Aragorn, Aragorn, where have you been?

Kate Neville

Active Member
As I said elsewhere, I was reading LotR for 10 years before the publication of The Silmarillion, so I spent a lot of time going over the Appendices and have built up a personal headcanon of what people were doing in the 'between times.'

This I have gleaned from Appendix A:

During the reign of Theoden's and Denethor's fathers, Aragorn served Rohan and Gondor under the name Thorongil.

He left Gondor while Echthelion still ruled: "Though none could guess what those tasks might be, nor what summons he had received, it was known whither he went. For he took boat and crossed over Anduin, and there he said farewell to his companions and went on alone; and when he was last seen his face was towards the Mountains of Shadow."

The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen says, "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."

None of this is precise. Aragorn's 'errantry' was between 2957-2980, and he must have spent at least 5 of those 23 years "exploring the hearts of Men." We know he'd been far enough south to see different constellations, but it is also possible that he went South before he ever went into service with Rohan. As the last thing he did for Gondor was lead a raid on Umbar, it seems likely to me that he'd scoped out the Southrons early on in his journeying.

I think that his last undertaking, after he left Gondor, was to go East, and that his trip into the Morgul Vale in search of Gollum was not his first. I offer in support of this what is found later in the Tale of A&A: "It came to pass that when Aragorn was nine and forty years of age he returned from perils on the dark confines of Mordor, where Sauron now dwelt again and was busy with evil. He was weary and he wished to go back to Rivendell and rest there for a while ere he journeyed into the far countries; and on his way he came to the borders of Lórien and was admitted to the hidden land by the Lady Galadriel."

My headcanon then is that Aragorn began his errantry by exploring the South -- where many Numenoreans had settled long ago in the Second Age -- then served first Thengel (getting to know Gondor's chief ally) for 5-6 years, and Ecthelion for another 6-7 years, after which he took on the more dangerous exploration of the East, including Mordor. Whether he ran into Nazgul before 2980 or while tracking Gollum, he certainly had enough experience to know "they are terrible!"

And as an aside: I'd already read most of the Sherlock Holmes stories and quite a bit of Agatha Christie before I found Middle-earth. When I read "the deadly flowers of Morgul Vale" I thought of the deadly nightshade, a sometime source of poison in detective fiction. Oddly enough, it's also known as Belladonna.
 

Kate Neville

Active Member
And it just struck me to wonder when Aragorn went through Moria. Would have to have been before 2989, when Balin & Co. arrived. Was it on the way from Lorien to Rivendell? And there are 20 years unaccounted for between 2980 and Bilbo's Birthday party, when Gandalf asks Aragorn to help 'seek news of Gollum.' Is that when Aragorn went farther East? [Or maybe just into Mirkwood to become BFFs with Legolas.]
 

Ragnelle

New Member
I have imagined that the years between 2980 and 3001 Aragorn spent mostly in the North, leading the Dúnedain. There are only six years (TA 2951-57) from he is told who he is until he begins his errantry, and from what little we see of them, they seem very lojal. In my mind, that lojalty needs more than six years early in his life to build up.

I have not been able to find a date for the raid on Umbar. I remember there was a discussion about whether Aragorn would have meet Boromir before, as Thorongil, but unless we know when the raid was, it is difficult to say. Boromir is born in 2978. If the raid is in 2980, then Boromir is two, but since Aragorn comes to Lorien in 2980, that timeline would not leave him much time to do any exploring in the East or in Mordor.

My headcaonon has been that he goes to Rohan and serves there first, but that has also to do with the geography: comming from the north, Rohan could easily be the first place he comes to, instead of first going south and east, then back to Rohan, and then back east again to Gondor, before going south and east again.

Aragorn's backstroy is one of the things I would have wanted to read more about - the few glipmses we get are tantalizing. I'm not sure why so many consider him BFF with Legolas, though. I never got the feeling that they knew each other that well before the Fellowship.
 

Kate Neville

Active Member
I have imagined that the years between 2980 and 3001 Aragorn spent mostly in the North, leading the Dúnedain. There are only six years (TA 2951-57) from he is told who he is until he begins his errantry, and from what little we see of them, they seem very lojal. In my mind, that lojalty needs more than six years early in his life to build up.

I have not been able to find a date for the raid on Umbar. I remember there was a discussion about whether Aragorn would have meet Boromir before, as Thorongil, but unless we know when the raid was, it is difficult to say. Boromir is born in 2978. If the raid is in 2980, then Boromir is two, but since Aragorn comes to Lorien in 2980, that timeline would not leave him much time to do any exploring in the East or in Mordor.

My headcaonon has been that he goes to Rohan and serves there first, but that has also to do with the geography: comming from the north, Rohan could easily be the first place he comes to, instead of first going south and east, then back to Rohan, and then back east again to Gondor, before going south and east again.

Aragorn's backstroy is one of the things I would have wanted to read more about - the few glipmses we get are tantalizing. I'm not sure why so many consider him BFF with Legolas, though. I never got the feeling that they knew each other that well before the Fellowship.
It's those who watched the films before reading the books. It's possible that they met when Aragorn dropped off Gollum, but there's nothing in the text to indicate that they were acquainted before the Council
 

Flammifer

Active Member
Some more detail on Aragorn's timeline.

2956: Aragorn meets Gandalf and their friendship begins.

2957: Aragorn begins his 'great journeys and errantries'. It is 6 years since Sauron returned to Mordor and declared himself openly, and 3 years since Orodruin burst into flame again.

The sequence of Aragorn's travels seems to have been: 1) Rohan, 2) Gondor, 3) The East and South. This assessment comes from sequence, "He serves in disguise both Thengel of Rohan and Ecthelion II of Gondor", "He rode in the host of the Rohirrim, and fought for the Lord of Gondor by land and by sea; 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", and by explicit statement, "He came to Ecthelion from Rohan, where he had served the King Thengel, but he was not one of the Rohirrim. He was a great leader of men, by land or by sea, but he departed into the shadows whence he came, before the days of Ecthelion were ended".

2980: Aragorn's period of 'great journeys and errantries' ends and he arrives in Lothlorien and plights troth to Arwen.

Aragorn's period of journeys and errantries lasts for 23 years. The time spent on each of the three phases is unknown.

3001: Gandalf calls on the help of Aragorn to seek for news of Gollum after Bilbo's farewell party. This is the first date for Aragorn since 2980 in Lothlorien. So, 21 years with no fixed reference points, though we know he went to Rivendell at some time after Lothlorien and discussed his engagement with Elrond. I assume this was pretty soon after the troth plighting in Lothlorien. A few year's later, Gilraen, Aragorn's mother, left Rivendell and returned to the Rangers in Eriador. "She seldom saw her son again, for he spent many years in far countries." But at some point, "when Aragorn had returned to the North", he came to her, and she stated the linnod: "Onen i-Estel Edain, u-chebin estel anim." That was their last parting, as Gilraen died within a year. After Gilraen's death, "the years drew on towards the War of the Ring." So, we know there were some years between Aragorn's return to Rivendell and Gilraen's death, and some years between Gilraen's death and the War of the Ring, but we don't know how many in each period.

So, where Aragorn roamed during these 21 years is unknown. "Many years in far countries," but we don't know how many years nor which far countries. We do know he returned to the North at times, as Gilraen saw him 'seldom', not 'never', or 'once'.

I think that is the extent of what we know. Speculating, I doubt that Aragorn explored the East and South before serving in Rohan and Gondor. The sequencing of statements seems to make that unlikely. However, we do know that Aragorn's 'great journeys and errantries' were split into three phases: Rohan, Gondor, and East and South. We know some of what he did in Gondor, but nothing of the other two. Even less is known about Aragorn's whereabouts in the 21 years between plighting troth to Arwen in Lothlorien, and agreeing to assist Gandalf in searching for Gollum. All we know is that he occasionally 'returned to the North', and 'spent many years in far countries'. So, where might he have gone?

There were not many key events in the struggle with Sauron during these 21 years which might have attracted Aragorn's attention or intervention. So, I guess that Aragorn's travels were more to gain knowledge and wisdom, gather intelligence, make friends and build relationships, and assess threats, than to engage in active attack or defence. Here are some guesses:

1. I guess he spent some time with Tom Bombadil. We know, at least, that he knows who Tom Bombadil is, from his comment to the Hobbits in the Prancing Pony, "Now, I was behind the hedge this evening on the Road west of Bree, when four Hobbits came out of the Downlands. I need not repeat all they said to old Bombadil or to one another..." Not many people could recognize Tom Bombadil, but Aragorn did. I guess he had spent some time in the House of Bombadil.

2. I guess he spent some time in Lindon and the Havens. Aragorn already knew Rivendell and Lorien, but Lindon and the Havens was the third great base of the Eldar in Middle Earth, and Cirdan was the third great Elf. Surely Aragorn would have wanted to gain the lore and perspective of Cirdan and the Lindon Elves?

3. I guess he spent some time in the Elvish Realm in Mirkwood. There are only 8 powerful realms in opposition to Sauron. Gondor, Rohan, Dale, Erebor, Lorien, Lindon, Rivendell, Mirkwood. He would have wanted knowledge of all.

4. So, I also guess he spent time in Erebor and Dale.

5. I guess he spent some time with Radagast and with Saruman. Assuming Aragorn had learned enough from his friendship with Gandalf to know about the Wizards, he must assess them as potentially powerful players in the struggle against Sauron, and want to get to know them. Saruman was not fully a traitor to the Council until 3000, when he dared to use the palantir of Orthanc and became ensnared. Aragorn might well have found a way to spend some time with him in Isengard before then.

Now, there is no evidence to really support these speculations. However, Aragorn has already spent time getting to know Rohan, Gondor, Harad, The Southrons, The Easterlings, it makes sense that he would want to gain an understanding of all the other potential powers which might affect the struggle against Sauron.
 

Kate Neville

Active Member
The evidence is indeed scant, hence my belief that we can each supply our own head canon. And of course, there's nothing to prevent him having made multiple trips into multiple areas. I would simply argue that the last place he was before meeting Arwen in Lorien was the borders of Mordor, because that is specified in the text. I do like the idea that he's met Bombadil, and will find a way to fit that into my head-tale-of-years. And while I wouldn't argue against trips to Dale/Erebor, I tend to prefer to think that he spent most of his time becoming knowledgeable about the entire territory that would have been considered under the rule of Elendil -- after all, he can't marry Arwen until he gets all that kingdom back again. He's a man with a mission!
 

Ragnelle

New Member
Gilraen dies in 3007, so it is after Bilbo's party.

I am not sure if Aragorn would have spent much time with Saruman - he warns Ecthelion to not put trust him, and this must have happened sometime before 2980.

Edit: Sam uses the name "Bombadil" after Tom Bombadil left, so Aragorn could have picked up the name when he overhears their conversation. Aragorn could, of course, know him, but I am not sure his comment is aboslute proof.
 
Last edited:

Vranda

New Member
Sorry to hijack your excellent post, Kate. I just wanted to know if this lecture series is still ongoing? I have recently caught up, but have seen no new episodes since 148. I watch on Youtube because I'm unable to follow live on Twitch/Twitter. Any word?
 

Kate Neville

Active Member
Sorry to hijack your excellent post, Kate. I just wanted to know if this lecture series is still ongoing? I have recently caught up, but have seen no new episodes since 148. I watch on Youtube because I'm unable to follow live on Twitch/Twitter. Any word?
As far as I know. I don't watch live, but usually catch up Wed or Thurs on Twitch. I think the YouTube feed doesn't go up until later in the week. The Facebook page usually announces if a session is postponed.
 
Top