So I was like: “Reading pieces of commendable writing allow us to become greater writers, write? (Pun intended…har har) So why don’t we take apart great, well-known characters in literature to see what makes them tick?” So, I did that. Let’s see what makes Aragorn son of Arathorn king of Gondor such a great character.
To start, some backstory: Aragorn’s father died (shot in the eye) very shortly after young Aragorn was born. His mom, Gilraen, died of grief soon afterwards. Aragorn was then raised by Elrond the half-elven from his childhood onwards. Later, Elrond made a point of it to tell Aragorn about his lineage and kingship, and then Aragorn went to join the rangers, where he remained for some time.
From there, he waited for a long time and met memorable characters such as Legolas Greenleaf and Gandalf. Then, when events in Middle-Earth started to get hotter, he met the Hobbits Frodo, Samwise, Meriadoc, and Peregrin. They then set out on a quest to keep the one Ring from the Dark Lord Sauron. The rest is detailed in the Lord of the Rings book trilogy.
There’s quite a bit of lore surrounding Aragorn, which is why it can’t be summarized properly. However, there’s a few key details we can take from the traits above. Aragorn might be a deeper character than meets the eye.
First of all, Aragorn starts out as an orphan. Commonly used, but effective. Remember, it’s never a bad thing to build sympathy around one of your character, especially your main character. Perhaps it’s not something your relate to, but you immediately pity Aragorn for his misfortune. Maybe not for long, but it makes him a better character. Consider doing this for your characters, as well.
Second, imagine the intrigue that lies around Aragorn’s childhood with Elrond. Tolkien doesn’t give us too much about Aragorn’s childhood, since everything is told in a detached, historical mood. But think about what it was like with Aragorn. Remember, he’s not an elf, but everyone surrounding him was. What was his education like? Did Aragorn ever have early suspicions? How did Elrond choose to break the news to him?
Tolkien’s words, in essence, tell an untold story. There’s much that lies in the character of Aragorn that is not explained or ruminated on, although much is. Intrigue is another useful device to use, but it would be even better if you dwelt on these things and explained them to your readers. So you could say that Aragorn just has so many things about him, so many details and fine tunings, that makes him a great character.
What about Aragorn’s profession? Well, he’s a man of the wild, a ranger. This influences his character considerably. You’d expect him to be rougher and more stand-offish, but he also has the blood of kings in him. Again, this fine-tuning stuff. But, more to the point: he’s not Barliman Butterbur. He’s not a real estate agent. He’s not a DJ or a cash register guy. He’s not even a person of great interest. If fact, he’s a pariah. But he’s cool.
The readers love him, which makes him a hero to them. Kids who hear stories about Aragorn say, “I wanna be a ranger.” No one emulates non-cool characters. Make your characters into characters so that, when people read about them, they say, “I wanna be XYZ. I think he/she is really cool.” Model your characters after characters that you want to emulate.
Plus, Aragorn does go through considerable character development. From orphan to elven-raised to ranger to king of Gondor? Quite the progression. Tolkien really knew how to utilize the progression of a character from fool to wise man, from poor man to king, and hero to villain. I guess you can say Aragorn is so good because he got so much work on his character. Try this yourself: add a backstory and MORE DEVELOPMENT to all of your characters. You’ll thank me one day.
Drop a comment in the comments section (cringe) below on what great character YOU would like to see reviewed from popular culture (Well-known, mind you). Tell me why you think their character is so good and why.
Good luck, and happy writing!