Aragorn Never Had an Identity Crisis

Jeffro wrote an interesting article today about true heroism that I want to share with you, because I agree but mostly because he makes an important distinction that seems to get lost today. You rarely find a solid hero these days that is honour bound. The troubled hero with a factory of personal issues that he must work through before he dies in some stupid sacrifice to redeem himself has become a trope that repeats way too often. And I get it makes for dramatic writing but it also becomes stale and irritating quickly.

We sometimes forget that in fictional worlds the idea is to make it feel and sound as real as possible. In war you dont have the luxery to work through your personal identity issues before doing what is right. You have to step up, no matter what, and do your duty. In other words, you sacrifice your emotional comfort zone because there is a calling higher than you and you must heed that calling.

This came up the other day, so I had to look it up. Any classic character that is adapted to contemporary media is consistently mutilated into something they’re not. Most recently this can be observed in the many edits made to Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker in Disney’s cartoon adaptation of the original Star Wars film. It seems a small thing, maybe, but this is how people that hate us actively rewrite our culture right in front of us. Plenty of well meaning people take the knockoff for the original while their imaginations are dimmed…

You can read the rest of the post here.

6 thoughts on “Aragorn Never Had an Identity Crisis

  1. To play devil’s advocate for a moment, Aragorn knew from the beginning that he was the true king of Gondor. Most of us don’t have that luxury. We have to identify the issues, decide which side we want to be on, then find the quality within ourselves to stand up and make a difference even though we’re terrified. It’s the same reason that Marvel is more popular than DC. The DC heroes are just that, heroes, standing atop the Daily Planet building, hands on their hips, looking smugly down on us mere mortals crawling below. The Marvel heroes have feet of clay. They have doubts. They wonder whether they can come up with the rent this month, or ever go on a normal date. They’re interesting, because they’re just like us, and they view their powers as a curse as well as a blessing. We can relate.

    That said, the ways that the modern hero is made to question himself has begun to look a bit like more of the same. That could certainly use some fresh eyes…

    Thanks for posting on the hard issues, though. You certainly got me thinking.

    1. Thanks for a great comment, Jack.

      I get what you are saying but my point is, and you seem to agree, that it’s getting old. The inner demon thing is well worn. Yet I know it serves a purpose. But as with any thing, if you overdo it, it becomes stale and works against the story because you end up with a soap opera instead of an action or adventure story beset with external challenges. And this is the root of the problem. They focus more on the drama instead of the challenges of the mission, which may include other characters not getting along etc., which on its own can also make for good drama.

      Duty and honour aren’t written codes of law that must be obeyed (although duty sometimes is). They are actions fueled by good intent to do something, despite one’s position in society. To take action when no one else wants to. To do so despite insecurity or identity issues. And sometimes they actually don’t have identity issues. Sometimes you get a blacksmith attacking a bad guy or going on a mission because it is the right thing to do and/or because there was no one else available.

  2. This article and the one from Jeffro Johnson were good, and very timely considering how Game of Thrones is very much the best example of the kind of soap opera you mention in the above comment due to its overdoing of drama and rejection of heroism and goodness. I hope it at least disgusted people enough that we will return to telling the same kind of heroic tales we used to tell.

    1. My wife and I watched it tonight. Nihilistic and pointless come to mind. I don’t know if the hero will ever be reborn in future tales. I doubt it. Not with current tendencies and identity politics always creeping in. It’s up to us to bring the hero back and make people care again.

  3. Spot on, Woelf. Jackson’s treatment of Aragorn was one the worst manglings he did of JRRT. I think I remember reading that Jackson and Fran Walsh just didn’t believe in the sort of hero JRRT did and couldn’t write Aragorn that way.

    As to the tortured hero, it’s been done to death. Same for the nihilism of too much contemporary fantasy. I know these are all things we’ve all said for years, but it only seems to be getting worse. It also never feels legitimate or believable.

    1. And that was a pity because movie Aragorn was a revisionist ideal of Jackson. I say this as an admirer of the movies.

      If we can’t have happy endings in our fiction, where else will we get them? Fantasy is about the satisfaction of reading a good story where your emotional investment gets rewarded. You, the reader, should not be penalized for caring about a character.

      The real world is grim enough. If people want to write a grim tale, by all means, go ahead, but at least give your reader a hero to cheer for and a happy ending to put a smile on your face.

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