was his own decision. In the year 120, Aragorn decides that the time has come for him to go.
That’s not to say that he took his own life, but that he decided that his life was complete. The kingdom was stable, he’d had a good run, and it was time to relinquish his living spirit and make way for the next generation. It takes a certain amount of self-awareness to understand that one person shouldn’t hold power forever. Aragorn bids farewell to his family.
2 after: He passed on his reign to his son, Eldarion
Aragorn and Arwen had several children during their reign. At least two were girls who aren’t much discussed, which is unfortunately quite normal for Tolkien’s work. The other was a boy named Eldarion, who was reportedly the only royal son. That meant that he was also the royal heir.
Eldarion was born in 43 and took the throne in 120. Not much else was known about him or his rule after that. Tolkien had planned for sequels to Lord of the Rings, but he didn’t get past the first 13 pages of his first follow-up novel, The New Shadow. Eldarion’s name means “Son of the Eldar” in Quenya, a reference to his mother’s Elvish heritage.
1 after: He ruled for 122 years and perished at the age of 210
Aragorn’s life was very long, and it might have been longer if he hadn’t consciously decided to end it at the age of 210. There’s a lot of speculation as to why he was able to continue for so many years past what most human beings could squeeze out of a lifespan. All Dúnedain chieftains were naturally this long-lived, despite their tendency to perish in battle.
Aragorn was already 87 when he met Frodo, and at that time he was as hale and hearty as a man in his late twenties. Tolkien makes it clear that other Men in Middle-earth didn’t enjoy this level of health for so long. Aragorn symbolized an ideal man, the type of which Tolkien thought no longer existed in his own world.
Do you have any other knowledge of Aragorn before (or after) The Lord of the Rings? Share in the comments!