On the 20th anniversary of the theatrical release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, let’s take a look back at one of the series’ most iconic heroes: Aragorn. Over the course of the films, his style illustrates his shift from reluctant ranger to benevolent king.
When Frodo and his Hobbit companions first meet Aragorn, they are wary of the cloaked stranger keeping to himself in a far corner of The Prancing Pony. His face is shadowed by his hood; only his eyes are discernible as they flash in the light of his pipe.
Frodo is told by the innkeeper that the ranger is known only as Strider by the villagers of Bree, and that little else is known about him. His appearance does not offer any further insight into his identity or purpose.
With his dark, hooded cloak and fixation on Frodo, viewers cannot help but be reminded of the Ringwraiths that have been in pursuit of Frodo and the Ring from the moment that they left the Shire.
Aragorn — Reluctant Royalty
Throwing his hood back, Aragorn reveals himself to the Hobbits as a friend of Gandalf’s, and therefore an ally to Frodo and his cause. Aragorn’s true identity as Isildur’s heir, however, remains intentionally hidden. Even having revealed his loyalty to Gandalf and the mission before the Hobbits, Aragorn still answers to Strider.
He wears his earth-toned ranger garb, which is a far cry from what one would expect a king to wear. The concealment of his identity, once born from necessity, has become a concerted effort and conscious choice to remain in exile instead of accepting his destiny to become the King of Gondor.
Aragorn and Arwen
When the Fellowship arrives in Rivendell, Aragorn changes into more regal, Elvish looking clothing. He seems at peace among the Elves and with his love, Arwen. Having been raised in Rivendell, his comfort dressing in a style that blends the worlds of Men and Elves is unsurprising. At the Council of Elrond, his identity as the Heir of Isildur is revealed; dressed in softer, adorned fabrics, this revelation is easier to reconcile for viewers than it may have been when he was still dressed as a well-traveled ranger.
As the newly formed Fellowship of the Ring departs Rivendell, Aragorn is once again dressed more like the ranger the audience first met him as. He now bears the Evenstar, gifted to him by Arwen as a reflection of her love for him and her promise to forsake her immortality to share “one lifetime” with Aragorn instead of facing “all the ages of this world alone.”
The Journey Really Begins
These are the clothes that see him through the depths of Moria, the ethereal forest of Lothlórien, and the overrun ruins of Amon Hen. While in Lothlórien, Aragorn and the rest of the Fellowship are gifted Elvish cloaks that he adds to his ensemble before they bid farewell to Galadriel.
The Fellowship rests at Amon Hen, where they are ambushed by Sauron’s forces. After the Uruk-hai depart Amon Hen, having killed Boromir and kidnapped Merry and Pippin, Aragorn dons the vambraces of Boromir. This choice is in every likelihood primarily to honor his fallen friend, but also has a deeper meaning.
Aragorn, who had for so long turned away from his destiny, makes a solemn promise to a dying Boromir, telling him, “I do not know what strength is in my blood, but I swear to you I will not let the White City fall, nor our people fail.” The leather vambraces, featuring the Tree of Gondor, reflect Aragorn’s promise as well as a pivotal first step toward acceptance of his heritage and his embracing the world of Men.
As Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli pursue Merry and Pippin’s Uruk-hai captors, Aragorn continues to dress as a ranger. These clothes, while not overly protective, allow him to blend into his surroundings and to move freely. They are naturally a function of his lifestyle, and they also reflect where he is in his development as a character and a king. He is not yet ready to stay in one place.
Battle of Helm’s Deep
His style of dress and approach to the enemy and the dangers of Middle-earth shift in earnest for the first time during the Battle of Helm’s Deep. Foregoing his relatively lightweight armor, Aragorn dresses practically in chainmail and a thick leather overcoat. He also continues to wear Boromir’s vambraces. He is more protected facing the hordes of Isengard, and beyond that, he is taking a stand to protect the people of Rohan.
This is also the first time that viewers see Aragorn serving as a military leader, commanding the Elves that come to the aid of Théoden. These are not the clothes of a man ready to elude the enemy and traverse the wilds; these are the clothes of a man firmly planting himself as a defender of a cause he believes in.
Aragorn once again takes up his more traditional appearance as a ranger for much of The Return of the King. From the Golden Hall of Meduseld to the Paths of the Dead to the Pelennor Fields, Aragorn’s clothes serve him well as a traveler. Prior to facing the King of the Dead, however, Elrond delivers the Shards of Narsil, reforged as Andúril, to Aragorn at Dunharrow. Aragorn accepts and wields the blade, taking yet another step on his path to becoming king.
Black Gate of Mordor
It is not until Aragorn leads a last stand consisting of the Men of Rohan and Gondor, as well as what remains of the Fellowship, to the Black Gate of Mordor that his appearance takes another dramatic shift. With cleaned, partially pulled back hair and wearing a dark cloak lined with regal reds, shining silver armor, and a leather hauberk emblazoned with the Tree of Gondor, Aragorn looks the most kingly that viewers have seen him yet.
Bearing his ancestral sword Andúril, Aragorn is commanding, confident, and inspiring. He courageously faces seemingly hopeless odds against Sauron’s army in the name of giving Frodo and Sam a chance to get to Mount Doom. His valor and loyalty are rewarded when the two Hobbits successfully destroy the One Ring.
Days of the King
With Sauron defeated and the Free People of Middle-earth saved, Aragorn is crowned King of Gondor in Minas Tirith by Gandalf the White. Wearing full Gondorian armor in glimmering silver with gold embellishments, with a rich red tunic underneath and the winged Crown of Gondor, Aragorn’s outward appearance finally matches the noble man that he had always been.
He is reunited with Arwen, and when his Hobbit companions bow to him, the newly crowned King delivers the now iconic line, “My friends, you bow to no one,” and together with all present at his coronation, he honors the Hobbits by bowing to them. Aragorn, looking every bit the royal part, demonstrates exactly why he was always the rightful king. He shows that his role as king goes far beyond his lineage.
With his humble and honorable heart, as Gandalf so eloquently stated as he placed the crown upon Aragorn’s head, the “days of the King” were destined to indeed “be blessed.”
Which stage of Aragorn’s journey as hero resonates with you most? Do you have a favorite weapon that Aragorn wields?
Celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Lord of the Rings by letting us know in the comments and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!