Heresy of the Week is a (mostly) weekly spot in which I entertain some of the unthinkable notions of geek-culture. The arguments I put forward are not always things I personally agree with, but often rhetorical devices designed to force myself (and maybe readers) out of the boxes which fan discussions can get caught in. But that aside, feel free to get yourselves worked up and your knickers in a twist if you really want to.
This week’s heresy:
“For all the shouting that books are better than their film adaptations (and it usually is true) it is not universal. Sometimes films, or even parts, are better than the books they draw on — in particular, the character of Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings films.“
I’m something of a Lord of the Rings junkie. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve read the books or seen the films, and one of my fondest memories is a Valentine’s Day adventure Ashleigh and I took to the Duke of York cinema in Brighton, for an all-night Lord of the Rings marathon. It was basically incredible.
So when I say that, in my opinion, the character of Aragorn is better developed in the films than the books, it isn’t from a particular standpoint of ignorance.
For me, it is exemplified by and stems from a scene midway through the first film, The Fellowship of the Ring. After Boromir admires, and then drops, the hilt-shard of Narsil, Elendil’s sword — “No more than a broken hilt” — Aragorn tenderly picks it up, and replaces it on the dais.
See, in the book, Aragorn carries the broken sword with him through the first half of The Fellowship. He has it reforged before the nine leave Rivendell, and sets out to claim his throne.
His story in the films is markedly different. Narsil stays in Rivendell, and throughout the first two and a half films Aragorn shows a great reluctance to accept his inheritance. He fears that, like Isildur, he isn’t strong enough to resist Sauron. In the films, Elrond has the sword reforged into Anduril and brings it to Aragorn himself — but it is the threat of Arwen’s illness that actually makes him take it up.
The Aragorn of the films is riven with self-doubt. He is an accomplished warrior, but that doesn’t make him a king and he knows it. His story is a journey of him coming to the kingship within himself. In the books, it is a simple journey from point A to point B, and as with any story it is personal conflict and personal triumph which makes the better tale.
I don’t love all of the changes which the films made — though I think that overall they made the best possible job of adapting the source — but here I think the changes were for the better. This Aragron can better be empathised with, because the audience can join him on his journey.
When Elrond does eventually offer him the sword, telling him to “Put aside the ranger, become who you were born to be,” it does have a real sense of his having earned it, setting up the final acts of the story.