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In the Shadow of Númenor: 2. On the Names Thorongil/Elessar

Posted to the HA list by SailingToByzantium. Posted here with permission of the author.


So why was Aragorn called Thorongil while serving in Gondor?

Thorongil should be translated as "Eagle-Star", which could be parsed as "Eagle (of the) Star" or "Eagle-Star", from Sindarin roots *thoron, "eagle", and *gil (not so much "star", which would be "êl", as "radiance born of a star", "bright spark", cf. Gil-Galad, "bright light of a star"). Taking into consideration such compound names as Gildor ("Star-lord"), Gil-Galad ("Bright light of a star), Gilthoniel ("Star Kindler"), Thorondir ("Eagle-sight") and Thorondor ("Eagle-Lord"), it would seem that, in order to be consistent, Thoron-gil should be interpreted as "Eagle-Star", not "Eagle of the Star", despite such being the translation found in the appendices.

Obviously, the name might be a play on one of the constellations named by Tolkien, Soronúmê (*soron, "eagle" Quenya < *thoron Sindarin), which is identified with either Aquila (Eagle) or Lyra (Aquila Declinans, Swooping Eagle). I suspect that Aragorn might have accepted the connection with one of the stars in the firmament which bears the name of the eagle, or maybe a connection with the alpha star from Soronúmê (cf. the star currently named Altair, Arabic for "the Flying Eagle", alpha Aquilae). So on one hand, Thorongil would be alluding to a star, and on the other, he would be calling himself after an eagle. Why?

Númenor seems to be especially associated with eagles: there was a mountain in Númenor called Sorontil (from *Thoron-til), the Summit of the Eagle. Manwë had eagles patrolling Númenor, as well. Aragorn's own father, Arathorn, displays the root *thoron in an abbreviated form. There might be a third element bearing on why Aragorn would choose such a name for himself: the Elessar, the Elfstone given to him as a sign of his royalty, which was a green stone set in a silver brooch wrought like an eagle in full flight. Elessar apparently can be parsed as *elen-sarn (*êl-elen, elf/star; *sarn, small stone; cf. Sarn Ford, Sarn Gebir), with assimilation ns>ss and the loss of final -n, which we could explain, with Tolkien, as a phonetical (i.e., not grammatical) loss occurring in some phonetical contexts (cf. aran- / ara- / ar-), or as the loss of the final consonant typical of Gondor's dialect (cf. Ithilien from Ithil-iend, land of the Moon; Rohan from Roch-and, land of the horses).

Traditionally, "Elessar" has been interpreted as "Elfstone" (Galadriel translates it like this), but I suggest that it could be profitably associated as well with the word "star", êl-elen, from which El/Eledh (elf) and Eldar are secondarily derived ("people who watch the stars") [1]. Why? First, because stars are a central concept for the Númenorean monarchy, at least as Tolkien described it: Númenor was called Elenna (*eles-nna, "land towards the stars") and was shaped like a star. Most of the first Númenorean kings and queens had the element êl-elen (star) in their names: Elros (star-foam), Elendil, Elendur, Eldakar, Elentirmo ("Watcher of the stars"), Elenwë, Elestirnë ("Stars-in-her-brow"), Vardamir ("Jewel of Varda", Kindler of the Stars), Elentir, not to mention the fact that Aragorn's mother is called Gilraen, "Wandering Star", and his father Arathorn, "King's Eagle" (from *aran + *thoron). We shouldn't forget that the emblem of Númenoréan royalty, the Elendilmir, the Jewel of Elendil, was an elf stone shaped like a white star. The motif of the star was appropriated by the Kingdom of Arnor, where we find the Star of Arnor or Star of the Northern Kingdom (probably the Elendilmir), the Star of Númenor and the Star of the Dúnedain, the last of which Aragorn gave to Samwise when he became a mayor.

Thus, Aragorn must have been glad to be called Thorongil because it allowed him to proclaim his heritage, his line and his destiny, although in veiled terms, as befitted the years he spent in his errancy. The name put together at least three symbols of Aragorn's royalty: the eagles of Númenor, the stars associated with Elros's line and the Kingdom of Arnor, and a probable hint to the Elessar. So Elessar would be translated Elfstone AND Star-Stone.

And I must wonder: might it not be that Denethor, versed in lore as he was, saw through this, and thus mistrusted someone called Thorongil from the very start?

[1] There is a parallel for such a double translation in Elendil's name: he can be either "Lover of the Stars" or "Friend of the Elves".

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In Playlists

Playlist Overview

Last Update: 28 Jul 05
Stories: 24
Type: Reader List
Created By: Elemmire

An on-going collection of stories that feature Aragorn in another guise (primarily but not exclusively as "Thorongil") as well as stories that include significant reflection or recognition.

(C) means the story is connected to others an author has written; (SA) just means stand-alone.

Why This Story?

Drabble-Denethor considers "Thorongil". (by Dwimordene) (C)


Story Information

Author: Dwimordene

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - The Stewards

Genre: General

Rating: General

Last Updated: 10/10/03

Original Post: 10/08/03

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