The Return of the Queen
a Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire essay by Bluetiger
The Advent Calendar 2018, Week One
Welcome, it’s your host Bluetiger and we’re about to embark on our 2018 Advent journey of literary analysis and theory-making. I know many of you have been following my project from its early days, and I’m grateful for your steadfast support – but I hope that this new format will bring new readers to my blog, and for their sake, I’ll briefly explain what The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire (previously known as The Amber Compendium of Myth) is about.
TolkienicSOIAF is a series of essays, in which I explore the themes and motifs in A Song of Ice and Fire (commonly abbreviated ASOIAF), the saga written by George R.R. Martin upon which the TV show Game of Thrones is based. There are many podcasters, bloggers and video-creators who analyse various aspects of the books, searching for hidden meanings, wordplays, metaphors and literary references. Notable among those is the community centered around LML of The Mythical Astronomy and other amazing content creators: Crowfood’s Daughter, MelanieLotSeven, Darry Man, Painkiller Jane, Archmaester Aemma, JoeMagician, Bronsterys, Wizz the Smith, Maester Merry, Rusted Revolver, Sanrixian, Ravenous Reader, Durran Durrandon, Isobel Harper, Ba’al the Bard, and many many other great people. I’m honoured to belong to the same fandom they do. To those dear friends I’d like to dedicate this entire tetralogy of essays. You’re great!
Now, many ASOIAF bloggers and podcasters have their specific area of focus – the parallels between the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, my favourite author, and ASOIAF are mine. The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire is the result of my passion for those two secondary universes, Arda of The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion and other books, and the Known World of Mr. Martin’s imagination. In my series, I explore those parallels, in themes and symbolism, craft theories based on the conclusions from such analysis, and search for Tolkienic references in the text of the novels. Apart from that, I often attempt to analyse Tolkien’s symbolism on its own, and try to find his influences in real-world mythology and literature. It often turns out that GRRM. and JRRT have drawn inspiration from the very same myths and stories.
If you’re interested in reading more on this topic, please check out my previous essays, like Episode I – in which I discuss George R.R. Martin’s attitude towards Tolkien and then proceed to list multiple references to Tolkien’s Legendarium – as that’s how fans refer to his works set in the universe of Arda – in ASOIAF and related stories, like The World of Ice and Fire worldbook or the historical novellas. In the final section of that essay, I introduce my theory about Numenor and its Tolkienic parallel, the Great Empire of the Dawn. In Episode II, from July 2018, I explore how astronomical myths from The Silmarillion influenced GRRM’s own legends and examine the impact of Tolkien’s symbolism on ASOIAF metaphors and archetypes.
Besides those two essays, I have written several shorter pieces, each focusing on one specific theory or discovery. In Sansa and Luthien I discuss how the Tale of Beren and Luthien influences Sansa Stark’s storyline, in Minas Tirith and the Hightower I point out the parallels between the iconic White City of Gondor and Oldtown from ASOIAF and in Argonath and the Titan of Braavos, I look at the similarities between the monumental statue from one of the Free Cities of Essos and Argonath, the famous Pillars of Kings from LOTR.
The essay you’re currently reading is the first part of a series called The Advent Calendar 2018. You can read about the premise and origins of this format from my introductory post, but in a nutshell, it’s a series inspired by the concept of the calendar used to count down the days from the beginning of the Christian liturgical period known as Advent – the time of preparation and awaiting for Christmas which consists of four weeks preceding this holiday. On each day of Advent, I post one tweet at my @lordbluetiger profile on Twitter, which summarises one of my theories or discoveries concerning Tolkienic parallels in ASOIAF. The tweets also include a link to a relevant section in one of my older posts, for further reading. On each of the four Advent Sundays (December: 2nd, 9th, 16th and 23rd), I’m going to release one brand new essays. The Return of the Queen which you’re reading right now is the first in this succession.
The topics of the essays vary greatly – this first one deals with… well, you’re about to see, but for now I’ll simply say it’s about a very prominent theme in both LOTR and ASOIAF. The second entry is – in a way – a continuation of this essay, but it deals with a different theme, a motif equally important for LOTR and ASOIAF symbolism. Another one is in fact not about Tolkien, but about his great friend C.S. Lewis and how one crumbling empire of a dying world from one of his novels may have inspired GRRM’s own ancient empire. The final one is about how a certain great poet of Antiquity and his magnum opus inspired some elements of GRRM’s worldbuilding (hint, hint: Aenar Targaryen).
If I were a poet as talented as the aforementioned author, I’d write some invocation to loftily commence the first essay of the TolkienicSOIAF Advent Calendar, 2018 edition. Well, I guess it is only fitting that we begin this journey with a quote from Professor Tolkien himself…
Please, imagine reading it in Gandalf voice, for it is in his letter to Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring that we find this poem:
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes, a fire shall be woken;
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall the blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
The crownless again shall be king. Or is it ‘Queen’?
THE RETURN OF THE QUEEN
First, we will discuss how the return of the king motif functions in Tolkien’s works, in real-world folklore, and of course, in A Song of Ice and Fire. In many fantasy stories, we have a situation where some realm is in the state of prolonged interregnum, where there is no apparent heir in sight. Years and decades pass, yet the kingdom still remains without a monarch. In many cases, hundreds or even thousands of years went by, and the people of the realm in question only hazily remember that there ever was a king (or a queen regnant).
In her recent essay Melanie Lot Seven explores a mythological and folkloric phenomena of the King Under the Mountain. In those legends, we have a king or some hero of great renown who at the end of his life, in his old age, or having suffered a mortal wound in battle, is miraculously removed from the world of the living, and people begin to whisper that he still lives in some forgotten cave or dwells on some magical island, waiting to return when his service will be the most needed, in a time where great peril will fall upon his country.
The eponymous character from Arthurian legend is one of such figures, as after his final battle with treacherous kinsman Mordred, the dying king is mysteriously dispatched to the faerie isle of Avalon, to heal his wounds and wait there for such a time that England shall need him the most.
Legendary Czech King Wenceslas, widely known thanks to the Christmas carol about him, is another example of this theme, just like three of the Seven Great Lords of Narnia whom young King Caspian the Tenth seeks during The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis (we’re going to talk about certain character and location from Narnia in another episode of this series, by the way). In medieval Christian text, The Golden Legend, St. John (one of the four Evangelists) never truly dies, and instead sleeps to this day in some unknown location. In Polish folklore, there are legends about sleeping knights of Mt. Giewont in the Tatra Mountains. For many, the very massif looks like some giant resting knight – see: this photo. To read about more examples of this theme, and amazing analysis of its influence on George R.R. Martin’s stories, please check out Melanie’s blog.
Now, in many cases, the ‘sleeping knight/wizard/historical figure’ theme is not exactly synonymous with the return of the king motif. In others, it is so. If King Arthur was to sail back to England from Avalon, his homecoming would be a return of a king. It’s also possible that the returning historical or legendary figure is not a monarch at all.
Sometimes, it’s not that simple as some ancient king from centuries past coming back to claim his empty throne – it’s not uncommon to see stories where it is not the same monarch who returns to bring an end to the interregnum – it might just as well be some descendant thereof.
In Professor Tolkien’s works, those two, often interchangeable motifs – that of the King In the Mountain and the Return of the King – play out in various ways.
We don’t have to look at the book entitled The Return of the King to find this theme. It can be found everywhere in Tolkien’s writing. For example, in The Hobbit. Thorin Oakenshield’s reappearance at Erebor, the Lonely Mountain is in fact a return of the king. Thorin (actually Thorin the Second of His Name, to use ASOIAF-style royal title), is the heir of the House of Durin and leader of Durin’s Folk, also known as the Longbeards – the eldest and most renowned of the seven dwarven nations.
The very founder of this dynasty, Durin the Deathless, the first of the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves created by Aulë, the Smith of the Valar, has some King In the Mountain symbolism. Famed for his longevity, Durin reigned in Khazad-dûm, later known as the Mines of Moria, for millennia. After his death, his folk believed that King Durin will be re-incarnated seven times, and in each of his lives, shall rule their nation. Whether this tradition was correct, no one can say, but it is a fact that there were, indeed, six Durins who reigned in Moria before it was taken over by the Balrog, and another Durin, Durin VII, led his people back to Khazad-dûm in the Fourth Age, and there they remained, until their race dwindled..
Durin the Deathless’ name comes from Völuspá in Poetic Edda, and signifies ‘the Sleepy One’. As you see, that’s a fitting name for a King in the Mountain figure who supposedly reincarnates over and over again to rule over his nation.
When Khazad-dûm had to be abandoned because of the monstrous Balrog, a forgotten survivor from the Battles of Beleriand in the First Age, Durin’s Folk went into exile. Under King Thráin I, they founded the Kingdom Under the Mountain, Erebor, a wonder of Middle-earth, but only a shade of once was, of the splendour of Khazad-dûm. His son Thorin (Thorin the First, not Oakenshield), moved to the Grey Mountains and his four successors, kings: Glóin, Óin, Náin II and Dáin I, remained there. Their realm in Ered Mithrin, the Grey Mountains in the north, were plagued by dragons, and after King Dain was killed by one of those cold-drakes (dragons who lacked the ability to breathe fire) at his very doorstep, his son and heir Thrór returned to Erebor and became the new King Under the Mountain.
His reign was the revival, the renaissance of the kingdom beneath the Lonely Mountain, yet as all good things, it came to an end, when Smaug the dragon sacked Erebor. Well, I’ve said ‘quickly’, but this revived kingdom lasted for over 180 years – but compared to Moria which survived for millenia, it was nothing.
King Thrór died in exile, beheaded by Azog, the Orc warlord. He was followed by Thorin Oakenshield’s father, Thráin II, who was in turn captured by Sauron (who at that time was still working in shadows as the Necromancer), and died in the dungeons of Dol Guldur.
Thorin II Oakenshield was the returning king of Durin’s Folk, and he fulfilled his role by reviving the fallen realm. After his death, his cousin Dain II Ironfoot, Lord of the Iron Halls, claimed the throne, and the Kingdom Under the Mountain was there to stay, at least until the Fourth Age, when Dain’s descendant Durin VII, became another returning king figure, when he re-established the Kingdom of Khazad-dûm.
In ASOIAF, and in The World of Ice and Fire, there are certain things that might be references to Tolkien’s House of Durin – like King Urras Ironfoot of the Iron Islands, likely named after Dain, and House Durrandon.
Durran Godsgrief from the Elenei myth might be a nod to Durin the Deathless himself, as maester Yandel mentions that:
Such a life span seems most unlikely, even for a hero married to the daughter of two gods. Archmaester Glaive, himself a stormlander by birth, once suggested that this King of a Thousand Years was in truth a succession of monarchs all bearing the same name, which seems plausible but must forever remain unproved.
For me, this looks like a reference to King Durin and his seven supposed incarnations. And when we read about Durrandon monarch known as ‘the Ravenfriend’, we probably should think about Dwarves of Erebor, who were allied with sentient ravens of the Lonely Mountain, whose chieftain Roäc son of Carc was dispatched as a messenger to inform Dain about Smaug’s death, which reminds me of how ravens are used to deliver letters in ASOIAF.
Bringing this Dwarven tangent to a close, let us examine other returning or sleeping kings in Tolkien’s mythology. For one of those, we don’t have to look far from Erebor. Bard the Bowman is another such figure, as this descendant of Girion, who was Lord of Dale, the city nearby the Lonely Mountain also sacked by Smaug, becomes the king of revived Dale at the end of The Hobbit. With Bard, we see an example of a situation where it is not the old king himself who returns, but his descendant, blood of his blood.
Ar-Pharazon the Golden, the last King of Numenor who defied the Valar and sailed to their realm, Valinor, to fight for and win his immortality, is another King in the Mountain figure, as The Silmarillion tells us that this proud monarch was punished for his crimes by becoming trapped in the Cave of the Forgotten deep under Valinor for all eternity, until the Last Battle.
The departure of members of the Fellowship of the Ring from Middle-earth also seems to be based on Arthurian theme of Avalone, the otherworldly isle which becomes the place of eternal rest for the wounded king. In LOTR, Frodo, Sam, Bilbo and other heroes leave the mortal lands for ever and sail to Valinor, the Undying Lands – where they will most likely die anyway, as even the Valar can’t change their destiny as mortals – but first, they’ll live in happiness, and their wounds, physical and mental, will heal. An Arthurian conclusion, so it probably won’t surprise you that the isle close to the coast of Valinor where their White Ship arrived was named… Avallónë. Well, Ar-Pharazon and his enormous armada sailed past this Lonely Isle on their way to Valinor as well. But Ar-Pharazon was no King Arthur, and didn’t deserve to happily dwell on Avalon, I guess.
Aragorn is, of course, the ultimate returning king in Tolkien’s writing, and probably in all fantasy. I imagine that it’s mostly because of him that we see this theme everywhere. In ASOIAF, it is represented by Aegon VI (fAegon?), probably Jon Snow, and of course, Daenerys, the returning queen. We all hope that she will actually begin her return in The Winds of Winter, don’t we? Westeros needs those dragons, it seems. But who knows. Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice…
Returning to Aragorn, the returning king, how many readers have asked themselves: “Wait a moment, why is Gondor kingless? What happened? Where is the king? How this great royal dynasty died out? Why is Aragorn wandering in the wilderness?”.
And I mean, why exactly. At the Council of Elrond we hear that “the line of Meneldil son of Anárion failed”. But how? We will examine the history of Gondor and Arnor to find out what happened, but before that, let me tell you that among the principal causes of this prolonged interregnum which lasted for nearly ten centuries was the same thing that was the reason behind so many wars and miseries in A Song of Ice and Fire – usurpation of female heires.
For the purpose of my essay, I’ll consider situations where the royal heiress is outright usurped (and by this I mean, this act is illegal under the law of that land, be it Westeros, Numenor or Gondor), but also those instances where the law itself validates what I’d call usurpation. Sometimes, those in power manipulate the already existing laws to ‘steal’ the throne from a woman, for example in The Princess and the Queen historical novella, where Lord Jasper ”Ironrod” Wylde, the master of laws to the late King Viserys I, conspires with other Greens at court to crown Aegon II instead of Rhaenyra.
Ironrod, the master of laws, cited the Great Council of 101 and the Old King’s choice of Baelon rather than Rhaenys in 92, then discoursed at length about Aegon the Conqueror and his sisters, and the hallowed Andal tradition wherein the rights of a trueborn son always came before the rights of a mere daughter.
Then, just to show how much they care about the law, Ser Criston Cole seizes the elderly master of coin Lord Beesbury, who protested, and opens his throat with a dagger.
Here, we have a group of conspirators who make use of existing precedents and loopholes to achieve their goal. Elsewhere, those who don’t want to have a female ruler, create new laws. The Great Council of 101, mentioned by law-abiding Lord Ironrod, is an example of such an event.
As The World of Ice and Fire tells us:
In the eyes of many, the Great Council of 101 AC thereby established an iron precedent on matters of succession: regardless of seniority, the Iron Throne of Westeros could not pass to a woman, nor through a woman to her male descendents.
Well, King Viserys I himself, the monarch who came to power over Princess Rhaenys, The Queen Who Never Was, challenged this supposed precedent by naming his daughter Rhaenyra Princess of Dragonstone and heir to the Iron Throne. Nevertheless, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and in many future succession crises, the Great Council’s verdict from 101 was cited. For example, when King Viserys II took power after Daeron’s death in Dorne, the claim of the Young Dragon’s sister Princess Daena was rejected due to the 101 Precedent:
The precedents of the Great Council of 101 and the Dance of the Dragons were therefore cited, and the claims of Baelor’s sisters were set aside. Instead the crown passed to his uncle, the King’s Hand, Prince Viserys.
In fact, there are very few outright usurpations of women in ASOIAF… Amethyst Empress of the Great Empire of the Dawn was murdered by her younger brother, but usually, the exclusion of women from the line of succession is not outside the law. However, in my view, it is always wrong to steal someone’s inheritance because of their gender, even if the law of the land accepts it or even encourages. It appears that GRRM and JRRT believed just that, and when it comes to symbolism, I think all those situations are usurpations.
For detailed analysis of this theme in ASOIAF, please read Gretchen’s amazing essay Queen’s Crown. It is thanks to her research that I’ve noticed multiple situations, other then the very obvious usurpation of Tar-Miriel by Ar-Pharazon of Numenor, where women are usurped in Tolkien’s writing. Even when I was writing A Brief History of Gondor, where all those queens and princesses whose inheritance is stolen, I was not aware of this wider theme and its importance.
But now, I see that there is in fact a pattern, an archetypal role, a theme that manifests over and over again. As Gretchen says:
I would call Westeros (excepting Dorne) a ‘usurping’ society because it systematically robs female heirs of their potential power in favor of male heirs. (…) [GRRM] has gone out of his way in external materials to show that systemic disempowerment of female heirs is a function of Westerosi society in particular.
In Tolkien’s writing, the systemic disempowerment of female heirs is also a function of human societies. With Elves, it’s more complex – there are powerful women like Idril of Gondolin, Galadriel and Melian the Maia – and even among humans, we sometimes see female leaders, who nevertheless had to endure a lot of suffering to achieve their position of power, and were forced to fight to retain their status. But overall, realms with female monarchs are the exception rather than the norm.
One could say that proves nothing more than Professor’s sexism and patriarchal views. But this can’t be true, as this usurpation is never portrayed as something good or proper, and always brings negative consequences – when Ar-Pharazon usurps Tar-Miriel’s power and forces her to marry him, he brings about the downfall of Numenor, when Feanor’s sons Curufin and Celegorm take Luthien hostage and plan to force her to marry Celegorm because she’s the heiress of King Thingol and Queen Melian of Doriath, they’re clearly the villains. And when certain Steward of Gondor rejected the claim of the late king’s only surviving child, his daughter, he brought about the greatest catastrophe in the history of Gondor, the resulting interregnum which lasted for centuries, and inadvertently doomed the other Dunedain realm in exile, Arnor. Well, of course, the actions of Sauron and the Witch-king of Angmar also played a role here, but this rejection of the LOTR Queen Who Never Was, Fíriel, was an important factor, and all those tragedies would probably not happen without it. Soon, I’ll tell you about the defining moment in Gondorian and Arnorian history, that liminal moment where both realms could have been saved with one decision, but they were both doomed and the chance was wasted – because some Steward simply couldn’t accept a woman as his rightful queen.
In ASOIAF, this motif ultimately goes back to Amethyst Empress, who might have been the same person as Nissa Nissa, the archetypal usurped female ruler. But this pattern appears in LOTR and other works of Tolkien as well. What is it talking about? What is its source? Something from real-world mythology, literature, culture or religion? Well, we’re about to find out.
With me, dear reader, let’s find out what happened in Gondor in the year 1944 of the Third Age, what might have been if it weren’t for that Steward! Who said that LOTR appendices are boring? I imagine that person has never actually read them. Or simply doesn’t like reading about history of fictional universes. But we, ASOIAF fans, love ‘fake history’, right? LOTR has its own fascinating backstory, its own Daemon Targaryens, Queen Rhaenyras, it’s own wars, conspiracies, weddings, love stories, royal houses, its own Blacks and Greens. Its own game of thrones. With me reader, let’s go!
Now, I’m doing my best to make this essay understandable for everybody, not only for those of you who are deep into Tolkien-lore. Thus, I’ll summarise centuries of Middle-earth history, explaining important terms and detailing events that are of particular importance for this essay.
In a nutshell (I encourage you to read The Silmarillion, The LOTR Appendices and other JRRT texts to find out more!):
The Edain were those humans who allied themselves with the Eldar (Elves) in the First Age, and fought alongside them in the Wars of Beleriand in the First Age. In the end, the Valar, the god-like angelic beings whom Eru Iluvatar (God) entrusted with governance of Arda (Earth), intervened and the first Dark Lord, the fallen Valar Morgoth (the devil) was defeated.
But as a result of those wars between the immortals, the entire northern part of Middle-earth, one of the continents of Arda, was devastated, making it no longer habitable. To reward those faithful human tribes, the Valar used their great power to raise an island out of the Great Sea between Middle-earth and Valinor, the Undying Lands in the Uttermost West where the Valar dwelled.
The Edain, led by Elros Half-elven, their lord and brother of famous loremaster Elrond of Rivendell, settled on the isle and became a new nation, the Numenoreans. They were blessed with great physical endurance, height and longevity. They lived for over 300 years, and their monarchs, descendants of Half-elven Elros, could hope to reach the age of 500. Numenoreans spoke Adûnaic, which was their native language, but were also fluent in major Elven tongues, Quenya of the High Elves and Sindarin of the Grey Elves. Their kings and queens used titles in Quenya – ‘Tar’, which means noble or high, was added before their royal names. For example, Elros became King Tar-Minyatur, the High First Lord, referring to him being the first king of Numenor.
Later we’ll return to some events from Numenorean history, but for now, I’ll only say that the Numenoreans became the most advanced civilization of Arda, its equivalent of our legendary Atlantis and ASOIAF Great Empire of the Dawn. Their shipwrights were unmatched, their science on a high level. The Numenoreans were also great mapmakers, explorers and stargazers. But after centuries, when the glory of their realm was at its zenith, their kings began to question why despite all their glory and power, the Numenoreans have to die. They rejected the friendship of the Elves, who greatly helped them in their early days, and in the end, made it forbidden for Elven ships to come to Numenorean harbours. Some time later, speaking Elvish was also banned, and those who still met with the Elves in Middle-earth or semi-secretly allowed them to land in their ports on the isle, were viewed with suspicion, and later with hatred.
There were two major political factions, the King’s Men, who supported the royal policy of enmity towards the Valar and Elves, and the Faithful or the Elendili, the Elf-friends. Under the later monarchs, Numenor became a mighty empire which subjugated ‘lesser’ human nations and colonised Middle-earth and other lands.
The mightiest of those kings was Ar-Pharazon the Golden, an ambitious nobleman from the royal house (son of the younger brother to the late king) and powerful general, who forced his cousin Tar-Miriel, who would have been the Ruling Queen, to marry him and thus stole her power. Ar-Pharazon warred with Sauron himself, and even took him as hostage to Numenor. Sauron paid homage to the king, and soon became his most trusted advisor, and then, effectively, became the power behind the throne. Under Ar-Pharazon and Sauron, Numenoreans became bloody conquerors and slavers, who dabbled in human sacrifice and worshipped Morgoth, the Dark Lord.
In the end, Sauron convinced Ar-Pharazon to assault Valinor itself, and having assembled a gargantuan armada and grand army, the king sailed to the Uttermost West to wrestle his immortality from the ‘gods’. But when he landed on the shores of Valinor, Eru Iluvatar intervened, the God himself. Ar-Pharazon and his warriors were trapped in the Cave of the Forgotten, where they eternally wait for the end of the world (The King in the Mountain motif), their fleet was crushed, and the isle of Numenor was drowned, destroyed, doomed forever.
But there were some worthy of being rescued, and like Noah, they were warned in advance. Those were the surviving Elf-friends of Numenor, of whom very few remained due to persecution. Their leader was Elendil the Faithful, father of Isildur and Anarion. On nine ships, they fled from the collapsing Numenor with their families and retainers, and landed in Middle-earth.
There, they established the Realms in Exile, Gondor in the South and Arnor in the North. Elendil became the High King of the Dúnedain (Men of the West, Numenoreans and their descendants) and ruled from the city of Annúminas in Arnor. This map shows where these two kingdoms were located:
The Dunedain Realms allied themselves with the Elves, and this Last Alliance fought against Sauron (who, being immortal, survived the Downfall of Numenor and returned to Mordor to marshal his armies, having achieved his secret goal – bringing about the fall of the Numenoreans). The opening sequence of The Fellowship of the Ring shows this very war, but unlike in the movie, it wasn’t Isildur who killed Sauron – Elendil and Elven-king Gil-galad sacrificed their lives to bring the Dark Lord down, and only then did Isildur cut the One Ring from his hand.
Although before the war Isildur and Anarion held the kingship of Gondor jointly, after his return from Mordor, Isildur proclaimed himself High King of the Dunedain, ignoring the claim of his brother Anarion’s son Meneldil (Anarion fell during the siege of Sauron’s Dark Tower Barad-dûr).
But Isildur’s reign was short, alas. When the king was returning to Arnor with his sons and knights (having installed Meneldil as governor of Gondor, who was to rule in Isildur’s name), his party was ambushed by some random Orc host left behind enemy lines and cut from Sauron’s main force when the Last Alliance army marched east. Those orcs hid in the Misty Mountains, but now, they came down and ambushed Isildur’s small host at the Fields of Gladden. In this disastrous battle, Isildur and his three eldest sons were slain, and the One Ring was lost.
Isildur’s line survived thanks to his youngest son Valandil, who was left behind in Arnor with his mother when his father marched east as he was just a babe. When news of Isildur’s news finally arrived in Rivendell, Valandil was crowned King of Arnor. But not High King of the Dunedain, as there was no united Dunedain realm anymore.
Gondor declared independence, and Meneldil was proclaimed its king. Thus, Arnor, where monarchs from the House of Isildur reigned, and Gondor, where kings from the House of Anarion ruled, were separated, and were not reunited until Aragorn’s return.
But wait a moment. If House of Isildur was the royal dynasty of Arnor, then why Aragorn, who is the heir of Isildur, was allowed to claim the crown of Gondor?
Well, it’s all about disinherited royal daughters.
To explain how this happened, we’ll need to move nineteen centuries forward, to the year 1940 of the Third Age. I won’t present the entire history of Gondor here, to find out more about it, please read the LOTR appendices or for a brief summary, my essay from August 2018.
But to understand the situation of Arnor, the Northern Kingdom, in the year 1940, some context is needed. Arnor remained united for 10 generations. Its kings were: Elendil and Isildur (both as High Kings of the Dunedain) and 8 Arnorian monarchs: Valandil, Eldacar, Arantar, Tarcil, Tarondor, Valandur, Elendur and Eärendur. When King Eärendur died in the year 861 of the Third Age, his quarrelsome sons split the realm into three kingdoms: Arthedain, Cardolan and Rhudaur.
The royal line of Isildur survived in Arthedain, where descendants of King Eärendur’s eldest son Amlaith (who would have been the King of All Arnor, if that division never happened) reigned. But in Cardolan and Rhudaur this dynasty soon withered, and although Cardolan remained an ally of Arthedain until its destruction, Rhudaur fell under the control of evil warlords in league with the Witch-king of Angmar (the principal Ringwraith, who was sent to the north by Sauron, with a mission to create a puppet state, Angmar, and using its army, destroy the Northern Dunedain of Arnor, so they won’t be able to aid the Southern Dunedain of Gondor when Sauron finally regains his strength and marches against them).
Rhudaur and Angmar fought against Cardolan and Arthedain, and in those centuries, the war in the north was almost constant. In the year 1636, the remnants of the Cardolan people died from the Great Plague (secretly caused either by Sauron or by the Witch-king). The Barrow-downs infested by wights were all what remained of this realm.
When royal lines of Cardolan and Rhudaur were gone, Kings of Arthedain claimed dominion over all Arnor, and added the royal prefix ‘Ar-‘ to their names, to emphasize their claim to the lordship of all Arnor, although Rhudaur and Cardolan were still occupied by Angmar.
Ondoher, the 31st King of Gondor, was a wise man who realised that despite Sauron’s efforts to hide this fact, the same dark power was behind all attacks on the Dunedain Realms, that the same malicious entity was manipulating events to destroy the Numenorean survivors. That the same Dark Lord was behind Angmar and the Witch-king who troubled what remained of Arnor, and all those Easterling tribes who ravaged Gondor. After a long period where there was virtually no contact between Gondor and the North, a joint council was called and Gondor and Arthedain made an alliance.
King Ondoher’s daughter, Fíriel, married Prince Arvedui, the heir to King Araphant of Arthedain, who also claimed to be King of Arnor. According to legend a prophet named Malbeth the Seer made the following prophecy about Arvedui, the Last King, when speaking to his father:
“Arvedui you shall call him, for he will be the last in Arthedain. Though a choice will come to the Dúnedain, and if they take the one that seems less hopeful, then your son will change his name and become king of a great realm. If not, then much sorrow and many lives of men shall pass, until the Dúnedain arise and are united again.”
Unfortunately, only a part of that prophecy came true. The one after ‘If not…’. The Dunedain had a chance to unite again, but it was wasted. Because of… Well, you’ve heard it like a hundred times before, but once again, because a female heir was rejected.
In the year 1944, a great horde of the Wainriders, a nomadic Easterling nation, invaded Gondor and the King himself marched against them. Ondoher and his sons Faramir and Artamir commanded the Northern Army, while general Eärnil, the king’s distant relative from the House of Anarion, commanded the Southern Army.
The Northern Army was the first to meet the enemy, and in a terrible battle known henceforth as the Disaster of Morannon, the king and his sons were slain. But concurrently, Eärnil and his host won a great victory against another band of the invaders. When he found out about the disaster, he rushed to Morannon with his own soldiers, and having gathered survivors from the royal host, he fell upon the oblivious Easterlings who were celebrating in their camp. The ensuing Battle of the Camps was one of the greatest victories in the history of Gondor.
But now, with the king dead, there was a succession crisis in the making, and it was up to the Steward of Gondor (this position is roughly equivalent to ASOIAF Hand of the King) to decide who should be crowned. Arvedui of Arthedain, who was married to the king’s only surviving child, Firiel, presented his own claim. Isildur and his heirs, he claimed, have never forgone their claim to the throne of Gondor (and Meneldil’s coronation was in their view, shall we say, fishy at best). And besides that, Arvedui was married to King Ondoher’s daughter.
According to ancient Numenorean Law of Succession, Firiel should have been crowned a Ruling Queen of Gondor.
But the Steward of Gondor, Pelendur, countered those claims by saying that in Numenor it was peaceful enough to have women as rulers, but Gondor, troubled by invasions, needed a male monarch to lead the armies. Arvedui responded that Isildur never relinquished his crown of Gondor, and never intended for the two Dunedain realms to become estranged. Meneldil, he argued, was but a governor by Isildur’s grace, but now, when an opportunity exists, the Dunedain should be reunited. When this petition was rejected, he argued that in Old Numenor, the crown would always pass to the king’s eldest child, regardless of its gender. This ancient law was not always heeded in the Realms in Exile, troubled by wars, that much was true, he agreed, but nevertheless, the law existed and was never abolished. Firiel should be crowned.
But the Steward never replied to this, and under his influence, the Council of Gondor crowned that victorious general, Eärnil (who reigned as Eärnil II). After Eärnil, there was only one king of Gondor, his son Eärnur, who was challenged to a duel by the Witch-king of Angmar. This childless monarch accepted the offer and rode into Minas Morgul, never to be seen again. The great interregnum of Gondor began, and hereditary Ruling Stewards governed the realm for 969 years, until Aragorn’s return.
I hope that after this explanation, it became a bit more clear what happened. House of Anarion died out in Gondor, but its branch survived thanks to Firiel, the daughter of King Ondoher.
Before we move on, I guess I should explain what ultimately happened with Arnor and Arvedui. Well. The Witch-king and his army invaded Arthedain and its capital was sacked. Arvedui had to flee north, and hid with small retinue among the Lossoith, the Snow-men who lived on the frozen shores of the Ice-bay of Forochel. That winter was especially cold, and this cold was unnatural, for it was sent by the Witch-king, who held great power.
When spring came, and it seemed that winter was in retreat, Círdan the Shipwright dispatched one of his ships (similar to the one on which Gandalf, Frodo and Bilbo sailed West centuries later). Arvedui and his men boarded the ship, and as they were about to sail away, mighty wind came from the north and the ship was broken on ice. Thus died the last King of Arnor.
But the line of Isildur survived. Arvedui’s son with Firiel, Aranarth, survived the fall of Arthedain in Rivendell. He refused to be called King of Arnor, as in his view, the realm was no more. Instead, he named himself Chieftain of the Dunedain. Aragorn was the 16th of those Chieftains, the heir of Isildur – but also of Anarion, thanks to Firiel.
So, Aragorn’s claim to the throne comes from that usurped female heir, King Ondoher’s daughter, Firiel, The Queen Who Never Was.
If her claim was not rejected by the Steward, Gondor and Arnor would be reunited under one royal pair, King Arvedui of Arnor and Queen Firiel of Gondor. Perhaps their son, who was the heir of both Anarion and Isildur, and in him, the two dynasties founded by Elendil’s sons, were rejoined, would be proclaimed High King of the Dunedain. As the Seer declared:
“Though a choice will come to the Dúnedain, and if they take the one that seems less hopeful, then your son will change his name and become king of a great realm. If not, then much sorrow and many lives of men shall pass, until the Dúnedain arise and are united again.”
Steward Pelendur made the wrong choice, the one that seemed more hopeful at the moment – of a general, because the realm needed, according to Pelendur, a male leader – but in the end it proved a disaster. Arnor fell, and Gondor became kingless. Only 969 years later, under exceptional circumstances, namely the War of the Ring, could Firiel’s heir Aragorn return. Symbolically, the return of the king is actually the return of the line of the queen who was once usurped.
But one situation does not make a pattern. To call it so, we have to find another such situation.
Luckily, to find our second example, we have to look at the very same house, the House of Elros, first King of Numenor. Elendil, his sons Anarion and Isildur, and their descendants, were in fact members of a cadet branch of the Royal Dynasty, House of Andúnië. And when we read about how this house came to be in The Silmarillion and other books, it’s easy to see the parallels with Firiel of Gondor and her line.
Elros, son of Elwing and Eärendil (about whom we will talk in another episode) was Elrond’s twin brother. But when he was given a choice between two races, Men and Elves, unlike his sibling, Elros decided that he would rather be counted as one of the Edain. He rose to become Lord of the Edain and later, the founder and first monarch of Westernesse (Numenor).
Elros Tar-Minyatur reigned for 410 years, from S.A. (Second Age) 32 until 442, when he died at the age of 500 (it appears this extreme longevity, which dwarfed even the lifespans of the Numenoreans, was caused by his elven blood). The Sceptre (symbol of the royal power in Numenor, akin to the Westerosi Iron Throne) passed to his eldest child, Vardamir, who became Tar-Vardamir, but men also called him Nólimon, Man of Knowledge. Vardamir was a scholar and a loremaster who loved to study ancient scrolls and read about history. I imagine that if there was any institution similar to the Citadel of Oldtown in Numenor, Vardamir would become Archmaester Vardamir, whose ring, rod and mask were made from mithril. Basically, he was Numenorean version of Archmaester Vaegon (Targaryen), the son of Jaehaerys and Alysanne.
Mayhaps, if he was still in his youth, or middle age, or even senectitude, Vardamir would reign wisely, making good use of all his knowledge. But because of his father’s longevity, Vardamir was not 50, 60, 70 or even 80 years old. He was 381, a tired old man. Thus, in 442, Tar-Vardamir abdicated mere moments after he was proclaimed king. The Sceptre passed to his heir, Amandil, who ruled as King Tar-Amandil from 443 to 590, Second Age.
Still, Tar-Vardamir’s name was added to the Scroll of Kings, and he nominally reigned for one year, from 442 to 443. The old former king lived died at the age of 410 in the year 471.
Tar-Amandil had three children, sons Elendil and Eärendur and daughter Mairen. When he felt that the burdens of governance were to heavy for him, he abdicated in favour of his eldest child, Tar-Elendil (in whose memory Elendil, father of Isildur, might be named).
Tar-Elendil was the spitting image of his grandfather. His great passion was reading books and scrolls from the vast collection gathered by Tar-Vardamir. Numenoreans called him Parmaitë, Book Handed. Elendil’s reign was notable mainly for the exploits of his admiral Vëantur, the Captain of the King’s Ships (Numenorean equivalent of the Master of Ships or Grand Admiral). On his famous ship, Entulessë, which means Return, Lord Vëantur, the Numenorean Corlys Velaryon, became the first man of of Numenor who set foot in Middle-earth in nearly six centuries (before Veanutr, Numenorean shipbuilding was sixpenny at best, and their vessels were hardly seaworthy).
Veantur landed in the Grey Havens, where he befriended Elven shipbuilding master, Cirdan the Shipwright himself. (Cirdan was the one who built the White Ship which appears in the final LOTR chapter, where Frodo, Bilbo, Gandalf, Elrond and Galadriel sailed on it to Valinor). Later, Veantur organised many voyages and explored distant lands east of Middle-earth, and elsewhere.
The admiral had a daughter, a lady famed for her beauty named Almarian. King Tar-Elendil allowed her to marry his son, Meneldur. His only son. But not the eldest child. Meneldur was actually his youngest child, born after Silmariën and Isilmë. But they were female, and at the time, Numenor followed agnatic primogeniture – women were not eligible to inherit.
Thus, Tar-Elendil named Meneldur his heir (well, I imagine that this was also somewhat influenced by the fact that his wife was the daughter of the greatest naval officer and explorer in Numenorean history, a powerful lord and one of the wealthiest men in Westernesse). But, in a true Aegon IV fashion, he gave one of the greatest heirlooms of his house – the Ring of Barahir, who was father of the Edain hero Beren himself – to his eldest daughter, not his son. Please don’t misunderstand me, Tar-Elendil was not malign or incompetent like Aegon the Unworthy, he was simply too peaceful and bookish to notice how this move could be interpreted. In a way, it’s like naming a younger son heir and Prince of Dragonstone, but giving Blackfyre or Aegon the Conqueror’s crown to a daughter who is actually older than that son, and some whisper she should be the next monarch.
Nevertheless, the Numenorean chronicles don’t tell us anything any conflicts or quarrels between the siblings. Tar-Meneldur was, like his sire, a peaceful man, whose great passion was astronomy. At birth, he was named Írimon, but later he chose the name Meneldur, Servant of Heavens. This stargazer king would spend more time in his observatory tower he had erected in the land of Forostar (where, according to the king, the sky was more clear and thus it was easier to track and map the stars from there). It appears that Meneldur spent more time in his tower than in his capital, the golden Armenelos.
Well, since this is an essay on usurpations, I probably should point out that Tar-Meneldur was not a vicious usurper who stole his sisters crown. He received the Sceptre because agnatic primogeniture was a law at that time. If Numenor followed absolute primogeniture back then, I don’t see him starting a civil war with his elder sister. He would abide by the law. But still, I believe this situation was unfair was Silmarien, even if her brother was not to blame here. The law itself was unfair. Also, Silmarien’s descendants were generally better people than Meneldur’s, and I’d suggest that if she became the Ruling Queen, all foul deeds of all those wicked later kings of Numenor, especially Ar-Pharazon, could avoided. Silmarien’s house became the centre of the Elf-friend party.
Basically, in place of Ar-Pharazon the Golden (Ar-Pharazon the Monster, rather), there would have been King Elendil the Faithful, then King Isildur, and Numenor would not fall. Or it’d fall much later.
Lady Silmariën married a nobleman named Elatan, and to honour her, Tar-Elendil, his grandfather, created their son Valandil first Lord of Andúnië, one of the most important port cities in the realm. This House of Andúnië was second only to the Royal House, and kings and their heirs often took maidens from Silmariën’s line to wives. If we picture House of Elros as House Targaryen, House of Andúnië would be its House Velaryon.
There were 18 Lords of Andunie, and Elendil would have been the 19th, had Numenor not fallen. Isildur, Anarion, Ondoher, Arvedui, Firiel and Aragorn were all Silmarien’s descendants. Just like Tar-Miriel and Ar-Pharazon.
Eärendur was the 15th Lord of Andunie at a time when the anti-elven King’s Men party was growing in power. His beautiful sister Lindórië gave birth to Inzilbêth, who later married Ar-Gimilzôr, the 23rd King of Numenor and became his queen. Secretly, she belonged to the Elf-friend party, now named the Faithful, and she taught their beliefs to her son Inziladûn. Thus, even though his father outlawed using Elven speech and persecuted the Faithful, his heir became one of them. The king was displeased with this, and even considered naming his younger son, whose mindset was more similar to his own, his heir. Nevertheless, when Ar-Gimilzôr died, he was followed by his eldest son, Inziladûn, more widely known as Tar-Palantir the Farsighted.
Palantir wanted to reconcile his people with the Elves and the Valar, but his reforms brought no results, as his every decision was opposed by the King’s Men party (its name was now ironic, as they hated the king), led by his younger brother Gimilkhâd (the one whom their father wanted to name his heir), and Gimilkhâd’s son, young ambitious general named Pharazôn.
Tar-Palantir grew more and more disillusioned, and feeling powerless, his mind turned to sorrow. The king often journeyed to the western coast of Numenor, and there, from a high tower, looked into the Uttermost West, in hopes of catching but a glimpse of Tol Eressëa, the Lonely Isle, and perhaps even the Valinor beyond it.
Palantir had only one child, a daughter named Míriel, ‘fairer than silver or ivory or pearls’, and he officially named her his heiress. He decreed that she will be the next Ruling Queen of Numenor when he dies. But when he died, Ar-Pharazon stole her Sceptre and usurped her throne, when he forced her to marry him and thus became the 25th (and final) King of Numenor. His reign of terror ultimately brought about the fall of Numenor.
Ar-Pharazon’s usurpation, upon which the Blood Betrayal from TWOIAF is based, at least according to my theory (with Bloodstone Emperor being Pharazon and Amethyst Empress being Miriel), was illegal in three different ways: first, it disrespected the late king Palantir’s wishes and decrees, second, marriages between cousins were forbidden, and no forced marriage is legal. Finally, it broke King Tar-Aldarion’s Law of Succession.
Until that law, Numenor followed agnatic primogeniture. But Aldarion, the sixth king of Numenor (son of Tar-Meneldur and Almarian, Veantur’s daughter), changed it to absolute primogeniture, in order to allow his only child, daughter Tar-Ancalimë, to become the first Ruling Queen of Numenor. Aldarion’s story is fascinating in its own right, and the history of his quarrels and reconciliations with his wife Erendis is detailed in The Unfinished Tales: Aldarion and Erendis: The Mariner’s Wife (Aldarion inherited his grandfather Veantur’s passion of ships and voyages). Sadly, today there is no time to explore it.
Tar-Ancalimë, the seventh ruler of Numenor and its first Ruling Queen was followed by her son Tar-Anárion, who was in turn followed by Tar-Súrion, who had two elder sisters, but strangely, both supposedly refused the throne, because they were afraid of the Old Queen Tar-Ancalimë, their grandmother. Surion was followed by his eldest child, Tar-Telperiën, the second Ruling Queen. This proud queen refused to marry, and thus, the son of her younger brother became the 11th ruler of Numenor as Tar-Minastir.
The final Ruling Queen was Tar-Vanimeldë, the 16th ruler of Westernesse. Supposedly, she cared little about the affairs of the realm, leaving those matters to her husband Herucalmo (who was a descendant of Tar-Atanamir the Great, the 13th king). During her reign, he ruled in all but name (this makes me wonder whether she truly gave up all her power to him). When Vanimeldë died, Herucalmo (which means Lord of Light) usurped the throne from his own son, and reigned for 20 years as Tar-Anducal, Light of the West. His son Tar-Alcarin was able to reclaim the throne only after his father’s death.
Tar-Miriel would have been the fourth Ruling Queen of Numenor, but her birthright was stolen by Ar-Pharazon.
The Royal House of Elros died out with Ar-Pharazon – but Elendil renewed the kingship when he was crowned the High King of the Dunedain in Middle-earth, overlord of Gondor and Arnor. There was an interregnum, the line of the (symbolic) usurper Tar-Meneldur died out, but Silmarien’s line lived on, and now claimed the empty throne.
Elendil was the son of Amandil, the 18th Lord of Andunie who attempted to sail to Valinor and plead with the Valar to forgive Numenoreans and spare them. He sailed west on his ship, but was never seen again. Thus, Elendil was a direct descendant of Silmarien and her heir. In a way, he was also the heir of the true Queen of Numenor, Tar-Miriel – she had no children, and Elendil was her close kinsman (as her father Tar-Palantir was a son of Inzilbêth, who was a member of the House of Andunie).
Her fillet, made from mithril and adorned with a white star-shaped jewel, became known as the Elendilmir, the Star of the North. Elendil wore it in place of a crown, just like his son Isildur after him. When Isildur died during the Disaster of the Fields of Gladden, the jewel was lost – the king was wearing it when he put on the One Ring. Isildur became invisible, but Silmarien’s jewel would not submit to the power of Sauron’s precious gem, blazing like a red star. It was lost for centuries, until treacherous Saruman, who was seeking the One Ring, knowing the approximate location of the place where Isildur’s final battle took place, found it and took to Isengard. After his fall, it was discovered among his possessions, kept in a secret chamber, and given to King Aragorn.
Isildur’s son Valandil had a copy of the lost jewel made for himself, and it became a prized heirloom in the House of Isildur. Thus, in the end, both Stars of Elendil came into the possession of Aragorn, the heir of Silmarien, Elendil, Isildur, Anarion, Firiel and Arvedui. In him, two branches of the House of Elendil were reunited, the lines of Isildur and Anarion. The reverence Aragorn showed to the Elendilmir, which once belonged to Silmarien, is a symbol of his descent from Elendil, but also from earlier Numenorean monarchs and lords.
Thus, we see that in both situations where the Dunedain have to deal with an interregnum, the returning king proves to be a descendant of a royal daughter whose claim was once rejected. Why is it so important that the ‘returning king’ figure’s claim comes from one of his female ancestors, and why at least in Aragorn’s case, the returning king is the heir of both branches of the Royal House, which split in two many centuries earlier? Why the return of the king always happens thanks to a woman?
Well, after researching the topic, I came to the conclusion that it’s a reference to the ultimate Returning King, a heir to an ancient royal line foreseen in a prophecy. Jesus Christ.
To understand how this parallel between Jesus and Aragorn works, we have to look at something called the Tree of Jesse. The Tree of Jesse is an artistic depiction of the lineage of Christ. Its name comes from Jesse, who was the father of King David, founder of the House of David and refers to this quote from Prophet Isaiah: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isaiah 11:1).
In medieval art, the Tree usually looks like this:
The White Tree of Gondor is basically the same concept. It’s also a symbol of the royal house, it withers when the dynasty of Anarion dwindled in Gondor, and a new sapling is found by Gandalf when Aragorn is crowned. But that’s not where similarities between Jesus and Aragorn end. The coming of both was foreseen in prophecies. Jesus is called ‘Son of David’ – his heir. Aragorn is called the Heir of Isildur. Both came to end a long interregnum, and established a new kingdom. Aragorn’s genealogy is presented to the reader with details, just like Christ’s. Deep roots are not reached by the frost and ‘And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots’.
Gondor and Arnor have multiple similarities with Israel – in the beginning they are one unified realm, but then they split. King David’s unified kingdom was inherited by his son Salomon, but Salomon’s heir was unable to deal with a rebellion of the northern tribes who proclaimed Jeroboam their king. The realm was divided into Kingdom of Judah and the Northern Kingdom. In LOTR, Elendil (who like David faced a giant warrior, Goliath-Sauron, but also has some similarities to Noah) left one Dunedain realm to his son Isildur, who also reigned as High King. But Isildur’s son Valandil (Solomon’s son Rehoboam) lost Gondor, where Meneldil declared independence. Now, in the Bible, it’s the north that rebels, but I don’t think that geography is that important for symbolism. The basic idea is the same. There was one grand realm, which was later divided.
Tolkien might be referencing Rehoboam, the monarch who was not from the line of David, when he writes that Arnor split again, and in Rhudaur, warlords who were not from the line of Isildur came to power.
There are two accounts of the genealogy of Jesus. One in St. Matthew’s version, and one in St. Luke’s. Matthew’s version is read in churches on Monday of the Third Week of Advent.
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and Tamar, Perez, Hezron, Ram, Amminadab, Nahshon, Salmon and Rachab, Boaz and Ruth, Obed, Jesse, David and Bathsheba, Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Ahaziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, Jeconiah, Shealtiel, Zerubbabel, Abiud, Eliakim, Azor, Zadok, Achim, Eliud, Eleazar, Matthan, Jacob, Joseph, Jesus
St. Luke mentions:
God, Adam, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Maleleel, Jared, Enoch, Mathusala, Lamech, Noah, Shem, Arphaxad, Cainan, Sala, Heber, Phalec, Ragau, Saruch, Nachor, Thara, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Juda, Phares, Esrom, Aram, Aminadab, Naasson, Salmon, Boaz, Obed, Jesse, David, Nathan, Mattatha, Menan, Melea, Eliakim, Jonam, Joseph, Judah, Simeon, Levi, Matthat, Jorim, Eliezer, Jose, Er, Elmodam, Cosam, Addi, Melchi, Neri, Salathiel, Zorobabel, Rhesa, Joannan, Juda, Joseph, Semei, Mattathias, Maath, Nagge, Esli, Naum, Amos, Mattathias, Joseph, Jannai, Melchi, Levi, Matthat, Heli, Joseph, Jesus
As you see, there are many differences between those two accounts. There are many theories trying to explain them. One of them asserts that St. Matthew’s version follows the lineage of Joseph, Jesus’ foster father, while St. Luke’s shows the ancestors of his mother, Mary. (Or, that St. Matthew gives us Mary’s lineage, and St. Luke Joseph’s). Other scholars suggest that both Joseph and Mary were King David’s descendants, but from different branches. For authors like St. Augustine, the fact that Jesus was Joseph’s adoptive child is enough to assert that he was, from a legal point of view, a heir of King David. But several early Christian thinkers believed otherwise. In De Carne Christi Tertullian of Carthage declares that Jesus was a descendant of David by blood, and thus, Mary must have been a descendant of King David. In Romans 1:3 St. Paul writes about Christ ‘who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh’.
I believe that J.R.R. Tolkien was familiar with those theories, and might have accepted them, as it appears that in his ‘return of the prophesied king’ scenario the hero’s royal claim comes from a woman in his line – Jesus is the Son of David because his mother Mary was from David’s line, and Aragorn can claim the throne of Gondor because of Firiel. Aragorn was also the heir of two houses founded by Elendil’s descendants, House of Isildur and Anarion – this might be a reference to the theory that Joseph and Mary were both descendants of David, but from two different branches. I’ll also point out that Aragorn married Arwen, daughter of Elrond, who was the twin brother of Elros Tar-Minyatur, the first king of Numenor and Aragorn’s ancestor (as Silmarien came from Elros’ line, and Elendil was her heir 18 generations later). Apart from the ‘return of the line of the queen’ theme, it appears that there’s a second important side to the ‘return of the king’ coin – in that king, two branches of a royal dynasty that were separated long ago are reunited.
I’ll also mention that in Quenya of the High Elves, Fíriel means ‘mortal woman’, so Aragorn being the ‘heir of Fíriel’ might be akin to saying he is the ‘Son of Eve’ or ‘Son of Woman’, which might be a reference to the ‘Son of Man’ title of Christ.
The name Silmariën is also important – it evokes the Silmarils, and especially, the Silmaril that came into the possession of her ancestor, Elros’ father, Eärendil the Mariner. Eärendil, steersman of Planet Venus, the Morningstar and the Evenstar. Eärendil Lightbringer. If we follow this lead, it might tell us why is it so important that Aragorn, Elendil and some ‘saviour figures’ in ASOIAF, like Jon Snow and Daenerys have Lightbringer symbolism based on Venus. Because, as Revelation 22:16 tells us, Christ was the Morningstar.
‘I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star’
Christ being a descendant of David is mentioned in the same sentence as Him being the bright Morningstar.
In Tolkien’s world, Planet Venus – which is both the Morningstar and the Evenstar – was in fact Eärendil’s ship Vingilótë transformed into a star by the Valar. It shines so bright, because one of the Silmarils was its lantern. Following this lodestar, Eärendil’s son Elros sailed to Westernesse, the Isle of Numenor, and there founded his realm. Numenoreans and the Dunedain are inseparable from Venus. And when we realise what the Silmarils symbolise… But that’s a topic for another day.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this piece, and please come back next Sunday, on December the 9th 2018. Our Advent journey continues in ‘Eärendil, Bearer of Light’.
And now, I’ll leave you with one final thought. Advent is a liturgical period of waiting and preparation for Christmas, but also for the Second Coming of Christ. In fact, ‘advent’ comes from Latin ‘adventus’ – arrival, approach, coming. In its essence, Advent is waiting for the return of the coming King. Next time, I’ll demonstrate that there would be no Middle-earth, and in turn modern fantasy, without certain Advent poem from the 8th or 9th century A.D. That poem inspired Tolkien’s symbolism based on Venus, and in turn – I believe – many aspects of GRRM’s own worldbuilding. Like Lightbringer.
Thanks for reading and see you next time!