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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 7:31 pm 
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Hobby, in another thread, wrote:
Aragorn, too, proves his Kingship by becoming a healer!
According to the rhyme of the people in Minas Tirith, Athelas takes on its miraculous healing power only when applied by a king, and when Aragorn heals Faramir, he reveals himself as king.
Before, we hear from the 'herb-master': "I see you are a lore-master, not merely a captain of war."
The man surely has his priorities right! No one is a king just for being good at fighting here!
It is in healing/creating/growing that evil is overcome, not merely in destroying evil.


Hobby, I wanted to respond to this, but I didn't want to osgiliate Queen B's thread into a discussion about Aragorn and the Kings of Gondor. :)

I have always loved that line of the herb-master that you quote, and I really like the way you put it. That man not only has his priorities right, he is obviously expressing Tolkien's priorities here.

But the thought that occurred to me that I hadn't thought of before was the contrast between Elessar and the previous king of Gondor, Eärnur. Eärnur was a man like Boromir; his only pleasure was in fighting or fighting sports. He no interest in lore or arts and he never married or had any children I think that it is very symbolic that the Kingship was ended with someone who was the very antithesis of a healer, one who's interest was "merely in destroying evil" not in "healing/creating/growing".

Whether Tolkien meant it that way or not. ;)

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 8:04 pm 
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There was, of course, a Real World aspect to "the hands of a King are the hands of a healer". English kings were believed to have healing power, particularly over a disease known as "The King's Evil", which was Scrofula.

This aspect of kingship is very old, dating back to King David at least. The anointed king becomes more than a mere mortal.

By the way, do you know what oil was used in the anointing? (Still is, Elizabeth II was anointed with this oil.)

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2005 3:40 am 
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Hobby wrote:
According to the rhyme of the people in Minas Tirith, Athelas takes on its miraculous healing power only when applied by a king, and when Aragorn heals Faramir, he reveals himself as king.


There's also an interesting parallel to King Arthur here that just occurred to me. Aragorn is identified as the King by a certain power that only the true king possesses. Arthur was, according to the legend, identified by his ability to draw the sword from the stone and to weild Excalibur. Aragorn and Arthur both reunite and build up classic kings after rescuing their respective peoples from invaders (Sauron and Saxons, respectively). This also, in some way, parallels the theme of Éowyn's story, of how healing is more important than the sword.

I had more comments when I started writing this, but I have no idea what they are now except that one of them involved Faramir. :)

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2005 4:43 pm 
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Vison: Anointing oil (holy chrism) is usually olive oil from the Holy Land. A new batch of oil is blessed every year, during Holy week preceding Easter, and is also used at baptisms and during last rites, in the Catholic church anyways.

It means a lot to me also that Aragorn is not just a great warrior.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2005 5:35 pm 
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Lacemaker wrote:
Vison: Anointing oil (holy chrism) is usually olive oil from the Holy Land. A new batch of oil is blessed every year, during Holy week preceding Easter, and is also used at baptisms and during last rites, in the Catholic church anyways.

It means a lot to me also that Aragorn is not just a great warrior.


Yes, indeedy it is olive oil. The Olive is a very important part of Western history, more than most people suspect, and I am fascinated by it. I love the history and lore of common things!

I am also an admirer of Aragorn. :)

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2005 12:55 am 
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I don't think I can say much here without getting into more general aspects again, it all is so inter-connected for me, but some things said here were very interesting! :)

Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
But the thought that occurred to me that I hadn't thought of before was the contrast between Elessar and the previous king of Gondor, Eärnur. Eärnur was a man like Boromir; his only pleasure was in fighting or fighting sports. He no interest in lore or arts and he never married or had any children I think that it is very symbolic that the Kingship was ended with someone who was the very antithesis of a healer, one who's interest was "merely in destroying evil" not in "healing/creating/growing".

Whether Tolkien meant it that way or not. ;)

I'm sure he did! ;)

I wasn't aware of this, and I think it's very interesting, thanks for pointing it out! :)

The contrast with Arthur that Mossy pointed out is significant, too, I think.
Tolkien may have based his work on traditional mythology, but everything he wrote so much surpasses the range of ideas of traditional mythology, IMO.
When Tolkien was first recommended to me many years ago, it was with the description that it was "like old sagas and mythology". Well, I don't care for old sagas and mythology, so I never picked up Tolkien then.
I'm still having difficulties to look at Tolkien's work and try to grasp the fact that he saw himself as coming from that tradition.

As to the aspect vison mentioned, I also knew that this traditional belief was common in France right until the French Revolution. It was one of the things on which the idea was based that the king was appointed by God, and hence of course that no one had higher or controlling powers over him.

So when I first read the scene, it made me groan a bit - such a lovely moment, and Tolkien goes and uses that horrid old idea of the divinely instated king? How reactionary can you get?
It was a while before I saw this other reading of the meaning of his healing, I must admit.

Did someone else have a similar reaction at first?

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2005 1:34 am 
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I didn't. I understood what Tolkien was driving at, or rather, I think I understood: the King is King by "right", but the King is also King by reason of "worthiness". This is especially true of Aragorn, isn't it?

Aragorn earned his crown, and deserved it (and Arwen) but he could not have even begun to seek it if he wasn't the legitimate heir of legitmate heirs. It was through the bloodline that his gift of healing came, it was just one more sign that he was the true king. Since it was a fantasy story, it seemed quite natural that the king would have "magical" powers. I saw nothing "divine" in it, although I certainly recognized the allusion.

I think I was very fortunate that I knew NOTHING about Tolkien or LOTR when I first read the book. That ignorance lasted for many years and through many readings. I read it in "isolation" so to speak. When I did meet other people who had read it, I was shocked and horrified to hear what they had to say, some of them. Some had read criticism, and some had read "what Tolkien really meant", etc. One man told me that Aragorn was "the true hero" of LOTR and that only simpletons thought Frodo was.

I'm not a scholar, but I have read a great deal on many subjects. I was able to hold my own in these discussions, and could not be overpowered, if you know what I mean. I never thought it was "a myth" or even particularly "mythic" in style. I always saw it as a fantasy novel, a romance. (And I've been smacked about the head and ears for calling it a romance, too!)

Now, all these many years later, I'm still willing to go "at it", and argue about the "meaning" of everything.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2005 2:28 am 
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truehobbit wrote:
I don't think I can say much here without getting into more general aspects again, it all is so inter-connected for me, but some things said here were very interesting! :)


This thread could go just about anywhere, Hobby. I just didn't want to osgiliate the Éowyn thread (which already had a firm purpose). Any thoughts you might have, post 'em.

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Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
But the thought that occurred to me that I hadn't thought of before was the contrast between Elessar and the previous king of Gondor, Eärnur. Eärnur was a man like Boromir; his only pleasure was in fighting or fighting sports. He no interest in lore or arts and he never married or had any children I think that it is very symbolic that the Kingship was ended with someone who was the very antithesis of a healer, one who's interest was "merely in destroying evil" not in "healing/creating/growing".

Whether Tolkien meant it that way or not. ;)

I'm sure he did! ;)

I wasn't aware of this, and I think it's very interesting, thanks for pointing it out! :)


Your welcome. But the more I think about it, the stranger it seems. I can't think of any thing in the history of the Numenorians (either still at Númenor or in the exiled kingdoms in Middle-earth) that indicates that any previous king was a healer. In fact, I can't think of a single other instance in Tolkien's legendarium where a king is portrayed as being particularly a healer. Can anyone else?

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The contrast with Arthur that Mossy pointed out is significant, too, I think.
Tolkien may have based his work on traditional mythology, but everything he wrote so much surpasses the range of ideas of traditional mythology, IMO.

When Tolkien was first recommended to me many years ago, it was with the description that it was "like old sagas and mythology". Well, I don't care for old sagas and mythology, so I never picked up Tolkien then.
I'm still having difficulties to look at Tolkien's work and try to grasp the fact that he saw himself as coming from that tradition.


One of the things that makes Tolkien so unique (in my humble opinion) is the way that he successfully mixes pagan and Judeo-Christian themes.

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As to the aspect vison mentioned, I also knew that this traditional belief was common in France right until the French Revolution. It was one of the things on which the idea was based that the king was appointed by God, and hence of course that no one had higher or controlling powers over him.

So when I first read the scene, it made me groan a bit - such a lovely moment, and Tolkien goes and uses that horrid old idea of the divinely instated king? How reactionary can you get?
It was a while before I saw this other reading of the meaning of his healing, I must admit.

Did someone else have a similar reaction at first?


Hobby, I did (and still do, to some extent), though I also understood and appreciated the aspect of Aragorn needing to be worthy of being king.

vison wrote:
One man told me that Aragorn was "the true hero" of LOTR and that only simpletons thought Frodo was.


Only a simpleton would say something like that. :)

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And I've been smacked about the head and ears for calling it a romance, too!


Would these people smack Tolkien about the head and ears for calling it a romance? Honestly, :roll:

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2005 5:34 am 
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Did someone else have a similar reaction at first?


Yes and no. On the one hand, it seems trite. However, I think Tolkien uses it in a slightly different way than it is commonly used.

In most mythologies (e.g., Arthurian), this symbol of right denotes God given right. That is, God or a god has chosen this person to be the king, and thus everyone else accepts him. Tolkien uses it to denote worthiness. His sword (similar to Excalibur) signifies that he has the right to be king. The fact that he can use the athelas says that he is worthy. Like everything else, Tolkien makes it his own. Why Aragorn? Why was he the one who became King? It's not like there was any doubt as to the lineage. Arathorn had just as much right. Maybe it was right time, right place, but could it not also have been because he was the Right one, the worthy one? It never really says, just a bit of speculation.

edit: you know, I think I just restated what vison said.

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But the more I think about it, the stranger it seems. I can't think of any thing in the history of the Numenorians (either still at Númenor or in the exiled kingdoms in Middle-earth) that indicates that any previous king was a healer. In fact, I can't think of a single other instance in Tolkien's legendarium where a king is portrayed as being particularly a healer. Can anyone else?


Come to think of it, no. Interesting point. Perhaps its more of a prophecy type thing?

It's metaphorical, too. Aragorn's hands heal literally, as demonstrated with Frodo, Éowyn, Faramir, etc, but his more important job is healing the wounds of war and reuniting Gondor. That's just the first and smallest manifestation of it. It also, in a way, shows his Númenorean blood, I think. Elrond clearly has much more potent powers of healing, so the fact that Aragorn has some of them shows his closeness to his Númenorean and Elvish forebears.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2005 8:50 am 
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When Aragorn heals Faramir, he reveals himself to be the anti-king.

The line of Kings in exile persisted until Aragorn, so why did none before Aragorn seek to re-assert their Kingship over Gondor?

The short answer is that the ones that came before weren't great enough of do something as daunting as reassert the Kingship over Gondor. There likely would have been a struggle with the House of Stewards and the existing power structure in Gondor, one they would not have been successful in.

Aragorn, of course, is great enough to have been victorious against the House of Stewards, but instead he doesn't seek the Kingship, not in any traditional sense. He seeks to serve Gondor, not rule Gondor. He heals the man who is his supposed rival, instead of slaying him or letting him die.

The healing, to me, has nothing to do with his blood or with divine right. Aragorn serves everyone. He's been everywhere. Done everything. Studied everything. Like Gandalf, he is a steward to all of Middle-Earth. Aragorn is king because he has served everyone. It has nothing to do with his blood.

Well, right, if he didn't have the Númenórean blood, they wouldn't let him be king, even if he had done all that other stuff, right? Well, without the Númenórean blood, he couldn't survive doing all that other stuff. He couldn't survive the road to kingship without it. The blood isn't what lets him be king. The blood is what helps him stay on the road that makes him king. Without that blood, Aragorn would be Frodo, more or less. Frodo serves all of Middle-Earth too, takes the entire weight of it on himself, and metaphorically he dies.

Gandalf, Aragorn, and Frodo are the only three who do this, I believe. Gandalf can because he's an Istari. Aragorn can because he's got that Númenórean blood. Frodo can't. He just can't, and yet he does anyway, which of course is why he's the true hero of the story. Or the most important one, in my estimation.

Anyway, the reason I call Aragorn the anti-King is he does it all backwards from the usual way. He doesn't use his blood to assert his divine right claim. He uses his blood to create a path to a new kingdom that everyone wants to grant to him because he has served everyone. At the end of it all is there a person in Gondor who wouldn't fight to make Aragorn King if any tried to deny it? That's really not how the establishment of a royal line usually works. Usually there is a lot of blood spilled in the palace.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2005 3:54 pm 
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Interesting thoughts, Faramond. :) I tend to agree with you. But this question still remains: why did the people of Gondor say in old lore "the hands of the king are the hands of a healer. And so the rightful king would ever be known" if the old kings were not really healers? Wishful thinking?

And when Ioreth says in response to Gandalf question about whether she has heard the strange tidings that have come to the City: "All I hope is that those murdering devils do not come to this House and trouble the sick" is she referring to just the forces of Mordor, or to all of the men who were fighting?

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2005 7:53 pm 
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Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
Interesting thoughts, Faramond. :) I tend to agree with you. But this question still remains: why did the people of Gondor say in old lore "the hands of the king are the hands of a healer. And so the rightful king would ever be known" if the old kings were not really healers? Wishful thinking?


"The King" in the sense that the English a few hundred years ago might have had a prophecy about King Arthur: an ideal king as opposed to a real, mundane one?

Anyway, here's my take on this topic:

Aragorn is an idealized king; a Christian king in a pre-Christian era. Aragorn#1 is Strider the Ranger, whose emblem is The Sword that was Broken and, yeah, it is unrealistic that a guy would lug a broken sword around with him, but in this heroic world, that is what he would do. He switches incarnations when he casts the broken sword onto the table at the Council of Elrond where he is acknowledged as the heir of Elendil. From then on he is Aragorn#2, a warrior and leader whose emblem is the newly forged Anduril. No longer a wanderer; he is a king en route to his kingdom.

We lose sight of him as he approaches Gondor. He is now so exalted that his deeds can only be recounted later by a storyteller, narrating a tale of a legendary king, one who descends into the underworld and commands the Dead.

Too noble to take over Minas Tirith during the power vacuum caused by Denenthor’s implosion, he enters in other guise, as a healer, actual and metaphorical.

While Boromir doubted his king: “Who are you….”, the newly healed Faramir immediately affirms him – a Biblical recognition:

“My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?”

But then Faramir has always been the true spiritual heir of the Faithful, as his father and brother were not. Aragorn can begin Éowyn’s healing, but not complete it. And Merry’s healing adds bathos and humour to the exalted scene. It is in this hour that Aragorn#3 appropriately takes upon himself the names Elessar, the Elfstone, and Envinyatar, the Renewer. The final blessing of Nature upon his kingship takes place after the last battle, with the finding of the sapling which becomes the White Tree, his third and final emblem. So Aragorn has an “arc”, although not one as defined by the film-makers. :)

And yeah, LOTR is a romance, in the literary sense of the word, not the debased Mills-and-Boon sense. A heroic romance.

On the subject of service/stewardship, don’t forget Sam! :) He serves Frodo and without that care and love Frodo would never have been able to carry the One Ring to Mount Doom.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2005 8:13 pm 
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Very interesting topic!

Not only can I not recall other Númenórean kings who were also healers (though my recollection can hardly serve as proof in this regard) but I can't recall that this attribute was part of the 'divine right' of kings in real life.

The legend of the Healer King belongs, I believe to the legend of the 'King of Kings' and that is how I always understood the allusion. It is one of those things which, although one has never heard it said before, one knows immediately upon hearing it that it should be true. The hands of the King should be the hands of a healer because that is the model set before us by the king over all other kings (within the divine right motif).

It is part of the Arthur legend, too, iirc .... Idylle wrote an interesting post about this once on B77 or TORC. Isn't the Fisher King supposed to heal the knight who finds his castle? Or is the Fisher King himself who is healed ...? :oops: (My memory is not what it used to be!)

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I’ve very much enjoyed reading the thoughts of those that have contributed to this thread. With Tolkien’s work there is always such a rich mine to excavate whether one discusses story-external of story-internal issues.

I would like to make a few short points in both areas here, building on some of the previous comments.

Vison wrote:
“There was, of course, a Real World aspect to "the hands of a King are the hands of a healer". English kings were believed to have healing power, particularly over a disease known as "The King's Evil", which was Scrofula.”


This is very true and it was popularised by Henry I, who had special gold coins minted that he gave to those he touched. There was also a widespread belief that only a legitimate monarch could touch people to cure this disease. The last monarch to do so was Queen Anne, the last of the Stuarts and it was commonly held at the time by many that supported the Stuart line that George the First, the first of the Hanoverians, was unable to heal in this way because he was not the legitimate monarch. I have no doubts in my own mind that Tolkien had this in the back of his mind when he introduced this element into the story.

As Voronwë_the_Faithful points out, the old lore in Gondor indicates that the rightful King always did have some sort of healing power. However, was this power as great as that demonstrated by Aragorn after the Battle of Pelennor Fields?

I think not and for two reasons. Firstly, as others have pointed out, we have no other instance (AFAICR) of a King of Gondor, Arnor or Númenor with healing powers. Secondly, and this is my key point, Aragorn’s own healing powers were greatly enhanced by his recent possession of the Elessar.

Not much has, I think, been written about the significance of this gem, which had powers approaching those of the Three Rings. There were many elements of a long-term plan in place that would ensure that Aragorn was in the best position to gain the Kingship. One of these elements was the knowledge of the “old lore” and the fact that the Elessar would enhance Aragorn’s own healing powers immensely. This would ensure that his fame as a healer would spread rapidly throughout the city and prepare the people for the idea that the King had returned.

I do not mean, of course, that Aragorn was acting in any kind of cold and calculated way in this respect. The planning behind this was largely (IMO) between Gandalf and Galadriel.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2005 1:08 am 
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What a fascinating and excellent thought, Roccondil! I never once considered the power of the Elessar in affecting Aragorn's healing abilities, but now that you mention it it seems obvious. And consider these words of Galadriel, when she gave the Elessar to him:

'This stone I gave to Celebrian my daughter, and she to hers; and now it comes to you as a token of hope. In this hour take the name that was foretold for you, Elessar, the Elfstone of the house of Elendil.'

So far as I can recall, there is no other mention of this foretelling, but I don't think that it is too much of stretch to consider that it is related to the words kept in old lore in Minas Tirith that the hands of the king are the hands of the healer, and so the the king would be known, particularly if those words are taken as a prophecy rather then a comment on the old kings (as I think now they should be).

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2005 1:30 am 
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Secondly, and this is my key point, Aragorn’s own healing powers were greatly enhanced by his recent possession of the Elessar.

Not much has, I think, been written about the significance of this gem, which had powers approaching those of the Three Rings.


Roccondil, can you point out the source for this, please.

I am unable to find anything to substantiate your claim that the Elessar had powers close to those of the Three. Which doesn't mean it doesn't exist, it just means that I have never come across any such supportive text. :)

From HoME Volume 10, there is this from 'Laws and Customs Among the Eldar'

Among the Noldor, also it was a custom that the bride's mother should give to the bridegroom a jewel upon a chain or collar; and the bridegroom's father should give a like gift to the bride. These gifts were sometimes given before the feast. (Thus the gift of Galadriel to Aragorn, since she was in place of Arwen's mother, was in part a bridal gift and earnest of the wedding was later accomplished.)

And, of course, the text from 'Farewell to Lórien.'

'Yet maybe this will lighten your heart.' said Galadriel; 'for it was left in my care to be given to you, should you pass through this land.' Then she lifted from her lap a great stone of a clear green, set in a silver broach that was wrought in the likeness of an eagle with outspread wings; and as she held it up the gen flashed like the sun shining through the leaves of spring. 'This stone I gave to Celebrian my daughter, and she to hers; and now it comes to you as a token of hope. In this hour take the name that was foretold for you, Elessar, the Elfstone of the house of Elendil!'

So, I'm a little sceptical that the Elessar held inherent powers in it's own right that could be gifted to Aragorn by way of birthright.

Although, I do rather like the idea ... and it would seem to fit ... it's just that my thinking is so, you know .... concrete and I like sources and references and ...well ... facts.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2005 1:45 am 
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Sass, its in the History of Galadriel and Celeborn section of The Unfinished Tales.

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There was in Gondolin a jewel-smith named Enerdhil, the greatest of that craft among the Noldor after the death of Fëanor. Enerdhil loved all green things that grew, and his greatest joy was to see the sunlight through the leaves of trees. And it came into his heart to make a jewel within which the clear light of the sunshould be imprisoned, but the jewel should be green as leaves. And he made this thing, and even the Noldor marvelled at it. For it is said that those who looked through this stone saw things that were withered or burned healed again or as they were in the grace of their youth and that that the hands of one who held it brought to all that they touched healing from hurt.


There are conflicting stories as to whether the Elessar that Galadriel gave to Aragorn was the same stone, or a new one created by Celebrimbor. In any event:

Quote:
Wielding the Elessar all things grew fair about Galadriel, until the coming of the Shadow to the Forest. But afterwards when Nenya, chief of the Three, was sent to her by Celebrimbor, she needed it (as she thought) no more, and she gave it to Celebrian her daughter, and so it came to Arwen and to Aragorn who was called Elessar.

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Last edited by Voronwë the Faithful on Fri Dec 30, 2005 2:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2005 1:56 am 
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Ah. Thank you Voronwë.

:oops: I do have UT. Obviously, I should read it again.


But as you can tell, I'm busy absorbing Morgoth's Ring right now ... still thinking about the Athrabeth ... and hoping for reinforcements soon.

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Ever mindful of the maxim that brevity is the soul of wit, axordil sums up the Sil:


"Too many Fingolfins, not enough Sams."

Yes.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2005 8:29 am 
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Location: Oxfordshire, England
Those were the exact quotes, Voronwë, so thank you for posting them. The Elessar must have been hugely useful to Aragorn in rebuilding Gondor and Arnor, I have always thought.

Just as a side comment, it is also my belief that the small box that Sam took back to the Shire, with it's powers of healing and renewing, must have been created using the Elessar. The power of this gift (IMO) was greater than Galadriel could have produced on her own, and if she had produced it using the power of Nenya, then the power of the gift would have faded when the One Ring was destroyed.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2005 4:20 pm 
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Feeling grateful
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I'd say you are right again (another thing that I had never considered).

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