According to the principle that everybody rises in his career to the point of his outmost incompetence, Elessar (Aka Strider, aka Aragorn), most capable ranger, healer of renown, became eventually – king. And not just king of a petty kingdom like Arthedain or Carn Dum, but king of about all mapped Middle Earth.
Many songs describe his virtue, his efforts, his adventures; and it must be conceded that Aragorn, son of Arathorn, led the life of a “hero” indeed up to his fateful coronation. No one should lessen his merits of those years, when the fate of Middle Earth (or at least of the Arnor-Rohan-Gondor Commonwealth) stood on the brink of destruction by the fanatic forces of Mordor. We’ve read the books, we’ve sung the songs, even those made by hobbits. But then, this Aragorn becomes king. The songs stop. The books end. Small appendices show meagre hints of what happened next. And suddenly we know why the book stops.
The documents of his incapability are numerous, even in the thin appendices. First – not even declared king yet – he orders the destruction of valuable outposts and fortresses within Mordor, instead of their occupation. Mordor, a vast region of unknown resources, becomes utterly unmanageable for any attempt of control through allied forces. It’s being simply left alone.
Then, he orders the destruction of Minas Morgul – or shall we say: Minas Ithil, the beautiful tower of Anarion. Thousands of years old, filled with treasures of numenorean origin, a mile-stone of gondorian culture and heritage, deliberately turned to dust and rubble. Only once was an artefact of equally priceless worth handled with equal care: when Grima Wormtongue threw the Palantir of Isengard at Mithrandir. We all know what became of Grima, once prime minister of King Theoden’s council. If he had but chosen Aragorn as his aim, and aimed better!
But King Elessar’s lonely and ill counselled decisions were just gaining momentum. For once, he ordered the rebuilding of Osgiliath, and hired top craftsmen for that job (Wood-Elves and Dwarves from the Lonely Mountain) at very low fares. Happiness and economic resurgence resumed shortly after, only to be stumped again by the decision not to move the capital to the shining new metropolis. Osgiliath, with all its infrastructural advantages, was demoted to province. In Minas Tirith, ambassadors and envoys are forced to climb not two or four, but seven city-levels before reaching the court. Administrative work at the government in Minas Tirith is one of the most cumbersome jobs Middle Earth has to offer today, and a common proverb says that you have to have “more brawns than brains” to achieve in M.T.
But luckily (?) enough, there’s less kingdom to govern today as was perceivable on the outset. Because High King Elessar gave freely away what he just had received. The Druadan-Forest he gave to a “Ghan-buri-Ghan” whom no one had ever seen except of some horsemen, turning that national park into a privately run wilderness full of dangerous, poison-arrow shooting savages, thus blocking a former Rohan-Gondor expressway (the “stonewain road”) forever. Faramir, able general and proven politician, gets a heaping helping of gondorian country: Ithilien. Though just being “count” of Ithilien now, Faramir and his ambitious wife Eowyn have laid the foundation to a house that may well claim kingship – he being a “Steward” of age-old tradition, her being no less royal than Elessar himself.
It’s a small wonder that Eomer, king of Rohan, got nothing but Elessar’s firm handshake. Isengard, numenorean outpost, gondorian enclave and strategic key-point to the west, is being donated to a bunch of wood-heads from Fangorn forest. These “Ents” have nothing better to do than to stand around there as if rooted to the ground, and breathe. The hardware and productive facilities established there by the former proprietor are being laid to waste, and rot.
Following the Greenway north through Eregion, we cross the Greyflood at Tharbad. Nothing can be said about rebuilding that old seaport – it simply doesn’t happen. We leave the unexplored mines of Moria to the right – it’s just Middle Earth’s single source of Mithril, who’d want to exploit that, not Elessar! – and come to a road block and a border. Stop. No entry.
The Greenway leads on, and while the country on the other side of the border looks prosperous and well-kept, the traveller to Arnor has to take a detour of about 100 leagues, bringing him close to dangerous places like the Old Forest and the Burrow-Downs.
This border is even more an outrage, as it is racial as well as political: the country (“Shire”) is inhabited by hobbits, prosperous exporters of “leaf”, which causes costs in the millions to our health system every year. “Leaf” causes cancer and heart diseases, can be dangerous during pregnancy and inhibits the development of children. Nonetheless, we see these jolly hobbits with their “leaf” brands like “Tookboro” earning hills of gold, and Elessar doesn’t even put taxes on it!
Even more, he rewards them with a huge slab of country in the west, donated, of course. There stand three towers of unknown age; unknown today, because hobbits dwell there, and access even for human historians is denied. It is said that Gil-Galad looked out from that towers for Elendil, coming from the sea; a national monument to Elves and Men, one would say. No, says King Elessar, it’s just another patch of daisies for the hobbits.
Nothing is said about the rebuilding and restructuring Elessar does in Arnor, and it can be suspected that nothing’s said, as nothing’s done. Being king, it’s sufficient to “visit” those derelict places. For us, it’s soothing to know that these places haven’t been donated as a boon to the people of Bree, and Barliman Butterburr being made king for his good beer handed out to Strider through all the years.
We all know about the sad departure of the Elves from Middle Earth. Elessar, the “Elfstone”, did nothing to soften the effect of this loss of knowledge and experience. Especially the vacating of Rivendell and the departure of Elrond appears as a literal “brain drain” in a time when brains are desperately needed. Elrond, of course, took his famed library with him when he set out from Mithlond; the grey ship was loaded to the brim with almost the complete knowledge of three ages. Elessar did nothing to retain at least something of it; obviously glad to get rid off his foster father and in-law, who only gave in to the marriage between his daughter Arwen and his foster son after Aragorn had survived nearly all attempts to get himself killed in Middle Earth.
Arwen! The beautiful evenstar of her people, the most tragic sacrifice to unselfish love. If only she had joined her father! King Elessar is guilty of nothing short of mischievous abandoning of his wife through his death, planned and executed with outmost egoism. No wonder even the Wood-elves are building ships to leave our “age of man”, and no wonder even dwarves are bumming rides with them to reach Valinor. Everything seems to be better than having to stay with us, here, and to live among us in those waning days of monarchy deluded by its short-sighted romanticisms.
Dear Aragorn-lovers out there, this, as you might have noticed, is irony.