Lord of the Rings: A Story Through One Song
By now, we all know that Amazon decided that Aragorn was too damn perfect to not get his own show, or at least one season. He’s rugged, he sings, he tosses dwarves, he does it all! (I would pay all the money for that action figure.)
Any Lord of the Rings fan knows he represents a long and complicated history of Gondor, the largest kingdom of men, in the Tolkien universe—Tolkienverse? He represents a line of Kings long thought to be lost, and a future for Gondor free of a dark and hard-fought past. Gondor’s history has all kinds of ups and downs, especially when their leader kind of messed up the whole, destroy the super evil ring because we are literally right where we need to be, thing.
We didn’t get to see too much of that on screen. Why? Oh yeah, because the movies are already too long to watch without needing a sandwich break. Yet, the history behind Aragorn is vital because, without it, the impact of his return (oh yeah spoiler alert, Return of the King does involve the returning of the King) is diminished.
Enter Howard Shore.
If you don’t know, Howard Shore is the composer for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and you can thank him every time the Isengard theme gets stuck in your head as you weave through traffic on the freeway. Or is that just me?
Music is one of those things that movies get to bring to the table that books just can’t make a possibility…unless they used those little magazine sound inserts. *Writing that idea down. It’s music that gets to tell the story of something that doesn’t get explained on screen, and it impacts the audience somewhere in their emotions. It’s deep-rooted, and it’s through one song that we get the history of Gondor.
I imagine the conversation to get Sean Bean involved in Lord of the Rings went something like this:
“Hey Mr. Bean, we want you to be a part of the fellowship, cool?”
“Do I get to die?”
“You are literally the only one who does.”
Boromir is actually a deeply thoughtful and complicated character. On the one hand, his people look up to him as the Steward’s son who will liberate them from an army of nasty, but thrifty, orcs that are already attacking their lands. On the other hand, he carries so much doubt he can do this that it pushes his desperation to the absolute limits.
In one scene he speaks with Aragorn about how he’s not the biggest fan of Galadriel being in his head, speaking directly through crazy eyes. Turns out, she was trying to calm him down. She probably needs to reconsider her strategy in future therapy sessions, but I digress. Galadriel tells him that there’s still hope for Gondor to be glorious once again, even though he can’t seem to see that possibility.
Then cue the song as Boromir talks about his failing father and desire to see the greatness of Gondor restored:
Play from 0:50
That melancholy tune starts the exact moment he starts talking about his father—a Steward in place of the once noble kings. From the Return of the King soundtrack, the track is called The White Tree (remember that because we will get back to it).
There’s sadness in it, but something regal at the same time. It perfectly hits your ears as a song of some old strength, slowly but surely fading. We don’t need every detail, and Tolkien sure had plenty, about Gondor’s past. We feel it in the tone of the song itself.
The White Tree
I told you we would be back to this, and you only had to wait, like, two sentences.
You may recognize the symbol, and Lord of the Rings fans sure do, but the White Tree of Gondor represents just about everything you need to know about its culture.
In the books, a sapling is taken from the old kingdom of Men, known as Numenor, and brought to Gondor to remind them of where their great Kings come from. Numenoreans live longer and, even though one refused to let go of the new bling he cut from Sauron’s hands, are fairly noble. They are high-quality, top shelf humans. Aragorn himself has Numenorean blood.
The tree is important because it blooms and grows in representation of the strength of the Kings of Gondor. And it’s not even of the talking variety! In the Return of the King, it is all but dead, yet Gondor still treasures it.
We hear the tune again, the pace is a little faster and elaborated on, but it still carries pain. There’s something lost, something so far gone it’s almost sad that Gondor tries to hold on to it. Their greatest warriors are standing away from the crucial battles to protect a symbol. It’s everything wrong with Gondor at the time, yet everything Gondor hopes to bring back.
What good is a king returning if there isn’t some fabled, destined sword to showcase his credentials? Like a steel resume, Aragorn wields Anduril— the longest damn sword in the history of Middle Earth.
This sword is forged from the shards of Narsil, a blade wielded by the kings of old. Talk about getting hit with all the symbolism at the same time, it was broken, now is remade, something new from something old. Maybe the old is gone forever, but the something new can be even greater. Aragorn wielding Anduril is everything Gondor hopes for, even if they don’t recognize it at first.
The movie makes sure it’s a special moment:
Start at 2:00
Do you recognize that theme? It’s almost a different song it’s so glorious! Yes, it’s the White Tree track just amplified in a way we haven’t heard it yet. It retains the regal atmosphere of the old Gondor it comes from but is bursting through with new enthusiasm. Gone is the melancholy tune of a dead tree, and in its place is Viggo Mortensen and a badass sword in all their glory!
The broken shall be remade, and crown-less again shall be king. A story of Gondor’s past that one song decided to tell instead of tacking on eight more hours of Gandalf talking to Pippen while he chokes on his (probably just) tobacco, while we all wait for the most epic battle of all time.
Yes, I’m sure the Aragorn story will reveal many details of old Gondor, but sometimes it’s the story you feel that sticks with you the longest. This theme subtly told a story through the entire original trilogy. A song made us feel Gondor’s past. There’s storytelling everywhere, you just need to know where to look…and listen for it.
Each song in Lord of the Rings has a story, what’s your favorite? Tell Nerdbot in the comments below.