“You certainty seem to have a lot of names.”
~Frodo to Aragorn
I said in the last post that Elven names tell stories. Aragorn is an excellent example of this. His given name, ‘Aragorn,’ means ‘kingly valor,’ and his courage is indeed legendary.
But when Aragorn was only two years old, his father died on an orc-hunt, so Aragorn’s mother Gilrean took him to Rivendell for safekeeping. There he was given the name ‘Estel’ to conceal his true identity as the heir of Isildur. In the Lord of the Rings Appendices, Tolkien states that ‘Estel’ is Sindarin for ‘Hope.’ However, while reading Morgoth’s Ring, I stumbled across a quote that gave a deeper insight into the meaning of this word.
“If we are indeed the Eruhin, the children of the One, then He will not suffer Himself to be deprived of His own, not by any enemy, not even by ourselves. This is the last foundation of Estel, which we have even when we contemplate the End; of all His designs, the issue must be for His Children’s joy.” Whether or not this concept was present during the writing of Lord of the Rings, it gives a richer significance to the name.
Another name Aragorn carried in his youth was ‘Thorongil,’ ‘Eagle of the Star,’ under which he traveled in Gondor and Rohan some fifty or sixty years before the War of the Ring. Readers of The Silmarillion will remember how the Eagles of Manwë often came to the rescue of the Noldor when things appeared hopeless. The name also might remind one of Earëndil, the Half-Elven who pleaded for the Children of Ilúvatar before the Lords of the West, who is actually Aragorn’s distant forefather.
But Frodo first meets Aragorn as ‘Strider’ in Bree, a name referring to his long journeys. Bill Ferny also calls Aragorn ‘Longshanks,’ which is used by Sam in the movie adaptation. While ‘Strider’ may seem mocking, Aragorn uses the Quenyan translation “Telecontar,” as the name of his royal house. Another name relating to Aragorn’s travels is “Wingfoot,’ given by Éomer after discovering Aragorn’s speed in hunting the orcs.
On the other hand, Bilbo refers to Aragorn as “the Dúnadan,” which translates to ‘Man of the West,’ referring to the isle of Numenor which the Valar gave to faithful men at the end of the First Age. But the men of Numenor eventually grew envious of Elven immortality, and their last King went to war against the Valar. The Valar responded by calling upon Eru, who drowned Numenor in the sea. The name thus refers to a wise, but arrogant people, warning of an error Aragorn must avoid.
The final two names of Aragorn are closely related: Elessar, the Elf-Stone; and Envinyatar, the Renewer. Both names appear in “The Houses of Healing,” a chapter in The Return of the King. As Envinyatar, Aragorn renews the line of kings and restores Gondor to glory. The name ‘Elessar,’, although foretold at his birth, was given to him in honor of the eagle-brooch Galadriel gave Aragorn. It combines the concepts of strength and power--stone—with beauty and love—elf.
The names people choose to call us show us what they think of us. What about you? What do the names people call you—or the names you call them—reveal about them?