On the Wisdom of the Eldar and Edain

Alex Long

Active Member
This is a long one... brace yourselves...

An issue that was brought up in the most recent Script Outline Session was Gilraen's role throughout this season and her apparent role as the show's Butt Monkey and Complainer. I think it would be a travesty if this is the image of Gilraen that viewers take away. It also leads to the unfortunate dilemma of have to work in episodes where Gilraen is 'right.' This way of thinking, I believe, is in need of a major restructuring. Luckily, I think there is a way of doing this without having to completely redo script outlines and characterizations. The problem lies in the framing of the terms 'right' and 'win' (don't worry, you're not about to read a manifesto on the philosophical merits for or against moral relativity.)

In our adaptation of the Silmarillion and it's characters, I think we would all agree that we do not want to portray either Gilraen or Elrond as idiots. In addition, although she is young, I don't think the intention is to portray Gilraen as unwise or immature. She is, after all, a queen and mother who has had to grow up faster than most. For her to have gotten to the place she is, having experienced the trials and tragedies she has experienced, shows a presence of wisdom beyond her years. And yet, her foil is Elrond. And Elrond is high elven lord Elrond. The problem with putting these two characters in the same room is that, although they are both intelligent, discerning characters, Gilraen is clearly outmatched in the wisdom department, and for us this has created the unintentional illusion of immaturity. In order to combat this, we must take a new approach.

My proposal is not new and has been brought up multiple times in the SilmFilm Podcast- we use the characters of Elrond and Gilraen to contrast the differences between the life-experiences of the Eldar and the Edain. In the same way Finrod and Andreth are used as representatives of their respective worldviews, we use Elrond and Gilraen to highlight the inherent differences between what the Eldar would consider wisdom and what the Edain consider wisdom. I'm not sure if anyone else has thought as much about this as I have (I'm sure Professor Tolkien spend a minute or two on the idea,) but wisdom- an understanding of how the world operates and the diligence one shows to apply this knowledge in one's life- would be completely, wholly, irreconcilably different between these two races. We as humans can (hopefully) understand wisdom through the eyes of a race of beings whose members a) live less than a century b) are physically affected with a varying degree of sensitivity by the laws of the natural world c) are bound to a natural understanding and experience of both the natural and supernatural realms while alive and d) are refused a clear and complete understanding of the afterlife and their place therein. Elves on the other hand a) live immortal lives within the circles of the world b) are physically and mentally affected with a varying of sensitivity by the laws of the natural world c) are capable of understanding and experiencing both the natural and supernatural realms while alive and d) have a practical understanding of their purpose and role in the created universe. While these two peoples may often agree on how the world operates, they cannot possibly have a similar agreement on the best application of this knowledge for their respective races.

What we could possibly attempt is to use the characters of Elrond and Gilraen as the metaphorical spokespersons for these different worldviews. If done correctly, neither should ever come across as the 'winner' or 'loser' of disagreements. In fact it's best if both sides are constantly making excellent points on how a child living in both worlds and connected to both peoples should be raised (that's Estel/Aragorn for those not paying attention.)

Example:
As it's outlined right now, in Episode 3 Elrond and Gilraen's disagreement revolves around the idea that Gilraen doesn't believe Elrond should be teaching Estel about Melkor and evil. Now the script outline Nicholas typed up does emphasis that she is worried about Estel's age more than anything. However, in the resolution the argument seems to have become about, specifically, the temptation of pride. Now two wise people regardless of race would both agree that it is a good thing to teaching children about the temptation of evil and the effects of giving into such prideful temptations. And yet, as it currently stands, Elrond is the one to use Numenor as an example of the importance of this lesson. Doesn't Gilraen have far more reason to be thinking of Numenor in this regard than Elrond? Why would she not understand the importance of this lesson? Making this decision paints Gilraen in an almost negligent light. So where could their difference of opinion lie? Not in the knowledge of pride's temptation, but in the action one should take against such temptation.

What do these stories of Melkor and Ungoliant portray of pride and temptation? How do the Valar respond? When confronted with potential corruption, Varda removes herself from Melkor. From different points of view, this could either be seen as moral resistance or flight. Elrond, an Eldar tasked with the protection of his people and land, would see this action as personal resistance against evil. A human woman who has seen the direct consequences of allowing evil to remain abroad might see this as cowardice or, at the very least, a passive response. Now I know Elrond has seen war and death, but he's still an immortal elf. 'Living to fight another day' is pretty much how the whole First Age plays out for the elves. It's conceivable that Elrond would see this as wisdom more readily than a full human. And if this is where his and Gilraen's argument stems from, then we can let the audience decide who is 'right.' Or even better, if done carefully, we leave the audience seeing the merits of both points of view. I don't think we have to be so quick to make a decision for our audience.

If this is policy for all or most episodes, a lot of our structural problems can be resolved. Does Estel need more free time in Episode 9? Sure, why not. But in an episode(s) about the rebellion of Osse, it seems there might be a deeper issue that prompts discussion between Elrond and Gilraen. How would the two of them view the rebellion? Elrond is the lord of Rivendell- a seemingly peaceful, Marxist-like society lead by an unelected, non-royal leader. This is pretty much the same as Valinor, is it not? Gilraen on the other hand comes from a tribal society which aspires for eventual monarchal rule over the land it roams. What if, instead of Gilraen wanting Estel to have more free time, it's Elrond who feels Estel is being worked too hard? He would not be as concerned about time because, to an elf, time is endless. Now obviously he knows that he is teaching a human child, but it would still feel less pressing of an issue to him than the child's human mother. For Gilraen, time is of the essence. The faster Estel can become educated, the quicker he can retake his rightful place as Chieftain of the Dunedain. Osse's story to her would look like the result of a lack of structure in the Valar government. "Strength and discipline: that's how you keep order. Strength and discipline: That's what my son needs to succeed." Elrond, on the other hand, is ruler of the Tra-la-la-lallies. He's a light and flighty fairy king who has probably spent a good deal of time 'doing nothing' (as Gilraen would perceive it.) We end the episode not with one of them losing, but with the two of them making an agreement as to the schedule and discipline (in the 'disciple' sense, not the 'cut your own switch' sense) of the energetic young child. They both partially get what they feel is best for Estel, but they both also have to make sacrifices. It's also an opportunity for the future king of Gondor and Arnor to see the merits of compromise- something I think both Elves and Men would see as wisdom.

I feel like this is not just a better way represent two main characters, it also ties into two major plot points of this season. First, Aragorn is being educated with the understanding between his caretakers that one day he will become a ruler. Maybe his guardians aren't seeing High King just yet, but at the very least, Chieftain of the Dunedain is in their sights. We use these disagreements and their resolutions to show that Estel is learning not only from his lessons but also from observing the leaders he is surrounded by. It also foreshadows some of the difficult decisions he will have to make in the Lord of the Rings like whether to follow Frodo or rescue Merry and Pippin. Aragorn's life will always be plagued by dualities, but even early, he can begin to see that taking a single path and ignoring another is not always the only option; sometimes he can have his cake and also have that other cake too. The second plot tie-in is with Manwe. Manwe will spend most of the season struggling with accepting a path he doesn't want to take. Whereas the theme of 'The Struggle Between Eldar and Edain Wisdom' reflects and furthers Estel's journey, it contrasts Manwe's journey. Elrond and Gilraen start the season at odds with one another, yet as they begin to discuss and compromise, they begin to understand one another. This will presumably end with a group hug or jumping high-five or something in the final episode. Manwe, contrastly, starts as an understanding mediator and ends the season forced into an action he is essentially inclined to oppose. While the frame story ends in peace and reconciliation, the main narrative ends with war and imprisonment. It's probably not the best motivation for our decision-making, but this is one of those things television shows win Emmy's for. Just sayin'
 

Alex Long

Active Member
As bonus potential awesomeness, with Elrond's conversations with Gilraen somewhat "rehumanizing" him, we have the opportunity through dialogue at the end of the season to foreshadow (backshadow?) Elrond's relationship with Elros. Did Elros' choice of mortality strain their relationship? Did this strained relationship with his brother cause Elrond to form certain prejudices against humanity (like they're inability to see 'true' wisdom?) If this is the case, I'm sure the whole Isildur situation didn't help. Does he view the training of Estel as his chance to 'finally train up a good one'? Does his conversations with Gilraen actually lead to a more accurate and benevolent understanding of the Edain? Is Gilraen actually part of the reason Elrond is so open to insight from other 'lesser' people like with Bilbo and at the council of Elrond? Can high and mighty Elrond Half-Elven actually have a character arc in this season?!?! It just might be possible.
 

MithLuin

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Staff member
I completely agree with you that the goal should be to contrast their worldviews (mortal vs elvish) while respecting both these viewpoints as having value. I have been concerned about our portrayal of Gilraen ever since the first episode, where her objections could easily be viewed as her being overprotective of her son rather than having valid, rational concerns. Whiny, interfering, helicopter mom Gilraen should be avoided at all costs!

And I agree that the challenge is exacerbated by having one of the characters be our narrator, wise Master Elrond. It's not that he can't make mistakes or be wrong...it's that he's had a lot more time to consider his views and likely has good reasons for thinking the way he does. We can't have him overlook something and appear stupid.

I would like for him to grow over the course of the season, but not necessarily to have any life-altering insights. Merely (if you will) for him to grow into being a father-figure for Estel. I would like to see his genuine interest in the boy show, and for Gilraen's growing trust in him, not as an outsider, but as part of her family, to be earned. I think that Elrond had nothing but respect for Isildur, and viewed his failure to take Elrond's advice as an unfortunate mistake, not a deliberately or maliciously short-sighted view. We know that Estel reminds Elrond of Isildur's eldest son Elendur, who in turn would have reminded Elrond of Elendil and/or Elros. Drawing on that family connection at some point will be important, but I don't think we've worked it into the first season.

Andreth vs Finrod is the perfect model, as Finrod is arguably the wisest of the Noldor. He spends most of the Athrabeth explaining to her how the world works. And yet...she has some news and insights for him, too. It's not entirely one-sided, though she is bitter and he is hopeful. Her lost love has shaped her views in life, but she is an older woman, while Gilraen is still young and her grief is a bit 'fresher', if you will (it's been 8 years, and while that may be enough time to 'move on' in many ways, she's not exactly pursuing another husband or having much contact with her family during this time.)

I will admit I am also using someone in my life as a model for Andreth - my cousin died in a work-related accident in his 20s, leaving behind a wife and son. My cousin's widow is very strong and resourceful, and I've been very impressed with her. She has not let her life freeze in place, but has forged ahead. Andreth...living in the timeless valley of Rivendell, 'hidden' from the rest of the world, may feel a bit more like she's stuck. I can see working through her grief in a healing way being an important arc for her during this season, and for Elrond's kindness and insight to help her along that path.


Now, as for the question of structure - I do view Elrond's lessons as being highly unstructured. He has a single pupil, so he can tailor the storytelling to that one student. We've had him hold the lessons in a variety of places. He might seem a bit capricious and laid back about the whole thing, realizing that Estel will get there in time. Perhaps it is Gilraen who is teaching Estel his 'other' lessons. She could be training him in Elvish (reading/writing/translation) and customs of the Dunedain (though covertly, as Estel has not yet discovered that he is himself one of the Dunedain). Perhaps some math and economics in there. Seeing her in a teaching role would help to dispel the idea that she is ignorant.

Of course, this leads to yet another discussion in Episodes 9-10 where Gilraen objects to the nature of Elrond's lessons. I do much prefer the idea of them having a discussion, and agreeing on what boundaries are appropriate for the boy - learning to co-parent, essentially. I'm just having trouble seeing how this would all play out, so I have to think about it some more.


I think part of the issue is that conflict is an important part of drama, so it seems natural to write this story as the two characters in conflict, fighting over whether to raise Estel as an elf or a human. The fact that this greatly diminishes both characters means we should avoid it, but then...how do you generate the drama of the frame story? Learning to work together and compromise is a fine lesson, and I see how it fits very thematically into this season...I just don't want it to be bland, boring writing, either.
 
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MithLuin

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Staff member
I do think that an argument can be made for the idea that when there is open conflict everyone loses. Certainly, at least one of the characters in conflict will be viewed negatively, and possibly both characters will be diminished and seem childish and petulant.

For instance....
When you just hurl a bunch of insults at each other, no one wins. It's probably not an accident that Eminem wins the final rap battle in 8 Mile by mocking his opponent's privileged middle class life while flaunting his own messed up poor white trash chaos - it's one of the only ways to generate sympathy/empathy in the middle of trash talking:
(warning: language. I mean, it's a rap battle from a rated R film, so...)

Captain America: Civil War is likely going to be based on this premise of pitting two well-liked and sympathetic characters against one another....but the audience has seen both characters fight 'bad guys' before, so it's much easier to treat both sides as having merit - maybe Tony Stark is looking at the big picture while Steve Rogers is focused on his friend. Maybe Captain America is guided by principles, while Iron Man focuses on practicality. They don't have to have a clear right/wrong, winner/loser...but they are in open conflict, obviously. [Though just as obviously, all has to be resolved before the next Avengers film.]

If we take the 'working together here' approach, we remove the conflict and the tension (or at least the bulk of it). We only have short amounts of screentime in each episode to devote to the frame, so how do you build up a subtle and nuanced story 'in the background' like that? I mean, I *want* to, and I think it's incredibly worthwhile...I just don't know how to go about it?
 

Alex Long

Active Member
You bring up excellent points. For starters, I would say that most of the conflict in our episodes will come from the main narrative of the Valar. If an episode here or there is unicorns and rainbows in Rivendell, the episode will still have it's main plot to present conflict and drive the story forward. We shouldn't feel the need for everybody to be angsty all the time. Also, I don't know if every conflict in the frame narrative needs a resolution. With episodes like 9 & 10, Elrond and Gilraen's argument involves the proper way to educated Estel. It's a practical issue and so it needs an active resolution. Also, this narrative is stretched over two episodes so we have twice the time to resolve it. With other episodes, arguments can be more discussion-like. It's currently planned that at the end of episode 6, Gilraen gets upset at Elrond for telling a depressing story (or something,) Elrond explains the wisdom of learning stories like the Destruction of the Lamps, and Gilraen "get's schooled." Alternatively, we could end this episode with them comparing and contrasting how the story can be interpreted depending on one's point of view (but without using boring, academic language like 'compare and contrast.') Elrond obviously sees this story as a tragedy- another example of Melkor's campaign to corrupt everything beautiful. We could then use Gilraen to voice an idea that's been talked about numerous time by Prof. Olsen, but that we haven't incorporated into our story. The Valar kind of mess up in collecting the light. The destruction of Almaren would never have happened if the lamps were never made it the first place. Gilraen would be a natural person to bring this up. It ties in perfectly with her story in the next episode confronting Elrond on 'hiding' in Rivendell leaving everybody outside his protection to suffer. We end the episode with everyone having made a solid point, but no one monopolizing the wisdom, so to speak. No concrete resolution needs to happen because no immediate action needs to be taken; everybody's just offering their opinions. No winners; no losers; we pack up, go home, and let the audience decide who to side with. As for episodes where somebody is actually the winner/loser of a debate...

Hey, it's not bad if it's done well.
 

MithLuin

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Staff member
As currently written, Episode 5 ends with Gilraen being leery of happy endings, as real life doesn't work that way, and we use the flashbacks to tell the story of the loss of her husband. Elrond's response is more or less 'wait and see.' Episode 6 then undoes the Lamps, though Tulkas and Nessa do get married. At the end of that, she's feeling more than a little miserable, but they discuss 'Hope' (the meaning of Estel's name), and she entrusts the Ring of Barahir to Elrond for safekeeping.

I don't think of that as a win/loss scenario, so much as...the audience is going to be wondering why Estel's father is missing, and when we answer that question, we have to address Gilraen's grief. And we see now that she is following Elrond's lead on raising her son (by renaming him and staying in Rivendell.) But it is an example of Elrond telling her something that she has to accept, so he is the wise one there, though she is not 'wrong' about the world not being full of happy endings.
 

MithLuin

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Staff member
For anyone who has not seen this, I think that Jenny Dolfen's portrait of Andreth could serve as good inspiration for our Gilraen:

 

ouzaru

Well-Known Member
So this was addressed to a certain degree in the Outline Review Episode; first off, the Hosts decidedly come down on the side of Gilraen not being firm ENOUGH, and it was decided that we're going to build up Gilraen as much more sympathetic and understandable by tugging on their foolishly sentimental heart strings by going hard on the Death of Arathorn at the beginning of Episode 1. This should give us a bit more space for our audience to understand Gilraen's point of view, even if they disagree with her actions. Funny you mention Civil War, Marie, I think both Steve and Tony wind up exemplifying the balance we're going for, feeling that Gilraen's choices are tragic and maybe even wrong-headed, but knowing darn well she can't really make any other choices considering her history.

How are we feeling about that?
 

MithLuin

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Staff member
Welll.....yes and no.

The Hosts decided that our toned down Gilraen-Elrond conflicts, as presented in the script outlines, did not have the fiery Gilraen they had imagined - she was too deferential and 'Elrond's guest' the way we had written her.

They did, however, agree that she very much should be representing the 'mortal' view rather than the elvish view, just as Alex laid out here.

The question is HOW TO DO THAT. Which I'm still not clear on.

I do like the idea of a more sympathetic intro for Gilraen, so that we don't see her immediately scolding Estel and disagreeing with Elrond for no good reason right off the bat. I think this will bode well for setting the right tone. But it's still a question of where to go from there, and 'unreasonable parent at a PTA meeting' is not a note anyone wants to hit with her.

(Haven't seen Civil War yet)
 

Haakon

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We've got a couple of threads going so I don't know where to write this exactly but here goes:
Perhaps we could increase Gilraen's negativity - she never planned, never wanted to live in Rivendell. That wasn't her idea. Someone else took her and Estel there. As soon as Estel is old enough, they're leaving. She's grateful for Elrond's hospitality but she doesn't want Estel to be raised by him. The problem is, Estel has lived his whole conscious life in Rivendell, and he is old enough to say he wants to hear these stories. So she much more clearly expresses a 'no' to these stories.
 
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ouzaru

Well-Known Member
I mean, I feel like the best way to do it is more or less the way Andreth does it. She can be polite and grateful without being a doormat. I think it should be a foregone conclusion between them that she isn't about to pack up her stuff and leave, but she really shouldn't hesitate to disagree with Elrond and tell him how he's wrong.

For his part, Elrond should be sort of amused but not dismissive. When a 7 year old disagrees with me, I definitely think it's kind of adorable, but I don't dismiss what they have to say out of hand. I listen patiently and make an effort to understand their point of view. Elrond doesn't really expect to be wrong, but I think he would genuinely listen and if nothing else try to make his discussions with Gilraen teachable moments. I feel like he would always be extending an invitation to Gilraen, "There's lessons and wisdom here for you too". This condescension of course would be annoying to Gilraen, but she understands that it's not malicious, and can see it's all connected to her main problem with Estel's teaching in the first place, which is that it's all very "Elvish" and not as relevant for her son as Elrond thinks.

Does that help clarify at all or is it too meta textual?
 

Haakon

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I mean, I feel like the best way to do it is more or less the way Andreth does it. She can be polite and grateful without being a doormat. I think it should be a foregone conclusion between them that she isn't about to pack up her stuff and leave, but she really shouldn't hesitate to disagree with Elrond and tell him how he's wrong.

For his part, Elrond should be sort of amused but not dismissive. When a 7 year old disagrees with me, I definitely think it's kind of adorable, but I don't dismiss what they have to say out of hand. I listen patiently and make an effort to understand their point of view. Elrond doesn't really expect to be wrong, but I think he would genuinely listen and if nothing else try to make his discussions with Gilraen teachable moments. I feel like he would always be extending an invitation to Gilraen, "There's lessons and wisdom here for you too". This condescension of course would be annoying to Gilraen, but she understands that it's not malicious, and can see it's all connected to her main problem with Estel's teaching in the first place, which is that it's all very "Elvish" and not as relevant for her son as Elrond thinks.

Does that help clarify at all or is it too meta textual?
I like that. I was trying to say that when you are constructing a dramatic situation, you can't be too subtle because people will just wonder what's going on. You have to sometimes take things to the more extreme. It's of course a balance act, and if you look at PJ's movies I think we can agree that they more than once go too far. But in general, films need to be more simplified and less nuanced than stories in books.
 

MithLuin

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One way to make this blatant could be surrounding the decision for Aragorn/Estel to come to Rivendell after the death of his father.

It's a 'fostering' situation, and those often mean...send off a kid for his education. Alone. Without family members. Granted, kids are typically older than 2 when this happens - it's more at apprenticeship age.

What if the elves of Rivendell first suggested she drop off Estel and leave him there? And instead, she insisted that she would come too, because the boy was too young to go without her?? So, she and young Estel are living in Rivendell (for safety), but the expected apprenticeship hasn't begun yet. We open with Elrond deciding now is the time to begin training the boy, and....
 
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ouzaru

Well-Known Member
I like that, but it opens quite a can of worms. Is Gilraen leaving her post as "queen" of the Dunedain to stick with Estel? Does she have any responsibilities as Queen Mother or has she been cast out by a political (male?) rival, but she's fine with that because she's thinking long term and wants Estel to return to the Throne of Gondor? Does she instead choose to leave some one in charge, and other people feel like she's abandoning her responsibilities? Is everybody else from her community mostly just dead after the Death of Arathorn and she's basically one of a handful of scattered survivors who go off and join other small pockets of Dunedain elsewhere? Are she and Estel the ONLY survivors?
 

MithLuin

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I agree that we will have to sort out the current situation (both practical and politically) of the remnant Dunedain at this time. We could take this in a variety of different directions, and I could see another leader emerging to fill the void - perhaps someone who is also of Elendil's lineage, but not in a direct line like Estel. 'Ruling Queens' were only ever a thing in Numenor (never in Arnor or Gondor), and certainly wouldn't be among the Dunedain of the north. And, yes, if 2 yr old Estel is the rightful leader, then she could perhaps have angled to rule on his behalf, but I would see that getting shot down as not how things are done. We don't know much else about the Dunedain, except that Halbarad will become Aragorn's closest friend among them in later years.
 

Haakon

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My guess is that the Dunedain rangers have a captain who is their group leader until Aragorn is old enough. I also guess that Gilraen recieves messages from this captain if something really important happens, but that this occurs rarely. I think we should not show this more than once during season one, if at all. It might be enough to have her ask the riders if there is a message to her from the captain and receive a negative response.
 

MithLuin

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The details in Appendix A are scant, but a lot is packed into that one paragraph!

Gilraen the Fair is 'young' when they marry (22). Arathorn is 56. When Arathorn is 57, his father Arador dies (killed by trolls) and Arathorn becomes Chieftain of the Dunedain. When he is 58, Aragorn is born, and when he's 60, he's killed - shot in the eye by orc arrows while out with the sons of Elrond. Thus, when Aragorn is a 10 year old boy, Gilraen is 34.

Gilraen's mother Ivorwen is the one who supports the marriage - she first mentions the hope for their people that will come of it. Gilraen's father Dírhael was not supportive, because of Gilraen's young age and a foreboding that Arathorn would not be long-lived. Dírhael is a descendant of Aranarth (son of Arvedui, first Chieftain of Dunedain after the fall of the northern kingdoms).

This makes Gilraen and Arathorn 14th cousins or something (in reality they were likely more closely related than that), but more significantly it means that she is also a descendant of Isildur and part of the 'royal' line - she is no peasant and did not exactly 'marry up'.

Also, it means that whoever is serving as leader of the Dunedain at this time is a steward; the 'rightful' Chieftain is young Aragorn, and there is no other name between his father's and his on the lists in Appendix A. We know that Aragorn did not have any brothers or sisters, of course, but we don't know if his father or grandfather was an only child as well. Perhaps he has a surviving uncle or great-uncle who would step into that role? If not, a more distant relative with blood ties to the royal line (hey, even 13 generations later, Dírhael is still aware of his royal lineage) might step in. We could refer to this person as Steward, Regent, Captain, Leader of the Dunedain, Herald, etc. (but not Chieftain). Or, they are leaderless until Aragorn grows up.

Also, since Arathorn was killed while out fighting orcs, his people are more or less intact. It's not like entire villages were raised (that we know of).
 
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