It may come as a shock to some, but Aragorn is more than just Viggo Mortensen with a sword. Sure, he’s good in hand-to-hand combat and is a great leader, but there is still more to this character beyond what we see portrayed in the films. I have briefly described some of his background in a previous post (March 26th), but even before he was the rugged Ranger we meet in The Prancing Pony he was involved heavily in maintaining order in Middle-earth.
It is mentioned in the extended edition of The Two Towers movie that Aragorn is 87 years old. He still looks relatively young due to his lineage, being of Dúnedain descent: last of a dying race that came from the great Númenórean lines. He is said to have also ridden to war with Thengel, father of Théoden, while Théoden was still a child. After this, it is recorded in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings that he arrived in Gondor at the time of Ecthelion (II), the Ruling Steward, father of Denethor (II). None knew his name in Gondor nor where he was originally from. They only knew that he recently fought alongside Rohan but was not of the Rohirrim.
He wore a silver star on his on his cloak and was swift and keen-eyed. Thus they called him Thorongil, meaning ‘Eagle of the Star,’ and he won great renown as a warrior in Gondor and also had great favor with Ecthelion. At that time, the main threat to Gondor was the rebellious Men in the south, around Umbar. With permission from the Steward, Aragorn (Thorongil) mustered a small fleet and attacked the ships at Umbar by night, destroying many and defeating the Captain of the Haven himself. He brought the fleet back with little loss but would not return to Gondor with them to claim the honor he had won, to the dismay of all.
Perhaps the only one not grieved by his departure in Minas Tirith was Denethor, the Steward’s son. There had long been harbored by him envy of Thorongil, as he held the hearts of most of the people of Gondor. Denethor was well-matched with Thorongil in strength and valor but Thorongil never vied for power or reputation, especially not over the Steward’s son. The only serious disagreement between the two was this: Thorongil counselled against trusting wholly to the alliance of Saruman the White, but instead to give welcome to Gandalf the Grey. Denethor did not overly like Gandalf and when he took his father’s office, not long after, the Grey Pilgrim was less welcomed. Perhaps Denethor suspected some design by Thorongil (known later to be Aragorn) and Gandalf to retake the throne that was rightfully his, as Denethor was a man of prudence and far sight.
Thorongil was last seen by those of Gondor heading East, towards the Mountains of Shadow on the borders of Mordor. Soon after, he and Gandalf would begin events that would help the War of the Ring take shape; those events are covered thoroughly in The Lord of the Rings.
[Credit to Jack Moore for proofreading and corrections.]