Lindariel and Beren's Theory on Aragorn's Healing Abilities

A place where members present scholastic ideas for discussion.
Post Reply
Posts: 1062
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2005 8:30 pm
Location: The Hall of Fire, Imladris (otherwise known as Northern Virginia)

Lindariel and Beren's Theory on Aragorn's Healing Abilities

Post by Lindariel » Mon Feb 26, 2007 9:09 pm

In the course of my Tolkien-based fiction writing, I have given a lot of thought to Aragorn's healing abilities and the old saying in Gondor that "the hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known," and I have the developed the following theory.

I believe the ability to heal with athelas, the laying on of hands, and the summoning of the lost spirit "from the dark valley," comes down to Aragorn through the line of the Numenorean Kings from their original progenitor Elros Tar-Minyatar, twin brother of Elrond Half-Elven. They in turn received this ability as direct descendants of Luthien the Fair, and she received it from none other than Melian the Maia. Hence, this special ability to heal has a divine source.

Granted, not all of the Numenorean Kings were healers. Some had no interest or training, some gave themselves over to evil, but the capacity to heal was somehow sustained in the northern line until it could be revealed once again in Aragorn II, who had been fostered and trained by Middle-earth's master healer -- Elrond.

If you look through Tolkien's work, all of the characters that are especially associated with healing are from Luthien's line. Luthien herself miraculously heals Beren on several occasions -- on one occasion Huan brings her a special herb to assist her in healing Beren. "With that leaf she staunched Beren's wound, and by her arts and by her love she healed him . . . ." Is this the first use of athelas?

Elrond's healing abilities are hailed by Aragorn thusly, "Would that Elrond were here, for he is the eldest of all our race, and has the greater power." By "race" I believe Aragorn is indicating that Elrond is the eldest of the line of Luthien remaining in Middle-earth. What other "race" could he be referring to that both Aragorn and Elrond have in common and of which Elrond would be "eldest"?

Then, of course, there is Aragorn, whose healing methods and abilities are the most extensively described by the Professor. "The hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known"; I believe this old saying was maintained and passed down in Gondor because the blood-line of the Numenorean Kings could ultimately be traced back to Melian the Maia. The rightful king can be recognized because he possesses a divine ability to heal.

In his hands, athelas has healing virtues that it does not express in the hands of others. Recall what the herb-master of Gondor had to say about athelas:
"But alas! sir, we do not keep this thing in the Houses of Healing, where only the gravely hurt or sick are tended. For it has no virtue that we know of, save perhaps to sweeten a fouled air, or to drive away some passing heaviness. Unless, of course, you give heed to rhymes of old days which women such as our good Ioreth still repeat without understanding.

When the black breath blows
and death's shadow grows
and all lights pass,
come athelas! come athelas!
Life to the dying
In the king's hand lying
Also, remember Faramir's words at Aragorn's coronation:
"Men of Gondor, hear now the Steward of this Realm! Behold! one has come to claim the kingship again at last. Here is Aragorn son of Arathorn, chieftain of the Dunedain of Arnor, Captain of the Host of the West, bearer of the Star of the North, wielder of the Sword Reforged, victorious in battle, whose hands bring healing, the Elfston, Elessar of the line of Valandil, Isildur's son, Elendil's son of Numenor. Shall he be king and enter into the City and dwell there?"
This is not to say that there weren't other skillful healers among both men and elves -- certainly there were -- those skilled with herbs or who had abilities to heal through song or chanting. Glorfindel is the most immediate example that comes to mind. But I think the special, quasi-divine ability to heal with athelas is reserved especially to the descendants of Luthien. By extension, this would mean that the children of Elrond -- Elladan, Elrohir, and Arwen -- would also have this ability, should they choose to develop it.

Any thoughts? Have I missed another great healer somewhere?


This is where my original post on this subject ended. Then Beren replied with the following:

There are some occasions where we can see healers at work in the books, most of them mentioned by you already... but here we go with some of my views (adapted from a post i did on board which is now far gone and forgotten, luckely i saved the drafts):

The only time we see an Elf heal someone is Glorfindel, who searched the wound [Frodo's] with his fingers, after which Frodo felt a little warmer and his vision cleared. But Glorfindel said "this is beyond my skill to heal." Elrond did much more, but we don't see what or how he did it, only that he "drew forth a splinter." Hard to say whether he used conventional surgery or magic or both, but evidently the wound had healed over by the next day when Frodo woke up. It's interesting to note that both Aragorn and Glorfindel say they don't have the skill to heal it. Probably Aragorn had noticed the broken tip of the knife before it melted, and guessed he could do little without surgery. So for sure Elrond is a very powerfull healer!

The some more about "The hands of the King"
'Here I must put forth all such power and skill as is given to me,' he said. 'Would that Elrond were here, for he is the eldest of all our race and has the greater power.'
It's hard to tell which parts of Aragorn's healing are
1) Númenorean medicine
2) Elvish medicine, no doubt taught to him by Elrond
3) something innate and peculiar to the King, which is a common motif in certain "king archetypes".

However, that quote suggests Aragorn has enough skill/training to match Elrond; his power is just less. Power from where? If Elrond is the "eldest" of Aragorn's race, then it's not Elf or Mortal to whom he's referring, but to descendents of Lúthien who inherited Maiar blood from her mother. So also here we are on the same track! (like minds think alike hehe)

The we see the healing of Frodo on Weathertop: Aragorn sings strange words over the Morgul-knife, whispers something to Frodo, and then bathes the wound with athelas. Hard to say whether this is Númenorean (is he singing in Adunaic?) since he's using an herb of Númenor, or whether this is Elrond's training.

Frodo, Sam, Gimli are all healed by Aragorn during their journeys. We don't see how Aragorn healed Gimli at Helm's Deep, but for Frodo and Sam's bruises and gashes after the Moria-fight, Aragorn simply gives them first aid and again bathes the wounds with athelas. No singing here: that was evidently a response to the evil enchantment on the Morgul-knife.

Healing "The Black Breath": The rhyme implies that the king alone is able to combat it. The Númenoreans who made up the rhyme would have no idea whether Elves like Elrond could also combat it, but Aragorn's comment about Elrond implies that yes, he also could deal with this.

Later when Aragorn heals Faramir we encounter some strange behavior. Before Aragorn gets his hands on athelas, he does go into a trance:
Now Aragorn knelt beside Faramir, and held a hand upon his brow. And those that watched felt that some great struggle was going on. For Aragorn's face grew grey with weariness; and ever and anon he called the name of Faramir, but each time more faintly to their hearing, as if Aragorn himself was removed from them, and walked afar in some dark vale, calling for one that was lost.
Whatever he's doing, he's awake and lucid the instant Bergil rushes in with some leaves. Aragorn seems to have reached Faramir's mind somehow by doing this, because Faramir knows who he is immediately. That could also be because Faramir's got special blood himself. Frodo says he has "an air of wizards", and what are wizards? Maiar!

The healing trance is used to pull someone back from the brink of death. I don't know whether this would work with just anyone, or whether it's because both of them have a tiny amount of Maiar blood. Again, I say Maiar, not Elven, because otherwise Aragorn wouldn't have said it was something peculiar to Elrond's bloodline.

Most interesting maybe is how Aragorn actually does heal people, we see some variations. Let us take a look at them:

Aragorn does something specific to fight the Black Breath: he lays the leaves in his hands and breathes on them. The hands of the king, and most importantly his own breath, are needed to combat this unique malady.

He doesn't even bother to bathe Faramir's wounds; he just holds the steaming bowl up to his face. The scent, the air, is what's needed to combat Black Breath. Faramir instantly wakes up.

For Éowyn he again does something specific for the person to "summon" her, kissing her on the brow before using athelas (also yakking rather a lot before doing anything, silly epic heroes). In Éowyn's case he bathes her arm and forehead. He can't reach her spiritually as he did Faramir; her bond with her brother is stronger, so Éomer much call her as Aragorn did the Steward.

We don't see what he does for Merry (or Frodo and Sam at the Fields of Cormallen), but again, it appears that the treatment varies widely depending on the spiritual/mental state of the patient, as well as the nature of the wound. If the patient's spirit is resilient, which is a special trait of hobbits, they'll bounce back easily, but if the patient has taken a bad blow, the healing won't work (Éowyn, Celebrían). And it requires both "power" and "skill". The skill is that Aragorn knows how to vary the treatment according to circumstances.

Ok, so far my views, anyone else has more on this?
Lindariel Image

“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Posts: 3263
Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2005 7:01 am
Location: Middle-west

Post by Merry » Wed Feb 28, 2007 4:44 am

This is a great topic--thanks, both of you, for your insights.

I've been reading the Lay of Luthien, and the herbal contribution of Huan the Wonderdog to the healing of Beren's arrow wound is surprising to me. In one sense, the shooting of Beren by one of those nasty sons of Feanor is kind of gratuitous--a parting shot, literally. The story could easily have gone on without it, and Huan and Luthien heal Beren rather easily. I think it is not so important to the Lay of Luthien itself, so Tolkien might have included it because it is important to the rest of the legendarium. It introduces the theme of healing with herbs (so, yes, I do think it was the first healing with athelas) and it introduces Luthien as a healer, which is important to your argument above.

Luthien also sang a song to staunch the wound, a foreshadowing of Aragorn's healing singing?
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Posts: 1062
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2005 8:30 pm
Location: The Hall of Fire, Imladris (otherwise known as Northern Virginia)

Post by Lindariel » Wed Feb 28, 2007 3:43 pm

Thanks for mentioning the singing Merry! Much of Luthien's magic is accomplished through/accompanied by singing. This really shouldn't be surprising to us, given that the The Professor establishes in the Ainulindale that Arda was conceived and illuminated through song.

Outside of Tolkien's mythos, just think of the many ways in which song/chant is used in magical, shamanistic, and religious rituals throughout history. Music, song, and chant take us outside of ourselves to reveal/illuminate larger truths and to help us become part of a larger experience.

Song is a very important part of my Tolkien-based creative writing, but then again, my chief protagonist is an elven bard named . . . . Lindariel.
Lindariel Image

“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Posts: 2339
Joined: Thu Aug 25, 2005 2:21 pm
Location: Washing my hair in the Sundering Sea

Post by Iolanthe » Wed Feb 28, 2007 8:48 pm

The Role of Music and Song in Tolkien's Mythos. Mmmm - Lindariel - I think there is an essay in there somewhere :wink: !
Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...

Posts: 105
Joined: Sun Oct 16, 2005 9:15 pm
Location: Numenor

Post by hope » Wed Feb 28, 2007 11:31 pm

I would just like to say how enjoyable it has been reading these posts whose thoughts encourage and foster the need for further reading.

well done :D Thanks :)
What have I got in my pocket?

Posts: 150
Joined: Sat Nov 25, 2006 12:51 pm
Location: Belgium

Post by Beren » Mon Mar 12, 2007 8:05 am

Singing can be found not only for healing, but song and dance play very important parts in the complete Beren and Luthien tale! We can find there the song of parting by Beren, we see song used by Luthien several times to brake the will of the evil, she sets the whole host of Angband to sleep with a song, to overthrown the dark Lord and put him to sleep (this time in combination with dance),...
We see song all over the mythology... when the elves arrive to middle-earth they sing
When Fëanor landed there in the First Age "the voices of his host were swelled to a mighty clamour" by the Echoing Mountains
at exact the same place we hear Tuor sing, this can be read in "Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin" in Unfinished Tales.

Don't know if this has anything to do with it but at this place, Lammoth, which means "the Great Echo", it is where Morgoth and Ungoliant fled after the darkening of Valinor and Morgoth's theft of the Silmarils. Ungoliant lusted for the Silmarils and she attacked Morgoth in order to get them. He let out a great cry, which echoed throughout the north of Middle-earth (as it is told in the Silmarillion):
Ungoliant had grown great, and [Morgoth] less by the power that had gone out of him; and she rose against him...Then Morgoth sent forth a terrible cry, that echoed in the mountains. Therefore that region was called Lammoth, for the echoes of his voice dwelt there ever after, so that any who cried aloud in that land awoke them, all all the waste between the hills and the sea was filled with a claumour as of voices in anguish.The cry of Morgoth in that hour was the greatest and most dreadful that was ever heard in the northern world.
In all of Tolkien’s created world, no power is greater or more evident than the power of music and song (and dance in minor shape). Through it Ilúvatar and the Valar created the world. Through music Tom Bombadil controlled nature. Through songs the Children of Ilúvatar rejoiced and mourned and recalled their histories. Even the Enemies such as the goblins had their own songs. There was healing through song, breaking of bonds through song, ...

Did Tolkien envision music as a power of itself, or was it merely the outward sign of the deeper powers within each being, or a reflection of the power of Ilúvatar? Who made the best music, and whose music had the most power? What are the most profound instances of the power of music?

Posts: 3263
Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2005 7:01 am
Location: Middle-west

Post by Merry » Mon Mar 12, 2007 3:46 pm

These are great questions! As a Catholic, Tolkien would have been exposed to powerful ritual music often, and as a philologist, the power of words set to music would have been exquisite to him. I think most of the poems in LOTR are sung by characters, although I've always imagined them as a kind of chant.
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Post Reply