Aragorn is easily one of the chief characters in The Lord of the Rings and his tale is arguably the most historically profound concerning Gondor, but the character of Aragorn is portrayed somewhat differently in the book and movies. A major part of the character is his relation to his past and the most concrete symbol of this past is the sword Narsil, the sword of Elendil, which is reforged into Andúril, the Flame of the West.
In the movie, Narsil, the sword of Elendil, is broken into pieces when he is defeated in single combat by Sauron. His son, Isildur, takes up the broken sword and cuts the Ring from Sauron’s hand. The pieces of Narsil are kept and eventually are found on something of a display in Rivendell. Aragorn is, of course, aware of his lineage but seems reluctant to claim his kingship. He doubts his own abilities and the strength of Men in general. Arwen commands the sword to be reforged and it is brought to him at a later date, after the battle of Helm’s Deep, before he takes the Paths of the Dead.
The book shows us a different Aragorn. When the hobbits meet Strider in Bree, they are unsure of his real identity until Gandalf’s letter helps to ease their doubts. He further gains their trust by presenting the pieces of Narsil he carries with him. In the book, the sword was only broken into two pieces and these he keeps with him as an heirloom of his lineage. He is not so reluctant to claim the throne of Gondor as he is cautious to not reveal himself to Sauron too soon. Thus, after the Council of Elrond, when the fate of the Ring and Middle-earth is decided, he then also decides the time is fast approaching for the King to retake Gondor and challenge Sauron. He presents the pieces of Narsil to the Elven smiths of Rivendell and they are reforged into Andúril, which he then takes with the Company on their Quest. Thus, Aragorn has Andúril throughout the events of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. We see Andúril cleave enemies in Moria and at Helm’s Deep. The orcs are clearly afraid of the sword and its wielder and a larger emphasis is placed on their “relationship.”
One particular scene that is found in the book and not the movies happens at the doors of Théoden’s hall, Meduseld in Edoras. Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas are allowed in to see the king but are bidden to leave their weapons at the door. Here, Aragorn voices his concern and says that he wishes to follow the king’s commands, but will not easily part from Andúril. Discussion ensues and Aragorn makes it clear he does not think that the even the King of the Mark of Rohan should have authority over an heir to the line of the Kings of Gondor, but eventually obliges. He sets Andúril against the wall of the building, saying that any man other than the heir of Isildur drawing it will die. Gimli agrees then to part with his ax, feeling glad it will have Andúril to keep it company. However, he does not prop his ax up, but lays it on the ground below Andúril, an interesting sign of submission. Though nothing else worth mentioning comes from this engagement, it is important to note the difference between this scene and the one portrayed in the movie.
The Sword that was Broken is a big deal in The Lord of the Rings and fans would do well to make a note of that.
[Credit to Jack Moore for proofreading and corrections.]