In the famous tent scene, where Elrond confronts Aragorn just before the big battle in The Return of the King, Elrond says something to Aragorn in Elvish and Aragorn utters his famous reply to him. What did Elrond say and why was Aragorn’s reply like it was?
Elrond says to Aragorn “Ónen i-Estel Edain”, to which Aragorn replies “Ú-chebin estel anim.” Both of these phrases are uttered in Elvish, with the first meaning “I give hope to Men” and the second “I keep none for myself”. This was a reference to the forthcoming battle against Sauron and the hope that was necessary to win it, a hope which Aragorn – as Isildur’s heir – represented.
The focus of the rest of the article is going to be on Elrond’s brief exchange of words with Aragorn in Théoden’s tent. We are going to tell you what exactly the two of them said to each other in Elvish, what it all means and what the context is so keep reading to the very end.
What does Elrond say to Aragorn in Théoden’s tent?
The famous scene happens soon after Eldonr arrives at Dunharrow to give him Andúril, the sword that will help him defeat Sauron. Aragorn is aware that Sauron is launching an invasion on Minas Tirith and that his troops are outnumbered by the seemingly endless number of orcs in Sauron’s army. During his conversation with Elrond, the ruler of the Elves suggests that Aragorn summons the Men of Dunharrow, former soldiers cursed with immortality because they betrayed Isildur; Aragorn refuses, stating that they would not listen to him, but Elrond adds that they would listen to the King of Gondor and urges Aragorn to stop being a ranger and to become what he was always meant to be – a King. Let us examine the whole scene, shall we:
As you can see for yourselves, the exchange of words was quite noteworthy and Elrond’s words had a lot of influence on Aragorn. Still, while most of this conversation is quite clear and doesn’t pose an enigma for the fans, the last exchange – the one in Elvish – seems to have caused some confusion among fans. What do Elrond and Aragorn actually say to each other? For those of you who have seen the movie with the appropriate subtitles, you probably know, but if you’ve stumbled upon another version of the movie, you should read the following excerpt. This is what Peter Jackson’s screenplay states:
As ARWEN lies dying, the EVENSTAR falls from her fingers… At– The Return of the King (screenplay)
that moment, ARAGORN wakes, his SWORD quickly in his HAND … A
GUARD stands in the DOORWAY…
King Théoden awaits you, My Lord.
EXT. DUNHARROW PLATEAU – NIGHT
ARAGORN hurries towards THÉODEN’S TENT…
INT. THÉODEN’S TENT, DUNHARROW PLATEAU – NIGHT
ANGLE ON: THÉODEN looks up as ARAGORN enters.
I take my leave.
ANGLE ON: THÉODEN bows slightly to the HOODED FIGURE and LEAVES,
shooting ARAGORN a strange look as he goes…
CLOSE ON: The FIGURE stands and pulls back the HOOD … to
reveal … ELROND.
My Lord Elrond.
I come on behalf of one whom I love.
ELROND’S face is ETCHED with PAIN…
Arwen is dying.
ANGLE ON: ARAGORN receiving this news … ASHEN-FACED.
She will not long survive the evil
that now spreads from Mordor.
ELROND’S eyes fall to the EVENSTAR which hangs around ARAGORN’S
The light of the Evenstar is failing.
As Sauron’s power grows, her strength
wanes. Arwen’s life is now tied to the
fate of the Ring. The Shadow is upon us,
Aragorn, the end has come.
It will not be our end, but his.
You ride to war, but not to victory.
Sauron’s armies march on Minas Tirith –
this you know – but in secret he sends
another force which will attack from
CLOSE ON: ARAGORN looks at ELROND in shock.
A fleet of Corsair ships sails from the
FLASH INSERT: A FLEET of BLACK SAILS moving along a SILVER
RIBBON of WATER.
They’ll be in the city in two days…
You’re outnumbered, Aragorn. You need
There are none.
ELROND hesitates a BEAT…
There are those who dwell in the mountain.
A SUDDEN WIND rushes through the TENT, lifting HANGINGS,
scattering MAPS, knocking over GOBLETS…
As ARAGORN looks at ELROND, an IMAGES FLASHES in MIND’S EYE …
The GHOSTLY FIGURE on the DIMHOLT ROAD…
ARAGORN looks at ELROND in shock…
Murderers, traitors – You would call
upon them to fight? They believe in
nothing. They answer to no-one.
They will answer to the King of Gondor.
ARAGORN’S eyes fall to a PLAIN BLACK SCABBARD, which ELROND
draws from beneath his robes.
CLOSE ON: ELROND’S long white finger draw the hilt of a SWORD
from the scabbard to reveal … an ELVEN SWORD glinting in the
Andúril, flame of the West, forged
from the Shards of Narsil.
ARAGORN takes the sword … staring at it in wonder.
Sauron will not have forgotten the
Sword of Elendil…
ARAGORN draws the long blade from its sheath…
…the blade that was broken shall
return to Minas Tirith.
The man who can wield the power of this
sword can summon to him an army more
deadly than any that walks this earth.
ELROND stares hard at ARAGORN…
Put aside the Ranger – become who you
were born to be – take the Dimholt road.
A HEAVE SILENCE hangs in the room.
(ELVISH: with subtitles)
Ónen i-Estel Edain.
I give hope to Men.
(ELVISH: with subtitles)
Ú-chebin estel anim.
I keep none for myself.
ANGLE ON: ARAGORN re-sheathes the SWORD.
Now, the screenplay actually reveals the exact words Elrond and Aragorn said in Elvish (Aragorn was raised by the Elves, so he knows their language, despite being a Man) and what these phrases mean in modern-day English. Elrond says “Ónen i-Estel Edain”, to which Aragorn replies: “Ú-chebin estel anim.” Elrond’s phrase means “I give hope to Men”, while Aragorn’s means “I keep none for myself.” We are now going to analyze the exact context and symbolism of these phrases.
What do Elrond’s and Aragorn’s phrases represent?
We now know what the phrases mean in the linguistical sense, but we still have to see their context and what they actually represent. This phrase, as uttered by Elrond and Aragorn, isn’t really their own, as it appears in other works by Tolkien, where it is described as being Gilraen’s linnod. Gilraen was Aragorn’s mother who left him with the Elves in order to protect him and this small poem (also called a linnod) is usually attributed to her, as being said to her son in a very heartbreaking scene. Likewise, the word “estel” in Elvish means “hope” and we all know that the Elves named Aragorn “Estel” while he was in their care.
In that sense, this poem has a very deep and intimate meaning for Aragorn, as well as it is a symbolic reference to his name; Elrond said he gave both hope and Hole (Estel = Aragorn) to the Men, giving the Men everything, as the King of Gondor was destined to defeat Sauron, while Aragorn affirmed that he kept nothing of it for himself, giving all to his people.